You might not know, but May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, and Healthy Vision Month. And while that all might sound like something that you take for granted, these issues are becoming more and more prevalent with our future generations. Here are a few examples of issues that can arise and why they’re becoming more prevalent.
From Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson to LMFAO, parents have been telling their children to turn the music down and knock off the racket for years. Well now it turns out that our youngest generation’s constant ability to be plugged in to their iPods and smartphones might be cause for concern after all. Between 1994 and 2005, the percentage of teenagers with hearing loss jumped by almost five percent, from 15 to 19.5 percent.
What was once a problem for the elderly or the unfortunate is quickly becoming an issue for anyone with a pair of earbuds. But can we really blame giants like Apple for the added issues, or are there other factors to the deafening of our society?
One thing’s for certain, headphones get a bad rap because of the increased problems with children’s hearing. However, a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey recently found that there wasn’t a significant rise in the exposure to loud noises through earbuds. And while that doesn’t mean it isn’t a factor, there are other audio fish to fry. Specifically, diet and nutrition, as well as the exposure to toxins.
How can your diet affect your hearing? It seems that children in lower-income situations aren’t getting enough nutrition to support the proper development of their auditory system. Even worse, early hearing loss greatly increases the chances of that damage progressing as you age . . . and it isn’t reversible.
These hearing problems don’t just affect the way a child might listen to music or navigate through traffic; it can also affect their ability to learn at school. According to a study by Gary Curhan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, even kids with slight hearing loss do not perform as well in an educational setting. Most of the time, these students don’t even realize that anything is wrong and can begin to develop disorders about their own intelligence or learning ability.2
Speech problems can also lead to confidence issues with young children and teenagers. One of the most common examples is a lisp, which can vary in severity and type and usually clears itself up before the age of five. But if it doesn’t, it can leave kids scared to speak up in class, timid in front of new people, and embarrassed about feeling “different.”
If the speech disorder isn’t interrupting a child from the process of learning, a school will often leave the problem to be dealt with by his or her parents. That means the only way to get a licensed speech therapist is on your own dime and your own time. And while it might not seem like a major problem, it should usually be dealt with to avoid any depression or problems in the future.
It’s true that many people with speech disorders live completely happy and normal lives, but early therapy can be a big difference-maker during those complex and rocky teenage years. And because the most common treatment is short-term therapy that is overwhelmingly successful, there is little reason to hold out.
Now on to vision, which is the most catered-to of the three issues. It may become pretty obvious when you have a severe sight problem, but there is more out there than blindness and 20/20. For instance, it turns out sunglasses could be one of the most important accessories in terms of your health.
Are you looking for a reason to go splurge on those Ray Bans or Gucci frames? Well, from a health standpoint, sunglasses don’t just make us look fabulous . . . they keep ultraviolet light from getting into your eyes and around that area. You may not know it, but the skin around your eyes is actually some of the most prone to skin cancer, including your eyelids. And since it’s a pain – often literally – to get sunscreen on that tender area, sunglasses are your best bet.
But that’s not where the miracle of sunglasses stops.
Spending just two to three hours in bright sunlight can affect your ability to adapt quickly to dark and light rooms. It might not seem like the biggest problem, but it can make driving at night a real hazard. And, if you’re at the beach or in the sun for an entire day, the forced squinting can have a real impact on your long-term vision. Add that to the cancer-fighting UV blocker, and you might as well see if your insurance will cover the cost of some new shades.
So what have we learned today? Go easy on the earbuds, get proper nutrition, never ignore a speech disorder, and splurge on those sunglasses you wanted. Sounds like the makings of a pretty good Better Hearing, Vision and Speech Month.
Park, Alice. "Are IPods Behind Rising Teen Hearing Loss?" Time. Time, 18 Aug. 2010. Web. 21 May 2012. <http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2011503,00.html>.
"One in Five U.S. Adolescents Has Hearing Loss, Researchers Find." Bloomberg. Web. 21 May 2012. <http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-17/one-in-five-u-s-adolescents-has-hearing-loss-researchers-find.html>.
"Speech and Language in Children." Talking Point. Web. 22 May 2012. <http://www.talkingpoint.org.uk/en/Parent.aspx>.
"Lisps." - Speech Disorder. Web. 22 May 2012. <http://www.speechdisorder.co.uk/lisps.html>.
"Five Reasons to Wear Sunglasses Fox News." Fox News. FOX News Network, 11 June 2007. Web. 22 May 2012. <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,279516,00.html>.
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.