Monday, March 3, 2008

What’s That You Say? Hearing Loss and You

Is there someone in your life who is hard of hearing? Most likely you do, since an estimated one-quarter of Americans between the ages of 65 and 75 have hearing loss. The number jumps to three-quarters of those over 75. Nothing seems to highlight the aging process more quickly than hearing loss left unattended. And yet, you probably know someone who won’t acknowledge his or her hearing loss, or who adamantly denies it, or has simply withdrawn from social situations so as not to be faced with the reality of the loss.

While the natural wear and tear of the aging process is one of the more predictable causes of hearing loss, it can occur at any age, however. Build up of ear wax is often one of the causes of diminished hearing levels. For some, the situation is chronic. Heredity can also play a role in whether suffers hearing loss. The preponderance of loud noises in our culture is a big contributor to early hearing loss more and more prevalent among people of all ages. Listening to loud music for long periods of time or participating in certain activities that produce high decibel levels (i.e., snowmobiling, shooting firearms, motorcycling) adversely affect hearing levels, leading often to hearing loss. Taking high doses of aspirin or other non-steroid anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs can cause temporary hearing problems such as tinnitus, ringing in the ears, or more permanent hearing loss.

Sometimes we aggravate hearing loss by developing bad habits. Think about being in a crowded, noisy room. Having a meaningful conversation is often difficult under these circumstances. Therefore, many folks at a party, for example, float around, chit chatting, tuning in and out of conversations. When hearing loss develops, the reaction is similar. Dealing with muffled or missed sound can cause some to stop listening altogether. Not paying attention further exacerbates the situation and eventually the individual has created a worse situation.

Brain research calls this “negative brain plasticity.” In other words, we unwittingly shape the brain in negative ways, becoming less attentive, and therefore, worsen our ability to listen and hear with speed, accuracy and memory. Be sure to read more about the brain’s plasticity in our earlier blogs on brain fitness.

To learn more about hearing loss, plan on attending our upcoming seminar on the topic, “Broken Sound Connections & Advanced Hearing Technologies: The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss and New Solutions.” Dr. Christopher Schweitzer, Chairman of the Family Hearing Centers, will speak on hearing loss and some state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. Staff from the Family Hearing Centers will provide free hearing screenings after the workshop. See details and RSVP in our Events section.

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