Hearing loss: hidden causes, consequences

Published: Feb. 17, 2017 at 4:16 PM PST
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It's a noisy world out there filled with the sounds of traffic, household appliances, power tools, the work place. And every day some of these sounds are leaving permanent damage. Eventually it adds up.

"The damage that was done when I was 15 or 20 is still there and everything is simply added to it since then," says Mark Butler of My Hearing Centers in Sparks.

And many of us so start that early.

"Statistics show one in five teenagers already has hearing loss," Butler says. "The most common cause of hearing loss is noise exposure. Every time a teenager goes to a rock concert and they like to get up right in front of the stage, five feet in front of the speakers, that's doing permanent damage."

Dianne Granata may not look like a headbanger, but back in the day....

"Well, AC-DC. That was a big favorite. I grew up in the 80's so a lot of the '80's bands."

"You listened to heavy metal?"


By the time she was 40 it was interfering with her life.

"I was told at 40, I had the hearing of a 60-year-old. I hated always saying 'What? Huh? What did you say?' So I just began to tune out and then you feel isolated."

Today she's wearing high-tech hearing aids, practically invisible, linked by Bluetooth to her smart phone which lets her listen to whatever her current tastes in music might be--at a non-threatening volume.

It also lets her fine-tune her hearing to her environment, blocking out background noise that can overwhelm someone wearing a hearing aid.

And she can store the setting so whenever her phone's GPS says she's at that location it automatically adjusts.

With help like that she's managing her loss, but every day she's reminded of how it all started.

"I see the kids with the ear buds in their ears, cranking that music. I can hear it standing next to them. Even the cars that you drive up against or alongside have the music blaring and I just say 'Well, it won't be long before you're wearing hearing aids too."

Butler says hearing loss can affect our lives in other not-so-obvious, but serious ways.

He says studies show it can affect balance increasing the danger of serious falls and it can affect our cognitive functions, even increasing the likelihood of Alzheimer's disease.

Any noise over 85 decibels can cause damage. Few of us carry a decibel meter around with us, but