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Age-Related Hearing Loss is Often Untreated

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Age-Related Hearing Loss is Often Untreated

We “Baby Boomers” are not getting any younger. As we age into retirement and start to enjoy our “leisure years,” we want to make the most of our time with children, grandchildren, friends and well-wishers. But just as we start to explore the freedom that comes with retirement, many of us start to experience age-related hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss, or “presbycusis,” is not the end of the world, and it’s incredibly common. About a third of people aged 60–69 have it, and two-thirds of those over 70 have it. Just about every 100-year-old out there has some hearing loss, so it’s likely that we’ll all get it if we just live long enough! A lot of people want to put off getting hearing aids until their hearing loss is “really bad,” and some never get them at all. This is too bad! Hearing aids these days are pretty amazing, and they help us avoid a lot of health concerns that are increasingly linked to untreated hearing loss. Still, it’s likely that only about 20% of people who could use them will ever get hearing aids. This statistic hasn’t changed in over 40 years! And on average, it takes someone about seven years from the time they notice a hearing loss to the time they decide to get hearing aids. Let’s see the Baby Boomers be the generation to break the cycle! Study after study has confirmed the reasons to get hearing aids, even when hearing loss is considered “mild,” so let’s talk about why and see if we can get more Boomers on Board.

Prevent Lifestyle Changes

We all think we can “get by” without hearing aids, and that might even be true for a while. But do you really want to just “get by?” Mild hearing loss makes it much more difficult to understand speech when background noise is present. This makes it harder to participate in conversations at noisy restaurants and bars, or larger family gatherings. If you can follow along, it’s going to take some extra mental effort, and that’s going to make you tired. Yes: hearing loss is exhausting. Many people who are starting to acquire age-related hearing loss mistake the fatigue that comes from hearing loss as a separate age-related condition, when in reality a good set of hearing aids would solve the problem. When we have to work hard to understand a conversation, it becomes less fun. And when social gatherings become less fun, we naturally start to avoid them. We might not even realize we’re doing it—we just won’t “feel like it” today. Over time, this can start a trend toward avoiding social outings altogether. Even if we do attend, we’re likely to feel lonely and isolated from the conversation when we can’t hear clearly. Hearing aids help us to enjoy the time we spend with other people, and that naturally makes us feel better and helps us keep living the life we enjoy!

Better Memory

Those with even mild hearing loss tend to report having more memory issues than those with normal hearing or hearing aids. The greater the hearing loss, the more problematic these memory issues seem to be. This is likely due to the auditory cortex’s close proximity to the center of short-term memory in the brain. When hearing is normal, the auditory cortex identifies and comprehends speech, then immediately shunts it to short-term memory. When our ears aren’t providing reliable information to the auditory cortex, we need to develop work-arounds in order to comprehend what someone is saying. Context clues, guessing, and repetition all come into play, and these utilize other parts of the brain. When we finally do understand, it’s not as simple of a process to commit that understanding to memory.

Prevent Brain Atrophy

Our brains tend to operate on the principle of “use it or lose it.” When the auditory cortex, mentioned above, stops receiving as much information from our ears, it starts to atrophy. This process begins even with mild hearing loss. Brain cells don’t die, but the grey matter supporting the structure dissipates, and the structure collapses. Once this happens, even when you can hear clearly, you won’t be able to understand what’s being said! The ability to comprehend speech can be regained over time, but why wait until that’s necessary? You can start wearing hearing aids once they’re recommended and live your life uninterrupted by hearing loss.

Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever

Hearing aids today do a lot more than just amplify sound. They separate speech from background noise, processing each differently and helping to ensure you won’t miss a single word that’s spoken to you. Multi-microphone setups utilize artificial intelligence to help localize sound in space, giving you a better picture of where things are. Then, when you turn your head toward the sound you want to hear, it will be amplified above all else, automatically. It’s as close to normal hearing as hearing aids have ever been, and it’s pretty darned good! Hearing aids today can connect wirelessly to smartphones and other devices to stream phone calls, video calls, media content, and more. You can even take a hearing test through an app in your smartphone and have your fitment adjusted remotely! Those who get hearing aids report greater self-confidence and optimism than those with untreated hearing loss. They feel more self-reliant, and are better-able to navigate the world. They suffer fewer accidental injuries, and tend to avoid earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia. 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 to improve your life!
Everyday Activities That Could Harm Your Hearing

