Hearing Loss – It’s Tme For All To Shake Hands

By George Evens. Some retrospection will identify a road to follow. But first, our focus – Seniors and a story that needs to be told: Hearing Loss. The Elder Citizens’ Action Coalition (ECAC) will talk to citizens about various issues and try to focus societal attention on seniors’ important needs in the desire to be part of catalysts to spawn immediate informed attention and needed action to improve seniors’ lives.

Photo from: aplaceformom.com

Hearing Loss now impacting all ages….. Having lunch or coffee with another person, you find he/she continually asking, “Huh – can you repeat what you just said”? Often at meetings, very important information is missed and you may find some fail to attend meetings regularly, withdrawal from conversations and avoidance of social settings.. Do you frequently find yourself missing pieces of conversation and wondering why people are laughing or what important info did you miss? If the individual is wearing a Hearing Aid, it may be as simple as “wearing a dirty aid”. If not, the person, regardless of age, may be experiencing “hearing Loss”.

Hearing Aids can take many shapes and sizes, be small enough to hide in the ear canal or a very popular model is BTE (behind the ear). Vanity has often been the deterrent of some to obtain a hearing aid. Not the intended wearer, which is sometimes the case but rather, their spouse who feels some embarrassment, thus, it is wise to consult with others, professionals and collectively come to realize the massive benefit to be derived at improvement to ones hearing and get over the vanity quickly. Unfortunately, most people affected by hearing loss live with these difficulties for years before seeking treatment and some never seek treatment.

People who receive treatment often report an improved quality of life, often dramatic improvement, greater self-confidence, closer relationships with loved ones and improved outlook on life overall. Following preliminary appointment with your General Practitioner and when going to visit the Audiologist, have a list of questions, take a family member or friend along. General screening tests, “Tuning Fork” test to Audiometer tests will comprise tests done by your Audiologist and remember “If you have hearing problems, help is available” and treatment depends upon cause and severity of your hearing loss.

A Hearing Aid ought to be maintained in clean condition, accordingly “cleaning daily is recommended”. Sadly, improper maintenance can render the often very expensive aid gradually useless, as wearers can hardly hear, as wax build-up will prevent proper hearing.

It is important to have hearing loss checked as it become apparent you may be missing important conversation as a gradual buildup of earwax can block the ear canal and prevent conduction of sound waves. Earwax blockage is a cause of hearing loss among people of all ages. This causes conductive hearing loss which usually can be restored with earwax removal.

Some medications, such as antibiotic gentamicin and certain chemotherapy drugs can damage the inner ear. Temporary tinnitus can occur if you take very high doses of aspirin, other pain relievers, antimalarial drugs. Even some illnesses that result in high fever, such as meningitis may damage the cochlea.

Hearing loss to deafness, once deemed the ailment of an older person is now becoming an increasing more common problem of youth. Hearing loss in the elderly may be an accumulation of varied injury or abuse during a lifetime of noisy work situations, genetic/heredity or just the body aging. Today, noise not age is the leading cause of hearing loss. Indeed, 1/3 between ages of 65 years and 75 and close to ½ over 75 have some degree of hearing loss.

Hearing loss caused by noise can occur in people of any age, suddenly or gradually, depending upon source & intensity. Some common recreation and daily activities over many years can damage the ear and cause hearing loss, such as “high-volume music, power tools such as chainsaws, electric drills; lawnmowers, blenders or vacuum cleaners, snowmobiles and motorcycles, leaf blowers are among countless other devices causing harmful noise levels. Some Hearing Aids make sounds louder and can be helpful for some types of hearing loss.

Sound energy has to be strong enough to bend tiny hair cells in the cochlea, a part of the inner ear. The force of loud noise can damage these hair cells. A small amount of damage may have little or no effect on hearing. But with repeated exposure to noise, more of the hair cells are damaged, resulting in (permanent) hearing loss, that this kind of hearing loss is almost entirely preventable. Sadly, most people ignore warnings, condone excessive noises, demean complainers and generally are ignorant to the extreme, if not in denial, too often, to recognize unwanted noises, are unhealthy and contributing to not only hearing losses but many other health issues, as well, instead the severally ignorant treat noise as an annoyance, “get used to it or move” we often hear in defence of varied noise causes.

Many noise contributors now commonplace among the older person, have been largely abated and/or remedied through Workers Compensation planning and workplace noise level controls. But increasing hearing loss among youth is largely from (uncontrolled) noise and more entertainment oriented, such as Boom Box Stereos, hearing bud from a multitude of entertainment devices, such as iPod, walkman, loud concerts. A recent US study indicated a 30% increase in hearing loss among youths. Excessive noise is a leading cause of hearing loss among young people, particularly headphones & earphone the most damaging.

