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May 19, 2004

Giving the gift of sound

From: St. George Daily Spectrum, UT - May 19, 2004

Cedar City doctor promotes better hearing


CEDAR CITY -- While officiating at a high school basketball game, Steve Lunt first became aware he had a hearing problem when both teams headed towards the benches suddenly.

"The court buzzer had gone off and I hadn't heard it," Lunt said. "I made the decision to get out of officiating then because I didn't want to be an embarrassment to the teams or to myself."

The former chairman of the physical education program at Southern Utah University has worn hearing instruments for 25 years. He received a programming frequency adjustment on his removable digital devices Tuesday from clinical audiologist Eric Maxwell of the Intermountain Hearing Clinic.

As part of national Better Hearing Month, Maxwell is offering comprehensive hearing evaluations in exchange for a can of food to raise awareness of the effects of hearing loss. All food collected will be donated to the Iron County Care and Share.

This community service will help diagnose hearing loss and help patients cope while also benefiting the needy in the area, Maxwell said.

Hearing evaluations normally cost $80. Lunt said people should take advantage of the free screening because of the potential for an improved quality of life.

"There are so many people that put it off because of denial or their own vanity," said Lunt. "But I know first hand how it improves your quality of life because it did mine, especially in the classroom when I was teaching."

Lunt taught collegiate physical education courses and said when he got his hearing aides he could hear the students in the back of the classroom who he couldn't hear before.

"You learn to read lips somewhat and read the eyes. But it never makes up for hearing people who are talking behind you or are not looking directly at you," Lunt said.

Maxwell said testing for hearing loss is important because if left untreated it can cause depression, anxiety, and social isolation -- particularly for senior citizens. Furthermore, a survey by the National Council on the Aging reveals that seniors who use hearing aids report better family relationships and improved mental health.

The survey of 2,300 hearing impaired adults age 50 and older found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report paranoia and anger, and were less likely to participate in organized social activities compared to those who wear hearing aids.

Though adults age 60 and older are encouraged to get their hearing tested as part of their annual check-up, children age five and older should also be assessed, Maxwell said.

"I'm seeing younger and younger patients nowadays so it's good for parents to look for signs of hearing loss -- if their child is not paying attention, not responding to questions and orders, or showing signs of speech delay," Maxwell said. "Also, children who have numerous ear infections would be good to have their hearing checked for fluid behind the eardrums or wax build-up because they tend to be more prone to hearing loss."

Others at risk for hearing problems are those in noisy work environments, Maxwell said. High frequency sounds are the typically the first to go, but there are all different types of configurations with hearing loss depending on genetics and environmental conditions, he added.

"Growing older is a factor of hearing loss but exposure to noisy environments are another," Mawell said. "People don't think to put in ear plugs when they're mowing the lawn, using a chain saw, or noisy equipment like that, yet I tell my wife to put in ear plugs when she blow dries her hair. Day after day having that noise close to your ears when drying your hair does, over time, affect your hearing as well."

Ninety percent of hearing loss cannot be medically treated with surgery or antibiotics, but can be helped with hearing instruments, Maxwell said. With advanced technology, most hearing devices are not even visually detectable.

Better Hearing

May is Better Hearing Month. Individuals age 5 and older wanting a free comprehensive hearing evaluation may call the Intermountain Hearing Clinic for an appointment. In exchange for the service, a donated can of food is required. For more information, visit 1870 N. Main, No. 202 (by Arctic Circle) or call 867-0714.

Facts About Hearing

Source: Intermountain Hearing Clinic

An estimated 28 million Americans have hearing loss. (10 percent of the population).

Hearing limitation is the single most common birth defect in America.

Approximately one-third of all seniors 75 and older have significant hearing loss. This number increases to 50 percent for people over the age of 85.

About 14 percent of all people 45 to 64 have significant hearing loss.

Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in the older population.

Hearing loss ranks with arthritis, high blood pressure, and heart disease as one of the most common physical conditions.

It is recommended that people older than 60 have their hearing tested annually.

Copyright ©2004 The Spectrum. All rights reserved.