March 3 is World Hearing Day. Its mission – to raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world.
Currently, nearly 20% of the global population live with hearing loss. Sadly, this number is likely to rise considerably in the coming decades. Over 1.5 billion people currently experience some degree of hearing loss and it’s estimated to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050. By then, one in four Australians will suffer from hearing loss.
Loss of hearing, if not identified and addressed, can have far-reaching consequences across all stages of life, adversely affecting language development, psychosocial well-being, quality of life, educational attainment and economic independence.
But the good news is it’s possible to maintain good hearing across your whole life through ear and hearing care. Many causes of hearing loss can be prevented. Common ear diseases, ear infections, vaccine-preventable illnesses and exposure to noise and chemicals endanger the hearing of people at all different ages. For example, The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 1 billion young people put themselves at risk of permanent hearing loss by listening to music at loud intensity over long periods of time.
The past few decades have seen game-changing advances in the field of hearing technology, diagnostics and telemedicine with innovations that enable ear diseases and hearing loss to be identified at any age and in any setting. Medical and surgical management, hearing aids, cochlear implants, rehabilitative therapy, sign language and captioning are solutions which can ensure that people with ear diseases or hearing loss can still live full lives.
The biggest danger with hearing loss, especially that which occurs gradually through prolonged exposure to noise, is that by the time sufferers notice a change in their hearing, the irreversible damage has already been done. Hearing loss may present itself as tinnitus, the hearing of phantom sounds, like ringing or static; or as hyperacusis, a reduction in tolerance for ordinary sounds. Once recognising potential hearing loss, it takes sufferers on average seven years to seek professional help, so it is critical to seek early intervention if you suspect any type of hearing loss.
WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR RISK OF HEARING LOSS
Avoid loud noises
The best way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to keep away from loud noise as much as you can. Generally, a noise is probably loud enough to damage your hearing if you have to raise your voice to talk to other people or you cannot hear what people nearby are saying.
Take care when listening to music
Listening to loud music through earphones and headphones is one of the biggest dangers to your hearing. To help avoid damaging your hearing turn the volume up just enough so you can hear your music comfortably, but no higher.
Protect your hearing during loud events
To protect your hearing during loud activities and events move away from sources of loud noises (such as loudspeakers), try to take a break from the noise every 15 minutes, and consider wearing earplugs that reduce the volume of music but do not muffle it.
Take precautions at work
If you’re exposed to loud noises through your work, make sure your employer is following regulations to reduce your exposure to loud noise, for example, by making sure you’re not exposed to loud noise for long periods, and providing PPE. And make sure your wear it!
Keep your ears dry
If you’re an avid swimmer you might unknowingly be putting your ears at risk. When water gets trapped in your ear canal, it turns into the perfect spot for bacteria to grow. Excess moisture allows bacteria to inhibit and spread infection inside the ear canal so keep your ears dry as much as possible.
Get your hearing tested
Get a hearing test as soon as possible if you’re worried you might be losing your hearing. The earlier hearing loss is picked up, the earlier something can be done about it.