Everywhere you go these days you overhear conversations taking place on cell phones and see people wearing headphones moving to music only they can hear. All this is leading to old ears on young bodies. Audio expert Robert Novak says, “We’re starting to see hearing loss in young adults that we expect to diagnose in middle-aged adults. This loss is often self-induced and may be related to young people’s exposure to amplified sound and use of personal listening systems, such as cell phones and portable music devices. The damage can be temporary or permanent.” The cause: damaged ear hairs.

That there are only about 16,000 inner ear hair cells that are involved in hearing and balance and that number goes down as people get older, which is why we lose hearing as we age. And these cells don?t grow back on their own. If scientists could figure out how to regrow ear hairs, deafness would become a problem of the past. With deafness arriving at younger ages and set to become an epidemic, this is more important than ever. But there?s hope: researchers have found that blocking a gene in the nuclei of inner ear hair cells produces more than the normal amount of these cells in developing mice.

If you think you may be going deaf, ask yourself these questions: Do you frequently have to ask people to repeat themselves? Do you have difficulty hearing when someone speaks in a whisper? Do people complain that you turn up the volume too much when watching television or listening to music? Do you have difficulty following conversation in a noisy environment? Do you have a harder time than other people do understanding people who speak with a foreign accent? Do your ears ring after attending a loud music concert? (ringing ears can be a sign of hearing loss).

Last but not least: do you have trouble understanding men with moustaches? You may be lip reading without realizing it. Lip reading is an art many of us have picked up from watching the movies on airplanes without the sound, because we didn’t bother to rent the headphones.

Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk

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