Raising Awareness of the Country’s Third-Most Common Health Problem

UM Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders observes Better Hearing Month

Communication sciences and disorders student Madison Dacus (left) practices performing a hearing test in the department’s Audiology Lab at the university’s South Oxford Center. Dacus, from Jonesboro, Arkansas, completed her bachelor’s degree this spring. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Hearing loss affects more than 36 million Americans, and although hearing problems are commonly associated with the normal aging process, more than half of all hearing-impaired people are younger than 65.

That’s one of the important points that faculty and staff members at the University of Mississippi Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders are working to convey this month, which is national Better Hearing Month.

In conjunction with the American Academy of Audiology, the department is observing the annual occasion by encouraging consumers to be more aware of their hearing health, said Anne Williams, a clinical audiologist in the department.

“Hearing loss can be caused by exposure to loud noises; ear infections, trauma or ear disease; harm to the inner ear and eardrum; illness or certain medications; and deterioration due to normal aging process,” Williams said.

With the increased use of personal music players and earbuds, along with a host of other electronic devices, the number of Americans experiencing hearing loss at a younger age is growing. In fact, hearing loss is the third-most common health problem in the United States, according to the American Academy of Audiology.

But most Americans consider hearing loss a condition that is simply associated with aging, and don’t know how to recognize the condition or who is qualified to diagnose and treat the condition.

An audiologist is an educated and clinically experienced health care professional who specializes in evaluating, diagnosing and treating people with hearing loss and balance disorders. Hearing loss can affect patients of all ages: from newborns all the way to the elderly.

Signs of a hearing problem that may require a visit to an audiologist include: trouble hearing conversation in a noisy environment, such as a restaurant; inability to hear people talking without looking at them; or a constant ringing or pain in the ears.

The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by an audiologist, Williams said.

Audiologists within the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders have a variety of specialties, which they offer through the UM Speech and Hearing Clinic, said Vishaka Rawool, the department’s chair. These specialties include:

  • Performing hearing evaluations on newborns and infants
  • Prescribing and fitting hearing aids
  • Performing evaluations for auditory processing deficits
  • Providing hearing rehabilitation training, such as:
    • Auditory training
    • Speech reading
    • Listening skills improvement

The Speech and Hearing Clinic also specializes in designing and implementing hearing conservation programs and newborn hearing screening programs.

Although most hearing loss is permanent, an audiologist can determine the best treatment, which may include hearing aids, assistive listening devices and/or hearing rehabilitation.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact the UM Speech and Hearing Clinic at 662-915-7652.