A person’s capability to hear and communicate severely impacts almost every aspect of their life. Hearing loss is considered the third most common chronic physical condition in the United States. Hearing loss can affect anyone regardless of age. While hearing loss is capable of happening suddenly, it usually appears gradually over several years or decades. Some of the reasons why a person may experience hearing loss include aging, exposure to loud noises, disease, ear infection, accidents, certain types of medication, or others.
However, most hearing loss in adult cases is permanent. Certain kinds of hearing loss are medically treatable or surgically correctable. Moreover, a standard treatment for permanent hearing loss for most people is a hearing aid. Although, only a percentage of people can benefit from using a hearing aid. Most people tend to wait years before seeking treatment options after they first start noticing their hearing issues. There are several reasons why someone would consider hearing loss to be not a serious problem, such as not knowing what their options are, concerns over the costs, social stigma related to hearing loss solutions, and a lack of awareness of the secondary physical, mental and economic issues associated with untreated hearing loss.
Hearing health is an issue that many people need to take more seriously if they wish to maintain their hearing at an optimal level. There are far too many ways for someone to damage their hearing, and neglecting the safety of your ears could make a minor issue into something more severe and serious. Hearing loss has become so dire that the World Health Organization has estimated that nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide will experience some degree of hearing loss by 2050. Plus, 700 million of those people will need some type of ear and hearing care or other rehabilitation services if they have not undergone early intervention or proper treatment.
Seeking care is an action that needs to be done at the first sign of loss or other hearing issues like tinnitus. Once you notice your hearing is declining, getting a check-up with your medical professional is necessary. Sometimes the problem may be something that can be easily taken care of, such as ear wax build-up. However, it could be a more severe case, and if not taken care of properly, it could lead to your hearing problem becoming a more permanent issue.
That said, we are providing you with the most straightforward guide to adult hearing care.
Hearing loss and you
Becoming aware of the fact that your hearing is gradually changing can be worrisome for most people. In most cases, hearing slowly declines in the early stages of hearing loss and goes unnoticed. At times, it may be someone in your family that starts to notice that your hearing is not in as good of shape as before, but they may feel uncomfortable bringing it up.
If you have started to notice yourself and your loved ones are making comments about your hearing, you must not delay in getting a check-up for your hearing. There are far too many cases of people ignoring the signs of their hearing changing. Some go as far as delaying any treatment until they are incapable of communicating, even in the best listening situations. These delays impact their capability to communicate as they’ve always done before.
Recent research provided by the Hearing Industries Association (HIA) shows us that 4 out of 5 Americans consider hearing loss a serious issue. However, most of them choose to ignore the problem instead of seeking assistance. Less than 16% of adults ages 20 to 68 who need a hearing aid actually use one. The number increases to almost 30% for adults over the age of 70, however, a vast majority of people in this age group still don’t use one, according to information provided by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Signs of hearing loss
Hearing loss appears differently for each individual and hearing capabilities are unique to them. There are several signs that people should be aware of when it comes to earlier stage hearing loss, which most people experience without realizing it. Here are the more common ones:
- Incapable of hearing clearly or misunderstand what the person is saying, often needing something to be repeated to them.
- Struggling to follow along with conversations in a loud environment.
- Understanding someone speaking from a distance, such as from another room, becomes a challenge.
- Having to focus more than before, on a person who is talking, especially in a group setting or when there is tons of background noise occurring.
For the most part, the issue is about not hearing clearly, due to hearing changes that have been ignored for a long time, or, in rare cases, hearing loss develops quickly and suddenly.
What to do about your hearing care?
Everyone reacts differently after realizing that their hearing is declining. In some cases, it leads to a rush of research for information online. Others tend to have more emotional reactions and become worried or angry with their situation. There’s a good chance that there will be a lot of questions about this new situation, such as where and when to go for reliable, professional advice. Some people may be curious about the cause behind their hearing loss, whether they’ll have to acquire hearing aids and how it impacts their social and work life.
Fortunately, there are a multitude of effective measures people can take to gain a more precise comprehension of what’s occurring and what can be done about hearing loss so that people can better manage their hearing health as they age. Far too many people tend to take a long time after noticing their hearing loss before acting upon it. Taking action when you realize your hearing loss earlier on will help ensure that the long-term outcome is better. For instance, if hearing aids are suitable for you, the earlier you start using them, the quicker and easier time you have adjusting to them so you can remain in communication with others and avoid the loneliness that hearing loss brings.
Get an ear exam
There are plenty of reasons why you would undergo an ear exam regularly, especially as you age. Usually, you receive one as a routine check-up from your doctor. However, if you are having issues with your ears, then the doctor will perform more comprehensive tests to see what seems to be the problem with your ears, such as:
- Experiencing pain in or around your ear, especially if it’s a sharp pain or discomfort that has lasted more than a few days.
- Concern over having something plugging your ears.
- Having trouble with your hearing.
