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All Posts in Category: Family Information

How Important Is Hearing Health Care?

Before I began working in the hearing industry, I have to admit that hearing health care wasn’t really on my radar. Strange since I always went for physicals and yearly eye exams. I could also remember regularly having my hearing checked in school as a child, but it wasn’t something I thought about much. I didn’t notice ads for hearing aids or think about whether my music might be too loud. I didn’t wonder whether or not my family members were getting their annual hearing exams either. However, after meeting and interacting with patients and others in the hearing health field, my whole perspective has changed.

First, I’ve realized that early detection is paramount. I’ve seen the difference in levels of understanding between patients who caught and corrected their hearing loss early and those who may have been unaware or waited to take steps for five, ten, sometimes fifteen years. Our ears are simply devices that send signals to our brain. Over time, our brain can forget how to translate those signals if it’s not getting them regularly. If you have a hearing loss and you wait too long to do something about it, you may never get some of that understanding back.

Second, I’ve seen the way it effects communication—with strangers, with family, in business. Try reading only every third word of this article. Did you get much out of it that way? Can you imagine if that’s all you could hear when others were speaking to you? It becomes so incredibly frustrating for both the people with the hearing loss and their loved ones. Sometimes, those with hearing loss even begin to withdraw and become distant because communication is just too difficult.

Even after getting hearing aids, it’s still extremely important to have regular visits to your hearing specialist to insure your instruments are set to the appropriate prescription for you. We recently had a patient and his wife come in for a follow-up visit who were a perfect example of this. One of our Patient Care Coordinators noted the difficulty he had hearing her, his wife, and others in the waiting room. During his time with our Hearing Instrument Specialist, she made a significant adjustment to the settings on his hearing instruments. When he came back through the waiting room just twenty minutes later, the difference was remarkable. He was communicating easily with others in the waiting room. Our PCC commented to his wife on the immediate difference, and she said, “I know. He’s not yelling anymore!” Did you ever think that twenty minutes of your time could make that big of a difference in how you interact with others? I know I hadn’t before.

Finally, I now consider how hearing health could affect my family in the future. My dad was at my house one day, and my dog suddenly took off running to the kitchen. “Where’s she going?” he asked. I said, “Didn’t you hear that? The cat jumped through the cat door and the bell on his collar jingled.” My dad hadn’t heard it. That was a high frequency sound. If he has a mild high frequency loss now, what sounds might he miss later if it’s not corrected? Could he miss my baby boy’s soft toddler chatter in a few years? Could he miss him whispering “I love you” or telling his favorite story by heart? Will all of my family be able to participate and enjoy conversation at big Sunday dinners? Will we get to appreciate and fully enjoy all of the precious moments we have together? I don’t want my family to miss any of those moments. Nor do I want to miss them myself—now or in the future when I may have my own grandchildren’s sweet words to hear.

So, now I know the real importance of hearing health care. I will get my yearly hearing exams, and I will push and prod my family to do so as well if necessary. I will make sure we get to appreciate all the amazing sounds in our lives. Will you do the same?

-Allie

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How to Talk to a Loved One about Their Hearing Loss

Hearing loss, as well as other important health issues like blood pressure and glaucoma, often go unnoticed by the individual who suffers from them until they lead to major, potentially irreversible problems. Screening is critical to identify these health issues. At your doctor’s, you’ll have a blood pressure test. At your optometrist, you’ll have a glaucoma test with your eye exam. Similarly, you should be receiving a yearly hearing screening. Sadly, hearing loss, the pain and long-term damage it causes, and the links between hearing loss and dementia were not on many people’s radar until recently.

Previously, doctors and other healthcare professionals received little education in audiology. This often lead to a “just deal with it” attitude towards patients with hearing difficulties. Plus, hearing loss was associated with a negative stereotype of aging for many. Often, this lead to denial and resistance from someone suffering hearing loss when a loved one would attempt to address the problem.

Many sufferers would defend their stance with such phrases as “I can hear everything I want to”. Interestingly, they could be right in terms of the volume of sound. There are several different types of hearing loss, and some do not result in a sense of loss of volume. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t missing out on important sounds in their life. Many are not “hard of hearing”. They are “hard of understanding”—especially those suffering from noise exposure and damage. These issues led many to avoid seeking help. Meanwhile, families and friends suffered communication breakdowns and the trauma they produced. Everyone involved suffered some degree of pain or detachment.

So, how do you talk to a loved one about hearing loss? Everyone is different and circumstances surrounding each individual and family can and should influence choices. However, when applied, there are principles that can help your loved one accept and take steps to correct their hearing loss.

Principle 1:

When discussing potential hearing loss, use the term “find truth”. Finding truth is the goal. Buying something is not. This can be done simply with a baseline hearing screening. A baseline screening should be done annually to track any changes, and most hearing professionals will perform this screening free of charge. Plus, it only takes about 10 minutes or less. This allows your medical team to note any changes, keep track of your hearing health, and establish treatment options if necessary before exceptional damage is done.

There are many advantages to having your baseline hearing level established. Once determined, it becomes part of your medical records. If accident or illness were to befall you, you’d then have proof of your hearing levels prior to the event. Attorneys and insurance companies would no longer have the ability to claim that your loss was preexisting.

Principle 2:

Don’t try to trap. Everything that feels trapped will try to escape. If the person you’re trying to talk to is your spouse, significant other, or close friend, simply mention that you were reading about the importance of a baseline hearing screening for legal and medical reference. Suggest that you would like to go together to get hearing screenings and establish these records. The new healthcare laws actually include hearing screenings as one of the four screenings in the preventative healthcare mandate for which your doctor can be reimbursed. If you choose this option for your screening, the nurse does the screen panel, and you do not receive results or consultation, but these newly implemented procedures are just further proof of how important hearing has become in today’s medicine.

Principle 3:

Seek knowledge and share it without pressure or emotion. The amount of information available on the web today is amazing. Use the knowledge you’ve gained from personal research to share the importance of annual hearing screenings, establishing your baseline, and early diagnosis. These are all critical in keeping or improving your ability to understand for the rest of your life and improving quality of life for yourself and those you love.

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