May is Speech and Hearing Awareness Month, here are some facts, figures and information.
Hearing loss is the forth most prevalent chronic condition in Canada after mobility, pain and agility. It is the most widespread disability: 46 percent of people aged 45-87 have hearing loss.
Only 1 in 5 people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one. Ninety percent of people with hearing loss can improve communication with a properly fitted hearing aid, counselling or environmental changes.People who have hearing loss are 2-5 times more likely to develop dementia.
Hearing loss is not just an age-related disability; it is affecting people at younger and younger ages. A study for Worksafe BC found that over 25% of young people entering the workforce had the early warning signs of hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss is the most cause of hearing loss among young people. When using earbuds to listen to music, Doctors recommend the 60% volume/60-minute rule. Turning up the volume, and using the earbuds more frequently for longer periods of time, can damage your hearing irreparably. Loud noise damages the tiny hair cells, that help send sound messages to your brain, in your inner ear, or cochlea. Unlike damage to other parts of your body, inner ear damage never heals.
Noise-induced hearing loss from wearing earbuds usually takes a while to develop. Because it happens gradually, a lot of people don’t know they have a problem until it’s too late. Signs that you may have a hearing loss are: ringing, buzzing, or roaring in your ears after hearing a loud noise, and muffling or distortion of sounds.
Here’s a guide to some typical noise levels, measured in decibels (dB). The higher the number, the louder the noise. Noise levels above 105dB can damage your hearing if endured for more than 15 minutes each week. But lower levels, such as between 80dB and 90dB can also cause permanent damage if you're exposed to them for hours every day. What does that level of sound look like?
- normal conversation: 60-65dB
- music player with earbuds, on loud: 112dB
- rock concert/ambulance siren: 120dB
- heavy traffic/lawn mower: 85dB
- hand drill: 98dB
- chainsaw: 115-120dB
Recent research and development has led to a transformation in hearing aid technology. Many of today’s hearing aids automatically adjust to different soundscapes. For example, they can allow the user to listen to one person in a crowded setting, while blocking out background noise. Some have a tinnitus reduction setting that can be helpful. Wireless, digital, hearing aids can also be directly connected to smartphones, TV and other electronic devices.
You might have a hearing loss if you experience the following:
- require frequent repetition.
- have difficulty following conversations involving more than 2 people.
- think that other people sound muffled or like they're mumbling.
- have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms.
- have trouble hearing children and women.
- have your TV or radio turned up to a high volume.
- answer or respond inappropriately in conversations.
- have ringing in your ears.
- read lips or more intently watch people's faces when they speak with you.
If you suspect you have a hearing loss, see your doctor (there are often correctible causes such as a build up of earwax or an infection) or an audiologist. Many audiologists will perform a thorough hearing evaluation for free. Choose an audiologist or hearing service provider who is recommended, and who provides the best follow-up service and has access to a wide variety of brands and products.
Mainland Hearing has partnered with the Caring Circle to bring free hearing screening tests to Bowen Island. For an appointment, or for more information, contact Mainland Hearing, West Vancouver at 604-281-3691.