by Ellen Blake
My hearing loss gradually snuck up on me over the last few years. I actually didn’t even realize I now hear fewer sounds until my husband forced me to have a conversation about it. I do know I often ask that comments or questions be repeated these days, and I know that can be irritating to others. I used to get annoyed with others who asked me to repeat myself, which I feel badly about now. I hope people have more patience with me than I had for others as I continue to age.
According to the nationalhearingtest.org website, approximately 36 million Americans have significant hearing loss, but have never had their hearing tested. Could one of them be you?
Many people put off seeking help for their hearing loss. Some are in denial like me, others worry about needing hearing aids and how they will look. I’ve noticed lately that the technology seems to have greatly improved and some hearing aids are so small they are barely noticeable.
How do you know when it’s time to seek a hearing evaluation? For me, the first step was to acknowledge I might have a problem and be willing to explore the issue further. I am aware from watching my parents age that untreated hearing loss can lead to a decline in quality of life, social isolation, problems on the job, and frequent embarrassment.
I was told to start with a basic hearing screening, rather than to go first to an audiologist. AARP recommends taking a scientifically validated hearing screen test called the National Hearing Test (NHT) as a more convenient way to proceed initially. This telephone-administered screening is an independent test developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). AARP offers their members the opportunity to be screened with this test once/year for free. The test, which takes about 4 minutes per ear, costs only $8.00 for those who are not AARP members. The NHT is meant to be used as a screening to help decide whether to seek a full hearing evaluation. However, even those who pass the test are encouraged to have their hearing checked by an audiologist if they have concerns about their hearing.
This NHT very effectively detects the most common forms of hearing loss, those that are age-related and those that result from exposure to loud noises. Other less common types of hearing problems require a different approach.
I am ready to accept that I have age-related hearing loss., for which I learned recently the technical term is presbycusis. I ignored the signs for years because I don’t want to have a hearing problem; it makes me feel old. I am finally in a place though where I have to admit my hearing is less sensitive now than when I was younger, and acknowledge it is a normal part of growing older. I plan to schedule the National Hearing Test this week; seems like a good place to start. I’ll keep you posted.