Can You Hear Me Now?
Dr. Lana Joseph-Ford, CEO of High Level Speech and Hearing Center, shares tips you can take to protect your hearing.
Hearing loss is a widespread problem in the United States, affecting an estimated 15 percent of America’s adult population (or 37.5 million people), as well as two to three out of every 1,000 children.
Dr. Lana Joseph-Ford, CEO of High Level Speech and Hearing Center, and her staff have been serving the Greater New Orleans area since 2016. According to Joseph-Ford, the three most common types of hearing conditions are recurring ear infections, presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) and cerumen (ear wax impaction).
Recurring ear infections often affect children age 3 and under, and because at this age most children are unable to effectively verbalize what’s bothering them, it’s important for parents to know the warning signs.
“Warning signs may include excessive crying, frustration when communicating, pulling on the ears, clear or yellowish fluid forming from the ears and speech language delay,” she says.
Presbycusis, however, is a common condition that usually occurs in adults 65 and older. It is caused by damage to the hearing nerves in the cochlear called sensorineural hair cells.
“This damage can be a result of exposure to loud noise or ototoxic medication, which is often used to fight cancer, illness or genetics,” she says. “Presbycusis is an invisible condition, meaning most signs are detected by the patient’s loved ones and not the patient themselves.”
With cerumen, an excessive amount of earwax is to blame for hearing loss. Joseph-Ford says cerumen is one reason why it’s important to see an audiologist and for patients to have their ears cleaned on a regular basis.
“There are also various over-the-counter carbamide solutions that assist with dissolving ear wax, which can be found at your local grocery store,” she says, adding the warning that Q-tips should never be used to clean the inside of ears. “Q-tips are dangerous and when used incorrectly, may cause injury to your eardrum.”
Another Checkup to Add to the List
Annual hearing checks are vital as hearing loss can occur gradually, and by having a baseline hearing test a patient’s risk for hearing loss can be more easily identified.
“Just like you go to the dentist yearly to get your teeth checked and the eye doctor to get your yearly vision exam, you should also come to the audiologist to have your hearing checked,” says Joseph-Ford. “The sooner a problem is identified, the sooner we can do something about it.”
Educating patients and parents about the importance of early intervention is the key, says Joseph-Ford.
Joseph-Ford also advises people of all ages to use hearing protection like earplugs or noise-reducing headphones when at concerts or festivals. This is especially true for performers.
“With Mardi Gras, for example, as members of the audience we enjoy the loud music for a short period of time; however, the drummers and trumpet players in the band must endure the noise for several hours while marching,” she says. “All musicians deal with the risk of exposure to loud noise.”
Last September, Joseph-Ford served as the audiologist for Grammy-award-winning rapper Drake while he was on tour in New Orleans.
“It was really important to him that he could hear clearly during the concert, as well as for daily business,” she says, adding, “you see, even worldwide rock stars like Drake understand the importance of getting their hearing checked. If Drake can find time in his busy schedule to get his ears checked, then so can every ordinary person with at least one ear.”
Did You Know?
Statistics on Hearing Loss
Those age 60-69 tend to show the highest amount of hearing loss.
Men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss.
Non-Hispanic white adults are more likely than adults in other racial/ethnic groups to have hearing loss.
Non-Hispanic black adults have the lowest prevalence of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69.
Five out of 6 children experience ear infection (otitis media) by the time they are 3 years old.
Roughly 10 percent of the U.S. adult population, or about 25 million Americans, has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year.
About 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids.
Source: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders