Friday, December 11, 2009

It's Easy to Go Deaf: Here's How

Loud noise can blow out an ear drum. It's easy, if you want to try it.

8 Ways To Go Deaf:

Wow, It’s Easy!

The ability to hear the sounds around us is an important quality-of-life issue. Sure, hearing enriches our lives, whether it’s listening to Mozart or playing with a grandchild. Sounds make life more enjoyable, more worth living. But it’s not just about quality of life.

The ability to hear is a safety issue. Drivers, for example, who experience hearing loss are less likely to hear potential road hazards – a car coming up on their right or coming around a blind curve. We often hear driving hazards before we see them.

Loss of hearing is also a workplace issue. People with untreated hearing loss are less productive on the job. They make more mistakes because of mis-heard directions. And workers who do wear hearing aids are, for some reason, seen as “broken” or simply out-of-it. Old gits who still think the world wide web is s system of inter-connected tubes.

The fact is, hearing loss affects all aspects of life and 28 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss, yet fewer than one-quarter of those do something about it – like have themselves fitted with hearing aids.

Now, you might think that hearing loss is an age thing and you’re right, but today, audiologists and other hearing professionals are seeing patients in their 20s and 30s with permanent, full-blown hearing loss, so going deaf ain’t just happening to gramps. The whole family is at risk.

In fact, ABC News on line reports that there are eight distinct ways that you can experience hearing loss. It’s a noisy world, folks, and once your hearing is gone it’s usually gone for good. The hearing mechanism that nature provides is sensitive, delicate and easily damaged.

1. Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

Driving around in a ’57 Vette, with the top down, the wind blowing through your hair and the CD blasting is fun. And cool. But driving with the top down, over time, can lead to hearing loss. Sorry, that probably takes some of the fun out of cruising on a Sunday afternoon.

The problem is the level of sound drivers of convertibles experience. The sound of the wind, road noise and the noise generated by traffic (and the world) often exceeds 89 decibels (dB), the measurement of how loud sound is. Any sound over 85dBs can damage the hearing mechanism.

Driving in a convertible, especially at high speeds over long periods of time, produces sound levels in excess of 89dBs – enough of a difference to create hearing problems if you’re in love with your open cockpit.

At least roll up the windows when you cruise. Keep speeds down and, for goodness sake, don’t make a bad situation worse by blasting your 8-track. It’s noisy enough as it is.

2. “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…”

Maybe, but some drugs come with some pretty serious side effects. Ototoxic drugs are drugs that damage the hearing mechanism. (Oto- is the prefix for hearing sound and –toxic, well you know what toxic means. It’s harmful.)

Ototoxic drugs include many chemo-treatments for various kinds of cancer. But check this out: a drug most of keep in the medicine chest and take regularly is also known to contribute to hearing loss. That commonly-used drug? Aspirin.

So, the next time you reach for the aspirin bottle to cure a minor headache, consider the negative side effects that come with the cure. Ototoxic drugs aren’t just potent meds used to cure serious diseases. They include over-the-counter drugs, as well, so read the warning labels. And, instead of taking an aspirin to cure that headache? Lie down in a dark room with your eyes closed for 15 minutes. That’s often all it takes to make that headache disappear.

Use less aspirin. Hear smart.

3. Kicking Butt

The cochlea, a critical part of the human hearing system, requires a lot of oxygenated blood flow. Just the way things are.

Smoking tobacco restricts blood flow (and causes like a million other bad things to take place throughout the body) so each time you light up, you deny the cochlea the oxygen-rich blood they require. With each cigarette, you damage your hearing just a little bit, But over time, that damage is cumulative. You’re going deaf for your nicotine fix.

Like you needed another reason to kick butt. STOP SMOKING ALREADY!

4. Workplace Noise

This one’s a no-brainer. The factory floor, the assembly line, the jack hammer, the chainsaw – many of us have jobs that expose our ears to damaging levels of sound from 9-to-5 throughout the work week.