Everyday Activities That Could Harm Your Hearing

When it comes to our hearing, protection is the name of the game. Sensorineural hearing loss—the kind that results from the damage or death of the tiny, hair-like cells in our inner ears—accounts for 90% of hearing loss, and is unfortunately permanent. When this hearing loss is the result of noise exposure, it’s called noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

About Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

Modern life is noisy, and there are all kinds of situations when we are exposed to damaging noise levels, often without even realizing it! Everyone knows that a painfully loud sound can cause hearing loss, but it’s not just about volume: it’s also about duration. Sound levels as low as 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted) can cause NIHL after about 8 hours of exposure. 85 dBA is about the volume level of a gas-powered lawn mower, or a leaf blower. Some vacuum cleaners can hit 85 dBA, as well. And for every additional 3 dBA of sound, the safe time of exposure is cut in half. That means by the time sound reaches 100 dBA—about the volume level at a high school dance, or while riding a motorcycle—only 15 minutes of exposure can cause permanent hearing loss. Under normal circumstances, sound will not be painful under 130 dBA, yet as you can see much of the sound we experience at those non-painful levels will cause hearing loss very quickly.

Concerts and Sports Events

Large gatherings tend to be very noisy, and both music concerts and sports events can damage the unprotected ear. We might think of wearing earplugs at a rock concert, but most people do not imagine that sports events will harm their hearing. In fact, they do! The loudest “crowd roar” at a sports event on record happened on September 29, 2014. The Kansas City Chiefs were playing the New England Patriots. With 8 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Patriots’ running back Shane Vereen was stuffed for no gain on a 2nd-down rush. The home crowd went wild, registering a deafening 142.2 dBA roar. It is not recommended to experience sound above 140 dBA even with hearing protection in place! We don’t want to be killjoys about the thrill of an historic moment in sports, but neither do we want to see sports fans losing their hearing unnecessarily! Always be sure to wear earplugs at the game! Custom-molded earplugs can be a great option for those who need regular hearing protection, whether for sports or music. They are comfortable to wear for long periods, and they keep the balance of the frequency spectrum intact much better than foam disposables or even over-the-counter reusable options. Different levels of attenuation are available (up to about 36 dBA) for a variety of activities. Be sure not to over-attenuate for your intended use! Over-attenuation can cut you off from your environment and make communication difficult. If your earplugs make it harder to get along in a given environment, you’re less likely to use them! When you get custom-molded earplugs from a hearing healthcare professional, we’ll make sure that your attenuation level is appropriate for your intended purpose.

Personal Listening Devices (PLDs)

When the Sony WalkmanTM came on the scene in 1979, it immediately caused an uproar in the hearing healthcare community, and rightly so. The maximum volume of the original Walkman was easily capable of causing hearing damage. While, for the first time, people were free to enjoy their music on the go, rates of hearing loss climbed. So over 40 years later, we’ve learned our lesson and stopped making our personal listening devices capable of hurting our ears, right? Unfortunately, not even close! In fact, most of today’s PLDs have an even louder maximum volume than the original Walkman. More efficient battery and amplifier technology, as well as the fact that music players no longer require moving parts, means that manufacturers have been able to crank up the volume even higher. How do you protect yourself while listening to a PLD? You can’t accurately measure the effective sound level you’re experiencing—without a Real Ear Measurement system, at least—and we tend to lose track of just how loud we might be listening in headphones. A useful trick is to always start with the volume low, and turn it up slowly until it is just loud enough to hear clearly. This will be effective and safe in most situations. However, if there is a good deal of background noise, you might need to turn your PLD’s volume up to dangerous levels in order to hear the content comfortably! It’s tricky, right? If you tend to listen in situations where background noise is an issue—such as planes, trains and automobiles—you might consider investing in a set of active noise-canceling headphones. Headphones tend to be less damaging than earbuds in the first place, and active noise canceling will limit the background sound so you can enjoy whatever it is you’re listening to at a lower volume. If you are interested in custom-molded earplugs, or have a concern that you might have hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and invest in your hearing health!
The Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

The Causes of Acquired Hearing Loss

When it comes to hearing loss, the names of the game are treatment and prevention. Some of us are born with hearing loss, and in these cases treatment is the only option, but for the rest of us, prevention is really important to make sure we have the best hearing we can throughout our lives. The broad categories of hearing loss are sensorineural, conductive, and mixed. Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for 90% of the hearing loss in the world, and it’s the kind that results from damage to the tiny, hair-like cells in the inner ear, called stereocilia. Most cells in the body are born, die, and are replaced on a regular basis, but when it comes to the stereocilia, the ones we’re born with are the only ones we’ll ever have. Stereocilia can be damaged by exposure to loud noise, physical trauma, and other medical conditions. They also tend to stop working as we get older. In fact, the description of “normal” hearing changes through the human lifespan. Normal hearing for a 20-year-old involves a lot more high-frequencies than normal hearing for a 40-year-old. And while one-third of those aged 60–69 have hearing loss, two-thirds of those over age 70 have it. Nearly 100% of centenarians have hearing loss, suggesting that we’re all likely to experience it if we just live long enough! Let’s talk about some of the causes of acquired hearing loss:

