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! 
Avoiding Hearing Tests Could Make the Problem Much Worse

Avoiding Hearing Tests Could Make the Problem Much Worse

When you go to a doctor for a checkup, they usually don’t give you a hearing screening. We make regular visits to the medical doctor, the eye doctor, and the dentist—but not to the audiologist. Yet, in a recent AARP poll, 75% of respondents said their hearing health was extremely important or very important to them. Clearly, there is a mismatch between the importance that Americans place on their hearing and the amount of attention we give to it.

Regular Hearing Tests

The Better Hearing Institute and ASHA (The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association), both non-profits, suggest that a person should receive a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. Those in higher-risk professions, or who are at a higher risk for hearing loss due to medical or family histories, should be tested even more frequently. Likewise, if you are an avid gun enthusiast, woodworker, musician, or otherwise spend a lot of time in high-noise environments, hearing testing should be a regular priority.

How Hearing Tests Help You Stay Healthier

Hearing screenings (quick checkups to make sure you do not have hearing loss) and hearing tests allow you to keep better track of your hearing health over time. You can identify that you are starting to show early signs of hearing loss while you are still well within the range of normal hearing. If these signs appear, it’s an indication that you need to do a better job of protecting your ears in high-decibel-level situations, and perhaps take additional steps to reduce your modifiable risk factors for hearing loss. Some steps you can take that have been shown to reduce the risk of hearing loss include:
  • Protect Your Ears – Any time the ambient sound is at or above 85 dBA (decibels A-weighted), protect your ears or move to a safe distance.
  • Turn Down the Earbuds – It can be hard to tell just how loud our headphones or earbuds are effectively presenting sound to our ears. As a rule of thumb, set the volume just loud enough to be able to listen comfortably. The maximum volume on most any personal listening device will cause permanent hearing loss in a relatively short amount of listening time!
  • Quit Smoking – Your risk of hearing loss goes up significantly in proportion to how many cigarettes you smoke per day. Of course, quitting smoking has numerous health benefits, but it should also be noted that smoking greatly increases your risk of hearing loss.
  • Eat Healthily – A study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that those who closely followed an anti-inflammatory diet—high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and olive oil; and low in red and processed meats—were dramatically less likely to experience hearing loss over a four-year period around age 60.
  • Exercise – Get that blood flowing! Aerobic exercise, even just walking regularly, has been shown to increase blood flow and help provide necessary oxygen and nutrients to the tiny cells responsible for your hearing ability.

Some Hearing Loss May Be Unavoidable

While these are important things to do to minimize your risk for hearing loss, it may still be the case that you experience hearing loss in the course of your life. Researchers at the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss have found that there is a genetic component to every kind of hearing loss, but genes are not the whole story. It’s better to have moderate hearing loss than profound hearing loss, and your lifestyle and use of hearing protection can make all the difference. If you do have hearing loss, it’s best to start wearing hearing aids sooner than later. Even with mild hearing loss, people report memory issues, “tuning out,” and struggle with early fatigue in social situations. As hearing loss progresses, deeper issues such as brain atrophy will commonly develop. It’s really true that you need to “use it or lose it” when it comes to your brain’s ability to hear. A good set of hearing aids can make up the difference and prevent hearing loss from taking over your life. If you or a loved one is having issues with hearing loss, or if you’re due for a hearing test, make an appointment today. Start keeping track of your hearing health and make sure you’ve got the tools necessary to promote your best health and well-being!
Tips for Driving with Hearing Aids

Tips for Driving with Hearing Aids

While sight might be the most important of the senses when it comes to driving, hearing is not far behind. We rely on hearing to alert us to sirens, horns, and other hazards that might be heard before seen. Hearing is also important in helping to determine when your own vehicle needs service, like when you notice a squealing belt, grinding brakes, or other worrisome sounds. It’s safe to say: the better you’re able to employ all of your senses while driving, the safer you’ll be on the road. Hearing aids are a great help to drivers who have some hearing loss, but it’s important to use them correctly to get the most out of them.  Let’s take a look at some of the things to keep in mind while you’re driving with hearing aids.

Be Prepared!

