For most people, two factors contribute to their hearing loss: aging and noise exposure.
Aging is out of your control, but you can take steps to reduce your noise exposure.
“Occupational and recreational noise exposure can have a dramatic impact,” says Paul Reder, M.D., an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie. And, while some forms of hearing loss are treatable, the damage that comes from noise exposure is irreversible, though amplification can help you cope.
Reder says it’s most important to identify potentially damaging sounds that occur in everyday life, such as power tools and equipment. He also notes that it’s not just the intensity of the sound that can harm hearing—duration plays a part as well. While the hearing damage from an explosion may be obvious, many people don’t realize they are chipping away at their hearing whenever they listen to music at high volume with earphones or every time they mow the lawn without protection.
For safer listening, keep headphone volume low enough that you can hear conversations. If others can hear the music from your headphones, it’s too loud. When using power tools and lawn mowers, earplugs are a good choice.
“Testing by an audiologist might be appropriate if you notice that a loved one raises the volume on the television or has trouble hearing in places with a lot of background noise, such as restaurants,” said M. Lynn Norwood, Ph.D., an audiologist on the medical staff at Baylor Waxahachie.
An otolaryngologist or an audiologist can measure your hearing and help determine possible causes of the hearing loss.
“If you have a question, see a health professional,” said Reder. “Sometimes it’s as simple as wax buildup.”
And certain conditions, such as problems with the middle-ear bones, may be surgically correctable. In other cases, hearing loss may be a symptom of another condition.
For hearing loss that won’t respond to treatment, hearing aids can help and new aids are smaller and more powerful than those from years ago.
And, for people who have hearing loss that’s considered severe or worse, cochlear implants—electrode arrays implanted in the inner ear—may be another option.
For more information about Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie, visit www.BaylorHealth.com.