walk on beachHearing impairment affects approximately 500 million people. Although people of all ages can develop a hearing loss, those over 50 years of age are particularly affected. In fact, hearing loss is the most common chronic disorder, affecting nearly a third of fifty-year- olds. Hearing loss is invisible, and usually gradual, but it has a profound influence on the people around us.

Research shows that a person with hearing loss waits, on average, 7-9 years before consulting an Audiologist. Hearing loss typically progresses gradually and the sooner hearing help is sought, the sooner improved quality of life and communication is possible.

The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural. Senorineural hearing loss is in the inner ear, and initially affects high frequency sounds. These high-pitched sounds such as "s", "f", "sh" and "t" play a key role in our ability to understand speech clearly. This is why a person with this type of hearing loss will often say, "I can hear but I don’t understand what’s being said."

Such was the case with Bob Pikul, a recent patient of mine. Background noise was making it difficult for him to hear his wife of 18 years, Mary. "I could hear, but I couldn’t understand. It sounded as though others were mumbling; I knew I had to do something. The Audiologist tested my hearing and explained that a hearing aid would help me to hear the high-frequency sounds that I had been missing. After considering several options, I chose to try a hearing aid that would help me hear better both in noisy situations and at home watching the television."

Bob chose to try hearing aids with noise reduction and directional microphones, two features that would help him to better understand speech in noise without making everything around him louder. As part of his 30 day trial period, Bob was tasked with wearing the hearing aid in a variety of listening situations and reporting back me. Details accounts of his new hearing experience made it easy for me to adjust the hearing aid settings for Bob’s specific needs.

"I’ve given the hearing aids a real test – tried them everywhere from a noisy restaurant to a quiet room where my wife is reading a book. There is fine-tuning involved – I’ve been back several times work with April on increasing a frequency here or there. In the end, I know I’m hearing the people I love better, and that has made the biggest difference of all."

Much to the delight of his wife, Bob is also hearing the television much better now than he was before. "Now I either use my hearing aids to watch TV or I take them out and use a headphone device that I received from April. Such a simple adjustment has made such a big difference in our lives."

No matter what type of hearing loss you have or what brand of hearing aids you choose, the following steps will help you to make the most of your listening situation:

Step 1: Give yourself time to discover new sounds

Understand that the world is a noisy place. Your hearing instruments will reintroduce you to many sounds you may have forgotten, such as the ticking of a clock, paper being crumpled, the clicking of heels on the floor, birdsongs and grandchildren laughing.

Step 2: Visiting public places

• Public places present a challenge for the hearing instrument user. Sit where acoustic conditions are best – look closely at your environment to choose wisely and be sure you can see the speaker.

• Even people with good hearing have challenges in understanding speech if several people speak at once. Move closer to the person you want to hear and concentrate on him/her.

Step 3: Listening to television

• A hearing instrument is an excellent solution to hearing the television better, but it is not your only option. Inexpensive home listening systems may also be right for you and can help save your hearing aid battery power for communication situations.

Step 4: Using the telephone

There are a number of ways to improve understanding while using a telephone. Your Audiologist can help you find the solution best suited to your needs.

Step 5: Two ears are better than one

The use of two hearing instruments for people with hearing loss in both ears has many advantages.

• Improved ability to hear and understand in noisy environments.

• Richer, smoother sound quality and easier, more relaxed listening.

• Improved ability to determine the direction of sound. 

Decibels Audiology is located at 3000 Immokalee Road, Suite 8, Naples, FL 34110 and can be reached at 239-593-5327.