Hearing loss and tinnitus affect millions of AmericansWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss and there are several signals of auditory issues, says one local doctor.
“It can be a significant sign or it can be very subtle,” said Dr. Randa Mansour-Shousher, director of the Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic. Mansour-Shousher has been an audiologist for 32 years and also employs two other doctors.
“Socially, you could be asking [others] to repeat frequently. You could have trouble following conversations,” she said.
Hearing background noise is also more difficult. People may have more difficulty hearing women or children because higher frequencies are lost first, Mansour-Shousher said. Voices can also seem muffled or like the speaker is mumbling.
In the United States, about 17 percent of adults (36 million) report some degree of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Across the country, hearing loss affects 18 percent of those aged 45-64, 30 percent of those 65-74 and 47 percent of those older than 75.
Damage from noises, medical conditions or medications can contribute to hearing loss, Mansour-Shousher said.
People who work in jobs with exposure to loud noises more frequently experience hearing loss. Auto-industry workers, dentists, beauticians, firemen, miners and musicians can fall into this category
One-time exposure to loud noises can also damage nerves, Mansour-Shousher said.
“July 4, firecrackers go off; July 5, they’re in the office,” she said.
Hearing loss affects all ages and there is no standard age for screening, as there is with mammograms.
“I would think it would be [good] if we said everybody above 50 should go through hearing screenings annually, but there’s not a rule of thumb,” Mansour-Shousher said.
Another sign of damage is tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Mansour-Shousher said 30 million people suffer from tinnitus, a sign of inner ear damage.
“Tinnitus can affect people in different ways. It can affect their emotional status, their concentration,” she said.
Hearing loss can be a sensitive issue for some.
“I had someone that was in here crying because her co-workers were calling her stupid,” Mansour-Shousher said. In reality, the woman just had difficulty hearing.
“I like to educate people on hearing loss and tell them not to be scared and know that it’s prevalent among all of us,” Mansour-Shousher said. “There’s easy solutions. Take advantage; have a better life.”
These solutions can include hearing aids if the patient is a candidate. With technological advancement, phone calls or television sounds can be played through the hearing aid.
Wearing protective items like earplugs while around loud noises is also crucial for prevention, Mansour-Shousher said.
She also recommended getting iPhone headphones that block out background noise so the device can be played at a lower volume.
In addition, it’s vital to keep the volume down.
“If I can hear the music from your headset while I’m sitting next to you, it’s too loud,” Mansour-Shousher said.
Sometimes, family members need to encourage their loved ones to get checked out by a doctor.
“Men are really hard to get in here,” Mansour-Shousher said. “A lot of times, family members have to be the one to say, ‘I’m not mumbling,’ or ‘You have the TV on too loud for me.’”
Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic has locations at 1601 Brigham Drive, Suite 160 in Perrysburg and at the University of Toledo Medical Center, 1125 Hospital Drive, Suite 50.
For more information, visit www.nwohc.com.