COLUMBIA, Mo. - As part of National Audiology Awareness Month and National Protect Your Hearing Month in October, experts at University of Missouri Health Care are raising awareness about the urgency of diagnosing and managing sudden hearing loss.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, hearing loss affects 36 million Americans.
"Hearing loss usually occurs gradually, but when hearing loss happens suddenly, it is important to get evaluated and treated quickly to have the best chance of recovery," said Rosie Christal, Au.D., an MU Health Care audiologist. "Some patients experiencing sudden hearing loss wait to see if it will resolve itself. Unfortunately, waiting can cause us to miss the short window of opportunity for most effectively treating hearing loss."
Sudden hearing loss can happen to a person immediately or over a period of up to three days. It is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Sudden hearing loss can affect anyone, though it is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 60.
Common symptoms associated with hearing loss include:
- Difficulty hearing over the telephone
- Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
- Straining to understand conversation
- Difficulty hearing in a noisy background
- Keeping the volume on your radio or TV at a level others say is too loud
People experiencing hearing loss should see a hearing expert such as an audiologist or ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician to undergo a thorough hearing evaluation and medical examination. A licensed audiologist can perform a hearing evaluation, and an ENT physician can perform a medical hearing examination.
"Hearing allows us to perform daily tasks and communicate with others in numerous environments, including home, work and social settings," Christal said. "When hearing loss occurs, it not only affects the afflicted individual but it also affects those around them. We encourage people who are experiencing hearing loss to seek treatment."
MU Health Care provides a full range of adult and pediatric hearing services, from diagnostic services such as comprehensive hearing tests to treatments such as hearing aids and cochlear implants for certain types of severe hearing loss.
To schedule a hearing evaluation, contact MU Health Care's University Physicians Audiology Clinic at (573) 882-7903 or the ENT and Allergy Center of Missouri at (573) 817-3000.