Hearing loss symptoms and prevention

September 16, 2002|by Christine L. Moats

Hearing loss is not uncommon as we begin to age. Factors that contribute to this process include heredity, chronic exposure to loud noises, some medications and certain illnesses.

Damage to the inner ear is irreversible, so take care of your ears.

Q: What are the signs and symptoms of hearing loss?

A: According to the Mayo Clinic's Web site at, they include:

  • Muffled quality of speech and other sound

  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people

  • Asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly

  • The need to turn up the volume of the television or radio

  • Withdrawal from conversations

  • Avoidance of some social settings.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, make an appointment to have your hearing checked through your doctor's office.

Q: What are some things I can do to prevent noise-induced hearing loss?

A: The Mayo Clinic suggests:

  • Protecting your ears in the workplace. If you work in a particularly loud environment, there are specially designed earmuffs that resemble earphones. These provide protection for your ears and bring some of the loudest sounds down to an acceptable level to prevent damage. Over-the-counter or custom-molded earplugs made of plastic or rubber also can effectively protect your ears from damaging noise.

  • Having your hearing tested. You may want to consider regular hearing tests if you work in a noisy environment. You may catch hearing loss in its early stages and prevent further damage.

  • Avoiding recreational risks. When involved in activities such as snowmobile riding, trapshooting or listening to extremely loud music, you can damage your hearing. Wearing earplugs during noisy recreational activities can protect your ears. Turning the volume down when listening to music can help as well.

    Some suggestions for coping with hearing loss include:

  • Face the person with whom you're having a conversation.

  • Turn off the background noise, such as a television or radio, that may interfere with conversation.

  • Ask others to speak clearly.

  • In public - a restaurant or social gathering - choose a place to talk that is away from noisy areas.

  • Source:

    Christine L. Moats is wellness coordinator for Washington County Hospital.

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