You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone
It’s an age old adage but it has stood the test of time for a reason. Hearing loss generally occurs gradually, so you start to miss out on things you used to hear all the time, without even noticing.
If you look on our previous blog ‘The Link Between Hearing and Dementia’ you will see that the correlation between the two has been present for many years. However, the risk of dementia is not the only reason that you should be taking care of your hearing health.
Many people who decide to start using hearing aids have noted that they become increasingly disengaged socially, and struggle in groups. Hearing loss can often cause speech noises to be lost against background noise, causing the individual to become embarrassed about having to ask for things to be repeated.
Hearing family and friends talking, watching the TV, and hearing on the phone are other common struggles that people with a hearing loss experience. Eventually they will also miss out on birdsong, music, and many of the other simple pleasures in life that we take for granted.
Taking care of your hearing health means addressing the loss before it is too late. Using a hearing aid can reduce deterioration of hearing, meaning that you can retain hearing for longer in life.
Ultimately, taking care of your hearing health means having an improved quality of life.
It is unlikely that anyone reading this post does not know someone suffering from, or affected by dementia. There are 1.2 million people in the UK (48 million worldwide) living with dementia. It is a far reaching disease which not only affects the individual, but all of their family, friends, and carers. Hearing loss has been identified as one of nine key modifiable factors that contributes to development of dementia.
Other factors were lack of education (8%), smoking (5%), failing to treat depression (4%), physical inactivity (3%), isolation (2%), high blood pressure (2%), obesity (1%), and type 2 diabetes (1%). The percentages are indications of how much of the risk each factor contributes, hearing loss carried the largest risk at 9%. These are all categorised as modifiable, as they can all be treated at least to some degree.
There are suggestions that hearing loss may add to the burden of a vulnerable brain, and increase the progression of dementia. Both hearing loss and dementia have been reported to cause increased social disengagement and depression, so may exacerbate or accelerate each other’s symptoms.
It is not yet completely clear whether the use of hearing aids and other instruments can prevent the onset of dementia. Hearing loss is known as a modifiable risk factor because it can be addressed and improved. Social isolation and depression contribute 6% of the modifiable dementia risk to potential cases, and hearing loss has long been known to cause both of these conditions. With this in mind, treating hearing loss, by default, often also takes care of two other major factors, and could potentially reduce dementia risk by 15%. Other risk factors could be addressed: by stopping smoking, keeping your mind agile, and regular exercise, and you could potentially negate most of the prospective 35% risk – vastly reducing the possibility of dementia onset.
Dementia is an unfortunate inevitability for many people. However disheartening this seems, to be able to potentially negate the effects of 35% of the risks puts us in a very strong position. Knowledge is always the first step towards a cure, and though currently all advice is only preventative, we are certainly heading in the right direction.
If you are worried about your hearing health in relation to dementia (or otherwise) and would like some advice, please do not hesitate to contact us for professional, friendly guidance.
Phone: 01270 611 212
Observed Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia in a Multiethnic Cohort
(Golub et al. 2017)
Hearing loss as a risk factor for dementia: A systematic review
(Thomson et al 2017)
Age-related hearing loss and dementia: a 10 year national population-based study
(Su et al. 2017)
Dementia prevention, intervention, and care
(Livingston et al. 2017)
If you’re reading this post, you’re probably thinking about getting hearing aids. You’re doing what almost everyone does today before they buy a vacuum or TV, or book a vacation or try a new restaurant — you’re doing online research.
You are smart. Consumers today have an abundance of information and reviews at their fingertips. There’s little reason today not to research a product or service before you purchase, particularly if it’s a bigger investment. And there is no getting around the fact that hearing aids and better hearing are an investment. An investment that can significantly better your life.
This article isn’t about the different makes, models or features of hearing aids. We’re going to talk about where to get hearing aids and the pros and cons of each.
There are two main options; either from a local hearing professional or from an internet retailer. Let’s compare the two.
The pros of buying hearing aids online
No doubt, buying products online is easy and convenient, and hearing aids are no exception. Ordering from the comfort of your home or office — and having it delivered to you without needing to go anywhere — is pretty much the benefit that online shopping was founded on.
