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Talking To Your Loved One About Hearing Loss Treatment

Talking To Your Loved One About Hearing Loss Treatment

Talking To Your Loved One About Hearing Loss Treatment

Hearing loss doesn’t only affect the person who has it. While it can be frustrating and frightening for them, it also poses miscommunications and challenges for those who are close to them. Sometimes a person with hearing loss may be in denial, while everyone around them can see how much their hearing loss affects their lives. We may wish to have a conversation that leads to treatment for their hearing loss, but we don’t want them to become defensive. The guidelines below may help us to have a more productive conversation when the time is right.

 

Choose the Right Time and Place

It’s tempting to bring up hearing loss in the moment that a misunderstanding has occurred, but this can easily lead to an argument. As much as we may want to use a misunderstanding as proof that their hearing loss is causing issues, we are more likely to have a productive conversation in a scenario in which our loved one can speak more freely about their experience and reach their own conclusions.

Accordingly, we should stage this conversation in a place where there is no background noise and there is plenty of light. We want our loved one to be able to understand what we’re saying as clearly as possible, so we want to set the scene such that they can clearly see our face in order to read lips. Speaking to them with a line of sight will also help our voice carry as best as it possibly can.

 

Do Your Research

There are plenty of good reasons to get hearing aids! There is a great deal of information online about what hearing aids can do to make our lives—and relationships—better, as well as the dangers of untreated hearing loss. Have a few facts and statistics ready when you talk with your loved one about getting hearing aids to help them see the good they’ve done for others.

 

Describe Your Experience, Then Let Them Talk

It’s very likely your loved one is aware that they have a hearing problem by this point. Bring up an occasion or two when their hearing loss caused a problem for you, or when you noticed it causing a problem for them. Ask them if they’ve been experiencing any problems with their hearing, and let them talk without interrupting, before bringing up hearing aids and some of the facts you’ve researched.

Acknowledge their concerns. People sometimes imagine that hearing aids will make them feel old, or that they’re not ready for them yet. The truth of the matter is that hearing aids help us to live the lives we want—rather than having to work around our hearing loss—and we should start treating hearing loss as soon as hearing aids are recommended by a hearing care professional. But it’s important not to force these perspectives on our loved one. Let them come to see the truth with some gentle assistance.

 

Offer Your Assistance

Your loved one may have reservations about the prospect of having to make decisions related to hearing loss treatment or keep appointments and make travel arrangements. Offer to help them through the process. This might include making the appointment for them, driving to it, and accompanying them through their hearing exam and hearing aid consultation. Two heads remember more than one, so it’s always a good idea to have a buddy!

If hearing loss is an issue for your loved one, having an appropriate conversation about it at the right time and place can make all the difference in their willingness to pursue treatment. Hearing loss can be a challenging experience, and knowing that someone cares enough to hear what we have to say about it can be a big relief. Good luck, and we hope to see you soon at your loved one’s hearing test appointment!

Posted in Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Treatment

Treating Hearing Loss Can Help Prevent Other Health Issues

Treating Hearing Loss Can Help Prevent Other Health Issues

Treating Hearing Loss Can Help Prevent Other Health Issues

Humans have been experiencing age-related hearing loss for millennia. It’s one of the most common medical issues we face as we age. While about one-third of people aged 60–69 have hearing loss, about two-thirds of those 70 and up have it. Among centenarians, hearing loss is nearly ubiquitous, suggesting we’ll all experience it eventually if we just live long enough!

Hearing Loss Is Not Benign

Throughout most of human history, age-related hearing loss was viewed as an annoying but mostly benign part of aging. Perhaps this was because there was little we could do about it, so there wasn’t much point in thinking about the kinds of additional problems it might cause.

The 20th century, however, brought us a plethora of advances in medical understanding and technology, including hearing aids. We now understand—thanks to the hundreds of studies that have been done on the subject—that hearing loss, when left untreated, tends to engender a kind of cascade of negative health outcomes.

Untreated hearing loss has been linked to social withdrawal, depression, isolation, decreased physical activity, increased risk of accidental injury, and even earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia.

Johns Hopkins Studies

A new trio of studies out of Johns Hopkins University, published in JAMA Network Open and supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), has supported some of these findings and deepened our understanding of the extent to which untreated hearing loss may pose problems for us.

