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5 Everyday Jobs Where Workers Are Losing Their Hearing

Noise exposure is the world’s leading cause of hearing loss – but it hasn’t always been. Before the industrial revolution, humans’ exposure to loud noise was limited to the occasional storm or large gathering. But today, many of us need only head to work to experience noise loud enough to cause serious hearing damage.

The noises don’t have to be extremely loud, either. Just 85 decibels, roughly the sound of busy traffic, is enough to cause hearing damage within 8 hours. Over the course of a career, such continued noise exposure can add up to occupational hearing loss, damage to hearing directly related to the conditions of work.

Occupational Hearing Loss & Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

The vast majority of on-the-job hearing damage is noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL (in a few jobs, occupational hearing loss may be caused by exposure to ototoxic, or hearing damaging, substances). While a single exposure to extremely loud noise (such as a gunshot) can cause NIHL, most occupational hearing loss is caused by being around sound loud enough to cause damage, but not discomfort. This type of work-related hearing loss may occur so gradually it goes unnoticed until it becomes a significant problem.

Unsurprisingly, people at the highest risk for noise-induced hearing loss include employees in the construction and manufacturing fields. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals in the manufacturing sector account for 72 percent of recordable cases of occupational hearing loss.

But you don’t have to be surrounded by jackhammers or machinery to put your hearing at risk. Below are five groups of workers that face a substantial risk of hearing loss, despite working jobs most of us don’t associate with dramatic noise.

5 Surprising Jobs where Workers are Losing Their Hearing

1. Teachers: The rate of hearing loss in teachers below age 44 is 26 percent, compared with just 17 percent in the general population. Unsurprisingly, music and P.E. teachers may face the biggest risk, although a 2007 study measured the average decibel level of all classrooms at an unhealthy 87 decibels.

2. Plumbers: Working with metals and loud tools in small, enclosed areas is a recipe for hearing damage. Not surprisingly, almost half (48 percent) of plumbers report hearing problems.

3. Police officers: Hearing loss may seem like the least of a police officer’s on-the-job worries, but in fact, it is a serious and recognized problem. From discharging firearms to policing traffic or demonstrations, the noise demands on officers can be intense. Intense too, is the need to hear well in situations where split-second responses can save lives.

This has led some areas, such as New York City, to institute policies prohibiting officers who require hearing aids from serving. However, some fear such policies may backfire as officers choose to hide their loss rather than face an early retirement. The good news is, the tide seems to be turning as hearing technologies improve and stigma about hearing loss fades: In May, the city found in favor of four N.YP.D. officers who filed a case after being forced to retire due to hearing loss. The landmark settlement means that officers that can prove they can perform their essential duties, and pass an official hearing test, while wearing hearing aids, will be able to keep their jobs.

4. Truck Drivers: A 2010 study of 500 truckers found that 45 percent of truckers experienced high-frequency hearing loss, meaning they have trouble hearing high-pitched noises. Truck drivers tend to work long hours in a cab that can be even noisier than the traffic that surrounds them. Increasing their risk is exposure to exhaust fumes containing carbon monoxide, which studies have tied to hearing loss

5. Farmers Life on the farm is hard on the body, including the ears. Today’s agriculture workers face noise from large equipment like tractors and harvesters as well as guns, chainsaws, and even squealing pigs. Worse yet, many farmers begin working at young ages and may already be looking at more than a decade of cumulative hearing damage before the age of 30. Unsurprisingly, farmers experience one of the highest rates of occupational hearing loss, a factor that may further put them at an increased risk for other job-related injuries.

Could You Have Occupational Hearing Loss?

Because it can develop so gradually, many people with hearing loss may not even realize anything has changed. However, there are some tell-tale signs that often point to hearing loss. You may find yourself turning up the volume on the television, radio, or computer. You may have trouble understanding someone talking to you at close distance, particularly in places with background noise, such as a restaurant. Some people will also experience tinnitus, a ringing in the ears linked to hearing loss.

