By Ann L. Rhoten, Au.D., CCC/A
The statistics on hearing loss are staggering. More than 50 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. It affects one third of Americans over the age of 65 and half of those over age 75! And these numbers are only expected to grow as baby boomers advance into their senior years.
Although hearing loss is common among the elderly, it can affect anyone, regardless of age or stage in life. In fact, about 20 percent of teens age 12 to 19 have reported hearing loss resulting from loud noise. Sixty percent of U.S. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have combat-related hearing loss.
Many people lose their hearing as they age. When this occurs, it’s called presbycusis. We don’t know why presbycusis affects some people more than others, but there does appear to be a genetic tendency toward hearing loss.
Overexposure to loud noise – either in the workplace or during leisure activities – can also play a role. Construction workers, farmers, musicians, airport workers, lawn and tree care workers are at increased risk for hearing loss.
A third cause of hearing loss is medical – viral or bacterial infections; heart conditions; stroke; head injuries; tumors; and certain medications.
Consequences of hearing loss
Not being able to hear can have serious consequences for your social life, medical care and personal safety.
For those who can’t hear well, it’s difficult to talk with friends and family; attend and participate in social gatherings and cultural events; talk on the telephone; keep up with current events; watch TV and enjoy music; and even participate in church or spiritual pursuits. People with hearing loss often find themselves feeling excluded and isolated, or avoid social situations out of embarrassment and fear. Family relationships are often seriously damaged.
When everything sounds muffled and jumbled, it’s hard to understand what your physician is telling you about your health; follow instructions for self-care; process medication warnings given by the pharmacist; or follow activity restrictions. Patients who cannot hear may appear to be stubborn, confused, suspicious and non-compliant. Research has demonstrated that patients with even mild hearing impairment are twice as likely to develop dementia.
People with hearing loss may not hear safety warnings – tornado sirens,
fire alarms, police sirens. They can have difficulty understanding financial transactions and gathering the advice and information needed to make sound decisions.
As serious as hearing loss is, people often delay seeking care. They turn the TV up louder; avoid social situations; and deceive themselves that others just are not speaking clearly or loudly enough. As a result, it’s seven years, on average, between the time hearing loss first starts and the time the patient seeks treatment!
Losing one’s hearing can be frustrating, but waiting to do something about it won’t make it better.
If you suspect your hearing isn’t what it used to be, don’t wait seven years to get it checked! Call my office at (859) 554-5384 to schedule an initial consultation/evaluation. The only thing you have to lose is your frustration!
Dr. Rhoten is an audiologist with Kentucky Audiology & Tinnitus Services, PLLC, 1517 Nicholasville Road, Suite 202, Lexington, KY 40503 • (859) 554-5384, or visit her online at www.kytinnitustreatment.com.
Is Hearing Loss Affecting You?
(Adapted from the National Institutes of Health)
How’s your hearing? Take this quiz and find out!
1. Do you have trouble hearing on the telephone?
2. Is it difficult for you to hear sometimes when you are in a restaurant or there is noise in the background?
3. Do you ever have trouble following a conversation when two or more people are speaking at the same time?
4. Does it seem to you like people mumble/don’t speak clearly?
5. Do you sometimes have difficulty understanding a conversation?
6. Do you often ask people to repeat what they have said?
7. Do you misunderstand what others are saying and/or pretend you understand the conversation?
8. Do your friends/family complain about the volume on the TV?
A “yes” answer to three or more questions could indicate a hearing problem. Talk to your doctor or contact Kentucky Audiology and Tinnitus Services for a professional evaluation.