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hearing health

About 48 million Americans have hearing loss, and it is the third most common health problem in the U.S. So why do some people with hearing loss feel embarrassed about admitting that they have a hearing health issue?

Perhaps because hearing loss is often associated with ageing, even though one in every five American teenagers – and 3 in every 5 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan - have hearing loss. And ageing is nothing to be embarrassed about either, of course.

Or you may worry that people might think you’re being rude when you don’t respond to them, or feel that you’re inconveniencing others by asking them to repeat themselves. Worrying about these things can unnecessarily cause you to avoid social situations and interactions. And frankly, you’re robbing yourself of many happy moments by being embarrassed about a common health issue. Why not learn how to live well with your hearing loss instead?

Understanding Hearing Loss

One in three cases of permanent hearing loss is caused by exposure to noise. All it takes is prolonged exposure to a sound of just 85 decibels (dB) or louder to cause potentially permanent damage to hearing. A typical conversation happens at 65bB and a lawnmower can operate at 100dB, so many of us do experience some level of hearing loss.

Other issues that may decrease a person’s ability to hear include inner ear damage, a ruptured ear drum, trauma to the skull, earwax buildup, along with ear and sinus infections. Illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes can lead to hearing loss Children sometimes experience hearing loss, usually temporary, following repeated ear infections.

And there are over a hundred types of medications (ototoxic medicine) that can cause hearing loss. These medications include aspirin (in large does- 8 to 12 pills a day), ibuprofen and naproxen, some antibiotics, some diuretics, and medicines to treat cancer. If you are taking an ototoxic drug and notice ringing in your ear and dizziness, check with your doctor. The symptoms often clear when you stop taking the drug but may persist if you delay getting care.

Managing Life With Hearing Loss

Being open about your temporary or permanent hearing loss makes everyone around you more comfortable. You don’t have to worry about missing anything, and they know how to support you in whatever ways make you comfortable.

Don’t be shy about requesting the things that will help you enjoy life. Your family and friends shouldn’t have a problem with arranging seating at get-togethers so that you can easily participate in the fun. And feel free to ask for quiet tables at restaurants. Experiment to see where you are most comfortable, some people find that sitting at a table with a wall directly behind them helps to block out background noise.

If you’re in a noisy environment, and need to filter out the jumble of undecipherable background noise, consider wearing noise cancelling headphones. You may find these headphones useful at theatrical events, other performances, and at the movies to ratchet down the background noise/music and enable you to focus on the dialogue. (hint: if you’re going to the movies, check to see which ones offer caption readers – you can do this at websites such as Captionfish.

Let people know the best ways to communicate with you. Remind them that they have to get your attention before they start speaking. Ask your friends and family to face you when they talk so that you can see their faces. Let them know that speaking at a louder volume needs to be teamed with clear enunciation. They don’t have to talk s-l-o-w-l-y but it helps if they can keep a steady speech pace.

Be aware that you may be exhausted after a busy day of meetings, errands, even a day out with family or friends. Listening takes a lot of effort for people with hearing loss: you’re sorting information from background noise, paying close attention to context and verbal signals, and just generally working harder than others to understand verbal communications. Honor your need for downtime to recharge and renew your energy.

Discover the joys of new hearing assistive technology. Today’s hearing aids are amazingly advanced, and have gone far beyond simply amplifying sound. New television models offer captioning options, and so do telephones. There are captioning apps for smart phones.

And have your hearing checked regularly is important too. Experts advise having your hearing screened every two years, or more frequently if your healthcare professional advises it.

Does Health Insurance Cover Hearing Services?

This depends on what type of insurance you have. Some private insurance plans cover testing but not hearing aids, others cover hearing aids alone. Medicaid covers hearing aids for children in some states. Medicare does not cover hearing aids.

Healthcare plans offered under Obamacare on the federal and state exchanges vary in their coverage of hearing tests and aids. Currently , wenty-two states include some coverage for hearing aids and related services.

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