LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Often times people become exhausted from straining their vocals while speaking to my 90-year-old grandfather about the weather, what’s for dinner, or when a doctor appointment is. Eventually, some just stop trying to carry on a conversation because he muddles the words up to create a half-truth in his mind. He has a hearing aid, but is too embarrassed to use it.
To me, wearing a hearing aid is just as essential as someone needing a cane, vitamins or even a toothbrush. I’m curious when wearing a hearing aid became so uncool because noise, not age, is the leading cause of hearing loss. When’s the last time you attended a concert? Vacuumed your house? Mowed the lawn, or even blow-dried your hair? All of the noises derived from every day activities can damage your hearing, but are dismissed as every day facts of life.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), an estimated 26 million (or 15 percent) of Americans today between ages 20-69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise at work or in leisure activities. In addition, only one out of five people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wears one.
While I’m out reporting at schools or large events, I begin to notice a sudden drop in my hearing ability. It’s as if the crowds becomes one muffled voice, even when I single someone out to speak to. I’ve caught myself asking someone to repeat a phrase more than a couple times, and, in embarrassment, I make the excuse that it’s too loud for me to hear them speaking, followed by an apology.
I know for a fact that I’ve somewhat damaged my hearing just by going about my daily activities. As a teenager, I watched my friends play in several bands, and even was in one myself. Although, I will not disclose what genre that band was, I’ll just say I played a trumpet and we only played a few shows. I also attended a handful of big-time concerts, hearing popular bands like Coldplay, Mutemath, Modest Mouse and Death Cab For Cutie. Each concert was cooler than the last, but what I didn’t realize was the damage it was doing to my hearing.
Not only have concerts damaged my hearing, but so has working around screaming, blissful children three summers in-a-row as a lifeguard at a water park, attending church worship services loud enough to blast the devil out of you, doing some carpentry work, and going to the shooting range. Everyday activities have paid a toll on my hearing, and no one has to live with it but me.
Music sounds great loud, until I won’t be able to hear it out loud. They say everything gets better with age, until I won’t be able to hear my family attempt to carry on a simple conversation. It’s a noisy planet out there and our ears are delicate instruments. A preventative measure I suggest that is the most practical is to carry around a pair of sound-silencing headphones, so if the noise gets too loud at a concert, at sporting event, or even in the workplace, you’ll have a back-up plan. Worst case scenario, without a back-up plan, is that you’ll have to wear a hearing aid apparatus on your ears for the remainder of your life, and hopefully you aren’t too embarrassed to use it.
Protect one of the greatest of your five senses while you still can. It’s a necessity.