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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!
Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

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

Studies On Communication Issues in Hospitals

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

Hearing Loss Is a Two-Way Street

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

Hearing Aids Can Help

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

Facts & Fictions about Hearing Loss

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

Hearing Loss Only Affects Old People

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

I Shouldn’t Have Gone to Those Rock Concerts

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

I Could Understand Everyone If They’d Just Talk Louder

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

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

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

Hearing Aids Don’t Make a Big Difference

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

Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

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

Hearing Loss Is Tiring

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

We’re Not Rude or Slow

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

Hearing Aids Aren’t the Same as Glasses

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

Let Us Speak for Ourselves

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

Keep Simple Tricks in Mind

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

Hearing Aids Are Important

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

How Treating Hearing Loss Improves Your Relationships

Have you noticed a change in your relationships lately? Maybe you don’t talk to your partner as much as you used to, or it’s harder to carry on a conversation with your children or grandchildren. Are you staying home instead of attending social gatherings, or spending less time with friends? Have people told you that you might have a hearing problem? If you’re answering “yes” to any of these questions, it could be that hearing loss is starting to impact your life. Usually, the first person to notice our hearing loss is not us, but someone we know. Maybe they’re hearing something that we can’t, or they’re noticing that we’re missing more of what they say. If it sounds to us like everyone is mumbling, it could be that we have mild to moderate hearing loss, where especially high-frequency sounds don’t come through as clearly as they used to.

Hearing Loss Is Common

While it can be difficult to accept that hearing loss is happening, there can be comfort in knowing that it is incredibly widespread. About 48 million Americans are living with some form of hearing loss. About one-third of people aged 60–69 have hearing loss, and the fraction jumps to two-thirds for those over 70. Nearly 100% of centenarians have hearing loss, suggesting that it will happen to all of us if we only live long enough.

Regular Hearing Tests

The most important step to take, when we or someone close to us suspects we might have hearing loss, is to schedule a hearing test. By getting a hearing test, we can find out whether we have hearing loss, how much we have, and get a professional opinion about whether hearing aids are right for us at this point. In fact, the Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends that everyone get a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. Regular testing helps us see exactly when it’s time to start wearing hearing aids, so we can altogether avoid some of the complications that can come with untreated hearing loss.

Hearing Loss Can Strain Our Relationships

One of the first problems that we encounter when hearing loss sets in happens in social situations. In larger groups of people, or when background noise is present, we have an especially difficult time understanding speech. We get tired faster, and generally don’t have as much fun in the company of others. Many people are tempted to start avoiding social situations altogether, but as you might imagine, this is not the road to happiness and contentment. Rather than allowing ourselves to become isolated by our hearing loss, we can take the steps necessary to get hearing aids and continue to enjoy our time in the company of friends and loved ones. While hearing loss might be difficult for us, it can be just as difficult for those who are close to us. Partners and spouses experience a sense of loss just as much as we do, as they wish to connect with us in the way that conversation once made possible. When hearing loss is an issue, conversation often gets reduced to the bare minimum. But when we can hear each other, we can look out at the world together and experience all that is there with mutual attention.

Hearing Aids Restore Our Ability to Communicate, and More

Hearing aids reduce miscommunication, lower frustration, increase intimacy and generally make it easier to have a real conversation. And while improving our relationships is an incredibly important reason to start wearing hearing aids, that’s not even the whole picture. Those who get hearing aids tend to have a more positive outlook on themselves. Hearing aids help us feel more confident and independent, which makes us feel more capable and generally better. Studies have shown that hearing aids not only promote a greater sense of optimism about our own lives, but about the world in general! It’s hard to imagine that by doing something as simple as putting in a set of hearing aids we can improve our sense of optimism, but it’s true. When we can hear each other, we can feel better and more confident with the people around us, which translates to a healthier understanding of ourselves in the world, and ultimately a better opinion about the world itself! Whether you or a loved one is just starting to have issues with hearing loss or has been dealing with it for a long time, make an appointment for a hearing test today and see for yourself just how much a good set of hearing aids can improve your relationships… and your life!

Pueblo, Colorado