Did you know that October is Protect Your Hearing Month? While I spend most of my working hours helping people treat hearing loss, what would make me the happiest is if we could protect your hearing in the first place! Hearing loss crosses all boundaries, including age, gender, background, race, and economics. Often times there is nothing you could have done to prevent it, BUT in some cases, the hearing loss could have been prevented with a little bit of knowledge and awareness.
What causes hearing loss?
It can result from the cumulative effects of genetics, loud noise exposure, medications, trauma, and yes, aging. One-third of people over the age of 65 have a treatable hearing loss, while that number jumps to two-thirds of people over the age of 70. It is often hard to pinpoint exactly what caused a hearing loss, but there are many proactive ways that you can protect your hearing as much as possible.
How can you protect your hearing?
Check out the black and white chart to the right that shows OSHA’s (The government’s Occupational and Health Safety Administration) rules on loud noise exposure. Noise exposure is the most common and preventable cause of hearing loss. It is
not just the volume of the sound, but also the length of time that you are exposed to it that causes damage. It comes as no surprise to most that concerts and loud music played through earbuds can cause hearing damage, but there are many sounds that get overlooked. Any time that a tool such as an electric saw, drill, or hammer is being used, earplugs or earmuffs should absolutely be worn. The same goes for operation of lawnmowers, heavy duty equipment and certainly any firearms. “Road warriors” who drive trucks or cars for a living will often times have hearing loss on their left side- the one closest to the window and constant road noise. Even sounds that don’t seem terribly loud, but are repetitive and constant, can cause hearing loss at certain frequencies. If you have already encountered hearing loss as a result of loud noise exposure, just remember that you always have more hearing to lose and it is never too late to protect your hearing! Any earplugs are better than none, but consider getting a pair of custom earplugs made at my office. They will last for many years and will fit so much more comfortably than the foam or rubber one-size-fits-all. They can even be made with a noise filter that allows the hearing of normal speech and music but cuts out the sounds that are much too loud (concert enthusiasts love these).
What to do after a hearing loss?
If a hearing loss has already been discovered, the next best way to protect your hearing is to consider treatment with hearing aids. While they cannot keep you from technically losing more hearing, they do preserve your understanding of speech by keeping the nerves inside your ears stimulated. The earlier a hearing loss is treated with hearing aids, the better the long-term results in making speech clear and crisp and it helps to keep background noise where it belongs- in the background. People often ask me why they know someone who does not wear their hearing aids or about the people who complain that they are not happy with them. While there could be many reasons (incomplete audiological testing, incorrect prescription, lack of follow up care, etc), the most common and sad reason that I see is with people who have simply waited too long before seeking hearing treatment. They have encountered auditory deprivation, which means that the nerves from the ears to the brain have gone so long without sending correct signals, that they essentially get lazy and are not able to send the crisp signal that they should. If you are concerned that you may have a hearing loss already, or if you are over age 50 and have not had a recent baseline test, please call to schedule a free hearing evaluation at my office. 704-540-3081
Hi! I’m Madison. I’m a Board Certified Hearing Instrument Specialist (like my mother). I’m observing, learning, absorbing and sharing as I become a part of this beautiful South Charlotte Hearing community. I want to know you! So please leave me comments if my posts are meaningful to you or teach you something new, and feel free to tweet me at @LevineHearing!