Listen up ... if you can

2:01:33 PM CDT - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

The weekend woodworker, the woman working out in the aerobics class with the thumping beat, the symphony cellist, the kid listening to the latest CD on stereo headphones, the couple watching the latest action thriller, the singles in the nightclubs. They all have something in common.

They may be among the millions of Americans young and old who may eventually suffer some form of permanent hearing loss.

"The numbers of persons with permanent hearing loss are increasing dramatically, particularly as a result of noise exposure," says Ray Hull, an audiologist at WSU. "We live in a very noisy world."

Around 56 million Americans, or one in every five persons, suffer some type of permanent hearing loss.
It's not just noise exposure, however, that is leading to hearing loss. Genetics, high fevers, diets, smoking, cardiovascular health, certain medications and several other factors are playing a part in the rising numbers, Hull says.

Hearing loss is an invisible disability that many people try to disguise, Hull says. But missing messages and misinterpreting what people are saying are definitely not invisible. If symptoms occur gradually, the person suffering the loss may not be aware it's happening, but others around them often do.

There are some early signs of hearing loss, such as cranking the TV volume up or avoiding noisy places because you can't clearly distinguish conversation.

If you or someone you know shows symptoms of hearing loss, you can try a home hearing test provided by Hull to see if your hearing system can interpret the sounds of speech for purposes of speech/sound recognition.
To get a copy of the hearing test, click here.

The home test doesn't test hearing acuity. WSU's Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic offers professional hearing evaluations that start at $80, with 10 percent discounts available to faculty and staff. Family members of employees who are covered through WSU health insurance are also eligible for discount.

The S-L-H Clinic will offer free hearing screenings in December to help individuals determine if a professional exam is needed. To find out more, call 978-3289 or go to http://education/wichita.edu/slhclinic/.

*To get a copy of the hearing test, click here.

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