Hearing loss is common among seniors

I am 72 years old, and I have begun to not distinguish sounds. Am I going deaf? I must ask people many times to repeat what is said to me in order the grasp the words. Is there any treatment, or is there any device to help me?

Elias Bassmajian

Puerto la Cruz, Venezuela

Hearing loss is common later in life. One in three people older than 60, and half of those older than 85, have some hearing loss. Many people, however, do not realize their hearing has been compromised and that they can do something about it. Only about 20% of people who could benefit from a hearing aid wear one, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Some of the early symptoms of hearing loss including straining to hear conversation, trouble hearing on the telephone or difficulty following conversations when there is noise in the background or more than two people are talking at once. Consumers can take a short quiz designed to help identify hearing problems by going to the NIH Senior Health page. If you think you have a problem, first see a doctor. He or she may refer you to an otolaryngologist. You'll be referred to an audiologist if you need a hearing aid. Hearing aids have improved greatly in recent years, and there are many styles at various prices.

We can't speak for what assistance you might get in Venezuela. In the United States, hearing aids are typically not covered by insurance, and Medicare doesn't cover them for adults. However, Medicare does cover a hearing evaluation if it's ordered by a doctor. Some nonprofit organizations also provide financial assistance for hearing aids. See the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ website for more information on financial assistance.