Haims: Hearing aids offer those suffering from hearing loss greater quality of life, less isolation (column) | VailDaily.com

Haims: Hearing aids offer those suffering from hearing loss greater quality of life, less isolation (column)

Judson Haims
Special to the Daily

If you suffer from hearing loss, then you may be all too aware of the frustration caused to both yourself and those who are close to you.

Understanding hearing loss may be the first step in making a choice to do something about it. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, about 20 percent of adults in the United States, 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss. Following arthritis and heart disease, hearing loss ranks among the most common type of physical ailments among older adults.

There are four generally accepted levels of hearing loss:

• Mild hearing loss: Soft noises are not heard. Understanding speech is difficult in a loud environment.

• Moderate hearing loss: Soft and moderately loud noises are not heard. Understanding speech becomes very difficult if background noise is present

• Severe hearing loss: Conversations have to be conducted loudly. Group conversations are possible only with a lot of effort.

Recommended Stories For You

• Profound hearing loss: Some very loud noises are heard. Without a hearing aid, communication is no longer possible even with intense effort.

Common medical conditions such as infections, smoking and immunologic disorders are often contributing factors to hearing loss. Outside of such conditions, most often hearing loss is a gradual occurrence where people may have trouble distinguishing and understanding conversations in noisy settings.

As people age, it is not uncommon that age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, occurs. Presbycusis is more common in men than women, and it affects more than half of all adults by age 75. Because the loss of hearing is so gradual, people with presbycusis may not realize that their hearing is diminishing.

Some symptoms of presbycusis include:

• The speech of others seems mumbled or slurred.

• High-pitched sounds such as "s" and "th" are difficult to hear and tell apart.

• Conversations are difficult to understand, especially when there is background noise.

Hearing loss can lead to many unintended consequences. When a person experiencing hearing loss is frequently unable to understand what's going on or continually asks people to "speak up," they may find that they choose to remove themselves from conversations.

Fortunately, any social stigmas that once may have existed with wearing hearing aids have for the most part disappeared.

Over the past couple of decades, hearing aids have become incredibly small. Further, across all age spectrums, almost everyone is used to seeing people with some type of audio device in or on their ears, i.e. ear-buds or headphones.

If you are one of the thousands of people asking friends and family to speak up, or find that you are telling people they are mumbling, then perhaps you may want to consider that the issue is not theirs — it's yours.

The most important thing you can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to go see a hearing health care professional.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.