Hearing Loss & Prevention
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Noise Exposure and the Prevention of Hearing Loss
There are many issues that contribute to hearing loss, but none is more profound that noise exposure.
Noise is the primary contributor to hearing loss; and toxic noise can cause a loss of hearing in an instant or can accumulate over a lifetime to finally cause hearing loss.
Awareness of noise exposure and protecting our ears from an early age throughout our lives is the single most effective approach for hearing loss prevention. Any environment in which one must raise their voice to be heard is potentially a problem.
Of course, a healthy lifestyle is very important also. Maintaining a strong immune system; refraining from nicotine and smoking; and healthy exercise all contribute to healthy hearing.
In North America, noise-induced hearing loss is:
The #1 hidden disability.
World Health Organization, 2007
The most common occupational illness.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007
How We Hear
Hearing (and the mechanism of hearing) is yet another example of the exquisite design and function that nature has developed. The ear and its hearing mechanism are composed of the tiniest bones within the human body. Both are encased within the hardest bone in the human body.
The life sense of hearing incorporates a range of acoustic energy functions, biomechanical processes and neural processing and interpretation to give us the ability to communicate with one another, enjoy the sounds of nature, hear music, and to sing and laugh.
The ability to hear connects all mankind and crosses all language barriers. As Helen Keller once stated, “Vision loss separates us from things; hearing loss separates us from each other.”
How Hearing Works
Most mammalian ears function in the same manner, although the ways in which the neural energy is used differ vastly.
Essentially, the ear works to change sounds in the environment (acoustic energy) into energy that can be analyzed by the brain (neural energy, electro-chemical energy).
The human ear is divided into three general parts. This division is based upon function and anatomy. Divisions are also important with respect to ear diseases or damage that may require treatment and/or correction. All of these can be discussed relative to the drawing above.
Degrees of Hearing Loss
After measuring hearing loss via clinical audiometry, it is typical that the physician or audiologist speaks about the hearing loss in terms of “degrees of loss.” The method chosen for establishing these degrees depends largely upon the amount of communication handicap resulting from the loss. While the handicapping effect of the hearing loss will certainly differ in any individual, there are some common points. They are, however, different for children than adults.
Problems and Diseases
Classifying hearing loss patterns by degree of hearing loss is not always the best way to diagnose the loss. Two people may have essentially the same loss as depicted on the audiogram. Yet, the cause of the two hearing losses may be very different, and the problems that each person experiences may be widely separated. Correct analysis of hearing levels, not only by tone testing, but also through any test procedures that better define the operating problems of the hearing system, is essential to determining the correct and efficient methods to solve the hearing problems. Without adequate testing, any solution to the communication problem is not specifically fit or necessarily appropriate for the patient. EPIC suggests that you or anyone with a suspected hearing loss or other ear problems see an EPIC Ear Professional for evaluation. Good treatment begins with a complete understanding the problem.
There are a variety of diagnostic tests available depending upon the symptoms and the complaints expressed. These tests can range from a simple hearing screening (to determine if a potential problem exists and further tests are required), to more advanced measurements designed to detect minute changes or problems in the ear and hearing mechanisms. The EPIC professionals are trained and experienced in the performance of these tests. They follow standard clinical protocols to assure the appropriate tests are done. It is only through this process of data collection and analysis that effective treatments can be developed.