Cincinnati—Hearing loss is no longer just an elderly person’s problem.
University of Cincinnati (UC) audiology expert Stephanie Lockhart says the fastest growing segment of people being diagnosed with hearing problems is between the ages of 45 and 64. She says high-frequency hearing loss, which affects understanding, is becoming even more common among the younger “I-Pod” generation.
The American Academy of Audiology estimates that 31 million Americans suffer some sort of hearing problem and more than half are under the age of 65.
“People tend to abuse their hearing by turning the volume on their music players up too high, running loud machinery and going to concerts—all without hearing protection,” explains Lockhart, director of audiology in UC’s Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. “This type of noise-induced hearing loss is a growing health concern.”
Although people can’t see or feel damage from noise, a simple hearing test can determine if someone has experienced permanent hearing damage.
UC audiologists are offering free hearing screenings on Friday, May 16, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Medical Arts Building in Coryville.
Lockhart suggests that all individuals age 45 or older get an annual hearing screening exam. The free screening exams, however, are available to anyone concerned about hearing damage.
Hearing loss is classified by degree—mild, moderate to severe—and sound wave frequency. Loud noises can damage the cochlear hair cells and nerves in the inner ear, causing hearing loss that cannot be reversed.
General warning signs of hearing loss include:
- Frequently asking for verbal repetition when in conversation
- Turning an ear toward sound when listening
- Understanding better when looking directly at someone
- Pain or ringing in the ears
“The psychological and quality of life issues associated with hearing loss are just as important to consider as the actual hearing impairment,” says Lockhart. “People tend to withdraw from social situations when they have trouble hearing. Even a slight hearing loss can make a big impact on a person’s daily life and can negatively impact self esteem.”
Lockhart says hearing loss from noise exposure is the single most preventable type of impairment.
“In general, you should avoid situations where you have to shout to be heard or noise that makes your ears hurt or ring,” she adds.
During a hearing screening, audiologists ask patients about their hearing history and visually examine the external auditory canals and eardrum with an otoscope. They also place headphones or small ear plugs into the patient’s ear and instruct him or her to press a button upon hearing a beeping tone. This allows the audiologist to determine if a patient needs a comprehensive hearing test to evaluate the type and severity of the hearing loss and to develop a treatment plan.
To schedule a hearing screening, call (513) 475-8453.