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Things to Communicate to Your Friends About Hearing Loss

Explaining hearing loss to your friends can be difficult. You want them to understand what you’re going through, but sometimes they just don’t realize how hard it is for you to keep up with conversations or overcome the challenges of listening in places with a lot of background noise.

 

Better Speech and Hearing Month

Every year, the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) dedicates the entire month of May to raising awareness about communication disorders, so this is a perfect time to talk to your friends about your hearing loss. The ASHA works tirelessly to reduce the stigma surrounding communication disorders like hearing loss and encourages those with hearing loss to seek treatment and get back to communicating. Helen Keller once said that the sense she missed the most was hearing. Not being able to see put a barrier between her and the world, but not being able to hear separated her from people. The theme for this year is Communication for All, and the ASHA is increasing awareness of disorders that affect hearing, speech, and language in people of all ages.

 

I’m not Being Rude

Don’t let your hearing loss come between you and your loved ones but take the time to talk to your friends about your hearing loss. One of the worst assumptions is that you’re being rude when you don’t answer a question, when in reality you just didn’t hear your friend. You’re not ignoring them, and you need to ask them to be patient with you and realize you didn’t mean to upset them. Sometimes you might even answer inappropriately, but that just means you need to hear the question again because you didn’t catch it the first time.

 

I Get Tired Easily 

Most people don’t realize that hearing loss can be exhausting, and it’s hard to explain to your friends how hearing loss makes you tired so easily. You use a lot of energy straining to hear, and unlike your friends, your brain is always on high power mode. Loud noises make your ears ring, fuzzy sounds grate on your nerves, and after a long conversation you feel drained. Hearing loss leaves you playing an endless game of fill in the blanks and trying to guess at the missing words. Even if you look normal on the outside, on the inside you’re a bundle of straining nerves, and you wish your friends would understand how tired you can get.

 

I’m Just as Smart as I Once Was

Just because you’ve lost some of your hearing doesn’t mean you’ve lost your intelligence. You want your friends to realize that even though you don’t hear everything clearly, you still have good ideas and opinions, and don’t want to be overlooked. For example, are your friends in the habit of helping your order at restaurants? You sometimes struggle to understand the server, but you still want to make your own decisions. Instead of taking over, or answering questions for you, your friends should repeat the question, and give you the chance to answer for yourself.

 

How to Help Me Hear

Good communication is all about listening, so this month take the opportunity to tell your friends how they can help you hear. Hearing loss is frustrating for everyone, and a few tips will make life easier for both you and your friends. Ask your friends to always face you when they’re speaking and keep their hands away from their face. You’ll be able to pick up on facial cues or lip reading to understand them easier. Yelling doesn’t help, but makes you feel like your friends are angry with you. Ask them to speak clearly instead of loudly and add pauses between sentences to allow your brain the time to catch up. These simple tricks could be the difference between a frustrating encounter or easy communication.

 

We’re Here to Help

This month isn’t just a time to raise awareness about hearing loss and talk to your friends, it’s also a time to seek treatment. Visit us at Pacific Northwest Audiology where our team of audiologists are waiting to help you hear. Communication should be easy for everyone, so join us for Better Speech and Hearing Month and invest in your hearing health. From the hearing assessment through to fittings and consultations, we’ll find you the perfect device that will get you back to hearing clearly.

The Bend Oregon Hearing Tech Expo

Pacific Northwest Audiology had a full house in attendance at our Hearing Tech Expo on Wednesday, Feb 8, at the Mount Bachelor Village Conference Center.

Event Collage

Dr. Li began the day with a very well received talk on age-related hearing loss (her PhD thesis at the world renowned Karolinska Institutet in Sweden). The Doctor also reviewed new scientific studies which strongly linked untreated hearing loss and dementia. 

Dr. Odgear, also from Pacific Northwest Audiology, was the second batter, and he knocked it out of the ball park with his talk on hearing trends and the future of hearing tech. 

We convened for a hot lunch buffet, which consisted of Brisket of Beef Au Jus, baked beans, potato salad and a creamy coleslaw.  According to my polling, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the buffet!

We shook things up after lunch and reconvened in an adjacent room, which we had set up for interactive tech activities, led by Dr. Muto-Coleman from Resound. By the end of the session, everyone was able to put the pieces together…the past, present, and future of hearing tech.

