Hearing Loss Awareness

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Since Oscar winner CODA raised the bar for portrayals of people with disabilities last year, and International Week of Deaf People is in September, I would like to discuss hearing loss, which is a noteworthy disability. Hearing loss is a condition in which any part of the ear doesn’t work. This is common in elderly people, but children, teens, and adults can also be affected. Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States. About 48 million Americans have it.

Types of Hearing Loss

There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, which involves the outer or middle ear, sensorineural, which involves the inner ear, and mixed, which involves both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Hearing loss can be mild, moderate, or profound. Symptoms include consonants being hard to decipher, difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds, trouble understanding people, and tinnitus, which is a condition that involves ringing, buzzing, clicking, hissing, humming or roaring in the ears.

Causes

Hearing loss can be caused by advanced age, as well as constant noise. People can also be born with it. According to the CDC, 22 million American workers are exposed to dangerously loud noise levels at work. Musicians are also at risk. Drugs, chemicals, illnesses, ear infections, trauma, and buildup of earwax are other causes of hearing loss.

Solutions

If you get or have hearing loss, it’s important to see an audiologist, which is a specialist who diagnoses and treats hearing and balance problems, as soon as possible. Your audiologist can check your ears to ensure you’re hearing properly. There are many treatments and solutions to hearing loss, like removing earwax. Sound-enhancing technologies like hearing aids and cochlear implants can also help.

Nevertheless, hearing loss is a major issue. For example, it can lead to depression and isolation in older adults. However, treating hearing loss, according to studies, shows that as your hearing functions, so can your brain, especially when it comes to your memory.

There are many ways to cope with hearing loss. For instance, you can ensure your rooms are well lit and people sit facing each other so they can read each other’s lips and observe their facial expressions. You can also turn off unneeded background noise and let people know what they can do in order for them to help you understand them better, like speaking clearly but not shouting.

To prevent hearing loss, wear earplugs when you’re around loud noises and areas, talk to your employer about ear safety if your workplace is noisy, and be aware of high noise levels in recreational activities, like listening to your iPod on a high volume.

The Future

I know plenty of people who have hearing loss. My dad was hit on the ear with a football at thirteen and now suffers from tinnitus. One of my mentors has tinnitus, too, as well as friends of the family. My late grandparents had hearing loss, and so does my dad’s brother and cousin. A couple of friends of mine also have it, and a family friend’s daughter had otosclerosis, a hereditary type of hearing loss caused by overgrowth of bone in the inner ear.

Nowadays, people are becoming more aware of those with hearing loss. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can also communicate with sign language. There are ten different types of sign language, from American to Japanese, as well as deaf schools like Gallaudet University.

Portraying people with hearing loss well, like Troy Kotsur’s Academy Award-winning performance in CODA, and being exposed to them gives me hope that we can continue to depict these people in a realistic manner. This can lead to a more positive, inclusive community. It even inspires me to create stories that involve characters with hearing loss and auditory problems. Hearing loss can be difficult to cope with, but we can still represent this disability in a positive light. In addition, the FDA recently approved the selling of over-the-counter hearing aids.

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