People go to the dentist to make sure their teeth are healthy and have an eye test once in a while… but they don’t tend to check their hearing.

It can be easy to overlook the health of your hearing, especially if you’re not experiencing any troubling symptoms. Many adults assume that hearing tests are for people who have a problem, just as vision tests are for people who have difficulty seeing.

What happens when we don’t take care of our hearing?

There is no cure for hearing loss. Prevention is key as hearing loss is irreversible and permanent.  Failure to protect against hearing loss can lead to poor quality of life and can have a huge effect on relationships, activity, social participation cognition and mental health, and the costs from untreated hearing loss can increase significantly.

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 28.8 million adults in the United States could benefit from wearing hearing aids.  Of the 28.8 million Americans (age 20-69) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids, fewer than 16 percent have ever used them, indicating that a large percentage of hearing loss is undiagnosed.  Even more damaging, people who believe they may be suffering from hearing loss wait an average of seven years before seeking help.

Many people may not be aware of the detrimental effects that noise can have on hearing. What can people do to minimize noise damage?

Our world is becoming noisier and many may not be aware of the harmful effects that noise can have on hearing. Hearing difficulties arise due to damage to the hearing system.  With normal ear function, sound waves enter your ear and vibrate your eardrum and middle ear bones, then travel through to the cochlea which sets in motion thousands of tiny hairs that convert the vibrations into nerve impulses. Those impulses then travel to the brain where they are processed into sounds your brain can process. Your ears are a complex organ and damage to any of its crucial parts can lead to different types of hearing loss.

Awareness of what damages hearing is a good place to start. This includes some hobbies like shooting; activities like going to concerts and listening to music on headphones; and workplaces with high noise levels like factories, workshop floors and even professions which require the use of noisy tools such as dentist drills.

What are some simple steps that we can take to avoid damaging our hearing?

The three main components that cause hearing loss are how loud the sound is, how long we are exposed to the sound, how close or far the sound source is to our ears. If it is not possible to change any of these factors, for example during work or a concert, then it is advisable to use hearing protection.