Sign Up Now For
Our FREE E-mail Newsletter

In each issue of HEALTHbeat:

  • Get trusted advice from the doctors at Harvard Medical School
  • Learn tips for living a healthy lifestyle
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest developments in health
  • Receive special offers on health books and reports
  • Plus, receive your FREE Bonus Report, Living to 100: What's the secret?

[ Maybe Later ] [ No Thanks ]

Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
Learn How

New Releases

You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Hearing Loss: A guide to prevention and treatment

If you think you might need a hearing checkup, you probably do. This Special Health Report describes the causes and cures for hearing loss. You’ll learn about the latest advances in hearing aid technology and find out which kind of hearing device may be best for you. This report also contains in-depth information on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss. You'll learn how to prevent hearing loss and preserve the hearing you have now.

Prepared by the editors of the Harvard Health Letter with David Murray Vernick, M.D., Assistant Professor of Otology and Laryngology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Ann Stockwell, M.A., CCC-A, Director of Audiology Services, Clinical Audiologist, Vernick & Gopal, LLC. 43 pages. (updated: 2013)

  • How we hear
    • The journey of sound
  • When hearing loss occurs
    • Kinds of hearing loss
    • Causes of hearing loss
  • Testing for hearing loss
    • The medical exam
    • The audiological evaluation
  • Progress in hearing technology
    • Hearing aids then and now
    • Before you buy
    • Where to buy
    • Choosing a style
    • Choosing circuitry
    • One hearing aid or two?
    • Fitting a hearing aid
    • Getting used to it
  • Surgery for hearing loss
    • Implantable bone-conducting aid
    • Middle ear implant
    • Cochlear implant
    • Auditory brainstem implan
    • Other surgeries
  • Coping with hearing loss
    • While you're adjusting to a hearing aid
  • Preventing hearing loss
  • Resources
    • Organizations
  • Glossary

Everyone has had this experience: someone is talking to you, and you can hear the words loudly but not clearly. The problem is especially common when you’re trying to have a conversation in a noisy room. But with age, many people have this problem even in quiet settings. The words are loud, but they sound garbled.

A speech discrimination test assesses how well you understand words. For this test, the audiologist has you listen to words through the headphones at a decibel level louder than your speech reception threshold, so you won’t have any problem with the volume of the speech. This test uses one-syllable words with vowels and consonants that are distributed similarly to those of words used in ordinary conversations—words such as jar, this, and box. The audiologist asks you to repeat the words you hear. Successfully repeating 90% or more of them is considered excellent.

Although it doesn’t mean your hearing is good, a high score on the speech discrimination test is good news. It means that you stand to benefit the most from a hearing aid, because boosting the volume of words will help you understand them better. In other words, your problem is mainly volume, which a hearing aid can fix. If you understand only a low percentage of the words, simply turning up the volume with a hearing aid is unlikely to help you hear any more clearly.

The main cause of difficulty with word discrimination is inner-ear hair cell or nerve degeneration. If your trouble understanding words is modest, a hearing aid may help to some degree, but it will not cure the problem. You’ll still need to use visual cues, such as lip reading, to help you understand what a person is saying. The more severe your problem is with word discrimination, the more limited your benefit from using a hearing aid.

The following reviews have been left for this report. Log in and leave a review of your own.

I have been reading this health report on hearing It is a very informative source of info.It covers all of the aspects one will need to be correctly informed of problems of hearing. It give extensive and helpful information to address all of the questions a person could have on hearing problems,where to get the right treatment & equipment. It could be a source for a treatment plan with ones doctor. It is excellent

More Like This

A Guide to Men's Health Fifty and Forward

A Guide to Men's Health Fifty and Forward

This Special Health Report offers steps and strategies to lessen — or prevent — threats to a man's well-being and longevity. It provides a wide-ranging, clear-eyed look at the leading causes of death for men at midlife and beyond. It examines those factors that put them at risk for a variety of health problems and explains the important measures than can be taken to reduce risk and live a longer, healthier life.

Learn more »
A Guide to Women's Health: Fifty and forward

A Guide to Women's Health: Fifty and forward

Midlife can be a woman’s halftime celebration. Not only can it be an opportunity to reflect on and rejoice in the life you’ve lived, but it is also a good time to plan your strategy for the future. This report will help you determine the conditions for which you are at greatest risk and do your best to avoid them. It will also help you to better manage chronic conditions that may erode your quality of life, and to deal with physical changes that are more bothersome than serious. It is designed to give you the information to make the choices today that will ensure you the best health possible tomorrow.

Learn more »