Solutions for the hearing impaired
July 31, 2006 3:48 PM   Subscribe

What kind of options are available for someone who has suffered hearing loss due to long term exposure to loud sounds?

My father worked at a refinery at a time when hearing protection wasn't seen as important. Because of his exposure to the loud sounds of refinery equipment, he has suffered moderate hearing loss that seems to get worse as he gets older. Some years ago, I asked him why he didn't just go to a doctor or get a hearing aid, and he replied that he had looked into it and there aren't any fixes for hearing loss caused by loud noises.

Is this true? Are there simply no options for someone in his position? Technology keeps increasing by leaps and bounds, and I have a hard time believing that he is just doomed to suffer ever increasing hearing loss as he ages. Does anyone have first-hand experience with new hearing aids or treatments?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (6 answers total)
There's no "fix" for any kind of hearing loss. But noise-related loss, like any other, can definitely be treated with hearing aids. They're always improving, so even if he wasn't satisfied with the options "some years ago", going back to the audiologist now might be a good idea.

If he's self-conscious about it, he should know that for the level of hearing loss he probably has, hearing aids are almost invisible.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 4:15 PM on July 31, 2006

Spaceman is right: There is no cure but hearing aids have come a long way. He need not be embarrassed by something no one will even see.
posted by j.p. Hung at 4:51 PM on July 31, 2006

Has your father seen an audiologist in addition to his doctor? I couldn't tell from your post. If he hasn't seen an audiologist, I strongly suggest he does because an audiologist has expertise in that area that a doctor won't and can advise on the range of devices that are available.

My understanding of your father's type of deafness is that it is similar to nerve deafness, where the nerve hairs in the cochlea are flattened and no longer pick up sound. Hearing aids will enhance sound for those nerve hairs that are still working. The differences in hearing aids relate to how they process and filter the sounds that are received (for instance you can get ones that have an option to reduce background noise and enhance useful noise).
posted by prettypretty at 5:15 PM on July 31, 2006

The new digital hearing aids would definitely help him out. They filter the background noise and enhance normal speech frequencies. They can actually be tailored for the specific freqs that he has loss at. Their are alot of different options available, so do pressure him to go see an audiologist about it.

And hearing loss is really nothing to be ashamed of, alot of young people are really going to be surprised when they learn how badly they've damaged their hearing from all the portable music players in the future. I can't find the link right now, but their definitely is a trend in the younger folks toward hearing loss.
posted by bigmusic at 5:25 PM on July 31, 2006

Your father should find a new doctor.

My father's exactly the same--when he was younger he worked in a factory that permanently damaged his hearing. For the past ten years or so he's worn these tiny hearing aids that fit in the ear canal, and recently the loss has gotten worse, and he had to get a more advanced model. These are somewhat visible--they wrap around the back of the ear--but he says his hearing is an order of magnitude better. My mom has also gotten some hearing aids, but they're quite small and not noticeable unless you're looking for them.

There are options. The high end models aren't cheap, but insurance might cover some of it. Your dad should shop around more.
posted by zardoz at 5:54 PM on July 31, 2006

What everyone else said. Hearing loss from overexposure to loud noises is permanent, but that doesn't mean hearing aids can't help.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:18 PM on July 31, 2006

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