In the first study, researchers found that those with hearing loss were sedentary for an average of 34 minutes per day more than those with normal hearing. Study subjects were adults aged 60–69. The amount of sedentary time spent per day increased with the severity of hearing loss, suggesting there may be causation.

The second study scored subjects on their physical function, balance, and walking speed. Indeed, those with hearing loss scored worse than those with normal hearing, and had a faster rate of physical decline.

The third study also examined physical functioning over time but looked specifically at people with moderate or greater hearing loss: they showed a faster decline of physical function than those with normal hearing, but researchers noted that those who wore hearing aids were better off than those with untreated hearing loss.

Hearing Loss and Cognitive Function

While the Johns Hopkins studies did not look at cognitive function, other studies have found that untreated hearing loss is likely to bring about undesirable changes in the brain over time. The World Health Organization (WHO) even includes hearing loss as the most significant out of twelve modifiable risk factors at play in the development of Alzheimer’s disease worldwide.

When it comes to the brain, the adage “use it or lose it” really does seem to hold. When our ears aren’t sending as much information to our brain anymore, the auditory cortex tends to atrophy. It’s not that brain cells die, but the gray matter that supports the structure dissipates, and the structure collapses. Once this occurs, people cannot understand speech even when they hear it! With a good set of hearing aids, the ability to understand speech can be redeveloped over time, but it is much better to start treating hearing loss before this occurs.

Hearing Loss and Cardiovascular Health

In some ways, our hearing ability is like the “canary in the coal mine” of our body. Hearing loss that progresses faster than usual can indicate an underlying cardiovascular condition. By getting a regular hearing test, you might just end up catching a bigger health issue before it becomes acute!

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 of hearing loss should be tested even more often.

By getting a regular hearing test, you’ll be doing your best to keep your hearing health in good shape. If hearing aids are recommended, you should start wearing them immediately. Even mild hearing loss (20–40 dBHL of hearing loss at speech frequencies) can present issues that make life harder and start a process of decline.

If you or a loved one may have hearing issues, make an appointment for a hearing test today and get started on your journey to better hearing!

Posted in Brain Health, Cognitive Health, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

Watching for Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Watching for Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Watching for Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Our hearing ability is one of those things that we can try to maintain. But even with our best efforts, we may find that we don’t hear as well as we would like to.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother protecting our ears, just that there are no guarantees regarding the longevity of our hearing ability. Hearing loss can be caused by exposure to noise, genetics, underlying health conditions, smoking cigarettes, or with the passing of time.  . More than one of these things may occur and result in more significant hearing loss.

About one-third of adults aged 60–69 have hearing loss. Two-thirds of those 70 and over have it to one degree or another. Virtually 100% of centenarians have it. It seems like if we live long enough, we’re all likely to lose our hearing to some extent.

The most important thing is to catch hearing loss early. 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 of hearing loss should be tested even more frequently. Regular hearing tests are the best way to ensure that you can minimize the hearing loss that occurs from noise and other modifiable causes, and start a treatment plan once hearing loss becomes problematic.

Treating hearing loss—usually with hearing aids—is incredibly important. Study after study confirms that hearing loss, when left untreated, seems to set off a cascade of negative effects for health and well-being. By getting a set of hearing aids, you can live your life uninterrupted by hearing loss and enjoy all the things you always have.

If you haven’t had a hearing test recently, here are a few signs you might be in the early stages of hearing loss:

Fatigue After Social Gatherings

When a lot of people are talking at once or there’s a lot of background noise, mild hearing loss makes it very difficult to pick out one voice among the many. As a result, our brains work harder in order to understand what’s being said. All that work wears us out! Some people mistake this exhaustion for a separate age-related condition—”I can’t stay out as late as I used to”—when in fact a good set of hearing aids would make social time as fun and easy as ever!

You Catch Yourself Reading Lips

Some people read lips for years without realizing they’re doing it! With strong hearing, we tend to watch someone’s eyes when they speak, but as our hearing starts to go we begin watching their lips to help us get a clue as to what they’re saying. If you notice yourself watching lips instead of eyes, it’s a good time to schedule a hearing test.

Conversations Are Hard to Follow

Some people in the earlier stages of hearing loss may imagine that they’re just getting distracted, when in fact they’re getting distracted by their inability to hear clearly! As it takes more effort to understand, we’re more likely to start tuning out. If you find yourself getting distracted a lot or forgetting things that someone just told you, it’s a good time to get a hearing test.

