Hearing Loss and the Holidays

It’s the time of year everyone enjoys- The holiday season. The holidays are a time of togetherness, a time to share in beloved family holiday traditions that have been around for generations.
Turkey and stuffing aside, one of the biggest Thanksgiving traditions for my family was always the Thanksgiving Day football game. While the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys took on their opponents, my grandma and I would be putting the finishing touches on our holiday meal. When it was finished, we would call for the rest of the family to tear themselves away from the game to come share in our traditional feast. Most of my cousins and siblings would come running, but I always noticed that grandma would have to step out of the kitchen and shout at my grandpa a second time before he would hear her.
Repeating things for grandpa more than once was commonplace and often frustrating for my grandmother. When my siblings and I were younger, we used to laugh at their loving give and take-Grandma would get riled up and grandpa would just laugh it off. It wasn’t until later in life I realized the real irritation my grandma felt went past just the current moment and that the communication in their marriage was actually impacted by my grandfather’s hearing loss. Conversations became more limited as grandpa had to ask grandma to repeat herself more and more.
It’s almost impossible to hide hearing loss when you’re surrounded by loved ones during the holidays. Common signs of hearing loss include not being able to hear well in a crowded room, having trouble hearing children and women, and asking family and friends to repeat what they’re saying. These symptoms became more pronounced in my grandpa during the holidays: smiling and nodding during the holiday dinner was a telltale sign that he was not able to follow the conversations.
If you notice one of your loved ones withdrawing from conversation because of their hearing, take a moment to bring them back into the conversation. Here are a few communication skills you can use to help them feel more included during the holidays:
– Be sure the person is paying attention before you speak.
– Speak face-to-face, never from a different room or from behind.
– While speaking, avoid activities like smoking or chewing that make lip reading difficult.
– Speak at a natural pace and volume level.
– Try to reduce background noise. Even people who wear hearing aids may have difficulty hearing in noisy situations.
Often, the first step to bringing your loved one back into the conversation is by having a heartfelt family discussion about their health concerns. We recommend that everyone over the age of 55 have an annual hearing screening. Halftime during the Cowboys game may not be the best time to bring it up but after the holidays, let your loved one know you’re concerned and would like to help. We are always here to help, please contact us with any questions or schedule a free hearing screening appointment today. We look forward to helping make your holiday season free from the struggles of hearing loss.

Are the holidays hard on those with untreated hearing loss? Communication strategies can help bring your loved one back into the conversation this holiday.

Halo, Our Made for iPhone Hearing Aid, Wins International Award

Halo-2
Fourth Consecutive Year Product Designs Have Been Recognized.

Starkey Hearing Technologies, one of the world’s leading hearing technology companies, is proud to announce that Halo™, its Made for iPhone® hearing aid, has been honored with a red dot award: product design 2014. This is the fourth consecutive year Starkey Hearing Technologies has won this award, having been recognized last year for Xino™ Tinnitus, in 2012 for its AMP® hearing aid and in 2011 for SoundLens®. The red dot design award is one of the most renowned international product competitions in the world. In 2014, the 40-member expert panel discussed and evaluated 4,815 entries from 53 countries.

Halo, which is sold under the Starkey brand name, combines Starkey Hearing Technologies’ superior hearing with iOS to deliver a revolutionary new hearing solution. Halo hearing aids are engineered to work with iPhone, iPad® and iPod touch®, so FaceTime® and phone calls, music, videos and more stream directly into hearing aids with pristine sound quality. Halo connects with the TruLink™ Hearing Control app, which is available as a free download in the App StoreSM.

Halo will be featured with the other prize-winning products in a special exhibition at the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen, Germany, from July 8 to August 3, 2014.

About the red dot design award

The Red Dot Design Award, founded by Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen, is one of the most sought-after marks of quality for excellent design. With around 2,000 exhibits spread over an area of more than 4,000 square meters, the Red Dot Design Museum in Essen, Germany, houses the largest exhibition of contemporary design worldwide. For more information, go to red-dot.de/press.

