Learning About Hearing

Photo: Breakingpic

Before this summer I hardly ever thought about my hearing. It has always been something I took for granted. I started learning more about hearing loss and hearing health over the summer when I had an opportunity to intern at the Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) in New York City. It’s a small nonprofit whose mission is to “prevent and cure hearing loss and tinnitus through groundbreaking research and to promote hearing health.”

Once I started interning at HHF, I had to learn more about hearing loss and tinnitus in order to become an effective member of the team. There are so many people affected by hearing loss yet no one ever seems to want to talk about it. Nearly one in five teens has some hearing loss, likely from listening to their music too loud or going to loud concerts without hearing protection. Hearing loss and tinnitus are also the top two health concerns faced by military personnel. If hearing loss were any other disease, the numbers would indicate an epidemic.

But why isn’t anyone talking about hearing loss, especially as hearing loss prevention education? Part of the reason might be because of the stigma that is often associated with hearing loss: only old people have hearing loss or it’s indicative of intelligence or lack thereof. But neither of these assumptions are true. Hearing loss can affect anyone. And contrary to what you might see on TV or in movies, most cases of hearing loss aren’t caused by one loud sound, but cause by exposure to loud sounds for long periods of time. This gradual hearing loss can make it hard for individuals to even realize they have a hearing loss.

I gained so much from this internship in the skills I learned working with such a great team, but also from the knowledge I now have to help me keep my ears healthy. I now have a decibel meter downloaded on my phone to let me know how loud my surroundings are, I listen to music in my headphones a little quieter, and I heckle my sister into wearing her earbuds to concerts. Hopefully more people will start taking hearing health more seriously too. 

If you want to learn more about hearing loss and tinnitus, you can visit the Hearing Health Foundation website here!