We often take our sense ofhearing for granted—attendingloud concerts, listening to blaringheadphones for too long, and notwearing hearing protection whenusing power tools. But these deafeningactivities have consequences. Literally.
“Loud noise causes damage tohearing over time and the effects maynot be seen until years after the noiseexposure,” says Elizabeth Brunger, aregistered audiologist at the AlbertaChildren’s Hospital in Calgary.
On top of that, many of us will alsolikely experience age-related hearingloss. As we age, a natural breakdownof hair cells in the inner ear affectshearing. Speech may sound mumbled,especially when there is backgroundnoise. Higher-pitched sounds suchas a woman’s voice may be harderto distinguish than lower-pitchedsounds such as a man’s voice andthis affects how clearly you can hear
Listening to your ears
Age and noise can both affect hearing
and understand speech. You mightalso hear ringing, roaring or hissing,known as tinnitus.
Unfortunately, there is no wayto reverse age-related hearing loss,although hearing aids and assistive-listening devices can help. You canalso protect your hearing by wearingproper hearing protection (notcotton balls!) and by avoiding noisyenvironments.
Hearing loss can also affect children.
“It is estimated that between one and
six newborns per 1,000 are born with a
hearing loss,” Brunger says. “It’s more
common than the combination of other
health conditions screened for in
For kids, hearing is especially critical
for language development. “Even a
mild hearing loss puts a child at risk
for delays in speech and language
development,” she emphasizes. “A
child with a mild hearing loss will
miss about 25 per cent of what is said
in the classroom. [That’s] missing a
If you suspect anyone in your family
has a hearing loss, it’s best to have it
checked out. “Speak to your family
doctor and request a hearing test,”
Brunger advises. “Infants, toddlers and
preschoolers can all be tested so there
is never a good reason to wait.”
It’s also important to ask friends and
family for help. “A hearing loss can
be socially isolating, so connecting
with those people closest to you is
— Colleen Seto
May is National Speech and HearingMonth in Canada; for information,visit maymonth.ca. For AlbertaHealth Services’ speech and hearingresources, see page 80.
Photo:VeerWearing proper protection and avoiding loud noises can prevent hearing damage.