HEALTH AND WELLNESS: Hearing loss isn't just among the oldHearing loss is occurring at a younger age and becoming more prevalent throughout society, said Marie Johnstad, speech-language pathology coordinator at RiverView Health in Crookston. Research shows that three in 10 people ages 60 and older and one in six baby boomers have hearing loss. Meanwhile, at least 1.4 million children, ages 18 or younger, have hearing problems and it is estimated that three in 1,000 infants are born with serious or profound hearing loss.
By: Ann Bailey, Grand Forks Herald
CROOKSTON — Hearing loss is occurring at a younger age and becoming more prevalent throughout society, said Marie Johnstad, speech-language pathology coordinator at RiverView Health in Crookston.
Research shows that three in 10 people ages 60 and older and one in six baby boomers have hearing loss. Meanwhile, at least 1.4 million children, ages 18 or younger, have hearing problems and it is estimated that three in 1,000 infants are born with serious or profound hearing loss.
“They’re saying the next generation will be the deafest generation,” Johnstad said. Hearing loss can occur either from sudden, loud noises, such as shotgun blasts or long-term exposure to high noise levels, Johnstad told a group gathered for a RiverView Health presentation on hearing loss.
An increasingly noisy society is contributing to hearing loss, she said. Thirty million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day and 10 million already have suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise, according to research.
The noise occurs not only in some workplaces, but also in recreational settings, Johnstadnoted.
“Our hobbies are getting noisier.” Johnstad said. Those hobbies include attending monster truck shows, riding, motorcycles and listening to loud music on hand-held devices with head phones.
The head phones which have the most potential to cause hearing loss are ear buds, she said.
“They don’t seal in the air so noise outside competes with the music.” Young people then crank up the music so they can better hear it.
“That’s causing permanent structural damage to the ear,” Johnstad said.
Signs that noise may be damaging your ears include, not being able to hear someone 3 feet away, pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area, ringing and buzzing immediately after exposure to noise and having to raise your voice to shout if the person is within an arm’s length away from you.
Though there are funny stories associated with hearing loss, it’s really no joke, Johnstad said.
“When you are trying so hard to hear what other people are saying in a social situation, it’s fatiguing,” she said.
Hearing loss causes a variety of psychological problems including irritability, negativism and anger, she said. Meanwhile it can also inhibit learning and reduce alertness which may result in an increased risk to personal safety.
Hearing loss signs
According to Johnstad, some symptoms of hearing loss are:
• Frequently requiring repetition.
• Having difficulty following conversation involving more than two people.
• Thinking other people sound muffled or like they’re mumbling.
• Having difficulty hearing children and women. Women’s and children’s voices are higher frequency and “higher frequency sounds are the sounds that generally go first,” Johnstad said.
• Feeling annoyed at other people because you can’t hear or understand them.
• Feeling nervous about trying to hear or understand.
• Feeling embarrassed to meet new people or feeling embarrassed because you misunderstand what they are saying.
• Difficulty hearing is causing you to withdraw from social situations that you once enjoyed.
The good news is that hearing loss can be prevented, Johnstad said. According to studies, one-third of hearing loss is preventable with proper hearing protection, she said.
“We can preserve and save our hearing. Even if you do have a hearing loss, you can save and preserve what you have.
“We really do need to make sure we are teaching our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews. We need to educate, prevent, be informed, prepare, plan ahead. Carry your little ear plus with you all of the time.”
Bailey writes for special features sections. Reach her at (701) 787-6753; (800) 477-6572, ext. 753; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.