Do I have a hearing problem?
Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer
"yes" to three or more of these
questions, you could have a hearing problem and may
need to have your hearing checked
by a doctor.
Do I have a problem hearing on the telephone?
Do I have trouble hearing when there is noise in
Is it hard for me to follow a conversation when two or
more people talk at once?
Do I have to strain to understand a conversation?
Do many people I talk to seem to mumble (or not speak
Do I misunderstand what others are saying and respond
Do I often ask people to repeat themselves?
Do I have trouble understanding the speech of women and
Do people complain that I turn the TV volume up too
Do I hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot?
Do some sounds seem too loud?
What should I do?
Hearing problems are serious. The most important thing you
can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to go see a doctor. Your doctor may
refer you to an otolaryngologist (oh-toe- lair- in-GAH-luh-jist), a doctor who specializes
in the ear, nose, and throat.
An otolaryngologist will try to find out why you have a
hearing loss and offer treatment options. He or she may also refer you to another hearing
professional, an audiologist (awdee-AH-luh-jist). An audiologist can measure your
Sometimes otolaryngologists and audiologists work together to find the treatment that
is right for you. If you need a hearing aid, an audiologist can help you find the right
Although children must be
seen by a physician before they can be fitted for a
hearing aid, adults do not always see a physician. Adults who do not see a physician before
getting a hearing aid must sign a waiver.
Why am I losing my hearing?
Hearing loss happens for many reasons. Some people lose
their hearing slowly as they
age. This condition is known as presbycusis (prez-buh-KYOO-sis).
Doctors do not know why presbycusis happens, but it seems to run in families.
Another reason for hearing loss may be exposure to too much loud noise. This condition is
known as noise-induced hearing loss. Many construction workers, farmers,
musicians, airport workers, tree cutters, and people in the armed forces have hearing
problems because of too much exposure to loud noise.
Sometimes loud noise can cause a
ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears, called tinnitus (tin-NY-tus).
Hearing loss can also be caused by a virus or bacteria,
heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medicines.
What treatments and devices can help?
Your treatment will depend on your hearing problem, so
some treatments will work better for you than others. Here are the most common ones:
Hearing aids are tiny instruments you wear in or behind
your ear. They make sounds louder. Things sound different when you wear a
hearing aid, but an audiologist can help you get used to it.
To find the hearing aid that works best for you, you
may have to try more than one. Ask your audiologist whether you can have a trial
period with a few different hearing aids. You and your audiologist can work together
until you are comfortable.
Personal Listening Systems
Personal listening systems help you hear what you want
to hear while eliminating or lowering other noises around you. Some, called auditory
training systems and loop systems, make it easier for you to hear someone in a
crowded room or group setting. Others, such as FM systems and personal
amplifiers, are better for one on-one conversations.
TV Listening Systems
TV listening systems help you listen to the television
or the radio without being bothered by other noises around you. These systems can be
used with or without hearing aids and do not require you to use a very high
Direct audio input hearing aids are hearing aids that
can be plugged into TVs, stereos, microphones, auditory trainers, and personal FM
systems to help you hear better.
Telephone amplifying Devices
Telephone amplifying devices. Some telephones are made
to work with certain hearing aids. If your hearing aid has a "T"
switch, you can ask your telephone company about getting a phone with an amplifying coil
If your hearing aid is in the "T" position, this coil is
activated when you pick up the phone. It allows you to listen at a comfortable volume and helps
lessen background noise. You can also buy a special type of telephone receiver and
other devices to make sounds louder on the phone.
Mobile Phone Amplifiers
Mobile phone amplifying devices. To help people who use
a T-coil hear better on mobile phones, an amplifying device called a loopset is
available. The wire loop goes around your neck and connects to the mobile phone.
The loop transmits speech from the phone to the hearing aid in your ear.
also helps get rid of background noise to make it easier to talk in a noisy
environment. Auditorium-type assistive listening systems. Many
auditoriums, movie theaters, churches, synagogues, and other public places are equipped
with special sound systems for people with hearing loss.
These systems send
sounds directly to your ears to help you hear better. Some can be used with a
hearing aid and others without.
Cochlear (COKE-lee-ur) implants have three parts: a
headpiece, a speech processor, and a receiver. The headpiece includes a
microphone and a transmitter. It is worn just behind the ear where it picks up sound and
sends it to the speech processor, a beeper-sized device that can fit in your
pocket or on a belt.
The speech processor converts the sound into a special signal
that is sent to the receiver. The receiver, a small round disc about the size
of a quarter that a surgeon places under the skin behind one ear, sends a
sound signal to the brain. Cochlear implants are most often used with young children
born with hearing loss.
However, older adults with profound or severe
hearing loss are beginning to receive these implants more often.
Lip reading or speech reading is another option. People
who do this pay close attention to others when they talk. They watch how the
mouth and the body move when someone is talking. Special trainers can help you
learn how to lip read or speech read.
Can my friends and family help me?
Yes. You and your family can work together to make hearing
easier. Here are some things you can do:
Tell your friends and family about your hearing loss.
They need to know that hearing is hard for you.
The more you tell the people you
spend time with, the more they can help you. Ask your friends and family to face you when they
so that you can see their faces. If you watch their faces move and see their
expressions, it may help you to understand them better.
Ask them to speak up
Ask people to speak louder, but not shout. Tell them
they do not have to talk slowly, just more clearly. Turn off the TV or the radio if it does not have to be
on. Be aware of noise around you that can make hearing more
difficult. When you go to a restaurant, do not sit near the kitchen or near a
band playing music. Background noise makes it hard to hear people talk.
Working together to hear better may be tough on
everyone for a while. It will take time for you to get used to watching people as they talk
and for people to get used to speaking louder and more clearly. Be patient and
continue to work together. Hearing better is worth the effort.
For your convenience, we have prepared a list of
search terms used in order of popularity, to find more pages on this
Searches completed in January 2005
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