Don’t Let Hearing Loss Hold You Back

By W.L. “Hunter” Huntley, III, HAS., BC-HIS –

Every January most people set new goals and resolutions for themselves.

Some individuals resolve to lose weight; either by diet or exercise, or adding weight training or some type of cardiovascular routine.

One thing people should also consider, but most don’t, is having a hearing evaluation.  The National Speech and Hearing Institute recommend an annual hearing examination.  This should be part of and included in your annual physical.  Just like vision, hearing is very important.  Hearing loss is now the #1 most handicapping disability in our Nation.  Some form of hearing impairment is prevalent in one out of every ten people.  In senior citizens the ratio is much higher, involving almost half of our older adults.

There are a multitude of maladies that can create hearing problems; including heredity, noise exposure, blows to the head, infections, high fevers, and surgical procedures.  Certain medications and circulatory complications including diabetes, stroke, and heart disease can also lead to permanent damage. In addition, alcohol and smoking introduces toxins in our bodies which lead to permanent hearing loss as well.

Having a hearing problem can be very difficult to perceive in the early stages because our brain easily adapts to compensate for it.  Our brain works hard to find the right words that make sense; attempting to put in the missing pieces of the sentence.  Sometimes the hearing impaired individual guesses correctly, sometimes not.

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 times more likely to contract the disease.  This is caused by depriving “proper” stimulation to the auditory cortex of 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 those 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 co-workers; or 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 them.

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 pro-blems 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 can be re-programmed in the future in case of any additional decline in hearing.  Multiple programs can also 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 over 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.

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