A 3-Step Game Plan to Combat Hearing Loss
Prevention & Treatment If you think you may be suffering from hearing loss, don’t put off seeking treatment. The president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a step-by-step action plan that could improve your quality of life.
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the United States — more prevalent than diabetes or cancer. It can affect people in a myriad of unexpected ways. Hearing loss is associated with other medical conditions, can lead to social isolation and depression, and can affect a person’s employment status and success. Yet those with hearing loss often wait years to treat it — if they treat it at all.
By being proactive, people with hearing loss can live fuller and more enjoyable lives. Here is what you can do if you are concerned:
1. Know the signs.
Everyone has trouble hearing from time to time, so how do you know when you may be experiencing true hearing loss? Ask yourself these questions.
- have trouble hearing on the phone?
- hear better in one ear than the other when on the phone?
- need to listen carefully to understand conversation?
- have trouble hearing when it is noisy?
- feel dizziness, pain or ringing in my ears?
- ask people to repeat themselves?
- respond inappropriately after misunderstanding what people say?
- have trouble understanding women and children?
- struggle to understand conversation when more than one person is talking at the same time?
Do family members or coworkers...
- seem to mumble?
- say I miss what they said?
- get upset because I don’t understand what they say?
- tell me that I turn the TV volume up too high?
2. Seek professional help.
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, visit a certified audiologist for a hearing evaluation. A searchable database of these professionals is available at www.asha.org/profind.
Make the most of your appointment by taking these steps:
Do your homework. Do some basic research about hearing loss and treatment options ahead of time. Prepare a list of questions. Understand your insurance coverage.
Keep an open mind. An audiologist may recommend a different treatment plan than you envisioned. Consider all possible solutions.
Don’t expect a quick fix. It may take a number of visits to an audiologist to treat your hearing loss. If you receive a hearing aid, for instance, the process of fine-tuning it may take a few months. The follow-up is worth it in the end.
3. Empower a support system.
Family and friends can be a tremendous help. They can attend audiology appointments to help you remember or write down information; assist in navigating insurance issues; and be supportive and sensitive to the frustration, anger or other emotions you may experience. They can also adopt some simple strategies to improve conversation and understanding, including:
- Speak clearly and slowly.
- Get your attention before beginning a conversation, such as by tapping you on the shoulder or using a visual cue like pointing.
- Keep their hands away from their mouth and, if relevant, trim facial hair because facial cues (including lip movements) help people with hearing loss “see” what they don’t hear.
- Move away from noise and choose quiet places for conversation.
- Pick quiet restaurants or off times to dine out.