by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A veteran asked:
I have a hearing loss now. In my earlier years after finishing High School I joined the Navy. I spent most of my 4 years in the Navy in an engine room aboard a ship. After the Navy, I spent most of my working life in situations that did not expose me to any excessive noise. I am now in my senior years, and for the last 15 years have noticed a hearing problem. Could the years in the engine room be a possible cause for my hearing loss?
Look at it this way—your years in the engine room probably caused some hearing loss back then, but probably not enough that you or anyone noticed, but it “used up your reserve” so to speak so that when other contributing factors began affecting your hearing, it didn’t take much to make the hearing loss obvious.
There are lots of likely contributing factors besides your navy stint. Here are a few of the more common ones.
1. The loud sounds your ears are exposed to in daily life. For example, traffic, sirens, horns honking, loud music at parties and receptions, lawnmowers, chainsaws, snowmobiles, motorcycles, shooting guns, and so on over time all take their toll on your ears.
2. All the drugs and medications you have taken over the years (assuming you have). There are hundreds of drugs that can cause hearing loss. As you get older, typically you take more and more drugs. Their combined effect can result in increasing hearing loss.
3. Simply getting older negatively affects our ears and hearing.
4. The cumulative effects of our lifestyles affects hearing. For example, when our arteries get clogged up, less oxygen gets to our inner ears and the result is loss of some hearing acuity.
5. Smoking and drinking can, and do, cause hearing loss in some people.
These are just 5 possible factors—but you can see that a little bit of hearing loss here from one cause, and a bit there from another cause, added up over a lifetime results in major hearing loss. No doubt, your initial hearing loss began in the navy, but your hearing loss continued throughout your life from other causes. Now that you are a senior, you really notice how bad your hearing has gotten. It’s not fair to place the blame solely on any one factor because that is not how things typically work in real life.