To mark Better Hearing and Speech Month in May, Mount Sinai Health System experts are sharing tips and tools that identify and prevent speech, voice, and hearing impairments. Such impairments affect 43 million Americans.
"Signs of hearing loss include pain, ringing or buzzing in the ears during or after a noisy activity," said Eric Smouha, MD, Associate Professor, Otolaryngology, Director of Otology and Neurotology, The Mount Sinai Hospital's Hearing and Balance Center. "It's important to get screened if you suspect you or your child have hearing loss. There are treatments available to prevent further or permanent hearing loss, if discovered early enough."
"Difficulty with speech can be the result of problems with nerves that control, larynx, mouth and throat muscles that are necessary for speech," said Michael Pitman, MD, Associate Professor, Otolaryngology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Director of Laryngology, The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at Mount Sinai. "Abnormalities of the vocal cords such as inflammation, polyps, cysts, and tumors can affect the pitch and quality of the voice. Anyone who communicates with their voice as a significant part of their job, such as teachers, lawyers, call centers, translators, MTA announcers, etc. should be hyper vigilant."
• 46million Americans are affected by communication disorders, 14 million of those have a speech or language disorder and 28 million face a hearing loss)
• Hearing loss can develop at any age and may be caused by many different factors.
• Hearing loss that is identified early can be helped through treatment, such as hearing aids, medications, and surgery.
• You may have hearing loss if you can hear people talking, but you have difficulty understanding them, after exposure to noise.
• Speech language pathologists work with many types of patients including those who have cochlear implantation surgery, suffer from a voice disorder or during rehabilitation following treatment for head and neck cancer.
• Many patients with voice and laryngeal disorders receive voice therapy which aims to change a patient's vocal behavior and teach them optimal vocal technique
Tips for Preventing Hearing Loss:
• If you work in an at-risk occupation, check with your employer to make sure that your jobsite has an effective program to adequately protect your hearing.
• Wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, consistently when using loud equipment at work or at home.
• Limit exposure to noisy activities at home.
• Monitor listening levels and how long you are listening to personal listening devices (like MP3 players, such as iPods). Encourage your children to use their headphones conservatively. Consider investing in higher quality earphones that block out background noise, to help you moderate your listening levels in noisier places.
• Buy quieter products (compare dB ratings and ask for low-noise products).
• Keep an "eye" on your hearing -- see a hearing health professional routinely for hearing testing and track it year-to-year.
Tips for Caring for Your Voice:
• Drink at least 6 glasses of water daily.
• Find quiet time in your day to rest your voice.
• Avoid menthol, eucalyptus, and mint lozenges.
• Limit your intake of drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine, which can cause the body to lose water and make the vocal folds and larynx dry.
• Use a humidifier in your home. This is especially important in winter or in dry climates. Thirty percent humidity is recommended.
• Avoid or limit use of medications that dry out the vocal folds, including some common cold and allergy medications. If you have voice problems, ask your doctor which medications would be safest for you to use.
• Try not to overuse your voice. Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is hoarse or tired.
• Rest your voice when you are sick. Illness puts extra stress on your voice.
• Avoid using the extremes of your vocal range, such as screaming or whispering. Talking too loudly and too softly can both stress your voice.
• Practice good breathing techniques when singing or talking.
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