Hearing loss is a common problem, but many people with difficulties don’t know how to address it. Not everyone who has trouble hearing in noisy spots like restaurants or busy workplaces needs hearing aids. However, they need ways to manage a situation when they can’t hear what people are saying. Reducing background noise–which might be tricky in a busy space–can help a great deal.
There are many diverse causes of hearing loss. Sometimes doctors brush it off as just part of aging. This is not a reasonable approach, however. Hearing loss can contribute to social isolation, falls and potentially to dementia. People who notice that they are having more difficulty hearing should see an audiologist to get their hearing checked and treated.
A surprising number of medicines can contribute to hearing loss. Certain antibiotics may lead to hearing deficits quite frequently. NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen can also contribute to problems, as can high-dose aspirin.
However, the biggest cause of hearing loss is a loud noise. Our guest describes a tragic story in which a hunting incident led to a young person’s lasting hearing problem. He is certainly not the only person to suffer from such an explosion.
When he was an actor, former President Ronald Reagan had a gun go off too near his ear. That led to his hearing loss.
Hearing aid proponents had hoped that when President Reagan started wearing hearing aids in public, they would become popular. That didn't happen right away. However, recent technological advances may contribute to increasing acceptance of hearing assistance devices.
The nature of the hearing loss determines what technology may be most helpful. People who have a difficult time only in certain situations, as when watching television, might benefit from a personal sound amplification product (PSAP). These products don’t require professional fitting, but they are not supposed to be sold for people with impaired hearing. Over-the-counter hearing aids are supposed to be available soon, although the FDA has been a bit slow in issuing regulations to facilitate these devices. (Perhaps they will be permitted later this year.) Bose has come out with OTC aids, but they are available in only a handful of states.
Actual hearing aids can be very pricey, and Medicare does not cover the cost. However, if they help you hear better, it can be worth it. Part of the cost covers the professional services of testing, fitting and adjusting. Our guest Barbara Kelley mentions that Costco offers these services for less than some other businesses.
Finally, for people with severe nerve damage to the ear, cochlear implants may be helpful. Our guest Dr. Stephanie Sjoblad describes her experience with implants.
Barbara Kelley is the executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America.The photo is of Barbara Kelley. As HLAA’s chief executive officer, she is the primary spokesperson for the organization. https://www.hearingloss.org/
Dr. Stephanie Sjoblad has been a faculty member of the UNC-Chapel Hill Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences since August 1999 and holds the roles of Professor and Clinic Director for the UNC Hearing & Communication Center. Her primary responsibilities consist of directing the operations at the UNC Hearing and Communication Center, providing clinical services while supervising graduate students and teaching graduate courses. She has held leadership roles in state audiology associations and is a Director at Large for the Academy of Doctors of Audiology. Additionally, she has been involved with the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine as they work to find ways to make hearing care more accessible to all Americans.
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