awareness

Prevent the Preventable

By Neyeah Watson

International Noise Awareness Day (INAD) is observed annually on April 24 to redirect our focus to the invisible: hearing loss caused by noise, or noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). More than 48 million Americans live with a form of hearing loss, and one third of all hearing loss cases can be attributed to noise exposure. In honor of INAD, sponsored by the Center for Hearing and Communication, Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) urges the public to zealously protect the hearing of adults and children from the dangers of loud noise.

Loud noise can harm from exposure to one sudden, disturbing, blast-like sound (an impulse noise) or a series of loud sounds over time. Impulse noises include fireworks, explosions, car horns, gunfire, and thunder. These noises reach the outer ears unexpectedly before conversion to sound, sometimes causing immediate trauma and NIHL.

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Gradual NIHL, on the other hand, occurs over time. Sources include loud music and occupational sounds from construction sites or airport runways. Gradual NIHL can also result from hobbies, like playing in a band, attending group fitness classes, and snowmobile riding.

The irreversible damage of NIHL physically takes place when hair cells within the cochlea of the inner ear are damaged. This results in what’s called sensorineural (permanent) hearing loss.

Fortunately, NIHL is 100% preventable. For adults, protecting your ears doesn’t require a lot of effort. When going about your busy lifestyle, keep these simple techniques in mind.

  • Always keep a pair of earplugs with you. Whether you ride public transportation as a passenger or employee, loud noises accompany you on your commute.

  • Purchase noise-cancelling headphones, which are safer for your ears because they prevent the user from needing to raise the volume to block out external sounds.

  • Listen to music and television at medium volumes.

  • Most importantly—give your ears time to recover. Quiet time is one of the best healing experience you can give to your ears.

Protecting your children’s hearing is easy, and begins in the home. Here’s what you can do:

  • Practice the 60/60 rule: Only listen to music at 60% of the volume for 60 minutes.

  • Inspire their preference for quiet toys such as puzzles, dolls, coloring books, and building blocks. When considering electronic toys, look for for products with volume control settings.

  • Set the TV or game consoles to reasonable volumes.

  • Make sure your child does not sit too close to the television or other noisy electronics.

  • Use plush furnishings such as curtains, carpeting, and pillows to allow for sound to be absorbed.

  • Always set an example for your children. Your use of earplugs and low volumes will allow your children to learn a behavior that will become part of their hearing lifestyle.

Life’s enjoyments don’t necessarily need to be limited by diminished hearing. We all have the power to protect our ears.



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Hearing Loss Film “Hearing Hope” Captures Personal Strength, Scientific Vision

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) has created a new short film, “Hearing Hope,” to expand awareness of hearing health through the voices of those who benefit from and those who carry out the foundation’s life-changing work.

"It took me longer to talk than most kids. Because I couldn't understand what they were saying so I couldn't copy it," explains Emmy, 7.

"It took me longer to talk than most kids. Because I couldn't understand what they were saying so I couldn't copy it," explains Emmy, 7.

The third most prevalent chronic physical condition in the U.S., hearing loss can affect anyone—from first-grader Emmy to retired U.S. Army Colonel John—but its reach is often underestimated. “It’s one of the most common sensory deficits in humans,” explains cochlear implant surgeon Dr. Anil Lalwani. “I think we have to go from it being hidden to being visible.”

Both a hearing aid user and cochlear implant recipient, seventh-grader Alex is doing his part to make hearing loss less hidden. Smiling, he says he wants people to know that hearing with his devices makes him happy. John wishes to be an advocate for veterans and all who live with hearing loss and tinnitus.

When she received her hearing loss diagnosis at 17, NASA engineer Renee never thought she'd be living her dream.

When she received her hearing loss diagnosis at 17, NASA engineer Renee never thought she'd be living her dream.

The film also highlights resilience in response to the challenges associated with hearing conditions. Video participant Renee saw her dream of becoming an astronaut halted at 17 when her hearing loss was detected. Now she helps send people to space as an engineer at NASA.

Sophia describes the “low, low rock bottom” she hit when she was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome, the leading cause of deafblindness. Yet she feels special knowing her disability shapes her and sets her apart.

