Our ears never sleep. We can't turn them off not even when we are asleep. Every day we are exposed to a world of sounds. Our ears, therefore, need to work very accurately for us to be able to orient ourselves. And still, we take good hearing for granted that is, until we lose it. The importance of our sense of hearing often only becomes evident, when we are in fear of losing it. However, awareness can be the first step toward prevention.
How do you detect a hearing loss?
People who are affected by hearing loss often have difficulties detecting and accepting this fact. The reduction of the ear's functions usually develops over many years, which is why it takes time to detect the symptoms.
How can you test yourself? Are you familiar with the following situations?
* Do you often feel that other people are 'mumbling' or speaking unclearly?
* Do you often need to ask people to repeat what they have said?
* Do you often experience problems hearing and understanding what other people are saying to you when you do not have eye contact?
* Do you avoid parties and social events because there is too much noise or you can't hear what people are saying?
* Do you often have trouble understanding a conversation when there is background noise or other people are talking at the same time?
* Are you no longer able to hear everyday sounds such as the wind in the trees, footsteps or the sound of water?
* Do you often fail to hear the doorbell or the telephone?
* When watching television with others, do you need to set the volume higher than they would to hear what is being said?
* Have your family members/colleagues/friends asked you whether you have a hearing problem?
If you have answered one or several questions with yes, you should have your hearing tested.
What does the degree of hearing loss mean?
The degree of hearing loss varies from person to person. Between the two extremes of hearing well and hearing nothing, there are many degrees of impairment. The terms used to describe the degree of hearing loss are mild, moderate, severe and profound. Most hearing losses are mild to moderate.
Mild hearing loss: unable to hear soft sounds, difficulty understanding speech clearly in noisy environments.
Moderate hearing loss: unable to hear soft and moderately loud sounds, considerable difficulty understanding speech, particularly with background noise.
Severe hearing loss: some loud sounds are audible but communication without a hearing instrument is impossible.
Profound hearing loss: some extremely loud sounds are audible but communication without a hearing instrument is impossible.
Solutions come in the form of high-tech hearing instruments that incorporate virtually invisible, intelligent mini-computers. These are tiny in size, yet enormous in impact. Overwhelming evidence shows that the use of a hearing instrument brings major improvement in the quality of life of its users. These individuals enjoy better overall health than non-users with hearing loss, gain self-confidence, play a more active role in family, social and business activities and even have greater earning power.
The right choice of hearing instrument type and technology is determined by the individual hearing loss and anatomical features of the ear. Hearing care professionals and medical practitioners can advise you on the various possibilities available. To learn more about hearing loss and choosing the correct hearing assistance, plan to attend "The Right Fit: Facts You Should Know Before Buying Hearing Aids," May 16 at FTMC Learning Center at Norwalk High School, 350 Shady Lane Drive, Norwalk. Light refreshments will be available at 6:30 p.m. and the program begins at 7. Sponsored by Fisher-Titus Medical Center's audiology center, this program will offer community members a chance to learn about the causes of hearing loss, what kind of loss can be improved and the benefits of hearing aids. Questions and answers will follow. For more information and to register call (419) 660-2828.
Karen Green is an audiologist at Fisher-Titus Medical Center.