Have you heard the news about Huey Lewis? One of America’s most beloved musicians has cancelled his upcoming performances due to hearing loss. Lewis, who introduced the idea that it’s “Hip to Be Square” all the way back in 1986 falls into a demographic of aging Americans confronting hearing loss in record numbers. At age 67, the rock star is one of millions of Baby Boomers now finding themselves faced with the question of how to treat and intervene in hearing loss.
Age is one of the great predictors of hearing loss. One third of Americans over the age of 65 report some degree of hearing loss. That number jumps considerably once we reach 75, with half of folks in that demographic suffering from hearing loss. It’s not an accident, just like the rest of the systems of the human body, our hearing structures deteriorate over time.
Despite being one of the major public health issues in the country, we haven’t culturally caught up with the protection and maintenance yet. We’re urged to drink milk from a young age to build healthy bones to last us into our old age. We’re also now conditioned to integrate exercise into our daily routines in order to preserve our cardiovascular systems and maintain healthy joints. But rarely are we reminded to avoid too-noisy situations or use hearing protection in order to protect our hearing.
Lewis himself reports that his doctors believe he may be suffering from Meniere’s disease, the symptoms of which include vertigo, hearing loss and a sensation of fullness in the affected ear. These come on in the form of ‘episodes’ typically lasting from 20 minutes to four hours. Unfortunately, the disease progressively transmutates these brief periods of hearing loss into permanent hearing loss. The cause of this disease is unknown, but it likely results from inner ear fluid abnormalities. There is no cure, though the symptoms can be treated.
However, perhaps what is most surprising is that more of our beloved musicians and rock bands don’t report hearing loss as they age. It’s quite a common profession in which noise induced hearing loss occurs. In fact, professional musicians are almost four times more likely to develop noise induced hearing loss than the general public.
Noise induced hearing loss is a permanent hearing impairment that comes from prolonged exposure to high levels of noise, damaging the delicate cells of the inner ear. In the case of musicians specifically, noise induced hearing loss occurs because they are in too-loud environments for substantial amounts of time, say for the average duration of a concert multiplied by the length of your career. Rock concerts can register between 100-120 decibels when any sound over 85 decibels is considered potentially harmful.
You don’t have to be a professional musician to damage your hearing at a concert, performance or any loud event. It can happen to anyone, and the risk is particularly high now as our culture seems to just get louder every day.
Pay attention to how your ears feel in a noisy environment. If there is any pain or discomfort, seek relief by giving your ears a break. Invest in a pair of earplugs to keep in the car or on hand for those times you have to be in a loud listening scenario. Don’t worry about looking cool at the expense of your ears. Remember, it’s hip to be square!
Years spent enjoying concerts without paying attention to the damage that too-loud noises can do over time may have impacted your own hearing. Shouldering your way to the best spot in the audience usually meant close to the speakers near the stage. However, you don’t have to be stuck with poor hearing.
Instead, schedule a visit with us at Hearing Consultants to review the current condition of your hearing and diagnose any established hearing loss. From there, we can begin the conversation to review next steps in treatment and intervention. Hearing aids can inject an ease into communication that allows you to live your fullest and most vibrant life.