What Can You Do to Prevent Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss at a Glance

If you find that you need to turn the TV or radio louder than the people around you or have difficulty understanding words clearly, when there is other background noise, you may be among the millions with significant hearing loss.

Hearing appears to diminish in many people due to aging yet goes unnoticed. Repeated exposure to loud noise over many years is known to affect hearing. Short bursts of loud noise usually cause only temporary hearing loss, buzzing or ringing in the ear that resolves spontaneously. You may not even be aware of how you withdraw from conversations or noisy environments because of the inability to differentiate between similar words like “boy” or “toy”. It creates a lot of frustration when you keep asking people to repeat themselves. You may actually miss some details of conversation that lead to confusion and misunderstanding.

Recent research has suggested a connection between hearing loss and dementia. Diminished hearing contributes to confusion and isolation of the person with the hearing impairment. However, it is incorrect to assume that decreased hearing causes the dementia.

Hearing is a complex function requiring a mechanical component in the middle ear to translate impulses of sound waves into a digital form ultimately transmitted to the brain where sound is perceived and interpreted into a coherent message. The cochlea is the center for converting to a digital signal that allows nerves to transmit to the brain. This marvelous apparatus is working all the time with no vacation or rest. It is vulnerable to overuse especially by regular exposure to loud noise. Some compare the effects of loud noise to walking on grass. Walking on the grass occasionally, it demonstrates resilience. With too much traffic, it can be damaged severely.

Workplace standards to protect against loud noise exposure have been outlined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Any loud work environment should do baseline and periodic hearing tests of workers to assure hearing conservation.

At the heart of this is hearing loss “prevention”. The same is true for exposure to loud noises at home or in recreational settings. Formable medium density foam earplugs are common, inexpensive and suitable for most people providing adequate protection. Proper fit and consistent use in a high noise setting is extremely important to avoid permanent hearing loss and preserve your hearing. Once damaged, the hearing function is usually permanently impaired.

The good news is you can easily protect your ears so the rest of your life will sound better.

As a physician with over thirty years of diverse clinical experience, Dr Kaler recently published the Owners Manual for Injury Prevention by Bruce Kaler M.D. It is a user friendly guide to understanding prevention and injury care. He also authored a mystery novel Turnabout by Bruce Kaler M.D. an engaging medical thriller and must read for all mystery buffs. Both are available through Amazon.com, Smashwords.com and many other retail outlets. Visit his website http://seattledocblog.com

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