- Noticing your hearing condition is declining.
- Discharge of blood coming out of the ears.
Ear exams are painless and easy to get through. If you are experiencing a severe ear infection or injury to the ear, some discomfort may occur, but the doctor will do their best to make you comfortable. Your primary care doctor should be capable of treating many ear issues such as infections. However, if you are experiencing something more severe, such as tinnitus or chronic ear infections, your doctor may suggest you see a specialist known as an otolaryngologist. They are otherwise known as ENTs since they treat conditions relating to the ear, nose, and throat.
If you haven’t received a hearing test since you were in school, your doctor may recommend you take one as part of your ear exam. It’s a good idea to have your hearing tested every once in a while as an adult, notably if you work in a noisy environment or if you are regularly exposed to loud noises. The doctor may conduct the test themselves or recommend a specialist known as an audiologist. Chances are, several tests will be performed to gauge your hearing level. Depending on the results concerning your hearing, they might make recommendations on hearing aids, medications, or surgery.
What are hearing specialists?
As mentioned previously, your primary care doctor may recommend you to a specialist such as an audiologist to check your hearing levels. Audiologists are trained healthcare professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss and other issues of the ear. The audiologist tests and evaluates your abilities to determine your hearing abilities. The evaluation is focused on identifying the current hearing concerns and creating plans that will improve your quality of life. Doing this evaluation allows the audiologist to have a thorough understanding of your abilities and limitations to communicate in several different settings. The audiologist’s process appraises features and functions that could be effective in a hearing device if required for your treatment. The information acquired from this evaluation grants the audiologist information they need to formulate the best treatment plan to discuss with you.
There is a good chance that others may become involved when addressing the problems with your hearing loss. Knowing who the providers are and the roles they hold can help with your hearing care. Otolaryngologists are physicians who specialize in disorders of the ear, nose, and throat. If your audiologist suspects there is an underlying medical problem behind your hearing loss, or if the hearing loss could potentially be medically or surgically treatable, they will suggest you get a check-up with this type of specialist.
Hearing aid dealers are another specialist you may need to seek. They are often the ones in charge of choosing and fitting a hearing aid. They also assess your hearing levels and audiogram to help select a hearing aid that is best suited for your situation. However, they are not capable of performing diagnostics on your hearing condition.
Caring for your ears
Your ears provide you with a variety of functions, from helping with transmitting sound to maintaining your balance. Your ears contain some of the smallest bones in your body and yet hold responsibilities for so much. To ensure you are keeping them healthy, look over these tips and learn how to take proper care of them.
Don’t shove anything in your ears
You need to always remember to never insert any foreign objects smaller than a finger inside of your ears, especially avoiding cotton swabs for cleaning them. These small items can injure your ear canals, leading to infections or even puncturing the eardrum. Plus, cotton swabs can push the earwax further into the ear canal and create a blockage that can cause hearing loss. To clean your ears appropriately, follow our next hearing care tip.
Safely cleaning your ears
The ears need special care when you are cleaning them. Never clean your ears with anything tinier than a washcloth on your fingers. Using cotton swabs or bobby pins to clean your ears out could potentially harm the ear canal. To clean your ears safely, begin by washing your outer ear carefully with a warm washcloth. The ears don’t usually require cleaning inside since they have a built-in self-cleaning mechanism.
However, if you feel like earwax has built up or your ears feel clogged or painful, you should seek out your primary care provider or audiologist to see if they can safely remove the blockage from your ears. Furthermore, if you have pierced ears, make sure to clean the earring and earlobes with rubbing alcohol frequently.
Use hearing protection in noisy environments
Noise-induced hearing loss can occur from being exposed to loud noises. Keeping up to date with what’s considered loud and unsafe can help you prepare for these situations. Locations like concerts, clubs, bars, and restaurants can be some of the many places where background noise can be too loud for safe listening. Items like chainsaws and lawnmowers also create noises far louder than what is safe for your ears. If you find yourself yelling over the sound around your environment, then that’s a good indicator of a noisy environment that can damage your ears. If these situations are unavoidable, consider getting yourself a pair of earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, or earmuffs.
Air flight precaution
There are several options available to you for preventing general discomfort in your ears when taking a flight. Take care of your ears by yawning, swallowing, or chewing some gum during the takeoff and landing processes to try and relieve any symptoms of pressure in them. There are also specialty earplugs that can be purchased for easing the ear pressure.
Let your ears recover
If you’ve been exposed to loud sounds for a long time, such as at a concert or bar, then you need to allow your ears some time to recover. Take a step outside for a couple of minutes every once in a while so your ears can rest.
Hearing care is something that everyone should take into consideration before it becomes a chronic problem. Without properly caring for your ears, the chances of your ears undergoing some health issue increases. It also impacts the quality of your hearing as you age. Proper care will take your hearing a long way and keep them as fit as possible for the future. Use the information we’ve provided in this guide to maintain your hearing health.