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  • Writer's pictureAnn Yebei

Hearing Health: Aren’t you Deaf? Why Do You Care?

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Audiology Awareness Month 2022

 

October is Audiology Awareness Month in the United States of America. This month is a time to raise awareness about both hearing health and the audiology profession to the general population. Hearing health information would cover hearing healthcare, the dangers of noise pollution or exposure, the signs of hearing loss, and the various interventions available for hearing loss. The audiology profession on the other hand, involves “health care professionals who identify, assess and manage disorders of hearing, balance and other neural systems” (John Hopkins Medicine). The same health article noted above by John Hopkins Medicine listed the following elements as part of an audiologist’s work:


· They help patients ranging in age from newborns to older adults

· They select, fit, and dispense hearing aids and other listening devices

· They help prevent hearing loss by providing and fitting protective hearing devices and educating patients on the effects of noise on hearing

· They aid in research pertinent to the prevention, identification and management of hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance system dysfunction.



Hearing Health Conversations and Deafness


“Hearing health” says the deaf girl. “Let’s talk about that.”


Is this ironic for you?


Every time I have advocated for a comfortable hearing environment- whether it was in buses or matatus in Kenya, or in asking my younger sibling to check the volume of their headphones- ‘cause I can hear it- I would see a look of curiosity, question, interest, annoyance, or a combination of the above. (The annoyance being my sister’s, understandably). I’d assume the interest was because hearing health advocacy was rare in public. Or because I was the only one swimming against the current called “conformity” or “convenience”.


Or maybe it was because I was deaf. It must have been amusing- the deaf girl caring about hearing people’s ear health.


Honestly, there’s a lot of layers to this.


First, I’m not that petty. I’m not out to deprive you of your hearing in the name of lauding deaf culture or aiming to invest time in enjoying the narrative of your loss to prove to the world that audism exists from within your grieving after years of being able to hear.


Why wouldn't I care? Even that’s an over-compliment for an anti-hero I don’t deserve.


If you become a new addition to the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) community, I’m neutral. I'm chill. I’m neutral, not because I don’t care, but because it’s your story and I don’t have the right, position, or insight to be making comments.


Secondly, there’s audism involved in this. The prior point is speaking in the light that hearing loss is a loss. And since I'm pegged with it, my advocacy against hearing loss is a point of scrutiny- a point of note. Deaf culture speaks of deafness as a natural state of human being and one of the natural human experiences some are born into, or encounter. To say it’s a disadvantage, a loss, or a negative, stems from the bias that hearing is better or more preferable. In sum? Audism.


Doesn’t it sound counterintuitive to say, or assume, that I would stay silent about hearing health just because I’m okay with being pitifully deaf? So, I should be jolly at the recklessness (or ignorance) of people as they join my lonely bandwagon of loss?


Thirdly, don’t you care about your physical health? Doesn’t this scenario also include your hearing?


So, no, I don’t need “more of my people” nor do I find it comfortable to be around excessive noise exposure- even as a deaf person. Tinnitus irritates me. Loud sounds give me headaches. Straining [to hear] aggravates me. I'd also like to listen to my own music in my headphones without the additional layer of an unnecessarily loud environment (because noise cancellation doesn't exist for me with headphones). I have my own audiologist. I have my own hearing health appointments- even if my hearing is mechanical. And my ears can hurt from loud noise- even if I can't hear them.


Lastly, like many aspects of health, hearing health is also a matter of public health.



Hearing Health Tips

Like every part of the human body, your ears have their limits. This probably varies from person to person because variation is the norm in nature, but some general tips can be considered when it comes to upgrading your hearing lifestyle. Early detection can enable severe hearing loss prevention or early intervention, so consider screening if there’s suspicion of hearing concerns. Hearing loss cannot be reversed! So, pick freely and explore widely!


#1- Avoid Noise Exposure

When you can avoid loud noises, especially over extended periods of time, do so, because damage is cumulative!


#2- Turn Down Volume on Personal Listening Devices

Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and there are apps you can download to gauge how loud your surroundings are. This can also be used to check your personal devices as well. “Noise above 70 dB over a prolonged period may start to damage your hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm” (CDC). Taking breaks from your hearing devices and noise is also part of hearing health. Taking time with silence, working in silence, or while surrounded by natural sounds can be therapeutic for you, physical benefits aside.



#3- When You Can’t Avoid the Noise, Block Your Ears

Earmuffs or ear plugs can be used. For those who work, or use, with loud machinery should consider this as a standard part of their workwear to combat hearing loss.


#4- Get Hearing Checks

Physicals are encouraged on a regular basis. Your ears happen to be part of the fit. Consider getting your ears checked as well- age regardless.

October: National Protect Your Hearing Month


I have long since embraced my deafness. I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. The silence has become a part of my personal life culture and the brilliance of “Deaf Bing” (the benefits of Deaf Culture and its nuances) is irreplaceable. However, this doesn’t stand in opposition to practicing good hearing health, hearing culture and lifestyle, and supporting the awareness of and usage of ear healthcare services. As someone who also uses a Cochlear Implant, I have seen the benefits of practicing healthy hearing. Stress levels are lower. Focus is heightened. Mindfulness thrives in my online content consumption. And my environment is a little bit healthier for the next person’s hearing. Incidentally.


Going forward, how will you take care of your hearing health, and of those around you?


 

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