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Imagine what life would be like if everyone, every day, sounded like the adults in a Charlie Brown TV special, making trombone-generated “wha-wha-wha-wha-wha-wah” noises all the time instead of saying actual words.s


For those with even moderate hearing loss, such a scenario is no joke, and it can be confusing and frustrating.

“There’s a lot of denial when it comes to hearing loss,” said Dr. Mary Maddock, a Wilmington audiologist who formed Wilmington Hearing Specialists in 2005. “People don’t want to be told they have a hearing loss. A lot of people will have normal hearing for some sounds like the bass sounds and then their hearing will drop in the higher pitches or treble sounds. Everything sounds loud enough to them but things aren’t as clear.”

While not a cure, hearing aids can help if people know the source of the problem and keep in mind what they need to lead the lifestyle they want.

Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:

  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people
  • Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
  • Withdrawal from conversations
  • Avoidance of some social settings
    Source: Mayo Clinic

Getting tested

One in six people ages 41 to 59 have hearing loss, Maddock said. That’s one reason why it’s important, she said, for people to take a baseline hearing test somewhere between the ages of 50 and 55.

Noise exposure is one factor in determining that age range.

“If you think about that baby boomer group, that 50 to 65 range, they were in their teenage years or early 20s in the ’60s when rock music started and then in the ’70s is when the Walkman came out so they started wearing the headphones, listening to the Walkman,” Maddock said. “And then in the ’80s, they were in the aerobics movement, and music was really loud typically when you took aerobics.

“They kind of followed the excessive noise all the way through.”

But noise is just one part of the puzzle.

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