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By Frankie Huang


In honor of World Hearing Day, which takes place on March 3 every year, Hearing Health Foundation is joining forces with the World Health Organization (WHO) to draw attention to the economic impact of hearing loss and the importance of treating hearing loss.

Did you know the economic cost for unaddressed hearing loss is estimated to be $750 billion globally? In the U.S. individuals with untreated severe to profound hearing loss are expected to cost society $270,000 each over the course of their lifetimes. Most of these costs are due to reduced productivity in the workplace, although the use of special education resources among children and other social services are also factors.

Lifetime earnings for those with untreated hearing loss average 50 to 70% less than their typical-hearing peers in the U.S., and has been shown to negatively impact household income up to $12,000 per year, on average, depending on the degree of hearing loss, according to the Better Hearing Institute. This is largely due to having fewer opportunities for promotions, reduced job performance, and decreased earning power.

Beyond economic losses, untreated hearing loss can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Researchers have found that individuals with untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy. They may also avoid or withdraw from social situations. Left undetected in children, hearing loss can negatively impact speech and language acquisition, academic achievement, and social and emotional development.

Prevention, screening for early identification, early intervention, and rehabilitation through hearing devices are among the strategies that mitigate hearing loss and its consequences. Those who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids and/or cochlear implants show improvement in social, emotional, and psychological well-being. Interventions can significantly decrease isolation, increase self-esteem, and lead to better employment opportunities and earnings—all of which will benefit society as a whole.

For World Hearing Day 2017, the WHO has joined forces with Mimi Hearing Technologies. To raise awareness of hearing loss, Mimi hopes to have 1 million people test their hearing. To do this, they are offering the Hearing Test app on iOS free for everyone. If you suspect you or a loved one may have hearing loss, this is a great opportunity to test your hearing with Mimi’s Hearing Test, which is an initial online assessment. The results may require a follow-up appointment with a hearing health professional. However, by detecting signs of hearing loss early on the benefits of treating hearing loss far outweigh the consequences if left untreated.

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Childhood Hearing Loss: Act Now, Here's How!

By Maggie Niu

Childhood hearing loss is a (rapidly) growing epidemic. A study performed by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 60 percent of childhood hearing loss is preventable. If left untreated, the child can experience many health issues such as delayed language development and academic underachievement as well as social isolation, which can lead to depression, poor self-esteem, and a higher risk of injuries. These are unfortunately just a few of a much larger list of consequences.

The WHO estimates infections account for 31 percent of hearing loss cases. (Genetic and other causes account for 40 percent). Many infections that cause hearing loss can be prevented through vaccinations against such diseases as the mumps, measles, rubella, and meningitis. Although ear infections do not have a direct vaccine, the influenza shot can help in the prevention ear infections, another cause of hearing loss. Only 4 percent of childhood hearing loss is related to the use of ototoxic (toxic to the ear) medicines in expectant mothers and newborns.

To help prevent and care for childhood hearing loss, the WHO suggests these strategies: strengthen the child's immune system through vaccinations; implement better and more wide-spread early-intervention programs; train healthcare providers on how to better care for those with hearing loss; make hearing devices more readily accessible; push for legislation that regulates and restricts the sale of ototoxic medicines and environmental noise as well as implements standards for safe listening; and raise public awareness around the need for ear and hearing healthcare and programs worldwide.

Preventing hearing loss is a challenging task. However, there are already a few programs in action to help us out. In the U.S., thanks to Universal Newborn Hearing Screening legislation, which HHF was instrumental in establishing, 94 percent of newborns are tested for hearing loss before leaving the hospital, compared with just 5 percent in 1995! There are two tests that are currently available, both are reliable, and they can be used either separately or together. In the optoacoustic emissions test, a soft foam earphone and microphone are placed in the ear. The hearing specialist plays various sounds and measures the response. For the auditory brainstem response test, noninvasive electrodes are placed on the baby's head to detect auditory nerve responses to sounds the hearing specialist plays.

Hearing loss can be devastating for a child as well their family. Not being able to hear can affect all aspects of life, but learning how to prevent and to care for hearing loss can change a child’s life. In addition to the WHO’s “Childhood Hearing Loss: Act Now, Here’s How!”, here are HHF resources on children and hearing loss: 

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How Society Treats Hearing Loss

By ConsumerAffairs

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 3 of every 1,000 children are born with a detectable level of hearing loss, and around 30 million Americans over age 12 have disabling hearing loss. However, only about 20% of the people who could benefit from hearing aids use one.