Driving with hearing aids takes just a bit of forethought before hopping behind the wheel. Before driving, make sure your hearing aids have enough power to get you through the trip you’re about to take. Bring extra batteries. If your hearing aids are rechargeable, make sure you have a way to charge them in the car if necessary. Check your settings! Do you have a special program for driving? If so, make sure your hearing aids are set to it. Be sure to check your volume, as well. If it’s too loud, you might end up encountering feedback while driving, which could present a pretty serious distraction. Make sure to set everything up beforehand so you don’t have to change programs or pull microphones out of a glove box while you’re driving.

Listen Preventatively

Before putting the car in gear, remove any distractions and listen to the car run for a moment. If you hear anything amiss with the engine idle, schedule a repair. Make sure your radio isn’t set so loud that you won’t be able to hear enough sound from outside the vehicle. Some intersections will present difficulty in terms of seeing cross traffic or even hearing it, so move carefully and listen attentively in those situations.

Minimize Distractions

This is important for all drivers, but it’s worth bearing in mind when you’re wearing hearing aids, just as much. If you’re distracted by noisy passengers, it’s always appropriate to ask them to keep their voices down. If they’re controlling the stereo or playing media on other devices, you should make sure it’s not distracting to you while you’re driving. Cars, especially older ones, let a lot of road noise into the cabin. This can compete with people’s voices in the cabin, creating fatigue as you struggle to hear speech over the din. While hearing aid programming can help with this, it might be beneficial to use an accessory microphone so that your travel companion can speak clearly into the microphone and reduce the strain on your ears.

Use Visual Aids

Wide rear view mirrors and other accessories can help you stay more visually attuned to the road. If you’re shopping for a car, try to pick one with smaller pillars so you have fewer blind spots. And, of course, remember to keep lines of sight open. Keep objects off the dashboard and out of the rear view area, and keep your windows clean! Clear lines of sight can make all the difference in traveling safely to your destination, so be sure to go out of your way to set yourself up for success in that department. If you think you may have a hearing loss, hearing aids are the best way to make sure you can keep your independence behind the wheel. Many hearing aids today even help you to determine where sounds are coming from, which was unthought of with previous generations of hearing aids! If you’re in the market for hearing aids, make sure to tell your hearing healthcare professional whether driving is important to you. They’ll be able to help you choose the hearing aid model that will be of most help to you while driving, and can even create a program for driving that will zero in on the best types of hearing aid features to employ while you’re behind the wheel. If you need hearing aids, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to keep you active and independent!
Encouraging a Loved One to Take a Hearing Test

Encouraging a Loved One to Take a Hearing Test

Encouraging a Loved One to Take a Hearing Test If you have noticed that a loved one has been struggling to hear, it can be difficult or frustrating for them as well as the people around them. While there is incredible hearing technology that can more or less solve the problem for most people, some are resistant. If you have a loved one who was once better connected to the world, you might be wondering what you can do to help them see just how much they can benefit from the latest in hearing technology!

Research the Facts

There is a wealth of information online about hearing loss and hearing aids. While you’ll find plenty of information about the increased risk of loneliness, depression, cognitive decline and dementia, we suggest you focus on the positives! There are many technological options out there that can improve your loved one’s life, rather than simply prevent negative outcomes. For example, did you know that 95% of people who get hearing aids report being satisfied with them, when asked after one year? They also report overwhelmingly that hearing aids have improved their social relationships, and their relationships with spouses and loved ones. They say that the memory trouble they had before they got hearing aids subsided once they started wearing them, and they even have a greater sense of optimism about themselves and the world in general! Hearing aids allow us to feel safe going out in the world, and so people who wear them tend to get more exercise and spend more time outdoors. The list goes on! Being able to point to some of these facts when you sit down with your loved one might help them see how they can open up to the idea that hearing aids will be an enjoyable part of life!

Pick a Good Time and Place

If your loved one is struggling with untreated hearing loss, trying to have a conversation about it in a crowded, noisy space might not be a good idea. Hearing loss is distracting and exhausting, and you want to have a successful conversation, not wear them out! Pay attention to a few key things to help them focus on the conversation with as little strain as possible. Choose a quiet place for the meeting, whether it’s your house or a quieter public space. Any background sound will make things more difficult, so try to seat yourselves away from air conditioning units, buzzing refrigerators, background music or televisions, or any other noise sources. Sit facing each other. As hearing loss sets in, people start to read lips, and speaking directly toward them will help them catch more of what you’re saying, both visually and audibly. Make sure the area is well-lit.

