‘I am just as deaf as I am blind. The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus – the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.’ – Helen Keller
Anno domini is not for cissies – Mae West never minced her words – and anyone who is Twenty-Nine-and-Holding is well aware of the challenges of aches, pains, fatigue and changes in vision. Others can see and hear those challenges too. But what of the insidious and invisible challenge of diminishing hearing? Between the ages of 50 and 75, as many as 1 in 3 people will have undiagnosed and untreated hearing loss, including tinnitus.
Highly trained, Lisa Cox, profoundly deaf herself, teaches lip reading and hearing loss management. She visited KIC in November 2019 to talk about whether hearing loss is inevitable. Regrettably, it is.
Wisely, Lisa steered her message towards how to handle the effects of hearing loss and tinnitus. Most people will have experienced loss of hearing for 10-12 years before they are compelled to acknowledge they can’t hear in noisy situations like boisterous dinner parties, gatherings in restaurants with too-loud ‘background’ music, and all those actors and actresses on TV who mumble nowadays… but rest assured, denial will not prevent family and friends from having noticed w-a-a-a-a-y back.
‘Hearing loss very often is such a gradual phenomenon
that the person is in denial. You really have to be patient
with them in getting them to come forward to get help.’ – Marion Ross
Wearing hearing protection, avoiding situations with LOUD music or machinery is obvious, but there is hearing-loss epidemic in the making: listen to the music you can hear via other people’s headphones! Danger zones such as discotheques and rock concerts do enormous damage. At a rock concert, when you feel the music in your feet and lower leg, the music is too loud. When you feel it in your upper leg and hips, it is doing harm. When it vibrates in the lower body cavity, it is dangerously loud. When it pulses through the chest cavity – you are going deaf.
Everyday noise is often considered safe under 85dB (workplace thresholds differ). Below are indications of noise levels and safe exposure times:
- 85dB – Kitchen Blender – 8 hours
- 88dB – Forklift truck – 4 hours
- 94dB – lawnmower – 2 hours
- 100dB – drill – 15 minutes
- 112dB – live rock band – 66 seconds
Most people visit their dentist once or twice a year to look after their teeth; in the pursuit of beautiful hair, skin and nails, small fortunes are handed to hairdressers and beauticians; companies often send employees for annual check-ups – so why not have an annual hearing check?
Identifying a problem early on and taking appropriate action can offset the advance of hearing loss. To ignore deafness because of vanity is likely to exacerbate the problem – men are especially prone to ignoring hearing loss. Women come a close second …
Delaying treatment means that one’s hearing memory shrinks – the memory simply forgets sounds. Imagine how terrible that must have been for Beethoven.
Conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are linked with hearing loss: recent research published in The Lancet suggests that when the sensory nerve stops working properly, this affects other nerves and cells in the brain. Hearing loss is known to contribute to loneliness, a sense of social isolation and depression. The research shows that treating hearing loss/wearing hearing aids reduces the risk of dementia by up to 18 per cent, while the chance of falls is cut by 13 per cent and depression by 11 per cent.
‘Blindness separates us from things
but deafness separates us from people.’– Helen Keller
Tactics are available to help with hearing loss and tinnitus: hearing aids; learn lip reading and simple signing; sit against a wall, preferably in a corner in noisy venues; sit away from speakers, doors, windows, cash registers, coffee machines. Choose restaurants with carpets, curtains, tablecloths and napkins, all of which help to absorb sound. Ask the manager to turn down the volume. Show him the decibels on your phone app. (Links below)
Make sure people look at you when they speak to you, that they don’t put a hand in front of their mouths. Don’t let them leave you out! If you miss what they say, ask them to repeat or rephrase it, question them – ‘Did you say fourteen, one four, or forty, four zero?’
Hearing aids are available privately or on the NHS. They are very good and worth considering as your first option. You may decide to visit a private audiologist so it is worth researching what all the audiologists offer before making a decision. Some factors to consider include personal recommendation, what the package includes (and hidden costs), what choices of hearing aid are available, how long you have to wait for appointments and whether you can get your money back if you don’t get on with the hearing aid (very important).
‘I have unwittingly helped to invent and refine a type
of music that makes its principal components deaf.
Hearing loss is a terrible thing because it cannot be
repaired.’ – Pete Townshend
By Lisa Cox, lip-reading tutor
Lisa Cox (firstname.lastname@example.org) teaches lip-reading and managing hearing loss
www.lipreading.org for lipreading classes
NCLA Association of Teachers of Lipreading to Adults. More information is available at www.atlalipreading.org.uk
British Tinnitus Association / Join a Tinnitus Support Group www.tinnitus.org.uk
Free Invisible Disability sunflower lanyard available from Gatwick Airport, Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s.
www.hearinglink.com for badge for the lanyard
Free Sound Level Meter App from CDC’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders https://www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov
The Best Decibel Meter Apps For Android https://binge.co-what-are-the-best-decibel-meter-apps-for-android