Tips from the experts at Hart Hearing to help you communicate with people with hearing loss.
Recent studies show there are many benefits to getting your hearing tested as soon as possible if hearing loss is suspected. Early detection can mean the difference between a smooth transition into better hearing, or going through the struggles of relearning how to hear.
Quick Statistics About Hearing Loss
About 15% of American adults 18 years of age and older report having some trouble with their hearing.
Based on standard hearing examinations, roughly 30 million Americans (or 13%) age 12 and over have been diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears. That’s around 1 in 8 Americans.
28.8 million adults in the US could benefit from the use of hearing aids.
Why Are These Statistics Important?
Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the US, and audiologists are working to raise awareness about hearing health. Do you turn up the volume on the TV, or constantly ask friends and family members to repeat themselves? Do you have trouble following the conversation in a work meeting or community event? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, it’s time to get your hearing checked.
“There’s unfortunately still a stigma associated with hearing loss,” says Nicholas Reed, Au.D., an audiologist and hearing researcher at Johns Hopkins University. He notes that people with hearing loss wait an average of eight years to seek treatment for their hearing loss.
Here's what to do if you think you might have hearing loss.
1. Start with your family doctor.
Your family physician can check for wax buildup and discuss possible medical causes of your hearing loss. Also, be aware that some insurance plans require a medical referral from a doctor to see an audiologist. If that visit doesn’t solve your problem, your next stop should be to an audiologist, a practitioner who specializes in hearing.
2. Schedule an appointment with an audiologist.
Ask friends who wear hearing aids to recommend an audiologist. Look for a practitioner who is licensed and certified and who works with different brands of hearing aids, rather than just one. At Hart Hearing we work with the world’s leading hearing aid manufacturers, and our team of audiologists is here to help you hear better.
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between an audiologist — a trained health care professional with at least a master’s degree — and a hearing aid or hearing instrument dispenser, who does hearing tests primarily for the purpose of selling hearing aids.
3. Discuss treatment options.
The audiologist will do a comprehensive hearing test and check for physical problems. The visit may include a pressure test, (to check your eardrum); a tone test, (to see how you hear different pitches); and a speech test, (in which you repeat sounds). Afterward, the audiologist will go over your results using an audiogram, which will provide a visual representation of your hearing. They will then recommend a course of action. If the audiologist believes that your hearing loss can be surgically corrected, you’ll be referred to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
4. Decide whether to try a hearing aid.
If your audiologist recommends a hearing aid, take it very seriously. You may want to go home, think it over and come back after you’ve had time to process your diagnosis. When you’re ready, ask your audiologist about the pros and cons of different types of hearing aids.
5. Give yourself time to adjust.
Unlike glasses, which correct your vision immediately, hearing aids frequently don’t work perfectly right away. It will take your brain time to adapt to hearing new sounds and background noises. Ask for a trial period, and make sure the hearing device is right for you before committing to a hearing aid.
6. Find support.
If you’re the only one in your family or circle of friends with hearing loss, ask your audiologist about local support groups, or search online for a local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. It’s important to connect with someone who understands what you’re going through.
If you’re ready to do the right thing for your hearing health, add an annual hearing test to your new year’s resolutions, and call us today at Hart Hearing to book an appointment.
Although they seem to be separate experiences, hearing loss has been connected with dementia in surprising ways. Both conditions occur most commonly later in life, so it is difficult to determine a causal relationship. In other words, it’s hard to say if hearing loss causes dementia. Yet, the two are correlated in striking ways.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, including Dr. Frank Lin, have determined that hearing loss is associated with a higher prevalence of dementia. Furthermore, those who develop both dementia and hearing loss tend to have a more rapid decline in their cognitive functioning. In order to understand this relationship, the nature of dementia, cognition, and language may be a clue to the connection between them.
Dementia is a cognitive dysfunction that takes many forms. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most well known forms of dementia, but there are many others, as well. A key feature of dementia is the breakdown of relationships between words and their meanings, as well as memory and spatial understanding. In the first case, many people suffering from dementia find that they cannot connect words with their meanings in the way they used to be able to do. For instance, when they want to describe something, they may not be able to remember the word for it. When that word can’t be located in the memory, they may put together other explanations to get at the meaning of the word. Yet, this process can be a struggle when words don’t have an easy synonym to use for explanation. Others suffer dementia in the opposite direction. Rather than forgetting the words for their ideas, they can no longer remember what certain words mean. This lapse of memory can even extend to forgetting the people they once knew or the locations of things.
