How Untreated Hearing Loss Affects Families

cabinBy Alina M. M. Phoenix, HIS – Humans are social beings, and hearing loss has a profound effect on our social interactions. This is especially true in our closest relationships. Hearing loss impacts every communication we have, and because it often happens gradually over time, we may not realize how much it is affecting us or how it is weakening our relationships.

Hearing loss causes routine communication breakdowns. It creates misunderstandings on a daily basis, leading us to ask for many repetitions. When messages are misheard, it can cause arguments, frustration and tension. It can lead the hearing impaired to withdraw from family interactions to avoid conflict. It can unintentionally make family members to feel unimportant or unloved because they are not being heard.

Denial is one of the biggest obstacles in treating hearing loss. Most people who develop hearing loss over time ignore the warning signs for an average of 7 years before seeking help. In this time, their family has definitely noticed and may have brought up the issue multiple times. However, it is easier for the hearing impaired person to rationalize that other people mumble than it is to admit that we’re not hearing as well as we used to. The hearing impaired in denial may respond to their family’s observations by dismissing the concerns or even becoming hostile.

Resentment is a poisonous emotion in relationships. Untreated hearing loss can cause increasing feelings of resentment within the person who has developed hearing loss because, “If you would only just speak clearly, I could understand you!” Family members can become resentful when the person with hearing loss refuses to admit the problem or get help because they have to make so much effort to be understood. How many times has a family member given up and walked away saying, “Nevermind,” because the frustration of trying to be understood just got to be too much?

Depression, anxiety, loneliness and social withdrawal are well documented effects of hearing loss in adults. The impact on normal hearing people who develop hearing loss is comparable to the death of a spouse, with similar feelings of loss and grieving. It is a stress on both the hearing impaired and everyone communicating with that person. Marriages with one partner that has untreated hearing loss have divorce rates that are four times higher than average. Hearing loss breaks down communication and good communication is essential for maintaining healthy marriages.

The good news is 90% of hearing losses are able to achieve significant improvement with properly fit hearing aids. If your family has mentioned concerns about your hearing, it is time to listen. Don’t let hearing loss drive a wedge between you and those you care about. Get help for your hearing. Even if you feel like you’re “getting along fine,” do it for the sake of those you love. Better hearing equals better communication which improves relationships which makes a better life.

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The Importance of Yearly Hearing Screenings

This article will appear in Prime Life Times December issue.

Most of us are in the habit of going in for a yearly physical, eye exam and dental checkup, but few of us think to get a yearly hearing screening. Hearing is so important for keeping us connected to each other and the world. When our hearing is diminished, it can cause or worsen a wide range of social, emotional, mental and even physical problems that it is not easy to see are connected to our hearing.

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, hearing loss is the 3rd most common medical condition in this country, right after arthritis and heart disease. It is an invisible condition that can affect people at any age. The HLAA states that 60% of those who are affected by hearing loss are in the work force or educational settings.

Most frequently hearing loss happens gradually so we do not realize our hearing is changing. To someone who is developing hearing loss, they may attribute the effects to an outside source such as background noise, or the way people mumble and talk too fast. After all, how do you know you are not hearing something you should be? You don’t. Without regular hearing screenings, you may be unaware of how your hearing has changed until the problem is severe.

Recently, I met a client in her early 70’s that had never had a hearing test. When we were discussing her results, she asked me, “How could I go from hearing just fine to hearing next to nothing?” She was completely unaware of how much her hearing had changed over time because she had not gotten regular hearing tests. When the results of her test showed severe hearing loss, she was shocked and could not comprehend how it happened.

Like many chronic conditions, the longer hearing loss is allowed to go on before seeking treatment, the worse the outcome.  Yearly hearing screenings help us stay aware of our hearing levels and identify when changes are occurring. The best time to get help is when hearing loss is mild, ensuring that you maintain your best ability to understand speech and your connection with the world throughout your lifetime.

Hearing Loss Prevention and Treatment

Hearing is a critical sense that keeps us connected to the world. Most of us don’t think about our hearing much and take its advantages for granted. Hearing loss is often preventable, more treatable than ever, and it is very important to take care of your hearing.

Hearing loss is common, affecting at least 10% of the population. This number is increasing and younger age groups are becoming more affected as our world gets noisier. To prevent hearing damage, hearing protection is a must. When sound levels exceed 85 decibels, you need to protect your hearing. Smart phones have apps to measure sound levels, but a good rule of thumb is, wear hearing protection any time the sound is loud enough that you need to shout to be heard.