Of course, returning items can quickly negate that benefit if you need to repackage it and take it to a post office or shipping facility. And certain things just beg to be “tried on” first, increasing the likelihood they’ll need to be returned if you don’t. That’s why 30% of all products ordered online are returned, vs. only 9% of products purchased in a store.1
Hearing aid prices
Cost can also be a benefit of buying online. While it’s not the case with every item (especially if there are shipping fees involved), it is when purchasing hearing aids online. In fact, cost is probably the biggest incentive for buying hearing aids on the internet.
Unfortunately, convenience and cost are where the benefits of buying hearing aids from an online retailer end. And even those two aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Convenience is offset by the fact that — to get a hearing aid programmed for your hearing loss — you’ll want a proper evaluation and will need to send in an audiogram, which you can only get by leaving your house and going to a hearing professional. Then there’s that 30% online return rate discussed above. Meaning there’s at least a 1 in 3 chance you’ll want or need to return it. (Probably more for hearing aids bought online due to the “try on” factor.)
Plus, if you need any adjustments made to your hearing aids to optimise comfort and performance, you first need to repackage and ship them to the retailer. Then, it can take weeks to receive the instruments back from an online service.
As for cost, while you’ll most likely find hearing aid prices are less online, most people conclude that what they get in return is not worth the savings. To explain that, let’s move into the benefits of buying hearing aids from a local hearing professional — also known as “the things you don’t get when you buy online.”
The pros of buying hearing aids from a hearing professional
Yes, a hearing aid is a tangible product that you can ship in a box and, in theory, start using after “some assembly required.” But it’s also a high-tech medical device that works best when matched to an individual’s unique physical and lifestyle characteristics, programmed and fine-tuned to their specific hearing needs, and then followed up with and supported by an expert in hearing care.
Just as you wouldn’t be satisfied buying a suit or wedding dress without measurements, consultation and tailoring, nor would you prescribe yourself and know the right dosage of medication needed to treat your specific arthritis, high blood pressure, anxiety, or diabetes, getting a one-size-fits-all hearing aid without consultation from an expert is most likely going to disappoint or not work the way you need it to.
When you buy hearing aids from a hearing professional, you get much more than just a product that makes things louder.
You also get the expert consultation, treatment knowledge and experience, and personalised fitting, support and care that a sensory function as important as hearing deserves — before, during and after you buy your hearing aids.
Before: Testing & Consultation
- Thorough hearing tests — You’ll have an ear examination and clinical tests in a soundproof environment to diagnose and verify what your hearing needs are.
- Audiological evaluation — Your hearing thresholds will be charted on an audiogram, and you’ll be given specific tests to measure listening comfort and understanding in noise.
- Intake interview — You and your provider will discuss details about your day-to-day hearing needs (including the type of work you do, how active you are, what activities you enjoy doing, your style preferences, etc.). You’ll also go your unique hearing challenges, to help you understand how to optimise your overall communication, not just your hearing.
During: Products & Fitting
- Product selection — Based on your test results, interview, and even unique ear-specific characteristics, your provider will show you solution options that fit your needs in the best way possible.
- Product test drive — While in the office, you may be able to try out and test different styles and technology options so you can hear what impact hearing aids will make.
- Expert fitting — Once a product and style are selected, your provider will program and fine-tune your hearing aids to your specific needs and sound preferences. Each ear is like a fingerprint; every person is different and requires an exact fit to maximize success.
- Solution demonstration — Your provider will show you how to use and care for your hearing aids, and answer any questions you have, so you are comfortable with them and can keep them in tip-top shape.
- Treatment consultation — Your provider will walk you through expectations and next steps, and give you additional resources or tools, so that you feel comfortable as you regain your hearing senses.
After: Follow-Up & Support
- Trial period and follow-up visits — Wearing hearing aids takes some time getting used to and sometimes requires minor adjustments and fine tuning — all covered under your trial period to maximise comfort and ensure success.
- After-care needs — Your provider will be a one-stop shop for warranty and payment plans, tune-ups and maintenance, batteries and other accessories or part replacements. This is like having your mechanic close to you. If anything goes wrong, they can fix the problem quickly.
- Better hearing partner — Your hearing needs change over time, so count on your provider as a go-to resource for all things hearing, including answers to hearing loss questions, personalised treatment plan updates, new technology demos and more.