Hearing Loss & Speech Recognition
One possibility for the relationship between hearing loss and dementia has to do with conversation and speech. When a person loses hearing, words or pieces of words may be unheard in conversations. Imagine listening to a person deliver a sentence but only being able to hear one piece of each word. These syllables or phonemes generally link together into meaningful words or sentences. Yet, for the person with hearing loss, they suddenly become a jumble of meaningless sounds. The mind must scramble to put together these sounds, the tone of voice, the image of reading lips, and the expressions on faces into a guess at the meaning that is intended.
That process of piecing together a puzzle can be overwhelming to the mind, overloading it with meaningless information or fragments that do not seem to fit together. When the brain encounters such a puzzle time and again, it could create a heavier cognitive load for the brain. This relation between hearing loss and the struggling brain may be a hint at the correlation between hearing loss and dementia, as well.
More research is necessary on this connection between hearing loss and dementia, but the fact remains that dementia is closely correlated with hearing loss. Perhaps the struggle in the mind to put together random sounds into meaningful wholes increases the cognitive load on the person with hearing loss to such a degree that dementia is triggered in the mind, or, when dementia has already begun to set in, that makes the cognitive decline more rapid.
Hearing Loss & Social Isolation
With untreated hearing and difficulties with speech recognition, there is a higher likelihood for people to avoid the activities they once loved. Rather than struggle through conversation over dinner with friends, people may be more likely to avoid the situation altogether. Over time, increased social isolation could be harmful. In fact, social isolation is a leading risk factor for dementia.
Treating Hearing Loss with Hart Hearing
Although it remains to be tested in a scientific study, the use of hearing aids may be a way to break the link between dementia and hearing loss. If it can be caught early enough, treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids may be able to alleviate the struggling mind that grasps to understand what it hears.
Are you concerned with your hearing abilities? The first step toward better hearing – and indeed, cognitive function – is to schedule a hearing test. Contact us at Hart Hearing to schedule a hearing test and consultation.
We cannot believe that it is already mid-November and almost time for the holiday season. You’re already thinking about all the festivities, family dinners, mistletoe, and holiday cookies. But, have you stopped to consider the holidays and hearing loss? Whether you have a hearing loss or someone you love does, it is important to take hearing loss into consideration to ensure that you and your entire family enjoy the season.
Take Location into Consideration
When attending holiday parties, it’s important to take location into consideration. For example, you may want to opt for a spot on the couch rather than hang out in the kitchen. The hard surfaces in the kitchen will amplify background noises and cause everyone to begin speaking louder. When sitting on the couch, you will be below the noise of those standing, and the soft surface will buffer some of the racket.
During a sit-down dinner, ask to be seated near the middle of the table (so you can see everyone) and next to someone you can count on to help fill in any gaps you may have missed during the conversation.
Talk to the Host Ahead of Time
Most people (especially our close friends and family) are more than willing to make accommodations so that we can be comfortable and enjoy the festivities with hearing loss. The biggest problem, however, is that most people don’t know what we need. Take the time to help the host understand what will help you. For example, you may ask her to keep the background music at a lower volume or ensure there are some quieter nooks and crannies for easier conversation.
Ditch the Fine China
One of the most difficult background noises to converse over is the clinking and clanging of silverware on glass plates and bowls. This noise is significantly reduced when disposable cutlery is used. Many stores such as Costco and Target now offer high-quality plastic silverware that looks deceivingly like the real thing. Best part is that you also get to ditch the dishes.
Don’t Fake It
This is a big one. It’s so easy to nod and laugh along with a conversation, even if you didn’t hear enough of it to understand. While it’s convenient, doing this is not good for anyone. It can leave you feeling alone and isolated, and can cause some embarrassing miscommunications. Instead of nodding along, ask others to repeat themselves. Rather than saying “what” or “huh”, rephrase the parts of the conversation you did hear. For example, when talking to your son-in-law about his new job, instead of interrupting with “huh”, you can instead say something like, “I heard you say you got a new job in accounting, but I didn’t catch when your first day starts”. This helps people understand that you really are listening and interested, you were simply unable to hear some of what they said.
