"What Did You Say?” Protect Your Hearing Because Hearing Loss Is Irreversible
You’re great at staying on top of your health with yearly appointments to your primary care provider, dentist and optometrist. But how’s your hearing health?
“Hearing health is easy to take for granted, and people usually seek help when it’s too late and hearing loss has already happened,” said Kendra Baily, AuD, CCC-A, Audiologist at Avera Medical Group Ear, Nose & Throat in Yankton, SD.
Prolonged loud noise, normal aging, head injuries and even some chemotherapy medications are just a few reasons why you might lose your hearing. Once you’ve lost hearing capacity, you can’t regain it.
Hearing Loss Causes
In the inner ear, tiny hair-like structures are located in the cochlea. Sound vibrations move these hair cells back and forth, turning the vibrations into nerve messages which our brain receives and interprets.
Hearing loss occurs when the hair cells become damaged from too much movement caused by too much loud noise. Compromised areas cause the brain to misinterpret sounds, like consonants and vowels, making it difficult to understand what’s said.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss
You start to lose hearing after prolonged noise levels reach beyond 85 decibels.
“A very busy intersection, like 41st Street and Louise Avenue in Sioux Falls, is about 85 decibels,” said Baily. “You can stand there for about eight hours before damaging your hearing.”
Take an inventory of the loud noises you encounter. Vacuuming or blow drying your hair are at safe volume levels, and you aren’t performing those tasks long (unless you perform these professionally; blow drying can be damaging after two straight hours). However, mowing the lawn for more than 30 minutes or the blast of a single shot from a gun without ear protection might cause damage.
Children and teens can routinely play their music too loud through their earphones and damage their hearing — early in life.
Take steps to prevent hearing loss:
- Invest in ear protection (earmuffs or foam plugs) while working around continuous noisy sounds like machinery, power tools or lawn equipment
- Turn your earbuds’ volume down by half and warn children of the dangers of playing music at too high a volume
- Get ear protection for children to be used at big events
- Don’t sit behind loudspeakers when attending concerts
“We always say the three prevention steps are turn it down, walk away from the noise and wear hearing protection,” said Baily.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Schedule a hearing test with an audiologist if you:
- Have ringing in your ears (called tinnitus)
- Turn up the TV or radio more over time
- Have difficulty understanding people
- Ask people to repeat themselves over and over
- Find your hearing competes with background noise during conversations
Local health fairs may also offer hearing screenings. It’s worth contacting your clinic to learn about any upcoming opportunities.
How to Treat Hearing Loss
Hearing aids tend to be the most common way to treat hearing loss as they are completely digital and programmable to meet the person’s needs. Modern hearing aids have many advancements including smartphone capability and rechargeable batteries.
In some instances, hearing loss may become more severe and hearing aids are no longer effective. In those cases, the individual might be a candidate for cochlear implants.
A cochlear implant works differently than a hearing aid. A hearing aid still sends sound through a damaged ear and tries to compensate for the damaged area. On the other hand, a cochlear implant takes the place of the damaged area of the ear through an electrode that directly stimulates the brain.
“If you are experiencing hearing difficulties or would like to explore your potential for better hearing and communication, most insurances will provide coverage for diagnostic hearing testing,” said Baily. “The final question is, what are you waiting for? Don’t miss another important moment!”
Check with your insurance about coverage regarding hearing screenings as well as treatment. Depending on your insurance, you may need a referral from your primary care provider. Find a local provider and schedule an appointment today.