Talk About Your Experiences

Couples therapists often instruct their clients to make “I” statements. That is, instead of making statements that might put your loved one on the defensive, such as “You always…” or “You never…”, it could be more productive to rephrase and speak about your experiences. For example, you could say “I’ve noticed that when we watch TV, the volume is very high.” You might mention to your loved one about the ways you have been affected, such as “When the volume is very high, I am unable to enjoy the movie.” If there have been times where hearing loss caused a problem, you can mention it, but keep the discussion focused on yourself and your experience, rather than telling them about what they’re doing. The idea is to get them to open up to the possibility that hearing aids will help them live more easily, not to shame them into relenting.

Listen to Them

It’s likely that your loved one has noticed a change and is dealing with some fear and anxiety about it. They may appreciate the opportunity to talk about what the experience is like for them, once it’s been established that they are safe to discuss it with you. Let them talk without interrupting or correcting them. Try to ask open-ended questions about what’s been going on and how they’re adjusting.

Offer Support and Encouragement

Hearing loss is frequently an isolating experience, making us feel cut off from those around us. Your loved one is likely to appreciate that you cared enough to sit down with them and let them speak about these changes in their life. You can offer to accompany or drive them to a hearing test, and tell them you’re there to support them in any way you can. The hearing test is the first step to getting a set of hearing aids and being able to hear the world again! This could be an exciting step for your loved one that allows them to participate in conversation freely once again, and enjoy the benefits of hearing that they once knew. Helping someone to improve their life is what we’re all about, and we’re here to help when you’re ready!
The Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

The Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is one of the most common problems facing Americans today, but it doesn’t have to be. When we wake up in the morning and start our day, we want to feel good, capable, and ready for what may come, and that’s exactly what hearing aids are all about! We might have a little trouble hearing what people are saying when there’s some background noise. We might notice ourselves getting tired earlier in social situations. We might even start to feel less excited about going out and meeting people. Hearing aids are the best way to get back into life feet-first and live every day to the fullest.

People Who Use Hearing Aids Enjoy Life More

It’s true! About 95% of people who get hearing aids say they are glad they did, when asked after one year. Surveys show that people who wear hearing aids are more active, spend more time out of doors, and get more exercise than those who don’t treat their hearing loss. They say they feel better about themselves and more optimistic about the future. Amazingly, they even report a greater sense of optimism about future generations, and the world in general. These are all signs that point to one thing: hearing aids help us enjoy life more!

Strengthen Your Relationships

Hearing difficulties can begin to strain relationships, especially with those closest to us. Getting hearing aids keeps us in the conversation and lets us be there for those we love, just as they’re there for us. Studies find that over half of people who start wearing hearing aids notice improvements in their relationships. That’s because hearing aids make conversation easier, and let us carry on with all the little interactions that brighten our days and grow our intimacy. It’s not just the big conversations that are meaningful to us, but all the little times we joke around and have fun together. Hearing aids help keep us close to those we love!

Enhance Your Memory

People commonly report that when hearing loss starts to become an issue, they notice themselves having memory issues, too. With hearing loss, we need to use our whole brains to figure out what someone just said, and by the time we have it they’re already on to saying something else! That extra work can make it harder to get things into our memories. Hearing aids make conversation as easy as pie, so our brains are free to think more clearly and remember more easily.

Free to Roam

We’re used to hearing so many things: the doorbell, traffic, ambulances and fire engines, phones ringing, the list goes on. When we regain access to these sounds, our daily activities can be more expansive. Hearing aids bring the sounds of the world back to us, so we can stay alert to the things we need to hear, so we can stay independent, mobile, and safe. And as an added bonus, we get to enjoy hearing the birds sing again!

