As honored by the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, let’s take a moment to recognize, Better Hearing & Speech Month! Each May, our speech therapists work hard to raise awareness about communication disorders and the importance of hearing.
Hearing is a large component of the way we speak and learn to talk. In the past 10 years, there has been a huge increase in hearing loss diagnosis. Two types, specifically, have been more widely diagnosed including noise-induced hearing loss and conductive hearing loss, due to fluid in the middle ear.
Noise-Induced hearing loss is caused by repetitive and unsafe exposure to loud sounds. This type of hearing loss is irreversible and completely preventable. Infants, children, teens and adults, regularly exposed to sound that is 85 dB (decibels) or higher are likely to experience a gradual hearing loss. (Starkey, 2016).
Conductive hearing loss caused by fluid in the middle ear is temporary, but may need treated by an ear, nose and throat specialist. Treatments may include PE tubes placed in the middle ear to allow fluid to drain effectively or pharmaceuticals. Fluid may be the result of constant allergies or frequent ear infections; however, some children are simply prone to fluid-filled ears. Although less likely, adults may be subject to fluid-filled ears. Following a diagnosis of conductive hearing loss, a referral to a speech therapist may be made to address a speech and language delay. While most cases are typically resolved with medical intervention and speech and language therapy, there have been cases reported of children needing multiple sets of PE tubes as they are designed to be temporary and fall out.
When considering or questioning a delay or difference in your child’s speech and language skills, a medical professional may ask you about recurrent ear infections or a family history of tubes. When recurrent ear infections are not resolved or the ears are not draining fluid, it can become trapped behind the ear drum. That fluid then affects the brain’s ability to process sound, making the sounds a baby or child hears muffled.
If you have concerns regarding your hearing or your child’s hearing, consult with your primary care physician to determine if you should have your hearing assessed by an audiologist.
Check out these 5 tips to protect your ears:
- Wear hearing protection when mowing the lawn!
- If working around heavy machinery or loud tools – wear hearing protection!
- Set volume limits on your child’s electronic devices.
- Limit your listening exposure with the 60/60 rule: 60 % volume capacity for no more than 60 minutes without a break.
- Download the SoundApp and measure the decibel of any sound in real time. Eighty-five dB and higher is considered damaging to hearing over time.