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More than 55 million people in the United States are currently experiencing some degree of hearing loss. According to the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH), there are more than 700,000 people in Arizona who are hard of hearing, but not everyone realizes there is something that can be done prevent further loss.

Acknowledging hearing loss is important and can be tricky at times as not all sounds are registered the same in the ear. Some things you may be able to hear perfectly while others sound muffled or are drowned out by background noise.

Even if you think your hearing is fine, some major indicators that you may be losing your hearing include:

• Frequently ask people to repeat themselves.

• Often turn your ear toward a sound to hear it better.

• Understand people better when you wear your glasses or look directly at their faces.

• Lose your place in group conversations.

• Keep the volume on your radio or TV at a level that others say is too loud.

• Have pain or ringing in your ears.

• Notice that some sounds remain clear (often low-pitched sounds such as the bass line in music) while others may seem fuzzy (frequently women’s and children’s high-pitched voices).

If it is determined that you are indeed experiencing hearing loss, there are some simple actions you can take that may help.

The first thing you want to do is take the proper steps to ensure your hearing doesn’t deteriorate any further. Have your hearing evaluated by an audiologist or hearing specialist.

Then, discuss possible treatment options based on your degree of hearing loss. Hearing aids are great for even slight hearing loss and can help prevent further damage. Personal listening systems can help single out noises or reduce background sounds to sharpen your hearing.

A common mistake is to turn everything up so you can hear it better. Rather than increasing the volume on your television and increasing your exposure to dangerous volumes, some alternatives would be to turn on the closed-captioning, or invest in a TV listening system that cancels out background noise.

Amplifiers for phones are designed so a person sounds clear without cranking the decibel level of everything around you.

Such equipment is available through ACDHH’s telecommunications equipment distribution program, or AzTEP.

For more information on the services and resources available, including recommended audiologists and equipment, please visit www.acdhh.org.

• Sherri Collins is executive director of the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH).

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