May is referred to as Speech and Hearing Improvement Month. Its underlying mission is to make effective communication a human right, accessible and achievable for all, despite all obstacles.
Over 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from some degree of hearing loss. The trends suggest that we will see continued growth in the number of people living with some degree of hearing loss. By 2050, that number could reach 2.5 billion worldwide.
An effective and timely identification and response plan can benefit everyone at risk or living with hearing loss. This includes hearing screens for newborns, children and adults, early management of otitis media, ototoxic drug monitoring, and noise control with safe listening levels.
Studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can affect cognitive function, well-being, mental health, and speech and language development. A patient-centered approach to managing hearing loss is the key to long-term success. Management may include medical or surgical intervention, access to sign language, captioning services or assistive technology, and the use of hearing aids or surgically implanted devices such as hearing aids. cochlear implants or bone-anchored hearing aids.
As spring and summer approach and we spend more time outdoors, it’s important to be aware of one type of preventable hearing loss called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
This can occur in children and adults as a result of one-time exposure or over a prolonged period. Unprotected noise exposure to sounds such as outdoor equipment and guns can damage the delicate structures of the inner ear. Research has shown that as many as 5.2 million children and 40 million adults suffer from some form of hearing loss caused by noise exposure.
You can prevent NIHL by wearing proper hearing protection, turning down the volume, moving away from the sound source, and checking the sound levels in your surroundings. There are free smartphone apps that allow users to monitor noise levels in their surroundings.
We have seen disruptions in our modes of communication with the widespread use of face masks and social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The volume of our voices is reduced, visual signals are minimized or completely lost, and important voice frequencies are distorted. This presents a unique challenge for people with hearing loss who are trying to understand a speaker wearing a mask and socially distant. The pandemic has highlighted the immediate need to change the way we communicate, especially with people who are hard of hearing. This can include virtual conversations, receiving health care through telemedicine, and using text-to-speech applications or captioning services.
Audiologists at WVU Medicine Ear, Nose, and Throat – Berkeley strive to serve others through excellence in patient care, research and education. Our team would like to encourage you to make your hearing care a priority. A great next step is to schedule a hearing assessment with a licensed audiologist.
Being under the care of an audiologist means that you will be well informed about your hearing condition, that you will understand how hearing loss can impact communication with others and your quality of life, and that you will be equipped with information. tips to make an informed decision about how to manage your hearing health care.
Lindsay Bruce, Au.D., CCC-A, and Betsy Sears, Au.D., CCC-A, are audiologists with WVU Medicine Ear, Nose, and Throat – Berkeley. To reach their office, dial 304-262-9400.