Read more about Starkey Hearing Aids on their website
VANCOUVER, Sept. 19, 2016 /CNW/ – Professor Yves Joanette, PhD, FCAHS, Chair of the World Dementia Council and Scientific Director of CIHR’s Institute of Aging, gave a keynote address last night at the 33rd World Congress of Audiology (WCA) in Vancouver. Professor Joanette used the opportunity to bring attention to the critical global issue of dementia and also highlighted the relationship to hearing loss in seniors.
“Dementia is a global challenge that is only going to grow as the global population ages and seniors live longer. Unfortunately, we now know that people suffering from untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia than those who have normal hearing function,” said Professor Joanette. “The global dementia crisis will increase at an alarming rate between 2016 and 2050, and it is imperative that individuals suffering from hearing loss take preventative steps to reduce the likelihood of developing dementia in their lifetime.”
Currently, over 44 million people globally suffer from dementia. That number is forecasted to rise to 135 million by 2050, due to the aging population and increasing life expectancy. In 2016, an individual is diagnosed with dementia every three seconds. The social and emotional cost of living with dementia affects not only the individual but the entire network of friends and family. There are preventative steps individuals can take to reduce their chances of developing dementia. Persons suffering from untreated hearing loss can also take steps to minimize the risk of developing dementia.
“As colleagues in the field of Audiology, we know that communication health is integral to social development, and it remains so throughout a person’s life. While the evidence is clear on the relationship between poor hearing health and an increased incidence of dementia, more research and collaboration are needed to better prevent, diagnose, and treat this disease,” added Joanette. “Canada is lucky to have the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, an all-star team on neurodegenerative aging, which includes links with sensory impairments. Together with colleagues around the world we are working collaboratively to combat this growing health challenge. Through continued support in research and innovation, we hope to ease and eventually eliminate the suffering for millions of people.”
While research has linked hearing loss and dementia, more research is needed to further study whether there is a common neurodegenerative cause/risk factor between hearing impairments and dementia. Audiologists and other hearing health experts are committed to combat this critical issue before it continues to escalate into a larger health emergency.
About the WCA
The World Congress of Audiology is the biennial Congress of the International Society of Audiology and is jointly hosted by Speech-Language and Audiology Canada and the Canadian Academy of Audiology in Vancouver, Canada.
Read more at http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/world-dementia-council-chair-previews-growing-global-dementia-crisis-and-link-to-hearing-loss-in-seniors-593999811.html
There are roughly 37.2 trillion cells in the human body, each of which can be categorised into one of about 200 different types. What’s remarkable about this immense number and diversity of cells is that they all came from a microscopic cluster that comprises the embryo. Many of these early progenitor cells start out the same, but they receive different programming instructions along the way that enable them to replicate and differentiate to form various tissues and organs.
Signalling pathways are cellular communication systems that govern whether a cell keeps dividing or stops, where it goes and, ultimately, what it becomes. One such pathway is Wnt (pronounced “wint”) signalling, a group of signal transmission networks that play a critical role in embryonic development. Dr. Alain Dabdoub, a scientist in Biological Sciences at Sunnybrook Research Institute, is studying how Wnt signalling affects inner ear development and hearing. A new study by his team has shown for the first time that Kremen1, a poorly understood member of the Wnt network, plays a direct role in the formation of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped auditory sensory organ in the inner ear.
“We know that initially at the very early stages [of development], Wnt signalling pushes cells to proliferate,” says Dabdoub. “Then division stops and cell differentiation occurs. We’re trying to find out what promotes this high level of Wnt and also what decreases it.”
Kremen1 is a protein that sits on the cell surface where it receives and transmits signals to the cellular machinery inside. Previous studies have shown that it blocks Wnt signalling, so Dabdoub and his team decided to investigate whether Kremen1 is involved in cell differentiation in the cochlea.
The researchers found that at an early embryonic stage Kremen1 was present in the precursor cells that give rise to hair cells and supporting cells. Shortly thereafter, Kremen1 was only found in the supporting cells that surround hair cells. When the researchers forced the precursor cells to overproduce Kremen1, fewer of them went on to become hair cells and more became supporting cells. In contrast, knocking down levels of Kremen1 resulted in more hair cells. The results were published in August 2016 in the journal Scientific Reports.
The cochlea contains tens of thousands of hair cells, which have hair bundles on their surface to detect and amplify sound. In mammals, when these cells are damaged or destroyed, they are not replaced and hearing loss results. Supporting cells, on the other hand, remain abundant during an individual’s lifetime and do not appear to be affected by the insults that batter hair cells.