By themselves, those statistics are unsettling. However, compared to the fact that 75% of U.S. adults use some sort of vision correction, they highlight the stark differences in how society treats hearing loss versus a similar disability like vision loss.

Price

According to the Better Hearing Institute, 68% of people with hearing loss cite finances as the main reason for not using hearing aids.

Availability

While glasses have been adopted as must-have fashion accessories for NBA players and presidential hopefuls alike, hearing aids are still lacking in aesthetic options.

Accommodations

Don't count on your favorite hotel or restaurant offering a pair of complimentary hearing aids if you leave yours at home.

At work and school

Untreated hearing loss is proven to affect children's attention and comprehension in classroom lectures, and adults with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in salary and wages annually.

In social settings

Kids with hearing loss struggle in social situations, and their difficulty interacting or following along in conversation is often mistaken for aloofness.

In relationships

The say communication is the key to any good relationship, but communication can be challenging for hearing impared individuals, especially in a relationship with a person with normal hearing.

According to the World Health Organization, 360 million people worldwide are hearing disabled. Hearing loss is a major public health issue, the third most common after arthritis and heart disease. Yet because we can’t see hearing loss, only its effects, many mistake it as aloofness, confusion, or personality changes. To learn more about how hearing aids can help with hearing loss, and to find the one that’s right for you, check out ConsumerAffairs' Hearing Aids guide.

Receive updates on life-changing hearing research and resources by subscribing to HHF's free quarterly magazine and e-newsletter.

 
 
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6 Easy Tips for Protecting Your Hearing This Summer

By Laura Friedman

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) and Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) are encouraging people of all ages to protect their hearing this summer so they can treasure the sounds of the season for a lifetime. Packing earplugs along with the sunscreen for summer outings is just one of six easy tips.


While many noisy recreational activities are part of summer fun, it’s extremely important to take precautions to ensure that these activities don’t harm our hearing.
 
Prolonged exposure to loud outdoor concerts, lawn mowers, power tools, motorized recreational vehicles, target shooting, sporting events and fireworks can potentially damage our ears. In fact, the single bang of a firecracker at close range can cause permanent hearing loss in an instant, making it forever more difficult to hear the quieter sounds of summer.
 
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults (12 to 35 year olds) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues and the unsafe use of personal audio devices.
 
“Hearing is the sense that connects us to each other,” says William Hal Martin, Ph.D., Professor of Otolaryngology, National University of Singapore, Program Director MSc of Audiology, Center for Hearing, Speech & Balance, and Co-Director of Dangerous Decibels. “Exposure to high level sounds cannot only destroy our ability to hear, it can cause tinnitus—ringing in the ears.”
 
“People of all ages are at risk of hearing loss from high level sounds, but it easily can be prevented by simple steps,” Martin continues. “It is important to recognize when your ears are in danger and to safeguard them so you can enjoy listening to friends, music, and sounds you love for the rest of your life.”
 
How Noise Affects Our Hearing
 
We hear sound when delicate hair cells in our inner ear vibrate, creating nerve signals that the brain understands as sound. But just as we can overload an electrical circuit, we also can overload these vibrating hair cells. Loud noise damages these delicate hair cells, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The cells that are the first to be damaged or die are those that vibrate most quickly—those that allow us to hear higher-frequency sounds clearly, like the sounds of birds singing and children speaking.
Sound volume is measured in decibels, with the softest sound a normal hearing human can hear measuring at 0 dBA. Any sounds above 85 dBA for 8 or more hours are considered unsafe. Most firecrackers produce sounds starting at 125 dB peak SPL, presenting the risk of irreversible ear damage.
 
Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health as well. If you have to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm’s length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range. Here are the warning signs:

  • You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area.

  • You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise.

  • You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking but can’t understand them.

6 Easy Tips for Protecting Your Hearing This Summer

  1. Walk away and plug your ears. If a loud noise takes you by surprise, quickly plug your ears with your fingers and walk away. Increasing the distance between you and the source of the sound will help reduce the intensity (or decibels) at which the sound is reaching your ears.

