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‘It’s a Noisy Planet; Protect Your Hearing’


By Khadijah Givs

WRNMMC Command Communications​ 

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 loss:

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.

Avoid recreational 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!

For more information concerning hearing loss visit the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence website at https://hearing.health.mil/ or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov/hearingloss/default.html.​