Dabdoub’s research seeks to understand how the cochlea and hair cells form, as well as how these sensory cells can be replenished to restore hearing. “If you think about regeneration, where are the cells that you’re going to regenerate coming from?” he says.
The survival of supporting cells makes them excellent candidates from which to regrow hair cells, but they must first replicate to ensure there are enough to maintain a stable number of supporting cells and form new hair cells. Dabdoub thinks that exploiting the proliferation-enhancing properties of Wnt signalling will help achieve this. His finding that Kremen1 plays an important role in cell fate decisions in the cochlea will be critical to future efforts to regenerate hair cells. “This is a molecule that we should keep an eye on as we work towards regeneration,” he says.
Funding for this study came from the Hearing Health Foundation’s Hearing Restoration Project, Koerner Foundation and Sunnybrook Hearing Regeneration Initiative.
Read more at http://sunnybrook.ca/research/media/item.asp?c=2&i=1458&f=new-player-identified-hair-cell-development
A study by John Hopkins University and National Institute on Ageing suggests that Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who have normal hearing.
The study, which was published in the Archives of Neurology, evaluated 639 people whose hearing and cognitive abilities were tested over a period of five years.
While about a quarter of the subjects had some hearing loss at the start of the study, none had dementia. These volunteers were then closely followed with repeat examinations every one to two years, and by the end of the study, 58 of them had developed dementia.
The researchers found that study participants with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were significantly more likely to develop dementia by the end.
Compared with volunteers with normal hearing, those with mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss had twofold, threefold, and fivefold, respectively, the risk of developing dementia over time.
The more hearing loss they had, the higher their likelihood of developing the memory-robbing disease.
The lead researcher, Dr. Frank Lin, also found that aside from the greater risk of dementia, he found that those with hearing problems lost their cognitive skills 35% faster than others.
Dr. Lin theorizes that two causal factors prevail. Like many Alzheimer’s experts, he pinpoints social isolation as one. The social withdrawal that is commonly seen with hearing impairment, leads to loneliness, which many studies have shown increases dementia risk. Another cause may be cognitive overload.
When the brain expends so much energy trying to decipher unclear words, it diminishes other cognitive functions.
While this research has been widely known and accepted in the field of Audiology, we were not sure what to do with the information. We suspected that the use of hearing aids ‘may’ prevent the onset of hearing loss but we did not know if that was truly the case.
After several years of waiting we are now seeing research that is telling us that hearing aid use can in fact reduce someone’s risk of dementia.
A recently published study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society is the first to show that wearing hearing aids reduces cognitive decline associated with hearing loss.
That study, followed 3,670 adults, age 65 and older over a 25-year period. Researchers compared the trajectory of cognitive decline among older adults who were using hearing aids and those who were not.
The study found no difference in the rate of cognitive decline between a control group of people with no reported hearing loss and people with hearing loss who used hearing aids. By contrast, hearing loss was significantly associated with reduced cognitive function.
The study indicates that people with hearing loss who wear hearing aids have the same risk for age-related cognitive decline as people without hearing loss. But cognitive decline is accelerated for the people who have hearing loss and don’t use hearing aids.
With this study, we are seeing for the first time evidence that hearing aids are a prevention against accelerated cognitive decline in later years. That’s a powerful motivator for the more than 75% of people with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids but are reluctant to address their hearing health.
Read more at http://www.kelownacapnews.com/lifestyles/394512981.html
At first I pushed the realisation away, refusing to believe that my hearing was deteriorating.
It started eight years ago, gradually. First, watching TV became a struggle. I’d turn up the volume until, in time, my poor husband (younger than I!) was deafened.
At the theatre, I’d strain to hear — sometimes struggling to follow an unfamiliar play because I would miss parts of the dialogue.
At a party, where the background noise was loud, I just nodded and pretended to hear. I felt too embarrassed to keep saying ‘I’m sorry?’ or ‘Say again?’. Who knows what mistakes I might have made.
Back at home, whenever I missed something, my husband said I would stubbornly point out that he has a very soft voice.
Yes, it’s called denial. It was tough to acknowledge my hearing loss because, like many people. I associated the problem with being old — and I didn’t feel old at all.
I had an image of myself as a young, confident, 60-something woman with a successful career and responsibilities. I still felt (or should I say ‘feel’) glamorous, and a hearing aid didn’t fit this image.
