I'm Hearing a White Christmas

Jingle bells, carolers, parties and classic Christmas songs – these are the sounds of the holidays. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), these festive noises – or the absence of them – also can help alert individuals to possible hearing problems.

"When a person frequently has trouble understanding conversations at holiday parties, family gatherings and in noisy restaurants, it might be a good time for a hearing test and ear examination," said John W. House, M.D., president of House Research Institute and physician at the House Clinic. "We recommend for people to pay close attention to how well they can hear in different situations."

The holiday season in particular offers family and friends the opportunity to notice a change in a loved one's hearing. People with hearing loss may have trouble participating in conversations because they miss key words.

"We hear from our patients that they first noticed a change in their hearing several years before they finally come in to the House Clinic to have their hearing checked," explained House. "Often it is a spouse or family member who urges a patient to get their hearing tested."

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

NICDC points out that 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have a high-frequency hearing loss caused by too much exposure to loud sound. Often, the process of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is so gradual that people don’t realize they have compromised hearing until their ability to carry on everyday conversations is affected. NIHL is usually painless, progressive and permanent, but it also is completely preventable.

NIHL occurs when a person is exposed for too long of a time to sound pressure levels of 85 decibels or more, resulting in damage to the sensory hair cells of the inner ear. It can be the result of exposing your ears to a sudden, intense impulse noise like an explosion or gunfire or extended or repeated exposure to loud machinery and recreational activities, such as loud music and video. With NIHL, softer high frequency sounds are difficult to hear, which means a person can hear what is said but they cannot understand what is said.

Some forms of hearing loss, which are not noise-induced, can be treated with surgery to restore the patient's hearing. The sooner hearing loss is identified, the sooner the patient can learn about the treatment options that may help. Individuals should get a hearing test at the first sign of change.

So this holiday season, give the gift of hearing by encouraging your loved ones to schedule a hearing test. Visit http://www.houseresearch.org/ for more information.

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