Wednesday, February 21, 2024

World Hearing Day seeks to raise awareness about hearing loss at all ages

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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – It’s an unfortunate fact of life for many that as you get older, your hearing ability typically declines.

However, the World Health Organization reports that over 1 billion young adults are also at risk of avoidable hearing loss due to unsafe practices.

More than 1.5 billion people around the world have some degree of hearing loss, and that number could nearly double by 2050.

One of the main contributing factors is the amount of people watching television, or using high powered stereos and headphones to listen to music. In fact, 1.1 billion young people are at risk of having permanent hearing loss from listening to music that is too loud. It’s not much of an issue here or there, but repeated periods could become a problem.

In today’s world, technology is a huge help in detecting overly-loud noises and notifying people. If you own an Apple phone or Apple watch, there’s a noise notification feature that can be turned on and it’ll alert you when noise levels are becoming dangerous for your ear.

Recognizing issues in hearing is key to preventing further damage. According to the WHO, 60% of these cases can be identified and treated early on, but the issue is that people don’t seek help fast enough.

“It takes on average seven years for somebody who notices a problem to get it tested. So, it’s something people tend to put on the backburner. But there’s a lot of medical conditions associated with hearing loss that, you know, it’s important to treat and stay on top of,” said Dr. Jason Rickman, audiologist at Excel Audiology.

Dr. Rickman says that there’s a strong connection between hearing loss and dementia or other cognitive decline as we get older, another reason to stay on top of check-ins and screenings. The longer you wait, the less treatable the condition may be.

Hearing aids recently became much easier to get ahold of. These devices used to be available exclusively through a prescription and if not covered by insurance, could cost you $3,000 to $6,000.

Now, hearing aids are available over the counter without a prescription and can cost as low as $199 per pair.

However, before you get to that point, you need to get screened, a process that can be scary for some people. Dr. Rickman brought me into the soundproof booth where the screenings happen to show me what the process is like.

“We’ll put some headphones on their ears, they’ll listen for some beeping sounds and we’ll see how soft they can hear sound. We’ll also check for obstructions in the ear such as earwax. We do other testing also, such as speech and noise testing to see how well people do in a noisy environment versus a quiet room. This is to really try to figure out where the hearing difficulty is,” said Dr. Rickman.

It’s a problem that will impact just about everyone and treating it is simple, and at some places free. For those who might not have time to get a screening in person, alternatives exist for people to check their hearing online. Many companies offer free online tests that take less than five minutes, many of which can even be completed on your phone.

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