Hearing Loss – Say what? Not Just for Old Folks!

When most of us think about hearing loss, we think of dear old grandma Bessie and the many communication mixups, like the time she responded to, “Can you please hand me the clean sheets?” by saying, “Cream cheese? What do you want that for?”Grandmother Granddaughter

Family members sometimes chuckle and tolerate odd behaviors and conversations made by those who are communication challenged by hearing loss. However, hearing loss is not a laughing matter. Infants, children, adults, seniors – people of all ages are experiencing hearing loss and immediate action is needed to prevent permanent damage. What does research tell us? How can family and friends help?

Parents and children of hearing challenged individuals who are in a care-taking role, sometimes need to step forward to help those with hearing loss.  Often those who are deaf or hard of hearing, are unaware of the extent to which their disability is affecting their lives. Intervention can result in hearing improvement and even complete restoration. Lack of intervention can result in permanent damage.  Infants, children, youth and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing, have new technology available to them to completely restore or dramatically improve hearing loss.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, hearing loss is categorized by which area of the auditory system is affected.  There are three basic categories:

  1. Conductive hearing loss associated with the outer ear and middle ear, such as fluid from colds, allergies, impacted ear wax, ear infections, swimmer’s ear, tumors, malformations, perforated ear drum, etc.
  2. Sensorineural hearing loss associated with the inner ear, such as high fever or illness, head trauma, aging, exposure to loud noise, malformations, genetic or hereditary factors, etc.
  3. Mixed hearing loss associated with both conductive and sensorineural factors and the outer, middle and inner ear.

Hearing loss prevention and treatment as dramatically evolved in the past fifty years. Years ago, we as a society were unaware of the number of infants born with hearing loss. Recent studies now show, according to the American Academy of Audiology,  that approximately 6 of every 1,000 babies have a significant hearing problem at birth and more than 4,000 babies are born with hearing loss each year. ƒ

Child Hearing Test

Canadian Hearing Society http://www.chs.ca

Research shows us that the first year of life is critical to the development of normal speech and language. ƒ Many years ago, children undiagnosed with hearing loss at birth, later displayed difficulties with speech, communication and understanding or behaving appropriately. They were then placed in specials schools for mentally challenged, or psychiatric institutions, or even outcast or removed from interaction in society. Now most states require all newborns to have hearing screening tests, and because hearing loss is a hidden disability, parents are of primary importance diagnosis of hearing loss in newborns. It is important for them to observe the infant and to contact the trusted doctor or health practitioner and schedule a hearing test.

Image: Center for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov

Center for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov

According to the American Academy of Audiology, an infant with normal hearing should be able elicit the following age-appropriate behaviors.

Around two months of age ƒ
Startles to loud sound ƒ
Quiets to familiar voices
Makes vowel sounds like “ohh”

Around four months of age
Looks for sound sources
Starts babbling
Makes squeals and chuckles

Baby respond
Around six months of age

Turns head toward loud sounds
Begins to imitate speech sound
Babbles sounds like “ba-ba”

Around nine months of age
Imitates speech sounds of others
Understands “no-no” or “bye-bye”
Turns head toward soft sounds

Around 12 months of age
Correctly uses “ma-ma” or “da-da”
Gives toy when asked
Responds to singing or music

friendsAccording to the American Academy of Audiology, the following questions are helpful in determining whether or not a person has a hearing loss that is significantly affecting them on a daily basis, answering yes, no, or sometimes.

  1. Do you find it difficult to follow a conversation in a noisy restaurant or crowded room?
  2. Do you sometimes feel that people are mumbling or not speaking clearly?
  3. Do you experience difficulty following dialog in the theater?
  4. Do you sometimes find it difficult to understand a speaker at a public meeting or a religious service?
  5. Do you find yourself asking people to speak up or repeat themselves?
  6. Do you find men’s voices easier to understand than women’s?Whispering
  7. Do you experience difficulty understanding soft or whispered speech?
  8. Do you have difficulty understanding speech on the telephone?
  9. Does a hearing problem cause you to feel embarrassed when meeting new people?Lonely
  10. Do you feel handicapped by a hearing problem?
  11. Does a hearing problem cause you to visit friends, relatives, or neighbors less often than you would like?
  12. Do you experience ringing or noises in your ears?
  13. Do you hear better with one ear than the other?
  14. Have you had any significant noise exposure during work, recreation, or military service
  15. Have any of your relatives (by birth) had a hearing loss?

Each “yes”answer is worth two points. Each “sometimes” answer is 1 point.  A total of 6 points or more strongly suggests that a hearing test is needed.

Hearing loss can vary from mild, moderate, severe and profound. Hearing loss is measured in decibels (dB). Those with normal hearing have 0-25 dB loss, mild hearing loss is 25-40 bB, moderate is 40-60 dB, severe is 60-80 dB and profound is 80 dB or more.  Hearing loss is measured through hearing screening tests. Those with hearing loss are categorized as deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, gradual onset, or sudden onset deafness. The situations or conditions that caused the hearing loss are unique and have an impact on the social, emotional and psychological health of the individual. 

hearing aid

If you feel that you or a loved one you are caring for has a hearing loss, there is good news. Often hearing loss can be repaired completely or improved.  Hearing loss is sometimes caused by blocked ear wax that can be removed, or infection, that can be treated.  Sometimes surgery can correct malformations. 90% of hearing loss is successfully treated with hearing aids and amplification.  New cochlear implants (CI) are providing opportunities for those born deaf to now hear. If hearing loss cannot be repaired, hearing aids can be prescribed, amplifications, lifestyle adjustments, utilizing aides: such as TDD, relay phone services, closed captioned phones, amplified phones, closed captioning devises for movies and theatrical stage productions.  Many of these devices are free due to the efforts of the National Association for the Deaf with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990.  According to the National Association for the Deaf:

Today, deaf and hard of hearing individuals can choose from many different relay service providers and a wide range of relay services:

  • TTY relay services, the original and now traditional relay service, which can be reached by anyone by dialing 711 from a telephone or TTY (text telephone for hearing impaired)
  • Voice Carry Over (VCO) for people who are deaf or hard of hearing who communicate by speaking
  • Hearing Carry Over (HCO) for people with a speech disability who use a TTY
  • Speech-to-Speech (STS) relay service for people with a speech disability who use a telephone
  • Non-English language relay services, such as Spanish-to-Spanish

    Captel Captioned Phone

    Captel Captioned Phone http://www.captelspecialists.com

  • Captioned Telephone Service (CTS) for people with a special “captioned telephone” that enables them to communicate by speaking, listen to what they can hear, and read what the other person is saying through captions displayed on the “captioned telephone who use a telephone
  • Video Relay Service (VRS), an Internet-based system for people with video conferencing equipment or videophones who communicate in American Sign Language
  • Internet Protocol Relay (IP Relay) service, an Internet-based system for people with a computer or other web-enabled device who communicate using text
  • Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS), an Internet-based system that enables people to communicate by speaking and listening to what they can hear over a telephone, and read what the other person is saying through captions displayed on a computer or other web-enabled device

Of primary importance, is contacting your trusted healthcare provider, doctor, or audiologist as soon as you suspect that you or a loved one has a hearing loss.  Quick action can result in improved hearing and prevent permanent damage.

American Academy of Audiology
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Canadian Hearing Society
National Association for the Deaf


This article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website atwww.montereybayholistic.com.  Images used in this article are free public domain from Pixabay.com orPublicdomainpictures.net  Other images are credited.

Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.

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