Hearing loss doesn’t just happen to older people
Everyone has, at one time, been driving along when that great song comes on. You just can’t resist reaching over and turning the volume way up.
However, drivers rarely pause to think how that one volume-blasting jam session can lead to something that often can’t be fixed.
Hearing loss doesn’t just happen when one gets older, according to the Hearing Health Foundation.
This month – Better Speech and Hearing Month – organizations have been reaching out to show that fact and more.
“Many people are born with hearing loss, but more acquire it when they are older,” said Dr. Laura Barber, Aiken ENT audiologist. “Some loss is temporary, while other kinds are permanent.”
About 26 million Americans between 20 and 69 suffer from high frequency hearing loss because of simply being around loud environments, according to the foundation.
Ronnie Butler, Aiken Standard production director, said the paper’s press operators have to undergo a yearly hearing test. They don’t pass or fail these tests but rather are documented as to where they fall on a baseline. This is to monitor how well the staff’s hearing is doing.
Regardless, each employee must wear headphones or earbuds.
“They say if you are subjected to over 85 decibels for more than 20 minutes, you are required to wear ear protection,” he said.
However, hearing loss can’t always be prevented.
Sometimes, it’s genetic. Other times, a virus or bacteria sets in, or heart conditions or strokes hit. Head injuries, tumors, diabetes, hypertension and even certain medicines can all be sources of hearing loss, according to the foundation.
Statistics show that losing hearing with age, a condition known as presbycusis, is an accurate connection; almost half of people affected with hearing impairment are 75 and older. However, doctors don’t know why this connection exists, besides perhaps genetics.
Hearing loss is normally a gradual process, so sometimes you might not notice it’s happening, according to the foundation.
If you can’t hear a conversation either in a noisy environment or in a normal setting or you have a constant ringing or pain in your ear, report to an audiologist, according to a release from Aiken ENT. The specialist can evaluate, arrange for hearing aids, perform screenings and ear or hearing-related surgical monitoring or assist in auditory training, speech reading or listening skills improvement.
An otolaryngologist – an ear, nose and throat doctor – can also assist. Sometimes, the two professionals will collaborate in finding the best care for the patient.
Friends and family need to be aware of the situation. Once they are, they can speak louder and clearer or use another method of communication. Also, when going out, your companions can help pick suitable locations to spend time, such as quiet restaurants.
Things can be done to prevent hearing loss, as well as detect it before it leads to other severities.
Hospitals now screen newborns before they leave, Barber said. If the impairment is left undetected, it can impact the infant’s speech, language acquisition or social and emotional development, according to the foundation.
“People also should turn down their iPods, use plugs/and or muffs to protect their hearing when around loud sounds,” Barber said. “Also, have a healthy diet, and see your primary care physician for routine testing for diabetes, cholesterol, heart problems, high blood pressure, etc.”
Through this month, Barber is teaching classes on hearing loss at Aiken ENT. She will focus on “Coping with Hearing Loss” on Friday and “Realistic Expectations with Hearing Aids” on May 24. She will leave the topic up to the audience at the last class on May 31.
Each class is held at 2 p.m. Space is limited, so reservations are required. Reservations can be made by calling 803-649-0003 or emailing email@example.com; include your name, how many will attend with you and your phone number.
Aiken ENT is located at 121 Aurora Place.