Healthy Hearing

Early detection and intervention of hearing loss are crucial to minimizing the impact of hearing loss on a person's development and educational achievements. People with hearing loss can benefit from the use of hearing devices, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices. They may also benefit from speech therapy, aural rehabilitation and other related services. However, global production of hearing aids meets less than 10% of global need and less than 3% of developing countries’ needs. The lack of availability of services for fitting and maintaining these devices, and the lack of batteries are also barriers in many low-income settings, making this an equity issue.

LWTech American Sign Language Classes

People who develop hearing loss can learn to communicate through development of lip-reading skills, use of written or printed text, and sign language. LWTech offers American Sign Language classes throughout the academic year. Class descriptions for ASL& 121 American Sign Language I and ASL& 122 American Sign Language II are available in the college catalog. Using the key word search box, enter ASL.

World Hearing Day 

The World Health Organization suggests that officially recognizing national sign languages and increasing the availability of sign language interpreters are important actions to improve access to sign language services. Encouraging organizations of people with hearing loss, parents and family support groups; and strengthening human rights legislation can also help ensure better inclusion for people with hearing loss

World Hearing Day is March 3, 2021. The World Health Organization organizes this day for the international community to learn about the importance of hearing for all ages, how to prevent hearing loss, and the social and economic impacts of hearing loss. Because good hearing and communication skills are important at all stages of life, these are things everyone can do to prevent hearing loss.

  • Hearing loss (and related ear diseases) can be avoided through preventative actions such as: protection against loud sounds; good ear care practices and immunization.
  • Hearing loss (and related ear diseases) can be addressed when it is identified in a timely manner and appropriate care sought.
  • People at risk of hearing loss should check their hearing regularly.
  • People having hearing loss (or related ear diseases) should seek care from a health care provider.
  • Around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss (1), and 34 million of these are children.
  • It is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people will have disabling hearing loss.
  • Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and aging.
  • 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes.
  • 1.1 billion young people (aged between 12–35 years) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings.
  • Unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of US$ 750 billion. Interventions to prevent, identify and address hearing loss are cost-effective and can bring great benefit to individuals.
  • People with hearing loss benefit from early identification; use of hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices; captioning and sign language; and other forms of educational and social support.
  • Current estimates suggest an 83% gap in hearing aid need and use, i.e., only 17% of those who could benefit from use of a hearing aid actually use one.
Congenital causes may lead to hearing loss being present at or acquired soon after birth. Hearing loss can be caused by hereditary and non-hereditary genetic factors or by certain complications during pregnancy and childbirth, including:
  • maternal rubella, syphilis or certain other infections during pregnancy;
  • low birth weight;
  • birth asphyxia (a lack of oxygen at the time of birth);
  • inappropriate use of particular drugs during pregnancy, such as aminoglycosides, cytotoxic drugs, antimalarial drugs, and diuretics;
  • severe jaundice in the neonatal period, which can damage the hearing nerve in a newborn infant.

Acquired causes may lead to hearing loss at any age, such as:

  • infectious diseases including meningitis, measles and mumps;
  • chronic ear infections;
  • collection of fluid in the ear (otitis media);
  • use of certain medicines, such as those used in the treatment of neonatal infections, malaria, drug-resistant tuberculosis, and cancers;
  • injury to the head or ear;
  • excessive noise, including occupational noise such as that from machinery and explosions;
  • recreational exposure to loud sounds such as that from use of personal audio devices at high volumes and for prolonged periods of time and regular attendance at concerts, nightclubs, bars and sporting events;
  • aging, in particular due to degeneration of sensory cells; and
  • wax or foreign bodies blocking the ear canal.

A main impact of hearing loss is on an individual’s ability to communicate with other people, this is known as functional impact. The social and emotional impacts include exclusion from communication, and that can have a significant impact on everyday life, causing feelings of loneliness, isolation, and frustration, particularly among older people with hearing loss. The economic impact is also impactful. The WHO estimates that unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of US$ 750 billion. This includes health sector costs (excluding the cost of hearing devices), costs of educational support, loss of productivity, and societal costs. Adults with hearing loss also have a much higher unemployment or underemployment. This suggests that hearing loss has a substantial socioeconomic implications on the workforce. Among those who are employed, a higher percentage of people with hearing loss are in the lower grades of employment compared with the general workforce. Improving access to education and vocational rehabilitation services, and raising awareness especially among employers about the needs of people with hearing loss, will decrease unemployment rates for people with hearing loss.

Overall, it is suggested that half of all cases of hearing loss can be prevented through public health measures. For a family, preventative measures might include ideas like the following:

  • immunizing children against childhood diseases, including measles, meningitis, rubella and mumps;
  • following healthy ear care practices;
  • reducing exposure (both occupational and recreational) to loud sounds by raising awareness about the risks
  • encouraging individuals to use personal protective devices such as earplugs and noise-canceling earphones and headphones.
  • screening of children for otitis media, followed by appropriate medical or surgical interventions;
  • avoiding the use of particular drugs which may be harmful to hearing, unless prescribed and monitored by a qualified physician;
  • referring infants at high risk, such as those with a family history of deafness or those born with low birth weight, birth asphyxia, jaundice or meningitis, for early assessment of hearing, to ensure prompt diagnosis and appropriate management, as required;
  • educating young people and population in general on hearing loss, its causes, prevention and identification.

For the workplace, an employee can find out if the noise in a workspace is hazardous. Some suggestions include understanding how much noise is in a workplace. For example, if you must raise your voice to speak with someone at arm’s length, then the noise is likely at a hazardous level. Employees can ask the safety manager or direct supervisor to check the noise levels in your workplace, making sure they are below 85dBA.

Further prevention includes reduce your noise exposure:

  • Taking a break from the noisy activity.
  • Enclosing the source of the noise or place a barrier between you and the source.
  • Increasing the distance between you and the source of the noise.
  • Reducing time in noisy areas.
  • Wearing hearing protection in noisy areas, and if using foam plugs, insert them correctly.
  • If using ear buds, headphones, or listening to music, keep volume levels safe and only listen in areas that are not noisy.
  • Reduce or stop exposure to chemicals that may damage your hearing.
    • Use a less-toxic or non-toxic chemical.
    • Wear gloves, long sleeves and eye protection.
    • Wear a respirator or other protective equipment, as appropriate.
    • Read and follow all chemical safety instructions.

There are apps available for personal use to learn about hearing levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the NIOSH Sound Level Meter AppThe app was developed to help workers make informed decisions about their noise environment and promote better hearing health and prevention efforts.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Noise and hearing loss prevention.

Emmett, S. D., & Francis, H. W. (2015). The socioeconomic impact of hearing loss in U.S. adults. Otology & neurotology : official publication of the American Otological Society, American Neurotology Society [and] European Academy of Otology and Neurotology, 36(3), 545–550. Link to article.

World Health Organization. (1, March, 2020). Deafness and hearing loss.

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