It's Time to Face the Music About Hearing

Though parents in the Sixties were fond of predicting their children – today’s Boomers – would go deaf prematurely from high-decibel rock ’n’ roll, that’s hasn’t been the case.

A recently-published study in the Journal of Epidemiology suggested that the rate of hearing problems in the 45-to-75 age set has been dropping for years, at least among white Americans.

But that doesn’t mean your parents were wrong. It may only mean Boomers may have spent less time at noisy jobs, have had better ear protection at work, and better immunizations and antibiotics than the previous generation.

And it doesn’t mean Boomers are off the hook. “It’s estimated that 50-60 million will be hearing-impaired by 2030,” says Stephanie Lockhart, director of audiology for University ENT.

“And though this generation is more pro-active about health care in general, this segment is least likely to get their hearing checked or to get hearing aids,” despite the sophistication and almost-invisibility of new hearing aid designs.

“There’s even a hearing aid that connects to your Blue Tooth phone,” says Lockhart. So there’s no excuse. We’re not dealing with the Silly Putty-like devices of our grandparents.

Age 40-50 is the magic number for Boomer ear care, says Dr. Angela Byrd of Montgomery ENT Center. A baseline test, with an audiometer, is done with the patient in a soundproof booth with headphones or ear phones. The audiometer emits pure tones at specific frequencies to each ear and the patient signals when they hear the tone. Responses to various tone frequencies let the
audiologist determine at which frequency levels the hearing in each ear is good and not so good.

High frequency hearing loss is the most common noise-related or age-related problem. “And it’s very subtle,” says Byrd. Most people are unaware of their hearing loss and blame others, saying, “You are mumbling.” “It’s stereotypical, but true,” says Byrd.

“It’s not something you can see,” she says, because it’s in the hair cells in the inner ear that interpret sound vibrations as words, music and other sounds.

Statistically, men have more hearing loss than women, and it usually shows up about a decade before women, because they are more likely to have worked in noisier environments. But heredity and medicine can play a roll, too

“People with hearing loss will often remember a parent or grandparent wearing hearing aids,” says Byrd. And some medicines, including those used in cancer treatments, can affect hearing. Water pills or diuretics used for heart problems can be harmful if administered in large doses, and aspirin, salicylates and anti-inflammatories can cause temporary hearing loss.

The first sounds to be affected are usually high tones produced by the lips and teeth – p, s, f, t and d, sh, ch, h and soft c – so the person is only hearing parts of words. The sentence “can you understand this sentence without the high tones?” may sound like “can you un er an i e e e wi ou e igh one?” Mid tones produced with the tongue and base of the throat – ka, la, rr – may go next.

This gradual loss of hearing, called presbycusis, occurs in about 35 percent of people 65-to-75 and 50 percent of people 75 and older.

The downside is that it can affect relationships, social activities and lead to depression, anxiety, irritability and insecurity.

The upside is that it can be helped. But not unless folks are screened.

After the initial testing, experts recommend screenings every couple of years.

More information at www.nowihear.com, www.montgomeryent.com.



65
the age when one out of three people will have hearing loss

10 million
baby boomers, ages 45-to-65, have hearing loss

90%
of hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids

30%
of the millions of Americans with diagnosed hearing loss actually get fit with hearing aids

7 years
the average people wait before they actually seek treatment after being diagnosed with hearing loss




Montgomery ENT Profile: Hearing & Happiness


   
Dr. Mark Grosinger
 Dr. Amy Holland
 Dr. Angela Byrd

Talk to people who have experienced even mild hearing loss and you will quickly discover what hearing does for you on a daily basis.

A study released by the National Council on Aging found that untreated hearing loss was associated with quality of life issues such as sadness, depression, anxiety, insecurity and irritability.

The link between hearing and happiness is sometimes overlooked, even by family members and health care providers. Not surprisingly, the study also indicated that hearing loss affects both the individuals with the loss, as well as their families.

“Our ability to hear is such an ingrained part of life, we often take it for granted,” says Dr. Amy Holland, audiologist at Montgomery ENT Center. “It’s easy to take your hearing for granted if you’ve never experienced life without it. You don’t miss it until it’s gone.”

By taking a closer look at hearing and its importance in life’s quality, you can understand how important it is to treat hearing loss quickly and effectively.

The audiology team at Montgomery ENT Center is set up so patients can receive all of their hearing healthcare services with just one visit to the practice. Patients see Dr. Amy Holland or Dr. Angela Byrd for a hearing evaluation, explanation of test results and discussion of treatment options. If there are any indications that require medical treatment, patients see otolaryngologist Dr. Mark Grosinger for further evaluation and treatment which may involve medicine and/or surgical procedures.

The more you research and educate yourself about hearing loss and treatment options, the better equipped you will be to make sound decisions. But “be careful where you do your research,” says Byrd. Boomers, especially, are flooded with offers, e-mails and so-called bargains, and it doesn’t require a doctoral degree to sell hearing aids.

But seeing a doctor of audiology ensures that any treatment found necessary is based on science . . . and not the latest sale.

Montgomery ENT Center in Cincinnati
Wilmington, Hillsboro and Middletown
513-891-8700 or 937-382-2000
www.montgomeryent.com