Hearing Loss Causes and Prevention

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,977
    Barbara Kelley, Deputy Executive Director of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) talks about cause and prevention of hearing loss.

    Barbara Kelley: I am Barbara Kelley from the Hearing Loss Association of America. There are many causes of hearing loss, three of which I'll talk about now, Genetics, Ototoxic Medications and Noise. The first one is really beyond our control. We can pick our parents and our genetic makeup, though with continuing advance in gene research in clinical application, this may be changing. But for now we have to deal with the hand that hereditary has dealt us. Ototoxic drugs meaning ones that can cause hearing loss cannot only cause a temporary or permanent hearing loss but can also cause tinnitus or ringing in the ears. We may have some options; however, about the medications we take. It's always a good idea to ask a physician if a hearing loss is one of the possible side effects. If it is and there is a substitute medication that will work just as well then that would be the one to take. A major cause of hearing loss in our society is noise exposure. I recently saw a cartoon that suggested that music is only good if it is loud enough to cause ear bleeding. Presumably at the same time damaging the delicate hair cells within the inner ear. While meant to be humorous this cartoon illustrates an attitude that permeates our society. Once those hair cells are destroyed they cannot be replaced. It seems that we do not only tolerate noise but we welcome it. With piped in music often quite loud, is the norm in public places. Cars whiz by us with music loud enough to make our sternums vibrate. We should know that repeated and lengthy exposure to loud sound, whether it is music or a jack hammer or a lawn mower or a personal stereo system will eventually produce a sensorineural hearing loss. The damage risk criterion is considered to be 90 decibels for a full day exposure. As the sound level increases, the time span one can be exposed to it is reduced. Each day we create more hearing loss in our society with our tolerance of the ear shattering cacophony that surrounds us. When exposed to loud sounds a person has several options. One, you can turn down the level, if listening to a personal system for example, or you can wear ear plugs, like when using lawn equipment or going to a rock concert. This later option is suggested for heavy machine operators or even when operating power tools. Musicians are particularly at risk. It is their job to listen to the sounds that they and their group are producing. And these may be as high as a 135 decibels. And this goes on day after day. They have no choice. This is their career and their livelihood. Fortunately musicians ear plugs are available that can help. The newest and best versions reduce the sound equally all across the spectrum from low to high frequencies. Everything sounds just as good as it did before only softer. In brief, a noise induced hearing loss is the most common cause for its occurrence in our society. And it's completely preventable. Many schools now offer various kinds of hearing conservation programs. And these should be encouraged and increased for all school age children. Now you know some of the cause of hearing loss, some of which are preventable, so hopefully you can take steps to better protect your hearing.