Take Charge of your Family's Hearing Needs

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most common condition in older Americans after hypertension and arthritis. Twenty-five to forty percent of Americans have hearing loss at age 65, and this number jumps to over 80% by 80 years of age. The sounds that typically are missing first are the high pitched sounds like /s, sh, t, f, and ch/. These sounds are in almost every word we speak, so they are crucial to hearing. Without hearing these sounds clearly, words seem mumbled and may be misunderstood.

Hearing loss does not affect only the ability to hear, but can also affect how you function — possibly leading to depression, social withdrawal, isolation and poor-self-esteem — even job loss. Hearing loss is also under-diagnosed and under-treated. We all know someone who has a hearing loss and does not want to do something about it. Your first hearing test should happen around age 50, sooner if there are noticeable problems. It is a good idea to get a baseline. Similar to your vision, your hearing needs to be monitored, generally every 2-3 years. If a hearing loss is noted, start paying attention to how you are doing when you go to a restaurant, when you are watching TV and when you and your family get together. Do you find you are not always following the conversation? Does a family member mention that you are not hearing them? These are signs of hearing loss, indicating that you are missing out on parts of your life!

Hearing aids will not repair damaged areas of the ear, but they will help you hear better and with less effort, reducing fatigue from listening intently to others. Using hearing aids is one strategy to hear better; but using other strategies such as getting the listener's attention before speaking, looking at the speaker, keeping light on the speaker's face, and reducing background noise are also really important. Using assistive listening devices for the phone or the TV can be very helpful too. The next question is, are you ready to do something about it? It's a big step. Think about it and ask to see an audiologist!

Dizziness vs. Vertigo vs. Balance

The above terms mean different things and signify different problems, although there may be similarities between them. Roughly one third of the American population will seek a doctor's help for dizziness at least once in their life. Dizziness is a more general symptom that includes lightheadedness or faint-feelings. Vertigo is specific to the feeling that you or the room is spinning. This can last from moments to hours and be mild to very severe. Balance problems leave a feeling of unsteadiness or fear of falling. This will happen when you are on your feet (walking/standing) and may or may not be accompanied by dizziness or vertigo.

Vestibular Rehabilitation is an exercise-based approach to remediating dizziness and disequilibrium symptoms associated with a disorder of the vestibular (balance) system in the ear. Problems in the vestibular system can cause imbalance or vertigo with movement. Even moderate dizziness can result in a significant reduction of movement and confidence that can diminish quality of life, reduce employability and affect all aspects of one's life. A lot of patients who are in need of rehabilitation have developed problems such as decreased strength, increased tension, loss of range-of-motion, muscle fatigue and headaches, in addition to their dizziness. A common approach has always been to medicate such patients. However, many of the medications used for inner ear disorders also have the disadvantages of being habit-forming and sedating the patient. This really limits one's activities! Rehabilitation, on the other hand, involves exercises designed to decrease dizziness and increase balance function and activity levels. Certified Vestibular Physical Therapists are able to diagnose and treat these common problems.

Call the Elks Hearing & Balance Center nearest you for answers to any questions you might have regarding you or a loved one. We have been serving our communities for over 60 years and our Doctors of Audiology and Certified Vestibular Physical Therapist are here to help you live life to its fullest.

Article Reviewed: August 8, 2012
Copyright © 2011 CitiHealth
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