Hearing Aids: What the Professionals Wish You Knew

An individual’s Hearing Health needs to be an equal partner with concerns regarding vision and dental health and given the same amount of respect.

If you or a loved one has decided to ignore a hearing loss because you have some sort of stigma about wearing hearing aids, take note. Here’s what audiologists wish you knew:

They’re not your grandfather’s hearing aid

Technology has rapidly advanced in the area of hearing and hearing aids as it has in many other areas.  We have entered the digital age of hearing.  Hearing aids now process the sounds and shape the response to each individuals hearing loss versus the older linear aids which were an amplifier that made everything louder.   Hearing aids today have much more control over sounds so that they can recognize soft, medium and loud sounds and deal with them accordingly.  This allows soft sounds to be audible, medium range sounds to be comfortable and loud sounds loud but NOT uncomfortable.  Hearing aids today can be wireless so that they talk to each other and work together as a team to bring through speech and reduce background noise.  It is neither possible nor desirable to remove all of the background noise!   Removal of all the background would take away some sounds we need to hear for understanding of words.  So instead we want to control the noise as much as possible so that it is not as annoying.  Wireless hearing aids can also connect to TV streamers which allow the television to be directed right into the hearing aids.  The program can also be heard throughout the house if so desired.  No more missing parts of the big game or a favorite movie to use the restroom or get a snack from the kitchen.  And for more discreet control and adjustment remote controls are available for many models.

Hearing aids have also gotten much smaller.  Some in-the-canal style units are invisible or nearly invisible in the ear canal.  The over-the-ear RIC style aids only have a small wire leading down from the top of the ear down into the canal which also makes them hardly noticeable.  Many color choices are available for the RIC models to blend with an individual’s hair or glasses to make them even less visible.

Today’s hearing aids are smaller, they work smarter, are comfortable to wear and improve hearing in a way as never before.  Today’s hearing aids cannot be compared to those built even 10 years ago!!!  They are now so much better.

Don’t be afraid or intimidated by what you hear about hearing aids from others.  They are helpful and can really change a person’s life for the better.  Remember how big cell phones were when they were first developed?  Look at them now.  They are very small computers and that’s how hearing aids are today.

Hearing aids enhance your quality of life

Hearing loss can cause anxiety, social isolation, depression, brain atrophy, safety and balance problems, cognitive decline, reduced social activity and relationship problems with family, friends and our significant others.  Most losses occur slowly over time and we are not even aware of the changes that are happening or what things should sound like.  With hearing loss the ability to understand is lessened and we do not feel like we are a part of our world.  This causes anxiety and frustration.  With a hearing loss an individual has to work harder to hear and that is tiresome.  Straining to hear, watching the speaker’s lips, asking people to repeat all the time is taxing and fatiguing.  It is much easier to just avoid social situations and stay at home.  Unfortunately, avoidance behavior results in depression and anger and can start a person down the road to developing at a faster rate than normal.

Those individuals who get treatment for their hearing loss by utilizing hearing aids, enjoy a much higher quality of life and so do their families, friends and significant others!

Hearing aids may help prevent the brain from shrinking

Did you know that your brain shrinks with age?  Unlike our waist lines, our brain gets smaller as we get older.  Studies show that individuals with hearing loss show a greater amount of shrinkage than those with normal hearing.  According to research conducted by Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging, older adults with untreated hearing loss lost an average of a cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year compared to those with normal hearing. MRIs from the study participants showed the atrophy in the regions of the brain responsible for speech and sound.

Fortunately, hearing aids can stimulate the auditory area thus, reducing the risk of losing brain mass and developing dementia or even Alzheimer’s disease.

Listening with hearing aids is like exercise for the brain!  This stimulation helps to preserve the nerve cells in the brain whose job it is to interpret the sounds delivered to the brain by the ear and hearing nerve.  Once this is lost it is gone forever!

Hearing aids can help you hear telephone conversations better

Today’s hearing aids can enhance your listening ability on the phone.  With hearing aids you will be better able to talk with your grandchildren across the country, order that delicious pizza from your favorite pizzeria or get the information you need from your banker.

Many hearing aids today have telecoils which directly receive the phone signal through magnetic induction from the telephone speaker.  (Check your phone manuals or when purchasing a phone ask for hearing aid compatible ones)  Many cellphones also have this feature but not all come with that feature activated.  Your Audiologist should be able to assist you to get this feature turned on.  When speaking through the telecoil, room sounds in that ear will be reduced and the hearing aid will not whistle or feedback!

Other hearing aids can connect directly with your iPhone! With these units the phone calls, Siri and music all flow directly into BOTH hearing aids for optimum understanding and listening pleasure.  Other phones can be connected directly into cell phones through a remote control intermediary.

Also available through a FREE government program to anyone with a hearing loss is a caption telephone.  With the captioned phone an individual not only hears what the speaker on the other end is saying but they can also see it on a screen right on the telephone. (High speed internet is needed in the home for this phone)

Hearing aids can’t do all the work themselves

Hearing loss can have many causes.  See an Audiologist for professional testing, diagnosis and referral for any medically treatable causes.  If the loss is the common non-medically treatable sensory neural hearing loss then obtain the treatment and counseling recommended by your Audiologist.

Hearing aids are not perfect and you will never hear perfectly! Remember:  It will take time to relearn how to hear again.  Here is where the counseling and guidance of your Audiologist is crucial.  It has been shown that success with hearing aids depends 40% on the device and 60% on your Audiologist. Find a professional who is qualified, experienced and who is willing to take the time to sit down with you and assist you with a program for relearning how to hear.

Be wary of internet sales or big box companies where who do not have the time to spend with you to ensure success.  You don’t want to get you hearing aids at a “fast food” store.  You want service and care that all is right.

Relearning to hear should take 10-14 days but may take longer for some.

At my office we offer a 30 day trial so the aids can be worn at home and in the environments that the user normally deals with.  I also offer an internet training program that helps to speed up the relearning to hear process with computer games you plat at home.

Relearning to hear is not difficult it just takes a little time, some patience and a good guide to lead you along the way.

 

We all should make annual appointments to see our doctor for a physical and our eye doctor to check our vision and the dentist maybe twice a year for cleanings.  One step further that should be taken is to treat our ears in the same manner with a checkup. A baseline hearing test should be done for anyone over age 50.  Find out where your hearing is today and if a problem is found-deal with it promptly!!!

Find an Audiologist you can trust and with whom you feel comfortable.  When and if the time comes to get hearing aids this will make all the difference for you to become a successful hearing aid wearer

Franklin A. Shepel, Au.D

Board Certified Doctor of Audiology

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