Hearing loss is a widespread condition that affects people of all ages. An estimated 20 percent of American adults experiences hearing loss to some degree, a number that increase to one-third of the population by the age of 65. This makes hearing loss the third most common physical condition (ranking behind arthritis and heart disease). The skilled audiologists at ASK Physicians Hearing Centers have solutions for managing hearing loss and improving your ability to communicate effectively.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is defined as an impaired ability to comprehend sound. It can occur due to a number of factors; the most common are presbycusis (the medical term for age-related hearing loss) and noise exposure. Other conditions that can lead to hearing loss include ear infections, trauma, excess earwax, and medical conditions including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, otosclerosis and Ménière’s disease. Anything that causes an interruption in the ability of the brain to correctly interpret nerve impulses as sound contributes to a loss of hearing.
Signs You Might Be Suffering from Hearing Loss
Hearing loss isn’t always readily apparent. The decline in hearing ability often occurs gradually, making it difficult to notice as you become accustomed to diminished communication capabilities. Signs to look for that might indicate hearing loss include the perception that speech is muffled or difficult to understand, especially in the presence of background noise; the frequent need to ask speakers to repeat themselves; turning up the volume on the television or radio; and avoiding social situations. It often takes a family member or close friend to alert you to your hearing difficulty.
Treatment and Prevention of Hearing Loss
While some forms of hearing loss may be treatable with medications or surgery, the most common (and effective) solution usually involves hearing devices. This category includes hearing aids, cochlear implants and assistive listening devices. An audiologist can determine the type and extent of your hearing loss and recommend an appropriate treatment.
The best cure for hearing loss, of course, is prevention. Most of us experience a natural decline in hearing ability as we age, but protecting our hearing from noise is something everybody can do easily enough. Make sure you wear hearing protection any time you are going to be exposed to loud noises for extended periods (e.g., attending music concerts or sporting events, riding a motorcycle, working around machinery). Custom earplugs are available for musicians, hunters, swimmers and surfers. If you have children, make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations, and receive prompt medical attention when the inevitable hearing infection occurs.