Some people never had their hearing, as they were born deaf, but the majority had something happen along the way that took it from them. Infectious diseases like meningitis, measles, mumps and chronic ear infections, as well as head and ear injuries, and ageing all can contribute to hearing loss.
But perhaps the most common cause is excessive noise. Whether it’s a one-time exposure to an intense, “impulse” sound, like gunfire, or by repeated exposure to loud sounds over time, such as machinery at work, noise has the potential to rob people of their hearing.
The effects of hearing loss extend well beyond having to turn up the television. It strains a person’s ability to understand conversations, which can cause problems and misunderstandings at work and at home. Hearing loss also leads to isolation from family, friends and the environment.
“The good news is noise-induced hearing loss is preventable,” says Dr. Laurie Wells, audiologist in 3M’s hearing protection business. “So many people could be spared from it, if they just took a few easy steps.”
Wear hearing protection
The most important step to preventing hearing loss is to wear hearing protection.
“There are many great hearing protection options, but sometimes it’s a challenge to know which to choose and how and when to wear it correctly,” says Wells. “Hearing protection is now available that is comfortable, fits well, and includes options to enhance communication — like microphones and two-way radio connections for people who need them.”
Reduce the volume or increase distance
Work-related noise might be unavoidable, but many times, you can be in control of the noise around you. Whenever possible, select quieter vacuums, chain saws, leaf blowers, power tools, etc. Also, be aware that the volume controls on portable entertainment devices can exceed 110 dBA — levels that might be hazardous if you listen for many hours a day. Lower the volume and limit how long you listen to them. If you aren’t able to turn down loud sounds you encounter, take a few steps back from the source of the loud sound. Even a few feet of distance between you and a loud sound can lower the decibel levels that hit you.
Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.