Would you be surprised to learn hearing loss is one of the most prevalent chronic health problems in the U.S.? Some 28 million Americans have hearing loss, and as the population ages, the number of people affected by hearing loss is expected to increase. By the year 2030, it is estimated that some 21 million Americans, over the age of 65 will be classified as having hearing loss (ASHA, 2002).
However, hearing loss is not limited to just the elderly. Hearing loss can be attributed partly to our increasingly noise-polluted world, but other factors such as genetics, disease, injuries, infections and trauma can also bring about hearing loss.
The American Speech Language and Hearing Association (ASHA, 2002) reports that approximately 13 out of every 1000 children has some degree of hearing loss, congenital hearing loss occurs in 2 to 3 of every 1000 children, 1 to 2 of every 1000 children in the USA has a moderate-to-severe hearing loss, and depending on the degree of hearing loss, hearing problems may contribute to deficient or delayed speech and language skills, academic problems and psycho-social problems too.
Additionally, ASHA reports that ten percent of the population (of any developed country) would likely benefit from the use of hearing instruments. Nonetheless, only about 23 percent of the eligible hearing-impaired people obtain hearing instruments.
Should You See a Professional?
Answer the following questions for a quick assessment of your hearing:
- Do you ask others to repeat themselves often, or do people seem to frequently mumble?
- Do you have troubling understanding conversation (even though you may hear it), particularly when there is background noise?
- Do you pretend to understand, and then respond inappropriately?
- Do you find yourself avoiding groups or strangers or withdrawing from social activities because it is too difficult to hear?
- Do you turn up the radio or TV louder than others prefer?
- Do you find telephone conversations increasingly difficult?
- Do you turn one ear toward a speaker to help you hear?
- Do others comment that you speak loudly?
- Has a family member or friend ever commented that you dont hear well?
- Do you find yourself frequently denying you have a hearing problem?
A positive response to one of these questions does not necessarily indicate a hearing problem. However, if you answered "yes" to several, you may have hearing loss. The best way to find out is to have your hearing checked by a hearing healthcare professional.
The Better Hearing Institute can refer you to a professional in your area; just call 1-800-EAR-WELL (327-9355), Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. 5 p.m. (eastern time).
If you are diagnosed with hearing loss, youre not alone! Approximately 28 million Americans are deaf or hearing-impaired. More than six million Americans wear hearing aids and more than 20 million more should! If hearing loss is affecting your enjoyment of life, you probably have many options and alternatives from generic (one size fits all) assistive listening devices (for use in movie theaters, assembly halls, telephones and television etc) to custom made, nearly invisible digital hearing aids.
What Are My Hearing Aid Options?
Hearing aids have come a long way due to significant advancements in technology. Todays hearing aids allow better, clearer amplification and come in smaller, more discreet sizes. There are many different hearing aids to choose from, and they are available in four basic styles:
Completely-In-The-Canal (CICs): The smallest option. Fits completely in the ear canal, making CICs practically invisible.
In-The-Canal (ITCs): Slightly larger than CICs, about the size of a dime, these hearing aids fit mostly in the ear canal so they are hardly noticeable.
In-The-Ear (ITEs): These hearing aids are about the size of a quarter and fit in the outer portion of the ear and the ear canal.
Behind-The-Ear (BTEs): A small, curved case fits around the back of the ear and is connected to the ear canal by an ear mold.
What about Batteries?
Zinc air is the most-used power system for hearing aid batteries. These batteries use the air outside the battery as a source of power. These batteries are much more efficient than mercury and silver systems of years past. Zinc air allows for fewer battery replacements, clearer tones, fewer volume adjustments and longer battery life. Todays technology allows for much more power in much less space.
Zinc air batteries are packaged with a "peel off" tab, which seals the air holes and ensures freshness until you are ready to use the battery. After removing the tab, you simply wait one minute to allow the air to enter the battery and activate the ingredients. At that time, the battery can be inserted into the hearing aid. Once the tab is removed, there is no advantage to replacing it when the battery is not in use. In other words, once the tab has been removed and the battery has been exposed to air, there is no point in replacing the tab on the battery.
Battery life is determined by several factors, such as the hours the hearing aid is worn and the circuit type and the power of the hearing aid. Your hearing healthcare professional can give you a better idea of the battery life you can expect once a specific hearing aid is chosen.
Hearing aid batteries should be stored at room temperature. Heat will shorten the life of the batteries and refrigeration is not recommended. Do not carry batteries in a purse or pocket where they may have contact with metal objects such as keys or coins, as that could "short" out the battery. Batteries should be kept out of the reach of infants and children. Their small size makes them dangerously easy to swallow. If a battery is swallowed, see a doctor immediately. Batteries are available in several standard sizes; your hearing healthcare professional can recommend the correct size for your needs.
Because of their small size, users sometimes find hearing aid batteries difficult to handle. There are batteries that have longer tabs that help alleviate this problem. Also, look for packaging that allows single battery dispersal for preventing accidental spilling of batteries.
How Can I Protect My Hearing?
No matter what your age, there are steps you can take to protect your precious sense of hearing.
Avoid excessive noise, when possible. When exposed to loud noise, when riding in noisy vehicles or using power tools, protect yourself by wearing earplugs. Keep radio and CD Player headset volumes at low, comfortable levels. If the sound from someones headphones can be heard in the room, the volume is unsafe (listen up teens and young adults!).
People who have jobs in noisy environments, such as airports or factories, should be screened by an audiologist at the start of the job and then every year thereafter. If you experience dizziness or tinnitus (ringing in the ears) see a hearing professional immediately. If you suspect hearing loss, dont hesitate to contact a hearing healthcare professional. In many cases, hearing loss can be managed and youll be enjoying all the glorious sounds of life once again!
Rayovac, the leader in hearing aid battery technology and maker of the worlds longest-lasting zinc air hearing aid battery, offers a booklet, "Arnold Palmers Tips for Better Hearing." For a free copy, e-mail Rayovac at firstname.lastname@example.org.