– See more at: https://www.connecthearing.com/blog/occupational-hearing-loss-jobs/#sthash.fRulfvda.dpuf

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Holidays with Hearing Loss: 12 Tips for Families

The holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year – or the most stressful! For people with hearing loss, the season’s gatherings often mean struggling to connect with friends and family through tables of competing conversations and clattering dishes.

Whether you have hearing loss or are hosting someone who does, there are a number of things you can do to help everyone stay connected during festivities. Read below for 12 survival tips guaranteed to keep the holidays merry and bright.

If you have hearing loss…

  • Wear your hearing aids, if you have them! It should go without saying, but this step is often forgotten. Also considering paying your hearing specialist a visit for a hearing aid tune-up before heading out for the holidays and be sure to bring extra batteries to all holiday events.
  • Don’t be shy about your needs. Let your loved ones know that you want to make sure you’re a part of conversations. Ask them to keep background noise such as music or television to a minimum and speak clearly.
  • Team up! Partner with a friend or relative ahead of time who can help keep you in the loop by filling you in on any bits of conversation you may miss.
  • Stay rested. It’s a lot of work trying to keep up with conversations when you have hearing loss. Be sure to get rest the day before and take a few minutes away from the crowd to refresh as needed to avoid hearing fatigue.
  • Go one-on-one.  Find chances to connect with individuals in a quiet room. Take the grandkids aside for some playtime or help the cook out in the kitchen.
  • Be strategic with your seating. Try to sit against a wall, in a position where you will be able to see as many people as possible. If you have a “good ear” position yourself to maximize its use. Seat those with quiet or high-pitched voices (such as children) closest to you.
  • Clear your view. Visual cues are critical for keeping up with the conversation, so make sure you can see everyone at the dinner table. Keep the room well-lit and remove any excessive centerpieces.
  • Go easy on yourself! Group settings are a challenging hearing situation. Even people with no hearing loss may have trouble following every conversation. Have your best holiday by having realistic expectations and celebrating the positives.

If you’re hosting a guest with hearing loss…

  • Get their attention. Before you start speaking, say the person’s name or touch their arm so they can “tune in” to what you’re saying.
  • Reduce excess noise. Turn off background noise like TV and music.
  • Speak naturally, but clearly. Shouting or over-emphasizing your words can actually make them harder to understand. Make lip-reading easier by refraining from chewing while talking.
  • Have the conversation, one-on-one. Holidays and family gatherings are often the moment when the difficulties of hearing loss become most apparent. If you’re ready to approach a loved one about treating their hearing loss, wait until after the big gathering has died down so you can talk one-on-one. Use our tips for helping a loved one with hearing loss to address the issues and see if they’ll take the first step toward better hearing through an easy online hearing test.

 

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Connect Hearing Heads to Haiti

HEAR Haiti volunteers clean hearing aids in the deaf community of Lévêque

Day one on a HEAR Haiti trip means immersion: not just in the culture of Haiti, but in that of Deaf Haiti (the term used to refer to the nation’s community of people with all levels of hearing loss).

As part of a team of nine Sonova volunteers, Connect Hearing’s Jody Pogue and Haley Kurzawa began their work in Haiti earlier this month by piling into a van and diving deep into a Haiti they had never seen on television. First up was a visit to Cité Soleil, the famously harsh section of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince. There they spent time with a group of children rescued by one man after the 2010 earthquake in a small structure set up as a four-room school. Next they visited Metal Works, a community of artisans employing members of the deaf population. They also made a stop at the Apparent Project which enables parents, through gainful employment, to keep their children with them and off the streets.  Last was Lévêque, the small town where much of the deaf community was relocated from the tent city they formed following the earthquake, and where the team would conduct much of their work for the next week.

For Jody, who recently returned from work with Hear the World’s Kentucky site, this initiation was critical.

