How Can I Improve My Hearing?

By Korin Miller |

Listen up! Before you start shopping for a hearing aid, try this.

woman cupping her ear to hear better

If you’re constantly asking others to repeat themselves—or you watch TV at full volume or with the closed captioning on—there’s a good chance you’re not hearing as well as you should be.

You’re not alone. About half of Americans who are 65 or older have some degree of hearing loss, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most of the time, it’s simply the result of getting older and having been exposed to loud noises over the years.

If your hearing seems to be getting worse, don’t panic. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going deaf. In fact, a couple of simple remedies may help you hear better starting today. And if those don’t turn up the volume for you, other treatment options, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, may improve your hearing and quality of life.

Here are five solutions for hearing loss every older adult should know.

1. Get Your Ears Cleaned

Everyone has wax in their ears, and it’s usually best to leave it alone. But if too much wax builds up, it can muffle the world around you.

But don’t stick a cotton swab in your ears—you’ll likely push the wax in farther and make the problem worse. Instead, try a few drops of mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide, which should soften the wax and help flush it out.

If that doesn’t work, see your doctor or an otolaryngologist (a.k.a. an ear, nose, and throat specialist, or ENT), who will remove it safely.

2. Check Your Meds

All medications have the potential to cause side effects, but you may be surprised to learn that some can take a toll on your hearing.

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen can make it harder to hear, as can a slew of prescription drugs, including some antibiotics, cancer drugs, and blood pressure medications.

Ask your doctor to review your OTC and prescription drugs to see if anything you’re taking might be impacting your hearing. If so, ask if you can lower your dose or change to another medication that doesn’t have this side effect.

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3. Find Out If You Need a Hearing Aid

If poor hearing is impacting your quality of life—it’s keeping you from communicating well with friends, hearing the TV or radio, or talking on the phone—then it’s wise to see an expert, says Kristine Arthur, M.D., an internist at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. An ENT or audiologist can evaluate your hearing.

If your hearing loss is bad enough, the doctor may suggest a hearing aid, which will make sounds stronger and easier for you to hear. There have been major advancements in hearing aids over the past few decades; many are now very small and discreet.

Your doctor can explain the different options and help you figure out what might work best for you. Check with your health plan for benefits information. Plus, look for hearing, vision, and dental discounts here.

4. Consider a Cochlear Implant

If your hearing loss is so severe that a hearing aid can’t help, you may be a candidate for a cochlear implant. This electronic device has two parts: one that sits behind your ear and another that gets surgically inserted under your skin.

Unlike a hearing aid, these devices don’t make sounds louder. Instead, they bypass the damaged part of the ear and stimulate the auditory nerve directly. You “hear” because your brain quickly learns to associate the signals from the implant with sounds you remember, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

5. Prevent Further Hearing Loss

Whatever option is right for you, make sure you protect your hearing from getting even worse, Dr. Arthur says. The best thing you can do, she says, is to avoid exposure to loud noises as much as possible, or wear protective gear like earplugs. Noises from firearms, jet engines, motorcycles, and loud music all have the potential to harm your hearing.

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