Exacerbating the “noise dilemma” is the dramatic ignorance of authorities to recognize and enact legislation, to control noise emanating devices at source of manufacture. Thus, many retailers of noise emanating devices blast the unsuspecting ear drums of the younger and younger without conscience or knowledge, in many cases but otherwise indifference is a significant player. Contributing to the noise problem, is a fundamental emphasis by some to treat persons inflicted by any noise, who have the right of protest but perceived audacity, to (complain) as just that, “complainers”, who ought to be ridiculed and dismissed, “move if you do not like it”. Sadly, such extreme insensitivity and ignorance if too often patronized rather than have the informed integrity and fortitude to act in diligent and pro-active fashion, to abate noise.

The right to enjoy a person’s home in peace & quiet is often overshadowed by the sheer stupidity and moribund behaviour of authorities & elected buffoons, who lack the wisdom & empathy. Unnecessary and unhealthy noises, in addition to exacerbating hearing loss, have a most profound dramatic impact upon one’s health. Physical pain (140db+), vertigo (120db), blood vessel constriction, blood pressure increase, heart rate increase, stress (70db) , sleep loss, the inability to concentrate, interruption of feminine cycles

Noise if typically created by irresponsible people, with no caring for others rights to enjoy peace & quiet, if they feel (their) noise is fun or enjoyable, like listening to Boom Box Stereos. Others believe their right to scare birds with the incessant Bang of largely useless Propane Cannons (110-130db), can contribute to their livelihood, by a larger amount of berry output, lack needed empathy for inconvenience caused and feel “making a buck is more important” than workers health or neighbours right to quiet. Thus, it is critical for citizens to be convinced that noise control efforts are made on their behalf and “that responsible citizens control their own sound making”. Simply, “Your right to make noise ends where your neighbour’s right to peace & quiet begins”.

Not all noises contribute to hearing loss unless exposed or in closer proximity and thus, in some cases it is just annoyance and neighbor alienation that emerges. Train whistles or emergency sirens are annoying. Usually sensitivity to high-frequency sounds is first to go, followed by inability to hear speech frequencies. The effects of noise exposure are cumulative, thus we start out with a redundancy of hair cells but with repeated noisy insults, enough are destroyed to impair hearing. Permanent hearing loss begins about 85db. Ear plugs are recommended when using a hair dryer, kitchen blender, mowing lawn with gas mower, shooting guns, riding motor cycles, snow blowers, leaf blowers or chain saws but most fail to observe simple precautions, hence, in part, the dramatic rise in hearing losses.

Another source of hearing loss come from Meniere’s Disease, a disorder of the inner ear that affects hearing and balance. It can cause sudden attacks of vertigo (a spinning sensation) or tinnitus (a loud ringing in the ears) and hearing loss may be temporary or permanent. May cause events of nausea and vomiting, a feeling of pressure in the ear and while cause is unknown it may be related to a fluid imbalance in the inner ear. Treatment may include medicines, sometimes surgery but avoiding caffeine, alcoh0ol, tobacco, salt and stress may prevents attacks of vertigo.

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is totally preventable but “once you have hearing loss, you’ll have it for life”. Some of the harmful noise levels and sources of unhealthy noises include but are not limited to “prolonged noise over 85db can cause hearing loss; regular exposure to noise over 110db or more for more than 1 minute can cause permanent hearing loss; immediate ear damage by exposure to 150db; excessive noise and maximum time allowed without earplugs, include Rock Concert 120db (7.5 min), Stereo Headphones 110db( 30 min), lawn mower 90db (8 hours), Boom Box 110db (30 min).

After poor service, noise is the second leading complaint about restaurants but proprietors ignorance and greed has spawned the belief, wrongly in the longer-term but they believe “people spend more on food and drink in bustling eateries”, many have created venues to maximize sound levels.

Hearing loss for Seniors’ as Youth, can be devastating but is often preventable. Seniors’ with hearing loss are 32% more likely to be admitted to hospital. Older adults are 57% more likely to experience psychological distress, such as depression. Hearing loss can lead to social isolation. Approximately 2/3 of people over 70 years have a hearing loss. Again, noise not age is the leading cause of hearing loss today.

Seniors’ exposed to any and all forms of noise can suffer the same detrimental effects, so continued awareness of environmental surroundings, including “noise pollution” must be heeded and careful & thoughtful behavior and action to reduce or eliminate harmful noises taken. Something to ponder, “would you want to be the only one in the Nursing Home who can carry on a conversation”? Why not have your hearing tested and take family members along, particularly youth, as knowing you have lost some hearing means you’re in a position to take steps to prevent further hearing loss.

George F. Evens
Elder Citizens’ Action Coalition
www.thecouncilclaw.ca click Elder Citizens Action Coalition or Anti-Noise Pollution Program

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