Say What? Excuse Me? Come Again?
If you think now that you’re over 50, you have a harder time hearing people or the TV, it’s not your imagination. You might think others are mumbling, or you have to ask people to repeat what they said, or here’s the real kicker, people think you have the TV or radio turned up too loud. More than half the people over age 60 have some degree of hearing loss, but only one in three has any type of hearing aid. That adds up to a lot of “Come agains?”
One startling statistic is that every 63 seconds another baby boomer over 50 will have difficulty hearing this sentece read aloud. The chronically high noise around us, from earphones, loud radios in the car, construction noises, and so on, it’s difficult to protect your ears from harmful decibel levels. If you think we’ve got it bad, the loud music and ear buds generation behind you is even worse off. Hearing problems have increased 26% in the 46 to 64 bracket.
Unlike vision problems where you immediately consult your eye doctor or change your prescription, hearing problems tend to be ignored due to the embarassment over having to wear a hearing aid. But things are changing: there are antioxidant vitaming treatments, cochlear implants and new digital hearing aids. Phonak even has a new hearing aid called the Audeo that comes in fashion colors so that it’s so hip looking, you’ll want to wear it in public.
The inner ear, or cochlea, has some powerful little hairs inside that capture the vibrations of sound and trigger the auditory cortex of the brain. There might be 30,000 hairs cells in your ear and there are a lot of ways they can be damaged over 50 or more years. Very intense sounds can literally tear apart these hair cells, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. As life around us has gotten harder, the difficulty in protecting your ears has increased.
So what should you do about it? It’s not too late to decrease your risk of loss --- so check out the Wise Ears program sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Learn more about a hearing test -- it’s not the end of the world. Hearing Center Online has an easy to understand summary of what to expect. You don’t want to go around the rest of your life with that annoying guy who says, “Can you hear me now?” So shelve the vanity and get the test.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.