While approximately 28 million Americans today suffer from some degree of hearing impairment, the number is expected to nearly triple to 78 million by 2030, a staggering increase due in large part to the generally louder lives that we lead.
Deafening music concerts, surround-sound stereo systems, car alarms, motorcycles, portable music players … continued exposure to these and other excessive environmental noise is a major contributor to hearing loss. Fortunately, unlike other contributors such as age and heredity, it is also one over which people have some control.
Some of the common questions to consider that may reveal a potential hearing problem:
- Do you frequently misunderstand conversations?
- Do you constantly think others are mumbling?
- Do you often ask people to repeat themselves?
- Do you avoid loud social situations for fear you will not be able to follow conversations?
- Do you turn up the TV or radio so loud it annoys others?
- Do you hear ringing, roaring or buzzing in your ears?
- Do you hear better in one ear?
- Do you find the voices of women and children harder to hear?
Ear health affects more than one’s sense of hearing; it also governs one’s balance. As such, disorders that interfere with balance and cause dizziness can have a great impact on one’s normal daily function. Individuals experiencing any degree of hearing impairment should seek medical assistance.
In some cases, hearing loss is a temporary and reversible condition; in others, it is a permanent and irreversible one. The most common cause of hearing loss in children is otitis media, more commonly known as a middle ear infection. Early identification affords the best chance for improvement and minimizes the effect that hearing loss can have on a child’s language development. For the elderly, one of the largest groups affected by hearing loss, the most common contributors are excessive noise, drugs, toxins, and heredity. Age itself is a factor; just as our sense of sight tends to weaken as we grow older, so, too will our sense of hearing.
There are numerous treatment approaches available to individuals with hearing impairment. Surgical intervention is an option for some patients, while the use of medical devices and rehabilitation are more appropriate for others. The proper course of treatment is, of course, dependent on an accurate diagnosis of the cause for the loss.
The Hearing and Balance Center at NYOG offers patients a comprehensive array of services specific to the evaluation, rehabilitation, and prevention of hearing impairment and balance disorders. Led by Dr. Neil Sperling, M.D., FACS, the Center’s team of ear specialists, and audiologists (hearing specialists) work together to evaluate each patient’s individual case and devise the appropriate treatment plan for the best possible outcome.