May 2023: National Better Hearing and Speech Month
May 2023 is National Better Hearing and Speech Month, a yearly event that provides an opportunity to raise awareness about hearing and speech problems. As reported by the CDC, this annual event was founded in 1927 by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, to encourage people to think about their own hearing and speech, get their hearing checked, and protect their hearing.
What is National Better Hearing and Speech Month?
One of the goals of this awareness month is to support early identification and intervention for hearing loss.
Many people live with unidentified hearing loss, often failing to realize that they are missing certain sounds and words. Protecting your hearing is crucial, and taking steps to keep it from getting worse is essential.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes noise as a crucial public health issue and a top environmental risk faced by the world today. According to WHO, over 50% of people aged 12–35 years listen to music via personal audio devices at volumes that pose a risk to their hearing.
Here some information to know for National Better Hearing and Speech Month that can help protect your hearing:
- Keep the volume on your devices below 60%.
- If you frequently use a phone to listen to music, consider using noise-cancelling earphones or headphones instead of turning the volume up.
- Listening through personal audio devices should not exceed 80 dB (adults) or 75 dB (sensitive users: e.g., children) for 40 hours a week.
- Listeners who regularly use portable audio devices can expose themselves to the same level of sound in 15 minutes of music at 100 dB that an industrial worker would receive in an 8-hour day at 85 dB.
It's important to note that the average person is born with about 16,000 hair cells within their inner ear, which allows the brain to detect sounds. By the time you notice hearing loss, many hair cells have already been damaged or destroyed.
You can lose 30% to 50% of hair cells before changes in your hearing can be measured by a hearing test. Damaged inner ear cells do not grow back. In addition to damaging hair cells, noise can also damage the auditory nerve that carries information about sounds to the brain. Early damage may not show up on your hearing test. While there is no way to restore normal hearing, hearing loss from loud sounds can be prevented.
Raising Awareness About Hearing and Children
National Better Hearing and Speech Month is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness of hearing and balance disorders in our children.
Babies are particularly susceptible to hearing loss from loud noises. Infants have very delicate eardrums, so exposure to high decibel sounds during one’s youth and throughout the course of one’s life can result in hearing loss later on down the road. Some causes of hearing loss in babies include genetics, premature birth, and problems during delivery such as lack of oxygen.
Parents should be conscious of everyday routines and be on the lookout for loud noises in their surroundings to protect their children's hearing. For example, removing children from rooms where vacuums are used or very loud voices are prevalent can help.
Finally, it is never too early to protect your baby's hearing. Loud noises, such as car horns, alarm clocks, and power tools, can cause hearing loss in babies, who have very delicate eardrums. As parents, we must be conscious of everyday routines so we can find ways of protecting our children from potential dangers that can lead to hearing loss later on down the road.