Hearing Loss Prevention

Hearing Loss Prevention

Approximately 36 million Americans have hearing loss. One in three developed their hearing loss as a result of exposure to noise.

  • Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells that are found in our inner ear. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.
  • Hearing protection decreases the intensity, or loudness, of noise and helps preserve your hearing.
  • Harmful sounds are (1) too loud and too long or (2) are very loud and sudden.
    • For example, exposure to a one-time intense "impulse" sound such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time, such as sitting to close during a concert (rock, country, symphony, or any genre of music).
    • You may encounter harmful sounds at work, at home, and during recreational activities. (If you work in a hazardous noise environment, speak with your supervisor or compliance officer about OSHA recommendations on your amount of noise exposure.)
  • The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 (dB).
    • 60 dB Normal conversations or dishwashers
    • 80 dB Alarm clocks
    • 90 dB Hairdryers, blenders, and lawn mowers
    • 100 dB MP3 players at full volume
    • 110 dB Concerts (any music genre), car racing, and sporting events
    • 120 dB Jet planes at take off
    • 130 dB Ambulances
    • 140 dB Gun shots, fireworks, and custom car stereos at full volume

Noise is dangerous if:

  • You have to shout over background noise to be heard
  • The noise is painful to your ears
  • The noise makes your ears ring
  • You have decreased or "muffled" hearing for several hours after exposure

Protect your hearing, by:

  • Wearing hearing protection when around sounds louder than 85 dB for a long period of time. There are different types of hearing protection such as from earplugs, earmuffs and custom hearing protection devices.
    • Contact your local audiologist for custom hearing protection devices.
  • Turning down the volume when listening to the radio, the TV, MP3 player, or anything through ear buds and headphones.
  • Walking away from the noise.
    • And, other than hearing protection, do not put anything in your ear!

Age-Related Hearing Loss

1 in 3 people over age 60 have hearing loss

1 in 2 people over age 85 have hearing loss

Hearing loss related to age is called presbycusis and it is a combination of changes to

  • The structures of the inner ear
  • Blood flow to the inner ear
  • The hearing nerve
  • How the brain processes speech and sounds

Presbycusis typically is a high-pitched gradual hearing loss that can be noticed by the subtle changes in hearing over time. Common symptoms of presbycusis include having difficulty hearing female voices, children's voices, and background noises, as well as the loss of speech clarity.

Hearing loss due to aging can be worsened by other factors such as diabetes, poor circulation, noise exposure, and certain medications.

  • 30-35 percent of adults between the ages of 65 and 15 years suffer from hearing loss.
  • 40-50 percent of adults 75 and older suffer from hearing loss.

People with untreated hearing loss (those with hearing loss who do not wear hearing aids) experience a decreased quality of life. Untreated hearing loss can lead to sadness, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and poor social relationships.

One way of treating age-related hearing loss is with hearing aids. Modern hearing aids are digital microcomputers that can automatically adjust to sound thousands of times per second, making speech comfortable and natural sounding.

Hearing Aid Facts

  • Hearing aids can improve communication with family, friends, and co-workers, which can help maintain a better quality of life.
  • Hearing aid technology is constantly evolving, such as the use of directional microphones, to help you better understand speech in noisy environments.
  • Wearing hearing aids can improve your overall hearing; however, hearing aids do not function like natural ears do; hearing loss is irreversible.
    • Hearing aids come in a variety of options at different price points, the cost of a hearing aid depends on the technology used.
    • Medicare covers hearing testing with a physician's referral, but Medicare does not cover the cost of hearing aids.
    • Medicaid, some private insurance carriers, and some charitable organizations may help cover the cost of hearing aids.
    • Most audiologists have financing or payment plans available to help with the costs of hearing aids.
  • Hearing aids come in several styles that include completely in-the-canal, in-the-canal, in-the-ear, and behind-the-ear.
    • Behind-the-ear hearing aids are smaller than in years past and come in a variety of styles, colors, and shapes.

Common Signs of Hearing Loss

  • Asking people to repeat what they say.
  • Feeling like others are always mumbling or not speaking clearly.
  • Difficulty hearing and understanding speech in a noisy environment.
  • Missing words or phrases on the telephone.
  • Turning the volume up on the television or radio louder than normal.

Prevention

Although hearing loss with age is inevitable, there are some steps you can take to prevent your hearing loss from getting worse. Day to day, you should consider avoiding loud sounds, using ear protection when around loud sounds, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Research has shown that the "use it or lose it" principle applies to our ears. Untreated hearing loss can lead to a deteriorated understanding of speech over time. Treating hearing loss early rather than later or putting it off is highly recommended.


Newborn Hearing Screenings

All newborns should be screened for hearing loss.

Make sure your newborn's hearing is screened before leaving the hospital.

Why Screen Newborns?

Newborn hearing screenings are extremely important. When newborns have hearing loss and are diagnosed early, effective intervention is available to help them achieve normal or nearly normal speech, language, and hearing milestones.

  • Approximately 3-6 of every 1,000 newborns have significant hearing problems.
  • More than 95 percent of newborns who are born deaf have parents with normal hearing.
  • Hearing loss is invisible; it cannot be seen by examining your newborn's ears.
  • Most newborns with hearing loss have no signs or symptoms.

