Smoke Exposure Linked to Hearing Loss
Celebrating 35 years of Caring for Your Hearing
|Meredy Hase tests a child, 1987||Kupperman and Hase work to license audiologists in Wisconsin, 1989|
Hearing Loss UNDER Age 65
We used to think of hearing loss as something that only happened to our grandparents' generation. But you'd be surprised at how many people your age, and even younger, have a hearing problem.
According to a study recently published by the Better Hearing Institute, two-thirds of Americans with hearing loss are under the age of 65 and still in the work force. That includes one of every six "Baby Boomers" (ages 41 to 59) and one of every 14 "Generation X'ers" (age 29-40).
According to Meredy Hase, Doctor of Audiology, "Hearing loss is by no means an 'old person's disease' any longer. Each day, we see people of all ages come into our offices concerned they may have a hearing problem.
"There's even solid evidence to support the fact that for working Americans, hearing loss impacts their ability to make a living, up to $12,000 in lost income per year." (See related article)
Dr. Hase urges anyone who thinks they, or a loved one, may have a hearing loss to contact The Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services without delay.
Auditory Deprivation refers to the fact that even though we "hear" with our ears, it's our brain that's the true organ of hearing.
When hearing loss is left untreated, the brain's ability to distinguish various sounds becomes less and less. Try to think of Auditory Deprivation as similar, in a sense, to muscles that atrophy when not used over a long period of time.
The reason Auditory Deprivation is important is that we have ample evidence proving how long people will wait before seeking help for a suspected hearing loss. Up to ten years, by some estimates.
In other words, the longer you wait to get help for your hearing loss, the less even the most advanced hearing instruments will be able to help you hear better. That's one more reason physicians recommend annual hearing checks as part of an overall health assessment.
The Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services can perform hearing screenings that take only a few minutes. Concerned individuals are urged to contact them at the first signs of hearing loss, such as an inability to understand conversations in a crowded room or having to turn up the TV volume in order to hear.
Hearing & Income Loss
After years of research, there is new evidence that links hearing loss and loss of income. A study released by the Better Hearing Institute in Alexandria, VA, proves that untreated hearing loss may impact household income by as much as $12,000 per year.
The study also shows that hearing loss, which affects more than 28 million Americans, two thirds of whom are still in the work force, results in an annual loss of more than $100 billion in wages and worker productivity. The good news is people who find help for their hearing loss can regain up to 50% of that lost income.
According to Meredy Hase, Doctor of Audiology, "One of the misconceptions about hearing loss is that it's 'an old person's ailment'. But we know that hearing loss crosses all income lines and impacts people of all ages".
The new "Open Ear" Digital hearing instruments are especially designed to help Baby Boomers feel more comfortable about wearing hearing instruments.
Anyone interested in receiving a FREE Demonstration of Open Fit hearing technology are urged to contact the Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services.
Hearing Loss & the Family
For years, both researchers and hearing healthcare professionals have known much about the causes of hearing loss and how it affects the person who suffers from it.
But not until recently has attention been paid as to the devastating effects hearing loss has on family members and friends as well. This past year alone, several organizations have weighed in with their findings on this often overlooked medical problem that by current estimates, affects the lives and families of more than 30 million Americans.
For example, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a government agency whose task it is to research the lives of older Americans, released a study that confirms how often a person with hearing loss begins to feel isolated, eventually withdrawing from normal everyday activities and even from family and friends.
None of this is news, however, to Dr. Meredy Hase, who says, "I realized just how much hearing loss also affected family members when we''d spend so much time counseling them when we''d fit their loved one with hearing instruments".
The benefits of better hearing were the subject of an NBC report that aired on an installment of the NBC Nightly News. In that report, the testimonials of several patients and their families provided evidence of how lives can be changed for the good, once the decision has been made to seek help for a hearing problem.
Those interviewed talked about how experiences such as watching TV or enjoying conversations with loved ones - things that were not possible with hearing loss - were once again part of the everyday enjoyment of life. Social activities like dining at restaurants of going to the movies were also among the range of family life experienced through better hearing.
Thanks to recent advances in technology more help is available than ever before for those whose lives are affected by hearing loss. If left untreated, hearing loss will almost always become worse over time, another reason Dr. Hase urges people to contact the Doctors of Audiology at Hearing Services if a hearing loss is thought to exist.
More Hearing Healthcare News
While previous research suggests that adult smokers are at greater risk of hearing loss than nonsmokers, less is known about how much smoke exposure during infancy or pregnancy might impact hearing.
For the current study, researchers examined data on 50,734 children born between 2004 and 2010 in Kobe City, Japan. Overall, about 4 percent of these kids were exposed to smoking during pregnancy or infancy, and roughly 1 percent had tobacco exposure during both periods.
Hearing tests done when kids were 3 years old found that 4.6 percent of the children had hearing loss. They were 68 percent more likely to have hearing loss if they were exposed to tobacco during pregnancy, and 30 percent
more likely if they inhaled secondhand smoke during infancy, the study found.
When kids had smoke exposure during both periods, they were 2.4 times more likely than unexposed kids to have hearing loss.
"Patients with the greatest risk of hearing impairment are those who are directly exposed to maternal smoking in the womb," said Dr. Matteo Pezzoli, a hearing specialist at San Lazzaro Hospital in Alba, Italy.
"Interestingly, the exposure to tobacco in early life seems to further strengthen the prenatal toxic effect," Pezzoli, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email.
When pregnant women smoke, it may harm fetal brain development and lead to auditory cognitive dysfunction, Pezzoli added. Tobacco smoke may also damage sensory receptors in the ear that relay messages to the brain based on sound vibration.
Globally, about 68 million people have a hearing impairment that is thought to have originated in childhood, Koji Kawakami of Kyoto University in Japan and colleagues note in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology. Kawakami didn't respond to requests for comment.
Researchers assessed children's hearing using what's known as a whisper test. For these tests, mothers stood behind their kids to prevent lip reading, then whispered a word while the kids had one ear covered.
While this test is simple and considered an accurate way to assess hearing in adults and older children, there's some concern about how reliable the results may be in young kids. It's considered more reliable when it's done by trained
clinicians and specialists and less reliable when it's done by primary care providers, researchers note. It's unclear how accurate study results based on tests administered by the children's parents would be, researchers acknowledge.
The study also wasn't a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how tobacco exposure during pregnancy or infancy might directly cause hearing loss in kids.
"There was no standardized medical evaluation of hearing or examination of the ears by ear specialists," said Dr. Michael Weitzman, a pediatrician and hearing researcher at New York University who wasn't involved in the study.
"Moreover, the severity of hearing loss could not be ascertained in this study, and it did not follow up the children throughout their childhood, so we do not know if what they found attenuated or got worse over time," Weitzman said by email.
Still, the results add to the evidence linking tobacco exposure to hearing problems in kids, Weitzman said.
To protect children against hearing problems caused by cigarette smoke, it's important for women to quit before they become pregnant or as soon as they discover they're pregnant, said Huanhuan Hu, a researcher at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Japan who wasn't involved in the study.
"To minimize the chance that their baby will be exposed to tobacco smoke in the womb, other family members should also quit, or at least not smoke at home or nearby the pregnant women," Hu said by email.
Article originally appeared on Voice of America