What is the Best Hearing Aid for You?

What is the Best Hearing Aid for You?
There is nothing more important to the manufacturers of hearing aids and hearing healthcare professionals than your satisfaction with their product and services. The industry is people-oriented in that it allows significant interaction and communication between the person with the hearing loss and the hearing healthcare professional to assure that they have done all things possible to meet your needs. It is important to emphasize that you have a roll to play in acquiring the best hearing aid for you. Here are some suggestions for optimizing the chances that you will be one of these delighted hearing aid wearers.
HOW WILL I KNOW I’VE FOUND THE BEST HEARING AID FOR ME?
Simmply stated, satisfaction is having your needs, desires or expectations met. You have very specific needs and the purpose of the hearing healthcare provider is to find the best hearing aid for you. Thus, during the process of rediscovering your hearing it is important to determine what your needs are, what outcomes you are looking for, and most importantly, how you’ll know when you’ve fulfilled your needs. Many people go into their hearing healthcare practitioner with a vague concept of the best hearing aid for them: “I can’t hear,” or “It seems as if people are mumbling more,” or worse yet, “My wife says I don’t listen to her.”
Many hearing healthcare professionals have assessment scales designed to help you understand problems caused by your hearing loss. Once you know your problems, you can better identify the best hearing aid. This list also becomes a contract between you and your hearing care professional.
Identification of communication situations that cause you the most difficulty is a critical first step in solving your hearing loss problems. If you can describe difficult listening conditions, your hearing care provider can address the problems and develop strategies to help you manage them. If you need more information, ask for it. Some people want highly technical information about hearing aid systems and hearing loss, while others just want a brief overview of hearing aids and their function. Most providers will be happy you asked, and will give you information such as consumer literature, data sheets, brochures, videotapes and other types of instructional materials. Ask for clarification if you need it. Many complex concepts can be explained in an uncomplicated way.
MOTIVATION IN FINDING THE BEST HEARING AID
Advanced hearing aid technology can now compensate for most hearing losses, but there are still millions of hearing aid candidates who are not ready to accept this fact. Is there a missing link? People with hearing loss are in different stages of readiness. At one extreme the individual is in denial about the hearing loss. If either a family member or a professional insists on hearing aids at this point, behavior is unlikely to change and most likely such a person would be dissatisfied if pursuing hearing aids.
Individuals highly motivated to improve their hearing have an infinitely better chance of success with hearing aids. Such motivated people recognize their hearing loss and are open to finding the best hearing aid for their needs. They tend to seek out relevant information related to their hearing loss and the technology needed to alleviate the hearing problem. The most highly motivated hearing aid candidates have a willingness to discuss their feelings about their hearing problem and explore some hearing options that might be available to them. When they are fitted with hearing aids, they eagerly explore their new technology, discuss problems during follow-up visits with their hearing healthcare professional, and patiently learn to adapt to their technology.
Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D. – Better Hearing Institute, Washington, DC

