Purchasing hearing aids for the first time starts an individual on a path of rehabilitation similar to other conditions that require the person to learn a set of skills in a new way.
Very commonly, a person with hearing loss has forgotten specific sounds both wanted (a loved one’s voice) and unwanted (noise) that an individual with normal hearing experiences every day. Aural rehabilitation assists them in becoming familiar with these sounds again and educates them in what is normal and appropriate expectations in the use of their new hearing aids.
Prepare for brighter hearing
Most individuals seek help with hearing aids only after suffering from varying degrees of hearing loss for several years. People can often go 10 years before seeking help! During this time, a person “learns” to hear the world at a lower volume level.
We have all been in a dimly lit restaurant for lunch on a sunny day. When you leave the restaurant and walk into the sunlight, it can be overwhelmingly bright. You shade your eyes or search for your sunglasses. This occurs after only a few hours.
A similar sensation occurs when you use hearing aids for the first time. You may have not experienced the “brightness” of normal hearing for years, and can be overwhelmed by the “new hearing” you are experiencing with hearing aids.
This is where the importance of a qualified hearing professional comes into play. By helping you understand the rehabilitation process and helping you set appropriate expectations at different stages of your rehabilitation, your ability to adapt to your new hearing will be a smoother, more enjoyable experience for you.
Aural rehab can make all the difference
Adapting to your new hearing aids is usually not an overnight process. However, with patience, effort, and guidance, appropriate expectations can be set and learning to hear again can be a wonderful experience that will change your life!
The secret to staying happy and healthy
Open any magazine and you’re bound to find an article on how to turn back the hands of time. Posts on health and wellness are among the most popular on social media. Many of us hope to age gracefully and happily by looking and feeling our best.
But is worrying about looking older delaying our decision to get hearing aids?
If so, The Harvard Study of Adult Development should change our minds.
For 75 years, the study tracked the lives of its subjects and found that the key to being happy and healthy as we age is the strength of our relationships. It’s not professional accomplishments, financial stability or looking like we did when we were 30. It’s having good relationships.
“The clearest message that we get from this study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier,” said psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, current director of the study. Dr. Waldinger and three generations of fellow researchers examined the medical records, brain scans and interviews of 724 participants over a 75-year period. They also interviewed family and friends, and what they discovered is fascinating.
The study found that the number of friends a person has isn’t important, but the quality of those friendships is.
The quality of our relationships is key
Happiness and health late in life are tied to the health of our relationships. Connectivity to our family, friends, and communities are vital for our health. In fact, researchers found that 50-year olds with the highest level of satisfaction in relationships turned out to be the healthiest in their 80s.
Researchers believe secure relationships even help preserve brain function. Good relationships extend healthy life expectancy and quality of life as we age. We are happier and healthier when close friendships are maintained.
Sadly, many of us are not that lucky. An alarming one in five Americans report feelings of loneliness. According to the study, participants who reported feelings of loneliness experienced earlier physical decline and earlier death than participants with strong social connections.
So what do hearing aids have to do with all this?
Hearing is one of the most basic ways we connect with others. Listening, laughing, and engaging verbally and aurally with loved ones helps form and strengthen the connections that bind relationships.
Hearing loss, on the other hand, can make talking, listening and engaging more difficult. Hearing loss is a well-known precursor to social isolation — which the Harvard study proves it negatively impacts the quality of a person’s relationships and, subsequently, their health and happiness as they age.
Can treating hearing loss help improve relationships?
Conversely, a study by the American Academy of Audiology found that using hearing aids to treat hearing loss improves the health of our relationships at home and work. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids can positively impact overall health. Hearing aid wearers report increased self-confidence and socialization.
Hearing our best improves communication with the important people in our lives, and good communication is one key to maintaining quality relationships over the course of our lifetime.
So, if you want to increase your chances of being happy and healthy as you age, put aside your worries about how hearing aids might look, and invest in yourself by treating your hearing loss and maintain the quality of your relationships.
Separating hearing aid fact from fiction
Hearing and sight are arguably our two most important senses. Yet, if and when either starts to fail us (and both usually do as we age), we react to each quite differently.
Look around at all the people with glasses, contacts, Lasik surgery or just cheaters, and it’s obvious that we have no problem or hesitation with treating vision issues.
