The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

March 6, 2014

Hearing loss a common problem, but doctors can help

Hearing loss in America is probably more common than you think. According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 75, and close to half of those older than 75, have some degree of hearing loss. At age 65, one out of every three people in this country has some form of hearing loss. Although hearing loss is common in older adults, the problem affects people of all ages. Some are born with hearing loss, and others can lose hearing at a young age.

People with hearing loss may deal with issues such as grief over the hearing loss, low self-esteem, stress and the resulting fatigue, depression, loss of intimacy, withdrawal, social isolation and possible chemical dependency.

Doctors believe that heredity and chronic loud noise exposure are the two main factors that contribute to hearing loss over time. Other factors, such as an ear infection, can prevent your ears from conducting sounds as well as they should. Unfortunately, you can’t reverse most forms of hearing loss.

Hearing loss results in a loss of intelligibility. Words are often missing or distorted – leading those with a hearing issue to believe that “everyone is mumbling.” However, you don’t have to live in a world of quieter or less distinct sounds. You and your audiologist can take steps to improve what you can hear.

To help avoid the negative side effects associated with untreated hearing loss, look for early signs. Start by giving yourself the following quiz from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Keep in mind that this quiz is for general information. Only your audiologist should diagnose a hearing loss.

1. Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone?

2. Do you have trouble following the conversation when two or more people are talking at the same time?

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