RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — The World Health Organization’s first World Report on Hearing estimates that one in four people will be experiencing hearing loss to some degree by the year 2050.
While the estimate is staggering, there are ways to protect your hearing from damage.
The WHO’s report was released March 2, the day before World Hearing Day on March 3. The report brought to light many issues that contribute to hearing loss, like lack of information on prevention and access to medical care in low-income countries.
The prediction that one in four people will experience hearing loss to some degree by the year 2050 is a stark reminder that without care and prevention, we could lose one of our most useful senses.
In a news release on the WHO website, they advise these preventative measures:
“In children, almost 60% of hearing loss can be prevented through measures such as immunization for prevention of rubella and meningitis, improved maternal and neonatal care, and screening for, and early management of, otitis media – inflammatory diseases of the middle ear. In adults, noise control, safe listening and surveillance of ototoxic medicines together with good ear hygiene can help maintain good hearing and reduce the potential for hearing loss.”
Living or working in areas where loud noise is prevalent can contribute to hearing loss, according to the release. But while it may be difficult to control our surroundings, we do have control over the volume of our recreational activities.
Appreciating the sound effects in an action movie or loud music at an outdoor concert may be okay on occasion, but Dr. Patty Saldivar, Audiologist with RGV ENT a physician network for Valley Baptist, explained that the mechanisms in our ears are delicate and cannot be restored if damaged.
Sound waves travel through the ear canal, causing the eardrum to vibrate the fluid in the cochlea. In the cochlea are the hair cells that get damaged when pressure from sound waves is constant.
“Hair cells don’t regenerate, so once they die, that’s it,” said Dr. Saldivar.
Of those who could be suffering from ear damage at high rates are young adults.
According to the WHO, over one billion young adults, ages 12 to 35, are at risk of permanent, avoidable hearing loss caused by unsafe listening practices. Those practices can include listening to music or games at a volume that is too loud.
Dr. Saldivar said while it is rare that someone in that population comes to her office with hearing loss, she does sometimes encounter some with high-frequency hearing loss, and the causes are easily identified.
“I will tell them, ‘if someone else can hear those [earphones], then you have them too loud,’” said Dr. Saldivar.
Dr. Saldivar said the safe range listening to anything is below 85 dBs. She provided a useful reference:
Conversational Speech: 60 dBs
Lawn Mower: 90 dBs
Concert: 120 dBs
“A shot gun near the ear would cause permanent damage,” said Dr. Saldivar.
She noted that after a concert, people may experience some ringing in the ear and recover the next day, but repeated exposure will cause hearing loss. She advises using earplugs at loud events.
Another tip would be alternating the ear in which you have an earphone in.
“If you alternated, then you lessened the hours of exposure because it’s all about the hours of exposure and the level of the decibel,” said Dr. Saldivar.
For those wanting to be proactive about their exposure with their earphones, she advises using Apple’s Hearing’ to that monitors the decibel levels of what you are listening to. You can add it to your control center with these instructions.
To read more about the WHO’s report, you can head over to their website.