  2. Use earplugs. When you know you’ll be around loud sounds, use earplugs. Disposable earplugs, made of foam or silicone, are often available at local pharmacies. They’re practical because you can still hear music and conversation when they’re in your ears. But when they fit snuggly, they’re effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.

  3. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Be smart when you celebrate 4thof July festivities. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. And when watching the show, stay a safe distance away—where you can enjoy the colors and lights but not expose yourself and your family to loud noises. To protect your hearing, make sure you’re wearing earplugs and that they’re securely in place before the show begins. Also be sure to keep them in for the entire show.

  4. Limit your time in noisy environments. Do all you can to limit the length of time you spend in a noisy environment. When you do participate in noisy activities, alternate them with periods of quiet. And remember to use ear protection.

  5. Turn it down. When listening to smartphones and other electronics, keep them at a low volume. Importantly, limit your use of headphones and ear buds. Remember, it’s not just the volume that matters. It’s also the duration of time spent listening.

  6. Visit your local hearing healthcare professional for custom-fitted ear protection and a hearing test. A hearing healthcare professional can provide a hearing test to determine your baseline hearing level and determine if you have any hearing loss that should be addressed. Hearing care professionals also can provide custom ear protection to ensure a proper fit.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on June 26, 2015. 

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Make Listening Safe

By Sloan Blanton

Our ears are one of our most precious commodities. With our ears we are able to communicate with our peers, enjoy the beauty of music, tune into the natural world around us and become aware of safety hazards, such as sirens. Some people are born without the ability to hear, and for thousands of years those individuals lived without any legitimate hearing solutions. In the past 150 years, numerous technological advancements have emerged, providing hearing assistance through the use of hearing aids, assistive listening devices, cochlear implants, and more.

However, today's increasingly industrialized society poses a new risk. A growing number of people are prone to noise-induced hearing loss. Our smartphones and personal audio devices increase our vulnerability, especially when we are tuned in for extended periods of time. Concerts, nightclubs, and sporting events make us prone to hearing loss as well.

For all of these reasons and more, the First International Conference on Prevention and Rehabilitation of Hearing Impairment established the annual International Ear Care Day in 2007. The event is held on March 3 each year to build advocacy and promote hearing care in countries all around the world. This year's theme is: "Make Listening Safe."

The World Health Organization (WHO) works closely with this event, releasing an annual assessment of each country's status in providing quality ear care services. This year, the WHO found startling numbers to be true about the state of hearing loss in the world; over 1.1 billion young adults ages 12 to 35 are at risk for "recreational hearing loss." In this age group, 43 million people currently deal with the unfortunate effects of hearing loss, whether it is noise-induced or through birth defects or illnesses. Recreational hearing loss leads to many harmful effects. Physical and mental health can be affected, as well as employment and education opportunities. Hearing loss may also lead to attention-seeking behaviors and learning disabilities.

“As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss,” says Dr. Etienne Krug, the director of the WHO’s Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence, and Injury Prevention. “They should be aware that once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back. Taking simple preventive actions will allow people to continue to enjoy themselves without putting their hearing at risk.”

Both intensity and duration affect safe listening levels. The safe level at 85 decibels (dB) is eight hours of continual exposure. The number drops drastically at 100 dB to just 15 minutes. Exposure to these loud sounds usually leads to temporary hearing loss and a ringing sensation in the ear (tinnitus). When the exposure is particularly loud, regular, or prolonged, it can lead to permanent hearing loss and a lack of speech comprehension, and is damaging the ear's sensory cells. High-frequency sounds are typically the first to be impacted.

To reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss, set the volume on your personal audio device to no greater than 60 percent of the maximum volume. Wear earplugs in bars, at sporting events, and in other loud places. Even using headphones allows sound to be customized for individual listeners. Take short breaks while in loud environments to reduce the harmful effects of noise exposure, such as avoiding loudspeakers.

By having one’s ears checked regularly, individuals are able to monitor the onset of hearing loss before it becomes a serious concern. There are also many smartphone apps that provide useful information regarding volume levels to inform users of whether they are exposing their precious ears to risky sound levels.

Hearing Health Foundation is a proud supporter and partner of International Ear Care Day. It is worth marking on your calendar in an effort to curb the trend of noise-induced hearing loss while encouraging mankind to develop lasting solutions to lifelong problems.

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