When a Loved One Resists Help for Their Hearing Loss

When we think of helping a loved one with hearing loss who declines use of hearing aids, we often think of how important it is to repeat ourselves, speak clearly, speak louder or interpret what others say if they cannot hear the message. But when we do these good deeds for loved ones with a hearing loss, what we don’t realize is that we’re assisting in their failure to seek help. Such well-intended efforts are counterproductive to the ultimate goal of them receiving hearing aids. Here’s why.
If a loved one with a hearing loss has come to rely on your good hearing, what is the great need for them to wear hearing aids? Your co-dependent efforts must stop in order for them to grasp the magnitude of their problem. Many people with a hearing loss never realize how much communication they actually fail to understand or miss completely because you have become their ears. However, it takes only a short time for them to realize that without your help, they’re in trouble. It is through this realization that one becomes inspired to take positive action to solve their problem. Therefore, as a loving spouse or family member you must create the need for your loved one to seek treatment by no longer repeating messages and being their ears. Your ultimate goal is for them to hear independent of you.
Here are some practical tips for you:
Stop repeating yourself! Explain that you are on a “Hearing Help Quest”—one that involves your loved one by allowing him or her the opportunity to realize the significance of their hearing loss. Do not stop helping though. All you do is preface what you repeat by saying each time, “Hearing Help!” or some other identifier. In a short amount of time, your loved ones will realize how often you say this. In turn, they will come to realize how often they depend on you. (This suggestion is only for a loved one who resists the idea of getting any help).
Stop raising your voice (then complaining you’re hoarse).
Stop being the messenger by carrying the communication load for the family. Do not tell your loved one “He said” and “She said” when he or she needs to be responsible for getting this information directly from the source.
Do not engage in conversation from another room as tempting as this is and as convenient as it appears. This sets up your communication process for failure.
Create a telephone need. This means for you to stop being the interpreter on the telephone. Allow your loved one to struggle in order to recognize how much help he or she needs. We’re looking for motivation (to hear) from your loved one—not you.
Richard Carmen, Au.D. – Auricle Ink Publishers, Sedona, Arizona. From: www.betterhearing.org

You’re getting older. Are your listening demands decreasing?

Activities and lifestyle are important considerations for potential hearing aid users because of the variability in listening environments that they may encounter. Individuals who work or have active social lives may be more likely to benefit from advanced hearing aids and added features like directionality and noise reduction than individuals with less social lifestyles in which a large proportion of time is spent at home or in quiet conditions.

Despite the fact that older adults are more likely to experience hearing loss and poorer word recognition ability, older adults generally report less hearing disability and less social or emotional impact from their hearing loss than younger adults do. One explanation for this is that older adults may have less demanding lifestyles than younger adults because they may encounter fewer challenging listening situations. This is assumed to be the case because older adults may participate in fewer social activities and have smaller social networks than younger adults.

The assumption that older adults are less prone to social interaction could be countered by the suggestion that retirement allows more time for social activities that could present communication challenges.  In fact, following retirement, older adults report having more time to travel, visit with family, and volunteer.

So do older adults have quieter, less demanding lifestyles?

Twenty-seven hearing-impaired adults, ranging from 40 to 88 years of age, participated in a study. All had hearing losses. The majority were experienced hearing aid users.

They recorded their listening activities as well as the listening environments with special dosimeters. Listening activities were classified according to 6 categories and 5 environment categories. Along with social lifestyle measurements.

Journal entries provided information about the proportion of time each spent in speech-related activities, in quiet and noisy conditions. People in both age groups spent the highest proportion of time listening to media at home, followed by small-group conversations at home and small-group conversations away from home. The proportion of time spent in phone conversations or outdoors was relatively small for both groups. There were no significant differences between young and old adult groups for the percentages of time spent in any of the activity categories.

Analysis of the dosimeter measurements helped determine the proportion of time participants spent in noisy conditions and the intensity of the sound they encountered.  The sound levels encountered by both groups had a significant range and not surprisingly, the highest levels occurred in crowds and traffic and the lowest levels occurred at home.  The measured sound levels were higher for younger listeners than older listeners for most of the noise encountered was significant for only two events: small group conversation in traffic and media listening in traffic.

Correlations were found showing that older people had smaller social networks and were also likely to experience fewer listening demands than younger subjects. Age did not affect listening demand on its own as much as it did when social lifestyle was also considered.

The results show that younger and older adults have similar noise lifestyles, in terms of the amount of time they spend in each speech-related activities, in quiet and also noisy conditions. But whether or not older individuals experience fewer listening demands is a more complicated issue.