Speech Language and Hearing Skills

An infant with normal hearing should be able to do the following:

Around two months of age

  • Startles to loud sound
  • Quiets to familiar voices
  • Makes vowel sounds such as "ohh"

Around four months of age

  • Looks for sound sources
  • Starts babbling
  • Makes squeals and chuckles

Around six months of age

  • Turns head toward loud sounds
  • Begins to imitate speech sound
  • Babbles sounds such as "ba-ba"

Around nine months of age

  • Imitates speech sounds of others
  • Understands "no-no" or "bye-bye"
  • Turns head toward soft sounds

Around 12 months of age

  • Correctly uses "ma-ma" or "da-da"
  • Gives toy when asked
  • Responds to singing or music

What Should I Know About the Hearing Screening?

  • Hearing screenings am fast, safe. and painless.
  • Sometimes newborns are screened once or twice.
  • Hearing screenings take about 10 minutes.
  • Most babies sleep through the hearing screening.
  • You will receive the hearing screening results before you leave the hospital.

What If My Newborn Does Not Pass the Hearing Screening?

Same newborns who need a follow-up hearing screening or a hearing test have a normal hearing - BUT some have hearing loss.

If your newborn does not pass the screening, it is important to make an appointment with an audiologist for a complete hearing test.

What If My Newborn Passes the Hearing Screening?

Newborns who pass the screenings are usually fine. However, some newborns might hear well enough to pass a screening, even though their hearing is not perfectly normal. Some newborns may pass the screening, yet they can lose hearing from illness, medications, or genetic reasons - after leaving the hospital. Therefore, even if your newborn passes the screening, tell your audiologist or physician if you suspect hearing loss at any time.

Other Warning Signs of Hearing Loss

Your newborn might be at risk for delayed onset hearing loss if any of the following applies to your baby.

  • You or another caregiver has a concern.
  • A family history of childhood hearing loss.
  • Neonatal intensive care stays with ECMO therapy.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Some infections that occur before and after birth (including CMV, bacterial, and viral meningitis).
  • Some disorders that affect the baby's nervous system.

Hearing Loss in Children

Approximately 12 percent of all children ages 6-19 have noise-induced hearing loss.

Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and is almost always preventable.

Hearing loss can happen at any age. A growing number of teens and kids are damaging their hearing by prolonged exposure to loud noise.

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells that are found in our inner ear. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.

The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 dB.

  • 60 dB Normal conversations or dishwashers
  • 80 dB Alarm clocks
  • 90 dB Hairdryers, blenders, and lawn mowers
  • 100 dB MP3 players at full volume
  • 110 dB Concerts (any music genre), car racing, and sporting events
  • 120 dB Jet planes at take off
  • 130 dB Ambulances
  • 140 dB Gun shots, fireworks, and custom car stereos at full volume

How to protect your child's hearing:

  • Wear proper nearing protection (earmuffs or earplugs) when in noisy environments (concerts, sporting events, fireworks displays, car races). Hearing protection comes in a variety of sizes and textures to provide optimum fit. Custom-made earplugs can be obtained from an audiologist.
  • Turn down the volume.
  • Walk away from loud noise.

Childhood noise risks include:

  • Noisy Toys
  • Sporting events
  • Band class
  • Motorbikes
  • Farm equipment
  • Movie theaters
  • Shop class
  • Arcades
  • Concerts
  • Firearms
  • Firecrackers and fireworks
  • Power tools
  • MP3 players

Tinnitus: Ringing in Your Ears!

Tinnitus (ringing in your ears) refers 10 the perception of sound in the ear when no external sound is present.

There are two broad types of tinnitus:

  • Middle-ear tinnitus is produced in the middle ear behind your eardrum.
  • Sensorineural tinnitus is produced in the inner ear and possibly in your nervous system.

Tinnitus is often accompanied by hearing loss. Middle-ear tinnitus is rare and results from hearing your muscles twitch or hearing the sound of blood vessels. Middle-ear tinnitus may be medically or surgically treated. Sensorineural tinnitus has no proven medical or surgical therapy.

Tinnitus has many possible sources including noise exposure, the natural aging process, medications, head injury, ear diseases (such as Meniere's disease), allergies, and certain autoimmune, neurological and psychiatric disorders.

See your audiologist to help you select the appropriate hearing protection for your personal needs. Noise-induced tinnitus can be prevented with hearing protection. For many, the underlying cause of tinnitus is unknown.

There is no known cure for tinnitus. However, research studies are being conducted to find a cure for tinnitus. Based on controlled research studies, there are no medications or dietary supplements that have been shown to effectively or consistently treat tinnitus. Hearing aids may help tinnitus three ways:

  • By improving your hearing and reducing stress from having to listen very carefully.
  • By amplifying background sound (which can help partially mask the tinnitus).
  • By stimulating your hearing nerves.

Your audiologist can adjust your hearing aids to maximize benefits for hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

Your audiologist may offer you several devices specifically designed for tinnitus relief or management. For example, wearable noise generators that produce a low-level "sssshhhhhhhhh" sound, wearable music-generating devices that provide specially processed music adjusted for your hearing loss, and non-wearable sound-producing devices that produce a variety of sounds (e.g., ocean waves) whose level and quality can be adjusted. Consult your audiologist to determine which devices are the most helpful for your tinnitus.

There are several different counseling approaches to help people with hit reactions to tinnitus. For example, Tinnitus Activities Treatment provides individualized counseling in four areas: overall emotional well-being, hearing, sleep, and concentration. Additionally, self-help books are available and are very useful.