The TV and Radio Are Getting Louder

When we can’t hear clearly, it’s natural to compensate by increasing the volume of the sound source when possible. If you watch TV or ride in the car with others and they complain that the sound is too loud, it might be a good idea to schedule a hearing test.

Hearing Aids Can Help

Hearing aids have come a long way in the past couple of decades, and even the past few years. They now help us focus on speech by reducing the amount of background sound while keeping speech front-and-center. Some models incorporate multiple microphone arrays and a wireless connection between the left and right hearing aids to help with sound localization, so you can stay zeroed in on the important sound in your environment.

Hearing aids connect wirelessly to all kinds of devices we use regularly. With a smartphone connection, you can control the volume and programming of your hearing aids without even having to touch them!

If you or a loved one might be having hearing issues, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out how you can maintain your current lifestyle even while hearing loss may increase.

Posted in Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

Questions About Your New Hearing Aids Answered

Questions About Your New Hearing Aids Answered

Questions About Your New Hearing Aids Answered

Congratulations on your decision to start wearing hearing aids! For those of us with hearing loss, hearing aids are the best thing we can do to maintain our physical and mental health, social connections, and general well-being.

Hearing aids are generally easy to use, and with a little time, they should fit easily into your lifestyle. When asked after one year, 95% of people with hearing aids say they are glad they got them.

Still, as with anything new we bring into our lives, there are likely some questions you will have about your new hearing aids. Let’s take a look at some of the common questions that new wearers have. And remember, if you can’t easily find the answers to your questions, it’s always a good idea to get in touch with your hearing care provider!

How Long Will It Take To Get Used To Wearing My Hearing Aids?

The answer to this question is different for everyone. If you get regular hearing tests and start wearing hearing aids as soon as they are recommended by your hearing care provider, you will likely have a much easier time adjusting than if you have been living with hearing loss for a long time. Some people seem to get used to their hearing aids right away, while others may need a month to feel really comfortable with them.

If you are wearing hearing aids for the first time and have moderate to severe hearing loss, it may take quite a while to get used to them. Changes occur in our brains when hearing loss goes untreated for a long time, so you will need some time for your brain to get used to hearing certain sounds again. You may wish to enroll in training courses that will help you relearn to comprehend and focus on speech.

Some people with hearing loss find it annoying to once again hear the fridge buzzing, feet shuffling on the floor, or any number of other undesirable sounds they’re no longer accustomed to hearing. But remember: for many years, you heard all of these sounds without being bothered by them. Once you’ve grown accustomed to wearing your hearing aids regularly, your brain will start to ignore these sounds once again.

If you are having a hard time adjusting to your hearing aids after a few weeks, reach out to your hearing care provider for assistance.

How Often Should I Wear My Hearing Aids?

Your hearing care provider might start by recommending  a period of intermittent wear, but once you are accustomed to them you should wear them all day, unless you are swimming, showering, or sleeping. The more you wear your hearing aids, the more they do for you, and the more adjusted to them you will be. It can be disorienting to switch back and forth between wearing and not wearing them, so it’s best to take advantage of what your hearing aids can do for you all day long.

How Much Maintenance Will My Hearing Aids Need?

Some people’s hearing aids will require more maintenance than others. This is the nature of the beast when it comes to the differences in our body chemistry, earwax types, and activity levels. Your hearing care provider will be able to help you decide which maintenance practices should be followed for your specific situation.

In general, we should all wipe our hearing aids with a clean, dry cloth when we take them out at the end of the day. If your hearing aids use disposable batteries, leave the battery compartments open overnight to allow them to dry out. Moisture is the #1 enemy of hearing aids, so always try to avoid moisture or situations where moisture will condense onto your hearing aids. A good rule of thumb is to leave your hearing aids outside the bathroom for your morning and evening routines to help them avoid moisture, hairspray, and other cosmetics.

How Long Will My Hearing Aids Last?

Most people replace their hearing aids every 4-5 years.  This is not necessarily due to them failing but at this point the technology of hearing aids has usually advanced enough that a new set will help someone hear significantly better. Outside of that the longevity of a hearing aid will depend on the person wearing it. Even the climate you live in will influence their longevity. Most out-of-warranty repairs (60%) are due to moisture-related issues, so the best way to maximize the longevity of our hearing aids is to keep them as dry as possible.

