Hearing Loss, by Ellen Hambley, Audiologist, ENT & Allergy Specialists of Northwest Ohio
Have you noticed a difficulty hearing? Do you find yourself frustrated in noisy situations, or having trouble following the conversation and understanding the people speaking to you? Are you frequently asking people to repeat themselves in conversation?
According to a 2016 study by the National Institutes of Health NIDCD, approximately 15 percent (37.5 million) of American adults aged 20 to 69 years have trouble hearing and 28.8 million could benefit from the use of hearing aids. As the baby boomer population ages, more Americans are facing hearing health challenges. Growing numbers of younger Americans are also reporting hearing problems. While age is still the greatest factor in hearing loss, many younger people experience hearing problems due to exposure to loud music and other high levels of noise, including occupational noise.
Many Americans are exposed to loud noises on the job. For instance, landscape professionals, construction workers and mechanics are consistently exposed to high levels of sound from loud equipment. If you work or frequently spend time in a noisy place, or listen to music at loud levels, you could be unconsciously damaging your hearing. Noise level is not the only concern—it is also important to be aware of the length of exposure. The louder the noise level, the less time of exposure is required to cause damage. Permanent damage to hearing can result from exposure to loud noises for an extended time, such as standing near speakers at a concert. However, hearing can also be irreversibly damaged after a short burst of explosive noise, such as a gunshot or fireworks. The best way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is to avoid loud noise as much as possible in addition to protecting your hearing by wearing earplugs in loud environments.
Signs of hearing loss may include:
- Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio and having other family members complain that the volume is too loud
- Difficulty understanding the people speaking to you and asking people to repeat themselves
- Difficulty with phone conversations and understanding speech over the phone
- People telling you that you speak too loudly
- Ringing in the ears
Audiologists are the experts in hearing health. Hearing aids are not always the only or recommended solution; therefore, it is important to see an audiologist to further determine the appropriate treatment. Sometimes hearing loss is temporary in nature or a symptom of another illness or disease. An audiologist will run various forms of diagnostic testing to determine the type and degree of hearing loss and will be able to recommend treatment.
Hearing loss is a problem for people of all ages. If you or any of your family members are experiencing difficulty hearing, having a hearing evaluation completed by a qualified audiologist is the first step in understanding the appropriate treatment plan for your hearing loss.