Cut out the noise in life to protect your hearing
Your mother always told you to turn the music down, and she’s right. Excessive noise is the No. 1 reason for hearing loss, according to Melody Hartman, an audiologist with Swedish-
American Hospital. And with iPods, car stereos and loud video games common staples in today’s society, the risk for damaging your hearing is higher than ever.
“What’s wonderful is that we can prevent this,” Hartman said. “Wearing hearing protection can save us from being disconnected and frustrated trying to hear in noisy environments. We just have to be consistent and take some time to choose the right protection.”
While factors like age, heredity and some illnesses and medications affect hearing loss, you can follow some simple steps to prevent damage: protect your ears in the workplace by wearing earplugs, avoid loud recreational activities like riding snowmobiles or hunting for extended periods of time, and have your hearing tested on a regular basis.
Even with preventive measures, 1 in 10 Americans suffers from hearing loss, Hartman said, including 15 percent of baby boomers and 30 percent of people 65 and older.
Some common symptoms of hearing loss include muffled sounds, ringing in the ears, difficulty understanding words, asking others to speak more slowly and loudly, needing to turn up the volume of the television and radio, and withdrawing from conversations.
If you experience any of those things, you should schedule an appointment to have your hearing screened. Only a small percentage of physicians regularly screen for hearing loss, Hartman said, yet it is the fourth most common diagnosis for people 65 and older.
You can’t reverse hearing loss, but in her 28-year career, Hartman has watched technology advance to the point where 95 percent of people with hearing loss can be helped with personal hearing devices.
The battery-powered devices contain a microphone, amplifier and earpiece and come in various shapes and sizes.
Some rest behind the ear with a small tube delivering the amplified sound to the ear canal, while others fit into the outer ear or ear canal. For more severe hearing loss, often due to damage to the inner ear, an electronic device called a cochlear implant may be an option.
Rockford Register Star