Jason recounts having no resources for hearing loss in children when his son, Ethan, failed his newborn hearing screening. Today he’s grateful for Ethan’s aptitude for language, made possible through his early hearing loss intervention.

With the support of HHF, more progress is made each year. “I’m glad that the doctors are trying to figure out how fish and birds can restore their hearing,” says Emmy.

For the past 60 years, HHF has funded promising hearing science and in 2011 established the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP), an international consortium dedicated to finding biological cures for hearing loss using fish, bird, and mouse models to replicate the phenomenon of hearing loss reversal in humans.

“If [the HRP] can achieve that goal of hearing restoration...that would be a marvelous thing for hearing loss,” reiterates Dr. Robert Dobie.

Through “Hearing Hope,” HHF would like to share its mission and message of hope to as many individuals as possible and reassure those with hearing loss and their loved ones they are not alone. As an organization that channels all efforts into research and education, HHF would greatly appreciate any assistance or suggestions to increase visibility of the film.

Watch the full film at www.hhf.org/video. Closed captioning is available.

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Let’s Make Noise Safer

By Vicky Chan

April 25 is International Noise Awareness Day, an annual, vital reminder to take a stand against noise exposure and to spread awareness about the underestimated threat of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Seemingly harmless rhythms, roars, and blasts heard daily from music, trains, and machinery are, in fact, among the top offenders of NIHL.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) progressively occurs after chronic exposure to loud sounds. The frequency and intensity of the sound level, measured in decibels (dB), increases the risk of NIHL. Gradual hearing loss can result from prolonged contact with noise levels of 85 dB or greater, such as heavy city traffic. Noises of 110 dB or more, like construction (110 dB), an ambulance (120dB), or the pop of firecrackers (140-165 dB) can damage one’s hearing in a minute’s time.

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NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable, yet billions of individuals endanger themselves daily. Over 1.1 billion young adults ages 12 to 35—an age group that frequently uses headphones to listen to music—are at risk. Already, an estimated 12.5% of young people ages of 6 to 19 have hearing loss as a result of using earbuds or headphones at a high volume. A device playing at maximum volume (105 dB) is dangerous, so exposure to sounds at 100 dB for more than 15 minutes is highly discouraged.

Most major cities around the world have transit systems that put commuters in contact with sounds at 110 dB. BBC News found that London’s transit systems can get as loud as 110 dB, which is louder than a nearby helicopter taking off. The sound levels of some stations exceed the threshold for which occupational hearing protection is legally required. New York City has one of the largest and oldest subway systems in the world where 91% of commuters exceed the recommended levels of noise exposure annually. In a study on Toronto’s subway system, 20% of intermittent bursts of impulse noises were greater than 114 dB.

People who work in certain fields are more vulnerable to NIHL than others. Professional musicians, for instance, are almost four times as likely to develop NIHL than the general public. Military personnel, who are in extremely close proximity to gunfire and blasts, are more likely to return home from combat with hearing loss and/or tinnitus than any other type of injury. And airport ground staff are surrounded by high-frequency aircraft noises at 140 dB. In all of these professions, the hazard of NIHL can be significantly mitigated with hearing protection.

NIHL is permanent. Increased exposure to excess noise destroys the sensory cells in the inner ears (hair cells), which decreases hearing capacity and leads to hearing loss. Once damaged, the sensory cells cannot be restored. To find a solution, Hearing Health Foundation’s (HHF) Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) conducts groundbreaking research on inner ear hair cell regeneration in hopes of discovering a life-changing cure.

Nearly three-quarters of those who are exposed to loud noises rarely or never use hearing protection. It is our dream that someday, NIHL will be reversible as a result of the HRP. Until then, to make noise safer, HHF advises protection by remembering to Block, Walk, and Turn. Block out noises by wearing earplugs or protective earmuffs. Walk away or limit exposure to high-levels of noises. Turn down the volume of electronic devices.

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My Ears Don’t Work, But My Implants Do

By Caroline O.

“No Walkman in the water, ma’am.”

