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.