Mat Weekly, a doctor at Columbus Otolaryngology Clinic, holds up a cochlear implant while discussing hearing and balance Tuesday during the Senior Living Festival at Ramada-Columbus.

COLUMBUS — When it comes to hearing problems, age can be partly to blame.

“As we get older, we all lose hearing,” said Dr. Mat Weekly.

The ear, nose and throat surgeon at Columbus Otolaryngology Clinic said cumulative exposure to noise can impact someone's ability to hear. There are several hearing devices that have been developed to help restore and improve hearing.

“We get to the point when amplification can really change your life,” Weekly said Tuesday during a discussion at the Senior Living Festival.

The event held at Ramada-Columbus and sponsored by The Columbus Telegram, Columbus Community Hospital and Alpha Media featured guest speakers like Weekly who addressed issues specific to the older population. There were also numerous vendors with information ranging from health and wellness to senior living and retirement.

There are a variety of aids used to treat hearing loss. To determine the best treatment, Weekly said one step must be taken first.

“It is very important that we all start with a good comprehensive hearing test. The ones they do at health fairs can be helpful, but there is no substitute for a real comprehensive hearing test,” he said.

Those tests can be conducted by an audiologist.

Nora Fuchs, a doctor of audiology at AUDIO-LOGIC in Columbus, said the evaluation takes about 30 minutes in a sound-treated booth. They are painless and assess hearing ability through different tests.

She suggests people get a comprehensive test at age 50 to provide a baseline evaluation.

Data from the test determines the next step to address hearing loss, whether through surgery or the use of devices, Weekly told the audience of about 20.

Technology has created big changes in hearing aid devices. Conventional hearing aids are now much smaller and less noticeable. Hearing aids can also be rechargeable, eliminating the need for tiny batteries, and implanted aids are placed near the eardrum and replaced every few months.

Weekly said there could soon be a time when hearing aids are available over the counter. But buyers would need to keep in mind that they get what they pay for.

“If you buy a hearing aid over the counter or from a magazine, you are going to get a one-size-fits-all that ends up in a drawer or they fall out,” Weekly said.

That is why he says it's critical to go to an audiologist to get a professional fitting for a hearing aid.

Hearing loss may often come with age, but it can be lessened by using protective devices.

Weekly suggests using ear protection, whether it be earplugs or over-the-ear devices, for any activity that produces the noise level of a lawn mower or louder.

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