"What did you say?"
 
Don’t turn a deaf ear to hearing loss.
 
When was the last time you got your hearing tested? If you can’t remember, it’s probably time to visit an audiologist.
 
“Everyone over 50 should have at least a hearing screening. If you have a known hearing loss, then getting a complete hearing test every one to two years is generally recommended,” says Stephanie Lockhart, director of audiology for the University Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists.
 
Also, any married woman who suspects her husband is losing his hearing should get him tested and treated for hearing loss. After all, a better-hearing husband benefits both spouses: A recent University of California study shows that a husband’s hearing loss negatively affects his wife’s physical, psychological and social well-being (although a wife’s hearing loss has no effect on her husband’s well-being).
THE MEDICINE MAY BE THE PROBLEM
 
Is your medication sabotaging your hearing? Certain common medications can be ototoxic, that is, toxic to the hearing organs.
• Antibiotics: streptomycin, gentamicin and neomycin
• Chemotherapy drugs: cisplatin and carboplatin
• Diuretics: furosemide, bumetanide and ethacrynic acid
• Aspirin
• Ibuprofen
 
Not all antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs or diuretics are ototoxic, experts say. When taking over-the-counter aspirin and ibuprofen, do not exceed the daily recommended dose. And be sure to follow your doctor’s dosing instructions to the letter.
 
“To minimize the risk of hearing loss, you should have a baseline hearing test performed when you begin treatment and regular hearing testing as you go through treatment,” says Stephanie Lockhart, director of audiology for the University Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists. “You should discuss any changes in your hearing with your physician, in case there are other medications that you could take.”
 
There’s a good chance that you will — or do — need hearing aids. The Better Hearing Institute estimates that one out of 10 Americans have some loss of hearing. Nearly half of people with hearing loss are under age 55.
 
Yet hearing aids carry a stigma for most people: Lots of people with hearing loss are concerned that they will look old or handicapped to others, according to experts. But think for a moment how common it is today to see someone with earphones connected to a hands-free cell phone, music player or personal data device.
 
More importantly, hearing aids of ten make a big di f ference in a person’s quality of life. A study by the National Council on Aging indicates that untreated hearing loss can lead to decreased social activity and increased sadness, depression, worry, anxiety and insecurity. However, after receiving hearing aids, people reported better relationships with family and co-workers, increased self-esteem and confidence, a more active social life and an improved quality of life overall. Family members often saw a bigger improvement in that person’s life.
 
“Generally, all hearing aids work on this principle,” notes Dr. Laurie DeWine, an audiologist at The Place for Better Hearing. “A microphone collects sounds from the surrounding environment, an amplifier increases the sound volume and a speaker projects and directs the sound into the ear.”
 
“Most hearing aids are digital now,” observes Dr. DeWine. “Digital hearing aids provide clearer, more natural sound, can automatically adjust from one hearing environment to the next, and can be programmed to help you hear in the places where you spend the most time.”
 
Hearing aids come in a range of sizes and technologies, from completely in the canal (and invisible from most angles) to the largest behind the ear model.
 
The degree of your hearing loss may limit your choices in hearing aids. People with severe hearing loss may need the larger hearing aids.
 
What should you consider when getting hearing aids for the first time? Dr. DeWine says, “When considering a hearing aid for the first time, you should share what you like and don’t like with an audiologist, who will be able to program your hearing aids to your satisfaction.
 
“More than one follow-up visit may be required to adjust hearing aids,” adds Dr. DeWine.
 
First-time hearing aid users must plan for time to adjust to hearing aids and must be willing to practice and be patient. After all, hearing aids are not like glasses; they will not give you “crystal clear” hearing. Even after you get your hearing aids properly adjusted, you’ll still need to make a yearly trip to the audiologist, not only to get your hearing tested, but also to get your hearing aid cleaned, checked and, if necessary, adjusted.
 
Note what you like and don’t like about the hearing aids and share that information with your audiologist. He or she will then be able to reprogram your hearing aids to maximize their performance for your listening needs, says the experts.