Preventing Hearing Loss

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We all experience loud noises everyday – the sounds of traffic on the highway, a blender, a hair dryer, or a lawn mower. Everyday loud sounds cannot be avoided altogether, but steps can be taken to lessen the impact of them. We can wear earplugs while mowing the lawn, use the low setting on the hair dryer, and place a towel under the blender to reduce the sound.

Most people, however, do not take the necessary precautions to protect their ears in everyday life. As a result, over 18 percent of adults in America 40 to 60 years of age have hearing loss. More recent studies from Johns Hopkins university estimates a number closer to 30 percent for the same age group.

But hearing loss only affects older populations… right?

Wrong. Think again. In a recent study done by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, a cross-sectional analysis of demographic and audiometric data from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s revealed a rise in the prevalence of hearing loss in U.S. adolescents aged 12 to 19 years. Although hearing loss is more prevalent in older populations, it is not exclusive to the elderly. Hearing loss can no longer be thought of as an age-exclusive phenomenon.

Hearing loss is caused by a variety of factors, including exposure to noise and sound, aging, earwax buildup, certain medications such as analgesics, and even allergies. However, hearing loss’ rise over the past few years raises some questions about the epidemic of hearing loss and how we can avoid it.

Generally, the acquisition of hearing damage is a gradual process that takes several years. The loud sounds that we are exposed to over the years slowly compound and result in the deterioration of our hearing. The deterioration of our hearing is heavily impacted by the aging process. However, according to auditory neuroscientist and author Seth S. Horowitz, the deterioration process has been accelerated by our increasingly headphone-wearing and rock concert-going society. This may explain why hearing loss has become more common in younger populations over the years.

Hearing loss can cause a variety of problems in daily life. Inability to understand your spouse or family members can lead to arguments and constant bickering over simple issues like doing the laundry or cooking dinner. Hearing loss has also been linked to dementia, self-isolation, and depression. However, only 20 percent of individuals who need hearing aids actually reach out for help. Given the many effects of hearing loss – why do so many people refuse to see an audiologist?

In society, hearing loss has been thought of as an indication of old age or incompetence. Consequently, we tend to deny our hearing loss and not seek out help in fear of seeming “old” – no matter how difficult it makes our lives. If our vision starts failing, we get glasses. If our hearing starts failing, we should get something to aid our impairment.

Those who purchase hearing aids experience a significant improvement in overall quality of life. Being able to hear allows you to enjoy life and cherish those around you. Hearing loss happens to everyone as they age, but its effects can be avoided by reaching out for help.

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