In adults, most hearing loss happens gradually. While hearing loss is more common as we age, people of any age can have a hearing loss that interferes with their ability to communicate. Most people first notice difficulty understanding others, especially in noisy environments. Others may notice they have trouble following conversation when two or more people are talking at the same time. Other common signs are asking others to repeat themselves, or feeling like people seem to mumble. If you have concerns about your hearing, seek the services of an audiologist for an evaluation.
Hearing loss in adults has many possible causes, such as disease or infection, exposure to harmful levels of noise, the aging process or drugs that are toxic to the hearing mechanism.
An evaluation by an audiologist will be able to determine if you could benefit from wearing a hearing aid or if your hearing loss may require medical or surgical treatment. Less than 10 percent of hearing problems in adults require medical or surgical treatment.
Consult an audiologist for an evaluation, which will determine if a medical referral is needed. The audiologist will test your hearing to decide if you could benefit from hearing aids. The audiologist may also refer you to your physician or to an ear, nose and throat specialist, if needed.
An audiologist is a highly trained professional who specializes in diagnosis and management of disorders of hearing and balance. Audiologists have earned a Master’s or Doctorate degree in audiology, passed a national examination and completed an internship. In Michigan, audiologists are licensed by the state. Audiologists practice in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics and schools. When you have a hearing exam, be sure to ask for an audiologist.
While hearing aids can improve your hearing and listening abilities, they do not restore hearing to “normal.” Just as eyeglasses do not “cure” your vision problem, hearing aids do not “cure” your hearing loss. However, they can substantially improve quality of life by easing frustration for you and those with whom you communicate.
Many health care plans cover the cost of audiologic tests, and some plans provide full or partial coverage for hearing aids. Your health insurance company can tell you what your policy covers. Medicare does not cover hearing aids.
Beware of mail order or on-line hearing aid sales. By working with an audiologist, you are purchasing professional care and services. Professional services will include appropriate evaluation, referral for medical treatment if and when necessary, instruction in how to use the hearing aid, follow-up care and support and rehabilitation services.
A hearing aid that is properly fit, programmed and adjusted will not damage your hearing.
Our brains can best make use of incoming sound when it is heard equally by both ears. This is called binaural (meaning “two eared”) processing, and it is what helps us to tell which direction a sound is coming from and helps to provide a “stereo” sound. Using two hearing aids maximizes the benefits of binaural processing and provides the most natural sound quality. Because of the advantage of binaural processing, most people with hearing loss in both ears understand speech better with two hearing aids compared to using only one.