The loss of hearing is an impairment which often attracts little understanding or sympathy and many of us tend to become inpatient or exacerbated at having to repeat ourselves or speak loudly to people suffering from varying degrees of deafness.
This lack of empathy is at odds with the likelihood of us suffering from deafness with 1 in 6 Australians affected by hearing loss and 3 in every 4 people over the age of 70 being affected. In total some 3.55 million Australians are deaf or have hearing loss.
According to Access Economics, the most significant cause of hearing loss, and one which affects about 37 per cent of all cases, is loud noise.
However, hearing loss can also be brought on through illness, accident, exposure to some drugs and chemicals, or ageing.
Some of these factors are unavoidable but others, such as loud noise, can be avoided.
Damage from noise exposure is cumulative and so the louder the noise is, and the longer you are exposed to it, the greater the harm.
Some of our everyday activities can put us at risk. The National Acoustic Laboratories has found that up to 25 per cent of users of portable music devices will suffer hearing problems mainly because of the volume at which they listen to their devices.
We often don’t realise just how loud the noises are. For instance, the level of noise at a nightclub, at 100 dB, can be as loud or louder than a chainsaw and this can damage your hearing after just 15 minutes’ exposure. Louder noises like a jet plane which is more than 110 dB, can cause damage to your hearing in just one minute.
One hearing condition which will affect 18% of Australians at some time in their lives is tinnitus which causes noises or ringing in the ears or head when no such external physical noise is present.
Some medications may cause tinnitus as a side effect or make existing tinnitus worse. It is important to talk to your community pharmacist about any concerns you may have. Special care should be taken with medications for arthritis, rheumatic diseases, some antibiotics, anti-depressants and aspirin.
Caffeine (in tea, coffee or chocolate) and alcohol has been known to worsen tinnitus in some people. Smoking, which narrows the blood vessels which supply oxygen to the ears, can make tinnitus worse.
Your pharmacist is there to provide advice, counselling and professional services along with dispensing prescription medicines. Speak to your pharmacist about any concerns you may have about ear problems.