SouthCoast’s Top Five ‘At Risk’ Jobs For Permanent Hearing Loss
"What's that?" It's a phrase that I say to my wife at least a couple of times a day when I'm looking for her to repeat herself. It's probably not the most polite say to say it. "Excuse me," or "pardon me" would probably be preferable etiquette, but what can I say, I'm a flawed guy.
Here's the scenario that plays out constantly at our house.
Me: Engrossed in writing an article for Fun 107.
Cyndi: "Blah, blah, blah" (like a Charlie Brown teacher)
Me: "What's that?"
Cyndi: Repeats what she said, and because she has my full attention, I hear her perfectly.
For years, she has been after me to sit down for a hearing test, and for years I've said my hearing is fine. I hear her when I'm paying attention. When I'm concentrating on something else, I block out the world.
I finally went to Hawthorn Medical Associates to see an audiologist and get tested. It was a little nerve-racking. The fact that I've been wearing headphones, talking on the radio, and listening to music (probably a little too loudly) for the past 30 years was a concern to them. My job as a radio host and wedding DJ has put me at risk for some permanent hearing damage.
I sat in a soundproof booth, in a room not unlike what you might find serving as a studio at a radio station. My job was to press a button every time I heard even the slightest beep. I hadn't done this since I was in the fourth grade. I thought I had done pretty well.
Then, the audiologist conducted another test similar to the first, but this time there was static piped in. I felt like my performance wasn't quite as strong.
Finally, the audiologist read some words to me as she steadily decrease the volume. I was supposed to repeat the words back to her. This was a bit more difficult that I thought it would be. There were a number of instances that sounded like several words, and I wasn't 100 percent sure which was correct.
Overall, the test was quick and completely painless. It lasted roughly 25 minutes beginning to end. For the record, I had some mild hearing loss, but considering my occupation they were pleased with the results. Anything above the 20 line (pictured in the graph below) is considered normal. The slight dip below the 20 shows some slight hearing loss, but nothing too significant.
Evelyn Kelly was my audiologist. I asked her about other occupations on the SouthCoast that might typically put workers at risk for hearing loss. Without hesitation, Kelly listed off a few including factory workers, fishermen, carpenters, mechanics, musicians and DJs. She also added gamers to the list.
"Anything that is putting noise or loud noises into your ears," Kelly said. "Warning signs that you might be at risk for hearing loss include difficulty hearing, asking others to repeat themselves, ringing or other sounds in the ears, problems with dizziness or vertigo that doesn't go away. Those are a few of the signals that you may want to have your hearing checked."
She suggested doing your best to keep the sound levels down. When working in areas where that is not possible, she suggested wearing noise reducing earmuffs to block out the sound, or any type of earplugs.
Typically, insurance covers medically necessary hearing tests. You may need a referral from your primary care doctor.