Hearing loss can occur as part of the natural aging process. Other hearing losses are the result of exposure to factors at both work and home. Some types of hearing loss can be prevented.
Second only to aging, exposure to loud noise is the most common cause of hearing loss. Loud sounds, such as gunshots, firecrackers or jet engines, may cause permanent hearing loss. Moderate noise levels over time can also cause hearing loss. The noise may be quieter but, if it lasts longer, it will still damage the ear. Common items, such as power tools or a vacuum cleaner, have this capability.
Ear muffs or foam earplugs can help reduce or prevent hearing loss. The law requires employers to provide hearing protection for employees in noisy work areas. Hunters and target shooters are trained to wear ear protection when firing guns. Teens can enjoy a loud concert without hearing loss by wearing earplugs.
Pregnant women can reduce the chance of congenital hearing loss by:
- getting prenatal care and
- avoiding viral infections that may result in fetal deafness in the first three months of pregnancy
Children should have routine hearing screenings, starting at birth. This is essential in reducing the effect of a hearing loss on speech and language, as well as, social and emotional development. Treatment can often significantly improve a child's hearing loss.
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is never too early, or too late, to protect the hearing you have. If you suspect a hearing loss, contact your healthcare provider. He or she may perform a hearing exam, or may refer you to an audiologist for a more comprehensive exam.