Our next event will be the third week of May. Call Kat for early details at 541-678-5698

Hearing Aids Improve Brain Function

A new study, “The benefit of amplification on auditory working memory function in middle-aged and young-older hearing impaired adults,” by Jamie Desjardins, PhD, an assistant professor in the Speech-Language Pathology Program at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), found that hearing aids improve brain function in mature adults with hearing loss.

Texas study, hearing aids restore cognition

Previous Studies

Previous studies have shown that untreated hearing loss is associated with serious emotional, medical, and social consequences, including unnatural mental decline and dementia. These disabilities often result in reduced job performance, lower income, and a generally diminished quality of life. Declining cognitive function is also associated with a loss of auditory working memory, the ability to pay attention to conversations in noisy environments. Working memory is important because it is critical for understanding speech.

Sustained hearing loss causes problems because the brain must allocate extra resources to the task of understanding speech. When this occurs, other areas of the brain associated with cognitive functions are “starved”.

As Desjardins explained, “If you have some hearing impairment and you’re not using hearing aids, maybe you can figure out what the person has said, but that comes with a cost. You may actually be using the majority of your cognitive resources, your brain power, in order to figure out that message.”

Purpose Of  The UTEP Study

As we age, our thinking and memory skills naturally decline. The purpose of the present study was to assess the effect of hearing aid use on the auditory working memories of middle-aged and young-older adults with mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural Hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear or the nerve from the ear to the brain, and isn’t typically correctable with surgery. The study included 24 adults in their 50s and 60s with bilateral (involving both ears) hearing loss who had never before used hearing aids. 

Cognitive skill trends can be measured by changes in working memory, the ability to process information during conversations. For the present study, cognitive tests were used to measure the working memory, selective attention, and speech processing speed of study participants before and after wearing hearing aids. 

Study Results: Hearing Aids Improve Cognitive Function

Results from this study indicated significant improvements in the auditory working memory of participants after 6 weeks of hearing aid use. Why is this important? Using hearing aids in the early stages of age-related hearing loss, even mild hearing loss, can have a positive impact on working memory performance. 

According to Desjardins, “Most people will experience hearing loss in their lifetime. Think about somebody who is still working and they’re not wearing hearing aids and they are spending so much of their brainpower just trying to focus on listening. They may not be able to perform their job as well. Or if they can, they’re exhausted because they are working so much harder. They are more tired at the end of the day and it’s a lot more taxing. It affects their quality of life.”

An Allied Study

Another study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society by researchers at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux France found that “Use of hearing aids attenuates cognitive decline in elderly people with hearing loss”. 

The bottom line of this study? Hearing aids appear to have a positive effect on thinking and memory functions, by restoring communication abilities and promoting social interaction, qualities that are known to reduce isolation and resulting depression.

Final Comments

Hearing impairment is one of the most common health problems in the United States. It affects more than 9 million Americans over the age of 65 and 10 million Americans between 45 and 64, but only 1 in 5 people who need hearing aids actually wear them. That means 4 in 5 people with hearing loss are tossing dice that only allow bad outcomes.

Our take-away from these studies? We have choices and those choices effect the way we live. We urge older adults with hearing loss to seek qualified treatment by a Doctor of Audiology.

Patient-Centered Hearing-Health Care vs. Sales-Centered Hearing Care

The Bottom Line

The following table compares the professional business model, represented by doctor-level audiologist such as those working at Pacific Northwest Audiology, and the corporate business model, represented by “Big Box”, manufacturing, and franchise retailers.

The bottom line is that when you select a hearing care provider you also accept their business model…and the consequences of that model. You can choose patient-centered hearing-health care by a Doctor of Audiology, or volume sales-centered care by a technician.

Given the increasing evidence linking medical, emotional, and social consequences to hearing loss, we hope the table guides you to your best choice for a hearing provider.

 

AuD vs. Dispenser table 3

Age-related Hearing Loss (ARHL)

The ‘baby boom’ generation is aging. In 2009, people over 65 represented 12.9% of the population, but by 2030, they will be 19.3%. From the Administration on Aging, the number of Americans over 65 is expected to double between 2008 and 2030 to around 72 million.

Why should we be concerned? Because Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition among older adults! According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, hearing loss increases with age. Approximately one third of Americans between 65 and 74 and nearly half of those over 75 have hearing and communication problems.

What is Age-related Hearing Loss? ARHL is a gradual and progressive hearing loss that affects most people as they age. Due to the slow progression, adults with ARHL may not realize that their hearing and communication abilities are declining, or they may accept it as a normal part of aging.

