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Why Wait?: 5 Great Reasons to See Your Audiologist

May 04, 2016 12:33PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Pattie Giordani

Hearing loss isn’t something that only happens to older people. “Hearing loss is not an age-related condition,” says Dr. Amanda Connelly, an audiologist at Hearing Solutions Audiology Center in Odenton. “A person’s lifestyle can play a large part in hearing levels.” These days, people of all ages have conversations on cell phones or listen to MP3 players or other personal audio devices. Here’s why you should have your hearing checked out sooner rather than later.

1. Your hearing is just fine.

“The best time to have a baseline hearing exam is before you notice there’s a problem with your hearing,” Connelly advises. A hearing test is non-invasive and takes less than 30 minutes. And there’s a bonus, she adds: “Unlike other routine screenings, such as mammograms or colonoscopies, you’ll receive the results of your hearing test and any treatment recommendations the same day.”

2. You use a cell phone and/or a personal audio device.

“The biggest risk of overuse of ear buds, headphones, cell phones, and personal audio devices is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL),” Connelly explains. NIHL is caused by damage to the inner ear or the nerve from the ear to the brain.

But you can minimize the risks of using this technology. Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable, Connelly says. “We recommend that everyone—children, teens and adults—follow the ‘60/60’ rule: Listen to your device at no more than 60 percent of the maximum volume of the device for no more than 60 minutes a day.”

In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) said more than 1.1 billion young people age 12-35 are at risk for “recreational hearing loss.” Which brings us to another danger to your hearing.

3. You like to frequent noisy spaces, such as concert venues, nightclubs and sporting events.

If you need to shout so your friends can hear you—or vice versa—in a concert hall or the club, the noise level is loud enough to damage your hearing.

The National Institutes of Health says that 15 to 16 percent of all Americans—adults and children—report hearing loss that has been caused by noise. “Noise does not always mean a bothersome sound,” explains Connelly. “Excessive exposure to loud music can cause changes in hearing just as easily as factory noise or power tools.”

Next time rock out a little further from the speakers—or better yet, wear foam earplugs, which protect your hearing from high noise levels.

4. You have changed certain behaviors related to your hearing.

For example, you turn the volume up higher on TV and radio than previously. Maybe you think that people are mumbling when they talk to you. Or maybe you have more trouble hearing in restaurants or at noisy parties. “Another sign is more difficulty hearing women’s or children’s voices,” Connelly says, because they are usually softer than men’s voices.

5. You have some other health issues or a family history of hearing loss.

Obviously those with a family history of hearing loss should be screened regularly as genetics can be a factor. Other health issues that can affect hearing include a history of smoking, diabetes, kidney problems, high blood pressure, and/or heart conditions. Some of these issues can have an adverse impact on hearing by interrupting blood flow to the inner ear or the brain.

Certain drugs can damage hearing, including some types of antibiotics and diuretics. Also, large doses of pain-relieving medications—aspirin, acetaminophen, and NSAIDs—can affect hearing. A number of drugs used in chemotherapy have been shown to cause hearing loss.

Some autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can be linked to hearing loss. Frequent ear infections can cause fluid to remain behind the eardrum after the infection has been cleared that can affect hearing levels.

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