Loud Noise

Noise is a major cause of hearing loss today. Our world just seems to keep getting louder. While noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) was on the decline around the turn of the millennium, it’s back in a big way today. About 10% of millennials have hearing loss, while already 17% of Gen-Z’ers have it. Especially considering that Gen-Z is the younger of the two generations, this spike is pretty alarming! Lots of people think that sound has to be painful to cause NIHL, but this isn’t true. In fact, sound levels as low as 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted)—about the level of a gas-powered lawnmower—can cause permanent hearing loss after about 8 hours of exposure. For every additional 3 dBA in level, the safe time of exposure is cut in half. By the time we reach 100 dBA—the average volume of a high school dance—permanent hearing loss occurs after only 15 minutes of exposure. If you spend time around loud noise, the solution is pretty simple—just wear hearing protection! Earmuffs are a good choice for many activities, and it’s always a good idea to carry a set of earplugs with you. There’s a wide range of quality and specifications when it comes to earplugs, so give us a call if you have questions about the best option for yourself.

Physical Trauma

Car accidents, sports injuries, and other head injuries can cause hearing loss. “Physical trauma” also includes catastrophically loud sounds, like a bomb going off nearby. These kinds of explosions can cause immediate hearing loss. Repeated, low-level physical traumas, like those experienced by American football players, can lead to something called “hidden hearing loss.” Under normal circumstances, the electrical impulses that carry sonic information travel from our ears to the auditory cortex of our brains via the auditory nerves. Nerves are surrounded by a fatty substance called “myelin,” which functions like the rubber jacket around an electric cord. It keeps the information that the nerve is sending on that nerve. When the sheath is damaged, information can leak, and that’s what happens with hidden hearing loss. In the context of a pure-tone hearing test, someone with hidden hearing loss will appear to have normal hearing. This is because the leaky auditory nerves are only transferring one sound at a time. When the same person goes out to a restaurant, the chaotic sonic environment will become difficult to comprehend, as a lot of the information coming into their ears will never make it to their brain.

Medical Conditions

Our hearing ability can indeed be like the “canary in the coal mine” of our bodies. When we have chronic inflammation, the restricted blood flow will eventually cause hearing loss. Underlying issues like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some viral infections, and obesity can all cause hearing loss. An underlying cardiovascular condition can cause age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) to progress much faster than normal. By getting a regular hearing test, this might be discovered and result in a life-saving intervention! If you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today! Hearing aids are better than ever, and are still the best treatment for most sensorineural hearing loss!
Acknowledging the Reality of Hearing Loss

Acknowledging the Reality of Hearing Loss

About 48 million Americans are living with some form of hearing loss, in one or both ears. Hearing loss can range from mild to profound, and should be treated regardless of the severity. Sometimes hearing loss can be cured by removing blockages from the ear canals, repairing perforated eardrums, or other surgical means. But most hearing loss is “sensorineural,” meaning it is caused by problems in the inner ear or auditory nerves. Sensorineural hearing loss is the larger umbrella category under which we find both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss. While these types of hearing loss are not curable, there is still treatment available.

Resistance to Hearing Aids?

Hearing aids are by far the most common and most effective means of treating sensorineural hearing loss. Still, some people are reluctant to start wearing them. We understand: It can be frightening, daunting, or just seem downright unpleasant to start wearing these devices throughout your day. Some people feel their hearing loss “isn’t that bad,” or that they’re “getting by just fine” without the use of hearing aids. While hearing loss is certainly not a life-or-death matter, at least at the outset, it is best to start treating hearing loss with hearing aids as soon as the results of a hearing evaluation indicate that they would be helpful.

Ears vs Eyes

Our hearing doesn’t work the same as our eyesight. If you are near- or far-sighted, you’ll notice that things in the world are very blurry. If you have cataracts, you’ll know that your vision is being obstructed. When you have hearing loss, you simply don’t hear certain things. You might think people are mumbling. You can probably hear the television just fine, as long as the volume is set so high that people with normal hearing find it unbearably loud! In fact, it’s normal for another person to notice that we have hearing loss before we know it ourselves. If someone else is trying to point out a sound that we can’t hear, but they can hear it clearly, that’s a good sign that we may have hearing loss.