ARHL has serious consequences for the elderly because it diminishes their ability to communicate and reduces their functional independence.

See the complete article on age-related hearing loss here

 

Age-Related Hearing Loss (ARHL)

Seeds of a Growing Problem

The population of the U.S. is getting older. According to the Administration on Aging, the aging ‘baby boom’ generation will produce a dramatic increase in the population through 2030. In 2009, people over 65 represented 12.9% of the population, but by 2030, they will represent 19.3%. The population over 65 is expected to double between 2008 and 2030 to a projected 72.1 million.

Why should we be concerned with an Aging Population? Because Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition among older adults! According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 36 million Americans have impaired hearing, including 17% of our adult population. The occurrence of hearing loss increases with age. Approximately one third of Americans between 65 and 74 and nearly half of those over 75 have hearing and communication problems.

The Symptoms and Progress of ARHL

ARHL (also known as presbycusis) is a gradual and progressive hearing loss that affects most individuals as they age. Due to the slow progression, adults with ARHL may not realize that their hearing is diminishing …but if they do …they may accept it as normal aging. ARHL has a serious impact on the elderly because it diminishes their ability to communicate and reduces their functional independence. This limits their opportunities to participate effectively in their daily lives.

To those with ARHL, sounds often seem less clear and lower in volume. Muted murky sounds make it increasingly difficult to hear and understanding speech. Individuals with ARHL may experience several of the following:

  • The speech of others may seem mumbled or slurred.
  • It may become difficult to distinguish high-pitched sounds such as “s” and “th”.
  • Conversations become difficult to understand, especially when there is background noise.
  • A man’s voice may become easier to hear than the higher pitches of a woman’s voice.
  • Certain sounds may seem annoying or too loud.
  • Tinnitus (a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound in one or both ears) may develop.

Is ARHL the Same for Men and Women?

ARHL typically begins with high frequency hearing loss (degeneration of the hair cells lining the bottom of the Cochlea) and later affects the lower frequencies (apex of the Cochlea) as well. Paradoxically, several research studies indicate that while men develop high frequency hearing loss with age, women tend to have more problems discerning lower frequencies (250-1000Hz), possibly due to biologic factors such as hormones, or cardiovascular disease events (CVD) such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. While low-frequency hearing loss is related to CVD events in both genders, women tend to show this relationship more than men on audiograms. The figure (above) shows the gender reversal pattern, using average audiograms of 341 males and 346 females aged 50-89 years (Journal of the American Academy of Audiology (1993;4:42-49).

Although precise causes for this pattern require more research, the bottom line is that women with ARHL have more problems with low-pitched vowel sounds (o, a, ah, i, e), and men have more problems with high-pitched consonant sounds (d, t, sh, s, f, th). Since the softer high-pitched consonant sounds carry the meaning of speech, those (especially men) with pronounced high-frequency hearing loss often have problems understanding what is being said, especially in an environment with background noise.

About the Author

Dr. Li-Korotky is a nationally acclaimed research scientist and clinician, and the President of Pacific Northwest Audiology in Bend OR. The Doctor earned an MD with an emphasis in otology and otolaryngology, a PhD in audiology with a thesis on Age-Related Hearing Loss, and a Clinical Doctor of Audiology degree (AuD).

Are you a Baby Boomer? Why it Matters!

So…What is a Baby Boomer?

If you were born during the Post–World War II baby boom between 1946 and 1964 you are part of the baby boom generation. More babies were born in 1946 than any previous year in the history of the United States. 3.4 million babies took their first breath in that year…a 20 percent increase over 1945. This was the beginning of the “baby boom.” Another 3.8 million babies were added in 1947; 3.9 million in 1952; and more than 4 million new babies were added each year from 1954 through 1964. By then, there were nearly 78 million “baby boomers” in the United States and they made up almost 40 percent of the nation’s population chong qi zhang peng.

How Boomers Differ From Previous Generations

The World War II generation often lived in the same house until they either died or were moved to a nursing home. Not so with the Baby Boom Population…they continue to explore new lifestyles in their retirement years used commercial inflatables for sale, as technological and medical advancements have provided them with many more alternatives in how and where they can spend their time. And time is on their side. A large percentage of the 78 million Americans who are classified as baby boomers are going to live anywhere from 10 to 25 years longer than their parents did. Those who reach retirement age now are often physically healthy enough to run marathons, build houses and start new businesses. All isn’t rosy though…read on…

Seeds of a Growing Problem

The population of the U.S. is getting older. According to the Administration on Aging, the aging ‘baby boom’ generation will cause a dramatic increase in the population through 2030. In 2009, people over 65 represented 12.9% of the population, but by 2030, they will represent 19.3%. The population over 65 is expected to double between 2008 and 2030 to a projected 72.1 million.