If you or a loved one is having hearing issues and not yet wearing hearing aids, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do to improve your life!

Posted in Hearing Aids

How Treating Hearing Loss Helps You Stay Connected for the Holidays

How Treating Hearing Loss Helps You Stay Connected for the Holidays

How Treating Hearing Loss Helps You Stay Connected for the Holidays

The holiday season is here, and with it come office parties, dinner parties, family gatherings, and trips to the shops. It’s truly one of the busiest times of the year, with constant social activity and conversation. What’s more, the environment at these gatherings can get pretty loud!

For those with hearing issues, background noise is one of the most difficult things to navigate. As the ambient sound gets louder, it becomes more difficult to focus on the sound we want to hear. While this is true even for those with normal hearing, hearing loss makes the difficulty much worse.

Accommodating Hearing Loss

Something we should all keep in mind during this time is that our older friends and relatives are likely to have some hearing issues. Hearing loss is experienced by two-thirds of people aged 70 and over, and by about 100% of centenarians. If you have hearing loss yourself, be sure to let others know about it so they can accommodate you appropriately.

There are a few things we can do to help the situation and make sure our holiday festivities are enjoyable for everyone.

  • Minimize background noise as much as possible. Keep the television volume low, or turn it off. If you’re playing music on a stereo, keep the volume down so it doesn’t compete with the volume of conversation. If you are setting places at a dinner table, seat those with hearing issues further away from any sources of noise.
  • Speak a little more slowly and clearly, but don’t raise your voice. Shouting can cause distortion, which makes speech even less intelligible.
  • Instead of repeating something for a person with hearing loss, try saying it a different way. This provides more context to aid in understanding.
  • Face a person with hearing loss directly, and make sure they know what the topic of conversation is. Even if they don’t catch everything, this can help them follow along and continue to be part of the conversation.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you are starting to have issues with hearing, even just when background noise is present, the holiday season is a good time to make an appointment for a hearing test and find out whether you’re a good candidate for hearing aids.

Study after study confirms that hearing loss is best treated early, before changes in our lives—and in our brains—start to set in. Even mild hearing loss can be associated with memory issues and fatigue, so keep in mind that beginning treatment for hearing loss before the holidays are in full swing can make your experience that much more enjoyable.

Modern Hearing Aids

Hearing aids today are much more helpful and full-featured than ever before. Powerful DSP (digital signal processing) allows hearing aids to enhance speech while suppressing background noise. This makes it much easier to follow conversations with much less effort.

Bluetooth

Beyond that, hearing aids now commonly feature Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to connect your hearing aids to your smartphone to stream the audio from phone calls, video conferences, and media directly to your hearing aids, and also control the volume, programming, and other aspects of your hearing aids directly from an app.

You can also connect via Bluetooth to computers, tablets, and other devices to stream content the same as you do with your smartphone. If you’re connecting with distant friends and relatives over the holidays, this can make your time with them much easier and more enjoyable.

Hearing Aid Add-Ons

While hearing aids alone may be enough for some, most manufacturers make wireless microphones that can connect directly to your hearing aids. You can place one of these at the other end of a dinner table, for example, to make sure you can hear the conversation clearly throughout the room.

All manufacturers also make a TV adapter that can connect to the audio outputs of a television or stereo system, allowing wireless streaming of content directly to your hearing aids. If you’re watching television or a movie at home with your family, you’ll be able to set the volume comfortably for yourself, directly in your hearing aids, so others can listen at the volume that’s comfortable for them.

If you or a loved one may require hearing amplification, make an appointment for a hearing test today and help make this a holiday season to remember! Contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers today.

Posted in Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

If I Can Still Hear, Is It OK to Put Off Getting Hearing Aids?

If I Can Still Hear, Is It OK to Put Off Getting Hearing Aids?

If I Can Still Hear, Is It OK to Put Off Getting Hearing Aids?

The onset of hearing loss presents us with a somewhat unpleasant choice: start wearing hearing aids, or adjust to life with less hearing. Many people decide to put off treating their hearing until it worsens to the point that hearing aids are an unavoidable necessity. In fact, it takes people an average of seven years from the time they notice a hearing loss to the time they make an appointment for a hearing test and seek treatment for it.

