Hearing loss is unique to each person. Your level of hearing loss, your reason for addressing it, and the outcomes you seek may be vastly different than the next person’s. For example, I took the very necessary step to address my hearing loss in advance of my college years when I knew the larger lecture halls could make it more difficult for me to hear and participate.
Recently, a colleague approached us with questions about hearing loss, specifically his own. Our colleague, Bob, has been involved in hearing health policy issues for over a year, but now it has become personal.
In talking with Bob, we found there are a few preliminary questions that could help others prepare for their first visit to a licensed hearing professional. These are by no means exhaustive but can help you find treatment that works best for you and your individual lifestyle. With that, let’s dive in to some of those questions using Bob’s experience to help illustrate the benefits of thinking ahead.
For our friend Bob, he was experiencing difficulty hearing particularly in noisy environments such as restaurants and group situations. He was also experiencing tinnitus, or ringing in his ears. These are not uncommon conditions, with over 38 million Americans with hearing loss and an estimated 10-25% of U.S. adults experiencing tinnitus. In our conversation, Bob said that tinnitus management was the most important issue to address as it was becoming disruptive to his lifestyle. That leads to the next question, the “why?”.
This question is incredibly important as understanding your lifestyle and activity can help your hearing professional determine what type of treatment or hearing device would provide the best benefit for you. For example, Bob is passionate about music, both playing and listening to music. Additionally, Bob’s personal and professional life frequently puts him in social situations and noisy restaurants.
Now that you know what your priorities are, it’s time to talk to your hearing professional. Nobody knows you better than you, and it’s time to take the results of those questions you asked yourself and translate that into action with your hearing professional. For example, as we noted above, Bob determined his priorities are enjoying music and reducing tinnitus.
In discussing what was most important to him with his audiologist, Bob discovered a couple of things. The first is that there are hearing protection devices (musician’s earplugs) that would provide a benefit to him by protecting his hearing from further damage while also allowing him to enjoy the music. The second was that while he received a complete examination and explanation of his hearing loss from the audiologist, she was open that she is not an expert in tinnitus management. Because that’s so important to him, Bob made the decision to see another professional who has the expertise most relevant to him.
This is just the beginning for Bob. He’s moving forward on the musician’s earplugs path and eagerly seeking another hearing professional who is more aligned with his hearing health priorities.
If you’re ready to take the step toward better hearing health, you can visit hearing.org and try the “Take 3 For Me” challenge. This is a screening tool that can help you determine if you may have hearing loss and help you find a hearing professional in your area. Hearing.org also provides a wealth of resources to help you understand hearing loss, the hearing aid options that are available, and the different types of hearing professionals that are there to help.