I’m in my neighborhood park, about to go swimming in a New York City public pool. “Oh sorry,“ I stammer to the City Parks employee addressing me. “It’s not a Walkman. It’s a waterproof cochlear implant processor.”

She looks at me like I’m speaking Greek. “No electronics in the water,” she repeats.

“But it’s to help me hear,” I explain.

She doesn’t budge. She doesn’t understand. I have to try another tactic. Deep breath. “I’m deaf. I cannot hear without this, so I need to wear it while I swim. It’s not a Walkman, see? It’s a magnet that goes on my head.”  

Caroline and her family

Caroline and her family

The word deaf gets her attention. Now she gets it. Here in front of her is a person with a disability. Here is a person using an accommodation. She knows she cannot stop me from using it. Looking embarrassed, she waves me through. I thank her and smile.

In the five years since I’ve gotten my cochlear implants, one of the biggest challenges—or at least, one of the most unexpected ones—has been the need to explain the technology to others. Thanks to my long, thick hair, most of the time no one can see my implant processors at all. But when they can, the reaction is often one of bemusement or blankness.

My experience with the City Parks employee was not the first one like that, or the last. Once, on vacation, someone asked me why I needed an MP3 player in the ocean. He thought I was listening to music. He didn’t understand that I was listening to the whole world.

On a planet where only about a half million individuals out of 7.5 billion use a cochlear implant, ignorance of the technology is to be expected. And I’m proud to speak on its behalf, to explain why I need them and what they do, and to proclaim that while the technology is a marvel of science, for me it’s also just pure magic.

I love making people smile when I tell them about the first time I heard the swish-swish that applying body lotion makes (a sound I never knew existed!), or how I learned that you don’t have to actually stand in front of the oven waiting for it to reach the desired temperature, because… Did you know there’s a beep? (They knew. I did not.)

But it’s also frustrating at times. “I’m not tuning out my children,” I want to shout to those shooting a disapproving glance at that wire sticking out of my head. “I’m tuning in!”

Even relatives and close friends did not, initially, quite understand how my cochlear implants work. The very day my first implant got activated, a friend texted, “So, do you hear perfectly now?” I had to explain that, in fact, that first day I heard very poorly; it would take time, patience, and months of listening practice with a good speech-language pathologist before my brain would learn to process what initially sounded artificial and electronic as the normal, everyday sound of objects and voices.

Is my hearing perfect today, five years post-implantation? No, but it’s pretty darn good. Especially considering that, after decades of moderate to severe hearing loss, today I have no natural hearing left at all.

My ears don’t work. But my implants do, splendidly. And I couldn’t be happier.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Hearing Health magazine.

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Study Suggests that Nursing Homes Ignore Residents’ Hearing Loss

By Robert Polner

Over the past decade, hearing loss has emerged as a key issue in aging and health.  The problem affects over 80% of people aged 80 and over. Hearing loss is associated with social isolation, depression, and cognitive impairment --- all problems that are common among nursing home residents.

Yet the problem of hearing loss has not received much attention in the nursing home world.

Photo Credit:    Senior Guidance

Photo Credit: Senior Guidance

“Hearing loss is often seen as an inevitable consequence of aging,” said Professor Jan Blustein, M.D., Ph.D., professor of health policy and management at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the senior author of a study published today (Jan. 30) in The BMJ. “Many people just don’t appreciate how much hearing loss disrupts understanding and communication, and what a toll that takes in the lives of vulnerable older people.”

Prior studies in single nursing homes have shown that staff are often unaware that residents are having difficulty hearing.  But Blustein and her colleagues found that this appears to be a national trend.  Using data that all US nursing homes are required to report to the federal government known as the Minimum Data Set (MDS), the researchers found that in 2016, over two-thirds (68%) of long-stay nursing home residents over the age of 70 reportedly had adequate hearing, meaning that “they had no difficulty in normal conversation, social interaction, or listening to TV.”  The researchers compared this with previously reported data on elderly people outside of nursing homes, and argue that the reported rate in nursing homes is implausibly low.

“While prior small studies have shown that nursing home staff underestimate hearing problems, the data strongly point to a national problem,” said Blustein.