“We tend to go to places like Haiti and think we have all the answers but we’re thinking with our own mentality,” Jody noted. “Cathy [Jones, Executive Director of Hear the World US] tries to make sure we start to see beyond this.”

This sometimes means shedding expectations about what “help” looks like. When the HEAR Haiti initiative launched in 2012, volunteers expected to be doing hearing aid screenings and fittings. But they found the community was most concerned about having no source for light at night. As a result, that first trip focused instead on bringing solar panels and lighting to the community.

Since 2012, the initiative has regularly brought teams of audiological specialists to Haiti to provide hearing evaluations, hearing aid fittings, and maintenance services to the hearing impaired community. In an effort to create local jobs and ensure the program’s sustainability, specialists also train local staff members in providing audiological care.

During February’s week-long trip, Jody and Haley performed hearing evaluations and hearing aid fittings at both the Haiti Deaf Academy and at Respire Haiti, a mountaintop medical center and mission in Gressier, Haiti.

While their work allowed them to work with academy students, members of the deaf community and Lévêque’s larger population, they found their work with children left some of the most lasting impressions.

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Jody with a smiling G.

One of the most memorable patients was Little G., a boy who had been orphaned in the earthquake and had lost his hearing following a high fever at age six. After traveling for four hours to see the team, he had to wait several more hours until he could be seen. Recounts Jody:

“The whole time he waited and moved through our testing and fitting stations, he had a very serious, stoic expression on his face. The last step was to come into the little room with us and put the hearing aids on. His pastor told him he might hear some noises in his ears before we turned them on for the feedback test. As soon as we did, the most beautiful grin broke out on his face. He didn’t stop smiling the rest of the time.”

Meanwhile Haley told the story of M., a little girl heard sound for the very first time when she was fitted with hearing aids during the trip.

“I said, ‘Bop bop bop’ and her eyes just grew wide. For the next half hour, she kept repeating ‘Bop bop bop.’”

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Little M. hears for the first time with Haley

While the trip was not without difficulties – most notably a dire water shortage that left the orphanage where volunteers stayed  without running water for three days and has made already scarce access to clean water even more difficult – both Haley and Jody said they would return in a heartbeat.

“It took me about 45 minutes after getting home before I didn’t feel too guilty to shower,” remembers Haley. “But I was looking at pictures of little M. yesterday and I can’t describe the desire to go back.”

Says Jody, “I just feel so grateful for the experience and amazed at the generous spirits of the people we met.”

 

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5 Easy Ways to Prevent Childhood Hearing Loss

March 3rd marks World Hearing Day, an effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise public awareness of hearing loss and hearing health. This year’s theme, “Childhood hearing loss: act now, here is how!”, highlights the 32 million children with hearing loss worldwide and aims to raise awareness of the importance of early hearing loss detection during this critical period of  language and social development.

Causes of Hearing Loss in Children

While the WHO estimates about 40 percent of hearing loss is caused by genetic factors, the remaining 60 percent of causes are preventable.  Preventable causes include infections, exposure ototoxic medications, and birth complications. Exposure to loud noises, whether from electronics or loud crowds, also poses a threat to children’s ears.

What Parents Can Do

Here are five ways parents can help keep their children’s hearing safe.

  1. Buy Noise-Limiting Headphones

Kids and teens have a tendency to push volume to the limits. Use noise reducing headphones like these to ensure they’ll never turn it high enough to damage their hearing.

  1. Listen to Your Children’s Toys

Many commonly sold children’s toys emit sounds over 85 decibels, the level at which hearing damage occurs. Test your children’s toys by downloading a free sound meter on your smartphone. If toys test too loud, you can either remove the batteries or place duct tape over the speaker until it falls within the safe range.

  1. Invest in Ear Protection

Infant wearing hearing protection

Children should always wear ear protection at events where there will be crowds, loud music, and other loud sounds, such as fireworks. Invest in a set of earmuff-like hearing protectors on hand to make sure children’s ears are protected from their earliest days.

