Northwest Herald

Options available for hearing loss, and how to know if you have it

Do you find yourself turning up the volume on your television? You could be one of 37.5 million American adults who experience some trouble hearing. Levels of hearing loss vary, but for most people there are treatments available.

Increasing the volume on devices is just one sign that someone could be experiencing hearing loss. Other symptoms include:

  • Having trouble hearing normal conversations
  • Continually asking family members and friends to repeat themselves
  • Avoiding social gatherings like parties
  • Not hearing simple outdoor sounds like birds singing
  • Increased difficulty communicating in noisy situations
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ears

Most people who report difficulty hearing are over the age of 60, but many younger people may be at a higher risk of developing hearing loss. Those risks include:

  • Frequent exposure to loud noise
  • A family history of genetic disorders with hearing loss
  • Having diabetes or heart disease

There are a couple of ways to determine whether or not a person has hearing loss. For mild hearing loss, people may opt for a quick, simple hearing test using their smart phone. The tests are self-guided and only take a few minutes. Another option, especially for people who think their hearing loss may be more severe, is to see an audiologist. An audiologist will have access to advanced equipment, including a sound-proof booth, and medical knowledge that will allow them to diagnose and treat the problem.

For those with mild hearing loss, over-the-counter hearing aids are available. The devices were approved for use by the FDA in October 2022 and can be obtained without a prescription from a doctor. They’re basic and self-fitting, and are designed for those who need hearing assistance a couple of hours a week, like when going out to dinner. They’re generally not covered by insurance.

Hearing aids that can be acquired with a prescription after a screening by a doctor are designed for everyday use. The sound quality is much more advanced and they can be easily adjusted by an audiologist. Prescription hearing aids are covered by most insurance carriers.

Dr. Marybeth Agulo, an audiologist, sees patients at Mercyhealth Hospital and Physician Clinic–Crystal Lake.