An estimated 400,000 Kentuckians are deaf or hard of hearing, but many may not be aware that they have a hearing loss or sought help because it often happens gradually. The Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (KCDHH) is encouraging Kentuckians to have their hearing tested during Better Speech and Hearing Month in May.
“People can experience hearing loss at any age for a variety of reasons,” said KCDHH Executive Director Bobbie Beth Scoggins. “Hearing loss can be sudden or gradual and can be caused by noise, disease, accident, heredity or aging.”
Scoggins said it is important for Kentuckians to have their hearing tested if they experience any changes in their hearing because treatment, services and assistive listening devices are available.
“Unfortunately, many citizens are not aware of the multitude of state and national resources that are available to them. This is where the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing can help as an information, referral and advocacy agency,” said Scoggins.
KCDHH has a resource library in Frankfort that can be accessed in person or through the mail for people who do not live near Frankfort, Scoggins said. Books and videotapes on topics ranging from coping with a hearing loss to assistive devices, legal rights and parenting a child with a hearing loss are available through the library. KCDHH also distributes free specialized telephone equipment to any Kentucky resident who has a hearing loss or speech impairment that affects his ability to effectively communicate using a regular telephone.
For more information about KCDHH services, contact the commission toll-free at 1-800-372-2907 (V/T) or 502-673-2604 (V/T) or online at www.kcdhh.org. The commission and the resource library are located at 632 Versailles Road in Frankfort.
Scoggins said that hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults and may be hard to detect because it usually happens over time. One in three people older than 60 have a hearing loss and that is expected to increase as the baby boomer generation ages, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). While that can cause embarrassment and frustration for the person with the hearing loss, it also can be a dangerous problem if the person can’t hear warnings, alarms or understand a doctor’s instructions. It can also make people feel isolated.
NIDCD offers the following self-assessment quiz to see if you are having problems.
- Do I have a problem hearing on the telephone?
- Do I have trouble hearing when there is noise in the background?
- Is it hard for me to follow a conversation when two or more people talk at once?
- Do I have to strain to understand a conversation?
- Do many people I talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)?
- Do I misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?
- Do I often ask people to repeat themselves?
- Do I have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?
- Do people complain that I turn the TV volume up too high?
- Do I hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot?
- Do some sounds seem too loud?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you may have a hearing problem and may need to be checked by a hearing professional.
Scoggins said people need to take steps to protect their hearing such as wearing earplugs in noisy environments. According to NIDCD, more than 30 million Americans are exposed to hazardous sound levels on a regular basis at home, work or during recreational activities. It’s also important for parents to protect their children’s hearing from hazardous noise, Scoggins said.
KCDHH is an agency of the Kentucky Education Cabinet. The Education Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16, and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit www.educationcabinet.ky.gov or www.kcdhh.ky.gov or call 502-564-6606.