We Choose to Hear – And Listen: Part 1

We Choose to Hear – And Listen: Part 1


Hearing – and our ability to listen – defines our relationships and shapes our personalities. It keeps us connected to people and the environment around us, alerts us to danger, and helps to provide all of us with some form of social enjoyment. Hearing never sleeps – it keeps us aware every second of every day.

Without healthy hearing, we face several permanent consequences, none more tragic than diminishing our ability to connect with others in a meaningful way. Quoting Helen Keller, "Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people."

Over the years, we’ve met thousands of people all over the world who have shared their own personal stories, questions and comments about hearing loss. While we can’t respond to everyone, we can cover the most common – and often misunderstood – concerns about hearing loss and tactics to conserve your own hearing.

How does hearing loss happen?
Unlike other injuries or diseases, there is no visible evidence of noise-induced hearing loss [NIHL]. It is usually not traumatic and often goes unnoticed in its early stages. Noise-induced hearing loss accumulates over time with every unprotected exposure to hazardous noise levels, its effects realized long after the damage has been done. NIHL is permanent and irreversible. With proper education, motivation and protection, however, it is 100% preventable.

With NIHL, ringing in the ears called tinnitus is sometimes the first indication that damage has occurred.  Then high frequency sounds such as crickets chirping and wristwatch alarms, and speech sounds like “SH,” “S,” “TH” and “F” are the sounds that are first affected. They will be muffled, compared to other sounds of speech.  With normal hearing, conversations are understandable if they are loud enough. With a noise-induced hearing loss, the clearness of speech is affected, and simply turning up the volume does not solve the problem.

What are your reasons? 
Everyone has personal reasons to keep their hearing safe. Here are some questions to help you answer why you want to keep your hearing safe:

  • What is your favorite sound?
  • When did hearing alert you to a danger?
  • What sounds do you hear right now?
  • What if you couldn’t hear?  What would you miss?
  • How would your job be affected if you couldn’t hear?

If somebody has a hearing loss, how can we tell whether it is caused by noise? 

Here are the five common indicators of noise-induced hearing loss:

  1. It is time-linked to the noise exposure.
  2. It is almost always a high-frequency hearing loss first.
  3. It is usually bilateral [affects both ears equally]. There are some exceptions to this [for example, a truck driver who always has his window rolled down will have more noise exposure in the exposed ear than the unexposed ear]. But for employees who move around during the workday, the hearing loss is usually fairly equal in both ears.
  4. There is a gradual progression of hearing loss. We don’t measure hearing loss due to noise in terms of days or weeks. It usually takes us years to notice the permanent change in hearing.
  5. You experience the appropriate symptoms. If someone says he/she has pain in their ears, or drainage from their ears, this is probably NOT due to high noise levels. However, ringing in the ears [tinnitus] is a common symptom that goes hand-in-hand with noise-induced hearing loss.

Next: "How do I keep my hearing safe?" - We Choose to Hear – And Listen: Part 2



Blog Author:  Renee Bessette  
Blog Catagories:  NIHL  

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