Hearing health: Avoiding the need for hearing aids

Hearing Protection

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Gradual hearing loss is a natural, unavoidable reality. Hearing aid technology has advanced greatly, but nothing will compare to natural hearing. While hearing loss becomes does become more common in people over the age of 60, many adults begin to lose their hearing earlier through their work or recreation.

There are many common sounds that can damage our hearing, including sirens, concerts and sirens, but locals in Western South Dakota also face other dangers. “In this area farm equipment, tractors and hunting are common,” says Cassandra Garver, owner of Lifetime Hearing Solutions. “Exposure to these sounds without hearing protection often results in what we call noise-induced hearing loss.”

Noise-induced hearing loss does differ from natural hearing loss from aging. When a person loses their hearing from loud sounds, they will typically have difficulty hearing high frequencies, which makes conversations particularly difficult to understand.

“The reason for that is because vowel sounds register at lower frequencies and consonants are typically higher,” Garver says, “so when those higher frequencies aren’t heard in even one word, a person loses all meaning of the sentence.”

Hearing aids can help those who have already lost their hearing. As a hearing instrument specialist, Garver has worked with countless patients who use hearing aids, but she says relying on them should never be the fallback plan. “No matter how advanced a hearing aid is, it’s never going to be as good as natural earing.”

Hearing aids can help a person regain some of the lost frequencies, but they do not have the ability to filter out background noise like natural hearing. When a younger person is exposed to loud noises and damages their hearing it can never be regained, and their hearing will continue to degrade naturally as they age.

To protect your hearing health Garver recommends either over-the-ear headsets or custom-made ear molds, which are much more comfortable and reliable than generic earplugs. “Every ear canal is a different size and shape,” Garver says. “If you get something custom made to protect your hearing, it becomes very comfortable and convenient when you’re mowing the lawn or hunting.”

A common symptom of an auditory condition is tinnitus, usually described as a ringing in the ears. About 10 percent of adults have experienced tinnitus that lasts for more than five minutes. Tinnitus can indicate several conditions including ear or sinus infections, heart disease, and noise-induced hearing loss.

Lifetime Hearing Solutions can conduct a variety of tests that determine what frequencies a person can hear. To learn more about Lifetime Hearing Solutions or schedule a hearing test call 605-342-1619 or visit lifetimehearingsolutions.com.