Approximately 48 million Americans have hearing loss. Although hearing problems are associated with the aging process, more than half of all people with hearing loss are younger than 65. There are many causes of hearing loss: loud noises, ear infections, ear trauma, ear disease, illness and disease, certain medications, and of course, the aging process. Most hearing losses are permanent and cannot be treated with medication or surgery. Your audiologist will determine the type and degree of your hearing loss and the best treatment.
Your first step, if you notice or suspect a change in your ability to understand the conversation, is a comprehensive and diagnostic hearing evaluation by an audiologist.
Do You Need to See an Audiologist?
People who need to visit an Audiologist sometimes say, “Could you repeat that, please?” or “I hear, but I don’t always understand what someone says.” This is the most common symptom. Sometimes family members comment that the television volume is too loud. You may find that you miss the punch line when someone tells a joke.
Sometimes a person with hearing loss is less able to enjoy social, work, family, or religious events because it takes more effort to listen to the person speaking. It can feel exhausting! The earlier signs and symptoms of hearing loss are very common and often do indicate changes in hearing health. However, the easiest way to find out if you have hearing loss is to simply make an appointment with an audiologist.
Treatment options for hearing loss may include:
- Hearing aids
- Assistive and alerting devices
- Remote microphone technology systems
- Hearing rehabilitation (auditory training)
Hearing Loss Treatment
Most people with hearing loss can achieve greatly improved hearing through appropriately fit hearing aids. Your audiologist will recommend certain styles and types of hearing aids based on your hearing, cosmetic preferences, and your lifestyle and communication needs.
Avoid saying “What?” or “Huh?”
Instead, try to make a specific clarification request. If the speaker mumbles, ask them to please speak more clearly. If the talker speaks in a quiet voice, politely ask him or her to speak louder. Many talkers cover their mouths when they are talking. When this happens, tell them you can understand them better if they would not cover their mouths.
Your difficulty hearing and likely your hearing aids are not visible to the people you converse with. They may forget to speak in a manner helpful to you. One way to overcome this is to explain that you are really interested in hearing what they have to say and that you would like to use a cue, like tapping your ear or your mouth, to remind them of the best ways to communicate with you.
Reduce background noise.
Background noise (music, people talking, dishes clanking, television, etc) can create greater difficulty for people with hearing loss and/or hearing aids to understand speech. You might choose quieter restaurants, or ask your place of worship to carpet the social hall to reduce reverberation, you might move to a quieter location to have a conversation. Anticipate difficult listening situations and think about your communication strategy. Your audiologist can help you with these strategies.
Face the person.
Tell your family, coworkers, and friends that you communicate most easily if you can see their face. This is actually true for everyone!
Attention is key.
It is not uncommon to misunderstand what someone says if your attention is on something else, like an email or a TV show. Again, this is true for everyone! Remind people to say your name or tap you on the shoulder so you can be ready to listen.
It takes two.
Communication takes two people. Yes, many people mumble, speak too fast, cover their mouths, and/or drop the volume of their voices at the end of sentences. If you are using hearing aids and paying attention, you are fulfilling your end of the effort to communicate effectively, and you can feel good about that. Keep in mind that communication habits are hard to change. You may need to remind people you speak with regularly the best ways to communicate with you.
If you have noticed the common symptoms listed above and suspect your hearing has changed, “Find an Audiologist” and set up an appointment to get your hearing checked.