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36 Million Americans Affected By Hearing Loss

Hearing loss currently affects more than 36 million Americans. Although hearing problems are commonly associated with the normal aging process, more than half of all hearing-impaired persons are younger than 65. With the increased use of personal music players (MP3 players) and earbuds, the number of Americans experiencing hearing loss at a younger age is growing.

In response to the growing number of Americans experiencing hearing loss, the American Academy of Audiology has launched the annual National Audiology Awareness Month and National Protect Your Hearing Month, starting October 2008.

"This initiative will expand the Academy's efforts to educate the public about audiology, hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss, and the importance of hearing screenings," explains M. Patrick Feeney, PhD, president, American Academy of Audiology, and associate professor and chief of audiology in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, at the University of Washington. "Most Americans consider hearing loss a condition that is associated with aging; they don't know how to recognize the condition; and they don't know who is qualified to diagnose and treat the condition."

An audiologist is a highly educated, clinically trained licensed health-care professional who specializes in evaluating, diagnosing, and treating people with hearing loss and balance disorders. Audiologists treat patients of all ages-newborns, infants, babies, toddlers, children, teens, adults, and the elderly. The first step in treatment of a hearing issue is a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.

"Hearing loss can be caused by a number of things such as noise exposure, ear infections, trauma, certain medications, as well as, hearing loss related to the aging process," explains Patricia Gaffney, AuD, assistant professor, Nova Southeastern University.

You may have a problem with your hearing and need to see an audiologist if you have trouble hearing conversation in a noisy environment such as a restaurant, are unable to understand people talking to you without looking at them, or have a constant ringing in your ears.

Audiologists have a variety of specialties that include, but are not limited to:

  • Prescribing and fitting hearing aids
  • Assisting with cochlear implant programs
  • Designing and implementing hearing conservation programs and newborn hearing screening programs
  • Providing hearing rehabilitation training such as
    • Auditory training
    • Speech reading
    • Listening skills improvement
  • Providing rehabilitation for tinnitus or ear noises and some positional dizziness problems

Although most hearing loss that is caused by nerve damage is permanent, an audiologist can determine the best treatment to improve and enhance communication, which may include hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and/or hearing rehabilitation.

For more information about hearing loss and to find an audiologist in your area, visit www.audiology.org and click on "Find an Audiologist."

For more information on noise-induced hearing loss, visit www.TurnIttotheLeft.com, the Academy's public awareness campaign about the dangers of exposure to high-level sound.

The American Academy of Audiology, representing over 10,000 audiologists, is dedicated to providing quality hearing care services through professional development, education, research, and increased public awareness of hearing and balance disorders. To learn more about the audiology profession and how audiologists are helping the 36 million Americans who experience hearing loss, visit the Academy's Web site at www.audiology.org.

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