Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
There’s nothing like a big holiday get-together to give you an appreciation for life at every age. While the kids are practicing their selective listening skills, grandma and grandpa are trying their best to follow the conversation. On top of that, there’s the din from multiple discussions, holiday ball games and new toy euphoria that can leave your ears ringing like a chorus of holiday bells.
During times like these you might notice some members of your family seem to have problems hearing. If that’s the case, encourage them to see their hearing healthcare professional as soon as possible. Otherwise, follow these guidelines for testing and protecting your hearing at all ages.
Newborn hearing screening
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), children begin learning speech and language in the first six months of life. Those infants who receive help soon after their hearing loss is detected develop better language skills than those who do not.
Thanks to legislation enacted in 2000, all 50 states and the District of Columbia now have Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs for newborns. These programs screen newborn babies for hearing loss before they are discharged from the hospital. Those who don’t pass the screening receive diagnostic evaluation by three months of age and, if appropriate, are enrolled in an early intervention program by the time they are six months old.
Hearing tips for babies and toddlers
If your baby’s hearing is normal, you can help maintain proper health:
- Clean their ears gently. A warm washcloth should be sufficient to wash away any dirt they’ve collected. If you notice excess ear wax in the ear canal, consult your pediatrician. A certain amount of ear wax is normal; an excess may indicate a medical problem.
- Get ear infections treated promptly. Seventy-five percent of children will have their first ear infection by the time they’re three years old. While ear infections are a common part of childhood, chronic infections may signal another problem.
- Protect ears from noisy toys. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common types of hearing loss – and the most preventable. Make sure your children’s toys aren’t too noisy by holding them up to your own ear. If the toy is too loud for you, it’s too loud for your child.
Elementary school-age hearing test
Each state has different regulations for implementing school-based hearing testing. According to guidelines by the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association (ASHA), children should receive a hearing test when they enter school, annually kindergarten through third grade and again in the seventh and 11th grades.
Children with hearing loss may get frustrated easily, seem overly tired at the end of the day, appear to not be paying attention, or respond incorrectly to a question or request. If your child fails their school-based hearing test, it’s important to have an evaluation by a hearing healthcare professional as soon as possible. If you notice they are having trouble hearing in between school testings, schedule an appointment to have them evaluated.
Hearing tips for school-age students
Now is a great age to begin educating your child how to protect their hearing. Teach them to move away from loud noise or cover their ears if they can’t get away from the source. Encourage them to keep the volume low when they listen to music or watch the television. Remove toys that register more than 85 decibels (dB) or hurt your ears when you hold the toy at arm’s length. Model good hearing conservation skills so they will be more apt to do the same as they grow older.
College entrance exam
Asking your graduating high school senior to have a hearing test before they begin college classes in the fall probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, especially since their age group is at risk for developing noise-induced hearing loss. Several degree programs require their students to have hearing tests prior to admission, including education, audiology and speech language pathology. Even if they aren’t majoring in a subject that requires a hearing test, it might just be a reminder to keep the volume on their personal electronic devices turned down while they’re away from home.
Hearing tips for young adults
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss that may have been caused by excessive exposure to loud noise. More than likely, this age group hasn’t been exposed to hazardous noise at work, but the volume of their leisure activities – concerts, personal electronic devices, and hobbies such as snowmobiling and hunting – may cause hearing damage.
Online hearing tests may be a good way to encourage this age group to get on board with hearing conservation. Healthy Hearing’s online test is a fun way to test hearing (at any age, doggone it!) in the comfort of your own home. Just remember to follow up with a hearing healthcare professional if necessary.
Age 50 baseline hearing test
Hearing healthcare professionals agree that having a hearing test when you turn 50 years of age is a good way to establish a baseline for your hearing health as you age. Healthy hearing is especially important as you grow older. Seniors with untreated hearing loss are at greater risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer’s as well as experiencing anxiety, depression and social isolation.
Hearing tips for aging adults
Are you still working? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), occupational hearing loss is the most common work-related illness in the United States, accounting for $242 million in worker’s compensation claims on an annual basis. Talk to your employer about hearing conservation if you work in a noisy environment.
If you don’t, there are still other noisy environments to consider. Protect your hearing at sports stadiums, music concerts, and hobbies such as hunting, snowmobiling or motorcycle riding when noise levels rise above 85 dB. Use inexpensive foam ear plugs from the drug store or invest in noise-cancelling headphones from your local sporting goods store.
We’re living in an era where technology can keep us hearing our best no matter our age, but we must do our part. Have your hearing tested appropriately, practice good hearing conservation, utilize available technology and you’ll be the life of the party for years to come.