Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the U.S., behind only arthritis and heart disease. Unlike these other conditions, people with hearing loss typically wait 10 years after their initial diagnosis to seek treatment.
David Owen, author of a new book called Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening World hopes to convince his readers that early intervention is key. He sums up the problem in one sentence, “Hearing problems are often aggravated by the human tendency to do nothing and hope for the best, usually while pretending that everything is fine.”
How You Hear
Owen’s book is divided into sections explaining the mechanics of hearing sound and the technologies available to treat hearing loss.
He breaks down the complicated technical concept of hearing into language anyone can understand, explaining, “The principal components of the auditory system are coiled inside a spiraling fluid-filled chamber about the size of a pea, yet a person whose ears are fully functional can hear vibrations so faint they displace the air molecules inside their ear canals by distances measured in trillionths of a meter.”
The hair cells within the ear are submicroscopic cylindrical tubes that translate sound waves into electrical signals that end up in the auditory centers of the brain. The eardrum, the various tiny bones in the middle ear (one of them “similar in shape to a hummingbird’s wishbone but roughly half the size”), the snail-shaped cochlea (“less than half the diameter of a dime”) and the Eustachian tube that connects the ear to the throat are “almost inconceivably sensitive.”
These parts together make up the auditory system.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a common problem linked with aging, but exposure to loud sounds can also lead to the disorder. While attending rock concerts and being around machinery without proper hearing protection are obvious causes, there are hidden hearing risks all around you, including:
- Leaf blowers
- Lawn mowers
- Hair dryers
- Food processors
Even listening to loud music through earbuds can cause permanent damage to your hearing.
Restaurants and bars are major offenders. They are known to turn up their background music as the night goes on to promote less talking and more drinking. Owen recommends using a cellphone app, like SoundPrint, which he describes as “Yelp for noise levels” to find a safe spot to dine.
Even with all the dangers, Owen notes, “There is no better time in all of human history to be a person with hearing loss.” Hearing aid technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and scientists are working on groundbreaking research.
Owen’s message is simple – protect your hearing early. And if you have hearing loss, get treatment. Don’t wait.
Evergreen Speech & Hearing, Inc. can help you protect your hearing and find the best treatment to fit your type and degree of hearing loss.