Regular Hearing Tests

The best way to be sure about whether we have hearing loss is not to try to judge for ourselves, but to schedule a hearing test and receive an objective measure of just where our hearing ability lies. The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. Those in higher-risk professions, or with a medical history indicating a higher risk for hearing loss, should be tested even more frequently.

Hearing Aids Can Help!

Think about the last time you attended a social function. With background noise, hearing loss becomes that much more of a problem. Did you become tired earlier than usual? Many people with age-related hearing loss mistake the fatigue that comes with hearing loss for a separate age-related condition. In fact, by treating hearing loss you can feel more energized for longer, just like you used to! People who get hearing aids report satisfaction with them at a rate of over 90%, when asked after one year. Those with hearing aids tend to be both physically and socially more active than those with untreated hearing loss. They self-report feeling more confident, capable, independent, and even more optimistic than those who don’t wear hearing aids. If you’re putting off getting hearing aids because you don’t want to feel “old,” you may just find that hearing aids will make you feel much younger than you do when you can’t hear what’s going on! Hearing aids today are better than ever before. They can distinguish between background noise and speech, and raise the level of speech while suppressing background sound. Some hearing aids can even process speech and background sound separately, so both can sound amazing and you can adjust the level of each independently. Hearing aids today connect wirelessly to smartphones and other devices via Bluetooth, making them integrate much more seamlessly into your daily routines. You can stream phone calls, listen to music, and even hear the sound from your television right through your hearing aids, like using a set of wireless earbuds. If you or a loved one may have a hearing issue, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to get your hearing health back on track!
Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

If you have even mild hearing loss, the following scenario will likely be familiar to you: You go out to a restaurant/bar to meet some friends or family. There’s some music playing in the background and there are eight or ten of you around a table. You’re having a hard time picking up what is being said. Even the people who are seated closest to you seem like they’re mumbling through the din of the background noise. You try to keep up, but everyone is talking much faster than you’re able to put together what they’re saying. You think to yourself, “Did she just say ‘peach’ or ‘beach?’ She’s talking about swimming, so probably ‘beach.’” While you went through that logic exercise, two more sentences have been spoken and you got none of them. Pretty soon you give up, maybe you just smile and nod while the conversation swirls around you. You feel exhausted while everyone else is in good spirits and seems to have more energy than ever. After a little while, you excuse yourself and go home, worn out, frustrated, and feeling lonely even though you just passed a couple of hours with some of the people who are closest to you. The next time you have the opportunity to go out, the same thing happens. The time after that, you make up an excuse not to go. You find yourself spending more and more time at home. Does this sound like you?

Hearing Loss & Your Overall Health

Hearing loss is one of the trickiest problems we face as we get older, and it can sometimes be hard to determine what are the effects of hearing loss and what are separate age-related conditions. Studies in recent decades have found that hearing loss tends to promote a lot of other problems, if it is left untreated. As we naturally find social timeless enjoyable, we tend to shy away from it more and more often, as in the scenario above. Over time, the lack of social experiences can result in loneliness, depression, and social isolation. While it isn’t clear exactly why yet, another consequence of untreated hearing loss is a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Intuitively, it makes sense. We use our brains to navigate social situations and take in lots of information from the world. When our ears are no longer providing enough information to our brains, over time, cognitive decline can set in. It really seems true that we must “use it or lose it.”

Higher Rates of Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Even though we’re not entirely sure why this happens, the statistics are clear. Hearing loss is the biggest modifiable risk factor, out of twelve, for eventually developing Alzheimer’s or dementia. Mild hearing loss makes a person twice as likely as a normal-hearing person to experience cognitive decline. Moderate hearing loss makes one three times as likely, and severe hearing loss makes one five times as likely to experience cognitive decline and dementia. Researchers are quick to note that hearing loss is not a guarantee of cognitive decline. If your risk for dementia is low, even five times that low risk will still be very low risk. But, nonetheless, the risk is there.

