Monday, November 29, 2010
This “Turning 60 Consciously”-thing continues to be a profound and pleasurable experience. Turns out for me, it’s easy to be conscious, and I always have “Something to Say”. The real work is the writing; the hours of shaping, weighing, listening, divining. I put in the effort because I am looking for a “Yes” to my question, “Can you hear me?”
The challenge I experience, trying to write in such a way that readers hear me, is compounded by my regular selection of subject matter and viewpoints that are outside our cultural vista. It is one thing to communicate about things we have in common, and entirely another, when the subject is foreign or the perspective initially appears false due to its conflict with views held.
Today, again, I will attempt to share a consideration that I believe is of significant importance to all people, but that is little known, little seen, little heard; not on our cultural radar.
The front page of the Ventura County Star was laid out on the arced bar in our kitchen as I shuffled in this morning from a long winter’s nap. The lead story, titled “Can You Hear Me Now?”, caught my attention. It made it to the front page because of the alarming content it reported; hearing-loss in young people in the US has risen by 30% between 1994 and 2006. With that increase, fully 1 in 5 US teens, in 2006, had at least slight hearing loss.
As I began reading the article, I consciously predicted that the article would blame loud noise as the cause for this dangerous loss of hearing in our youth. While there are other probable, or contributory culprits, our culture is fixated on loud noise being the cause of hearing-loss. Our blindness to other possibilities may be as dangerous as the hearing-loss itself.
The Star’s reporter is clearly convinced that loud noise is the cause. She begins the article with 3 short paragraphs that introduce us to Henry Ayala, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Blackstock School in Oxnard who says that he listens to his iPod, turned up full blast, for an average of three hours a day.
The author of the sited, hearing-loss study, Dr. Shargorodsky, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, acknowledges that “the study did not provide conclusive reasons for the increase” of hearing loss. Nonetheless, Shargorodsky shared with the reporter, and leads the reader, down the road of the “loud noise” theory by focusing on Walkman’s, iPods, and earbuds.
A clue about other-than-loud-noise-caused hearing-loss, understandably missed by most, is found later in the article when Dr. Kathryn Huff, the coordinator of the Ventura County Office of Education’s Hearing Conservation Department, is quoted as saying that some “students need to be retested because they had a cold, allergies, earwax”. Given that these conditions affect hearing, if they are chronic problems, do they have impact on hearing-loss?
Chronic infection, chronic allergy, and poor quality diet can, and do, contribute to hearing-loss. Chronic ear and sinus infections are not uncommon. Chronic allergy is endemic. The Standard American Diet (SAD) with its health compromising effects is, of course, the norm for kids. We need to look at, think about, and study these known contributory or causative factors.
I understand that we tend to be drawn to the obvious, in this case, loud noise, but that should not keep us from remembering that things are not always as they seem. Loud noise is not the only cause of hearing-loss; our children and our culture need us to understand the rest of the story.
Can you hear me now?