Hazards and Prevention of Hearing Loss

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Hazards and Prevention
of Hearing Loss
Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar

Pakistan is suffering from all sorts of pollutions. Air and water pollutions causing heavy toll on respiratory, cardiovascular and water-borne diseases. Water borne pollution diseases cause- about 40% of total deaths- like-wise chest and cardiovascular diseases are rampant due to atmospheric pollution. Noise pollution has also assumed a major problem causing hearing loss and related disorders- light pollution is also a hazard.

There is a lack of awareness about pollutions. There is a dire need to create awareness at the National level and adopt preventive measures. Noise pollution not only causes loss of hearing but also related cardiovascular and brain disorders like dementia. Loss of sight is detected earlier and eyeglasses are used. On the other hand hearing loss is detected at later stages and there is tendency to avoid using hearing aids. If used these are hidden unlike sight glasses which are worn without any hindrance.


Lt. Gen. (R) Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar

In the medical education, there is a less emphasis on the subject of prevention of diseases. There is a dire need to give more emphasis on preventive measures, It should be a part of the primary and secondary education. There should be an emphasis on prevention, early detection and early treatment of diseases, prevention of disabilities and rehabilitation. In Pakistan noise pollution is increasing exponentially - be any function, marriages, public meetings, processions, musical festivals etc., noise pollution assumes enormous intensities. People are unaware about the hazards of noise pollution. Everywhere there is too much noise. Loudspeakers on full volume are used with impurity. Infants and children too are exposed to the hazards of noise.

Noise pollution is a major health hazard. The studies in the USA have shown that Noise not age is the leading cause of hearing loss and tens of millions of Americans, including many children’s suffer from permanent hearing loss caused by everyday noise that we take granted as a fact of life. The sad truth is that many of us are responsible for our own hearing loss writes Katherine Bouton in her new book, “Shouting would not help: why I and 50 million Americans- cannot Hear you”.

While in the advanced progressive countries there are myriad regulations to protect people who work in noisy environment. There are few laws governing repeated exposure to noise outside the workplace from portable musical devices, concerts, hair dryers, lawn mowers and countless other sources. In the underdeveloped countries even regulations to curb noise at the working places are not implemented. Pakistan is no exception to it. The world is getting noisier. Noise is a leading complaint at restaurants. Proprietors believe that people spend more on food and drink in busy eateries and many create new environment to maximize noise by different means even wild music.

The ears are fragile instruments when sound waves enter the ears, they cause the ear -drum to vibrate. The vibrations are transmitted to cochlea in the inner ear, where fluid carries them to nearby organized rows of hair-cells. These in turn stimulate auditory nerve fibers, each attuned to a different frequency. These impulses travel via the auditory nerves to the brain. Damage to the delicate apparatus results from both volume and length exposure to sound. Even when it is not particularly loud, can wreak havoc on hair-cells. Once dead hair-cells cannot be replaced. Usually the sensitivity to high frequency sound is first to go, followed by inability to hear the other frequencies of speech. The effects of noise exposure are cumulative. Damage to hair cells incurred in early life can show up in mid-life as difficulty understanding speech. Sound volume is measured in decibels(DB) and the level at which noise can cause permanent hearing loss begins at about 85 decibels, typical of running hair dryer, food processor or kitchen blender.

The maximum output of some portable music players can exceed occupational safety levels and produce sound levels in the ear on a par with that of a jet taking off. If you listen to music with ear-buds or headphones at levels that block out normal discourse you are dealing lethal blows to the hair-cells in your ears Dr. Seidman said.

A national study in 2006 by the American Speech Language Association found that among users of portable music devices, 35% of adult and up to 59% of teenagers reported listening to loud volume. As general rule, other people can hear what you are listening to the volume is turned too high some portable listening devices come with ability to set a maximum volume, which is worth the added cost to the parents concerned about protecting their children’s ears. At a given volume ear-buds deliver higher noise levels than over the headphones. If ear-buds are used Dr. Harrison suggests selecting ones that fit loosely and never inserting them tightly into the canal.

Alternatively when you are alone and not at risk of missing important environmental cues that like an approaching noise consider using headphones that go over the ear and cancel background noise enabling you to listen at a lower volume. Even toys meant for young children can generate damaging levels of noise. The speech-language-hearing association lists as potential hazards campaigns talking dolls, rubber squeezing toys, musical instruments and toys with cranks. According to the association some toys sirens and squeaky rubber toys can emit sounds of 90 decibels as loud as lawn- movers.

Hazards of hearing loss

A growing body of research is linking untreated hearing loss to several costly ills. It is important to protect hearing and treatment of hearing loss much more seriously. Poor hearing is not just annoying and inconvenient; it is an unmistakably health hazard, threatening life limbs and mind. Currently 38.2 million Americans age 12 or older have hearing loss a problem becoming more serious with age. More than half over the people in their 70s have mild to moderate hearing loss or worse.

Two New studies have demonstrated a clear association between untreated hearing losses and, an increased risk of dementia, depression falls and even cardiovascular disease. In a significant number of people, that studies indicate, uncorrected hearing loss itself appears to be the cause of the associated health problem. Age-related hearing loss comes on slowly, making it harder for people to know when to take it seriously. Two good clues to when to get hearing tested. Family members or close friends say you should, or you notice that you often mishear or do not know what others are saying.

But even when people are tested and buy hearing aids. The devices are often not used. The people may say that sound quality is poor too staticky or otherwise annoying. All aids are not created equally even expensive; properly fitted aids can require multiple adjustments. The brain needs time -even a good month to two-to adjust to Hearing Aid. The new studies give ample cause for taking hearing loss seriously. People who cannot hear will often become socially isolated and deprived of stimuli that keep the brain cognitively engaged. As input less so does brain function. Hearing loss is not a volume issue. Certain parts of words drop out and speech sounds like rumbling a garbed message is sent to the brain that it has to work harder to decode. With respect to falls hearing loss often gets to hand in hand with balance issues “Even when we do not realize it, we are using our ears to position ourselves in space.

Dr. Deal said she and her co-authors were surprised to find the link between poor hearing and cardiovascular disease “It could be that vascular disease is common to both”. She said adding that social isolation and hearing- related stress are likely to play a role. There are certain drugs which have adverse effects on auditory apparatus. Precautions should be taken in minimizing their use. In Pakistan hearing loss and its related disorders have become very common. The problem is compounded due to lack of awareness. There is a dire need to create awareness through print, digital, social media etc. There is too much increase of vehicles including motor-cycles causing noise pollution also air-pollution. Prevention should start at the school level. There should be school health service, and hearing testing should be a part of the general medical check-up of students.

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