Five things to know about adult hearing loss

As we age, it’s natural that our bodies experience change. Our bones aren’t as strong, wrinkles appear around our eyes and even our hearts get slower.

You may also experience the need to crank up the volume on the television or radio. Hearing loss is common in the United States, with more than 200,000 cases reported yearly. According to National Institute of Health, approximately 15 percent of American adults over 18 report some trouble hearing.

Shea Stromberg
Shea Stromberg, Au.D., CCC-A, clinical audiologist with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Oto-Neurology

Adults can experience hearing loss at any age. Roughly two percent of adults in the 45 to 55 range have disabling hearing loss increasing to 8.5 percent by ages 55 to 64, 25 percent from ages 65 to 74 and 50 percent of those who are 75 or older.

“Age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss with the greatest amount of hearing loss in the population over 60,” adds Shea Stromberg, Au.D., CCC-A, clinical audiologist with the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Oto-Neurology.

Related Article: Universal Infant Hearing Screening is done hours after birth, detects hearing loss early

Here are five things you should know about adult hearing loss:

1. What causes hearing loss?
Besides aging, there are several other factors that can contribute to loss of hearing including family history and exposure to high levels of noise. Other causes may include disorders, such as Otosclerosis, Meniere’s disease, labyrinthitis, autoimmune inner ear disease, head injury, tumors on the hearing nerve, metabolic disorders and disease or illness that result in high fever, such as meningitis. Certain medications called ototoxic also can cause hearing loss.

2. What are the signs of hearing loss?
Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:

  • Difficulty understanding words in background noise
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the radio or TV
  • Perception that others are mumbling
  • Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ear

Additionally, hearing loss and/or tinnitus in one ear may be symptoms of underlying medical conditions. Recent research from John Hopkins University reveals that hearing loss is also linked with walking problems, falls and even dementia.

“Ignoring hearing loss can have an effect on your quality of life and has been shown to contribute to depression, anxiety or a false sense that others are angry with you,” Stromberg says. “It is important not to ignore the signs and symptoms of hearing loss and see a specialist.”

3. What should I do about it?
As Stromberg suggests, if you experience symptoms of hearing loss, you should see a specialist, such as your family doctor, an Ear, Nose and Throat physician or an audiologist, as soon as possible, especially if you have a sudden loss of hearing and/or loss of hearing in one ear. Stromberg also says you should see a doctor if you have hearing loss after taking medicine, after having cold or flu symptoms or a medical problem associated with hearing loss.

“Depending on the cause, early identification and management of hearing loss may prevent further damage to your hearing,” Stromberg says. “One example is wearing ear protection when exposed to loud noise, which can be a major factor in preventing hearing loss progression.”

4. How can an audiologist help me?
An audiologist is a master’s or doctorate level healthcare professional who evaluates, diagnoses, treats and manages hearing loss and balance disorders in adults and children. Audiologists are trained to identify and handle the non-medical side of hearing loss.

“Our job is to test your hearing and identify if a hearing loss has occurred and why,” Stromberg says. “If your main complaint is a loss of hearing ability, it is suggested to start by getting your hearing tested by an audiologist.”

Audiologists work as a team with ENTs to test hearing, identify areas of the ear that are not functioning properly, treat the problem appropriately with medicine, surgery or rehabilitative measures such as hearing aids.

5. Should I have a regular hearing screening as an adult?
Adults who have existing hearing loss, health issues related to development of hearing loss or history of excessive noise exposure should have a hearing assessment once a year to monitor the loss and the impact of the hearing loss on communication, Stromberg says. If you currently do not have any signs or symptoms of hearing loss, annual hearing screenings are not necessary. Your physician should check your hearing during your annual check-up.

For more information about the Center for Oto-Neurology, visit our website

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

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