Dr. Wiley H. Justice, an otolaryngologist, or ENT, at the University of South Alabama Speech and Hearing Clinic, said hearing loss is often an issue for people of all ages.

“I see patients on a daily basis who complain of hearing loss,” Dr. Justice said. “These include patients who are having hearing problems due to wax impaction in the ear,
as well as patients with inner ear trouble.”

According to Dr. Justice, however, the two main causes of hearing loss are the aging process and noise exposure.

“The highest percentage of hearing issues are seen in the older generations simply because hearing loss is a natural part of the aging process,” he said. “As you get older, your sensory organs begin to deteriorate.”

In teenagers, Dr. Justice said the leading cause of hearing loss is hazardous noise exposure, most likely from listening to loud music. “Teenagers should listen to their music at a comfortable level that does not cause their car to vibrate or room to shake.”

Dr. Justice said common signs of hearing loss include asking someone to repeat themselves often or having trouble communicating with people when there is background noise, such as at a church function or restaurant. Another sign of hearing loss is having trouble hearing a child or woman’s voice. Usually, high frequency hearing loss is evident first.

“Ear ringing is also a sign of the onset of hearing loss, especially in the high frequencies,” Dr. Justice added. “Ninety percent of the time, ear ringing indicates that some measurable hearing loss is evident.”

According to Dr. Justice, there are several solutions to combat hearing loss. “If it is a medical issue, we can remove the wax in the ear,” he said. “Middle ear fluid can be treated medically or we can insert tubes, which do a great job of reestablishing or improving hearing.”

Hearing aids are another common solution to hearing loss. “We can program digital hearing aids to fit a particular individual’s hearing loss and can program it to highlight the frequency where a patient is having issues,” Dr. Justice said. “The average 65-year-old who has hearing loss will benefit greatly from hearing aids.”

Dr. Justice said there are different styles and shapes of hearing aids available. “The recommendation we give depends on the kind of hearing loss,” he said. “Smaller aids are not visible, but they only amplify in low to moderate ear level range. As your hearing deteriorates, you will most likely need to upgrade to a more advanced, powerful aid.”

According to Dr. Justice, it is also important to factor in manual dexterity when recommending a hearing aid. “If you have arthritis or if you have some type of issue with dexterity, it can be difficult to manage smaller versions of hearing aids,” he said. “Our audiology staff can determine which hearing aid would be most relevant for your conditions and needs.”

The USA Speech and Hearing Center has a fully staffed audiology department to evaluate and treat hearing loss. The center is located in the Health Sciences building on the USA campus. To make an appointment with Dr. Justice, call (251) 445-9378.

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