Why Noise-induced Hearing Loss Should be a Public Health Issue
- Permanent but preventable
Excessively loud sound prematurely ages the ears. It leads to Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), which is the second leading cause of hearing loss worldwide, right after aging. It is a major reason why younger and younger people are joining the ranks of those with hearing and communication challenges. The sad part is that this type of damage is cumulative and permanent but it is also preventable and as such it should raise serious Public Health red flags.
Several reasons for Public Health education and prevention efforts come to mind:
- Overall rising numbers in all age sectors
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, one in five Americans age 12 and over has enough hearing loss to interfere with daily communication. Hearing loss is no longer limited to “old folks.” Exposures to excessively loud sound drive the numbers in the younger demographics. That is a worry in itself as they will live longer with the fall-out and consequences of a chronic condition that for the most part is preventable. In terms of public health, chronic conditions cost money and so does hearing loss.
- General public unaware of the danger
Excess sound damages all ears, to be sure. It does not only affect young ears. It also robs those who already have hearing loss of the hearing that they have left. And so, ALL people need to be made aware of their risks and choices.
Although many people may have read or heard about the dangers of excessively loud sound, they are overall unaware of the lasting devastation that it causes and of the undesirable, long-term consequences.
As hearing loss is considered a communication issue, it affects people socially, emotionally, professionally, cognitively and financially. It leads to depression and isolation. And now, Johns Hopkins researchers are establishing ties between hearing loss and dementia.
How bad does it have to get? The public deserves education and choices on the issue. And so, the time for public education on hearing loss basics and hearing loss prevention is now.
Although research is ongoing, there is so far no cure for the hearing that we so wantonly endanger and sacrifice. And that is a most troublesome truth.
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To learn about ears and hearing, please see my book on hearing loss: What Did You Say? An Unexpected Journey into the World of Hearing Loss, in its second updated edition. Sharing my story and what I had to learn the hard way.