Have you ever said this phrase?
Are you 55 years of age or older?
Then you probably have some form of hearing loss and if you do, you’re not alone.
It is estimated that in the United States there are over 48 million Americans with hearing loss in at least one ear.
- Prolonged exposure to loud noise during any period of life
- A history of chronic ear infections
- A family history of hearing loss
- A history of chemotherapy or ototoxic drugs
- Previous head injury
The most common type of hearing loss is called presbycusis. The word is derived from Latin roots: presby = of old age and acusis = hearing ("hearing loss of old age"). This type of hearing loss tends to develop slowly over a period of many years. The frequencies of hearing which tend to diminish first are in the high tones (2,000 Hz to 8,000 Hz). The low frequencies tend to be preserved much later in life because they are located in a portion of the inner ear which is less prone to damaging noise exposure. Language is also divided into low and high tones. The low tones are the vowel sounds and the high tones are the consonants (which are critical to speech comprehension). A person with presbycusis therefore can almost always recognize speech by hearing the low tones, but will not always understand what is being said due to high tone (consonant) hearing loss. This is why many patients who come to see me say, "I can hear, but I just don't always understand what was said."
There are many solutions for this hearing problem. I call them:
Active Listening Measures
- Turn off the TV/radio if you need to have an important conversation.
- Move to the same room if possible. Do not try to have conversations between floors of your home or from one room to the next. Have conversations in places where you can be close to the other person(s).
- Move to a quiet room with the least amount of background noise.
- Tell others that you have a hearing loss.
- Try to face others who are speaking (ideally 3 to 4 feet apart). I often hear stories of a spouse who “will not listen” even though one spouse is watching TV in the family room and the other is in the kitchen noisily preparing food!
- Watch each other’s faces/lips. Make sure there is adequate lighting to do this. Visual cues are very important to a person with hearing loss and can help you understand what is being said. Take advantage of the lip reading skills that you may have naturally learned over the years without even knowing it!
- If you do not understand something that is said, ask to repeat.
- Have important conversations when you are well- rested and attentive.
- Ask for important information in writing.
- If you have hearing aids, wear them! Studies show that almost half of hearing aids are not worn on a daily basis.