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Delaying Treatment For Hearing Loss Can Harm More Than Just Your Ears

Delaying treatment for hearing loss can harm more than just your ears.

Hearing loss can have a disruptive effect on daily life for the millions of individuals who experience it and research indicates that many adults are prolonging the adverse conditions by not seeking treatment.

“Many hard-of-hearing people battle silently with their invisible hearing difficulties, straining to stay connected to the world around them, reluctant to seek help,” reports David Myers, a psychology professor at Hope College in Michigan who has hearing loss.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), around 15 percent of American adults — about 37.5 million individuals — report some trouble with their hearing. Although hearing aids are known to improve the hearing and communication skills of individuals with hearing loss, a large number of people who would benefit from the devices do not use them.

The NIDCD estimate that among adults, age 70 and older, who would benefit from using a hearing aid, less than 1 in 3 have ever used one (30 percent), and only 16 percent of adults, ages 20-69, who would benefit have tried using one.

Like many people with hearing loss, Myers was resistant to getting treatment for his condition. Although his hearing loss began when he was a teenager, it was not until he reached his 40s that he first got a hearing aid.

The National Center for Health Statistics state that people wait for an average of six years from the first signs of hearing loss before receiving treatment. Myers says that this delay can be due to denial, vanity and a lack of awareness of how much hearing is impaired.

Hearing aid use can reduce depression and dementia.

In a study by the National Council on Aging, researchers tested 2,304 people with hearing loss and found that those who did not use hearing aids were 50 percent more likely to have depression than those who use the devices.
Hearing aid users were also more likely to take part in regular social activities. Social isolation among people with hearing loss could increase the risk of dementia, Myers suggests, citing an earlier study published in the Archives of Neurology, which indicated hearing loss in itself could be a risk factor for the condition.

“Anger, frustration, depression, and anxiety are all common among people who find themselves hard of hearing,” Myers explains. “Getting people to use the latest in hearing aid technology can help them regain control of their life, achieve emotional stability, and improve cognitive functioning.”

One way to combat the psychological effects of hearing loss is to increase access to hearing systems in public spaces. Myers suggests the hearing loop system that is popular in the U.K. and Scandinavia could help people with hearing loss become more social. The system enables hearing aids to serve as wireless speakers and is particularly effective in areas where there is typically a lot of background noise or reverberant sound, such as train stations and auditoriums.

“Making public spaces directly hearing aid accessible is psychologically important for people with hearing loss,” Myers advises.

Fast facts about hearing loss:
• For every 1,000 children born in the U.S., 2-3 have a detectable level of hearing loss.
• Hearing aids primarily benefit people whose hearing loss is caused by damage to small sensory cells in the ear.
• Damage to these cells can occur through aging, disease or injury.
• Only 16 percent of adults, ages 20-69, who could benefit from using a hearing aid have ever tried one.

Call HearUSA 800-203-7048 to schedule a hearing screening and take advantage of special AARP member discount pricing on a wide of Oticon digital hearing aids!

Source: Medical News Today, August, 2015.

Study Shows That Hearing Aids Improve Memory and Speech

Hearing Aids Improve Memory & Speech

A recent study provides more scientific evidence demonstrating that hearing aids, in addition to helping individuals regain hearing, improve brain function in those with hearing loss.

Jamie Desjardins, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the speech-language pathology program at The University of Texas at El Paso, studied a group of individuals in their 50s and 60s with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss who had previously never used hearing aids. Subjects took cognitive tests to measure their working memory, selective attention, and processing speed abilities prior to and after using the hearing aids.

After two weeks of hearing aid use, tests revealed an increase in scores for recalling words in working memory and selective attention tests, and the processing speed at which participants selected the correct response was faster. By the end of the study, participants exhibited significant improvement in their cognitive function.

“If you have some hearing impairment and you’re not using hearing aids, maybe you can figure out what the person has said, but that comes with a cost,” Desjardins explained. “You may actually be using the majority of your cognitive resources in order to figure out that message.”

