Living Well with Hearing Loss

Living Well with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss often occurs with aging. According to the National Council on Aging, nearly 80% of people over 70 experience hearing loss in at least one ear. Although hearing loss is common and can significantly impact daily living, there are ways to improve your quality of life. Continue reading to learn more about the condition and tips for living well with hearing loss.

What Causes Hearing Loss?

A number of issues may cause hearing loss, such as:

  • Damage to the inner ear from aging
  • Continuous exposure to loud noise
  • Buildup of earwax
  • Ear infection
  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotic gentamicin, Viagra, and some cancer medications
  • Health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure
  • A stroke or brain injury

What are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?

Not all symptoms are what you’d expect, and some can be attributed to other conditions or medical problems. Symptoms include:

  • Hearing voices as mumbled or slurred
  • Inability to hear high-pitched sounds
  • Difficulty hearing conversations, especially in crowded areas with a lot of background noise
  • Trouble hearing high-pitched voices compared to deeper voices
  • Difficulty hearing voices over the phone
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Having to concentrate when listening
  • Often asking people to repeat themselves or misunderstanding what they say

If experiencing any of the symptoms above, consult your doctor.

Tips for Living Well with Hearing Loss

As most causes of hearing loss are permanent, finding ways to enhance the quality of life and alleviate symptoms is crucial. Try these tips for living well with hearing loss:

  1. Focus on conversations.

When speaking with someone, make sure to look at them. Watching someone speak can provide many visual clues. Reading their lips, facial expressions, and body language can help supplement what your ears don’t pick up.

  1. Remove distractions.

Remove background noise whenever possible. For example, mute the TV or turn off the radio when speaking with a loved one. Find a corner or quiet room to talk if you’re at a party or social event with many other people or loud music.

  1. Be upfront.

Alert others of your difficulty hearing. This can enable them to use specific speaking strategies, such as better enunciating their words, ensuring they look at you when they talk, etc.

  1. Use closed captioning.

Closed captioning when watching TV, movies, or online videos can help individuals with hearing loss better understand the audio, even when faces are not visible to read lips. It’s an effective way to prevent the need to turn up the volume to uncomfortable levels.

  1. Prevent further damage.

Avoid exposure to loud music, lawnmowers, or other noisy machinery. If you are exposed to loud noise, use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to protect your ears.

  1. Use hearing devices.

Hearing aids help amplify sounds and can be adjusted to best suit your hearing loss. Other assisted listening devices – such as a telephone amplifier or flashing/vibrating alarm clock – can also help make daily life easier.

  1. Visit your doctor.

Addressing any hearing problems is essential. Your primary care provider may be able to diagnose and treat hearing loss. If necessary, they may refer you to a specialist like an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat doctor) or an audiologist (a health professional who specializes in hearing loss). Ignoring or leaving hearing problems untreated can cause them to worsen over time.

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