By Ernst Lemothe Jr.
Hearing loss can be so gradual that some people don’t notice the effects until it is too late. Hearing is one of the five senses. It is a complex process of picking up sound and attaching meaning to it. The ability to hear is critical to understanding the world around us. Kristin Geissler, an audiologist at UR Medicine Audiology, gives us five tips to protecting and improving our hearing.
1. Use hearing protection
Loud noises and sounds are known to cause hearing loss. The American Speech-Language Association says noises are considered too loud and may be damaging to your hearing if you must raise your voice to be heard or you cannot hear someone who is about three feet away.
“When you are around loud noises at work or recreationally, always use hearing protection like ear plugs or earmuffs. If you do not have access to these, turn down the level of the noise if possible or remove yourself from loud environments if able to do so,” said Geissler. “Sounds are also considered too loud if you have pain or ringing in your ears after being around the noise.” She said some examples of sounds that can damage your hearing are power tools, lawnmowers, certain kitchen appliances or hairdryers.
2. Monitor your ear health
It is important to know the status of your overall ear health. Have your primary care physician check your ears periodically for build-up of wax or any signs of infection, especially if you notice symptoms of ear pain, pressure, ringing in the ears or muffled/decreased hearing. If you notice decreased hearing, it may be the result of excessive ear wax, infection or hearing loss, so it is important to make sure that your ears stay clean and healthy.
“Q-tips are not recommended to clean the ear canals, as this tends to push wax down into the canal further rather than clearing the wax,” said Geissler.
3. Schedule an audiologic evaluation if you have concerns about your hearing
About 20 percent of Americans, 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. That number increases to one out of every three people when you hit 65.
Audiologists are healthcare professionals who provide patient-centered care in the prevention, identification, diagnosis, and evidence-based treatment of hearing, balance, and other auditory disorders for people of all ages. If you are feeling as though speech sounds muffled, not clear or soft, it may be time to have a hearing evaluation with an audiologist.
“During your appointment, an audiologist will be able to provide information about your hearing status, determine if a medical evaluation by an otolaryngologist is necessary or provide you with strategies and options for better hearing,” said Geissler.
4. Determine if you may be a candidate for hearing aids
Based on your audiologic evaluation results, you may be a candidate for amplification. An audiologist can recommend hearing-aid options to provide you with maximum benefit for your specific hearing loss and your hearing and communication needs.
“Many hearing-aid technologies are very sophisticated and provide excellent, natural sound quality,” said Geissler. “Some hearing aids have the ability to stream sound from a smartphone or tablet directly to your hearing aids. Several hearing-aid manufacturers are also improving ease of use by introducing rechargeable hearing aid options.”
Consultation with an audiologist is recommended to determine the best style, technology level, and hearing solution for each individual with hearing loss.
5. Develop good communication skills
We were always thought to look someone in the eye when you talk with them. That simple good communication skills can also help with hearing. While having conversations, do your best to look at the person you are speaking with, reduce background noises when possible, and try not to speak to others from a distance. These strategies will give you the best chance to hear clearly what is spoken.
How can I tell if I have a hearing loss?
If you answer yes to some of the following questions, you may have a hearing loss
• Often ask people to repeat what they say?
• Have trouble hearing in groups?
• Think others mumble?
• Fail to hear someone talking from behind you?
• Turn up the volume on the TV or car radio?
• Have difficulty on the phone?
• Have trouble hearing your alarm clock?
• Have difficulty hearing at the movies
• Dread going to noisy parties and restaurants?
Source: Hearing Loss Association of America