The Indian Health Service (IHS) has announced an effort to protect the hearing of American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/ANs) by joining forces with the WISE EARS! health education campaign to prevent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). WISE EARS! is a coalition of over 70 national and local organizations led by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“Better hearing is a national priority,” says Michael H. Trujillo, MD, MPH, MS, director of IHS. He noted that Healthy People 2010, the nation’s “better health” agenda, has added a new chapter on hearing and vision that lists several objectives related to preventing NIHL in adults, children and workers.

“We want to establish an education and outreach program that helps to reduce the incidence of NIHL in AI/ANs by encouraging the use of appropriate hearing protection devices, equipment and practices,” Trujillo adds.

IHS plans to distribute WISE EARS! education materials to health educators across the country, promote WISE EARS! information at health fairs and work with other coalition members to reduce NIHL among all AI/ANs.

The goal of the WISE EARS! campaign is to prevent NIHL among all Americans in all settings, e.g., school children, industry workers, state and local government employees and the general public. Approximately 30 million Americans are at risk for NIHL, and 10 million have already had their hearing irreversibly damaged as a result of overexposure to noise. The good news is that NIHL is 100% preventable.

“We want to make sure AI/ANs benefit from the research on noise-induced hearing loss and know that this type of hearing loss can be prevented,” notes Trujillo.

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