 

  1. Vaccinate

Infections such as measles, mumps and rubella remain a leading cause of childhood hearing loss worldwide. Vaccinating your child against these viruses helps to protect their hearing and prevents the spread of these viruses to others who are not be able to be vaccinated due to pre-existing health conditions.

  1. Model Safe Listening Habits

Our society tends to underestimate the value of hearing and how easily it can be damaged. By providing a better model of hearing care, you grow your child’s awareness of hearing dangers and the importance of protecting their ears.  Some ways to do this include turning down the television and electronic devices when they are too loud, covering your ears when exposed to sudden loud noises, and discussing the importance of using headphones at a safe volume.

 

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How to Clean Your Ears (And How NOT To)

Ears are self-cleaning organs. Don’t believe it? That’s no surprise considering there’s an entire industry devoted to having you believe otherwise. From drugstore cotton swabs to spa-provided ear candling services, you have many opportunities to hand over money for potentially dangerous substitutes for your body does just fine on its own.

Read on to learn more about how your ear takes care of itself and when and how to step in for additional ear cleaning

Earwax is Essential. Cotton Swabs Aren’t.

Essential to ears’ self-cleaning process is cerumen, the medical term for earwax. Under normal circumstances, earwax is only produced in the outer part of the ear canal, where the sticky, antimicrobial substance traps foreign particles and discourages the growth of bacteria and fungi. This protects the delicate inner ear from both damage and infection. Left alone, excess earwax eventually moves to the outer ear where it dries up and drops off or washes away unnoticed.

However, when earwax is pushed to the inner ear by cotton swabs or other implements, it can bring infectious debris to the inner ear. Doing so can also compact earwax, causing an obstruction that may result in pain or temporary hearing loss.

How to Clean Your Ears Safely

For the most part, you can stick to wiping the outer ear with a washcloth during your bath or shower and call it a day. (Cotton swabs can also be used to clean the outer ear, if you can resist the urge to dig deeper!)

Occasionally, you may experience an uncomfortable wax blockage, particularly if you are a senior (whose earwax tends be harder and drier) or part of a small percentage of people prone to excess earwax production. This may cause an earache, blocked feeling, or even temporary hearing loss. So long as your symptoms are mild, you may be able to clean your ears yourself using these methods:

  1. Loosening Wax with Mineral Oil

To help loosen earwax, place 1-2 drops of warm (not hot) mineral or baby oil in the ear twice a day for 2 or 3 days. Gently rinse the ear with warm water.

  1. Using Hydrogen Peroxide

Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water, lie down on a towel and pour a few drops into the raised ear using a bulb syringe if desired. Allow the solution to sit in the ear for up to 20 minutes. You may hear bubbling sounds and feel a slight tickle as the solution breaks down the wax. Cover the ear with a towel and lean to the opposite side to fully drain the ear.

How NOT to Clean Your Ears: Cotton Swabs, Ear Candling, and Ear Irrigation Systems

Health professionals are fond of saying you should never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ears. That rules out your fingertips, personal ear cleaners, hairpins, and yes, cotton swabs or QTips ®. All of these run the risk of impacting earwax or worse, puncturing the ear drum.

Ear candling can also be taken off the table. Countless studies have shown the method, which involves lighting a hollow, cone-shaped candle to create a vacuum that suctions wax from the ear, provides little benefit and may cause damage. The same is true for over-the-counter ear irrigation systems. Meanwhile earwax vacuum systems are generally too weak to have any effect.

To protect your hearing, stick to the healthy cleaning methods discussed above and keep your ears away from any unnecessary instruments or caustic substances. If your ear trouble lasts more than a few days, you experience pain or dizziness, or note a discharge other than earwax, make an appointment with your doctor or local walk-in clinic to obtain an evaluation and a professional removal of the wax if needed.