Katie Kendhammer, Au.D.
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If you find yourself turning up the volume on your devices, there's a constant ringing or buzzing in your ears, restaurants seem too noisy, your friends' voices are too soft and everyone seems to be mumbling, it might be you and not them. And it may be time to get your hearing checked.
Causes and effects
Hearing loss, which affects people of every age, has a wide range of causes from an injury to a sustained loud working environment to genetics. Hearing loss isolates people from the people in their lives and their environment. It's also fatiguing.
People with hearing loss work hard to hear what's being said. Research has shown that kids with hearing loss are more tired than those with normal hearing and even kids with chronic conditions. These findings correlate with adults too. There's also a link between hearing loss, stress levels and cognitive decline.
Unfortunately, once people are out of school, there are no regular screenings for hearing loss. The next time people may undergo preventive screening is when they start receiving Medicare. That's a long stretch of time when hearing loss may go undetected.
If you're wondering about the quality of your hearing, you can ask to have it tested. You should have a baseline test at least by age 65. Most insurance covers routine hearing screening, and it can be performed in your primary care provider's office. They have the equipment because they screen kids all the time.
Even if a patient is screened, research has found they wait an average of five to 10 years before they do anything to address the results. That's due to three main barriers: the stigma of wearing hearing aids — especially their mistaken association with being old — how much they cost and lack of insurance coverage.
Saying 'yes' to hearing aids
Basically, hearing aids increase your ease of hearing. Because they do the hard work of hearing, they can reduce levels of stress and fatigue. They also let you rejoin conversations and more fully enjoy your favorite activities.
Today's hearing aids are a good blend of medical and physical. While in some ways they're similar to AirPods, headphones and Bluetooth, they go one step further by allowing you to customize your hearing. You now can adjust them with your cellphone, choosing their performance based on the environment, recharge them at night and much more. They're like personal, wireless headphones.
While hearing aids aren't perfect, an audiologist can help you find the ones that best fit your lifestyle and needs. You can choose the fit and whether you like how they sound. And once you're fitted with hearing aids, if something doesn't feel right, the audiologist can adjust them.
So don't spend five to 10 years suffering through hearing loss. Get screened and then, if needed, work with an audiologist to help you hear as well as possible.