Hearing loss, if left untreated, can lead to serious emotional and social consequences, reduced job performance, and diminished quality of life. Untreated hearing loss can also interfere with cognitive abilities because so much effort is put toward understanding speech. Unfortunately, as people age, basic cognitive skills — working memory, the ability to pay attention to a speaker in a noisy environment, or the ability to process information quickly — also begin to decline.

“Think about somebody who is still working and they’re not wearing hearing aids,” said Desjardins. “They are spending so much of their brainpower just trying to focus on listening that they may not be able to perform their job as well. Or, if they can, they’re exhausted because they are working so much harder. They are more tired at the end of the day and it’s a lot more taxing. It affects their quality of life.”

Hearing loss affects more than 9 million Americans over the age of 65 and 10 million Americans ages 45 to 64. According to Desjardins, although most people will experience hearing loss in their lifetime, only about 20 percent of those who actually need hearing aids wear them. Of those who do seek help, they wait an average of seven years before seeing their audiologist.

Don’t wait to seek treatment! Call HearUSA 800-203-7048 to schedule a hearing screening and take advantage of special AARP member discount pricing on a wide of Oticon digital hearing aids!

Source: The University of Texas at El Paso

Keeping your Hearing Aids Safe and Sound While Traveling

Traveling should be fun, and hearing aids allow you to fully experience both the sights and sounds. But traveling can also be stressful. To make sure that your hearing aids are a source of fun rather than stress, here some tips that could minimize unnecessary hassles and unwelcome surprises during your travels.

Before you go

If you haven’t visited your hearing care professional in a while for a hearing aid cleaning or check-up, now is a good time, especially if you have been experiencing any problems. The last thing you want is for your hearing aids to malfunction while you’re on the trip. If you’re going to be away for an extended time, ask your hearing care professional to provide contact information for one or two professionals located at your destination who have experience with your brand of hearing aids. This way, if you need professional help while you’re away, you’ll know where to go and not have to wait until you return to hear well again. Also, take the opportunity to discuss loss and damage insurance. Most new hearing aid purchases come with this insurance for a limited time. Upon expiration, additional insurance can sometimes be purchased.

Make sure you have all the cleaning tools you’ll need. Bring enough batteries and any extra tubing, soft domes/tips, and wax guards to last you the entire trip, plus a few days more. Don’t forget any audio shoes, sport clips, remote controls, streamers, chargers, or other hearing aid accessories. If you don’t already have one, ask your hearing care professional about a dehumidifier box or hearing aid dryer that you can use to remove excess moisture.

In transit

If you plan on taking your hearing aids off during travel, such as when napping on a plane ride, remember to bring along a hard-shell case to store them. Keep the case in a safe place where it won’t be accidentally damaged or left behind, such as in your purse or carry-on bag. As you know, items lost on planes, trains, and other forms of public transportation are rarely found again.

If you’re traveling by car, note that just like most electronic devices, hearing aids shouldn’t be exposed to excessive heat. So don’t leave them in the car while you take a break on your road trip. Cars parked in direct sunlight can quickly reach internal temperatures up to 131° – 172° F, even when outside temperatures are only 80° – 100° F. This temperature is hot enough to melt hearing aid housings and components.

While you’re away

Try to keep your hearing aids from excessive dirt or moisture. Many of the latest hearing aids on the market are water-resistant or even waterproof. Look for the rating “IP67” which means the hearing aid is tested and certified to be water and dirt resistant, or “IP68” which means it is waterproof and dust- proof. Nevertheless, with the perspiration, moisture, and dirt that often go hand-in-hand with travel, it is still important to keep them as dry and clean as possible. Even hearing aids rated IP68 should be dried and cleaned thoroughly overnight with the battery doors open. So, after excessive perspiration or contact with water or dirt, inspect the aids as well as any earmolds, domes, and tubing attached for residual moisture or debris. Remember to clean all parts thoroughly as instructed by your hearing care professional. Wear a hat if the temperature is hot and you’re under direct sunlight for an extended time. Or better yet, go inside periodically to cool your hearing aids (and yourself) down.

