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Hearing loss is common. About 50 million Americans have clinically significant hearing loss, and by that I mean the type of hearing loss that can affect them in their day-to-day lives. And we’ve also found that hearing loss is more likely with age, and if you reach age 75 you have a 2 in 3 chance of having some sort of significant hearing loss. What most patients complain about is hearing voices, because that’s what they really want to hear. And we’ve found that certain situations pose extra difficulty. That’s anytime there’s background sounds like a party or a restaurant, large open spaces like a church or a theater, that’s often difficult to hear. And patients often have trouble with electronic sound transmission like TV or a telephone.
For physicians there’s two main types of hearing loss. The most common one is nerve hearing loss, which is the type that we see in the elderly. It’s a natural degeneration of the hearing nerve, and there’s no cure for it. The only thing we can offer for patients with nerve hearing loss is fitting them with hearing aids. The second type is what we call conductive hearing loss, and in conductive hearing loss the sound vibrations that enter the ear are not conducted to the nerve. So we think of things like blockage with ear wax, fluid in the ears, a hole in the eardrum, and occasionally some other issues. These are things that are often correctable with surgery or medication.
When we diagnose someone with hearing loss, we often recommend early intervention with hearing aids, because we find that if you wait too long you might burn the bridge and they become less effective. And recent studies have also shown that uncorrected hearing loss in the elderly is a significant risk factor for dementia. The other thing we’ve found is that many patients are reluctant to try hearing aids or they’re unsure about the cost, so if we fit patients with hearing aids in our practice, we give them a 45-day window. It’s like a trial period, and they can return them if they find they’re dissatisfied or they don’t think it’s worth their investment.
Our practice, Metro ENT Associates–UPMC, is one of the longest-running ENT practices in Western Pennsylvania. I think that shows that we’ve done over the years a good job of listening to patients and meeting their needs. And certainly when it comes to hearing loss we offer the full array of services — whether that’s surgery, therapy, or hearing aids — to help meet your needs.
For more information, contact us at 724-772-2711 or toll-free 1-866-929-6368.