SilvermanAccording to a recent statement by William W. Clark, PhD, program director at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St Louis, and an expert on non-occupational noise, “The ear doesn’t know the difference between an occupational noise and a leisure noise. Each of those types of noise can be hazardous. And unless one protects his or her hearing both on and off the job, then there is really no protection afforded at all.” Noise has become a worldwide epidemic. From the day we are born until the day we die, we are assaulted by our noisy environments. At home, we crank up our stereos and TVs to drown out screaming children, dishwashers, and vacuum cleaners; at work, many individuals contend with loud machinery and equipment for 8-hour stretches; then, it’s more noise on the streets, in our cars, at the gym …the barrage is constant and haranguing and damages our hearing each time we are exposed to noises greater than 85 decibels, which can cause permanent, incurable hearing loss.

Unfortunately, one of the most common sources of hearing damage are recreational activities — everything from rock concerts to motor sports to hunting. The good news is that much of recreational noise-induced hearing damage is preventable with the use of hearing protection devices—from basic earplugs to highly customized earmolds that are available in an array of materials and designs that are suitable for a variety of applications and budgets. Although these hearing protection devices are readily available through most hearing health care providers, how many consumers are aware of their availability? How many consumers are savvy to the fact that environmental hearing loss exists? And, do they realize that the quality of their hearing health can be preserved by using protective devices when exposed to high-decibel noise situations? This is where audiologists and hearing industry professionals can be instrumental in a service that will benefit both business and consumer—by participating in public outreach and educational programs that will inform the general public of the importance of hearing protection and how easy it is to access.

Thanks to such programs launched by educated specialists, we have learned to control our diets, aerobicize our hearts, calm our nerves, and extend our longevity. Why not discover the “tools” that will help us continue to hear the sounds of nature, the rhythm of music, and the nuance of conversation for the rest of our healthy, extended lives? The best approach to this dilemma is education and an ounce of prevention—hearing protection devices—a win-win situation for every practice and its patients—serving both the bottom line and the quality of life.

Rogena Schuyler Silverman
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