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Dealing with hearing loss

Created date

January 7th, 2014

Verbal communication is a fundamental and meaningful part of our everyday lives. When it is compromised by difficulty with hearing, we experience frustration and sometimes even anger and isolation. Age-related hearing loss known as presbycusis is common: According to the National Institute on Aging, about one-third of adults ages 65 to 74 and almost half of those 75 and older are hard of hearing. Changes in the inner ear are the most common reason, but loud noise exposure, family history, obstructions such as earwax, or even some medications might contribute to the problem. 

Even slight hearing impairment can interfere with your daily living—you might not hear car horns, door bells, alarms, or important parts of a conversation (such as your doctor’s medical instructions). It can affect your physical, emotional, and social well-being.

If you notice your hearing is slipping, don’t rush out and buy a hearing aid without first seeing your doctor for a complete evaluation. If a treatable medical problem is not the cause, your doctor may recommend that you go to an audiologist for an assessment and a hearing screen.  These professionals can help determine the best options for improving your hearing based on your individual circumstances. Be sure whoever you choose has a master’s or doctorate-level degree in audiology and a valid state license. 

After your evaluation, the audiologist may recommend a hearing aid. Most audiologists have a hearing aid dispensing license, but not everyone who sells hearing aids is an audiologist. Hearing aids are big business and there are unethical sellers who try to take advantage of people by selling overpriced and poor quality devices. They may not follow up with you to find out if your hearing aid is working properly or provide you with the services and information you truly need.

Variety of technologies

There are many hearing aid technologies available and you may need to try a few before you find the one that works best. Be aware, however, that you should keep your expectations realistic—hearing aids do not restore your hearing to the way it was when you were younger. Rather they assist you in communicating more effectively by making sounds more audible and speech somewhat clearer.

When speaking with someone who has hearing loss, you can improve communication by making sure you have their attention and by speaking slowly and directly to them. If they still have difficulty understanding, try rephrasing using different words rather than simply speaking louder; seek their feedback and take the time to make sure you have a common understanding.

Hearing loss usually happens very slowly, so go for a screening to detect it early and find out what you can do to prevent further decline. Being able to hear the world around you and communicate with it is essential for your safety and well-being.