Nearly 36 million American adults experience difficulty hearing, caused by infections, injuries, or hereditary conditions. The most common cause of hearing loss, however, is aging. One in three adults over the age of 60 experience hearing loss.

Prevention

There are several steps one can take to prevent hearing loss. Avoid loud noises or use ear plugs around loud noises. Times to consider using ear plugs include the use of loud appliances, equipment, and tools. 

Recreational activities like rock concerts, snowmobiles, go-carts, and radio-controlled airplanes can also cause damaging, loud noises that can be mitigated using ear plugs or muffs. Never insert objects into your ears, even cotton swabs.

Diagnosis

If you suspect you have hearing loss, answer these questions suggested by the National Institutes of Health:

  • Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone?
  • Do you have trouble following the conversation when two or more people are talking at the same time?
  • Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?
  • Do you have to strain to understand conversation?
  • Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?
  • Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?
  • Do many people you talk to seem to mumble or not speak clearly?
  • Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?
  • Do you have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?
  • Do people get annoyed because you misunderstand what they say?
  • Do you hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot?

If you are having trouble hearing and answered "yes" to a number of the questions listed above, talk to your healthcare provider about an ear examination. He or she will ask you a series of questions to determine the exact cause of your hearing loss.

Treatment

Once the hearing nerve is damaged, the damage is permanent. However, there are options available to help someone live a healthier, more normal life. Hearing aids, or small devices that are worn in or near the ear, magnifying sound while making it easier to hear. For more serious hearing loss, cochlear implants may be recommended.


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