Arizona Hearing Center July 2019

2627 N. Third Street, Ste. 100, Phoenix, AZ 85004 | 14418 W. Meeker Blvd., Bldg B, Ste. 102, Sun City West, AZ 85375

JULY 2019

602-277-4327 |

The Ways We Compensate for Hearing Loss

Why an Audiological Evaluation Is Essential for Early Detection

Did you know 30–35% of adults ages 65 and older suffer from hearing loss? For folks 75 and older, that number jumps to over 50%. That’s because age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, is the most common cause of hearing loss. Though hearing loss is something so many people experience, we don’t do a good enough job of detecting it before it starts to affect a patient’s life. Early detection is a challenge because too many people assume hearing loss is only worth addressing once it affects your ability to communicate. However, and I can’t state this clearly enough, hearing loss and the inability to communicate are two very different issues. Eventually, the former will lead to the latter, but it shouldn’t come to that dire result. Catching hearing loss early requires testing. Everyone above the age of 60 should receive a comprehensive audiological exam to determine whether or not hearing loss is present. You can’t assume that someone doesn't have hearing loss just because they can carry on a conversation. Even during the early stages of hearing loss, your brain has built-in mechanisms to compensate. Higher frequencies go unheard earlier than lower ones, which means people lose the ability to hear consonants before vowels. If you’ve ever watched “Wheel of Fortune,” you know what a

big deal that is. On the game show, you can buy all the vowels in the world, but it rarely gets you closer to solving the puzzle. Consonants give words meaning, so losing the auditory range to decipher them forces you to compensate. This is why you will think, “I know people are talking to me, but I can’t understand what they are saying.” We perform this compensation in two major ways. The first is speech reading. Even if you’ve never been trained to read lips, it’s a natural reaction to associate mouth movements with sounds. Second, we use context to help us understand what’s being said. These tendencies allow us to infer words even if we cannot hear them perfectly. It’s not foolproof, but it can allow you to hold a conversation pretty effectively with increasingly poor hearing. Many people with hearing loss are not aware of their own problem. Since you can communicate effectively using the these compensatory strategies, you are not aware of what you are not hearing. It shouldn’t take a patient-directed complaint to initiate an audiological exam. The patient is often the last to recognize what’s happening to their hearing. Friends aren’t going to tell somebody they should get their ears checked. It comes down to family members and the medical community

to make sure everyone who has a significant risk for hearing loss, including older folks, gets tested. At Arizona Hearing Center, we believe everyone deserves to know for certain whether or not they suffer from hearing loss. In fact, you probably know someone who could benefit from a test right now. You don’t need to wait until your loved one begins regularly asking, “What?” before bringing them in for an evaluation. Directing patients to Arizona Hearing Center will ensure their quality of life doesn’t suffer due to presbycusis. We have the tools to evaluate and the advanced technology to treat hearing loss. We know millions of Americans suffer from the condition. What we need to get better at is connecting those two dots, and that starts by making comprehensive hearing evaluations a staple of American medicine.

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