“Fall weather and hearing awareness.” Sounds like a strange combination of words doesn’t it? I’d like to tell you how these two things are related.

This past October I celebrated Protect Your Hearing Month. In particular I focused on hearing protection and provided seminars to my community about proper hearing protection techniques. Dangerous loudness levels affect more people than you may realize. Each year thousands of hunters and recreational shooters suffer hearing damage when they enter the forests and firing ranges. Many musicians unknowingly harm their hearing with long term exposure to loud music. Industrial workers, farmers, and even dentists find their occupations a hazard to their hearing health. Many things in our everyday environment have been shown to effect our hearing such as music earphones, lawn care equipment, and home improvement tools. The good news is this type of hearing loss can be prevented.

Hearing protection is relatively inexpensive and is proven to do the job. I’ve found the best protection is a pair of foam plugs under earmuffs; I call this “double protecting”. This is especially important for shooters. Those that need special hearing protection to allow for music appreciation or communication can find custom earmolds with filters that will do the job. They cost more, but the investment in better hearing usually outweighs that initial expense. I like the custom molds made by Westone or Microsonic. (check their website for more information http://www.westone.com/) Musicians typically need more customization than any other occupation requiring hearing protection. Their hearing protection options are outlined nicely by Westone’s Music Division (also found at http://www.westone.com/). As an audiologist part of my job is to identify my patients that are at risk for noise induced hearing loss and recommend hearing protection that will meet their needs. Unfortunately many people do not think about hearing protection until they already have hearing problems.

Hearing loss occurs in 1 of every 10 people. Many people do not realize they have hearing loss and need help recognizing the signs. Most hearing loss is treatable either medically or with technology. Although hearing is an important sense that keeps us feeling connected to the world most people do not have yearly screenings. Consider having your hearing checked this fall.

This month, November, I am celebrating Assistive Technology Month. My focus is on assistive devices for those with hearing loss and I have been scheduling demonstrations of the devices. My next demonstration is November 5, 2009 at the Three Rivers Center for Assistive Technology in Pittsburgh, PA. [the public is welcome please email me for more information at [email protected]]

Assistive devices can help bridge the gap for people who struggle with the phone, television, doorbells and more because of a deficit in their hearing. There are many choices in assistive technology and it is often difficult to know which is right for you. Some devices are designed to be used in conjunction with hearing aids or cochlear implants while others are meant for use without hearing aids. Proper selection of assistive devices can improve quality of life, increase job performance, improve confidence in communication, maintain independence, ensure safety and reconnected with family and friends.

I like this focus because I use assistive devices all the time. Being severely hard of hearing I need to have devices that will wake me when I’m sleeping for alarms, phone calls, doorbells and smoke detectors. I also need to have extra amplification for hearing on the phone and for listening to my shows on television. Although I have hearing aids that I am dearly grateful for, they cannot accomplish all the things that assistive devices can. The gap is bridged for me and because of this I am fully independent and well adjusted despite my lack of hearing.

So, now you know what Fall Weather and Hearing Awareness is all about. I encourage your comments so please email me at [email protected].

Hearing Protection Resources:
NIOSH Safety and Health Topic: Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/

Assistive Technology Resources:
U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP): Disability.gov http://www.disability.gov/education/assistive_technology

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA): Assistive Technology http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/treatment/assist_tech.htm

This blog posted by Suzanne Yoder, Au.D. Doctor of Audiology and owner of HearWell Center. Please visit our website for more information http://www.hearwellcenter.com/