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!
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!
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!
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:
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!