Modern Marvels

Often when we think of hearing aids, we imagine the old, tan, whistling units of decades past. Thanks to improvements in computing and battery technology, today’s hearing aids are more powerful than we could have imagined, while also being small enough to disappear into your ear canal! In addition to offering better sound quality, many modern hearing aids can help with sound directionality, to make sounds in front of you louder than those coming from behind. They can reduce the sound of background noise while accentuating the sound of speech, which can make speech recognition in noisy environments better than that of a normal-hearing person. Some even offer multiple microphone and speaker setups, so the world of sound around you is as three-dimensional and full as that of a normal-hearing 20-year-old. Most of today’s hearing aids can be controlled by smartphone apps, many of which will even allow us to adjust your fitment long-distance, so you won’t need to return to the office every time you need to make a change. You can even take a hearing test at home, through your hearing aids, to see if they need an adjustment. It’s never been easier or more valuable to start living your life to the fullest. Make an appointment with us today and learn more about how you can benefit from the amazing technology available today.
Identifying the Signs of Hearing Loss

Identifying the Signs of Hearing Loss

About 48 million Americans suffer from some type of hearing loss, with even as many as 20% of teenagers having measurable hearing loss in one or both ears. Life is getting louder, and it’s taking a toll on our hearing ability. New evidence also suggests the typical American diet may be playing a role in the high degree of age-related hearing loss we see today. Indeed, about one–third of people age 65–74 have hearing loss. Over age 75, about 50% of people have it. And nearly 100% of centenarians have it, suggesting that if we live long enough, we will all have hearing loss eventually.

Age-Related Hearing Loss

Age-related hearing loss is a name given to sensorineural hearing loss that seems to occur and worsen as a person enters old age. It can begin as early as age 45, but usually doesn’t become problematic until after age 60 or so. Because there is such a long period when age-related hearing loss progresses before becoming bad enough to require the use of hearing aids, it’s recommended to get your hearing tested regularly in order to catch it early. Lifestyle changes like more frequent use of hearing protection, altered diet, and quitting smoking may be able to stop or slow the progress of age-related hearing loss.

Frequent Hearing Tests are Recommended

The non-profit Better Hearing Institute recommends getting a hearing test once a decade until age 50, and once every 3 years after that. People who work in loud environments or who work in critical listening fields (such as musicians and sound engineers) ought to be tested more frequently than the general population. Getting a hearing test is the best way to keep track of your hearing health, and to know for sure when you have a hearing loss and could benefit from the assistance of hearing aids.

Signs You May Have Hearing Loss

The first sign that we have hearing loss is usually that someone else tells us we do. While this can be hard to swallow, the fact of the matter is that hearing loss is hard for us to identify ourselves. We don’t hear what we don’t hear, so if someone else is noticing a sound in the environment that we aren’t able to hear, it’s a likely sign that we have a hearing loss. The first time that we notice hearing loss on our own is usually in a group situation with lots of background noise. Competing sounds in a bar or restaurant are especially difficult for those with hearing loss to differentiate, and we will notice ourselves needing to ask repeatedly for clarification, and likely becoming fatigued earlier than usual. The fatigue associated with hearing loss will soon become familiar. Nearly every social engagement will tax our minds more than it used to, as our ears do less work for us and our brains need to pick up the slack, putting together context clues and sentence fragments to try to parse out coherent thoughts. Some people mistake this exhaustion for being a separate age-related condition, when in fact a set of hearing aids would allow them to participate comfortably in social engagements as they once did. Other signs that you may have hearing loss include:
  • Increasing the volume on the TV or radio (someone else in the house may ask you to turn it down)
  • Believing that others are mumbling a lot of the time
  • Difficulty talking on the phone
  • Sleeping through an alarm clock
  • Trouble understanding dialogue at the movies

Untreated Hearing Loss Has Consequences

Unfortunately, untreated hearing loss often leads to a decreased interest in social activity. People who don’t get hearing aids begin to shy away from spending time with other people, often because of embarrassment about how difficult it has become for them to follow a conversation. With this decreased social activity comes less physical activity in general, and less time outdoors. Memory troubles typically begin around this phase, as well. Indeed, the consequences of failing to treat hearing loss seem to be a cascade of negative outcomes for health and well-being.

Hearing Aids Can Help

If you think you might be suffering hearing loss, or you’re just due for a hearing test, make an appointment today. The sooner you start keeping track of your hearing health, the sooner you can start working to prevent or counteract the problems that accompany untreated hearing loss and keep hearing and feeling your best!

Pueblo, Colorado