During May — Better Hearing Month — audiologists across the country seek to bring attention to the importance of good hearing health. Hearing loss can have a very serious effect on one’s quality of life.

Untreated hearing loss causes withdrawal from social situations and resultant depression. In the elderly, hearing loss can be incorrectly interpreted as dementia. 

In children, hearing problems can lead to an incorrect diagnosis of learning difficulties or attention deficit disorders.

Among persons of working age, hearing difficulties have been documented to result in a significant reduction of earning capacity.

While hearing loss does occur due to genetic history and disease processes over which individuals have little control, most hearing losses are preventable. Exposure to excessively loud sounds, either in the workplace or recreationally, is a major cause of hearing loss.

Research also shows that hearing loss is not “a part of the aging process.”  Lifestyle plays an important role in good hearing health. Cigarette smokers have a greater incidence of hearing loss than non-smokers. Being diabetic or having cardiovascular disease doubles the chances of developing hearing loss. Studies show regular exercise and eating foods rich in antioxidants will decrease the likelihood of adult onset hearing loss.

It is also important that individuals have their hearing tested should they suspect any hearing problems. The American Academy of Audiology recommends that individuals have a hearing test performed by a state licensed, academically-trained audiologist by age 50 so that a baseline exists for comparison purposes in the future.

Deborah S. Pitcher, Bloomington

The writer is practice manager of Bloomington-Normal Audiology and president of the Illinois Academy of Audiology

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