As Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM) comes to a close, we take this opportunity to reflect on how hearing loss helps us connect with our loved ones!
BHSM is organized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and is a campaign for hearing healthcare awareness and advocacy. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is the third most pervasive health issue that people live with today. Though it affects nearly 1 in 6 people, hearing loss remains undertreated. It takes an average of 7 years, from the onset of symptoms, for people to seek treatment. The theme of this year’s Better Hearing and Speech Month is Connecting People, which highlights the vast resources and services available to treat and support hearing health.
Recognizing Early Signs of Hearing Loss
A common factor that contributes to the delay in treatment is that people simply don’t know they are experiencing hearing loss. Hearing loss typically occurs gradually so it can remain unnoticed for quite some time. Being aware of common symptoms can help you recognize any changes you may experience to your hearing. Early signs include the following:
- Sounds are muffled or distorted
- Tinnitus: a buzzing, ringing, who sing like noise in one or both ears
- Increasing the volume on the television and other electronic devices
- Asking others to repeat what they’ve said, speak louder, and/or slower
- Difficulty following a conversation, responding with “huh” or “what”
- Moving to a quieter space to hear more clearly
- Missing parts of a conversation
- Pretending to hear, lip reading to help identify individual words
These symptoms can be mild to more profound. If left untreated, hearing loss symptoms can have major consequences including: social withdrawal, strained communication, increased health risks, deteriorating social life, strained relationships etc. Fortunately, there are effective treatment options that not only alleviate these symptoms but also strengthen communication and various facets of daily life.
Connecting to Hearing Healthcare Services
There are numerous hearing healthcare services and resources that are available to treat and support your hearing health. This includes services that diagnose and treat hearing loss as well as services that provide ongoing management of symptoms and hearing needs. The first step is to have your hearing thoroughly evaluated. Hearing tests involve a painless process that consists of:
- Intake: similar to most medical appointments, hearing evaluations begin with an intake process. This includes discussing your hearing healthcare history, symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and lifestyle factors that can impact hearing health (profession, hobbies, daily activities etc.).
- Ear exam: next, your hearing healthcare specialist will physically inspect your ears. This involves using an otoscope – an instrument designed to go inside the ear canal – to take a look into the ears. They will check for any damage or obstructions that can be contributing to hearing loss, earwax for example, and remove if necessary.
- Hearing test: the actual hearing test – the most common being pure tone audiometry – involves wearing headphones that are connected to an audiometer. This machine plays sounds at different pitches which you will be guided through by the hearing specialist. You will indicate what you can hear and these results will be captured in real time.
- Results: your results will be presented on an audiogram which is a chart that shows your hearing capacities in each ear. You will be able to know the types of sounds you can readily hear and the sounds that are more challenging.
Your hearing healthcare provider will use this information to develop a treatment plan that will effectively meet your hearing needs. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are savvy pieces of technology that provide ample hearing support.
Prioritize Hearing Healthcare
This month is a great opportunity to commit to prioritizing your hearing health. You can do this by scheduling an appointment for a hearing consultation. Now that you know what to expect from a hearing consultation appointment and evaluation, we hope that taking this step is easier. Treating hearing loss offers numerous benefits that can profoundly enhance your daily life. In addition to maximizing hearing capacity, treatment strengthens communication and improves relationships as well as social engagement. These benefits can boost your confidence and restore your sense of self. Treatment helps people live more fully which enhances health, wellness, and quality of life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.