But when it comes to treating hearing loss, we don’t seem to be in nearly such a hurry, if we even bother to treat it at all. If we did, nearly one in six adults you see would be wearing hearing aids — as that’s the number of U.S. adults with hearing loss.
What’s stopping us from treating hearing loss?
Why is there such discrepancy when it comes to “fixing” these two vital senses? Certainly, a key factor is the immediate and tangible impact of each impairment. You can’t easily drive, read, watch TV or work at a computer when your vision is compromised. But you can cope with or work around hearing issues — at least temporarily.
It’s important to know, though, that while the immediate impact of compromised hearing may seem negligible, the long-term and overall quality-of-life impact is real and potentially severe.
Is our perception of hearing aids to blame?
Another reason for inaction comes from people’s perception of hearing loss and hearing aids. Unfortunately, some old myths linger. But advancements in science and technology mean many are no longer true. Let’s debunk five common ones now.
- Fiction: There’s no treatment for hearing loss.
Fact: Hearing loss might be irreversible — but it can definitely be helped. Amplification with hearing aids is by far the most recommended and effective treatment for hearing loss. In fact, 90-95% of people with hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids. Custom programmed by a trained professional, today’s digital hearing aids can help people with even severe hearing loss hear sounds they might not otherwise hear, and be a part of things they might otherwise miss.
- Fiction: If I needed hearing aids, my doctor would have told me.
Fact: Actually, most busy general practitioners don’t have time to test for hearing loss. In a recent survey, only 23% of adults reported having their hearing screened during a physical exam. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted the issue this past February, reinforcing to physicians the importance of catching hearing loss in the early stages, and reminding primary care providers to “make referrals to hearing specialists” when “patients show or report hearing problems.”
- Fiction: Hearing aids are hard to use.
Fact: Today’s hearing aids have come a long way from the hearing aids of just a few years ago. Advancements in processing speeds and hearing science enable hearing aids to distinguish speech from noise, detect sound direction, and adjust to environments and specific sounds — all automatically. If fit and programmed by a hearing professional to your unique hearing needs, your hearing aids can be worn all day with little fuss, attention or adjustments required.
- Fiction: Hearing aids will make me stand out or seem old.
Fact: Several things conflict with this perception, so take your pick.
- Today’s hearing aids are significantly smaller and more discreet than hearing aids from just a few years ago and include options that fit deep in your ear canal, “invisible” to others.
- Wearable communication and health-monitoring devices like FitBits and Bragi — along with the pervasiveness of headphones — have made body-worn accessories commonplace and even trendy.
- Old is a perception and adults who hear confidently and engage readily convey “old” much less than those who ask “what” all the time, don’t acknowledge when someone is talking to them, or disengage from the action.
- Fiction: Hearing aids aren’t worth it.
Fact: It’s one thing for us to tout the impact that hearing your best can have on the quality of life, and quite another to hear it from people who’ve treated their hearing loss.
Can treating hearing loss help prevent dementia?
A study published in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals, called dementia “the greatest global challenge for health and social care in the 21st century.” The study, conducted by The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care, noted that 50 million people have dementia worldwide and that the number is expected to triple by 2050.
The commission’s purpose was to provide recommendations for the prevention and management of dementia. The need is urgent, it determined, as dementia not only affects the person with dementia, it also impacts their family and friends.
Be proactive earlier in life to help prevent dementia later
The commission’s 24 international experts concluded that one in three cases of dementia could be prevented if people managed just nine lifestyle factors — one of which is managing hearing loss during midlife (between age 40-65).
The other eight include increasing childhood education and exercise, maintaining social engagements, reducing or stopping smoking, and management of depression, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
Dementia typically doesn’t manifest itself with symptoms until we’re 65+, but the study’s authors note that it likely begins between ages 40-65. They determined that managing these nine modifiable risk factors at various stages of life could “contribute to prevention or delay of dementia.”
The link between dementia and hearing loss
The commission admits science isn’t yet unanimous on why unmanaged hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia. But research has confirmed that hearing loss adds to the cognitive load of the brain, leads to social isolation and depression, and accelerates brain atrophy — all of which are likely contributing factors.
Now, at least, there’s research that points to ways we can “reduce the incidence of dementia or substantially delay its onset” — and nearly all are within our control. This is terrific news for anyone worried about being affected by this awful condition.