This study suggests that younger adults might drive faster, listen to louder music, or drive on the highway more often than older adults, which would have the effect of increasing sound noise in these conditions. Similarly, if some of the noisy situations encountered by younger adults were in bars or clubs, they would yield higher sound level measurements than moderately noisy restaurants.

The study suggests that assumptions about age should not wholly dictate the decisions in hearing aid treatment plans so much as social activities and lifestyle should. Certainly, individuals of any age with diverse social activities will experience more listening demands than those with quieter lifestyles. However, the working class may present more complicated listening demands for reasons other than overall sound noise and duration of exposure.  Employed hearing aid users may experience stress related to their communication ability when interacting with co-workers, managers, and supervisors that is not comparable to the listening demand experienced in purely social situations with similar sound levels. Because the selection of hearing aids can be affected by all of these variables, self-report inventories and detailed hearing test histories used to illuminate each individual’s social and auditory lifestyle will help to arrive at decisions appropriate for the patient.

Wu, Y. & Bentler, R. (2012). Do older adults have social lifestyles that place fewer demands on hearing? Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 23, 697-711.

BASIC FACTS ON HEARING LOSS

• Men are more likely than women to experience hearing loss.

• 1 in 5 Americans have hearing loss in at least one ear. This is 48 million people and far exceeds previous hearing care industry estimates of approximately 25 million.

• 20% of the US population aged 12 years and older has hearing difficulties severe enough to impact communication.

• There is a direct link between age and hearing loss: about 18% of American adults between the ages of 45 and 54, 30% of adults between ages 65 and 74, and 47% of adults ages 75 and older have hearing impairments.

• In the United States, three out of every 1,000 children are born deaf or hard-of-hearing.

• About 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises at work or in leisure activities.

• About 60% of deployed military service men and women have noise induced hearing loss (NIHL), tinnitus (ringing in the ear), and other hearing injuries.

• Impairment of auditory activity and tinnitus are more likely to occur in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans than post-traumatic stress syndrome in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

• High levels of cotinine, the chemical that indicates exposure to tobacco smoke and second-hand smoke has been directly linked to higher risks of some types of hearing loss.

SEARCHING FOR A CURE
• Hearing Health Foundation is the largest private funder of hearing research in the United States.

• There is currently no cure for the underlying cause of hearing loss, due to damage of sensory and supporting inner ear cells.

• Hearing Health Foundation’s motto Walk-Block-and-Turn helps prevent hearing loss: walk away from a sound, block sound (with ear plugs, ear muffs or hands), and turn down the volume.

• Current treatment options include amplifying the remaining sensory cells with hearing aids or stimulating the hearing nerve directly with cochlear implants.

• Inner ear cell regeneration has the potential to be the newest advancement for curing hearing loss.

• There are two challenges with inner ear cell regeneration: rebuilding the damaged ear cells and reconnecting the cells to the nerve fiber, which will allow for sound information to be sent to the brain.

• Biological researchers have successfully discovered regeneration of inner ear cells in chickens that allow them to regain hearing within 28 days, and are trying to yield these results in mammals.

• With proper funding, a cure for hearing loss could be reached within the next 10 years.
From the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

Staying at the top of your game

We feel our best when we do our best. At the top of our game is where we all want to be. This is as true in the workplace as it is on the basketball court. But to stay at the top of your game at work and in life, you need to stay primed – ready for that next big play. It requires staying alert; keeping your skills sharp; and hearing your best. That’s right – hearing your best.

Listening doesn’t typically come to mind as a highly coveted job skill. But the truth is, listening is one of the top skills employers look for in those being promoted, according to the International Listening Association. Both business practitioners and academics identify listening as one of the most important skills for an effective professional. Individual performance in an organization directly relates to listening ability or perceived listening effectiveness. And good listening skills are even tied to effective leadership.
So if being at the top of your game – especially on the job – is what you’re after, pay attention to your hearing. Hearing your best is the first step to good listening skills. And good listening skills help pave the way to success.

