Hearing loss currently affects more than 36 million Americans. Although hearing problems are associated with the normal aging process, more than half of all people with hearing loss are younger than 65. There are many causes of hearing loss: loud noises, ear infections, ear trauma, ear disease, illness and disease, certain medications, and of course, the normal aging process. Most hearing losses are permanent. Your audiologist will determine the type and degree of your hearing loss and the best treatment.

Treatment options may include:

The first step in treatment of hearing loss is a comprehensive and diagnostic hearing evaluation by an audiologist.

Do I Have Hearing Loss?

People with hearing loss sometimes say, “Could you repeat that, please?” or “I hear you but I can’t make out the words.” Sometimes family members comment the television volume is too high. Sometimes the person with hearing loss might miss the punch line when someone tells a joke. Sometimes the person with hearing loss no longer enjoys dining out, visiting friends, going to meetings, parties, movies, or religious services because it’s a real struggle to listen to the person speaking, it’s exhausting! The earlier signs and symptoms of hearing loss are very common and often do indicate hearing loss. However, the easiest way to find out if you have hearing loss is to simply make an appointment with an audiologist.

Hearing Loss Options

Most people with hearing loss can be helped through appropriate use of hearing aids, assistive and alerting devices, FM systems, and more. Although hearing aids cannot restore your hearing to normal, they can provide substantial benefit for people with hearing loss. Your audiologist will recommend certain styles and types of hearing aids based on your hearing test results, cosmetic concerns, as well as your listening needs and preferences.

Communication Tips

Rather than saying “What?” or “Huh?” try to make a specific clarification request. In other words, if the talker mumbles, ask him or her to please speak more clearly. If the talker speaks in a quiet voice, politely ask him or her to speak louder. Many talkers cover their mouths when they are talking. When this happens, tell them you can understand them better if they would not cover their mouths.

Speak slowly. Your hearing loss is “invisible” to the people you converse with. They may forget to speak in a manner helpful to you. One way to overcome this is to explain that you are really interested in hearing what she has to say and that you would like to use a cue, like tapping your ear or your mouth, to remind her to speak more slowly.

Turn down the volume. Background noises (loud music, people talking, dishes clanking, and television and music systems playing) make it especially difficult for people with hearing loss (and for those wearing hearing aids) to listen easily. You might choose quieter restaurants, or ask your place of worship to carpet the social hall to reduce reverberation, you might move to a quieter location to have a conversation. Anticipate difficult listening situations and plan how to minimize them. Your audiologist can help you with these strategies.

Face the person. Ask your loved ones, coworkers, and friends to come into the room and get your attention before talking to you. It will be much easier for you to understand when people face you as they speak.

Accentuate the positive! Even though it is true that many people do mumble, speak too fast, cover their mouths, and/or drop the volume of their voices at the end of sentences, do not blame your listening difficulties on them.

Instead, accept responsibility and make communication requests in a polite manner. You might say, “It would really help me a lot if you would speak slower,” rather than “I can never understand a single word you say because you talk so fast!” Remember, you are much more likely to get the assistance you need from your communication partners by being polite but assertive.

You have rights! Find out what your legal rights are as a person with hearing loss. For example, you have the right to ask for accommodations for your hearing loss when you travel and you may also request accommodations in the workplace.