Thursday, October 8, 2009

Have You Had a Hearing Test Lately?

This is the story of my own experience and not an advertisement. Many all over the world are currently untreated for hearing loss that's as measurable as vision loss. It's important to have regular ten-minute hearing tests by simply calling an Otolaryngologist and making an appointment. Audiologists collaborate with Otolaryngologists (ENT or Ear, Nose & Throat specialists) to create decibel charts measuring hearing and to discern any loss. Just as 20/20 vision is the ideal, normal hearing hovers around 0, plus or minus 20 decibels.

Hearing aids are now being prescribed by Audiologists to anyone hearing less than -25 decibels in an audiology test. While there are indications that wearing ear plugs and avoiding noisy situations help retain hearing, it's also true that genetics play an important role in developing hearing loss.

Researchers at a recent scientific conference of the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery in San Diego, California found that people with a genetic mutation of antioxidant enzymes had three times the risk of having age-related hearing loss. Dr. Anthony Bared of the University of Miami Medical Center, lead author of the study, said that if your mother or father had age-related hearing loss, you should definitely have a hearing test before the age of 40.

In my own experience, I would suggest that teenagers have full-blown hearing tests at any sign of hearing loss, and continue every ten years, or even every five years if risk factors run in the family. "Hearing aid devices are the only interventions effective to restore hearing loss" says this CNN article.

Invisible digital hearing aid (by Moxi)

What is amazing is the quality of the newest digital hearing aids. They can fit snugly with tubes and wires into ears and look invisible. They can be linked in to a computer for more perfect calibration and effectiveness. They are wonderful at amplifying sounds, and make life safer, whether it's crossing the street or hearing the boss.

First find out whether your hearing is impaired with a test by an Audiologist, having had your ears checked first for cleanliness by an Otolaryngologist. Audiologists usually collaborate in the offices of these Ear, Nose & Throat specialists and both appointments can usually be made at the same time and place.

If hearing loss below -25 decibels is discovered, hearing aids are generally prescribed. Please consider obtaining them if they are indicated, as these tiny helpers are now far more effective than ever before. They have anti-shock technologies, with adjustable directional microphones. A lot has happened recently with hearing aids. Your audiologist will help you fit them, and should let you try them out for 30 days free (maybe with a small rental fee).

Your Audiologist should schedule interim visits during the first (free) month to adjust and fine tune sounds to your liking on the office computer. Wearing them in different situations and hearing a wide range of background noises should have you reaching for these hearing aids as you would for eyeglasses. Soon you'll find yourself wearing them, and wanting to, all the time, except sleeping, bathing, swimming, and maybe vigorous exercising. It will make your life safer and help others to help you if they don't have to shout to make themselves heard. All sorts of everyday situations are improved with better hearing, and you won't have to keep asking questions as often.

As usual with hearing aids, as with most technological advances, the advances are mostly aimed at male hearing loss, perhaps because a recent study showed that males aged 20-69 had three times the frequency of hearing loss of women. Perhaps men are more often the users of jackhammers and lawnmowers and driving convertibles which tend to put them at greater risk of hearing loss. There is still plenty of evidence, however, that women suffer from hearing loss in large numbers. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Many people are now wearing them, especially now that they're invisible, including me.

In the last two years, advances in hearing aid technology have improved to the point that many women will find it more enjoyable to wear hearing aids than they might have done in the past.

If you think you aren't hearing as much as other people are, then most likely you aren't.

To write this post, I would like to extend my gratitude to Chetan Shah, M.D., Susan
Chrystal, AuD. and Angelica O'Boyle AuD., of Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

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