Hearing Loss For Dummies
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Hearing loss among adults is common. Almost half of all adults over the age of 60 have hearing loss. Understanding and treating hearing loss is important for our emotional, cognitive, and even physical health. In fact, recent research suggests hearing loss is a risk factor for social isolation, loneliness, falls, cognitive decline, and dementia.

It’s important to know about hearing loss, the signs of hearing loss, strategies to use to talk to someone with hearing loss, and how to tackle hearing care.

Five most important things to know about hearing loss

Understanding hearing loss is key to treatment. Check out these five important things to know about hearing loss:
  • To hear we need our ears and our brain. Hearing is a two-step process where the ear encodes sound in the environment around us while our brains decode that sound and make sense of it. Hearing loss can stem from issues with either area of the process.
  • Hearing loss is about clarity not volume. Contrary to popular belief, people with hearing loss don’t simply need everything louder. Hearing loss affects specific frequencies that make it a clarity issue and not a volume issue so adults with hearing loss need volume only at the specific frequencies where they have a problem.
  • Hearing loss is common and increases in prevalence with age. One in 10 adults in their 50s has hearing loss but half of all adults in their 70s have hearing loss.
  • Protect your ears. The most important thing you can do to prevent hearing loss or avert further hearing loss if you already have hearing loss is avoid excessive noise. Avoid loud sounds, use hearing protection, and turn your headphones down.
  • Hearing loss is important for our well-being. Hearing is part of what connects us to others. As such, hearing loss is a risk factor for important health outcomes including social isolation, loneliness, and dementia.

Five signs of hearing loss

Use these five signs to know if hearing loss is occurring:
  • You think others are mumbling more often.
  • You are more tired than usual when keeping up with conversation.
  • You feel excluded from conversations, especially in noisy settings.
  • Others tell you that you’re listening to the TV or music too loudly.
  • You’re having more trouble hearing on the phone.

10 strategies for talking to someone with hearing loss

Help those with hearing loss by using these ten strategies:

Face-to-face communication is key as visualization of the mouth and seeing subtle body language cues help people with hearing loss understand what you’re saying.

Remove background noise so it doesn’t interfere with understanding what is being said.

Rephrase rather than repeat information when asked because it often more helpful to say something in a different way if someone didn’t hear you the first time.

Find space with good lighting so people with hearing loss can clearly see you.

Add context to conversations to give someone with hearing loss more time and information to put everything together.

Add captions via Smartphone speech to text apps so people can read to follow along with the conversation.

Don’t shout! It makes things distorted and harder to understand.

Smartphones and handheld amplifiers can make sound louder for someone with hearing loss.

Ensure you’ve got someone’s attention first as the conversation can’t start if someone with hearing loss doesn’t know you’re talking to them.

Slow down your speech and speak at a steady pace at a firm volume.

Five considerations for hearing care

Understand your hearing care options with these considerations:
  • Get a hearing test (yesterday). Knowledge is power and a lot of us don’t realize when we have hearing loss. Your first hearing test will help give you a real look at exactly where your hearing stands. This can help with planning and informing strategies early on.
  • Hearing care is a continuum. We often think of the only option being hearing aids but there are many options. We can use communication strategies with mild hearing loss, hearing aids when we need more help, and cochlear implants with more severe hearing loss.
  • Cost doesn’t always equal better. Rule number one is finding care that meets your needs and realizing that the hearing aid marketplace is tough to navigate with complex pricing systems. Buying the most expensive product won’t always be the more effective option.
  • Hearing aids aren’t corrective. Unlike glasses, hearing aids can’t correct hearing loss. They will aid listening but can’t replace normal hearing.
  • Appropriate attitude is important. To succeed with hearing care, you have to have the right attitude that includes being prepared to put in the effort to practice getting use to your new hearing aids.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, is the Director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health.

Nicholas S. Reed, AuD, is a clinical audiologist and an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University.

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