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South Health District

National Better Hearing and Speech Month

With hearing loss affecting 36 million American adults and spiking in younger populations in recent years, May’s Better Hearing and Speech Month is the ideal time for parents, spouses, and the general public to learn how to recognize the early signs of hearing problems.

Hearing loss is a significant and growing public health issue – for people of all ages. Though 36 million adults suffer, only 1 our of 5 people who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wear one. Approximately 15% (26 million) American between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds or noise at work or in leisure activities. One in 5 kids ages 12 to 19 is suffering from hearing loss, an increase of 31% since the late 1980s/early 1990s. This is a trend that coincides with skyrocketing use of personal audio technology.

Hearing loss can be present at birth or acquired. Although newborn hearing screening is widespread in the United States, hearing issues may develop after children leave the hospital. They also may result from ear infections, other illnesses such as chicken pox or influenza, head injury, or noise exposure. Therefore, parents should be attuned to the early signs of hearing loss even if their child passes a newborn hearing screening in the hospital.

Left untreated, hearing loss in children can have a negative impact on their speech and language development, communication, and learning. This can impact social success, academic development, and future vocational choices. In adults, untreated hearing loss is tied to social isolation, depression, early exit from the workforce, and an overall reduced quality of life. New research also has found a strong link between degree of hearing loss and risk of developing dementia.

In children, parents should watch for the following signs of hearing loss:

  • lack of attention to sounds;
  • failure to follow simple directions;
  • failure to respond when his/her name is called;
  • delays in speech and language development;
  • pulling or scratching at his/her ears;
  • difficulty achieving academically, especially in reading and math;
  • social isolation and feeling unhappy in school; and
  • persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise.

In adults, signs of hearing loss include:

  • inattentiveness;
  • buzzing or ringing in the ears;
  • failure to respond to spoken words;
  • muffled hearing;
  • constant frustration hearing speech and other sounds;
  • avoiding conversation;
  • social isolation; and
  • depression.

For more information on hearing loss, contact the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Intervention program at (229) 293-6286 or visit https://southhealthdistrict.com/programs-services/newborn-hearing/.

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