For those with hearing loss: Be encouraged. Today’s modern, sleek, and virtually invisible hearing aids can help the vast majority of people with hearing loss. In fact, the days of letting unaddressed hearing loss stand in your way are long gone – and good riddance to them! Hearing aids, other forms of amplification, and even modest workspace accommodations enable almost everyone to hear their best so they can do well on the job. Today’s hearing aids are digital, wireless, and can be as discreet or as stylized as you choose. They allow you to hear from all directions and in all sorts of sound environments so you can more easily discern what people are saying.

So whether you’re a mechanic, a plumber, a nurse, a teacher, a C-suite executive, a police officer, a customer service representative, an attorney, or in any line of work, there are hearing-aid technologies and other approaches to dealing with hearing loss that can help. And remember: You are not alone. Roughly 60 percent of Americans with hearing loss are in the workforce overcoming the very same challenges you are.

Research shows that hearing aids really do help. A study by the Better Hearing Institute found that using hearing aids reduced the risk of income loss by 90-to-100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65-to-77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss. What’s more, people with hearing loss who use hearing aids are nearly twice as likely to be employed as their peers who do not use hearing aids. And eight out of 10 hearing aid users say they’re satisfied with the changes that have occurred in their lives specifically due to their hearing aids. From how they feel about themselves to positive changes in their work lives, relationships and other social interactions, hearing aid users are benefiting from today’s technology.

Face it. You’ve got too much game in you to slow down now. So play at the top of your game. Stay at the top of your game. Make an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional and learn how you can hear your best today.

To take a free, quick and confidential online hearing check to determine if you need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional, visit www.hearingcheck.org. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.BetterHearing.org. Download Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids – a step-by-step breakdown of what to expect, ask and look for when visiting a hearing healthcare professional and purchasing a hearing aid¬ – at www.BetterHearing.org, under publications.

Ascent Audiology & Hearing Warns Against Hearing Injuries, Urges Use of Ear Protection during 4th of July Celebrations

Ascent Audiology & Hearing is joining the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) in urging people to use sound judgment and ear plugs in celebrating the 4th of July, America’s noisiest day of the year. The single bang of a firecracker at close range can permanently damage hearing in an instant. Ascent Audiology & Hearing and BHI also are encouraging people to protect their hearing when participating in other loud, summertime activities, including concerts, stock car races, the use of lawn mowers and power equipment, shooting practice, power boating, and when listening to MP3 players and other electronic devices with earbuds and headphones.

 Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Ten million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise; and 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.  Children are most vulnerable.

 “Noise-induced hearing loss can be life-changing, but it also is highly preventable,” says Dr. Leisa Lyles-DeLeon, Audiologist for Ascent Audiology & Hearing.  “That’s why this 4th of July, Ascent Audiology & Hearing is raising awareness about the risk that fireworks pose to hearing. And we are encouraging people to both leave the fireworks to the professionals and to use earplugs when attending fireworks celebrations.”

 Disposable ear plugs, made of foam or silicone, are typically available at local pharmacies. They’re practical because you still can hear music and the conversation of those around you when you have them in your ears. But when they fit snuggly, they’re effective in adequately blocking out dangerously loud sounds.

 Ascent Audiology & Hearing also reminds the community that regular hearing checks are critically important for detecting hearing loss early and for getting appropriate help in order to minimize the negative impact that unaddressed hearing loss can have on quality-of-life. We offer complimentary hearing evaluations.  

 “Prevention is so critical to preserving our hearing, especially for children who are at highest risk for noise-induced hearing loss,” says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, BHI’s Executive Director. “So make sure your family and friends fully enjoy the summer and 4th of July festivities by celebrating smart. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Stay a safe distance away. And pack the earplugs. Remember: close to 40 percent of hearing loss is preventable with proper protection.”