Why should we be concerned with aging Boomers? Because Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition among older adults! According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 36 million Americans have impaired hearing, including 17% of our adult population. The occurrence of hearing loss increases with age. Approximately one third of Americans between 65 and 74 and nearly half of those over 75 have hearing and communication problems.

Boomers and Age-Related Hearing Loss

Baby Boomers are prone to develop Age-related hearing loss (ARHL)…a typically slow, progressive hearing loss that affects both ears equally. Due to the slow progression, adults with ARHL do not readily acknowledge their hearing loss, because they accept it as normal aging. This bad assumption often leads to undesirable results.

ARHL typically begins as high frequency hearing loss and later affects the lower frequencies. Paradoxically, several research studies indicate that while men develop high frequency hearing loss with age, women tend to have more problems with lower frequencies (250-1000Hz), possibly due to biologic factors such as hormones, or cardiovascular disease events (CVD) such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. While low-frequency hearing loss is related to CVD events in both genders, women tend to show this relationship more than men on audiograms (Figure, bottom).

Although precise causes for this pattern require more research, the bottom line is that women with ARHL have more problems with low-pitched vowel sounds (o, a, ah, i, e), and men have more problems with high-pitched consonant sounds (d, t, sh, s, f, th). Since the softer high-pitched consonant sounds carry the meaning of speech, those (especially men) with pronounced high-frequency hearing loss often have problems understanding what is being said, especially in an environment with background noise.

Consequences of Untreated ARHL

Hearing loss can lead to or enhance the effects of serious medical and emotional conditions, including cognitive disorders (Dementia and Alzheimer disease) and depression, according to a recent study from the National Institute of Aging.

Untreated hearing loss also leads to serious negative lifestyle changes, which often effect family, friends, and others. These changes include threats to personal safety; irritability; pessimism; anger; fatigue; tension; stress; isolation; withdrawal; and diminished overall health.

Summary and Treatment

Age Related Hearing loss…

  • is a natural and progressive part of aging
  • can be augmented by genetics …exposure to noise …chronic disease …ototoxicity
  • is the third most common chronic condition in older Americans after hypertension and arthritis
  • is strongly associated with functional decline and depression.
  • can slowly destroy the quality of your life
  • can be moderated by an early and accurate diagnosis and treatment …including:

What this means for Boomers

As a baby boomer,you will have more and healthier years to enjoy your retirement activities…don’t let a treatable condition like hearing loss put the brakes on your best years.

About the Author

Dr. Li-Korotky is a highly acclaimed research scientist and clinician. The Doctor is the President of Pacific Northwest Audiology (www.pnwaudiology.com) in Bend OR.

Tinnitus…The Assault on Quiet Moments

The following article will appear in the ‘Welcome to Hearing Health’ section of Bend Life magazine this coming June. Dr. Li-Korotky writes a monthly column for Bend Life.

Introduction

Tinnitus is the perception of sounds that have no external source.

The severity of tinnitus varies from an occasional awareness of a noise (e.g., ringing, hissing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, or rough sounds) in one or both ears, to an unbearable and incessant sound that drives some people to consider suicide. Tinnitus isn’t a single disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition. Tinnitus is not a ‘phantom sound’. There is real neural activity in your brain associated with tinnitus.

How Does Tinnitus Influence Quality of Life?

Depending on the severity, tinnitus can promote a wide range of negative lifestyle effects, including fatigue, stress, sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating, memory problems, depression, anxiety, and irritability. It can also interfere with hearing and cause emotional distress. In extreme cases, tinnitus can fuel depression and thoughts of suicide.

Who Gets Tinnitus?

The American Tinnitus Association estimates that more than 50 million Americans have some degree of tinnitus problems, and approximately 12 million people having symptoms severe enough to seek medical care. Tinnitus is a significant reality for 27% of those between the ages of 65 and 84, and 4 out of ten tinnitus sufferers experience tinnitus most of the day. Tinnitus is the most common service-connected disability among U.S. veterans.

