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    Why Are We Not Talking About Our Ears?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | October 8th, 2023

    Why Are We Not Talking About Our Ears?

    On my way to work, I was listening to National Public Radio (NPR) and was shocked to hear that 1 billion young people are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Young people were defined as people between the ages of 12 and 34. Noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible but is often preventable. Why are we not talking about this? After hearing the story, I decided to find out more information. An estimated 12.5% of children and adolescents aged 6 – 19 years (approximately 5.2 million) and 17% of adults aged 20 – 69 years (about 26 million) have suffered permanent hearing damage from excessive noise exposure. We are all at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing loss affects the quality of our lives. We all need to be talking about this.

    • Do sounds ever seem muffled?
    • Do you ever have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds (e.g., birds, doorbells, telephone, alarm clock)?
    • Do you ever need help understanding conversations in a noisy place like a restaurant?
    • Do you ever need help understanding speech over the phone?
    • Do you ever have ringing in the ear?
    • Do you ask people to speak more loudly or repeat what they say?

    You may have noise-inducing hearing loss if you answer yes to any of these questions. You should get tested by a qualified healthcare provider. This qualified healthcare provider is an audiologist.

    October is National Audiology Awareness Month or National Protect Your Hearing Month, and the American Academy of Audiology urges the public to know the importance of good hearing health. It is important to make an appointment with an audiologist to check your hearing. Hearing is one of the most important aspects of our health – it connects us to people, keeps us vital in the workplace as we age, and, if left untreated, is associated with other health issues.

    Exposure to too much notice can cause damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. Once the injury occurs, it is permanent. If you cannot avoid loud sounds, you should wear hearing protection. An audiologist can help to identify the proper hearing protection, including custom hearing protection that can provide a comfortable fit and good sound quality.

    There are four main ways to protect our hearing:

    E – Earplugs – Use hearing protection devices when it is not feasible to avoid exposure to loud sounds or reduce them to a safe level.

    A – Avoid or limit exposure to excessively loud sounds

    R – Reduce the level of sounds, for example, turning down the volume of music systems

    S – Shorten time in loud environments.

    Although I had a hearing test with my primary care physician when I had my annual exam, I will schedule an appointment to see an audiologist to be fitted with the proper earplugs. Improving hearing improves the quality of life – our ears are too important to put off taking care of them.

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