The Impact of Hearing Loss on Speech

Recognizing Better Hearing and Speech Month

Hearing Loss and Speech

Did you know that more than 36 million Americans have permanent hearing loss?

In the past five years, the number of hearing impaired people has increased nearly 10 percent. Interestingly, more than half of all hearing-impaired persons are younger than age 65, with one in 10 school-aged kids having some form of hearing loss.

According to medical professionals, it is critical to diagnose hearing loss in the early stages as treatment options are available for some conditions. Hearing loss can dramatically affect the lives of all individuals. Younger children are especially vulnerable, as their language skills and voice development and ability to learn can be impacted. There are three basic types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive – Affects the ability to hear faint sounds, such as whispering, rustling leaves or dripping water; hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted effectively from the outer ear canal to the middle ear; often caused by fluid in the middle ear, ear infections, allergies, a perforated eardrum or a buildup of earwax or benign tumors; may be corrected medically or surgically
  • Sensorineural – Reduces the ability to hear faint sounds and louder noises or talking may be muffled or unclear; occurs when the inner ear or nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain are damaged; often caused by illness, drugs toxic to hearing, aging, head trauma, family history or exposure to prolonged loud noises; most common form of permanent hearing loss, which can occur rapidly over a few hours or several days
  • Mixed – Hearing loss resulting from damage to a combination of the outer, middle or inner ear or auditory nerve

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that 28 million Americans have a treatable hearing loss. In addition, fewer than 7 million Americans with hearing impairment use a hearing aid.

Identifying a Hearing Problem

Individuals with hearing issues often do not want to admit that they may have a problem. Review these guidelines to identify a potential hearing concern:

  • You hear only parts of conversations, and it sounds like people are mumbling
  • You frequently ask people to repeat what they’ve said
  • Friends and family members tell you that 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 class or in a meeting
  • People tell you that you play music or the TV too loud
  • You can’t hear the doorbell or the telephone ring

Don’t miss the important sounds in life. If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your physician. You may be referred to a hearing specialist to evaluate your hearing, determine the area in your ear where the hearing problem exists and identify treatment options.

Have you, or someone you know, experienced a hearing problem? What was the source of the problem? – Ken VanCleave, Ameritas Group