Protect Your Hearing: Audiology Awareness Month

| Author: Kate Hodgkins

October is National Audiology Awareness Month and the Carls Center for Clinical Care and Education and the American Academy of Audiology are urging the public to be aware of the importance of good hearing health.

“It’s important to get your hearing checked by an audiologist, and we’re happy to be a resource for you,” said Dr. Nicole Ferguson, Director of Clinical Instruction and Audiology Services in the Carls Center. “Hearing is one of the most important aspects of our health. It connects us to people, keeps us vital in the workplace and as we age, and when left untreated is associated with other health issues.” 

The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states that approximately 28.8 million Americans could benefit from the use of hearing aids. While age is often cited as a factor, there are growing numbers of younger people reporting hearing difficulties.

A study published by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care cited 11 risk factors for dementia including hearing impairment in mid-life. The report also stated that dementia typically starts many years before it is recognized. Untreated hearing loss can impact the brain and cognitive health.

There is also a link between untreated hearing loss and falls. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, an increase in hearing loss in an individual, for instance going from normal hearing to an untreated mild hearing loss, is associated with a 3-fold increase in fall risk. 

One of the factors in maintaining healthy hearing is being conscious of the degree and amount of loud sound exposure. Many hearing losses are caused by damage to the tiny sensory receptors, or hair cells, in the inner ear. The damage can be caused by too much noise, and it is permanent; however, steps can be taken to prevent this damage because sound-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. The simplest way to protect your hearing if you can’t avoid loud sounds is to wear hearing protection. An audiologist can help to identify the right hearing protection including custom hearing protection that can provide a comfortable fit and good sound quality.

The American Academy of Audiology states that lengthy or repeated exposure to noise above 85 decibels, can damage hearing. To put that into perspective, noise from fireworks can reach up to 155 decibels. A jet plane taking off is estimated to be 150 decibels. Shooting a gun is around 140-175 decibels (depending on the gun). An amplified music concert and an MP3 player with the volume turned all the way up can be as high (or higher) as 120 decibels.  Movie action scenes in the theater have been known to reach 100 decibels. Outdoor sounds can pose a risk too. Lawn mowers are around 85 decibels and chain saws can be 115-120 decibels. Compare these with a normal conversation that is around 60-65 decibels.

The four main ways to protect your hearing are:

E – earplugs

A – avoid loud sounds

R – reduce the level of sounds

S – shorten time in loud environments

“There is no doubt people are concerned about their health. Often, though, they don’t think about the importance of hearing health,” said Kate Hodgkins, Director of Clinical Services in the Carls Center. “An audiologist educates patients about safe versus unsafe levels for listening. They utilize tools and share resources that empower patients to protect their hearing. Additionally, they perform hearing evaluations and facilitate rehabilitation efforts for hearing loss, tinnitus, and certain balance problems.”

“Anyone suspecting that his or her hearing has diminished or is unsure, should see an audiologist and get tested as soon as possible,” Dr. Ferguson recommended. “Changes to hearing tend to happen gradually; by the time hearing loss is noticed, it may have been progressing for a while. Improving hearing improves quality of life. Our ears are too important to put off taking care of them.”  

For more information, call the Carls Center today at 989-774-3904. 

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