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HEALTHbeat Harvard Medical School
May 23, 2013
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If you think you might need a hearing checkup, you probably do. This Special Health Report describes the causes and cures for hearing loss. It contains in-depth information on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss. You’ll learn how to prevent hearing loss and preserve the hearing you have now. You’ll also learn about the latest advances in hearing aid technology and find out which kind of hearing device may be best for you.

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Testing for hearing loss

The human ear is the envy of even the most sophisticated acoustic engineer. Without a moment’s thought or the slightest pause, you can hear the difference between a violin and a clarinet, you can tell if a sound is coming from your left or right, and if it’s distant or near. And you can discriminate between words as similar as hear and near, sound and pound.

Nearly everyone experiences trouble hearing from time to time. Common causes include a buildup of ear wax or fluid in the ear, ear infections, or the change in air pressure when taking off in an airplane. A mild degree of permanent hearing loss is an inevitable part of the aging process. Unfortunately, major hearing loss that makes communication difficult becomes more common with increasing age, particularly after age 65.

Testing, 1, 2, 3

How do you know if you need a hearing test? If you answer yes to the questions below, talk with your doctor about having your hearing tested:

Are you always turning up the volume on your TV or radio?
Do you shy away from social situations or meeting new people because you’re worried about understanding them?
Do you get confused or feel “out of it” at restaurants or dinner parties?
Do you ask people to repeat themselves?
Do you miss telephone calls — or have trouble hearing on the phone when you do pick up the receiver?
Do the people in your world complain that you never listen to them (even when you’re really trying)?

You can also ask a friend to test you by whispering a series of words or numbers. After all this, if you think you have a hearing problem, you should have a test.

For more on diagnosing and treating hearing loss, buy Hearing Loss, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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News and Views from the Harvard Health Blog

A dog could be your heart’s best friend

Is having a dog good for you heart? Yes, says the American Heart Association — as long as you don’t delegate the dog walking responsibilities to others.Read more.

7 tips for buying a hearing aid

With so many types of hearing aid on the market, which one is right for you? The answer depends on many things. The main consideration is the nature of your hearing loss, its cause, and its severity. The results of your hearing tests will guide your audiologist or hearing aide specialist in making recommendations. Here are seven things you should know as you evaluate your options.

1. If you have severe hearing loss, you may need one of the larger hearing aids.
2. If you are prone to an excessive buildup of earwax or to ear infections, small hearing aids are easily damaged by earwax or draining ear fluid and so may not be the best choice for you.
3. You may want to be able to reduce some types of background noise and boost the sound frequencies you have the most trouble hearing — something not all small hearing aids can do.
4. If you use electronic devices like cell phones, music players, or laptops that are capable of sending a wireless signal, then you may want a hearing aid that is compatible with wireless devices that are important to you.
5. If you are concerned about how you’ll look wearing a hearing aid, let your audiologist know. She or he can help narrow the choices to what will best suit both your hearing needs and your appearance.
6. Hearing aids range in price from about $1,200 to $3,700 each, depending on size and features. Unfortunately, Medicare and most other insurance plans don’t cover hearing aids, so your budget may be a factor in your decision.
7. Finally, consider your dexterity. If you have arthritis, you may find it difficult to insert and remove the smallest hearing aid, and gladly opt for a larger one that’s easier to handle.

For additional advice on diagnosing hearing loss as well as the best ways to treat it, buy Hearing Loss, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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Living Well with Osteoarthritis
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Hearing Loss

Featured content:

How we hear
When hearing loss occurs
Testing for hearing loss
Progress in hearing technology
… and more!

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