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Hearing Loss Prevention Practices to Start in the New Year

protecting ears in winter

At this point, we all know to wear a helmet to protect our heads when riding a bike. It’s common sense, just like wearing eye protection when working with tools or the proper outer garments to guard against frigid temperatures. For some reason, though, the idea of protecting our ears does not seem like a priority.
Even with the World Health Organization stating that 360 million people worldwide are affected by hearing loss and 1.1 billion people between the ages of 12-35 are projected to suffer from hearing loss in the coming decades, adoption of preventative hearing practices is not taking hold.
What Are Good Hearing Loss Prevention Practices?
If you’re already suffering from hearing loss, it’s probably too late to repair the damage. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to prevent hearing loss from taking hold in the first place.

  • Be aware of the noise levels in your daily life. A decibel level of 85 is not damaging for short exposures but can be damaging with long-term exposure. Most people don’t realize that a noisy office can reach 85 decibels. Eight hours in that office may negatively impact your hearing health.
  • Take frequent hearing breaks. If we read a book and our eyes tire, we put the book down for a bit. Do the same for your ears. Our ears are not as good at letting us know when they’re fatigued, so take no-noise breaks often during your day.
  • Use hearing protection like earplugs or earmuffs if you know you will be exposed to high noise levels or long-term noise. Typical noises in the danger range are motorcycles, concerts, chainsaws, and shouted conversations.
  • Limit your use of earbuds. This one will be tough for many people, but turn the music down and get those buds out of your ears. Earbuds rest near the eardrum and are damaging when used at high volumes.

Damage From Unexpected Places
These tips are ridiculously easy to apply for most people, but what if your livelihood depends on being in a noisy environment? Most of us will immediately think of a construction or industrial zone when we think of high-noise jobs. A recent study evaluated the noise impact on another group of employees exposed to constant loud noises: professional musicians.
Decibels are decibels. It doesn’t matter if it’s a jackhammer or an instrument. The study found that musicians were impacted, not only in full orchestra sessions but, when practicing alone at home, as well. As expected, percussionists were found to be the most affected, along with flutists. Cellists and musicians in the bass section were the least affected due to the softer sounds produced by their instruments.
The solution for musicians? It’s the same as the solution for all of us: use ear protection. Part of the issue with ear protection may be that it dulls our hearing and that can feel uncomfortable. When we use eye protection it doesn’t impact our vision. Regardless of the reasons for a lack of adoption, hearing protection should be used often and encouraged by all hearing healthcare providers. Schedule an appointment with us to discuss how to protect your hearing and to set up a hearing care plan.

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Understanding Hearing Loss With Virtual Reality

Understanding hearing loss with virtual reality

Virtual worlds that people live in have long been a product of Hollywood. Science fiction films depicting people who spend their lives working and playing in digital environments are great entertainment. Video games are now able to put gamers into fantastic worlds to interact with other players. Now, thanks to technology, we are getting closer to making virtual reality a reality. Virtual technology is playing a role in helping people function in the world in which they live. How is this new technological world going to affect people with hearing loss?

Virtual Technology For Everyone

The people who create these virtual worlds are including those who are hearing impaired. Because virtual reality includes sound and sight, real-time speech captions allow hearing-impaired users to interact with others in a virtual environment. Developers of this technology are also working with the sense of touch and the use of vibrations to allow people with hearing loss to enjoy the full benefits of the multi-sensory experience that is virtual reality. There are even special gloves that mimic the movements of sign language as well as virtual sign language interpreters.

Virtual Reality And Hearing Loss Research

Virtual reality may benefit hearing loss research. Researchers at the Boys Town National Research Hospital are studying hearing loss and its impact on children in school. Researching in a real classroom does not allow experimental control, so the investigators are using virtual reality. The virtual class immerses students in a real classroom setting without making them feel uncomfortable. The result is accurate testing of the students hearing in noisy situations.

Experiencing Hearing Loss As A Child

The isolation that accompanies hearing loss is difficult to comprehend. However, virtual reality is now making it possible to experience life as a child with a hearing problem. The project intends to simulate what the world sounds like to a child with and without hearing aids. The virtual reality simulation begins on the playground, where the user experiences muffled environmental sounds. The user then moves to the classroom where a teacher asks a question that can’t be understood.

Better Understanding Through Virtual Simulation

The goal is to support parents in the understanding of their child’s hearing loss and to realize better the importance of early intervention for hearing loss. The group hopes that the simulator will find use with other schools and government agencies. Virtual reality allows the researchers to have a level of experimental control that is not possible in a clinical environment. The research helps to identify why children with mild hearing loss react the way they do in noisy environments and hopefully help the team understand what accommodations will benefit their learning environment.

Simulating A Better Future For Children With Hearing Loss

Virtual reality technology is impacting the way educators view their strategies for educating children with hearing loss. The researchers believe that this technology will go beyond simulating hearing research and include balance and visual studies in the years to come. Virtual reality is simulating a bright future for those who are hearing impaired.