Most people take their ears for granted. After all you were born with them and just like our eyes or mouth your hearing ability developed without you even thinking about it. Most of us never stop to consider what it would be like if our hearing stopped working.
If a typical day finds you blasting your iPod, shouting over the din at dinner and blaring the TV, this will come as no surprise: “Hearing loss is now a growing epidemic among women in their 30s and 40s,” says Douglas Backous, MD, medical director of the Center for Hearing and Skull Base Surgery at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle. Even in the quietest places, we can face unrelated issues, like infection, vertigo and congestion. All ears now? Follow our guide to caring for and protecting this key organ.
Problem No. 1: Hearing loss
The lowdown This isn't a concern just for drummers and construction workers. “Even having earbuds at full blast while you're running every day can cause permanent damage over time,” says Eric Smouha, MD, director of otology and neurology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Intense exposure to sound causes wear and tear on the hair cells …
So why are our ears so important? Hearing gives us safety and security, communication with our world and pleasure. Without even knowing it we depend heavily on hearing. From the moment we are born (even before we are born) the world comes to us through sound – especially through our first and second years of life when we learn to interpret and make sense of our environment through sound. We learn to listen for our mother’s voice, we understand the encouraging tones as our family praise our early efforts at smiling, sitting up, walking and our venture into speech.