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January 1, 2003

Do not overlook a possible hearing loss

From: Kingsport Times News, TN - 01 Jan 2003

By Danielle Tousinau

Today is the beginning of a new year. It is the day to start life with a fresh outlook. Most people spend time reflecting on the past year and considering changes they need to make in their life as they prepare for the New Year.

Yes, it's true. It's time to make your New Year's Resolutions. Popular resolutions include: exercising, cutting out "bad" foods, losing weight or quitting smoking. While all of these are great goals to help you lead a healthier lifestyle, there may be some health related issues that you are denying, ignoring or overlooking.

You may one of the 28 million Americans who has hearing loss, but you may be unaware of the problem.

Hearing loss is typically caused by the aging process and/or noise exposure. Hearing loss is usually painless with no physical warning signals. Most hearing loss develops during a period of 10 to 30 years. In the beginning hearing loss is subtle, gradual and barely noticeable. Thus, it is often termed "invisible."

Most individuals who have a mild to moderate hearing loss are unaware of their problem, even though their family members and friends may be quite aware of it. Given time, the hearing loss typically worsens and speech may seem to sound distorted or muffled. The noise of everyday life will gradually begin to seem to drown out the words of conversations.

"What did you say"; "I can't hear you" or "Can you repeat that" may become common phrases to you. As hearing loss progresses even more, it can affect your quality of life. It can restrict your ability to interact with others, prevent you from hearing important information, cause misunderstandings, increase stress and increase fatigue.

Hearing loss develops slowly and gradually worsens with age. There are many subtle and often overlooked indications that you could have hearing loss. Sit down with a family member and carefully examine the following list of statements:

• You "favor" one ear over the other.

• You have been told that the TV or radio is too loud.

• You have difficulty following conversations in groups and noisy places.

• You have more difficulty understanding women and children's voices than men's voices.

• You think people's voices sound mumbled, muffled, distorted or unclear.

• You often ask people to repeat what they have said.

• Your family members and friends have commented on your inability to hear.

If you agree with one or more of the above statements, it may indicate the need for a hearing evaluation. Start the New Year off right and schedule an appointment with a hearing health-care professional to determine what your hearing sensitivity is like.

If you are diagnosed with a hearing loss, you can find out what can be done to improve your communication abilities. If your hearing sensitivity is normal, you can find out not only when you should have your hearing checked again, but also how to prevent future hearing loss.

There are countless sound experiences that delight the senses and enrich the heart and soul. It can be difficult to appreciate these many wonderful experiences of life when you can't hear them and enjoy them to the fullest due to poor hearing sensitivity. Don't let hearing loss make you miss out on life.

Copyright 2002 Kingsport Times-News. All rights reserved.