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Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults


Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

Those with hearing loss know how difficult it can be to communicate when there is a lot of background noise. Most have been in a restaurant or public space when noise levels were high, and communication became difficult or impossible. While hearing aids have advanced a lot in terms of their capabilities, it’s not always the case that we have them on hand. Nowhere is this more problematic than in the hospital, where noises swirl in the air while doctors try to communicate with patients about what is happening to them. Unfortunately, it isn’t always the case that a person is wearing their hearing aids when a medical emergency arises, and in many cases medical staff will remove hearing aids while administering to them. Even worse, some patients have hearing loss but do not wear hearing aids. Indeed, those who fare the worst in a hospital environment tend to be lower-income patients without access to the hearing aids that would help them to navigate the hospital environment better.

Studies On Communication Issues in Hospitals

A study from New York University in New York City found that those who self-reported having difficulty communicating with doctors while hospitalized were 32% more likely to return to the hospital within one month. The study included 4,436 patients, aged 65 and older, who were admitted to the hospital at least once between 2010 and 2013. By their own assessment, 12% of individuals said they had a hard time hearing what their doctors and other medical staff were saying. These tended to be older patients of lower socioeconomic status. The phenomenon has been noted in the course of other studies, as well. Communication difficulties also tend to be associated with greater health concerns generally, and a poorer self-reported rating of health. It’s difficult for hospital staff to communicate with patients who are hard of hearing, especially when these patients are in denial about hearing loss. The louder the staff raises their voice, the more they’re likely to distort and increase discomfort while remaining misunderstood. A doctor raising their voice can also sometimes violate HIPAA’s privacy standards.

Hearing Loss Is a Two-Way Street

It’s clear that we all need to do as much as we can to ensure that hearing or other communication is a realistic possibility for those who don’t know sign language. On the part of hospital staff, a note on a patient’s chart and a sign on their bed indicating hearing impairment could go a long way. Simply ensuring that doctors and staff are aware of hearing loss can help guard against miscommunication. Unfortunately, some patients pretend to hear when they actually can’t. It can be hard to identify these patients as having hearing loss, which can tragically result in insufficient treatment. While the stigma associated with hearing loss is definitely on the decline, it can still be a major impediment to some patients receiving the care they need while hospitalized. We all need to understand that hearing loss is not a scarlet letter, but a fact of life for most of us as we age. About one-third of Americans between age 65–74 have hearing loss, and two-thirds of those over 75 have it. Nearly 100% of centenarians have hearing loss, suggesting we’ll all have hearing loss if we live long enough. If you have hearing loss, addressing it directly is the best way to ensure that you have not only the care you need should you need to enter the hospital, but that you can feel as free and confident as you did before hearing loss became an issue.

Hearing Aids Can Help

Hearing aids are not only the best existing treatment for hearing loss—they’re better than ever. For those who have access to them, hearing aids are available in a variety of types to suit every lifestyle. Everyone has different priorities with their hearing, so talking to your hearing care professional can go a long way toward ensuring that you get the hearing aids that will work best for you. Hearing aids today connect to smartphones and other devices, automatically reduce background noise, assist with spatial awareness, and generally do a better job than ever before at improving the lives of those with hearing issues. If you or a loved one may have hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out if hearing aids are right for you. Join the millions of people who are living life to the fullest with the help of a good set of hearing aids!
Facts & Fictions about Hearing Loss

Facts & Fictions about Hearing Loss

For most of history, hearing loss came with a stigma. Hearing loss was associated with getting old, and hearing aids were crude devices that old people used to try to hear what little they could pick up. Nowadays, stars and important people like Bill Clinton, Herbie Hancock, Rob Lowe and Jodie Foster sport their state-of-the-art hearing aids at public events and talk openly about dealing with hearing loss. The stigma has more or less disappeared, and the rise of “hearables” has put what are effectively assistive listening devices in the ears of just about everyone. Far from indicating enfeeblement, hearing aids keep us in the conversation and allow us to live much the same as we did before hearing loss became an issue. Today, let’s debunk a few of the common myths about hearing loss.

Hearing Loss Only Affects Old People

Actually, of the 48 million Americans affected by hearing loss, 40% are younger than 60. While hearing loss does tend to come on more steadily with age, many of the people dealing with it are younger than you would think.

I Shouldn’t Have Gone to Those Rock Concerts

Rock concerts definitely don’t improve hearing, but there are lots of factors that go into why a person develops hearing loss. Genes, the normal aging process, ototoxic medications and herbs, smoking, diabetes, and even a typical American diet can contribute to hearing loss. Researchers at the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss (SICHL) say that even noise-induced hearing loss, the kind from those rock concerts, has a genetic element to how much it affects a person’s hearing ability. And a study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that those who kept to an anti-inflammatory diet—such as the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED) or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)—had a significantly reduced risk of hearing loss over a four-year period than those who ate other fares. If you enjoy music, you should go for it! But make sure to protect your ears with a good set of earplugs that can handle the decibel level of the concerts you’re attending!