If you know you’ll be removing your hearing aids, such as when you’re going for a dip in the pool or lake, bring along your hard-shell hearing aid case. The case will keep your hearing aids from being accidentally damaged while they’re out of your ears. And when they’re in the case, try to keep it in the same designated place every time, such as inside your purse or together with your glasses. This way, they will be less likely for you to misplace.

Accidents and unforeseen events happen, especially when you’re traveling. But with a little preparation and mindfulness, you can make sure that your hearing aids will it make it back home with you, safe and sound.

Patricia ‘Tish’ Ramirez, Au.D.

Dr. Tish Ramirez is the Sr. Manager of Education and Training for Signia brand hearing aids. She is responsible for the content, planning, and delivery of sessions to train their network of hearing care professionals and staff on the company’s products and audiology-related topics. She leads a top team of audiologists who consistently deliver interactive and effective education through innovative vehicles. She holds a doctorate degree in Audiology from A.T. Still University, a graduate degree from Arizona State University, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona. She has been a featured speaker at several industry events, and is the author of numerous articles placed in audiology publications.

What’s New

What’s New/Next in Hearing Aid Technology

We’re living in an age of seemingly daily advances in medical technology. You can see it in today’s hearing aids, which bear little resemblance to the large, gray, squawking “bananas” worn by our grandparents. Every year, hearing aids get smaller and yet more powerful, thanks to advances in microelectronics and wireless technology. Here are just a few of the recent advances in hearing aid technology.

They’ve gotten smart.

Much like phones and other “smart” devices, hearing aids have gotten to the point where they can evaluate a listening situation their wearer is in (a restaurant), automatically detect they are talking to someone standing in front of them, and adjust their microphones to focus on that person’s speech while suppressing background noises (silverware clinking, music, chatter from other tables).

They have memories.

Hearing aids also capable of remembering any manual adjustments you make throughout the day and store that information for automatic implementation going forward.

They are adaptable.

They now have the ability to adapt to changing listening environments without manual adjustments. So you can drive to a concert, go inside and enjoy the show, then join friends for a nightcap at the local bar and hear everything you want in every situation without constantly adjusting your hearing devices.

They connect to any sound source.

Whether you’re watching television, streaming music or having a conversation on your cell phone, hearing aids can serve as wireless personal headsets. By using a streaming sound accessory or app, a flow of clear, uninterrupted sound can be directed right into your hearing aids from virtually any sound source. And in venues equipped hearing loops, hearing aids containing telecoils can be set to pick up sound tracks from films or a lecture delivered through a podium microphone directly.

They let you hear in the wind.

Wind noise has long been a source of aggravation for hearing aid wearers. But thanks to recent advances, binaurally-fit (one in each ear) hearing aids can recognize when wind noise is coming from your left or right side (as when you are driving a car with the window on your side open). The hearing aid on the windy side communicates with the hearing aid on the quiet side and automatically reroutes desired incoming sound to the quiet side hearing aid, so you can hear passenger conversations or the radio clearly.

While all of these are impressive advances in hearing aid technology, we’re eagerly looking forward to what comes next. There’s a lot of speculation out there, and a tremendous amount of R&D going on, so it’s hard to say exactly what we’ll experience and when. Here are a few exciting ideas we’ve heard are being discussed:

  • Hearing aids will connect to wireless devices directly.
  • They will conduct music with enough accuracy and precision to meet professional musicians’ listening requirements.
  • They will communicate directly with “smart home” devices like smoke detectors, alarm systems, and emergency medical devices.
  • They will integrate with health and fitness trackers.
  • There will be versions available that are integrated into the frames of glasses for those with vision and hearing challenges.

Questions as to whether all of these innovations will actually come to pass, and if so when they will become available, remain. What is clear is that we are living in a truly exciting time for hearing technology advancement!