Hearing Aids Can Help

Evidence is mounting that treating hearing loss with hearing aids all but eliminates the increased risk of dementia that hearing loss brings with it. This is because hearing aids do exactly what is required: deliver more information to the brain. They keep us using our brains! The hearing aids of today are much more sophisticated, powerful, and enjoyable to wear than the hearing aids of the past. They can separate background noise from speech, connect wirelessly to smartphones and other devices, and even allow you to take a hearing test right through a smartphone app. It’s never been easier or more rewarding to use hearing aids! When asked after one year, over 90% of those who wear hearing aids say they are glad they got them. Hearing aid wearers tend to report more self-confidence, more independence, and a greater sense of optimism about their own futures… as well as the future of the world in general! They tend to spend more time outside the house, have more rewarding social relationships, and be in better physical health than those with untreated hearing loss. Wearing hearing aids is not just about trying to prevent the cascade of negative health outcomes that comes along with untreated hearing loss. It’s about actively improving your life, and making sure you get the most out of every day. If you or a loved one is dealing with untreated hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to improve your life!
Communicating with People who Have Hearing Loss

Communicating with People Who Have Hearing Loss

It is a well-studied phenomenon that hearing loss interferes in personal relationships. As communication becomes more difficult, friends, partners and loved ones can experience frustration just as much as the person who has hearing loss. For communication to be effective, all parties must participate in facilitating better communication styles. It’s not simply enough for the person with hearing loss to get hearing aids, or the people with normal hearing to “stop mumbling.” By keeping some things in mind, everyone can be understood, allowing our relationships to deepen and communication to flow freely, even while hearing loss is at play. If you have a partner, friend, loved one or co-worker with hearing loss, keep these tips in mind and you’ll be sure to have more successful communication going forward. In addition, be sure to ask the hearing-impaired person if there’s anything you can do that they have found to be especially helpful in conversation.
  • Visual communication is extra important for those with hearing loss. We usually rely somewhat on body language and facial cues in the course of a conversation, but these become even more important when hearing loss is an issue. People with hearing loss also tend to start reading lips. Make sure to face the person with hearing loss directly, rather than trying to speak into their ears. It’s more important that they see your face than that they hear your voice a little bit louder, which might only make their hearing aid distort.
  • Make sure there’s plenty of light, and if it is directional, make sure it is shining on your face, not the hearing-impaired person’s face.
  • Keep your hands from blocking your face. Eating, chewing gum, smoking, or otherwise occupying or covering your mouth while you talk is going to make it more difficult for the hearing-impaired person to understand you. Keep in mind that beards and mustaches may also reduce a hearing-impaired person’s ability to understand you.
  • Facemasks make communicating with the hearing impaired much more difficult. While it is important to use facemasks in order to prevent the spread of disease, it may be more helpful to back up a few feet in order to achieve social distance, rather than to sit closer while wearing a mask. Ask the hearing-impaired person their preference on this issue.
  • Don’t try to speak from another room. Always make sure you have the hearing-impaired person’s attention before you begin communicating. Say their name and wait for a response, or gently tap them on the shoulder. Don’t start speaking until you’re facing one another.
  • Enunciate, but do not break into a shout. You can speak louder than normal, but use a speaking voice. Shouting can distort hearing aids and make your words more difficult to understand. Shouting also makes your mouth look different, which will make it harder to read your lips.
  • Speak slowly, but do not draw out your words. Just add a little extra space between them.
  • If you’re communicating a lot of information, add small breaks between sentences. Periodically, ask the hearing-impaired person if they’re following what you’re saying. They may need you to say something again, so give them space to ask for that.
  • If the hearing-impaired person has asked you to repeat something you’ve said, try saying it in a different way rather than simply repeating the same word or phrase more loudly. By changing up your phrasing, you’re giving the person with hearing loss more “raw material” to use to put together the context clues and understand what you’re getting at.
  • Hearing loss makes it much more difficult to understand speech when there is background noise. Even a small amount of hearing loss will be much more difficult for a person when there is noise. Try to have important or longer conversations in a quiet, well-lit area. If you’re in a loud group setting and need to communicate something important, ask the hearing-impaired person to move to a quieter space with you.
  • Hearing loss can paradoxically make people more sensitive to loud sounds. This happens because of a phenomenon called “recruitment” that happens in the inner ear. Be aware that especially loud sounds may be really uncomfortable for a hearing-impaired person.
  • If you’re providing specific information—such as an address, telephone number, date, etc.—write it down whenever possible. If you can’t provide a hard copy of the information, ask the hearing-impaired person to repeat it back to you so you can make sure they’ve understood correctly. Many numbers, such as “fifteen” and “fifty,” sound very similar and are easily confused.
  • Hearing loss is exhausting. Understand that a person with hearing loss is working much harder than a normal-hearing person to keep up a conversation. They will likely become tired sooner.
If you or a loved one is dealing with hearing loss and has not had a hearing test or evaluation to determine if hearing aids would be recommended, make an appointment today. Hearing aids are an excellent way to make communication much, much easier when hearing loss is an issue. Find out what they can do to improve your communication, relationships, and life today!
Tips for Communicating if You Have Hearing Loss

