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January 14, 2004

Be aware of surroundings to prevent going deaf

From: Port Huron Times Herald, MI - Jan 14, 2004

Times Herald

Aubrie Beaudua lives in a dangerously noisy world.

A full-time hair stylist, the Fort Gratiot woman is bombarded daily with salon sounds such as the high-pitched hum of hair dryers and running water. The 24-year-old also performs in nightclubs with local band Liquor Box.

Those and other daily sounds slowly could be robbing her of a prized possession -- her hearing.

"I probably haven't stopped and thought about it," Beaudua said. "You take all those things, you're ability to smell, taste and hear, for granted; that you'll always have those things."

You can, if you take care of yourself, experts say.

More than 30 million Americans are exposed to hazardous sound levels on a regular basis, often without realizing it, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. As a result, about 28 million people suffer from noise induced hearing loss. While NHIL is irreversible, prevention is possible, they said.

"We only get so much, so we have to protect what we have," said Dr. Neal Obermyer, a Port Huron ear, nose and throat specialist. "Until we think about it, it's only going to get worse."

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs in the ear are damaged and no longer can send signals to the brain. Most NIHL occurs after an extended period of time.

Daily activities such as mowing the lawn, snowmobiling and snowblowing, personal watercraft and shooting are dangerous to hearing in the long haul, Obermyer said.

He recommends using ear protection for all of those activities.

Also, raise awareness of your surroundings.

"Reduce the amount of noise you are exposed to," said Tina Mullins of the American Speech-Hearing Association, a Rockville, Md., organization that certifies audiologists and speech pathologists.

"That means everything from the home appliances you use to where you go," she said.

Noise levels at health clubs and movie theaters are unsafe. Don't be afraid to ask to have the noise turned down.

"Tell them it's affecting your hearing," Mullins said.

Alternate your surroundings. If you spend time in a noisy environment, give your ears a rest by going to a quiet area, Mullins said.

NHIL also affects a person's overall health and can result in problems such as high blood pressure and fatigue.

"Noise is more than just hearing," Mullins said. "It's an annoyance like a drippy faucet. It gets under your skin, affecting your mood, demeanor and how you process things."

10 questions hearing loss to help identify

*Do you have a problem over the telephone?

*Do you have trouble following the conversation when two or more people are talking at the same time?

*Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?

*Do you have to strain to understand conversation?

*Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?

*Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?

*Do many people you talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)?

*Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?

*Do you have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?

*Do people get annoyed because you misunderstand what they say?

*If you answered "yes" to three or more of these questions, you may want to see an otolarynologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist) or a certified audiologist for a hearing evaluation.

m Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

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