This is unfortunate. While hearing loss was once thought to be an annoying but relatively benign problem associated with getting older, we now know that hearing loss tends to set off a cascade of negative health effects. 

Those who do not treat their hearing loss with hearing aids tend to suffer more accidental injuries and hospitalization. They also are much more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. They are more likely to suffer from loneliness, depression, and social isolation. They report more memory trouble, even with mild hearing loss, and are more likely to experience earlier onset of cognitive decline and dementia.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons you should get hearing aids as soon as they are recommended.

Improve Your Memory

Those with mild hearing loss tend to subjectively report more memory issues than those with normal hearing or those who have treated their hearing loss with hearing aids. This is likely because the auditory cortex, where sound is interpreted by the brain and speech is automatically understood, is very close to the centers of short-term memory. When we can’t hear properly, it’s more difficult to understand speech and even more difficult to commit it to memory.

Hearing aids seem to solve this problem entirely since they restore the sounds you’re missing and allow your brain to interpret them as normal. That’s really what hearing aids are about: delivering more information to your brain!

Prevent Brain Atrophy

Missing certain sounds means missing necessary stimulation for your brain, which causes the auditory cortex to begin to atrophy. It’s not that brain cells die, but the grey matter that supports the structure of neurons starts to dissipate, allowing the structure to collapse. It can be regrown once hearing aids start to be worn, but it is better to maintain your brain’s health by getting hearing aids as soon as they are recommended! Once the auditory cortex has atrophied, it will be harder for you to comprehend speech. The ability can be regained, but not without some effort. But those who start wearing hearing aids while their hearing loss is considered “mild” are less likely to need them.

Keep Your Health and Lifestyle In Good Shape

Mild hearing loss tends to present major problems hearing speech when background noise is present. This makes it harder to enjoy social time at restaurants or bars, or at larger family gatherings. The extra strain it takes to listen in these situations causes us to become fatigued earlier than usual. Many people who are experiencing age-related hearing loss can mistake this earlier fatigue for a separate age-related condition—”I can’t stay out as late as I used to”—when in fact a set of hearing aids would make them able to enjoy social time just as much as they always have.

When we don’t enjoy social gatherings, we tend to shy away from them. Very quickly, we start opting out of invitations and getting less time outdoors. Those with untreated hearing loss tend to engage in much less physical activity than those who wear hearing aids. By getting hearing aids as soon as they are recommended, you won’t have to alter your current lifestyle due to hearing loss!

Hearing Aids Are Better Than Ever

Those who get hearing aids today report satisfaction with them at a rate of 95%, when asked after one year of wearing them. Hearing aids have undergone major improvements over the last decade, and even the last few years. As technology progresses in other areas, it can be miniaturized to advance the capabilities of hearing aids.

There are many varieties of hearing aids on the market today. Hearing aids are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. When you come in for a hearing test, we will talk with you about your lifestyle and where your hearing loss has caused you the most difficulty. By getting to know you a little bit, as well as conducting tests of your hearing, we are able to recommend the type of hearing aids most likely to work best for you and your hearing loss. Far from causing a major lifestyle shift, hearing aids will allow you to maintain your current lifestyle.

Make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out how hearing aids can improve your life!

Posted in Brain Health, Hearing Aids, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

Hearing Aids Are One of the “Secrets of Cognitive Super-Agers”

Hearing Aids are One of the Secrets of Cognitive Super Agers

More studies are focusing on a new group: super-agers. Super-agers refer to people who are in their 70s and older who have the mental and/or physical capacities of someone who is decades younger. Emerging research shows that people who reach the age of 100 with great brain health are likely to remain healthy for their remaining years. Fewer than 1% of Americans reach 100 years old so there is greater research interest in studying centenarians and identifying the characteristics that contribute to healthy cognitive and physical aging. 

One factor that this research has identified as a secret of cognitive super-agers is quality hearing health supported by hearing aids. 

Secrets of Cognitive Super-Agers

As more research focuses on centenarians, studies highlight the patterns that contribute to healthy aging. This includes a recent study published in January in the JAMA Network, which studied cognitive aging among healthy centenarians. Conducted by a research team at Vrije University in Amsterdam, the study included 340 participants who were cognitively healthy centenarians. Nearly 60% lived independently and the majority had great vision as well as hearing capacities.

