“Hello! How are you doing today?”
“Watch out for that car coming!”
“I love you Daddy/Mommy!”
Every day, we hear phrases like these which convey different meanings and emotions such as happiness, warning, friendliness, or love. Imagine not being able to hear these sounds or phrases. Imagine going through your life in silence. It’s so easy to take our hearing for granted. We usually don’t even think about our hearing as we listen to our favorite songs, talk with our friends and family, or listen for any warning sounds as we drive down the road. Yet as we go about our day doing our normal activities, we don’t realize that we could be putting our hearing in jeopardy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition in the United States. Almost twice as many people report hearing loss as report diabetes or cancer. This is a problem many of us may have to face at some point in our lives.
What causes hearing loss?
Repeated exposure to loud noises over the years can cause damage to your hearing. The average person is born with approximately 16,000 hair cells within their inner ear, known as the cochlea. These hairs transmit electrical impulses to the brain enabling the person to detect sounds. If these hairs get damaged, this process can no longer happen.
There is no treatment for hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is typically gradual and by the time changes in your hearing can be measured by a hearing test, 30 to 50 percent of these hair cells could be damaged or destroyed. These cells do not grow back, and the damage cannot be reversed. Damage to these hairs can occur long after your exposure to high noise levels have stopped.
How can we know if we our hearing is being damaged?
There are hidden warning signs we can look for. Some of the signs are:
- Experiencing ringing in your ears.
- Not being able to hear sounds at normal levels.
- Needing to have the radio, cellphone, or television at maximum volume.
- Requesting that people repeat themselves often or thinking they are mumbling.
- Misunderstanding what people are saying or having trouble hearing all the words in a conversation.
- Having trouble hearing when your back is to a person speaking.
- Finding it difficult to hear in situations that are noisy.
- Being exposed to loud noises over long periods.
A lot of people think that hearing damage is usually work-related, but your activities away from work can damage your hearing just as much as a noisy job. According to the CDC, over half of all adults with hearing damage do not have noisy jobs. When it comes to hearing loss, we think about all the usual things that could cause it, such as listening to loud music while wearing earphones or working in noisy environments, but you may be surprised at what you don’t know. Everyday activities such as mowing the lawn can cause damage.
Steps you can take to prevent noise-induced hearing loss
- Use hearing protection around loud sounds or when working in noisy environments at work and home.
- Turn the volume down when listening to music or the television.
- Be careful and keep the volume down when you listen to music with ear buds in.
- Avoid loud or noisy activities and places whenever possible.
- Limit your exposure time to loud sounds.
- Give your ears time to recover if you have been exposed to loud noises on a regular basis or for long periods of time.
- Stop using cotton swabs to clean your ears and objects like keys or bobby pins to scratch inside your ears.
Once your hearing is damaged, it’s gone for good. Taking action to protect it is important for your health and well-being both physically and mentally. Don’t wait until its too late to start taking care of your hearing. You want to be able to hear all those wonderful sounds and phrases that can help make your life great.
This article originally appeared in the Longshore Insider on October 21, 2019.