Tips for Communicating if You Have Hearing Loss

One of the biggest problems we face when hearing loss becomes an issue is the difficulty we have in our relationships with those closest to us. Partners, friends and co-workers may experience frustration just as much as we do as a result of our hearing loss.   While they will likely need to adopt some new methods of communication in order to facilitate conversation with us, there are also some things that we, as the hearing-impaired parties, can do to make communication go more smoothly.  
  • It may start to happen naturally, but a bit of lip reading can go a long way. We always rely on body language and facial cues to help us understand one another, even when both parties have normal hearing, but it becomes especially important when we have hearing loss to get that extra information from a person’s face. If someone isn’t facing you while they speak, let them know you are hard of hearing and ask them to make sure that you can see their face while they talk.
  • Background noise makes understanding speech that much harder. Try to remove distracting noises from your home environment when you have company. If you’re meeting in public, ask to meet at a place that doesn’t play loud music, or at a time when it won’t be at its busiest. If you’re in a group conversation and someone begins to say something especially important, ask to move to a quieter space to have the conversation.
  • Whenever there’s a short break in the conversation, paraphrase what has been said and repeat information back to the other party to ensure that you’ve heard them correctly.
  • Don’t pretend to hear when you can’t! While it may be tempting to simply pretend that you’re hearing in order to let the conversation move forward, it’s pointless and can result in embarrassing or even devastating miscommunications. If you can’t hear a person well enough, change the situation so that you can understand them, or ask them to write down what they’re saying.
  • Be patient. Frustration is normal when communication is difficult, but if you can find a way to make communication possible, your social life doesn’t have to end just because you can’t hear as well as you used to.

Hearing Aids Can Help

Hearing aids are by far the best and most common treatment for hearing loss. The goal with hearing aids is to deliver more information to the brain, and that will not only make your communication easier with others, but keep your brain health in good shape going forward.   As we go through life leaving our hearing loss untreated, changes start to happen in the brain. Over time, the auditory cortex will actually atrophy, and when you do get hearing aids, you’ll still need some time to build it back up before you can understand speech. By getting hearing aids as soon as they’re recommended by an audiologist, you’ll be able to live your life uninterrupted by hearing loss.   The hearing aids of today are better than ever. They’re sleeker, smaller, and much more powerful than the hearing aids our parents wore. They can separate speech from background sound, allowing you to follow a conversation much more easily. They can employ directional microphones to make the sound in front of us much louder than ambient sound. They can even connect wirelessly to smartphones and other devices to stream phone calls and other media content, and even control programs and volume from an app. Some models even allow you to take a hearing test and have your fitment adjusted remotely, right through the app.   The toll that hearing loss takes on our relationships is well-documented. Study after study confirms that hearing loss becomes a frustrating stressor in partnerships, marriages, friendships and workplaces. We all need to do our part to make sure that we can overcome hearing loss to maintain healthy social relationships, which are a major part of living a long, healthy life. While it’s important for the people in your life to do their part to facilitate communication, getting a good set of hearing aids is the best way to make the whole project much, much easier!   If you or a loved one is dealing with untreated hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to improve your communication, your relationship, and your life!
Treating Hearing Loss Helps You Stay Socially Connected

Treating Hearing Loss Helps You Stay Socially Connected

According to the AARP, 17% of people aged 65 and older are socially isolated. 46% of women over 75 live alone. Recent research has found that feeling lonely puts us at a 26% increased risk of early death. Another study showed that feeling lonely (even if you see people regularly, but feel that they don’t understand you) is as physically harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.   Untreated hearing loss is strongly correlated with loneliness and social isolation. It makes sense, doesn’t it? When we can’t hear people, it’s very difficult to feel connected to them. Conversations move slower, people need to speak differently to try to accommodate our hearing loss, and we simply can’t keep up.   In the early stages of hearing loss, we usually experience social fatigue after a much shorter time than usual. Some people mistake this fatigue for a separate age-related condition—”I can’t stay out as long as I used to.” In fact, the extra mental effort it takes to strain to hear, especially in a busy environment, makes us mentally exhausted much sooner than we’re accustomed to.   From this point, many people recognize that they have a hearing issue. They make an appointment for a hearing test, and may be advised to get a set of hearing aids. This is the right thing to do! Hearing aids keep us in the conversation, help keep our brains sharp, and help us stay connected to those we care about.   Unfortunately, this is not the norm. On average, people tend to wait seven years from the time they notice hearing loss to the time they do something about it. This is likely because they don’t understand the risks of leaving their hearing loss untreated, or don’t understand what is to be gained from a good set of hearing aids.