During annual visits participants had their cognitive capacities comprehensively tested. After analyzing 4 years of follow-up data, researchers found that: 

  • cognitive trajectories only revealed only a slight decline in memory but all other cognitive domains remained stable
  • participants maintained high levels of cognitive performance despite being exposed to risk factors like Alzheimer’s

These findings reveal that participants were cognitively resilient even when they experienced increased risk of developing cognitive decline. Extensive research shows that several lifestyle factors can contribute to this resilience and healthy aging. This includes: a healthy diet, exercise, active social life, engagement in hobbies, and great hearing health.

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Health

Hearing loss not only impacts hearing capacity but also cognitive health. Extensive research shows that hearing loss increases the risk of developing cognitive decline, which accelerates the onset of conditions like Alzheimer’s. One major study that reveals this correlation was published in 2019 in the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Researchers conducted an 8-year study that included 10,107 participants who were cognitively healthy when the study began. Over the course of the study, researchers found that cognitive decline was:

  • 30% higher for people with mild hearing loss
  • 42% higher for people with moderate hearing loss
  • 54% higher for people with severe hearing loss

These research findings show that not only is there a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline but also that the more profound the hearing loss, the greater the risk of experiencing cognitive decline. An effective and important way to mitigate this risk is to prioritize hearing health.

Hearing Aids Improve Cognitive Abilities

Hearing aids transform hearing health which is integral to maintaining cognitive capacities. These devices are designed to absorb and process sound in order to provide the auditory system ample support. This strengthens communication, improves relationships, social life, and ability to navigate daily life independently. These benefits serve cognitive health by allowing people to engage in a range of activities that strengthen (and provide energy to) the brain. Research highlights the link between hearing aids and improved cognitive abilities. 

This includes a study recently published in Science Daily (February 2020) conducted by researchers at the University of Melbourne who examined how hearing aids impact the brain. Researchers studied the use of hearing aids on nearly 100 participants and concluded that:

  • “97% of participants showed either clinically significant improvement or stability in executive function (mental ability to plan, organize information and initiate tasks)”
  • speech perception, listening, and quality of life significantly improved for nearly all of the participants

These findings show that hearing aids enhance cognitive abilities and this lowers the risk of cognitive decline. Dr. Thomas Perls, a geriatrician at Boston University, wrote about the Dutch study and highlighted factors important for healthy aging. Emphasizing the importance of hearing health, Perls states: “I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for people to optimize their ability to hear. There’s a direct connection between hearing and preserving cognitive function. Being stubborn about wearing hearing aids is just silly. Hearing loss results in cognitive loss because you miss so much. You lose touch with your environment.”

Treating Hearing Loss with Kenwood Hearing Centers

If you believe you could benefit from hearing loss treatment, make an appointment for a hearing test with Kenwood Hearing Centers today. See for yourself what hearing aids can do to improve your cognitive abilities and your overall health and wellbeing!

Posted in Age-Related Hearing Loss, Communication, Hearing Loss

Building Connections | May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

Building Connections | May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

Building Connections | May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is designated as Better Hearing and Speech Month by The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Every year ASHA chooses an umbrella theme to help guide their efforts to enhance global awareness of the speech-language-hearing issues that affect all of us. This year’s theme is “Building Connections,” and there couldn’t be a better time to focus broadly on enhancing our ability to connect with the world around us.

ASHA has divided the month into four weekly sub-themes, including:

  • Week 1: Untreated Hearing Loss in Adults
  • Week 2: Early Intervention & COVID-19
  • Week 3: The Role of Health Care Speech-Language Pathologists) in COVID-19 Recovery
  • Week 4: Summer Skill Building, Hearing Protection for School-Aged Children

More information is available on ASHA’s website, including essays, press releases, and blog posts regarding the up-to-the-minute science on hearing loss and its effects on our daily lives.

Hearing Loss and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept many of us indoors for the past year. With the number of vaccinated people continuing to rise, we may soon be returning to some semblance of normal social life. Hearing loss continues to pose a significant barrier to many who may wish to embrace the return to a more physically and socially active lifestyle.

