Posted September 15, 2011
Do you ever ask people to speak up, or have problems hearing conversations in a loud room? These may be signs of hearing impairment, a decreased ability to hear and differentiate sounds.
The majority of individuals with impaired hearing are over age 50 and part of the baby boomer generation, which includes those born between 1945 and 1960. Health professionals report that at least 40 percent of an estimated 76 million baby boomers suffer from hearing loss. By 2030, they predict this number will increase to 65 percent.
Many boomers grew up during an era when the volume level was turned up to new highs. They were exposed to decibel-blasting noises from concerts, stereos and portable electronic devices with headphones.
Unfortunately, individuals with hearing loss may not know they have a problem. They may suddenly realize they are not hearing soft noises, such as rustling leaves, pelting raindrops and whispering, or recognizing words with soft consonant sounds. Often these individuals are embarrassed to admit they have a hearing problem and will put off seeking medical attention until the problem intensifies, or friends and family members voice concerns.
Understanding the Hearing Process
The ability to hear is an intricate process that happens almost instantly. The inner ear, called the cochlea, has a series of hair cells. When sound vibrations reach these cells, they trigger electrical impulses from the ear to the auditory part of the brain, called the cortex, where sounds are identified. When the hair cells are damaged by repeated exposure to loud noises, they cannot be replenished and are permanently gone.
Sometimes hearing impairment is related to a medical concern, such as an infection, earwax, disease or tumor. It also may be caused by aging or injury. While hearing loss cannot be reversed, a hearing specialist can work with you to identify treatment options. To improve the quality of your hearing you may need a sound magnification device, hearing aids or surgical implants.
Recognizing Hearing Loss
There are several identifiable signs of hearing impairment:
- Friends and family members say you don’t hear very well
- You don’t laugh at jokes because you miss some of the details
- You ask others to review what is said in a classroom or meeting
- People say you play music or the TV too loud
- You can’t hear the doorbell or telephone ring
- You frequently ask people to repeat what they’ve said
- You hear only parts of conversations, and it sounds like people are mumbling
Make sure you hear all of the important sounds in your life. If you experience symptoms of hearing loss, make an appointment with your physician. You may be referred to a hearing specialist to determine the area in your ear where the hearing problem exists, and identify treatment options.
If you, or someone you know, have experienced hearing loss, what treatment solutions were identified, and what was the outcome? – Scott Delisi, Ameritas Group