It's that time of year again – time for men and their medical caregivers to take a closer look at men's health issues, especially those that can be prevented. The objective is to increase awareness of these preventable health issues in men and to encourage early treatment when health issues do arise.
And they do.
One health problem that is, in most cases, preventable, is hearing loss, not necessarily the first issue men might consider but the stats clearly show that hearing loss is, indeed, a health issue for many men.
Men's Health Week (June 14-20, 2010), with sponsors as diverse as the Washington Redskins and the Better Hearing Institute, is the perfect opportunity for health care providers, local, state and federal legislators, public policy committees and individuals to take a closer look at some of the health problems men face.
One of those problems is hearing loss.
- 61% of hearing loss occurs in men
- 43% of hearing loss occurs in people older than 65.
- Older men experience hearing loss more frequently than senior-aged women.
- Hearing loss is often caused by long-term exposure to loud noise.
- Hearing loss is cumulative. It gets worse as men are exposed to loud noise over time, which is then influenced by age and genetics.
Hearing Loss Causes in Men
Hearing loss among the male population can be caused by a single factor or a combination of factors. Common contributors to hearing loss in men include:
- Exposure to loud noise over a long period of time
- Diseases such as meningitis, diabetes and cardiovascular issues
- Ear and head trauma
- Ear wax build up
- Ototoxic medication (recently Viagra use and hearing loss were linked)
Men are more likely to be exposed to loud noise in the workplace and even around home as millions of weekend warriors trim the grass without any sort of ear protection. Men are more likely to be around loud machinery, loud music and other sources of noise that, over time, lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Hearing Loss Symptoms in Men
Because hearing loss is often gradual, it also goes undetected in many cases. In fact, you're more likely to discover hearing loss when family, friends and co-workers point out that "you should have your hearing tested." Well-intentioned, good advice.
Other symptoms include:
Increasing the volume of the TV, car radio, MP3 player or other sound sources. If you notice that you need to scroll up the volume over time, there's a good chance that you're losing some of your ability to hear.
Muffled or absent sound. When people speak to you, do you hear them clearly or does the sound come through muffled? Do you position yourself to see the mouth of the speaker for visual cues about what's being said? Do you say "What?" a lot? Muffled sound, or the absence of certain sounds, should be evaluated by an audiologist or other hearing health specialist ASAP.
Hearing loss often occurs at certain frequencies – ranges of sound. So, you may miss the high notes if you experience hearing loss in the high frequency range – a common problem. Do you have trouble hearing children's voices? Women's voices? These sounds occur in higher frequency ranges and, the inability to hear these sounds may indicate some degree of hearing loss.
Difficulty hearing in loud environments. Background noise makes it more difficult to hear what you want to hear. A noisy restaurant or party may present hearing problems – an inability to distinguish relevant sound (a speaker) from background sound (noise).
Difficulty hearing in large spaces such as auditoriums or concert halls.
Ringing in the ears. This condition is called tinnitus in the medical community. It's a common phenomenon that can be treated in a variety of ways. In some cases, short-term exposure to loud noise may cause tinnitus to occur. For example, when you walk out of a loud concert hall, you may experience ringing in the ears for up to a several days.
However, after the ears are given a rest from loud noise exposure, the condition disappears. In other cases, the ringing in the ears is constant and a detriment to the quality of life of many men who have been exposed to loud noise for too many years.
Hearing Loss Treatment for Men
Once hearing loss is perceived by a man, he should visit a hearing specialist such as an audiologist or hearing aid practitioner. These professionals will perform a hearing evaluation to determine the type and extent of your hearing loss and, no, it doesn't hurt a bit.
The hearing evaluation will produce a visual representation called an audiogram that indicates the extent of hearing loss and hearing loss at specific frequencies.
Depending on the severity of hearing loss, your hearing professional may recommend that you wear a pair of hearing aids. Today's hearing aids are small, discrete, powerful and automated, improving the ability to hear life again.
Hearing Loss Prevention for Men
The best course of treatment to prevent hearing loss is to protect the hearing you have. When you know you'll be exposed to loud noise – in the workplace or around the house – there are a variety of preventative measures you can take to protect the hearing mechanism and prevent further loss of hearing.
For simple and easy access hearing protection, a pair of foam ear plugs that mold to the shape of the ear can be purchased at the local pharmacy for a few dollars – money well spent. These ear plugs reduce the overall level of loud noise entering the ear canal. They are comfortable and highly effective when inserted correctly so be sure to read the instructions on the packaging.
In other situations, men may choose to wear over-the-ear hearing protective muffs. These are more comfortable to some people and provide excellent protection again loud background noise. Fur hunters or perhaps construction workers who need to hear while protecting, hear-through ear muffs allow sounds to pass through, yet protect when a robust loud noise occurs. For example, you are able to hear the floor manager's directions, while blocking out the loud noises created by factory floor machinery. Another example is for hunters. They need to be able to hear their prey while walking around but as soon as they shoot their gun, the hearing protection instantly kicks in protecting them from the harmful noise level created by gun shots.
For music lovers the best protection against "bud ear" (noise-induced hearing loss from listening to loud music via earbuds) are noise-reducing headphones. These headphones block out the background noise around you which subsequently prevents you from having to turn your music up louder to be heard over a noisy environment. They promote safe listening levels as well as provide high quality sound for music. These are ideal in public places, such as riding the subway.
Part of Men's Health Week is to increase your awareness of the dangers loud noise present in our very noisy world. From a busy city street to the quiet countryside, loud noise is still present in varying degrees, and an awareness of these loud noises and taking steps to protect the hearing mechanism is, by far, the most recommended treatment to prevent hearing loss or for making hearing loss worse.
|Start with a hearing test today|
So what are you going to do to celebrate Men's Health Week? A good place to start is with your hearing. If you've noticed a loss of hearing, or if friends and family point out that "the TV is too loud," a trip to a local hearing professional is an excellent first step to better hearing health.
Today, there are a variety of solutions to address hearing loss. There are a variety of types of hearing aids including completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids that are invisible to the outside world.
There are new open-fit hearing aids that offer open ear hearing, enhancing your natural ability to hear with a slight boost in volume, and there are behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids that are lightweight, powerful and loaded with automated features that simplify life while improving quality of day-to-day living.
So do yourself a favor during Men's Health Week this year and visit a hearing professional. Getting your hearing back – can you think of a better way to celebrate men's health?
Make that call to a hearing professional today and get back into life. And, if you don't have extensive hearing loss, take steps to protect your hearing whether mowing the lawn or working in a noisy workplace.
Happy Men's Health Week. Do something nice for yourself. Protect your hearing and get yourself tested if you suspect hearing loss.
It's what men's health is all about – a happier, richer, longer life. The next step is up to you.
Take it during Men's Health Week.