According to co-author and geriatrician Joshua Chodosh, M.D. of the NYU School of Medicine, recognition and treatment of hearing loss is “low hanging fruit for those who care for elderly people. Once you’re aware that hearing loss may be a problem, there are many ways to help,” said Chodosh. “Speaking clearly and facing the person when you talk is a good way to start.  But patients should be referred to an audiologist.  If buying hearing aids is within financial reach, that may be a good step. But there are other low-cost hearing assistance solutions such as pocket amplifiers that cost about $150 that can be very helpful in communicating with older people with hearing loss.”

As Blustein notes, “Hearing loss disrupts communication, leaving those affected especially vulnerable to social isolation and depression. Nursing homes could make a big difference in residents’ lives by attending to the issue.  This would not only be good clinical practice;  it would also be compliant with the law, since the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that homes offer ‘effective communication’ with residents.”

This press release was republished with permission from NYU. View the original article here.

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HHF Launches Faces of Hearing Loss Campaign

Think of someone you know who has hearing loss. Who do you see?

You envision a relative, but you are not thinking of your 4-year-old niece. A neighbor comes to mind, but not the 32-year-old who lives across the street.

This is a trick question. Hearing loss—and related conditions like tinnitus, Ménière's disease, and hyperacusis—can affect anyone, anywhere. Hearing loss is your 4-year-old niece, your 32-year-old neighbor, your colleague in her mid-20s. Hearing loss affects every age, race, ethnicity, and gender.

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No one is immune from developing a hearing and balance disorder—and hearing loss has no single face. To refute common misconceptions that it only affects older adults, HHF has collected images of individuals living with a hearing condition to capture the diversity of its impact across the country. These are HHF’s “Faces of Hearing Loss.”

Participants shared their picture, current age, state of residence, type of hearing condition, and the age at onset or diagnosis. Among the tens of millions of Americans with hearing loss are an 11-year-old boy in Oregon, an 80-year-old woman living in Washington, and a 47-year-old man in North Dakota. These individuals may never meet, but “Faces of Hearing Loss” connects them through their shared experiences.

If you or a loved one has hearing loss, please consider participating in “Faces of Hearing Loss” by completing this brief form, sending in picture, and answering a few basic questions. If you are the parent of a child under 18, you may sign a release form on their behalf.

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I Want You to Know About My Hearing Loss

By Lauren McGrath

Maureen “Marzi” Wilson is an author, illustrator, and self-described introvert. As one who goes about life with the tendency to speak less and listen more, she fittingly calls her latest collection of artwork Introvert Doodles.

Marzi does not have hearing loss. “As someone with typical hearing, I believe that I and others like me have a lot to learn from those with hearing loss. We need to pay attention to their experiences,” Marzi writes.

Marzi Wilson's    "I'm Deaf/Hard of Hearing"    gives individuals with hearing loss a way to voice their experience.

Marzi Wilson's "I'm Deaf/Hard of Hearing" gives individuals with hearing loss a way to voice their experience.

“I’m Deaf/Hard of Hearing” is Marzi’s latest relatable masterpiece about hearing loss in her “I Want You to Know” series. “I Want You to Know” is Marzi’s honest attempt to educate her viewers about hearing loss and other conditions that can be misunderstood or stigmatized. She knows that even the most well-meaning people have misconceptions about what does not affect them firsthand.

Since Marzi does not fully know what it is like to be hard of hearing, her work represents the feelings and experiences of real people with whom she’s connected online. To gather inspiration for her “I Want You to Know” pieces, Marzi engages with individuals who are personally affected. They describe the biases that interfere with their lives and offer practical solutions to their typical counterparts. This process provides “an opportunity for them to voice their experiences—I just illustrate them,” Marzi says, humbly.

In addition to spotlighting hearing loss in “I Want You to Know,” Marzi has previously created doodles on autism, grief, and obsessive-compulsive disorder and plans to craft future illustrations about chronic illness, dyslexia, and miscarriage.

