I am asked regularly by my patients, “What causes hearing loss?” While the question may seem simple enough, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you may think.
Jane Brody recently wrote a terrific article in the New York Times addressing this very topic.
She points out that noise, not age, is the most common cause of hearing loss. According to the National Institute of Health, 15% of people Americans between the ages of 20-69 have Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Brody goes on to say that, “The sad truth is that many of us are responsible for our own hearing loss.”
She's right. Because of the occupational risk of hearing loss, there are government regulations in place now that regulate exposure to loud noises. However, many people are exposed outside of work. Portable music devices, concerts, sirens, lawn mowers and leaf blowers, car alarms and even hair dryers can damage your hearing.
Sound is measured in decibels and exposure to sounds over 85 dB may lead to hearing loss.
Fortunately, NIHL can be prevented:
- Become aware of which sounds in your environment can cause damage.
- When using personal listening devices with earphones, limit the volume and duration of use. Consider using earphones that block out background noise, which will allow you to listen at lower volumes for longer periods of time.
- Use hearing protection devices (HPDs) such as earplugs, earmuffs or headphones when you’re going to be involved in activities that will expose you to loud sounds.
Since there is no cure for noise-induced hearing loss, prevention is essential. We offer custom HPDs. Contact us to schedule an appointment at any of our 5 New York area locations.
You can read the whole NYT article here: http://nyti.ms/14i2Lk1
It’s a common myth that hearing loss only affects older people. In fact, studies show that 1 in 14 people between the ages of 29-40 have hearing problems and 1.4 million people under the age of 18 suffer from hearing impairment.
Research suggests that this is partially because people don’t understand just how easy it is to damage their hearing. Combine that lack of knowledge with a tendency to listen to portable MP3 players at dangerously high volumes and it’s no wonder that hearing loss has become more prevalent in the past decade.
When exposed to harmful noise - anything above 85 decibels - small sensory hair cells in the inner ear can be damaged, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
• Unnoticeable. It usually occurs without being recognized.
• Cumulative. It worsens over time, and every exposure causes more damage.
• Permanent. The damage cannot be reversed.
Fortunately, NIHL is also 100% preventable. Limiting your exposure to loud sounds can help prevent hearing loss. Wearing hearing protection on the job is also beneficial.
If you suspect that you’ve sustained NIHL, schedule a hearing evaluation at any of our three convenient locations.
It’s a common myth that noise-induced hearing loss in musicians is only experienced by those who play rock 'n roll, but that’s not the case. Classical orchestra musicians are at risk as well.
A Massey researcher has found almost two-thirds of adult orchestral musicians have hearing loss. Dr. Sargunam Sivaraj performed extensive audiological evaluations on 183 Wellington-based orchestral musicians. He conducted hearing tests, measured their personal music exposure and studied the progression of hearing loss over time.
The study concluded that 61% of the adult musicians, ages 27-66 have experienced hearing loss; 22% in youth musicians, ages 18-38; 16% in child musicians, ages 8-12.
Hearing loss is found in all groups of musicians.It is not specific to those who play loud musical instruments or to musicians with many years of music exposure.The study found that the increased years of music exposure does cause progressive hearing loss in significant numbers of individual musicians.This trend is observed in all age groups of musicians but not in all musicians.The researcher explained that some musicians' hearing loss starts at a very early age, and gradual deterioration is observed with increased music exposure. For others, hearing is well-preserved in spite of extensive exposure.
Female musicians were also found to have better hearing thresholds than males. Dr. Sargunam Sivaraj also found that the progression of hearing loss is slower in females than males.
Hearing loss is one of the leading and fastest growing disabilities. Dr. Sivaraj states that one third of all types of hearing loss can be attributed to music and noise exposure. The study revealed that although musicians are aware of the dangers of repeated exposure to loud music and the benefits of musicians’ plugs, very few used them.
Dr. Sivaraj noted that shortening rehearsals, incorporating a break in the midst of a session, and avoiding rehearsals and performances on the same day should be seriously considered to limit music exposure. He believes that young musicians need to be taught that their ears are their most important musical instrument!
“It is important we adopt different strategies for different individuals as there is a large individual variation in susceptibility or vulnerability to noise or music; otherwise prevention of hearing loss in musicians will remain an elusive goal.”