I Could Understand Everyone If They’d Just Talk Louder

It’s easy to imagine that this is the case, but it’s probably not true. The louder people talk, the more they’re likely to distort the mechanical path that sound takes on its way to your ears, which will end up distorting what they’re saying anyway. Modern hearing aids are excellent at targeting just the frequencies you need to get a boost at, while minimizing background noise and emphasizing speech. Fitment is usually an ongoing process, but it’s likely that you’ll arrive at a program that works for you and actually makes speech more intelligible if you keep working with your hearing care provider.

I Know I Have Hearing Loss, But It’s Not That Bad Yet

Even mild hearing loss is known to cause problems in a person’s lifestyle, relationships, and memory retention. Additionally, changes start to take place in the brain that will make it more difficult to adjust to hearing aids later on. It’s common for people to actually “forget” how to hear speech, which is why many hearing care providers offer training courses for those new to hearing aids. Don’t worry: if you’ve been needing hearing aids for some time, you can still “relearn” to hear speech, but it’s easier to adjust to hearing aids if you never forgot in the first place! The best time to get hearing aids is when a hearing care professional recommends them. If you’re noticing any hearing trouble, make an appointment for a hearing test and find out if you’re a good candidate for hearing aids.

Hearing Aids Don’t Make a Big Difference

On the contrary! 95% of people who get hearing aids say they’re satisfied with them, when asked after one year. Studies have found that those who get hearing aids report improvement in social relationships and at work, and even make more money than those with untreated hearing loss. People with hearing aids tend to feel better about themselves and more confident than those who don’t treat their hearing loss, and they even report a greater sense of optimism about their lives and the world in general. Hearing aids make a whole world of difference! If you or a loved one might be in need of hearing aids, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what they can do for you!
Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

Hearing loss is something that affects tens of millions of Americans every day. It can be a frustrating situation that makes communication more difficult between friends and family alike, and can have a huge impact on everyone involved. As an invisible problem, it’s sometimes hard for normal-hearing people to understand how to appropriately empathize with those of us who have hearing loss, but not to worry! Here are a few misunderstandings that people with hearing loss have noticed others having, and how to correct them.

Hearing Loss Is Tiring

People with normal hearing understand speech nearly automatically: their brains do all the work behind the scenes to hear sound, identify speech, and transport it to short-term memory. For those of us with hearing loss, things work a little differently. Some sounds make it through, but we need to play a kind of guessing game to determine all of what’s being said. This takes work! We have to lean on context clues to try to make sense of mushy consonant sounds. All of this has to take place while the conversation moves forward, so our brains get tired much faster than normal. You can help us out by enunciating clearly, facing us when you speak, inserting some short pauses between your words, and stopping periodically to ask if we’re catching what you’re saying.

We’re Not Rude or Slow

Sometimes we might not hear you speaking to us, especially if you’re saying it from behind us or from another room. We’re not trying to ignore you! Similarly, if we get something wrong or respond to a question other than the one you asked, it’s simply because we didn’t hear everything and we came up with different words than you said. This happens between normal-hearing people, too, but we might do it a little more often. Make sure you have our attention before you start talking. Say our name or touch us gently on the arm to get our attention, and make sure we’re facing each other before you talk. If we get something wrong or can’t hear you properly, you don’t have to shout. You might wish to speak a little louder, but don’t yell (that only makes your voice distort).

Hearing Aids Aren’t the Same as Glasses

Glasses take the blurry world and make it crisp and clear, exactly the same as if you had normal vision. Our sense of hearing works a little differently. While some people are able to hear just about normally with hearing aids, some hearing loss is profound enough that not all the sound can get through no matter how loud it is. Hearing aids can also sometimes have difficulty with significant dynamic changes, so when your voice is sometimes yelling and sometimes soft it can be very difficult to track, or even painful. If we’re wearing hearing aids, you don’t have to talk louder than normal, but clear enunciation and more frequent pauses are always appreciated.

Let Us Speak for Ourselves

Sometimes people think they’re being helpful by answering questions for us, trying to speed things along. While it may be necessary to repeat things once or twice, always let us answer for ourselves. It makes us feel very helpless when we’re not allowed to speak on our own behalf! Please give us the time to understand.

Keep Simple Tricks in Mind

As mentioned above, there are small ways you can modify your speech to make yourself more understandable to us. Get our attention, face us when you speak, and keep your lips visible whenever possible. We’re doing our best to hear you, so try to meet us halfway!

Hearing Aids Are Important

If you or a loved one is dealing with hearing loss, hearing aids are an important tool in keeping the lines of communication open! Modern hearing aids can help a lot with reducing background noise and favoring speech, and even improving spatial awareness. They may not restore hearing to normal, but they can make a huge, positive difference in the way we hear and perceive the world. Make an appointment today to get a hearing test and find out if hearing aids are right for you. Those who get hearing aids today say they’re satisfied with them at a rate of 95%! Try out a set today and feel what it’s like to hear the world again!

Pueblo, Colorado