World Hearing Day, 3rd March 2022
This World Hearing Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stresses the importance of safe listening as a means of maintaining good hearing across the life course. This year’s theme for the awareness campaign is quite aptly “To hear for life, listen with care”.
A person is said to have hearing loss if they are not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing (thresholds of 20 dB or better in both ears. Read more on measuring the intensity of sound and decibels HERE). Hearing loss can be mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe or profound, and can affect one or both ears. Hearing loss and deafness can also occur as a complication of other diseases such as measles, meningitis, rubella and mumps. Other causes of hearing loss include congenital or early-onset childhood hearing loss, chronic middle ear infections, noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and certain drugs that damage the inner ear.
A person is said to have hearing loss if they are not able to hear as well as someone with normal hearing (thresholds of 20 dB or better in both ears). It can be mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe or profound, and can affect one or both ears. Hearing loss and deafness can also occur as a complication of other diseases such as measles, meningitis, rubella and mumps. Other causes of hearing loss include congenital or early-onset childhood hearing loss, chronic middle ear infections, noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and certain drugs that damage the inner ear.
Deafness and hearing loss are widespread. Research shows that currently more than 1.5 billion people (nearly 20% of the world’s population) live with hearing loss; this includes 34 million children with deafness or hearing loss, of which 60% of cases are due to preventable causes.
How does a loud sound affect my ears?
Sensory cells within your ears help you to listen and process sounds. Listening to loud sounds over long periods can cause damage, which can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss or a ringing sensation in the ear (tinnitus).
Hearing loss may not be noticeable initially; you may only have trouble hearing some high-pitched sounds like bells. Continued listening at unsafe levels leads to irreversible hearing loss. This can make it difficult to communicate with others, especially in noisy places like restaurants and markets.
How will I know if my hearing has been affected?
Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. For instance, a person who attends a loud concert may experience temporary tinnitus that recovers within a few hours or a day. Regular or prolonged noise exposure can cause gradual, irreversible damage to the sensory cells, leading to permanent hearing loss. It is therefore important to be alert to early warning signs of hearing loss, including:
- difficulty in hearing high-pitched sounds (birds singing, doorbells, telephones, alarm clocks)
- trouble understanding speech, especially over the telephone
- noticeable effort required to follow conversations in noisy environments
If you think that you have any of these problems, you should get your hearing checked. WHO has developed the hearWHO app that gives the public access to a hearing screener to check and monitor their hearing status. The app is particularly recommended for those who usually listen to loud music.
What is the impact of hearing loss?
The impact of hearing loss can be profound. The inability to communicate with others can lead to social isolation, loneliness and frustration, as well as delayed language development in children.
Many of the impacts of hearing loss can be diminished through early detection and prompt interventions that include specialized education programs and sign language instruction for young children and their families. Assistive technologies such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, closed captioning and other devices can help people with hearing loss at any age. Some people may also benefit from speech therapy/ aural rehabilitation.
How can hearing loss be prevented?
WHO stress the importance of strategies that target individual lifestyle choices (e.g. limiting exposure to loud sounds/ music, and/or wearing protective equipment such as earplugs; and implementing audio standards for personal audio devices).
You can protect your hearing by:
- Keeping the volume down
- Wearing earplugs when visiting noisy places e.g. sports events, concerts etc.
- Using noise-cancelling earphones/headphones when travelling on a train or bus (these can reduce the need to raise the volume)
- Monitoring and respecting safe listening levels, and staying within your daily sound allowance.
- Limiting the daily use of your personal audio devices
- Restricting time spent engaged in activities in noisy places: take short listening breaks (go to a quiet place or corner and allow your ears to rest)
- Keeping a distance between yourself and loud sound sources, such as speakers
- Getting a prompt check-up if needed
For more on safe listening click HERE
#SafeListening #WorldHearingDay #HearingCarethe intensity of sound and decibels