Did you know that age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults aged 20-69, with the greatest amount of hearing loss in the 60 to 69 age group? (Hoffman HJ, Dobie RA, Losonczy KG, Themann CL, Flamme GA. Declining Prevalence of Hearing Loss in US Adults Aged 20 to 69 Years. JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. December 2016 online).
As a Speech and Language Pathologist in graduate school almost one quarter century ago, I was taught plenty about hearing impairment and its prevalence, impact on aging adults, and aural rehabilitation. At the time, I didn’t stop to think that I would experience a mild to moderate hearing loss twenty years later. Imagine working with a group of school age and preschool students during speech language therapy sessions, when you start to question your ability to judge their speech sounds? Or what words were said? This was me. My SLP coworker noticed this over time while we spent working hours together. She screened my hearing with the audiometer. (Err, you really can NOT screen yourself!) We found that I likely had a high frequency hearing loss. Was I surprised? NO. But I had put off the reality of my hearing loss for too long. The “wake up call” I needed was one where my livelihood and passion for helping people was jeopardized daily. I wasn’t going to let that continue because of a common health issue that had a fairly easy fix.
Flash forward to a few weeks later, after my hearing aid pickup from an audiologist in North Carolina. I wore my brand-new digital aids outdoors from their office. I could hear birds quietly chirping; the swoosh of the summer wind rustling the leaves; the sound of voices from ACROSS the street?! I had been missing so much!
My takeaway from this experience is to spread the knowledge that denying a possible hearing loss is going to be a loss in so many other ways. Do something about it if you notice your hearing has declined. Your future self will be grateful. Oh yeah, and one more takeaway. Don’t attend numerous small-venue loud rock concerts right by the speakers.
Deb Sherwin, M.A.; CCC-SLP