May is Better Hearing Month, to celebrate let’s learn a little more about hearing loss and why better hearing is so important.
About 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have hearing loss. The rate increases to 8.5 percent for adults aged 55 to 64. Nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 and older acquire hearing loss. Hence the unfortunate stigma that getting hearing aids makes one look old.
The most common form of acquired hearing loss is sensorineural (95%) which is usually caused by aging or excessive exposure to noise. Anyone who has worked in noise 8 hours a day for any extended period of time will usually develop a noise induced hearing loss. We encourage these folks to have their hearing checked regularly.
The nature of a sensorineural hearing loss is typically normal hearing or a mild loss in the lower frequencies and moderate to severe in the higher frequencies. Consonants are soft, high frequency sounds. Most people with this type of loss can hear soft sounds in the lower range so they do not think they have a hearing loss, everyone just mumbles. It would sound that way because they can hear the vowels loud and clear but the consonants are too soft or absent, especially in noisy environments. Hearing aids are designed to amplify only those frequencies where speech needs a boost and, as a result, can be a subtle way of increasing speech clarity without making the world too loud.
Another side effect of this type of loss is nerve damage. We measure the extent of the damage by performing speech testing. A speech discrimination score tells us a lot about how well a person will fare with amplification. If the brain isn’t receiving a complete signal from the cochlea then, even with hearing aids, speech will not be perfectly clear. With these folks it is important to adopt additional communication strategies such getting their attention before you start talking and making sure they can see your face when you talk to them. We all lip read without even knowing it.
For those with hearing loss, hearing aids really do improve quality of life. A quote from Helen Keller, who was both blind and deaf, explains the impact of hearing loss very well. “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.” If you suspect you or someone you love is struggling with hearing loss, don’t wait, come in for a free hearing assessment at New Hope Hearing. We would love to hear from you and help you achieve better hearing.