She understands her introverted nature as a creative advantage. In her words, shyness goes hand in hand with being “perceptive, creative, and thoughtful”—the very characteristics needed to compassionately capture important pieces of human experience.

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

 
 
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Give Your Way on #GivingTuesday

By Lauren McGrath

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) kindly requests your help this #GivingTuesday, an annual international day of giving back.

While making a direct contribution is an option, it isn’t the only way that you can support our shared mission to enhance the lives of millions through better treatments and permanent cures for hearing loss and tinnitus.

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2017 was monumental for HHF in that your support enabled HHF to fund more critical hearing research than ever before. Still, more work must—and can—be done. Our Hearing Restoration Project’s Scientific Director, Peter Barr-Gillespie, Ph.D., is optimistic about the progress you’ve already empowered. “The clues are becoming more clear, and we expect the next year will yield a bounty of exciting results,” he shares.

As people around the world unite today in celebration of giving to causes that matter to them, we hope that you are inspired to act on behalf of HHF. Take your pick from the options below to give your way on #GivingTuesday:

Make a Direct Contribution

HHF accepts donations through our website’s secure donation portal and by mail to 363 Seventh Ave, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10001. We pledge to use your gift wisely. Our responsible and effective donor stewardship practices have been commended by Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Consumer Reports, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and GuideStar. All donors are recognized and acknowledged in our Annual Report.

If you are able to give today, Tuesday, November 28, consider making your donation through our Facebook page, where your donation will be generously matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Start a Community Fundraiser

You needn’t support Hearing Health Foundation's critical hearing loss research and awareness programs on your own. Reach out to your community—your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, or classmates—to give on your behalf as an HHF Community Fundraiser on Facebook or Classy. Please take advantage of our simple toolkits to ensure your fundraiser is a successful one.

Go Shopping

Perhaps the simplest way of all to give is to put your personal shopping to work for HHF—at no additional cost to you! If you are scoping out savings opportunities on Amazon, be sure to make your purchase through AmazonSmile and designate HHF as your charity of choice. If you are shopping on one of many other popular retailers’ sites like CVS, Nike, Etsy, Groupon, Macy’s, or Modell’s, you may allocate a percentage of your purchase to HHF through iGive.

Please email us at info@hhf.org if you are experiencing difficulty or have questions about our ways to give. Thank you for considering HHF on #GivingTuesday.

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5 Critical Facts About Hearing Protection

By Laura Friedman

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. How many of these facts from Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) do you know?

Fact #1: Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is acquired from excessive noise

  • ~30 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels on the job

  • Nearly 1 in 5 American teenagers are expected to acquire hearing loss largely due to overexposure of loud sounds

  • 25% of Americans age 65-74 and nearly 50% of those 75+ have disabling hearing loss

  • Approximately two-thirds of service members and veterans have NIHL or tinnitus, or both

  • Many veterans also have processing disorders as a result of blast or high noise exposure

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Fact #2: NIHL is preventable. The measures needed to prevent NIHL are simple: “Walk, Block, and Turn. Walk away from the sound source, block your ears using ear plugs, and turn down the volume,” advises Nadine Dehgan, HHF’s CEO.

Fact #3: Musicians are 57% more likely to experience tinnitus and are almost four times more likely to develop NIHL than the general public. Sound onstage can reach up to 110 decibels (dB), the equivalent of a jackhammer. Prolonged exposure to loud noise causes hair cells of the inner ear to be damaged, leading to permanent hearing loss.

Fact #4: A portable listening device at maximum volume (105 dB) is louder than heavy city traffic, drills, noisy subway platform and equal to a table saw. Blasting the volume in earbuds hurts hearing. It is estimated that 20% of teenagers, an age group that frequently uses portable listening devices, will suffer from hearing loss from overexposure to noise.

Fact #5: Steps to identify and prevent hearing loss should begin at birth. In 1993, only 5% of newborns were tested for hearing loss at birth. Thanks to HHF’s instrumental role in passing Universal Newborn Hearing Screening legislation, today that number is 97%. Early detection and intervention helps diminish or even eliminate negative impacts of undetected hearing loss on social, academic and emotional development in children with hearing loss.

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

 
 
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