Lend me your ears – how important are ‘hearing check-ups’?

People go to the dentist to make sure their teeth are healthy, and have an eye test once in a while… but they don’t tend to check out their hearing.

Newsbook.com.mt spoke to Jackie Busuttil who graduated as a speech language pathologist and has an MSc in Audiology. She is also the Secretary of the Malta Association of Audiologists (MAA), which was recently set up with the aim of promoting professional and quality hearing and balance care practice through guidance, education, public awareness, advocacy, leadership and research support.

What happens when we don’t take care of our hearing?

There is no cure for hearing loss. It is irreversible and permanent, so prevention is key. In the same way that we avoid practices that can be detrimental to our health, we must not forget about our hearing health.

Failure to take action can lead to a poor quality of life, and can have a huge effect on relationships, activity, social participation cognition and mental health, and from the point of view of government expenditure, the costs from untreated hearing loss can increase significantly.

“Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people” – Helen Keller

The lack of public awareness, lack of understanding by the government on the importance of audiology and the socioeconomic impact of hearing loss, together with the small number of qualified audiologists means that hearing loss in Malta is not being addressed optimally.

According to an NSO report published in 2014, there were 5,673 with a hearing impairment – 1.4% of the population, indicating that a large percentage of hearing loss is undiagnosed.

There needs to be a change in perception and attitudes towards hearing loss and the way the public seeks help for hearing impairment; sound advice from qualified and registered professionals is key.

Many people may not be aware of the detrimental effects that noise can have on hearing. What can people do to minimise noise damage?

Our world is becoming noisier and many are perhaps not aware of the detrimental effects that noise can have on hearing. Hearing difficulties arise due to damage of the hearing system – the equipment that collects and transmits the sound to our brain.

Awareness of what can damage hearing is a good place to start. This includes some hobbies like shooting; recreational activities like going to nightclubs and listening to music on headphones; and work places with high noise levels like factories, workshop floors and even professions which require the use of noisy tools such as dentist drills and pneumatic drills.

What are some simple steps that we can take to avoid damaging our hearing?

Jackie Busuttil at Science In The City

The three main components that cumulatively cause hearing damage are intensity – how loud the sound is; duration – how long we are exposed to the sound (this depends on how loud it is; the louder the sound, the shorter the exposure should be); and distance – how close or far the sound source is to our ears. In some situations, we can move away from the loud sound. If it is not possible to move away, for example during work, then it is advisable to use hearing protection.

More information on the MAA may be obtained from the Facebook page or email: maaudiologists@gmail.com.