Katherine Bouton, a journalist, experienced hearing loss as a young woman but downplayed the continued deterioration of her hearing for 20 years.

Speaking of those 20 years, Bouton said, “My most intense frustrations were when I was still trying to hide the fact that I had hearing loss.  I would literally be twisting myself into knots to best position myself to hear what someone was saying, and then I’d miss it anyway.  I might ask them to repeat it once, but if I still didn’t get it, I’d let it go.

“I avoided any kind of debate or discussion about things of importance because I simply couldn’t follow them.  I was so stressed by not being able to hear and by fear of making a fool of myself that I had a permanent band of tension across my back and a constant stomach ache.”

Regarding the little to no coverage for the cost of hearing aids offered by private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare, Bouton had this to say:  “Only one in seven people in this country who could benefit from hearing aids uses them.  This is partly because of cost.

“This is a huge public health issue because untreated hearing loss causes a raft of public health problems:  unemployment, mental issues like depression and early onset dementia.  It’s really almost breathtakingly shortsighted that we fail to cover this basic coverage.”

We know that unprotected exposure to a jet engine or to the blast of an IED are instant causes of deafness.

Closer to home, noise from subway trains is between 90-95 decibels (dB), from a power mower 107 dB, a rock concert from 115 to 125 dB, and the South African vuvuzuelas that blared at the Word Cup measured 127 dB.

The Sight and Hearing Association at the University of Minnesota annually rates the safety of children’s toys.  In 2010, researchers found two toys for toddlers that measured 129 dB and 120 dB.

Still, it’s not short intense blasts responsible for hearing loss in tens of millions of Americans.  The losses are more likely caused by frequent or continual exposure to moderate levels of noises we encounter daily:  Music, car alarms, even hair dryers are sources of damage to hearing that can happen much earlier than we’d imagine.

Bouton says hearing loss from portable music players isn’t caused by the decibels emitted, but from the length of the time they’re used.  “I do know that (the newer) iPods and MP3 players generally have noise caps.  The problem now  . . . is that they are worn for many hours a day.  So it’s a sustained exposure over a long period of time, rather than an intense short exposure.”

How to protect ourselves in our everyday environments?  Bouton recommends not being shy about wearing earplugs.

Source:   Smart Planet Daily, April 5, 2013        



  1. “I avoided any kind of debate or discussion about things of importance because I simply couldn’t follow them…”

    I was the same way when I started losing my hearing. It is a little embarrassing.

    • Brandon–

      Thanks for your comment. I would feel uncomfortable, too, in that type of situation. For some reason, society seems to attach some sort of stigma to hearing loss & to deafness.

      I keep hoping that one of the rock heroes who’s had a hearing loss will step up & demand the stigma be removed & demand that hearing aid technology be advanced from the middle ages into the 21st Century.

      With all the marvels possible to correct vision, I find it difficult to believe that hearing correction, at an affordable price, isn’t a reachable goal.



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