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Dec 11 2017
Ask a Doctor: Early signs of hearing loss
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Question: 
I am 50 years old and work in the manufacturing industry. I have noticed lately that I am having trouble hearing certain things when someone is speaking to me. I think I might have a hearing problem, what can I do about this?

Answer:
This is a very common problem, especially for those who have worked in manufacturing positions or who have been around noise — for example, farmers, construction workers, skilled laborers and musicians. Or even those with noisy hobbies such as hunting, woodworking, power tools, motorcycles, snowmobiles, etc.

Noise is a common cause of hearing loss, as well as hereditary, aging and general health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Typically, the first signs of hearing loss are you start to have increased difficulty understanding what others are saying, especially when in a group, background noise or when the speaker is at a distance. You lose the clarity of speech. 

Some people tend to withdraw from things they once enjoyed or find that it takes much more effort to understand what others are saying. This is where hearing aids can be of benefit.

This first step would be to have your hearing evaluated by a Doctor of Audiology. They will assess the type, degree and configuration of hearing loss. 

If you are a candidate for hearing aids, the audiologist will then discuss the various types, styles and technologies of hearing aids that are available. They help you in deciding what will best fit your needs based on hearing loss, lifestyle and budget.

Many advances have been made in technology for hearing aids, especially in the past couple of years. Most of them have automatic program and volume change (the hearing aid makes changes for you depending on the environment). You no longer have issues with the hearing aids making whistling noises/feedback, and they can significantly cut out wind noise when outside compared to the older technology. They are Bluetooth compatible to smart phones, making them wireless earpieces for phone calls and music, and they are even rechargeable. 

Hearing aids have the ability to turn down some of the background noise and allow you to focus in on the speech you want to hear. They are also discrete, small and easily hidden.

There are also additional devices that can help in a person’s day-to-day life. Amplified and captioned phones are available for free if you have documented hearing loss and would benefit. Along with looping/telecoil options.

Hearing loss can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life. The sooner someone seeks treatment, the better they will perform with hearing aids.

Gina Wendricks, AuD, CCC-A, is an audiologist at HFM Hearing and Balance. Dr. Wendricks offers a scope of audiology services, including adult and pediatric hearing evaluations, hearing aid fittings, assistive listening devices, balance evaluations, and hearing protective devices. To schedule an appointment, call (920) 320-4760.


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