Jingle bells, carols, and holiday greetings are all the sounds that help make the holiday season special. But, those holiday sounds also give people an opportunity to recognize if they are having trouble hearing. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), of the 36 million American adults who report having a hearing loss, an estimated 26 million of them between the ages of 20 and 69 have a high-frequency hearing loss caused by too much exposure to loud sound.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is usually painless, progressive, permanent, and completely preventable. NIHL happens when a person is exposed for too long of a time to sound pressure levels of 85 decibels or more, resulting in damage to the sensory hair cells of the inner ear. It can be the result of exposing your ears to a sudden, intense impulse noise like an explosion or gunfire or extended or repeated exposure to loud machinery and recreational activities, such as loud music and video.
The process is so gradual that people often do not realize they have a hearing loss until it affects the ability to carry on conversations in daily life. With NIHL softer high frequency sounds are difficult to hear, which means a person can hear what is said but they cannot understand what is said.
How can people recognize if they have noise induced hearing loss?
“When a person frequently has trouble understanding conversations at holiday parties, family gatherings, and in noisy restaurants it might be a good time for a hearing test and ear examination,” said John W. House, MD, president of House Research Institute and physician at the House Clinic. “We recommend for people to pay close attention to how well they can hear in different situations.”
The holidays give family and friends the opportunity to notice a change in a loved one’s hearing as well. People with hearing loss may have trouble participating in conversations because they miss key words.
“We hear from our patients that they first noticed a change in their hearing several years before they finally come in to the House Clinic to have their hearing checked,” said Dr. House. “Often it is a spouse or family member who urges a patient to get their hearing tested.”
Physicians in the House Clinic recommend patients come in for a hearing test at the first sign of a change. There are some forms of hearing loss, which are not noise-induced, that can be treated with surgery to restore the patient’s hearing. The sooner a hearing loss is identified, the sooner the patient can learn about the treatment options that may help.
If you know someone who is having trouble hearing, you can help give the gift of hearing by encouraging them to schedule a hearing test as well as by supporting the research and education programs of the House Research Institute to improve hearing loss treatments and knowledge of hearing loss and related disorders. For more information, log on to http://www.houseresearch.org.
In 2006, House Research Institute launched the nation’s first NIHL prevention education initiative focused on encouraging safe hearing choices among teens and young adults, called It’s How You Listen That Counts®. To learn more, visit http://www.earbud.org.
About the House Research Institute
The House Research Institute, formerly the House Ear Institute, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss and related disorders through scientific research, patient care, and the sharing of knowledge. Institute scientists research the auditory system, at the level of function, as well as at the cellular, molecular and genetic levels. We also explore the neurological interactions between the auditory system and brain, and study ways to improve auditory implants, diagnostics, clinical treatments and intervention methods. We share our knowledge with the scientific and medical communities as well as the general public through our education and outreach programs.
Source: House Research Institute