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Hearing loss is an issue that affects more and more people every day and ASHA fights to illuminate this each May with Better Hearing and Speech Month. Every year, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) chooses a theme to help illuminate the struggle of those with Speech, Language and Hearing disorders.
This year’s theme is “Communication at Work” which highlights the importance of communication at home, between friends, family and co-workers. One in eight people in the United States aged 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears; this condition must not be overlooked.
How to Reduce The Rise of Hearing Loss
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, in 30 years, one in every ten people will live with disabling hearing loss. However if people understand some of the causes of hearing loss, these cases can be reduced and injury to ears can be avoided. With An estimated 466 million people worldwide living with hearing loss, 34 million of these are children. Sadly 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes. If people understand the causes of hearing loss and then they may be able to avoid injury in more instances.
Common Causes of Hearing Loss
The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by the breakdown of tiny hairs or nerves in the inner ear, which pick up sound and send it to your brain. While the most common cause of hearing loss is due to advanced age, 1.1 billion people between the age of 12–35 years are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings. This makes hearing loss a condition for all ages. Other common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include impact to the ear or head, viral infection, and certain medications referred to as ototoxic.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
One of the most preventable causes, noise-induced hearing loss is permanent hearing loss caused by being exposed to loud noises over a long period of time or a loud quick blast such as a gunshot or explosion. The work place is an environment where people are exposed to loud noises for hours every day, year after year. While many workplaces insist on using hearing protection it is up to the person wearing hearing protection to wear the safety gear correctly. The more you are around loud noises, the more you risk having hearing loss. Often people expose themselves to harmful noise during recreation, such as attending loud concerts, riding a motor boat or motorcycle. Even listening to headphones too loud can cause serious irreversible damage to your ears.
The severity of a noise depends on the loudness, the pitch, and the length of time you are exposed to the noise. The loudness of a sound is measured in decibels (dB). The louder the sound, the shorter the exposure can be before damage occurs. For example, an 8 work shift exposed to 85-dB noise daily can damage a person’s ears over time. If using power tools or your headphones at maximum volume can damage your ears much more quickly.
How to Prevent Noise-induced Hearing Loss
It is important to reduce the length of exposure to harmful noise. If you are listening to your headphones, make sure to give your ears a break. If you can’t take a break as often as would be ideal hearing protection is essential. Make sure to wear earplugs or earmuffs at work, which can reduce decibel levels anywhere between 10-30 decibels depending on the model. This can make all the difference between a dangerous and a safe level of noise. Try using sound-absorbing materials to reduce noise at home and at work like rubber mats to minimize vibration. Curtains and carpeting also help reduce indoor noise.
The Importance of Hearing Aids
If you suspect that you have hearing loss Use Better Speech and Hearing Month as an excuse to make an appointment to have your hearing tested and find the best hearing solution for you. Even though hearing loss is irreversible, hearing aids can make a huge difference in helping you communicate to the people around you and help you feel connected.