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NOT JUST TONE DEAF: Why are more Republicans than Democrats suffering hearing loss?

NOT JUST TONE DEAF: Why are more Republicans than Democrats suffering hearing loss?

In what initially appears to be one of the weirdest associations one can make, Republicans are more likely to suffer from some sort of hearing loss as they age, according to a new report in The Washington Post.

Once the association is explained, it makes perfect sense, such that it could have been hypothesized prior to the survey. The authors of the study found the correlation and checked it against another strong correlation.

One association was near-assumed going in, and that was that Republicans would suffer greater hearing loss versus Democrats because (speaking very broadly) Republicans tend to work in lower-density areas where industries and jobs tend to be noisy — though also high-paying.

Farming, highway work, and big factory jobs (lower-density areas are cheaper places to put in a big plant) all tend to impact noise, especially for those aged 34-54.

So, no surprises there.

Another common association will not surprise anyone once stated; it is just hard to guess before hearing it: guns.

The use of guns, especially repeated gun use and particularly by the young, whose hearing and brain development is still evolving and more subject to damage, causes significant hearing loss, especially as the body ages.

To appreciate the damage shooting can do to hearing, The Washington Post report includes the following information provided by Grace Sturdivant, who earned a doctorate in audiology, says it’s never just one thing that causes hearing loss, but:

“Shooting is a massive risk to your hearing,” she said. “There’s no denying that.” Exposure to a single gunshot, which at 140 decibels or higher is one of the loudest sounds we encounter, can cause damage equivalent to hours and hours of riding an all-terrain vehicle or pushing a lawn mower.”

The authors of the study admit that their data only went back to the mid-90s at best, and that isn’t a large sample size to correlate guns with hearing loss later in life. In searching for data that may also associate gunfire with loss of hearing, the study’s authors found a comparable statistic: suicide rates.

Only two in twenty suicide attempts are fatal. The exception is the use of firearms, which are more prevalent in Republican-leaning households. If a suicide attempt involves the use of a firearm, the fatality rate rises substantially to 17 out of 20.

Comparing a state’s suicide rate with the state’s percentage of hearing loss, the study found a direct link.

Again, the partisan divide follows gun ownership. Firearm suicides are far more common in areas that have higher Republican support than they are in Democratic strongholds. These are not the only correlations. The tweet below is not a scientific study but does contain the two scientific findings in this matter:

Obviously, this makes sense. Just as obviously, this is tragic on any number of levels.

However, studies have found that a gun in the home is more likely (by far) to be fatal for someone in the home, whether by accident or suicide, than in shooting the gun for protection against attack.

Indeed, one of the safest means of protecting one’s home is a giant “WOOF” behind a closed door. Anyone seeking to do damage or rob a home would be far more likely to do so in a home without the warning already sounded. Oh, and a dog is the least likely weapon on earth to be turned against the user-owner.

There are many areas in which partisan attitudes are meaningless compared to shared humanity — but, while partisan association with hearing loss is terribly unfortunate, partisan association with fatalities in suicide attempts is a tragedy.

Editor’s note: This is an opinion column that solely reflects the opinions of the author

Jason Miciak
Jason Miciak is an associate editor and opinion writer for Occupy Democrats. He's a Canadian-American who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a trained attorney, but for the last five years, he's devoted his time to writing political news and analysis. He enjoys life on the Gulf Coast as a single dad to a 15-year-old daughter. Hobbies include flower pots, cooking, and doing what his daughter tells him they're doing. Sign up to get all of my posts by email right here:

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