By Khadijah Givs
October is National Audiology Awareness Month and National
Protect Your Hearing Month. This year’s theme, “It’s a Noisy Planet; Protect
Their Hearing,” focuses on increase awareness among parents and caregivers of
children ages 8 to 12 about the causes and prevention of noise-induced hearing
loss. But hearing loss can affect anyone, especially those in the military
because of their missions.
Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the
United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. An estimated one
to six out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a
detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. Approximately 15 percent
of American adults (37.5 million) age 18 and over report some trouble hearing.
Unfortunately, unlike some other bodily functions, when the hearing is lost it
cannot be restored without the use of an assistive listening device, added
officials from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication
Disorders (NIDCD), a component of NIH.
Within the Department of Defense, protecting service members
from noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus is an ongoing focus because they
remain among the top disabilities of veterans leaving the service, according to
the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence. In 2017, the Veterans Benefits
Administration reported there were 1.6 million and 1.1 million veterans
receiving disability compensation in Fiscal Year 2016 for tinnitus and hearing
loss, respectively, state officials from the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence.
According to the Better Hearing Institute, the anatomy of
the hearing system can be divided into four components. These divisions are the
outer ear, middle ear, inner ear and central auditory pathways. Our ears work
to transmute the acoustic stimulus that travels down our ear canals into the
type of neural code that our brains can identify, process and understand. Hearing
loss is linked to a number of reasons such as, damage to the inner ear,
exposure to loud noises, a buildup of earwax and aging. Often times signs and
symptoms of hearing loss may include muffling of speech and other sounds,
trouble understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd
of people, trouble hearing consonants or articulatory phonetics, frequently
asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly, and needing to turn up
the volume of the television or radio.
Dr. Carmen Jamis, pediatric audiologist at WRNMMC, added
that “hearing loss in both childhood and adult years can be prevented.” She
explained that by “wearing protective hearing in loud settings such as gun
ranges, flight lines, concerts, sporting activities or any environment with
potential harmful noise can drastically lower the chances of hearing loss.” Also,
ensuring media volumes are at a level where conversations can still be heard
over televisions and radios are important when it comes to preventative hearing
loss. Hearing loss prevention consists of steps you can take to help you
prevent noise-induced hearing loss and avoid worsening of age-related hearing
Protect your ears in
the workplace: Specially designed earmuffs that resemble earphones can
protect your ears by bringing most loud sounds down to an acceptable level.
Foam, pre-formed or custom-molded earplugs made of plastic or rubber also can
help protect your ears from damaging noise.
Have your hearing
tested: Consider regular hearing tests if you work in a noisy environment. Regular
testing of your hearing can provide early detection of hearing loss. Knowing
you've lost some hearing means you're in a position to take steps to prevent
further hearing loss.
risks: Some activities, such as riding a snowmobile, hunting or listening
to rock concerts for long periods of time, can damage your hearing. Wearing
hearing protectors or taking breaks from the noise during loud recreational
activities can protect your ears. Turning down the volume when listening to
music can help you avoid damage to your hearing.
For those that may suffer from hearing loss, treatment is
available and progressively improving. Depending on the cause and severity of
your hearing loss your options can include:
Removing wax blockage. Earwax blockage is a
reversible cause of hearing loss. Your doctor may remove earwax by loosening it
with oil and then flushing, scooping or suctioning out the softened wax.
Surgical procedures. Surgery may be necessary if
you've had a traumatic ear injury or repeated infections that require the
insertion of small tubes that help the ears drain.
Hearing aids: If your hearing loss is due to
damage to your inner ear, a hearing aid can help by making sounds stronger and
easier for you to hear. An audiologist can discuss with you the potential
benefits of using a hearing aid, recommend a device and fit you with it.
Cochlear implants: If you have severe hearing
loss, a cochlear implant may be an option for you. Unlike a hearing aid that
amplifies sound and directs it into your ear canal, a cochlear implant
compensates for damaged or nonworking parts of your inner ear. If you're
considering a cochlear implant, your audiologist, along with a medical doctor
who specializes in disorders of the ears, nose and throat (ENT), can discuss
the risks and benefits with you.
The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
studies show that hearing loss can have a significant effect on your quality of
life. Among older adults with hearing
loss, commonly reported problems include, depression, anxiety, and an often
false sense that others are angry with you. Unfortunately, majority of people
affected by hearing loss live with these difficulties for years before seeking
treatment — or never seek treatment at all. Together, let’s be proactive and
protect our ears!