Use Visual Cues
Rephrasing and asking for repetition do not always work - especially in group conversations. In these instances, it may be smart to use a universal cue such as cupping your hand behind your ear to identify to the speaker that they need to speak up.
Use Your Hearing Aids and Other Technology
If you have hearing aids - wear them! Make sure your hearing aids are fit and finely tuned to meet your needs before the holiday parties begin. You can also get a boost from additional technology like assisted listening devices. There are sound amplification devices you can buy from many retailers, and even apps you can download on your phone that will work just like mini amplification systems.
Get Your Hearing Checked
Even if you follow all of these tips, you may still face challenges as you approach the holidays with untreated hearing loss. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids have been proven to improve social relationships - especially those with your spouse and close family. Getting your hearing checked may be the very best gift you give yourself (and your loved ones) this holiday season! Contact us at Hart Hearing to schedule a consultation and hearing test today.
Are you one of 20 percent of Americans who suffer from hearing loss? Or are you among those who took the time to get fit and pay for your hearing aids only to “forget” or refuse to wear them as advised by your audiologist?
As Kenny Chesney would say, summertime is finally here! That means the sun is shining and everyone will be spending more time in the great outdoors. It’s the prime time for attending outdoor concerts, parades, fireworks, festivals and sporting events. Of course all of these events are fun, but remember you are susceptible to hearing loss due to the loud noises. Hearing loss caused by loud noises at summer events can be permanent and non-reversible. Protecting your hearing may be the last thing on your mind, but there are some easy ways to prevent hearing loss.
1. Bring Ear Protection
Would you go to the beach without bringing sunscreen, or ride your bike without a helmet? I don’t think so! Stash a few pairs of earplugs in your purse/backpack or in your car ahead of time, so that when the time comes for a fun outdoor activity with probable noise, you’ll be prepared!
2. Walk Away
If for some reason you forgot your earplugs at home, simply walk away. Keep a safe distance from the loud speaker blaring this summer’s top hits, or the drummer who is really into his solo. Keep at least a 25ft or more between you and the noise source.
3. Limit Yourself
Try to limit the time spent. You get to a concert with your friends and it’s much louder than expected. You could tell your friends you have to leave early or just arrive fashionably late to shave off some time. Or give your ears a break by retreating to a concession stand or going to the restroom. Prolonged exposure to loud noise could cause permanent damage.
According to the NIDCD (National Institute of Deafness and other Common Disorders), hearing loss can be caused at 85 decibels or more. To put this into perspective, here are some examples of common sounds you may experience during summertime fun:
- 120dB – Concert/ Sports Game
- 130dB – Fireworks
- 140dB - Firearms
- 88dB – City traffic
- 90dB – Lawnmower
- 97dB – Motorcycle
- 100dB – iPod/ iPhone
Do you know someone who used to be the first to jump on the idea of going out with friends or attending a get-together but now, they seem to shy away from the idea? Don’t be too hard on them, as they may be suffering from hearing loss. Hearing loss is an invisible disability that can really take a toll on someone’s well-being and self-esteem if untreated. People may be too nervous or embarrassed to go out, or experience high levels of anxiety from not being able to hear well. This can lead to social isolation which can eventually lead to depression if unattended for too long. Depression affects more than 15 million adults in America and goes hand in hand with hearing loss.
Here are some ways to help you or someone you know:
Speak to an Audiologist
This is the first step you should take, Contact our office to get the professional help that’s needed. It is critical to treat hearing loss as soon as possible so that the depression does not escalate into something more serious such as dementia or mental decline.
Yes, it may be a difficult situation but keep a positive attitude and it will help your overall well-being.
If you know someone who has been avoiding social settings due to hearing loss, be there for them. Try to understand what they are going through instead of questioning why they may not be as engaged as they once were.
Encouraging someone to stay engaged is very important. Start off with small gatherings to get their confidence up before diving into large crowds.
Be Aware of Hearing Nutrition
Believe it or not, foods rich in B12 and Folic Acid can aid in keeping your hearing in tip-top shape!