Ears ringing in the New Year

by Dr. Clint Keifer, FLT Columnist

Parties, concerts, do-it-yourself projects, hunting, and motorcycles — year after year we use and punish our ears with little thought as to the consequences. But as the years add up, so does the wear and tear. Our ears occasionally provide a “warning” with temporarily muffled hearing or ringing (tinnitus), but the scary thing is that for most of us our access to the full array of beautiful sounds around us begins to diminish very slowly and quietly without warning in our 30s — we just don’t realize it.
Imperceptible daily change results in the observation that things are always “normal” — which is certainly a relative term. The danger is that the tiny changes add up over time, and the resulting restriction in hearing occurs, but without a sense of abnormality. Most losses occur in the high frequencies, therefore affecting clarity of speech (not volume), also making deficits less obvious. Throw in environmental and sound source variables and it is very easy to dismiss the possibility that a problem exists (despite spousal comment).
So, what do we do? Well, the answer is simple — to maintain and prevent, just like we do with our eyes and teeth. Without regular vision and dental checks, so much more loss and damage would occur BEFORE we felt the symptoms. Hearing is no different as catching problems early allows for the prevention of further loss, easier adjustment and maintenance, and keeps us fully connected to the world around us.
Children typically have their hearing checked at birth and periodically throughout school. For adults, I recommend having your hearing checked every five years — such as at age 20, 25, 30, etc. — by a licensed audiologist (avoid the salespeople, aka “hearing aid specialists”). Doctors of audiology are specialized in the overall management of hearing health — just like your optometrist and dentist are for eyes and teeth — and will help keep you at your best each and every year.
Dr. Clint Keifer is the owner of Great Lakes Audiology in Toledo. You can contact him at 419327-2273; email at ckeifer@glaudiology.com; or visit http://www.glaudiology.com/.