Today is World Hearing Day, which is an annual advocacy event to raise awareness about hearing loss. World Hearing Day was designated at the First International Conference on Prevention and Rehabilitation of Hearing Impairment in 2007. There are about 360 million people worldwide who have disabling hearing loss and that includes 32 million children. In the United States hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition behind cardiovascular disease and arthritis. Hearing loss can occur due to ear infections, genetics, birth complications, certain infectious diseases, ototoxic medications, health problems, loud noise exposure, and aging. The World Health Organization has identified several cost-effective interventions to address hearing loss that we would like to explore further.

 1.     Prevention

  • Stay Healthy
    • Do not smoke or quit smoking. People who smoke are nearly twice as likely to have hearing loss compared to those who do not smoke.
    • Exercise helps to decrease a person’s risk of chronic illness. People who are overweight are more likely to develop Type II Diabetes and people who have Diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss. Being overweight also increases the risk of developing cardiovascular problems and makes it more difficult for the heart to circulate blood throughout the body, including the inner ear.
  • Protect Your Hearing
    • Loud noise exposure is one of the most common causes of hearing loss and impacts about one in three Americans who have hearing loss. Hearing loss caused by loud noise is permanent. There are three was that people can protect their hearing from loud noise damage.
      1. Walk Away – Sound decreases with distance, so move away from the loud noise.
      2. Turn Down the Volume – Listen to personal listening systems (MP3 player), car stereo, etc. at lower volumes and for shorter period of time during the day.
      3. Wear Hearing Protection – Custom and non-custom hearing protection options are available and are often the best solution for many occupational and recreational situations.

 2.     Early Identification

  • Newborn Hearing Screenings
    • In the United States more than 95% of newborn babies are screened for hearing los shortly after birth. Many infants with hearing loss are identified when they are a few weeks old. This is when appropriate treatment programs can optimize their long-term speech and language, cognitive, and social skills.
  • Hearing Screening and Hearing Tests
    • The Audiologists at Mile High Hearing along with the World Health Organization encourage primary care physicians to ask patients about hearing loss and tinnitus. People should have their hearing formally tested by Audiologist. Many people who have hearing loss are not initially aware they have hearing loss since it can be a very gradual process. Results from a diagnostic hearing test may help an Audiologist identify the cause of the hearing loss and will assist in determining appropriate rehabilitation recommendations.

 3.     Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation for hearing loss often includes: hearing aids, assistive listening devices, aural rehabilitation training, communication strategies, and counseling from an Audiologist. Benefits of identifying hearing loss early and beginning rehabilitation as soon as it is recommended can include:

  • Cognitive Stimulation – The risk of dementia is up to five times greater in people with untreated hearing loss. Hearing aids have been shown to significantly reduce the increased risk of cognitive decline.
  • Improve Quality of Life – People who use hearing aids are more likely to be optimistic and feel engaged in life. They are also more likely to have a strong social network.
  • Decrease Fall Risk – The risk of falling is three times greater in people with untreated hearing loss. Hearing aids have been shown to decrease that risk. 

 4.     Education and Empowerment

Physicians, Audiologists and other healthcare providers should educate people on risk factors for hearing loss, how to prevent hearing loss, and the benefits of hearing aids use. Learning about hearing loss and the options available for treatments and the many resources for assistance can empower people to take control of their hearing loss.