Hearing Well

Recognizing Hearing Aid Awareness Week, Oct. 3 – 10, 2010


Have you ever experienced temporary hearing loss, perhaps a side effect of an illness or after attending a music concert?

For more than 36 million Americans, hearing loss is a permanent problem they struggle with each day. In the past five years, the number of hearing impaired people has increased nearly 10 percent. Interestingly, more than half of all hearing-impaired persons are younger than age 65, with one in 10 school-aged kids having some form of hearing loss.

Common Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is caused by several factors:

  • Aging—long-term exposure to sounds throughout life can create hearing issues when you’re older.
  • Heredity—family genetics may cause higher susceptibility to hearing issues.
  • Loud noises—repeated exposure to high noise levels, such as music concerts, motorcycles, construction equipment, and machinery, can result in hearing loss.
  • Illness—viral infections, diseases or sicknesses that result in a high fever, can damage the inner ear and result in hearing loss. A cold or sinus infection may cause temporary hearing loss, but it should disappear as you get better.
  • Medications—some drugs, such as chemotherapy or anti-inflammatory drugs, can create temporary or permanent hearing loss.

How Loud Is It?

Sometimes it is difficult to know if the noise level in your daily situations is too loud. Noise levels are measured in decibels. Consider the following information from the Deafness Research Foundation:

Sound Levels of Common Noises

Decibels Noise Sources
30 Whisper
60 Normal conversation
70 Washing machine
85 to 90 Heavy city traffic, power lawn mower, hair dryer
95 Motorcycle
100 Snowmobile, hand drill
110 Chain saw, rock concert
120 Ambulance siren
140 (pain threshold) Jet engine at takeoff
165 12-gauge shotgun blast

Recognizing Hearing Loss

Hearing loss often occurs gradually, after repeated exposure to high noise levels. Most Americans have difficulty recognizing (or admitting) that they have developed a hearing problem. The following questions will help identify possible hearing concerns:

  • Telephone callers are difficult to hear.
  • When two or more people talk at the same time, the sounds blend together.
  • The TV volume is usually too low, but friends and family members complain that it’s too high.
  • When people talk, it sounds like they are mumbling.
  • In a noisy environment, it’s difficult to distinguish voices.
  • When women and kids speak, it’s challenging to hear them clearly.

If you answered “yes” to three or more questions, contact your physician. You may be referred to an otolaryngologist, a specialist in ear, nose and throat disorders, or an audiologist, a hearing health professional, to measure and evaluate your hearing.

Research studies have shown that uncorrected hearing loss can impact relationships with friends and family members, or job success and earning potential. Hearing aids can help you communicate successfully on the job so you maintain your productivity, professional standing and income. Historically, only a few options were available for hearing aids, but today there is a variety of options, with the styles differing by size, placement on or inside the ear, and the degree to which they amplify sound.

Remember to avoid hearing loss by taking precautions to protect your hearing in any noisy situation.

Have you or a family member experienced hearing loss? What was the cause? What treatment options have you pursued? I’ll compile your responses and share them in a future blog.—Ken

viral infections, diseases or sicknesses that result in a high fever can damage the inner ear and result in hearing loss. A cold or sinus infection may cause temporary hearing loss, but it should disappear as you get better.