So for years I went on making excuses and pretending I didn’t need help.
But, as a journalist, it’s my job to engage with people, and to listen. What’s more, I have to promote my books — which means speaking in public, and answering questions.
Phone calls need to be made, but I started to find it hard to hear what colleagues were saying.
But instead of acknowledging the issue, I started to keep phone conversations to a minimum and used email instead.
At last I saw the irony. As the Daily Mail’s advice columnist, I read problem letters every day.
I’m employed to give advice and encourage my readers to take action and find solutions.
Yet here I was, with a condition which affected all aspects of my life, refusing to come clean and admit to myself that I needed help.
There’s an old Latin saying which asks: ‘Who guards the guards themselves?’ In my case it should be re-framed as: ‘Who gives advice to the advice columnist?’
When she finally took a hearing test two and a half years ago, Bel discovered the hearing loss was more severe than she imagined
One day in 2011, I was standing outside our farmhouse near Bath with my husband. It was a very beautiful day. ‘Listen to that!’ he said. ‘I think it’s a buzzard’.
But I could hear nothing. No glorious wild sound of a bird of prey, calling high in the blue sky, disturbed my muffled ears.
When I confessed, my husband looked slightly shocked. It was then I realised I had to put this right.
At the time, grandchildren were expected (in fact, my first two were born in 2012) and I would want to hear their little voices, wouldn’t I?
Telling myself that wearing a hearing aid would be no different from wearing contact lenses, I at last vowed to act.
Hearing loss is sometimes joked about, but it’s a serious issue. A recent U.S. study connected impaired hearing to the onset of depression.
James Firman, president of the National Council on Aging, pointed out that ‘people with hearing loss, especially those who don’t use hearing aids, find it more difficult to communicate with other people, whether in family situations, social gatherings or at work’.
It could be a short step from having that problem to feeling very isolated.
After all, if you avoid people because you are embarrassed or shamed not to be able to hear them, they may (in time) turn away from you too.
My first action was to visit the GP and be referred to my local NHS hearing centre.
I was immensely pleased to have made the first step, but unfortunately it was to lead nowhere.
It took ages — more than a month — for an appointment to arrive in the post, and the date they gave was about six weeks ahead.
But then, the day before my appointment, the centre phoned to say they would have to postpone due to unexpected staff shortages, so could we make another one? Already, we were looking a couple of months ahead.
So I was back to square one — which was nowhere. Frustrated, but fatalistic, I let things slide once again.
Believe me, I don’t blame the NHS for the blip. Nevertheless, it’s been pointed out that NHS rationing of hearing aids is likely to be fuelling the epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease.
The warning follows research showing that the risk of dementia rockets as hearing fades.
The most deaf are five times more likely to develop the disease, and even mild hearing loss seems to have an effect.
Charities and medical staff have said that doctors must stop thinking of hearing loss as being inconsequential and start treating it – and that it’s imperative that the NHS stops rationing hearing aids.
Shockingly, it emerged last October that cash-strapped health boards have stopped offering the devices to those with mild hearing loss for the first time since the NHS was formed — advising patients to lip read instead.
Other patients have been given only one hearing aid, despite needing two. Overall, just one third of the six million Britons who could benefit from hearing aids have them.
My decision to take care of myself was sensible — and serendipity intervened. I was driving through Bath when I saw a modest sign on a shop. It said ‘Hidden Hearing’ — and I thought ruefully, ‘Yes, my poor old hearing is pretty hidden!’
The next day I saw an advertisement in a magazine for the same High Street chain of hearing centres, so rang and made an appointment within the week. Just like that.
This was two and a half years ago — a very long time after I first started to turn up the TV volume.
The test revealed that my hearing loss was more severe than I’d imagined, which left me shocked.
I have since learned that because hearing loss is so gradual, a person with symptoms often doesn’t realise the severity and doesn’t realise what sounds they are missing.
My audiologist spent time taking me through the different options available and I eventually settled on a pair of Orticon Intiga.
At first I rather reeled at the cost — which was £4,000.
On the other hand, I was buying a pair of exquisitely tiny computers that would tuck behind my ears, coloured to match my hair, with the part that went inside my ears pretty well invisible.
You can’t put a price on your senses. Hearing is fundamental to living, so I told myself it was a purchase worth making, especially if I considered it in terms of so much per day for at least six years.