Being Around People Doesn’t Mean We’re Not Lonely

In order to feel connected, we need to be part of the conversation, not just in the same room. If we have hearing loss, we can be surrounded by family and friends, but still feel left out. Others chat away while we can only hear when someone speaks directly into our ear. With a set of hearing aids, we can be more present with everyone in the room, and be more aware of what’s happening.   Hearing aids have been shown to increase feelings of social connection, as well as confidence and independence. Feeling connected and not being lonely doesn’t necessarily mean we always need to be around people, and hearing aids help give us the independence to choose when we want to see others and when we need some alone time.

It’s Not Enough to Hear “Some of the Time”

While most people consider their hearing very important to them, the rate of hearing aid adoption does not seem to reflect that. This is partly because many people believe that it’s enough to be able to hear when “necessary.” For example, if your partner says loudly in your ear, “It’s time to go!”   It’s easy for us to think that being able to hear the important things means that we don’t need hearing aids. Unfortunately, the science does not back this up.   Even if we were able to hear everything that was said to us, but we couldn’t hear anything else, we would be in trouble. Our brains take in all kinds of information from the environment through our ears: birds chirping, fridges buzzing, feet shuffling, distant sounds and close sounds of all volume levels. These sounds feed our brains information that keeps our cognitive abilities in good order. When it comes to our brains, it really is true that we have to “use it or lose it.”

Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever

Hearing aids today are technological marvels, housing tiny computers that are powerful enough to distinguish between speech and background sound, reduce reverberation from speech, connect via Bluetooth to smartphones and other devices, and even automatically recognize the characteristics of different environments and switch to the appropriate program. Some hearing aids can even use GPS to automatically return to a program that previously worked in a given space. While hearing aids are more powerful than ever, they also take less effort to use than ever!   If you or a loved one is having hearing issues, don’t hesitate to make an appointment for a hearing test today. Find out what’s going on with your hearing ability and take the right steps to keep yourself in the conversation and stay connected!
Working with Hearing Loss

Working with Hearing Loss

Today in America, there are about 48 million people dealing with some type of hearing loss. For those in the workforce, hearing loss can create communication issues that can slow down productivity, affect the path of their careers, and even cause mental health problems. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way! By keeping a few things in mind, you can reduce the stress of trying to do your job while negotiating with hearing loss. 

Ask for Reasonable Accommodations 

The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with all kinds of disabilities, including hearing loss. Talk to your employer about what you need to do your job most effectively. It could be as simple as having a microphone at the table during meetings, sitting closer to a visiting speaker, or moving your desk away from noisy workplace appliances.  It can be crucial to make sure that people talk in turns, and a meeting moderator who knows that you have hearing loss will be able to remind everyone to do that. You might also ask that meetings take place at a round table, or another situation that allows you to see everyone’s face when they speak. If one conference room tends to be noisier than another (for example, if it’s closer to the kitchen), you can ask to hold meetings in a quieter space. Whatever you can think of to ease communication between you and your coworkers is worth trying out! 

Disclose Your Hearing Loss 

In order to take advantage of the protections offered by the ADA, your employer needs to know that you have hearing loss. Your coworkers can also participate in facilitating your work as long as they, too, know about your hearing loss. Positive, forthright, polite disclosure helps everybody to understand the little steps they can take to make sure you’re included in the conversation. If you’re having trouble hearing someone, you can say, “I’m having trouble hearing you with my hearing loss. Can you please face me when you speak and talk a bit more slowly?” Once your workmates understand what they can do to help, most of them will start doing it automatically whenever you speak with them. 

Prepare in Advance 

While everyone benefits from advance preparation, it can be especially helpful for those of us with hearing loss. You’ll be able to follow along much better in meetings if you know the agenda in advance, so ask to have it emailed to you prior to the event. It may also be helpful to have a notetaker present, who can provide you with the minutes afterward in case you need to revisit something. 