Even office workers are exposed to loud noises – the copier, the general din of people talking on the phone, all take their toll on hearing over time.

The obvious solution is just so…so…obvious! Wear ear protection – hear-through ear plugs, ear cups or noise cancellation devices will keep your hearing in tip-top shape longer. Hearing protection will also keep you on the job longer. Hey, that’s a good thing, right?

5. Ear Buds

You see them everywhere. The ubiquitous ear buds hooked into an MP3 player or iPod pumping huge amounts of sound directly into the ear. Ummm, think that’s a good idea?

Hearing loss is caused by long-term exposure to loud noise, so if you’re listening to your favorite tunes at ear splitting volume to block out the sounds of the world around you, guess what. Any longer than 90 minutes a clip and you’re doing damage to your hearing.

Give your ears a break. First, turn down the volume. Second, your hearing mechanism can recover if given quiet time so unplug. Go quiet for a while and let your hearing get back to normal.

Oh, you may be having fun now, but 10 years from now you may find yourself asking if it was all worth it. It’s not.

6. Diabetes

Diabetes, when untreated, affects blood flow. One hearing professional put it this way: “Impairment of blood flow to the ear is bad. It [your hearing] can go dead, like a stroke.”

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you already know the routine. Eat a better, healthier diet, keep your weight down and test your glucose levels following doctor’s orders.

Not only will some straightforward lifestyle changes help you stay healthy longer living with diabetes, they’ll keep your hearing in tact longer.

7. Sickle Cell Anemia

People with sickle cell anemia experience everything from fatigue to hearing loss to joint pain because the red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body are misshapen, curved like the garden tool – the sickle.

Again, this restricts blood flow and, therefore, the delivery of oxygen to the hearing mechanism. Once again, over time, this leads to minor to severe hearing loss, along with a host of other conditions – none of them good.

The ears are always “on.” That means they need oxygen 24/7. They never shut down, even when you sleep. That’s why you hear the baby cry at 2:30 AM. Your ears are always in the “ON” position so, when the hearing mechanism is deprived of oxygenated blood, hearing loss occurs.

8. Ambient Noise

A subway, pulling in to Penn Station, can pump out over 100dBs. Traffic on a busy city street can easily reach levels higher than 100dBs – especially when that ambulance roars by, sirens blaring to clear a path through traffic.

The world has become a very noisy place, even if you live out in the country. The lawn mower, leaf blower, circular saw and other tools used by the weekend warrior create sound levels that can and will damage hearing and lessen the quality of life.

The solution? Put in some ear plugs. You can pick up a pair at the local drug store or box store. Do yourself a favor the next time you fire up the riding mower. Put in your ear plugs, first.

It’s Not Just About Aging, Anymore

So, you thought hearing loss was all about aging? That it wasn’t something you had to worry about for decades, so rock on as you ride your mower across the lawn, MP3 player blaring to cover the sound of the engine.

Hearing loss does, indeed, go hand-in-hand with the aging process. It’s called nerve deafness and it’s just one way nature tells you, “Hey, you’re getting old.”

However, hearing loss can occur at any age. It can also be caused for many reasons. Aging is just one of them.

How well you take care of your hearing today will impact how well you hear in the future. It’s not something you’ll necessarily notice immediately. It’s the cumulative effect of loud noise that causes hearing loss, along with diseases, medications and cruising in your convertible.

Lifestyle changes and an increased awareness of your hearing will make the difference today and 20 years from now. So, read warning labels on O-T-C- meds, roll up the windows when you have the top down, regulate your diabetes and for goodness sake, unplug the ear buds.

You want to go deaf? It’s easy. You just read eight simple tips to get you there. You want to keep your hearing health longer?

Change your habits and think about your exposure to loud noise. You’ll hear longer, you’ll hear better and you’ll enjoy life to the fullest.

It’s easy to go deaf. Don’t make it any easier.


  1. I loved your article - it was some great information. I think you and your readers might be interested in another article I found, about
    Dry Eyes.

  2. Thank you. There are a lot of good ideas to build on here for my report.


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