Any number of things can cause hearing difficulties. We often associate hearing loss with age, and yet, there are many other reasons our sense of hearing can diminish.
Genetics, illness, injury, and our loud society can all play a role in decreased hearing.4 While many of these causes are not things we can control (when’s the last time you tried to change your DNA? Was it successful? Let us know if it was!), we can take certain measures to prevent particular injuries and preserve the hearing we have.
Loud noises, high frequency noises, and extremely low frequency noises can all irreparably damage our hearing. Avoiding direct exposure to things like jet-engines, gunfire, construction, and rock concerts can help save your valuable sense of hearing.
Wearing earplugs every time you swim and when avoiding intense noises is predictable and unavoidable. Visit your doctor if you are sick — infections, particularly sinus infections and ear infections, can cause hearing damage. Also, if you have a head injury, insist on a hearing assessment right after the initial injury and again a few months later.
How Long Does it Take on Average to Address Hearing Loss?
It depends. If the onset of your hearing loss is rapid, you may be more inclined to get it checked out sooner. If, on the other hand, you have had long-term hearing problems or your hearing loss has occurred slowly, you may not even be aware of the severity of your condition. The bottom line is, the sooner you get your hearing checked, the sooner you could be hearing more clearly! Regardless of whether you have been putting off a visit to the doctor regarding your hearing for weeks, months, or years, it is always recommended
that you make the call — put forth the effort — and do not leave your condition undiagnosed or untreated.
At What Cost?
Doctor’s visits are expensive. Hearing aids are can be expensive. These two facts are frequent deterrents from seeking a hearing loss diagnosis or treatment. When considering seeking medical advice regarding your hearing loss, keep in mind that an unchecked hearing problem costs much more than the doctor’s bill or hearing aid price. Let’s consider the physical, financial, psychological, and social costs of not visiting your doctor before we break down what you can expect to pay the doctor.
Practical Steps to Improve Your Quality of Life
1) Screening: Talk to your primary care physician about your hearing loss concerns. You can also get an idea of how hearing screenings work and at what frequencies you have difficulty by taking an online hearing test. Alternatively many hearing clinics offer free hearing screening. Below are a few reputable online screening tools:
2) Full Assessment: If you are referred for further testing after a screening, schedule a visit to a hearing specialist. While a referral is always necessary when seeing an otolaryngologist (ENT), you can make an appointment for a comprehensive hearing assessment with an audiologist or audiometrist without a referral. Use Google to find your nearest audiologist:
Search for: Audiologist (and your city name)
3) Try Hearing Aids: Listen to the advice your hearing specialist gives you and don’t become discouraged. Even if you agree to try hearing aids and are disappointed with the initial results, talk to your hearing care professional. They are there to help you.
And remember: your brain needs time to “train” and get used to hearing again. Just like how braces have to be adjusted and you have to reposition the seat and mirrors in a new car over the course of the first few months, hearing aids are so customizable that you and your hearing care professional may have to make adjustments before you are completely satisfied. Take the first steps and you’ll quickly be on your way to a more vibrant, sound-filled life! Below is a hearing aid buyers guide, which is a wonderful resource for you and your family.
4) Mention That You Are Hard of Hearing: Unlike other disabilities, being hard of hearing is not immediately noticeable. Maybe people honestly do not recognize that you are having trouble hearing them. One quick way to avoid unnecessary frustrations is to let those around you know that you have a hard time hearing. Do not be ashamed or abrasive, just mention it. You have nothing to be embarrassed of.
Do recognize though that the way people react toward you may not be out of rudeness; most people are more than willing to speak more clearly, speak a little louder, or assist you in other ways (captions at church services, CC screenings of movies, audio enhancers at tourist attractions) — you just have to speak up.
5) Face Those Who Are Speaking To You and Let Them Know How Looking at Them
Helps: Just like how other people talking with their mouths full or with something obscuring their lips makes it difficult to understand, it only does so much good if you are not looking at them. Conquering your hearing difficulties relies so heavily on communication. If you speak openly with the people around you and you both make a conscious decision to minimize the things that can make communication more difficult, you will well be on your way to having a better relationship.
Also, even if you do not know how to read lips, you will be astonished by how much your eyesight helps with your hearing. You may not realize how much you rely on your eyes to help you hear, but we have all been unconsciously training ourselves to put sound and lip shape together. Our lips (and the rest of our mouths — teeth, tongue, and throat rigidity) form specific shapes to produce specific sounds. Look at the diagram below to see just how much our mouth changes while producing different vowels.
6) Decrease Background Noise: While it may be obvious that standing on the sidewalk next to a jackhammer might hinder your hearing, consider the other common things that make it difficult for you to hear.
http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/: safe Work Australia is an independent body established by the Safe Work Australia Act 2008. It leads the creation and development of policies that seek to improve work health and safety. It provides model codes of practice, prepares material relating to occupational health and safety, analyses data, and monitors the adoption of their policies.
http://www.betterhearing.org: This is the research and educational arm of the Hearing Industries Association, located in the United States. The Better Hearing Institute seeks to engage the public in hearing health education and making sure that materials are available for those suffering from hearing loss so they can find proper treatment. Since hearing plays such an important part in an individual’s “whole health, productivity, and quality of life,” the BHI wants to create an environment of “hearing wellness.”
http://www.valuehearing.com.au/Blog/: This blog offers an approachable way to keep up on information regarding hearing loss, tinnitus, and all the latest about new and innovative hearing technology.
Final Advice: What Happens if I Don’t…? Although we have touched on the costs associated with untreated/undiagnosed hearing loss, there are countless articles that discuss these concerns in more detail. Here are a few recommended links that can help you further your understanding.
Finally, one last risk we have not gone into depth on: hearing impairment increases the risk of accidents — not just around the house, but also behind the wheel. This particular article outlines exactly what types of dangers you put yourself in by not getting your hearing treated: http://phb.secondsensehearing.com.