Masks and social distancing have posed a special challenge to those with hearing loss. Masks not only muffle the speech coming from a person’s mouth, but also prevent lipreading and other cues from facial expressions. Social distancing means that voices lose volume as they reach our ears. For those of us who may be on the edge of needing amplifying devices such as hearing aids, these important precautions related to the pandemic have likely made hearing loss an unavoidable issue.

While nearly everyone has felt lonely during this time, hearing loss can accentuate that experience even more. Even during normal times, those with untreated hearing loss are at an elevated risk for loneliness and depression. This is because even mild hearing loss can make communication so difficult that we can feel lonely even when we are surrounded by people. While a person with hearing loss may be able to communicate with us by using special strategies, asking for repetition, and increasing their focus on the speaker, they may miss out on the serendipity of casual conversation. That may not seem like much “on paper,” but the effects on our emotional well-being are deeper than we may imagine.

Regular Hearing Tests

ASHA and The Better Hearing Institute, both not-for-profit organizations, recommend getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years thereafter. Those in higher-risk professions or with medical histories indicating a higher risk should be tested even more frequently.

Some may think, “What’s the point of getting my hearing tested?” Well, we live in a very noisy world. There are many potential sources of hearing damage that we encounter on an almost daily basis. By getting a regular hearing test, you can catch noise-induced hearing loss well before it poses a problem. There may be times when you imagine the noise level is safe, when in fact it may be causing hearing loss. By catching hearing loss when it is not even noticeable, you can start to learn where you require hearing protection throughout your life.

Hearing Aids Can Help

For those who do have more significant hearing loss, hearing aids should be fitted sooner than later. As mentioned above, even mild hearing loss affects our lives in sneaky ways that may not be apparent at first. By treating your hearing loss early, you can avoid the potential negative outcomes of untreated hearing loss like increased social fatigue, brain atrophy, reduced physical & social activity, loneliness, and depression.

Hearing aids have become truly marvelous instruments. Those who get hearing aids report satisfaction at a rate of 95%, when asked after one year. Even the adjustment period, which many people have historically reported as being difficult, has become easier thanks to integration with smartphones and apps that keep you connected wherever you find yourself. Sound quality  can often be adjusted through the app, without an office visit  so you can go about your day with the optimal listening experience for you.

If you or a loved one is starting to deal with hearing loss, or if you’re simply due for a hearing test, make an appointment with us today and make sure you’re doing the most you can to maintain your hearing health!

Posted in Hearing Health

How Treating Hearing Loss Can Improve Your Love Life

How Treating Hearing Loss Can Improve Your Love Life

How Treating Hearing Loss Can Improve Your Love Life

Hearing loss is on the rise in America. Life is getting louder, to the point that 48 million Americans report having some amount of hearing loss. Even as many as 20% of teenagers have measurable hearing loss in one or both ears.

Age-Related Hearing Loss Is Very Common

But by far the most common type of hearing loss is age-related hearing loss. About 1 in 3 people age 65–74 has hearing loss. About half of those over 75 do, and almost 100% of those who reach 100-years-old have it, suggesting that if we live long enough, we will all suffer hearing loss.

Hearing Loss Is Under-Treated

Even with all that hearing loss, it’s still the case that only about 1 out of 5 people who could use hearing aids is wearing them. On average, people wait about 7 years from the time they notice hearing loss to the time they start wearing hearing aids to treat it. There’s good reason to believe that wearing hearing aids sooner rather than later is important to maintaining overall health and well-being, largely because of the effect on our social relationships.

Untreated Hearing Loss Increases Risk of Negative Health Outcomes

Over the course of ten years, someone with untreated hearing loss is 50% more likely to develop dementia, 40% more likely to suffer from depression, and 30% more likely to sustain injuries due to falling than someone who wears hearing aids. It is likely that the increased risk of depression is due to loneliness and social isolation, which are extremely common outcomes of untreated hearing loss over time.

As we lose our hearing, conversation becomes more difficult. We become tired in social situations much faster than those who wear hearing aids or have normal hearing, so we will often leave the party earlier than others. It all starts to feel like too much bother, and soon we naturally start to shrink from social engagements, preferring to stay at home where we don’t have to ask people to repeat themselves over and over, apologize for our hearing loss, or pretend to hear.

