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The Growing Popularity of “huh”
Among Baby Boomers and Their Parents

Greetings. Phone calls. Instructions from doctors or nurses. Whispers of a child. Rustling leaves.

…and the list goes on. Every day we all hear millions of sounds and often take the sense of hearing for granted. It just happens—movement makes sound waves which go into our ear canals and magically turn into sounds that the brain automatically processes and interprets so we can “understand” the “noise.”

For more than 30 million Americans, however, the processing of sound is not quite so effortless. Yet, mild hearing loss often goes undetected because it is gradual and individuals just seem to adjust until the hearing loss is significant enough to cause noticeable symptoms.

For instance, are you turning the television up louder, yet not so loud that it runs your family members out of the room? Or, are you avoiding group activities because it is getting hard to differentiate a primary sound, such as a conversation, amidst a room full of people talking and music playing? Or, are you asking people to repeat themselves more than before—the proverbial “huh”?

If any of these behaviors sounds familiar, good. You are recognizing that you probably have a hearing loss. But, don’t self-diagnose and go out shopping to buy hearing aids. You should instead schedule a thorough hearing evaluation with a doctor of audiology, a specialist who earned his or her doctorate in hearing healthcare.

The doctor of audiology will not only diagnose the type and degree of hearing loss, using sophisticated testing equipment in a soundproof booth, but he or she will provide you with a variety of assistive technology options based on the results of your testing. Thanks to new technology, there are more choices than ever to help you restore more natural hearing and enjoy the sounds of life—from computer-programmed hearing aids that are custom fit to match your specific hearing loss to amplifiers and alarms. Don’t waste your money; get the advice of the doctor first.

Until you can get to a doctor of audiology (a specialist in hearing health care and function who will coordinate with your primary care physician if medical care is needed), however, here are just a few suggestions to reduce the frustration of living with hearing loss and enhance communication

  1. Ask people who are speaking to you to face you directly and speak more deliberately and slowly with emphasis on enunciating clearly.
  2. Ask doctors and medical staff, or any other professional who is giving you important information, to write down what they tell you or to give the information and instructions to a family member. Better to be safe and healthy than worry about your privacy. Just imagine the potential for a lifethreatening mistake if you mishear a doctor’s instructions.
  3. Ask those who are speaking to you to avoid chewing gum or smoking so the speech is clearer.
  4. Avoid rushed conversations.
  5. Repeat what you think you heard to confirm what has been said, especially when the information is important, such as the amount of medicine you should take, the time of a flight, or the cost of something you are agreeing to buy.
  6. Also, use your “age-inspired wisdom” to suggest to your family members that they proactively protect their hearing, especially those who listen to music on headsets or who work or play in noisy environments. There is an epidemic of hearing loss among today’s young people, but since hearing loss is gradual they don’t see the risk until it’s too late.

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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide