Mind & Body
Hearing Loss
10/2/2018 9:03:16 PM
Hearing Loss

Causes of Hearing Loss and How to Prevent It

Hearing loss is a common problem among older adults. According to the National Institute on Aging, about a third of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, as do almost half of those age 75 or older.

Also common is the belief that hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process. But is it?

For some people, a certain amount of hearing loss is probably unavoidable. The medical term for age-related hearing loss is presbycusis, and it comes on gradually, typically affecting both ears.

But sometimes hearing loss is caused by factors unrelated to age. Where people work and how they spend their free time are likely to have a role. In Southwest Louisiana, many people work in industry, a lot of people hunt, and people love live music. In excess, these activities can lead to hearing loss.

The good news is that although they can lead to hearing loss, they don’t have to. Historically, doctors didn’t know how to prevent hearing loss. Through research, the causes are more well-known and now physicians and audiologists promote hearing protection, as well as treat the loss.

Hearing protection usually comes in the form of earplugs or earmuffs. Earplugs are often made of foam or rubber, and are inserted into the external ear canal, where they expand until a seal is formed. Earmuffs, on the other hand, cover the outside of the ears. Some earplugs and earmuffs are custom-made. Some are designed to allow hunters to easily hear the sounds of game in the field while protecting their ears from the high-decibel sounds of gunfire.

No matter which type of hearing protection is used, it should be worn consistently and correctly during exposure to loud noises.

Carefully reading directions, referring to diagrams, and checking out instructional videos online are good ways to ensure proper insertion of hearing protection.

Excessive noise can also lead to hearing loss in children. Culprits can include loud music, TV shows, and other media, especially if children listen through headphones. The key is to keep the volume at a reasonable level. If other people in the room can hear whatever a child is listening to through headphones, it’s too loud.

Most of the time, though, permanent hearing loss in children is due to genetic causes, meaning they’ve inherited it from one or both parents, even if the parents have no hearing loss themselves.

Children’s hearing is checked on a regular basis, starting in the hospital after birth and continuing at doctors’ offices and schools as they grow older. When a problem is detected, the child is referred to an audiologist. But parents who suspect their child is having trouble hearing should make an appointment themselves with the child’s doctor or an audiologist.

Likewise, adults who begin to have hearing problems — for example, they frequently ask others to repeat themselves, family members comment on their hearing, they turn the TV volume up high — should have their hearing checked, too. It’s even more critical for anyone who has developed sudden hearing loss to make an appointment with an audiologist right away. In this acute situation, there is typically a 72-hour window to try to preserve hearing and prevent the loss from becoming permanent.

The best course of action to protect your hearing is to start during childhood; but even if you’ve experienced some hearing loss later in life, it is not too late to protect the hearing ability that remains. Make an appointment with an audiologist soon.

Hearing Made Easier
New Advances in Hearing Aid Technology

When you hear the term "hearing aid,” what do you picture? Big, bulky, behind-the-ear devices that are hard to miss?

Not so long ago, those were indeed the norm. But, as with most technologies, hearing aids have come a long way. These days they are smaller, lightweight, and more discreet; many fit inside the ear rather than wrapping around the outside.

In addition, most hearing aids today are digital. They provide improved speech clarity and make it possible for users to hear better when there is a lot of background noise. The newest hearing aids also allow feedback and whistling to be managed or eliminated.

Users can even pair smartphones with their hearing aids.

"You definitely do not need a smartphone to enjoy the crisp sound quality of the new technology, but if you do have a smartphone, it is really fun to use,” says Dr. Heidi Sorrells, a certified audiologist at Acadian Hearing Services. "You can stream phone calls, music, audiobooks, and videos directly to the hearing devices.”

Another advance that would have been hard to imagine not so long ago is remote assist technology, which allows audiologists to make changes to hearing devices without patients even coming into the office.

"This is great for people who travel often, live a distance from the office, or may have busy schedules, making it difficult to come in during business hours,” Dr. Sorrells says.

Even the batteries used in hearing aids are much better than they used to be. Many are rechargeable, and users may be able to go longer than a day between charges.

Although hearing aids are a wonderful option for many people, not everyone with hearing loss needs them. The only way to know for sure is to see an audiologist for an evaluation. Once the level and type of hearing loss are determined, the audiologist can help you consider your options.

Dr. Sorrells says hearing aids can be programmed with an individualized prescription. Some patients undergo a fitting the same day they are evaluated; other times the devices need to be ordered. At the initial fitting, the audiologist will explain how to put the device in your ear and take it out and how to replace or charge the batteries.

"Most importantly, we make sure the patient is comfortable,” Dr. Sorrells says. "The second appointment after the initial fitting is where we make real-world adjustments.”

Though hearing aids cannot cure hearing loss, they can provide significant improvements for many people.

"It has been so exciting to visit with people who are now able to hear the sweet little sounds of life like hearing and understanding their children or grandchildren with much less effort,” Sorrells says.

For more information on hearing testing and hearing aid technology, call Acadian Hearing at (337) 436-3277 or visit www.acadianhearingservices.com.

Posted by: Andrea Mongler | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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