By W.L. “Hunter” Huntley, III, HAS., BC-HIS –
Every January most people set new goals and resolutions for themselves.
Some individuals want to lose weight; or simply get into better shape physically.
Others set resolutions to try to be healthier overall. One thing people should think about, but most don’t, is having a hearing examination. The National Speech and Hearing Institute recommend an annual evaluation; just like your vision. However most of us just keep putting it off.
The truth is that hearing loss can be associated with circulatory problems like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Noise exposure, blows to the head, infections and high fevers can also adversely affect hearing. There are also a plethora of medications that cause permanent hearing loss, including, steroids, antibiotics, and pain killers among many others. Alcohol and smoking are toxins that may also lead to permanent hearing impairment.
Having a problem with hearing can be very difficult to realize in the early stages because our brain so easily adapts and compensates for it. Our brain works hard to find the right words that make sense, compare what a colleague says to what they have said before, and uses other means to help us make sense of the conversation.
John’s Hopkins School of Medicine has determined through studies with the National Institute on Aging; that even those with mild hearing loss are twice as likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimers disease. Individuals with more severe hearing loss are five time more likely to contract the disease. This is caused by depriving “proper” stimulation to the brain, causing it to atrophy and lose function.
It is worth noting that sixty-five percent of people who have hearing loss are below retirement age. This has a profound impact in the workplace.
A recent study done by the U.S. Department of Education found that middle-aged (45-64) participants who had a hearing loss but no treatment (no hearing instruments) felt they had been passed over for promotions much more often than their normal hearing associates, or their associates who had hearing loss but wore hearing devices.
The study also found that those with unaided hearing loss were unemployed at a higher rate than their peers who wore hearing devices.
Middle-aged to older working people with untreated hearing loss are also found to be three times more likely to fall at work as their normal hearing peers.
When a hearing loss affects one at work, there is usually little or no sympathy among co-workers and supervisors.
One possible reason may be that hearing loss is invisible. Therefore, many suspect the hearing impaired person of not paying attention, or worse, ignoring their co-workers or supervisors.
The cost of having a hearing loss without wearing hearing instruments will cost workers across the U.S. millions of dollars during their careers; either by misunderstanding a request, an order, or by not hearing it at all.
If you find you are having more trouble lately hearing what your co-worker or supervisor is saying, or if you find yourself exhausted at the end of the day from trying to hear at work, it is time to get a hearing examination.
The most important thing to remember, hearing loss doesn’t go away. The faster it is treated, the more natural one’s hearing will be both at work and at home. Don’t let hearing loss keep you from being your best at home, work or in your community.
Now for the “good news”. Most hearing and understanding problems can now be overcome through use of hearing instruments. Digital technology has now become the norm, making older analog technology obsolete. Using computer chips, digital hearing devices can be programmed on a computer to “prescription fit” for each individual’s particular loss. Best of all they also can be re-programmed in the future in case of any additional decline in hearing. Multiple programs can be added for various types of listening environments to suit the individuals’ needs; like noisy restaurants, social gatherings, and church. Directional microphones engage automatically when sounds reach a higher decibel level, allowing the wearer to focus on the conversation in front of them, without background noises from behind being amplified.
Automatic telephone response (ATR) allows the user to use the telephone when placed next to the aided ear without the annoying “squeal” from older hearing devices.
Technology continues to improve by leaps and bounds as hearing instruments continue to evolve.
Nothing interferes with staying close to family, friends, or co-workers more than hearing loss.