Why Hearing Health Needs Shouting About

Our ears are amongst the most finely attuned and sensitive parts of our bodies. The tiny filaments and nerve endings of our inner ear represent an incredibly delicate mechanism and any damage to it simply cannot be repaired. Needless to say, our hearing is something we should not take for granted.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Whilst there is a welter of publicity concerning our diets and we are all quite relaxed when it comes to wearing glasses, our hearing is all-too-frequently ignored. Interestingly, a relationship between the quality of a personís diet and their susceptibility to hearing loss has been demonstrated, but diet is only a marginal part of the problem.

Often seen merely as a condition that affects the elderly hearing loss in on the rise. And that is largely thanks to our noisy, urban, headphone-loving lifestyles. The temptation to ramp up the volume in our earphones is a particular hazard, as research has shown that persistent exposure to even relatively modest sound levels can, over time, impact negatively on the super-sensitive tiny filaments of our inner ear.

Free testing

No one would think twice about checking in for an eye test, but it is far less common to take a hearing test, even though our hearing is every bit as vital as our sight. Tests are normally free and easy to arrange - for example a hearing test from Hidden Hearing can be booked online in a matter of minutes.

Because so many people have been over exposing themselves to loud music, the stigma that was once associated with hearing loss as a condition of old age is now reducing. At the same time, the level of technology that is involved in hearing boosters has advanced in leaps and bounds. The ugly and obtrusive NHS earpieces of our parentsí day have been replaced by miniaturised and incredibly discrete ear-pieces.

Education is key

Of course, the most important part of this story is to advise and educate younger people about the importance of looking after their hearing and to take seriously the potential harm they are vulnerable to. Research shows that prolonged exposure to sounds in excess of 80 decibels - often described as the equivalent of a mechanical lawn-mower - can permanently reduce your ability to hear clearly. Just about every headset on the market is capable of delivering sound levels in excess of 80 decibels.

Successive governments have recognised the importance of restricting noise exposure. There are now stringent standards that apply in the workplace in terms of health and safety in order to protect the hearing of workers who may be exposed to high noise levels over an extended period.

But while the authorities are taking the nationís hearing health seriously, so far it seems the rest of us are being a bit slow to catch up. Gwyneth Paltrow may have been seen as a slightly over protective mum when she put ear defenders on her kids at a Coldplay concert way back in 2005, but she was only being careful. If rock star families are making a song and dance about ear protection, maybe the message will get through eventually.

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