Use Assistive Technology 

If you meet in larger groups, it can be a lot harder to hear than in smaller discussions where everyone can be physically nearer to each other. In larger conference rooms, a loop system can be helpful. Members of the group each have a microphone, which is sent to an amplifier that feeds a loop of wire that surrounds the room. The audio signal can then be picked up by a receiver, or a set of hearing aids with T-coil capability. A similar but more transportable option could be an FM system. Talk to your employer about obtaining these technologies.  Other technologies can translate spoken words into text, like Computer Assisted Real Time Transcription (CART). Choosing to email when possible, rather than call or stop by a coworker’s office, can also be helpful. Video calls might be more beneficial than phone calls, so you can see the other person’s face. Lean in to the technology around you! 

Try Hearing Aids 

Even if you’ve tried them before and didn’t find them useful, you’d be surprised how much the technology has advanced in the last few years. Most hearing aid manufacturers offer a trial period, so don’t be afraid to give them another shot! Current models of hearing aids can do a very good job of distinguishing between speech and background noise, and even altering their program automatically as you move through different environments. If discretion is a concern for you, hearing aids are available that are invisible or nearly invisible. Don’t let hearing loss affect your performance at work. Try out a set of hearing aids today and see just how great life can sound! 
How Untreated Hearing Loss Interferes with Your Relationships

How Untreated Hearing Loss Interferes with Your Relationships

If you have hearing loss, or are partnered with someone who does, you may already have a sense that hearing loss can put a strain on a relationship. We all know that hearing loss makes it hard for the person who is dealing with it, but it also puts a lot of stress on those who are close to that person. Untreated hearing loss forces us to make all kinds of decisions based not on what we want to do, but what we have to do in order to accommodate hearing loss.

Relationship Difficulties with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a well-studied phenomenon, and new information is discovered on a regular basis about how age-related hearing loss causes changes in our brains, and in our lives. Of course, there is a deep connection between the way we interact with our partners and what happens inside our brains.   In a study published in The Hearing Review in 2019, researchers noted that “both the hearing-impaired participants and their close partners bemoaned the loss of spontaneity and the difficulties of sharing small, unexpected incidents, observations and small talk in their everyday interactions.”   Those who get hearing aids know what it’s like to “hear the world” again. All of the little sounds we encounter in the course of a day—birds chirping, feet shuffling, fridges buzzing—provide our brains with information that helps keep our brains healthy. It’s really true that we must “use it or lose it.” That’s what treating hearing loss is all about: getting information to our brains.   Our relationships are much the same. It’s not just about hearing the most “important” things we have to say to each other. There are a thousand little ways we interact in the course of a day: commenting on things we see or hear around us, cracking jokes, telling each other about something we read, the list goes on. When communication becomes more difficult, we naturally start to communicate less.   And when we communicate less, our relationships start to suffer. We lose the feeling of intimacy that we once had.   In fact, a survey of about 1,000 British participants found that 33% had argued with their spouse as a direct result of hearing loss. Miscommunication is always frustrating, but a lifestyle of miscommunication can be intolerable, especially when we know there is something that can solve the problem.

Hearing Aids Can Help

Hearing aids are not just for the people who wear them, but also for everyone they interact with regularly. Aside from the numerous benefits that hearing aids have been shown to have for brain health, physical health, and emotional well-being on their own terms, they also help make life easier for the people we spend most of our time with.   Hearing aids allow us to go to a restaurant and have a good conversation together, rather than having the conversation completely swallowed up by background noise. They let us enjoy a morning together, talking about the news of the day or our plans for the afternoon. They allow us to feel more confident and independent, which allows us to feel more connected to our partners rather than tied to them.   Studies have shown that 95% of people say they are glad they got hearing aids, when asked after the first year of wearing them. Hearing aids are tied to greater feelings of social connection—not just with our spouse but with our broader social network. That helps us feel more secure, confident, and optimistic. In fact, people who wear hearing aids tend to report having a more optimistic view of the world in general, not even just their own lives.

Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever

Hearing aids are not the big, whistling gadgets of the past. Today’s hearing aids are sleek, powerful, and filled with marvelous technology. What’s more, the stigma associated with hearing aids is all but gone: as people are living longer, we expect nearly everyone to require some hearing amplification at some point in their life.   Hearing aids today connect with smartphones, automobile computers, tablets and more. They favor speech over background sound, improving the listening experience in countless different types of environments. Some can even automatically detect when you have moved from one type of sonic environment to another, and switch their program with no input from you. As hearing aids seem more and more complicated, they paradoxically become easier and easier to actually use.   If you or your loved one is dealing with hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do not just for you, but for the quality of your relationship.

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