May is Better Hearing and Speech Month
by Dr. Clint Keifer, FLT Columnist
Hearing loss currently affects more than 42 million Americans — one in every 10 people. Although hearing problems are commonly associated with the aging process, more than half of all those with hearing-impairment are younger than 65. With the increased use of personal music players (MP3s) and earbuds, the number of Americans experiencing hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing or noises in the ears) at a younger age is growing.
Hearing loss and tinnitus can be caused by exposure to loud noises; ear infections, trauma, or ear disease; birth defects and genetics; damage to the inner ear and ear drum; illness or certain medications; and deterioration due to normal aging process. In fact, the number one cause of hearing loss is not the aging process, but rather noise exposure.
To make things worse, most hearing loss happens gradually which decreases one’s awareness that a change is occurring. Noise exposure now shows up as hearing loss later.
Audiology doctors are health-care providers who specialize in the prevention, evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of hearing and balance disorders. Hearing loss can affect people of all ages — from newborns to the elderly and everyone in-between.
Signs of hearing loss include the following:
- straining to hear
- setting the volume on your radio or TV at a level that others say is too loud
- ringing in the ears
- misinterpretation of what others have said
- frequent requests for repetition
- gradual disengagement from social interactions
The American Academy of Audiology recommends people who see themselves in these statements should see an audiologist for a hearing evaluation. In addition, it is a good idea to establish a hearing baseline early in life followed by annual hearing checkups after age 45.
Even a very slight hearing loss can have an impact on your daily life. Hearing loss is treatable and often preventable, and there is no reason for anyone to have to miss any important sounds of life.
The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by an audiologist. Although some hearing disorders are permanent, an audiologist can determine the best treatment, which may include prescribing measures to help prevent further damage/decline, counseling, rehabilitative strategies, hearing aids, advanced listening devices, and tinnitus therapies.