It starts almost imperceptibly. As an optometrist, it reminds me a lot of presbyopia. Small changes occur in near vision followed by small modifications of behavior until you realize you need technology to restore function. Progressive spectacle lenses or multifocal contact lenses can be prescribed for most patients with presbyopia today with a successful outcome. But what happens when the condition is presbycusis (age-related hearing loss)?
Dealing with the rigors of air travel, attending industry meetings or spending an afternoon managing international conference calls requires adequate hearing. I was not exposed to high decibel rock concerts in my youth, and as a long-time motorcyclist I always suit up and wear hearing protection. Even so, genetics and the natural act of aging have a way of catching up with you. Both of my parents have hearing loss at ages 93 and 94.
An easy visit to an ENT doc and a hearing test in a sound booth pointed out the obvious—I would benefit with a boost in some frequencies. Just like our industry that went from molded flat tops to digitally surfaced progressive lenses, digital hearing aids have come a long way. The newest technology makes them almost invisible, and in addition to amplifying just the sound frequencies needed they’re also Bluetooth enabled. My iPhone controls the sound programming that can also be set to change automatically by GPS location.
I can now hear the slight movement of keys in my pocket and the quiet turn signals in my car. Music sounds a whole lot better, and I’ve made my wife very happy. My advice to colleagues: if you think you may have some hearing loss, don’t wait until you have to ask your patients repeatedly to repeat themselves. The technology is worth the investment. Now if you see me in a business meeting and I’m leaning into the conversation, it’s because I’m really interested in hearing what’s been said.
Richard Clompus, OD, FAAO | Professional Editor | RC@OptometricOffice.com