Thursday, July 10, 2014
Doctor's Perspective
Prepare for hearing loss epidemic

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
I once invested money in a company that makes hearing aids. I was thinking of it as a long-term investment. However, the company was bought out in about three years so I had to cash in. My logic was that we are going to have an epidemic of people who need hearing aids in the future. A certain percentage of the population needs hearing aids as they age. Even if that percentage remains the same in the future, the sheer volume of baby boomers will make for many more people needing hearing aids. In addition, as the baby boomers live to an older age, more of them will require hearing aids. In addition to this group of individuals, we are going to face an additional epidemic related to the younger individuals who are currently damaging their hearing. In most cases it is due to loud music. People get irritated when they hear a car go by and the music is so loud that it can be heard far outside the car. What they are actually hearing is someone who is damaging their hearing. These drivers are pretty much guaranteed to go deaf as they get older. OSHA is the federal agency that oversees hearing damage in the workplace. The current recommendation is that you need to wear hearing protection if you are exposed to sounds of over 85 decibels on a consistent basis. The loud music coming from cars is about 135 decibels. That may not sound like it is much higher than 85 decibels. However, most people do not know how decibels are calculated. An increase of 10 decibels means that the sound is 10 times as loud as the previous sound. You may be listening to something at 100 decibels. If the sound goes to 110 decibels, it is not a sound increase of just 10% (one tenth). It is really a tenfold increase. Thus, a car radio might start at 85 decibels. If it is cranked up to 95 decibels, it is 10 times as loud. At 105 decibels, it is 10 times what it was at 95 decibels. At 135 decibels, you can guarantee hearing damage. Length of exposure is important. Some things like kitchen garbage disposals make sounds higher than 85 decibels. However, the exposure is so short that hearing is not affected. Now that we are well into the summer, people expose themselves to dangerous sound levels without realizing it. For example, lawn mowers make sounds higher than 85 decibels. Leaf blowers and power tools do as well. So, what should we do? The first and easiest thing is to avoid exposure as possible. Do not crank up the car radio. Don't go to rock concerts on a regular basis. The second thing to do is to use hearing protection when involved in activities that have high decibel levels. Using the lawn mower is a good example. I now use both ear plugs and a headset when I mow my lawn. If you think you have hearing damage, you should get your hearing checked. The first check is to see where your hearing is at the current time. You should then watch the changes over time. One way you know you need to have your hearing checked is if you have experienced what is called a threshold shift. This means that you went somewhere where the noise was very loud and when you returned home, your ears were ringing. You then need to see how long it lasts. It may last a few hours or a few days. The longer it lasts, the more damage has occurred. If you experience these more than once, you need to change your habits. My plan to buy stock in a hearing aid manufacturer was a sound one. We will soon be in the midst of a hearing loss epidemic.

Loneliness and the elderly Do you know an elder who is confined to the home and has very little interaction with the outside world? Do they have dementia? Are they safe?

If you know someone affected by this condition, join the Sussex County Advisory Committee on Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities for its next meeting, at 10 a.m. on Monday, July 21, at the Sussex County Administrative Offices West Complex in Georgetown. Dr. Alexis McKenzie, eldercare consultant with House Calls, LLC, will provide a presentation, "Assisting the Elderly with Self-Isolation and Being Safe in Their Homes." For more information, visit the advisory committee's page at

Diabetes education program Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Seaford, will hold a four-session diabetes education program on July 16, 23, 30 and Aug. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the hospital. Registration is required. The cost of the four-session program may be reimbursable by insurance. This four-session program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management. The goal is to give you the self-management skills to control your diabetes. Family members/significant others are welcome to attend the weekly sessions. For more information and to register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

Diabetes support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will hold a free diabetes support group from 5 to 6 p.m. on Monday, July 21, at the hospital. As a person with diabetes, are you struggling to make positive behavior changes in your life or would just like to share with others coping with diabetes? Come join our free support group for individuals with diabetes. A demonstration on "Seasonal Produce in Diabetic Cooking" will be presented by Nanticoke's Executive Chef, David Eanes. There will also be a question and answer period. Registration is required. To register and for more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 629-6611, ext. 2446.

Stroke support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is Tuesday, July 15 at 1:30 p.m. at the Seaford Library. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 8626.

'Walk With Me Delmarva' kick-off Join Easter Seals at the Kick-Off event of the second annual "Walk With Me Delmarva 2014" on Thursday, July 24 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Easter Seals Tunnell Center, Georgetown. Enjoy Grotto pizza, desserts and giveaways. RSVP to Linda Forte at 302-253-1100, ext. 1121 or Registration is open for the walk which will be held on Oct. 19, at Baywood Greens, Long Neck. Visit to register a team, register as an individual or donate to the event. To learn more about how Easter Seals helps children and adults with disabilities, call 1-800-677-3800 or visit