At first I forgot to use them. I suppose I was still resisting the idea, since the thought of putting something inside your ear isn’t natural.
In fact, I’ve worn contact lenses since I was 20 and it’s actually infinitely easier to get used to a hearing aid.
Initially, though, I found the batteries fiddly and worried I was going to break the delicate little appliances.
However with some perseverance I managed to adapt and now the benefits are incredible. No more muffled living.
I vividly remember walking into my garden and hearing bird song for the first time. It was wonderful.
I now wear the hearing aids every day, and I tell people about them all the time because it’s so important to be open and counter any stigma.
I was surprised to find male acquaintances display vanity, telling me it was easier for me because the hearing aids couldn’t be seen whereas with short hair….
My advice? Grow slightly longer hair around the ears if it bothers you that much but honestly, does it really matter?
We all need to look after ourselves and be honest about what we need to do to improve our quality of life.
I haven’t just made my hearing better, I’ve improved my social life (since parties are less of a strain), family and working life.
Who wouldn’t want to hear a grandchild’s sweet little mumbling? Or every note of a favourite song?
A life without sound can be lonely. Hearing loss shouldn’t be looked at as an age-related condition because (as my hearing specialist told me) young people can have the problem too.
Even though I’m entirely satisfied with the hearing aids I invested in nearly three years ago, at the moment I’m just trialling an upgrade, the Oticon Opn, which is even more state of the art.
For example, the other night in the theatre I used a small hand control to improve the clarity of the actors.
What a revelation it was — first, to hear the sound change and second to have the power to control the technology.
I’d urge anyone who is worried about their hearing to seek help straight away. Whether you take the NHS path or seek out a High Street provider is a choice; what matters is to take action.
The longer you wait the more your hearing deteriorates and the harder it is adapt to technology.
And just think of all the lovely conversation and glorious birdsong you might be missing.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3786091/I-vain-wear-hearing-aids-desperately-needed-hearing-deteriorated-Mail-s-advice-columnist-felt-cut-world.html
We’ve heard before that using headphones or earbuds too loudly could be affecting our hearing… but there’s new research showing that with so many kids and teens being exposed to loud music… they are now show signs of early and permanent hearing damage.
Canadian researchers found one quarter of 11 to 17 year olds with risky listening habits had a persistent ringing in their ears — that is more common among older adults.
These teens could still hear as well as their peers … but were more likely to be very sensitive to loud noises. That’s a sign of hidden damage to the nerves … which can lead to hearing impairment later in life.
What may be contributing to that is the use of headphones, most specifically ear buds. Audiologists say the volume of your music should not be more than 50 percent of what your device is capable of.
85 decibels is the goal — your ears cannot handle noise above that for an extended amount of time.
Research has proven: “at about 110 decibels you have 90 seconds before it starts damaging your hearing.” so imagine all the times after a club, concert, or sports event… when you ears are ringing!
“your hearing may temporarily go back to normal but you’ve done some damage and the more you do that, the more times you expose your ears to that kind of noise, the more likely it is that you’re going to be developing permanent hearing loss”.
According to research, being outdoors is typically when people want to turn up the volume… and in that case… the music doesn’t block out the other sounds, it adds to them.
The world of hearing aids can be a little confusing, from assorted manufacturers and product names to numerous styles and dozens of features. So what are some key things you should look for and consider when buying hearing aids? Here are five things you’ll definitely want to ask about, along with the questions you’ll want to ask your hearing professional.
Your hearing aids should have some system of directional microphones. Directionality is the ability for your hearing aids to digitally focus in on a specific sound source around you (usually a conversation partner) and it is the only proven way hearing aids improve speech understanding in noise. Simply put, a good directional microphone system will help you hear more crisply and clearly.
There are many types of directionality systems: adaptive, fixed and dynamic. Adaptive directionality systems identify people talking all around you and focus wherever the speech is coming from. Fixed directional systems focus on a specific area (usually right in front of you) and stay focused there. Dynamic directional systems automatically change between listening all around you to a fixed direction. During your trial, be sure to listen to how your hearing aids detect voices and ask your provider how they are set up to maximise benefits.
Some questions to ask:
- Do I need to manually change my hearing aid settings or will they automatically change for me?
- Do I need to face the person that is talking or will my hearing aids listen to talkers in other directions as well?
