ear health

Too many people don’t pay enough attention to their ear health until it is too late. For interpreters, their ability to listen is the foundation of their job, and anything that impedes this could have huge ramifications for their chosen career. With many interpreters today working across a screen or using a headset to communicate, this puts their hearing at an increased risk of various conditions. In fact, one of the more common and serious conditions is acoustic shock syndrome, with recent reports showing that it is having an increasing impact on interpreters in political arenas.

What is acoustic shock syndrome?

To the uninitiated, it’s a condition that can arise after being exposed to loud sounds for extended periods of time. People describe it as feeling as though they have been electrocuted in the ear. If symptoms persist, it can result in far graver issues, including loss of hearing and even emotional reactions like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

What are the symptoms of acoustic shock syndrome?

Most of the symptoms associated with acoustic shock syndrome occur due to the strong muscle contraction in the middle ear after exposure to what is perceived as a traumatic sound. People who experience it report symptoms like headaches, tinnitus, ear pain, nausea, jaw and neck pain, fluttering noises in the ear, poor balance, hypersensitivity, and fatigue.

Who is susceptible to incurring acoustic shock syndrome?

The most vulnerable to acoustic trauma are usually those who are repeatedly exposed to noise levels over 85 decibels. This includes people who work with loud industrial equipment, those who frequently attend concerts and festivals, those who frequent and work at gun ranges, and professionals who have to wear headsets for extended periods, like interpreters and call center representatives.

Who to see for acoustic shock syndrome?

If you are experiencing one or more of the above symptoms it is vital that you see a specialist as soon as possible. Today many medical professionals now study these types of conditions at degree level, and often as a specialist subject. Those who take a course in communication sciences and disorders, whether as a bachelor’s or master’s degree, will be trained in different areas of audiology. Indeed, these audiologist graduates are needed today more than ever, as an estimated 40 million Americans struggle with speech, language, and/or hearing disorders. Not only can they help with treating the condition if you have it, but they can also help in guiding you on how to communicate to those who may also have this disorder. Something an interpreter could easily encounter.

How can one avoid acoustic shock syndrome?

It’s no secret that hearing loss cannot be reversed. The best thing you can do now is to protect your ears from loud noises and avoid experiences where you’ll be exposed to higher decibels. You may also want to look into using headsets that are specially designed to protect hearing. There are a plethora of high-quality headsets on the market with built-in amplifiers that provide some degree of protection from excessive noise. They are engineered to lower the sound automatically when high pitched tones are detected.

For more information on how those with limited English-speaking skills can have access to healthcare, our post on telehealth will help them and their interpreters ensure they get the best treatment they need.

Written exclusively for Boostlingo.com

by Cassandra O’Grady

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