Straight Talk About Hearing Loss and
Do You Have Trouble Hearing?
If you have trouble hearing, you're not alone. More than 25 million Americans
have hearing loss, including one out of four people older than 65. Hearing loss
may come from infections, strokes, head injuries, some medicines, tumors, other
medical problems, or even too much ear wax. It can also result from repeated
exposure to very loud noise, such as music, power tools, or jet engines. Changes
in the way the ear works as a person ages can also affect hearing.
For Most People, There Is Help
The good news is that, for most people who have a hearing loss, there are
ways to fix the problem. So if you have trouble hearing, visit your doctor or
hearing health-care professional to find out if you have a hearing loss and,
if so, how to treat it. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rules
to make sure that treatments for hearing loss--medicines, hearing aids, and
other medical devices--are safe and really work.
You Might Need A Hearing Aid If:
- people say you're shouting when you talk to them
- you need the TV or radio turned up louder than other people do
- you often have to ask people to repeat what they say because you can't quite
hear them, especially in groups or when there is background noise
- you can't hear a noise if you're not facing the direction it's coming from
- you seem to hear better out of one ear than the other
- you have to strain to hear
- you keep hearing a hissing or ringing background noise
- you can't hear a dripping faucet or the high notes of a violin.
If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor or hearing health-care professional
so you can be tested for hearing loss.
Hearing Tests and Treatments
To find out what kind of hearing loss you have and whether all the parts of
your ear are working OK, your doctor may want you to take a hearing test. These
tests are often given by a health-care professional that specializes in hearing,
such as an audiologist. Audiologists are usually not medical doctors but are
trained to give hearing tests and interpret the results. Hearing tests are painless.
If the hearing test shows that you have a hearing loss, there may be one or
more ways to treat it. Possible treatments include medication, surgery or a
Hearing aids can usually help hearing loss that involves damage to the inner
ear. This type of hearing loss is common in older people as part of the aging
process. But younger people can also have it from infections or repeated exposure
to loud noises.
Hearing Aids and Cell Phones
Cell phones and hearing aids don't work very well together, so you may not
be able to use a cell phone while you're wearing a hearing aid. This is because
electromagnetic interference between the phone and the hearing aid causes buzzing
or static. Scientists are trying to find out more about this problem and what
can be done about it.
Types of Hearing Aids
All hearing aids have these parts:
- a microphone, to pick up sound
- an amplifier, to make sound louder
- a speaker, to bring sound to the ear
- a battery.
Some people only need a hearing aid for one ear. Other people need one for
each ear. If you need a hearing aid, your doctor will know whether you need
one or two.
Here are some of the most common types of hearing aids:
Behind-the-Ear: This kind of hearing aid fits behind the ear and carries
sound to the ear through a custom ear mold. Hearing aids that are attached to
eyeglasses are a type of behind-the-ear hearing aid. They are useful for mild
to severe hearing loss.
In-the-Ear: These are custom-made to fit in the outer ear. You can't
see any wires because they are inside the aid. They are useful for mild to moderate
In-the-Ear-Canal: This kind of hearing aid is custom-made to fit in
the ear canal. There are no outside wires or tubes. These hearing aids are almost
impossible to see. They help people with all but the worst hearing loss.
On-the-Body: These are for very bad hearing loss. They include a case
with a larger microphone, amplifier and battery. The case can be carried in
pockets or attached to clothing. The case is connected by a wire to an ear receiver
that is attached to an ear mold.
You may have heard about a device to help hearing that is implanted behind
the ear during surgery. This device is called a cochlear (pronounced COKE-lee-ur)
implant. It is only used for very bad hearing loss. It gets its name from the
medical term for the inner earŅ the cochlea. A cochlear implant doesn't completely
restore hearing but it helps a person hear sounds and conversations better.
The device has several parts:
- An electronic device placed in the bone of the skull, behind the outer ear.
- Wires and electrodes inserted into the inner ear, or cochlea.
- A microphone and transmitter that are worn outside the body.
If your hearing is very bad, your doctor could decide if a cochlear implant
could help you.
Have Your Hearing Tested
Not everyone with a hearing problem can be helped by a hearing aid. Your doctor
or hearing health-care professional is the best person to know if a hearing
aid might help you.
You should have your hearing tested by a specialist before you buy a hearing
aid. It's best to get your hearing test from a licensed hearing health professional.
If the hearing test shows that you need a hearing aid, you will get a note or
prescription saying your hearing has been tested and you need a hearing aid.
The note may also say what kind of hearing aid the hearing health-care professional
You may see ads that say that you can buy a hearing aid without being examined.
This is true--it's up to you. But if you decide you don't want a medical exam
to rule out a medical reason for the hearing loss, you will have to sign a written
statement called a waiver. The waiver says that the company or person selling
the hearing aid has told you that FDA has determined that it is in your best
health interest to have a medical examination by a licensed physician--preferably
one that specializes in ear diseases--before buying a hearing aid, but that
you decided not to have the medical exam.
Ads may also offer money-back guarantees if you're not satisfied with the hearing
aid. Make sure you read and understand what the seller is promising. The best
place to buy a hearing aid is from a licensed hearing aid dispenser, or seller.
To find out if the seller is licensed, call or write your local Better Business
Bureau, or your state's attorney general.