Oh where oh where has my hearing gone?

Even when my Dad was a boy, life wasn’t very loud.  He rode a horse to school because there were no school buses.  The most noise our distant ancestors lived with would have been the occasional use of a hunting rifle, and before that they were using arrows and clubs – not exactly high sound devices.  Our forebears lived in a pretty quiet world.  Let’s face it, there’s only so much noise banging on a horseshoe at a forge a blacksmith can make.

People still struggled with hereditary deafness of various kinds or deafness caused by illness – from Meniere’s to ear infections, but we didn’t have much in the line of ototoxic drugs such as aspirin.  Until a few hundred years ago tobacco wasn’t an issue except for aboriginal Americans and they didn’t seem to abuse it. In general there wasn’t a lot of type II diabetes because the diet was fairly basic and people generally worked off their food intake. Type I diabetics didn’t live long enough for hearing to be an issue – they had bigger problems. I’m not sure most folks today even know diabetes and hypertension can contribute to hearing loss.

Hearing is a pretty precious commodity, perhaps more precious than vision.  As Helen Keller said, blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people. Yes, I know a lot of folks in the Deaf Community feel differently, but for oral deaf or those transitioning in from the hearing community, severe hearing loss feels very isolating.

It would seem to me that if hearing people want to keep what they’ve got, they’d be well advised to avoid drugs that cause hearing loss.  Rush Limbaugh is a real world example of what drug abuse of an ototoxic drug can do.  (Sorry to use someone controversial, but he’s the only famous real-world example I can think of.)

And then there’s the pervasive noise in our environment.  It is everywhere and to add to that, we’ve got teenagers with significant hearing loss from loud music.  The House Research Institute (click House link) reports that in 2006 there were 5.2 million children from 6-19 years old with permanent hearing loss from noise exposure.  Yikes!

Perhaps a little known fact about military disability: the most common disability for military members now is disabling hearing loss.  (click military hearing loss link)

It seems to me that the major factor in hearing loss that the fully hearing and partially  hearing have control over (other than avoiding diabetes and hypertension plus choosing our ancestors wisely) is sound avoidance.  I’ve been doing reading on the topic of hearing loss and found a site called Dangerous Decibels (click Dangerous Decibels link) that has excellent information on damaging noises and how long it takes to be impacted by them. Concerts, headsets, gunfire, even loud thunderclaps, can cause fairly rapid hearing problems. There are plenty of other noises we might not think about that can be problematic.  I sometimes wonder, if I can’t hear it can it still harm my hearing?

If you still have good hearing and if you’d rather not pay $3000 an ear for excellent digital aids or invest in a CI and a surgery to correct hearing loss that could be avoided, maybe it is time to think of ways to limit exposure to hearing loss.


  1. Wow, what an incisive piece. I always think of my hearing in passing but today, thanks to you, I stopped and gave it some deep thought.

    I listen to music when I run or ride my bike. I am a workout”fiend” and loudish music, for many people like me, is just one of those things that goes with working out hard.
    But you are so right. I do care about my hearing. I have some relatives that have lost some of their hearing. I have to be more aware. Yes, listen to music when I run but at a moderate level.

    Now, you have me wondering about my eyes. I wonder what I can do to keep my vision pristine, or at least to keep it good.

    I really enjoyed this piece. It spoke to me. Kudos!


    1. I’m glad that this blog helped. One thing that you can do to protect your ears while wearing headphones is to check the settings on your iPod or other MP3 device certainly on iPods they give you the ability to control the maximum level. This way you won’t damage your hearing.

      When you are in high noise situations, such as on an airplane where there’s a loud deep rumbling or in other high noise situations you can wear noise canceling headphones. The reality is, that deep deep noises that we cannot even hear can potentially be lethal and have been used as weapons by the military. It seems that even what you don’t hear may hurt you.

      Since I actually lost part of the vision in one eye from what I consider consider medical malpractice by an eye doctor, be very cautious if anybody tells you to get laser surgery. I was told that I had wet macular edema and only laser surgery would save my eyesight. What it did, was to punch out a hole in my eyesight. In fact, I was told I would get the ripple d snd get full vision back

      Since then I have found out that people have been successfully treated with oral meds. Consequently while I have the peripheral vision, I lost all my central vision. The same doctor operated on somebody I know in left her blind in both eyes.

      The best option I can suggest is to get regular and extensive eye exams where they check all the blood vessels and everything else. Preservation certainly works a lot better than trying to fix a problem.

      1. Hey there. Thanks for sharing. I think I have to do the check up/exams. I am worried because many doctor’s make mistakes. But I am just going to have to do something to know how my vision and hearing measure up. Now I have some information, I have to act on it.

        Thanks again. I enjoy your blogs.

  2. I had Meniere disease when I was 35 yrs old, and since then my hearing had been steadily deteriorating. Started with one hearing aid, and may need a second one soon. What I know for sure is that most people think that “it wouldn’t happen to me”. But it does. And then it’s too late.

    1. I developed bilateral Menieres at age 14. The crazy thing is that my “dead” ear can still buzz with noise from it (tinnitus). Like you, I’ve got hearing loss from the Menieres. You are so right, “It wouldn’t happen to me.” prevails in this world – and when it does, it is too late. I’m not sure anything can be done to prevent Meniere’s, but we can prevent hearing loss from sound exposure.

      I am glad you had one good ear! Even if you need augmentation there soon, I’m so thrilled your brain knows what to do with sound! And it sounds as if you are really watching over your hearing, Good for you!

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