Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Have you been reading your Healthy Hearing articles like a good student this year? Then it’s time to take your graduation competency test! Just for fun, we’ve put together 10 true/false questions to see how much you know about hearing health. Good luck!
True or False? Your brain is involved in your ability to hear.
Answer: True. Scientists have been studying the relationship between our ears and our brain for decades – and hearing aid users are benefiting from the results. Today’s hearing aids help our brain distinguish which sounds to focus on – such as the conversation you’re having at the ballpark – and which sounds are okay to ignore.
Simply put, our ears collect noise and funnel it to the inner ear, where sensory hair cells translate it into electrical impulses. From there, it’s sent along the auditory nerve for our brain to interpret as recognizable sound.
When those sensory hair cells are damaged or die, they are unable to correctly process the noise they receive. The resulting sensorineural hearing loss is usually treatable with hearing aids – and the sooner the better. According to research conducted by John Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging, older adults with untreated hearing loss lost an average of a cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year compared to those with normal hearing.
True or False? I can buy hearing aids for my ears just like I can buy reading glasses for my eyes from the drug store.
Answer: False. Only a hearing healthcare professional can accurately test your hearing and prescribe treatment. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, you may be a good candidate for hearing aids – although the type of hearing aid that’s best for you will depend upon the degree of hearing loss you have, along with your lifestyle and other preferences.
If you have conductive hearing loss, you may not need amplification at all. Restoring your hearing may be as simple as removing excess ear wax or a benign tumor. Hearing loss may also signal the onset of other medical problems, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
In other words, you won’t know why you aren’t hearing well until you have your hearing tested by a professional.
True or False? Hearing aids will restore my hearing to normal.
Answer: False. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. Although hearing device technology has significantly improved in the past 10 years, hearing devices cannot restore normal hearing. And, if you waited awhile after your diagnosis of hearing loss to start wearing hearing aids, your brain may need to relearn how to interpret some of the sounds your ears collect. Think of it as a form of rehabilitation, much like you would need if you had a joint replacement or sport-related injury.
True or False? My hearing health can be negatively affected by the foods I eat.
Answer: True. Just like the rest of your body, your hearing health depends on proper nutrition to operate at its best. Studies have shown that obesity and excessive drinking are detrimental to your hearing health. Your auditory system relies on good circulation as the result of proper nutrition and exercise, just like the rest of your body.
True or False? Hearing aids didn’t work for my neighbor so they probably won’t work for me, either.
Answer: False. Hearing loss is as individual as eye glass prescriptions. If your hearing healthcare professional determines that hearing aids will improve your hearing health, your level of hearing loss, lifestyle and personal style preferences will play an important role in determining the model of hearing device you ultimately purchase.
But that’s just the beginning. From there, your hearing healthcare professional will make sure the hearing aids fit properly and accommodate all of the listening environments important to you. Most hearing centers also schedule regular follow up visits with each patient for additional evaluation and device maintenance.
True or False? Tinnitus is the number one disability of our military service personnel.
Answer: True. According to the American Tinnitus Association, more than 50 million Americans suffer from some form of tinnitus. More than 12 million, many of them veterans, have cases severe enough to disrupt their personal and professional lives. Tinnitus is the single largest category for disability claims in the military, with hearing loss a close second.
Hearing health professionals believe most cases of tinnitus are the result of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), accounting for as much as 90 percent of all cases. Those who work in noisy professions and are subjected to prolonged exposure to loud sounds – such as explosions and gunfire in the case of our veterans – are at risk for developing NIHL.
True or False? Musicians are at a greater risk for developing hearing loss.
Answer: True. Studies have found that professional musicians are almost four times more likely to suffer noise-induced deafness and 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus. Phil Collins, Pete Townshend and Ozzie Osbourne are examples of famous musicians who have developed hearing loss as a result of their profession.
True or False? Untreated hearing loss can affect the amount of money I make.
Answer: True. Although it’s illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of a hearing disability, research indicates those with untreated hearing loss may lose as much as $30,000 annually in salary and wages. The good news? Those who treat their mild hearing loss with hearing aids cut that risk by 90 to 100 percent.
True or False? The only person affected by my hearing loss is me.
Answer: False. Nice try, though! Your family, friends and co-workers suffer, too. Recent research by the National Institutes of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NICDC) found a significant relationship between untreated hearing loss and depression. Other studies have found links between hearing loss and an increase in anxiety and social isolation. The reason, experts say, is because individuals with untreated hearing loss find it difficult to communicate with family, friends and co-workers.
What’s the solution? Get your hearing loss treated sooner rather than later. Almost 70 percent of individuals who sought treatment for their hearing loss with hearing aids said their personal relationships improved as a result.
True or False? The best way to prevent hearing loss is by protecting my ears from noise.
Answer: True. Noise and aging are the two most common reasons for developing sensorineural hearing loss. If you work in a noisy environment, ask your employer to provide hearing protection. If you have a noisy hobby, make sure you wear appropriate hearing protection. And, if you know you’ll be attending an activity where loud noises are common, such as a fireworks display or music concert, invest in a pair of ear plugs or head phones. You may not be able to do anything about aging (and if you find the Fountain of Youth, please share), but you can lessen the risk of developing NIHL by being proactive.
True or False? The average child will have his first ear infection by the time he’s three years old.
Answer: True. Children’s ears are more susceptible to developing ear infections – otherwise known as otitis media — because of the way their Eustachian tube is positioned during childhood. Health care professionals estimate more than 75 percent of all children experience at least one episode of otitis media by the time they reach three years of age. Medical costs and lost wages incurred as a result total more than $5 billion annually in the United States alone.
Extra credit: I’ve had a hearing test in the past year.
If you answered this question “true,” congratulations, you’re well on your way to maintaining your hearing health. If you haven’t made an appointment yet, there’s still plenty of time to get started. Visit the Healthy Hearing directory to find a qualified hearing healthcare professional in your area and read verified patient reviews to find one that’s right for you.