By Bev Bachel
What did you say?
Can you repeat that?
Would you mind saying that again?
If you’re having trouble hearing, you’re not alone.
Almost half of U.S. residents older than age 65 have some degree of hearing loss. And, according to an article in the October 2022 issue of the AARP Bulletin, 30 million Americans struggle to hear what is being said, whether in person, on the phone, via Zoom or while watching TV.
Some even find themselves choosing or feeling forced into retirement as a result of their hearing loss. That was the case for my father. Deaf in one ear due to a childhood accident, he struggled to communicate over the noise in the factory where he worked.
Thankfully, help is now more available—and more affordable—for everyone who struggles to hear. One big reason is a recent Biden-Harris Administration law change that allows hearing aids to be sold over the counter/without a prescription at pharmacies, big-box stores and other retailers.
Another reason is advances in technology.
“Many hearing aids on the market today are far, far better than their larger, clunkier and more visible forerunners,” says Brian Felsen of Your Ears Rock, a Certified Occupational Hearing Conservation company committed to reducing noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, which is ringing or buzzing in one’s ears.
Today’s models are also more affordable, with some costing less than $500.
“But no matter how good or affordable today’s models are, the best thing you can do is protect and preserve your hearing health and treat any issues in a timely manner with properly fitted hearing aids,” says Felsen.
Protect your hearing
Here are Felsen’s top five tips for doing so:
- Turn down the volume. According to the CDC, you can lose some of your hearing in just a few minutes when using headphones at the highest volume, so do your ears a favor and turn down the volume.
- Minimize exposure. “Some loud sounds, including those from guns, power tools, leaf and snow blowers, music at rock concerts and cheering at sporting events can cause permanent hearing damage in only a few seconds because of their intensity, also referred to as their decibel level,” says Felsen.
- Wear earplugs or safety earmuffs. “Earplugs and other hearing-protection devices are easy to use and affordable,” says Felsen. “But they don’t do you any good if you don’t wear them, so keep them in your pockets, glove compartment, toolbox, workshop or other easy-to-access spot.”
- Download SoundPrint. This free app makes it easy to search for restaurants, bars and other public venues with healthy sound levels.
- Stop smoking. My dad was a lifelong smoker but only now, 20+ years after his death, have I learned that smokers may be more likely than nonsmokers to suffer hearing loss.
Wonder if your hearing is causing you to miss out? If you’re an AARP member, take this free hearing test from the comfort of your own home.
Think you might need hearing aids but wonder which ones might be right for you? This article from the Mayo Clinic is a good place to start.
For a list of the National Council on Aging’s top hearing aids based on fit, features, price and more, click this link.
Bev Bachel is a Twin Cities freelance writer and the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens.