Hearing Loss in Adults

By Melanie Driscoll, Au. D.

Do you get your eyes tested every year?  That’s right, eyes, it’s not a typo.  So, do you?  Are annual eye exams a part of your yearly healthcare routine?  Well, what about your ears?  Do you schedule an annual hearing test to determine your hearing status, and to see if changes in your hearing have occurred?  If you are like most people, the answer is probably no.

Why is this?  Why are most people concerned with monitoring their vision yet chose to neglect hearing?

Annual eye exams are performed to monitor changes in your vision, likewise annual hearing tests should be completed in order to monitor changes in your hearing.  According to a recent study, vision loss and hearing loss may be linked.  Roughly 2,000 men and women between the ages of 55 and 98 participated in a study at the University of Sydney that linked hearing loss and vision loss.  Results indicated having either type of loss created a greater risk for the other.  Those with hearing loss were 50% more likely to have vision impairment, while those with visual loss were 60% more likely to have some hearing impairment. This correlation was greatest in those under the age of 70.  Additionally, both cataracts and macular degeneration were also associated with hearing loss.

Hearing loss is more common than you may think.  On average people experience hearing loss for approximately seven years before seeking help, while a loss in visual acuities are usually addressed immediately.  It is estimated that over 28 million Americans have hearing loss that affects their ability to communicate; that translates to over 500 million people worldwide.

We are all losing our hearing at a much younger age than we were 30 years ago.  In the U.S., one out of twelve 30-year-olds, and one out of eight 50 year olds suffer from hearing loss.   More that 10 million baby boomers (aged 45 – 64) have hearing loss.

Nine million seniors (age 65 and older) have hearing loss.  Among seniors, hearing loss is the third most prevalent, but treatable disabling condition, behind arthritis and hypertension.

More than a third of all hearing loss is attributed to noise exposure: loud music, loud workplaces, and loud recreational equipment.  Other causes of hearing loss include hereditary, disease, medications, head injury and serious systemic infections (i.e. meningitis).  Many times, the cause of hearing loss remains unknown.

People with hearing loss will frequently have the following complaints: people mumble; they mistake one word for another; they can hear, but not understand; hear only portions of a conversation; ask people to repeat what has been said; turn the television/radio up too loud; and often have trouble hearing sirens, doorbells, and/or telephones.  Another common complaint from those with hearing loss is that they have enormous difficulty understanding in noisy situations.

Delaying the identification and treatment of hearing loss will deprive the auditory system of adequate stimulation, leading to a reduced ability to function in various listening environments.  Research has shown that those who pursue amplification early, rather than wait the usual seven years, find greater benefit, especially in situations where background noise is present.

The risk for social isolation, depression, and withdrawal is greater for those with untreated hearing impairments than individuals with normal hearing.  Add on visual difficulties and the risks increase even more.     

If you think you may have a hearing loss, you need to make an appointment with an audiologist.  An audiologist is a professional who diagnoses, treats, and manages individuals with hearing loss.  A comprehensive hearing evaluation by an audiologist can identify the presence of hearing loss.  Following the evaluation, the audiologist will then make an appropriate recommendation based on the test results.

Image from:  www.simplyyourhealth.com

Dr. Melanie Driscoll is an audiologist  and is co- owner of Hear Here located at 970 Breckenridge Lane.  Dr. Driscoll earned her doctorate in Audiology from the University of Louisville School of Medicine.  Dr. Driscoll is licensed by the State of Kentucky. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and is board certified by the American Board of Audiology. Dr. Driscoll, and her husband and business partner, Jeff, reside in Louisville with their six children: Adam; Michael; Olivia; Ben; Sarah; and Caroline. They are active members, and volunteers, at Southeast Christian Church.

Material for this article was obtained from the following sources:

 

www.asha.org; www.audiology.org; www.hei.org; www.hearingloss.org

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