For most, the noisy sounds of the classroom are a distant memory: students chatting and laughing, loud announcements, and the shrill ring of the lunch bell. These sounds are an everyday reality for teachers, however, and their hearing is suffering from the cumulative noise exposure of years spent in the classroom.
A comprehensive US survey recently found that while hearing loss is on the rise among adults in general, teachers are at a higher risk for hearing loss than the average worker. Specifically, research found that 15% of US teachers have a diagnosed hearing problem, versus 12% of employees overall, and that younger teachers (ages 18 – 44) report diagnosed hearing issues at a significantly higher rate than young workers in general (26% versus 17%).
Most alarmingly, the survey discovered that 27% of teachers suspect they might have a hearing problem, but have not yet sought treatment.
Of these teachers with suspected but untreated hearing loss, one third said they often misunderstand what is being said, and one quarter reported feeling exhausted and stressed after having to listen for long periods of time. More than half of respondents said they often had to ask people to repeat themselves.
A separate Danish study discovered that excessively noisy indoor environments affect teachers greatly, resulting in lower job satisfaction, increased fatigue and a lack of motivation.
There are many reasons teachers might delay seeking help for their hearing, ranging from the cost of hearing aids to mistakenly believing that hearing aids will make them look old. When left untreated, however, hearing loss can lead to a range of other problems such as social isolation, depression and even serious conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. It is crucial to seek treatment for hearing loss as soon as possible to avoid these potential health issues.