What Causes Tinnitus?

According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), noise exposure (including hazardous levels of industrial, recreational, or military noise) is the largest cause of tinnitus. Other conditions linked to tinnitus include ear injuries, cardiovascular disease, age-related hearing loss, wax build-up in the ear canal, medications harmful to the ear (aspirin, certain antibiotics, loop diuretics, chemotherapy), ear or sinus infections, misaligned jaw joints (TMJ), head and neck trauma, Meniere’s disease, or an abnormal growth of bone of the middle ear. In rare cases, slow-growing tumors on auditory, vestibular, or facial nerves can cause tinnitus.

How is Tinnitus Evaluated?

If you are having trouble with tinnitus, visit a well-qualified audiologist. The audiologist will conduct a comprehensive assessment and advise you of the most effective management options to alleviate the symptoms of your tinnitus.

A full tinnitus assessment takes 1.5-2 hours and includes 1) a detailed case history to determine how the tinnitus is affecting you as a person, 2) a comprehensive hearing assessment to determine the characteristics and possible causes of your tinnitus, 3) Tinnitus pitch-, intensity-, and loudness-matching tests to help the audiologist counsel you effectively during the treatment phase, 4) measurement of your sensitivity to noise masking, and 5) recommendations for managing your tinnitus. If audiometric tests suggest an underlying medical condition such as an acoustic neuroma (a benign, slow growing tumor along the hearing nerve), the audiologist will refer you to an ENT physician.

Can Tinnitus be Treated?

Treatments generally focus on counseling to reduce (manage) negative emotions and reactions to tinnitus, utilizing sound therapy, relaxation, and stress-reduction techniques. Hearing aids may be helpful for people who have hearing loss along with tinnitus. It is important to note that there are no current treatments that will eliminate tinnitus with any consistency, and no drugs have been approved specifically for the treatment of the condition. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may be used to treat conditions that coexist with tinnitus, such as anxiety and depression.

About the Author:

Dr. Ha-Sheng Li-Korotky is a Gold-level Professional member of the American Tinnitus Association, and the President of Pacific Northwest Audiology, based in Bend, Oregon. The Doctor is a nationally acclaimed clinician and research scientist, with AuD, PhD, and MD credentials and more than 100 scientific publications. Pacific Northwest Audiology offers a full spectrum of Tinnitus evaluation and management services.

Bend Residents Should Heed: Hearing Loss in Older Adults is Currently Under-Treated

The following report from Consumer News has important information for Bend residents. The report underscores the importance of selecting a qualified Audiologist for screening and treatment.

Most Audiologists have a Doctor of Audiology degree with specialized training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and treatment of hearing disorders. By virtue of their advanced education, professional certification, and licensure, Audiologists are exceptionally qualified to provide a full range of services, from consultation and diagnosis, hearing aid fitting and programming, to post-fitting counseling and rehabilitation.

Dr. Li-Korotky has AuD, PhD, and MD credentials with 20+ years of clinical and research experience, with more than 100 scientific publications. wide-ranging education and experience make her uniquely qualified to diagnose, successfully treat, and counsel patients on the many variations and causes of hearing disorders.

The report follows:

Although 26.7 million U.S. adults 50 and older have significant hearing loss, less than 15 percent use hearing aids. Two articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report on how age-related hearing loss is currently poorly addressed.

In “Hearing Loss in Older Adults, Who’s Listening?” Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., says that our current way of treating hearing loss is flawed, and simply getting a hearing aid is not enough to ‘treat’ hearing loss. Counseling, rehabilitative training, environmental accommodations and patience are needed.

In the second JAMA article, “Hearing Deficits in the Older Patient: ‘I Didn’t Notice Anything,'” James Pacala, M.D., and Bevan Yueh, M.D., say that not only is hearing loss in older adults under-treated, but that patients, clinicians and health care staff often do not recognize hearing loss, particularly in its early stages: “For many older adults, accepting the need for amplification, selecting and purchasing a hearing aid, and getting accustomed to its use is a daunting and often frustrating process. There are numerous barriers to hearing aid use, the most common of which is dissatisfaction with its performance across a range of sonic environments.”

When we previously tested hearing aids, we encountered the same challenges that hearing-aid shoppers face, including a fragmented and confusing marketplace and difficulty sorting out good hearing-aid providers from less-capable ones.

Consumer News is part of ConsumerReports.org.