Most modern hearing aids have some type of noise reduction algorithm built in. The best algorithms are able to distinguish speech from noise, which enable the hearing aids to reduce incoming noise volume and bump up incoming speech — in real time. The degree to which they help and how they help differs from hearing aid to hearing aid.
Some questions to ask:
- How do my hearing aids handle noise?
- Does my hearing aid just turn down the overall volume in noise or is it smart enough to only cut noise and amplify when someone is talking?
- How fast do my hearing aids adapt to noisy environments?
- Do my hearing aids handle different kinds of noise, e.g., wind, car, background noise?
Hearing aids come in many shapes and styles. Some go behind the ear and have a speaker in the ear canal (RIC), some go behind the ear and transmit the sound to the ear with a little tube (BTE), and some are custom built to fit in your ear (IIC/CIC/ITE). The type of hearing aid that’s right for you depends on many factors, including comfort, degree of hearing loss, dexterity, or simply personal taste.
Some questions to ask:
- What difference does the style you’re recommending have on my ability to hear?
- Can I get something smaller?
- What is the battery life on this hearing aid vs. another style?
- Is hearing aid maintenance different depending on style?
We live in a connected world! Televisions, computers and mobile phones are becoming more and more advanced and intertwined. Some hearing aids today have the ability to connect directly to these everyday devices using Bluetooth™ or other streaming technology. You can even adjust some hearing aids using your smartphone (change volume and settings, etc.) – so you don’t need to touch your hearing aids.
Some questions to ask:
- I have an iPhone/Android phone and use it often, what is the best hearing aid for me?
- Do you have hearing aids that directly connect to my phone?
- Do I have to wear anything around my neck to connect or do they connect to my phone directly?
- Can I use my hearing aids to listen to the TV? How do these hearing aids sound when listening to music?
Historically, even people with mild hearing losses have had difficulty with a phenomenon called feedback. What is feedback? Think about what happens when you hold a microphone too close to a speaker and you get a loud squeal. That’s feedback! All modern hearing aids have feedback control — but some are much better than others. Look for hearing aids that have great feedback control, as it will make your hearing aids more comfortable to wear and less noticeable to those around you.
Some questions to ask:
- What manufacturer has the best feedback control?
- Are you confident I won’t experience feedback?
- If my hearing gets any worse, will these hearing aids still work well and not produce feedback?
- Is feedback controlled by these hearing aids by just turning down the volume (bad) or does it have a feedback cancellation circuit (good)?
These types of features and questions are why it’s always recommended that you visit a licensed hearing professional when buying hearing aids. They have the knowledge and expertise you need to answer all your questions and ensure you get fit with hearing aids that are just right for you.
Older workers with hearing problems face a double whammy: They’re dealing with the stigma not only of hearing loss but also of age. If they ask for accommodations on the job for hearing loss, they fear attention will be drawn to their age as well.
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights of workers to ask for accommodations at work to help them hear more easily. However, research out of Oregon State University has found that older workers are less likely to feel there’s support for them to ask for that kind of help, because of worries they’ll be perceived as old by coworkers and managers.
Other research has shown that people with disabilities refrain from requesting accommodations if they think coworkers would find the request “normatively inappropriate” — meaning not in keeping with the office culture. For instance, an office environment with a focus on maximising profits like that in The Big Short or The Social Network is perceived as being much less likely to understand and tolerate a disability than would a nonprofit that prides itself on a more inclusive culture.
Research by David C. Baldridge and Michele L. Swift of Oregon State University’s College of Business, published in the journal Human Resources Management, studied the effect of age on such requests. Workers’ fear of seeming old, they found, may trump their fear of seeming to have a disability. Their findings were based on an email survey of 242 workers ages 18 to 69. Most had moderate to severe hearing impairment.
Age itself has a negative stereotype in many workplaces, including the perception of “lower productivity, resistance to change, reduced ability to learn, and greater cost,” the authors wrote. “These stereotypes are often associated with fewer promotions, less training, lower performance ratings, and lower retention.”
But add disability to age and the stereotypes multiply. The older the person with a disability, the more likely they are to fear that others will attribute the request not to the disability, but to their age.
“Simply put,” the authors wrote, “people with disabilities appear to face a straightforward yet troubling question, ‘If I ask for a needed accommodation, will I be better or worse off?’ ”
Read more on this article at http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2016/hearing-loss-age-discrimination-work-kb.html