 

The Dangers and Signs of Loud Noise

Loudness is measured in decibels, with silence measuring at 0 dB. Any noise above 85 dB is considered unsafe. Most firecrackers produce sounds starting at 125 dB–presenting the risk of irreversible ear damage. Repeated exposure to loud noise, over an extended period of time, presents serious risks to hearing health as well. If you have to shout over the noise to be heard by someone within arm’s length, the noise is probably in the dangerous range. Here are other warning signs:

  • You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area.
  • You hear ringing or buzzing (tinnitus) in your ears immediately after exposure to noise.
  • You suddenly have difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise; you can hear people talking but can’t understand them.

 

Protecting Our Hearing

We hear sound when delicate hair cells in our inner ear vibrate, creating nerve signals that the brain understands as sound. But just as we can overload an electrical circuit, we also can overload these vibrating hair cells. Loud noise damages these delicate hair cells, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing of the ears). The cells that are the first to be damaged or die are those that vibrate most quickly–those that allow us to hear higher-frequency sounds clearly, like the sounds of birds singing and children speaking. 

The best way to protect hearing is to avoid excessively loud noise. When you know you’ll be exposed to loud noises, like fireworks, wear ear protection. Every day you can protect your hearing by keeping down the volume on earbuds, stereos, and televisions. And you can teach children to quickly plug their ears with their fingers when they’re suddenly and unexpectedly bombarded by loud sirens, jack hammers, and other loud sounds

Can Better Hearing Help Delay Dementia?

Today, dementia afflicts one in 10 Americans over 70 years in age, and that number is projected to substantially increase over the next few decades.  According to a FoxNews.com article, Could Hearing Aids Delay Dementia?, a recent series of studies conducted at John Hopkins Medicine have revealed that treating hearing loss may provide some benefit in slowing the dementia process, especially in individuals over 60 and older with signs of moderate hearing losses or worse.  While the study does not indicate that hearing aids can prevent dementia, it does bring up some interesting points on how achieving better hearing through hearing aids may help delay the dementia process and lessen the impact. 

This study explored the correlation between untreated hearing loss and the acceleration of dementia.  Of the 639 individuals studied over an average of 12 years, 36 percent of those 60 and older who had a moderate or severe hearing loss were diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in that time frame.  While it is not suggested that their hearing loss directly caused those conditions, it is intriguing to see their relationship as likely more than a coincidence.  New studies are set to take place to determine the effects of hearing loss as it relates to formation of dementia, though, in the meantime, researchers heed importance for managing hearing health to help in possibly delaying the effects of dementia. 

This possibility to delay the effects of dementia may likely be a result of gaining better comprehension of speech through hearing aids.  This leads to overall better mental astuteness, quality of life and less likelihood of social isolation which fuels dementia in many individuals.

How the Open Road Can Harm Your Hearing

Everyone enjoys driving down the open road with your car windows down or sliding the top off of a convertible.  It’s relaxing and refreshing.  However, precautions should be taken to avoid harming your hearing at the same time while enjoying the wind in your hair on the open road.  According to Better Hearing Institute, recent tests were conducted for driving different types of convertibles at highway speeds as it relates to potential harm to hearing.  The finding indicated that 80% of the cars produced noise exposure of 85 decibels, a level harmful to hearing if sustained for a lengthy period of time.

Additionally, this sound level could be greatly amplified to much more severe levels when other external noise sources existed, such as the noises from close car and motorcycle traffic.  Additionally, the 85 decibel noise measurement didn’t include sounds produced within the car interior like the radio and air conditioning.  Since these external and internal sounds are usually prevalent at some degree, the noise exposure threat is usually much higher than the already harmful 85 decibels.

While we don’t suggest not enjoying a convertible ride on a nice day, we do agree with the article’s recommendation to not drive for long stretches with your convertible or windows down, especially at highway speeds.  By following these simple suggestions, one may be able to prevent exposure to harmful sounds and avoid noise induced hearing loss difficulties in the future.

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