Every month Dr. Oden writes a column in the Rowan Senior Savvy under the headline “Have You Heard?” In the November 2017 Senior Savvy she shares a recent travel experience and discusses the proliferation of hearing loss.

The holiday season is just around the corner.  I am thankful daily for so many blessings, but with Thanksgiving upon us it is time to give extra thanks. Of recent, I am thankful for the opportunity to have traveled with Barbara Franklin, the senior activity director from the Salisbury YMCA and 12 others from Salisbury to Scotland and Ireland last month.   I am thankful for finally meeting my husband’s fraternity roommate. Brock lives outside of London and flew to Edinburgh to spend the day with us.  For over 30 years I have heard about Brock and know that we will visit him in London soon.  Hopefully we will have the opportunity to show him and his wife our beautiful country as well.

Brock arranged for us to have lunch at this wonderful pub along the coast.  We traveled in a taxi and I was excited to see that the cab was looped.  If you have been reading my articles in the past, you know that a loop system allows the speakers voice to be heard directly in one’s hearing aids.  Communication with the taxicab driver is difficult, since the passengers and driver are separated by a sheet of Plexiglas.  I have heard the taxis in New York are also looped but had not seen that in person.

With today’s technology, accommodations for those with hearing challenges are part of everyday life.  They are not the exception.  But hearing loss is an older person’s problem, right?

Think again.  Noise, not age, is the leading cause of hearing loss. While hearing problems are common among older folks, damage from everyday noise is growing among younger Americans, including those in their teens and 20’s.

The latest research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows some 40 million Americans ages 20 to 69 with hearing damage from everyday loud noise, including heavy traffic, noisy restaurants, rock concerts, sporting events and loud music via earbuds.

Worse, many Americans don’t even realize their hearing has been affected.  In the CDC’s analysis of more than 3,500 hearing tests, one out of four adults claimed their hearing was just fine and reported no job-related noise, yet hearing tests indicate they already had noise-induced hearing  loss.  This type of damage causes a telltale drop in the ability to hear high-pitched sounds, and it was evident in those as young as 20.

The baby boomer generation is dealing with skin cancer from the tanning they did as teens.  We are also dealing with the consequences of noise exposure that damaged our hearing. We attended concerts, listened to loud music and did not use hearing protection as we should have.  Many adults don’t realize that hearing loss is permanent.  When loud noise kills the sensitive inner-ear cells that allow us to hear, they don’t regenerate.  The hearing you have when you are born is all you get.  Those cells cannot be replaced.  And the damage is cumulative.

A common problem among our younger patients is cranking up the sound in their earbuds to mask the noise around them.  We have had patients listen to loud music through their earbuds while mowing the lawn to drown out the noise of the mower.  This Saturday, I found my neighbor Eddie using his new backpack leaf blower without his hearing protection.  He agreed  the “hearing police” was justified in reprimanding him for not using his hearing protection.

To protect your hearing, follow these tips:

Turn down the volume. If you are listening to music through your earbuds, any volume level higher than 50% is risky.

Wear earplugs. For a concert, get a pair of the high-fidelity earplugs musicians wear.  They filter noise but let you clearly hear the music.  We now have several options available in the office for a variety of hearing protection needs. Stop in to take a look.

Limit your exposure. Avoid fitness classes with deafening music or a least move away from the speakers.

If you have hearing concerns or just need to establish a hearing baseline, give Beth a call at 704-633-0023 to schedule an appointment.  Diagnostic hearing evaluations are covered by insurance.  Medicare does require a referral from your physician.  Beth, Jane and I look forward to seeing you.