Hearing Loss Is Frustrating For Loved Ones

For those who spend most of their time around us hearing loss is incredibly frustrating. Both those with hearing loss and their partners report decreased satisfaction in their relationships. The partner of a person with hearing loss needs to repeat themselves frequently, while the partner with hearing loss can end up feeling misunderstood or uncared for when the normal-hearing partner becomes frustrated. Conversation becomes limited to only the most important communications, and intimacy is harder to maintain. Couples who used to joke and chatter with each other all day can fall into silence.

Australian Survey Finds Hearing Aids Improve Relationships

An Australian survey of 300 older people with hearing aids found that people considered hearing aids to have numerous positive effects on their social relationships and intimate partnerships, alike.

Over half said that hearing aids improved their social lives, and two thirds said hearing aids helped them to better connect with family and friends. One in ten credited hearing aids with improving their love life, and nobody claimed that hearing aids had hurt their love life. 

Hearing aids allow us to maintain our level of activity and behave more like younger people. Many respondents pointed out that hearing aids helped them to more easily engage in intimate conversations. This makes sense, doesn’t it? It’s hard to speak intimately and freely when you have to shout to be understood!

Eighty four percent of hearing aid wearers said that it was easier for other people to talk to them, while 75% said that others no longer had to increase the volume of their voices for them to understand speech.

Get Your Hearing Tested

If you’re noticing hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test with Kenwood Hearing Centers today and see for yourself what hearing aids can do to improve your life. Your loved ones will thank you, and if you’re like 95% of people, you’ll be very glad you started wearing hearing aids.

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Healthy Hearing Tips for the New Year

Healthy Hearing Tips for the New Year

Healthy Hearing Tips for the New Year

We’re sure glad to welcome the new year, but what can we do to make 2021 better? You might have several New Year’s resolutions related to your health and well-being, and this is an excellent time for your hearing health to take center stage!

Hearing loss, which affects almost 1 in 5 individuals, is an invisible condition that is frequently underdiagnosed. Here are a few ways you can take charge of your hearing health in 2021.

Recognize the early signs of hearing loss

On average, Americans wait about seven years from the moment they experience hearing difficulty to the moment they seek care. Hearing loss often happens slowly, over years or even decades, making it hard to detect. It is helpful to understand these early signs to ensure you seek the treatment you need: 

  • You can hear what other people say, but you can’t understand them.
  • Friends and family members complain that you are not listening to them.
  • Telephone conversations are tricky as you can’t understand the other person very well.
  • Members of the household often ask you to turn the TV volume down.
  • You experience a ringing in your ear.

Teach yourself how to recognize dangerously loud sounds

We encounter loud noises on a daily basis. But at which point do these noises become damaging?

Most people know that hearing damage can occur from exposure to loud sounds, but there is another important factor: how long you’re exposed to those sounds. While it takes eight hours for a sound that registers at 85 decibels (dB) to cause damage, a sound that is 105dB can cause permanent damage to your hearing in less than ten minutes. For context, heavy traffic can be as loud as 85dB, and motorcycle engines often register at 100dB. 

Learn to understand loud sounds and restrict your exposure to them. Usea decibel meter app on your smartphone like Decibel X to monitor the volume of the loud sounds in your life. 

You should also practice responsible earphone use. Always play songs at a moderate volume setting while you listen to music on headphones or earbuds. This is especially important to remember when you’re in an environment with lots of background noise, such as an airplane.

Fight the stigma of hearing loss

Do you or your loved one have a hearing loss? Over 50 million Americans experience hearing loss, but it’s still a misunderstood topic. 

In the new year, another way to encourage healthy hearing is to increase awareness of hearing loss. Although millions of Americans have hearing loss, only 1 in 3 of those are using hearing aids! This means many people are coping with untreated hearing loss.

Speak openly about hearing loss to your family and friends to raise awareness about this chronic condition. Experiencing hearing loss is nothing to be ashamed of, and hearing treatment can be life-changing.

 Make sure your hearing aids are working well

Do you already have hearing aids? See us for a check up so that we can ensure your hearing aids are working well for you.

Schedule a hearing test

New Year’s resolutions are more likely to be successful if you start small, so if you do only one thing on your list, make sure it’s this one. A hearing test takes only a few minutes and can give you a lot of insight into your hearing condition. 

Even if you do not think you have hearing loss, it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested — starting with a baseline allows for you to compare how your hearing is changing over time.

Contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers today to set up a test for yourself or someone you love!

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