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He that hath an ear, let him hear.


Forced with the choice of being blind or deaf, it's conceivable that the person with normal sight and hearing would probably choose the latter. However, if one were to invite a totally blind person and a totally deaf person to the same social gathering, chances are the blind person would be the life of the party, while the deaf person without benefit of a hearing aid or lip-reading skill would be a virtual recluse.

Because it provides the input that enables us to communicate intelligently with others, the sense of sound is a precious commodity indeed. That is why it is tragic that so many youngsters today are slowly but surely losing important segments of their hearing as the result of repeated exposure to "music" rooted in, and dependent upon, loudness as its main feature, such as that found in the heavy metal, rap and "house music" subgenres. (Parents beware! The last of these is an even more monotonous, beat-heavy form of the old "disco music" of the '70s.) The decibel level of modern stereo systems, especially in such confined areas as automobiles and stereo headphones, is far beyond the safe range, and permanent auditory nerve damage is the inevitable result of overexposure.

Hearing loss is not, however, associated only with the indiscreet use of the stereo volume control. It is a normal aspect of the aging process. It therefore behooves all of us to avoid potentially damaging sound and to be aware of what we can do to alleviate the hearing loss we cannot prevent.

Hearing loss falls into two general categories--conductive loss, where sound is prevented from getting to the auditory nerve endings in the inner ear, and nerve loss, where the nerve itself is damaged. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by something as simple as a plug of wax or a foreign body in the ear canal. The latter, as well as ear infections within the middle ear (behind the eardrum), are the most common causes of hearing loss in children. Even though hearing loss can also be caused by certain tumors, the most common cause of slow hearing loss is repeated exposure to industrial and recretional noise. Although sudden loud noise (e.g., an explosion) can cause permanent nerve damange, a much lower intensity of noise over a prolonged period is equally dangerous.

Two widely propagated myths are that cotton or Kleenex in the ears will protect against loud noise in the workplace and that nothing can be done for nerve deafness. Both are false. At lower decibel levels (e.g., noisy machinery), foam ear plugs are useful; at higher levels (e.g., jet engines on the flight line), properly constructed total ear covers are required. And nearly everyone with a hearing loss can be helped by a haring aid. Modern hearing aids can often help even the totally deaf person.

Because the onset of deafness is often insidious, it is important to recognize some early warning signs. The oft-heard complaint, "If she would just speak up, I hear fine," is virtually a dead giveaway. The partially deaf person may not realize he or she has compensated over time for the loss by lip reading and often a lot of nodding assent when, in fact, little has actually been heard. For some strange reason, there seems to be a psychological deterrent to admitting that one is hard of hearing, whereas loss of sight may be readily admitted.
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Title Annotation:hearing loss vs. blindness
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Previous Article:A little TV, a little folding of the hands to rest.
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