Most of us think of audiologists as health professionals who diagnose and treat hearing loss. But audiologists also can help patients prevent hearing loss by providing education and information about the damage exposure to loud noises can cause, and advising patients regarding the best hearing protection devices for their individual needs.
The holidays bring families and friends together for dinners, parties and other special events. Unfortunately, if you have a hearing loss, this also can be a frustrating season as you struggle to hear in challenging listening environments, like restaurants or in theaters. What can you do to improve the odds that you won’t miss a word at these gatherings?
If someone in your life has untreated hearing loss, you know living with them can be frustrating, difficult and exhausting. You often have to shout to be heard, repeat yourself frequently, and live with the TV blaring at top volume. Hearing loss can be extremely stressful for spouses, siblings, children, friends and colleagues. Often, information from these “communication partners” can be used to get a more accurate picture of the individual's hearing loss and level of resulting disability.
Complaints by Those Close to People with Hearing Loss Shed Light
A research study published in the journal Trends in Hearing, through the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), reviewed more than 70 previous studies that looked at the complaints made by people with hearing loss and those closest to them to examine the same issue from both perspectives.
Mobility and communication are essential for healthy aging.1,2 As an audiologist, I see first-hand the difference that diagnosing and treating hearing and balance problems make in the lives of my patients. Not only are these patients healthier, but they are happier, safer, and enjoy a better quality of life with greater independence.
Hearing loss and balance disorders are significant public health concerns that contribute to increased fall risk. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related deaths in the elderly.3 If left untreated, hearing loss can also lead to social isolation, depression, and an increased risk for cognitive decline, including dementia.4,5
An analysis from the Centers for Disease Control suggests at least 10 million (6 percent) adults in the U.S. under age 70 - and perhaps as many as 40 million adults total (24 percent) - may have noise-induced hearing loss based on their hearing test results.
The study also found 19 percent of young adults aged 20 to 29 had hearing loss in one or both ears. This finding reinforces the fact that young adults also need to be aware of the risk of hearing loss from loud noise.
If you hear well in a quiet room, or when talking one-on-one with a friend or family member, but have problems hearing when the television is on in the background, or you’re trying to carry on a conversation in a crowded restaurant, you may actually have a condition that’s recently been described as hidden hearing loss, or HHL.
Why HHL Is So Hard to Diagnose
“As audiologists, patients often come to us because th
ey have problems hearing in noisy environments,” explained Tim Steele, Ph.D., FAAA, President, Associated Audiologists. “This may be their first symptom of hearing loss. But, sometimes when we test their hearing using an audiogram, the gold standard for hearing testing, their hearing test appears to be normal.”
Frequently, people don’t see the value in treating hearing loss early on, or sometimes even at all. But new research into the connections between wearing hearing aids and dementia is changing people’s minds, literally!
Studies have shown that older adults with untreated hearing loss have a higher incidence of fall- and accident-related death, social isolation, and dementia than those without hearing loss.
Marriage involves a lot of discussions: some easy, some more difficult. If you think your spouse might need to get treated for hearing loss, you may not look forward to discussing it with him or her. After all, they’ll probably tell you he or she can hear just fine and may not think there is a problem.