(ARA) – What? … I’m sorry I couldn’t hear you? … Could you repeat that? … What did you say?
If these are the questions you ask when talking with others, then it’s likely you need to have your hearing tested.
If you’re wondering why your friends mumble when they talk to you or when restaurants suddenly become cacophonous, frustrating places, have your hearing tested. If your family consistently turns the television volume down when you’re through watching it, have your hearing tested. If phone conversations are confusing or you find yourself having to concentrate on a speaker’s lips to understand what they’re saying, have your hearing tested. If you haven’t had a hearing test since high school … have a hearing test.
The statistics of hearing loss are compelling: One out of 10 Americans has hearing loss. By age 65, one out of three people has hearing loss. And of these, only one out of five actually seeks help.
That’s unnecessary — and unfortunate — because there is help available. In a recent survey performed by the National Council on the Aging, hearing loss, left untreated, has a correlative relationship with debilitating psychological problems like depression, social anxiety and decreased social activity. The longer you ignore your hearing loss, the worse the physical, psychological and social effects. While noise-induced hearing loss is painless, it is permanent.
Nip potential hearing loss in the bud. Have your hearing tested. Doing so early may prevent damage or further damage to your hearing.
The Warning Signs
Usually, hearing loss is painless and gradual, typically developing over a period of 25 to 30 years. Without some qualitative test, you won’t realize you’re losing your hearing till it’s too late. There is a degree of hearing loss associated with aging, and infections, sudden loud or prolonged noise, diseases (like Meniere’s disease) or genetic disorders (like otosclerosis), medical conditions (like diabetes), even a build-up of ear wax can mean hearing loss.
Here are some warning signs to watch out for:
Pain or ringing in your ears (tinnitus) after exposure to noise
Muffled speech sounds or music sounds dull after leaving a noisy area
Difficulty understanding speech in crowded situations
Difficulty in pinpointing sounds’ locations (loss of stereo hearing)
Frequently mispronouncing words
Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
You’ll be asked a series of more involved questions when you get your hearing tested. If you experience any of the above symptoms, you know what to do get your hearing tested.
Who Should I Talk To?
You need to see an audiologist, a professional who specializes in hearing health care. Audiologists are trained to conduct and interpret hearing tests, fit and dispense hearing aids, provide related counseling, habilitation, rehabilitation and hearing conservation.
Your audiologist will help you make an informed decision about your hearing care and provide you with communication strategies to help make listening easier. Typically this type of hearing evaluation is covered by insurance.
Surprisingly, most people who struggle with hearing loss think they’re unusual. Hearing loss doesn’t have to mean depression, frustration and social anxiety — an audiologic rehabilitation program can train you to deal with your new situation, and an audiologist can help you find one.
Have your hearing tested as soon as possible, and talk to your audiologist about how often to test your hearing. You’ll have a great chance of learning how to deal with hearing loss before it becomes debilitating.
Where To Start
If you think you have hearing loss, there are great resources to help you. In addition to undergoing an annual hearing test, check out the Audiology Awareness Campaign at http://www.audiologyawareness.com or call 1-888-833-EARS for a free 15-page booklet called “Listen Up, America … We Hear You” and a free set of ear plugs.