Early warning signs | PostIndependent.com

Early warning signs

Ivy Vogel
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson W/ IV STORY Cynthia L. Hoest, hearing specialist, holds up a custom-fitted ear plug, one of the hearing devices The Hearing Aid Office offers. These specific ear plugs can be used in the water by kayakers, swimmers or people with ear problems.
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In a Verizon Wireless commercial, the actor moves around asking, “Can you hear me now?”The advertisement pokes fun at cell phone users who can’t find service, but “Can you hear me now?” is a question more Americans will find themselves asking if they don’t protect their ears.More than 30 million Americans suffer from untreated hearing loss, making hearing loss the most untreated health problem in the United States, according to the Colorado Hearing Society.

Most people don’t take care of hearing problems until they’ve lost a substantial amount of hearing, said hearing specialist Cynthia Hoest.Hoest owns The Hearing Aid Office in Glenwood. Though Hoest fits many patients with hearing aids, she’d like to fit more customers will earplugs to help prevent hearing loss.”People tell you they hear fine, and today they probably do,” Hoest said. “Those are the same people that get hearing aids when they’re in their early 40s.”Construction workers, musicians, hunters, loggers, EMTs and those who go to concerts should get ear plugs because repetitive loud noise causes hearing loss, Hoest said. When Hoest suggests earplugs at concerts, people think she’s crazy because they’re going to the concert to hear the music.

For those people, Hoest suggests filtered earplugs, which filter out high pitch noises – the kind that cause hearing loss – while allowing users to hear what they want to hear. At a concert, filtered earplugs block out the roar of the crowd but let the music through, Hoest said.”I’ve used them at a concert, and you can actually hear guitar and piano riffs better than you can without the plugs,” Hoest said.Hoest also makes bladder earplugs, which have a small hole on the outside and are popular with people who participate in water sports. Too much water in the ear, especially cold water, can damage hearing, Hoest said.Kayakers have a tendency to develop bulges in their ears because the cold water causes the inside of the ear to expand, Hoest said. When bulges become too large, they’re removed through surgery, which is more expensive and painful than bladder plugs.

Taking preventative action to stop hearing loss protects ears and bank accounts, Hoest said.A set of hearing aids at The Hearing Aid Office ranges from $2,600 to $6,000. A pair of custom-made ear plugs is $75.Custom-made ear plugs last longer and are more comfortable than generic ear plugs, Hoest said.To make the plugs, Hoest pours a mold into a customer’s ear. When the mold sets, she pulls it out using a string attached to the mold. To prevent the mold from going too far into the ear, Hoest places a plug in the ear.

“The plugs have so many cool designs that kids are getting into it,” Hoest said. “Once you lose you’re hearing, you can’t get it back.” Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. 534ivogel@postindependent.com


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