About 20 percent of Americans report that they experience some amount of hearing loss. Patients with hearing impairments, and their families, understand deeply how hearing loss affects not only the individual but their connections with the world and their community. October is designated as Audiology Awareness Month and it is a wonderful opportunity to stress the importance of hearing health and learn more about how to protect your hearing.
Hearing loss does not need to be an acceptable consequence of aging. Regular screenings, diagnostic tests, and early education are helping many people prevent hearing damage before it’s too late. Here are some questions you should consider when evaluating your hearing.
1. What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can occur due to many factors including genetics/family history, excessive noise, trauma, inner and middle ear disorders, infections, and certain medications. For many people signs and symptoms are so gradual that they do not notice them until they are already at an advanced stage of hearing impairment.
Exposure to excessive noise is the most common contributor to hearing decline. Generally, the loss of someone’s hearing is influenced by their amount of exposure to noise, its average sound level, and the peak level of these noises. Age-related hearing loss is caused by changes in the inner ear that occur as you age. The loss can be mild or severe but it is always permanent. In extreme cases, one moment of intense noise can cause permanent damage, but this is rare.
2. Are You at Risk?
You may think only people who work in industries with high levels of daily noise have to worry about their long-term hearing health—but this is a myth. We tend to think of excessive noise when we think of construction, machinery or firearms, but harmful noises are much more common, including:
- Power tools
- Lawn care equipment
- Sports cars
- Sporting events
- Loud stereo systems
Over time, almost everyone has been exposed to levels of noise that can affect their hearing. If you work in a loud environment ear protection should be provided. Also, if you are going to be around loud noise consider bringing ear plugs or other noise-cancelling devices. Remember, some people are more susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss than others, which is why it’s important to talk to an audiologist about your risks and get your hearing tested regularly.
3. When Should I Ask For Help?
Hearing loss can affect anyone and many people miss the signs and symptoms. Some of the common first signs of hearing impairment are:
- Difficulty understanding others (speech appears muffled or garbled)
- Asking other to repeat themselves frequently
- Having a hard time distinguishing background noise from speech
- Others complaining about your volume levels when using electronics or playing music
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Regular monitoring is invaluable when trying to identify problems as soon as possible and understanding your risk of hearing damage. A doctoral-level audiologist can help evaluate, diagnose, treat, and manage hearing loss and balance issues. They are the experts in hearing care and can give you the best insight into your hearing health.
If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing or are concerned about your work environment, it’s time to book an appointment with a local audiologist. Learning more about your hearing health not only helps ease your mind but also starts important conversations with loved ones. Too many people wait years before they seek out help to diagnose and treat their hearing problems. Take control over your hearing health and book an appointment today.