Photo credit: Raed Mansour
By Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition
Until recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading public health agency in the world, had little to say about the dangers of environmental noise to the public. Information about noise was mainly limited to the area of occupational health, screening neonates for congenital deafness, and the relationship between hearing loss and impaired learning in schoolchildren.
That has changed in a big way. Since May of last year, the CDC has stepped up to educate the public about the growing problem of hearing loss, its serious health and societal consequences, and the importance of quieting our environment.
- May 16, 2016: The CDC posted new web content that looked at a number of issues, including what is hearing loss, sources of environmental noise, and the public health burden from noise and hearing loss.
- October, 2016: The CDC wrote about the causes and prevention of noise-induced hearing loss in its publication Morbidity and Mortality Reports.
- February 7, 2017: The CDC released a Vital Signs publication about hearing loss and noise and issued information for the public about the kinds of noise that cause hearing loss.
- February 27, 2017: The CDC posted new or recently revised information about how loud noise damages hearing and advice to seniors on how to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.
This flurry of activity highlights the CDC’s growing concern about hearing loss, which it identified as the “third most common chronic health condition in the US,” surpassing diabetes and cancer.
On March 2nd, FOX News published this piece by Acting Director of the CDC, Anne Schuchat, MD, about her own personal experience with hearing loss: “Hearing loss research hits home (a true story about my dad).” Dr. Schuchat writes about how her father’s extensive exposure to loud noise while he was in the U.S. Navy during World War II resulted in him having significant hearing loss in his 60s, forcing him to “cut back his legal practice when he could no longer hear the judges presiding over the courtroom.”
Dr. Schuchat writes that “an estimated 40 million adults – or 1 in 4 – have hearing loss as a result of too much noise,” adding that “almost one-third of those who work in noisy environments had hearing damage in one or both ears.” Noting that more than half of all Americans with noise-induced hearing loss do not have noisy jobs, and after highlighting the litany of health problems caused by hearing loss, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure, Dr. Schuchat concludes her piece by noting that hearing disorders have been overlooked and underfunded—a situation that needs to change no matter who is in the White House. And then she gives some useful advice to the public on how they can protect their hearing at home and in the community.
Everyone concerned about noise and its impact on hearing loss and other health problems, including the founders of The Quiet Coalition, thank the CDC for doing what they have done to help protect the nation’s auditory health–at a time when the nation’s public health priorities need to be protected from partisan wrangling and when hearing health needs to be given the attention it deserves.