We can help you manage your hearing loss
Hearing loss is definitely something you can manage with the help of a trained hearing professional. If you have or think you have hearing loss, this new research gives you a great reason to do something about it as soon as you can.
5 reasons to treat hearing loss
So you’ve got a little hearing loss. What’s the big deal, right? It happens to almost all of us as we age.
FACT: 37.5 million Americans 18 and older have hearing loss, including one out of every three, 60 and older.
You can cope, you’ve decided. You’ll just turn the TV up a little louder. Ask people to speak up or repeat what they said. And hey, the quiet can be kind of nice, to be honest. “Why should I treat it,” you wonder?
Should you treat or ignore your hearing loss?
The decision to treat or ignore hearing loss should not be taken lightly. Why? Because hearing loss plays a significant role in many important issues that impact our quality of life, including five important ones:
- Mental health
- Physical health
- Income and career
- Personal safety
- Relationships and social interactions
Before you decide whether to ignore or treat your hearing loss, read what studies, health care experts, and hearing aid wearers themselves have to say about each choice.
Ignore or treat hearing loss — a side-by-side comparison
(1) Mental Health
Ignore hearing loss
Numerous studies link hearing loss to issues of mental decline, including increased anxiety and depression, accelerated brain shrinkage, and even dementia. One such study, by Johns Hopkins Medicine, tested volunteers with hearing loss over six years and found their cognitive abilities declined 30-40% faster than peers with normal hearing.
Treat hearing loss
Johns Hopkins’ researcher, Dr. Frank Lin, thinks that “if you want to address hearing loss well, do it sooner rather than later.” He recommends treating hearing loss before “brain structural changes take place.”
A separate study released in 2015 backs him up. In the study, scientists concluded that treating hearing loss by wearing hearing aids reduces the risk of cognitive decline associated with hearing loss.
FACT: Untreated hearing loss may result in serious long-term consequences to healthy brain functioning.
(2) Physical Health
Ignore hearing loss
The National Council on Aging notes that “falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans.” While no one knows how many falls are linked to hearing loss each year, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have found that people with hearing loss are three times more likely to fall than those without hearing loss.
It’s thought that hearing loss may detract from environmental awareness, which increases the likelihood of tripping and falling.
Treat hearing loss
Recently, a study by the Washington University School of Medicine found that improving hearing through hearing aids appears to “improve balance in older adults with hearing loss” and helps reduce the risk of falls. Researchers credited the results to both increased alertness and improved balance.
(3) Income and Career
Ignore hearing loss
A study by the Better Hearing Institute quantified the impact of untreated hearing loss on the job. The study found that people with untreated hearing loss can see an income hit of up to $30,000 annually, and were nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as peers who wore hearing aids.
QUOTE: “Hearing loss was affecting my presentations and ability to service clients.” Chris T., Pennsylvania
Treat hearing loss
That same study found that people who use hearing aids reduced the risk of income loss by 90 to 100 percent. It also reported that most hearing aid users in the workforce said wearing hearing aids has helped their performance on the job.
QUOTE: “Listening is SO important in my work, and I can now work better, more efficiently and more effectively because of my hearing aids.” Marty C., New York
(4) Personal Safety
Ignore hearing loss
Studies aren’t needed to know that missed or misheard signals like car horns, alarms, and other warning alerts can jeopardize a person’s safety. And it doesn’t always have to be one’s own. Adults caring for infants and young children need to know when their charge is crying or in distress.
Treat hearing loss
Treating hearing loss with hearing aids enhances your awareness of your surroundings and can help ensure you hear every smoke detector, bike bell, emergency alert or distress call.
(5) Relationships and social interactions
Ignore hearing loss
More than anything, untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation, as the challenges of listening and feelings of “missing out” often cause people to withdraw from the friends, family, and activities that bring them joy.
This, alone, is significant, as social isolation is closely linked to numerous quality-of-life issues, including depression, illness, exhaustion, and even shorter life spans.9
Treat hearing loss
Treating hearing loss with hearing aids enables you to hear, participate, and ensure you don’t miss out on the people and activities that make you happy. It’s as simple as that.
QUOTE: “I’m so glad I got hearing aids. It has truly been life changing!” Lesley P., California
If you would like to take the first step and find out if you have a hearing loss, you may schedule your preferred appointment time here.