Hearing awareness

Currently, one in six Australians has some form of hearing loss and this is projected to increase to one in four by 2050. This means hearing loss is more common than cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, asthma, cancer and mental illness.

Causes of hearing loss

  • Hereditary disorders: These are passed on by parents and, in most cases, deafness is caused by malformations of the inner ear.
  • Genetic Disorders: Genetic mutations may happen at the moment of conception. Some of the many genetic disorders that can cause deafness include osteogenesis imperfecta, Trisomy 13 S and multiple lentigines syndrome.
  • Prenatal: Babies exposed in the uterus to certain disease may be born deaf or with hearing disorders. These include: German measles (rubella), influenza and mumps. Other factors that are thought to cause congenital deafness include exposure to methyl mercury and drugs such as quinine.
  • Noise: Loud noises (gun shots, firecrackers, explosions and rock concerts) can damage the delicate mechanisms inside the ear. If you are standing next to someone at a rock concert and have to shout to be heard, the noise is considered loud enough to be damaging to your ears.
  • Trauma: Perforation of the eardrum, changes in air pressure and a fractured skull can all cause hearing loss.
  • Disease: Some diseases can cause deafness. These include meningitis, mumps, cytomegalovirus and chicken pox and exposure to certain chemicals.
  • Age-related hearing loss: Our hearing gradually becomes less effective as we get older. At around 20 years of age, our hearing begins a gradual decline, with higher frequency sounds usually the first to go. This hearing loss is considered normal as we age and doesn’t lead to total loss of hearing.
  • Tinnitus is a sensation of ringing in the ears. Some of the causes of tinnitus include middle ear infections and damage to the ear from loud noises. Tinnitus may occur on its own, or in conjunction with hearing loss.

Prevention is best

This can be done in various ways:

  • Protect your ears in noisy environments by wearing noise reducing ear muffs.
  • Avoid loud music and noises for exessive periods of time.
  • Get your hearing tested periodically. Regular testing of your ears can provide early detection of hearing loss.

Noise Levels

It’s not just the amount of noise, but the length of time you’re exposed to it that determines its ability to damage your hearing. Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB). The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. Sounds louder than 80dB are considered potentially hazardous.

If you feel you have abnormal hearing loss please consult with a doctor.

For information on Hearing Awareness week click here.

For the Deafness Forum Australia click here.

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