Can You Hear Me Now?

Imagine my surprise when I had to answer NO to that question during a recent visit to a local hearing specialist.  Since the lives of many of the residents at the Farrar Home have been negatively impacted by hearing loss, I thought it would be a great topic to learn more about and possibly get information that may be of help to anyone with hearing loss.

I did realize that my hearing was not as good as it used to be.  I was occasionally having trouble hearing on the phone (especially cell phones) and would often have to have people repeat what they had said to me.  My father became profoundly deaf in his 50’s and hearing loss can run in families.  I thought it would be a good time to do some research on the subject, along with getting my hearing tested.

We are very fortunate to have reputable hearing specialists in the Malone area.  My exam took about an hour and was easy and painless.  I was told that I had approximately a 25% hearing loss in both ears.  I certainly did not feel that I was in need of hearing aids at this time.  I have a little trouble hearing at times, but nothing that would indicate the need to wear hearing aids now.

  I was wrong.  What I learned is that if you let your hearing go until it is so bad you are really struggling to hear, you will never regain your full hearing ability.   This is because signals are sent to the brain, where hearing actually takes place.  If the brain cells weaken from lack of stimulation, they lose their ability to process sounds and recognize speech. This is the reason why people who wait until their hearing is so bad it is difficult for them to function, then get hearing aids, often do not get the results they are looking for.  They will see improvement with hearing aids, but will never regain their full hearing ability. 

With this information, I was happy to be fitted for hearing aids, and was allowed to use them for three months on a trial basis, before purchasing them.  I have had them for over a month.  Although my loss is not considered extreme at this time, they do help in certain situations.  The main reason I will purchase them, and use them, is to ensure the best results for the correction of the progression of my hearing loss in the future.

Hearing loss (presbycusis) is a common problem, especially in the elderly. Men are more likely to experience hearing problems than women.  This problem generally affects people over the age of 50 and is usually progressive. Almost 50% of people over the age of 75 have a hearing impairment.   It is not only caused by age, but noise, smoking, heart disease, high blood pressure and heredity are also contributors.  Hearing is a complex sense that involves not only the ear’s ability to detect the sounds, but the brain’s ability to interpret those sounds.

It is important to realize that failure to properly communicate with others can have a negative impact on a person’s life.  Difficulties with socialization, may lead to isolation.  Trouble with learning and the overall inability to fully enjoy life are problems often seen with untreated hearing loss.  People may not want to acknowledge their hearing loss and withdraw from others to avoid feeling frustrated or embarrassed.  This may lead to depression and in some cases can contribute to the progression of dementia. A person’s safety may also be at risk when they have trouble understanding a doctor’s advice, responding to warnings, and hearing doorbells and alarms.

Untreated hearing loss can get worse.  Hearing loss that is identified early can be helped through treatment such as hearing aids, certain medicines and surgery.

If you have problems with three or more of the questions below, you could have a hearing problem that should be reviewed by your doctor and/or hearing specialist.

-Do you have a problem hearing on the telephone?

-Do you have trouble hearing when there is noise in the background?

-Is it hard to follow a conversation when two or more people talk at once?

-Do you have to strain to understand a conversation?

-Do many people you talk to seem to mumble or not speak clearly?

-Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?

-Do you often ask people to repeat themselves?

-Do you have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?

-Do people complain that you turn the volume of the TV up too high?

-Do you hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot?

-Do some sounds seem too loud?

The good news is that there is help out there for hearing loss.  The sooner you get help, the better.  Hearing aids have improved considerably in recent years.  Taking care of yourself as you age helps to make your life happy, healthy and the best it can be.

Aging Gracefully articles can be seen at

Submitted by Carol McKee, RN, Administrator of the Farrar Home