Inexpensive foam earplugs are a good form of hearing protection for infrequent loud sound exposure. For those with loud jobs or noisy hobbies, custom hearing protection offers a higher level of comfort and effectiveness. Musician’s earplugs protect hearing while maintaining the integrity of the music. Hunter’s earplugs both amplify soft sounds in the environment as well as suppress the sound of gunshot.

Hearing protection also means routine hearing checkups. Yearly hearing screenings help ensure you are maintaining normal hearing levels. If your hearing is starting to decline in these screenings, it is a clue you need to improve your hearing protection, or may be developing other health conditions. Hearing loss is associated with many health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia and more.

Hearing loss is sneaky. How do you know you are not hearing something you should? You don’t. It sounds normal to you. Other people notice the problem first, especially those closest to us. Hearing impairment affects our daily interactions, and can negatively impact family, friendships, jobs and more. When other people mention you are not hearing well, listen! This is a big sign your hearing may be impaired and is affecting the quality of your life in ways that you may not even realize.

Once you have a hearing loss, proper treatment is very important. Hearing loss tends to be progressive and permanent with negative effects that get worse over time. People who treat their hearing loss sooner maintain better speech understanding and experience fewer negative impacts. Proper treatment includes medical screening, hearing exam and appropriate intervention. Once medical issues have been addressed, properly fit hearing aids are usually the best option to treat hearing loss.

Hearing aid technology has come a very long way. Today’s hearing aids are more discreet, fit more precisely, have less feedback, perform better in noise, and have greater options for connectivity than ever before. A skilled hearing professional can help you analyze your hearing loss, lifestyle and technology desires to guide you to the best hearing aid for you.

Hearing is important for keeping us healthy and connected with the world. With proper prevention and treatment, we can reduce the impact that hearing loss has on our life and relationships.

Oh No! My Hearing Aid Is Lost!

Truth be told, when it happened, I may have used language a little stronger than that. It was very upsetting, and it was my own fault. The short version of the story is that I was riding a roller coaster and I forgot to take it out. I’m a hearing specialist. I’m supposed to know better.

So let’s talk about losing a hearing aid, what to do before you lose a hearing aid, common ways hearing aids get lost, and what to do after you lose a hearing aid.

Before you lose a hearing aid, familiarize yourself with your warranty. Most hearing aids come with a loss and damage warranty that covers your aid in the event of a loss or if it becomes damaged beyond repair. These warranties often have a deductible, so make sure you know what your coverage and deductible is on your hearing aid through the manufacturer. If you are out of warranty, sometimes your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will cover a lost or damaged hearing aid. This does require you notify your insurance company before the loss, to declare your hearing aid and make sure it is covered. Sometimes they will charge an extra premium or attach a rider to your policy. There may also be a deductible. Make sure you consult your insurance company and are clear on the terms of your insurance for your hearing aids.

There are several common ways hearing aids can get lost. These include:
• Pets
• Children
• Accidental ingestion
• Misplacing the aid
• Tight spaces
• Fast moving vehicles

To prevent your hearing aid getting lost or damaged, make sure you store your hearing aids up and away from where pets or small children can reach them. Do not store the aids near any vitamins or medications that you regularly take, because there have been instances of aids getting swallowed along with pills. When you take your aids out, make sure you put them in the same safe place every time. If you are going to be putting your head in tight places like pruning trees or working on cars, take your hearing aids out and store them safely beforehand. Lastly, if you are going to be riding roller coasters, motorcycles or convertible cars where you will be exposed to high winds or rough rides, take your hearing aids out and store them safely before you engage in these activities.

When the hearing aid gets lost, first thing you want to do is tell someone where you lost it. If it was a public place, report it to management and leave your contact info along with a description of the aid that was lost. It just might find it’s way back to you. If you’re at home, enlist the help of friends or relatives and do a thorough search. Sometimes having extra eyes on the job can help your hearing aid turn up. If it’s been missing for a week, it’s time to report the aid to your hearing healthcare provider. They can help you utilize your warranty or work with your insurance company to get your aid replaced. Replacing a lost aid is very important to help maintain your best ability to hear.

Hearing Loss and Health: A Strong Connection

Denial about hearing loss may be hurting you more than you think.

ImageAccording to the Better Hearing Institute, hearing loss affects 1 in 10 Americans, and becomes more common as we age, affecting 3 in 10 over the age of 60. Many people are aware that their hearing has changed but are reluctant to get help. I believe a big part of the reason is because they do not realize the negative impact hearing loss has on life.

The consequences of hearing loss are far reaching. According to the Better Hearing Institute, studies show hearing loss is linked to the following:

  • irritability, negativism and anger
  • fatigue, tension, stress and depression
  • avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
  • social rejection and loneliness
  • reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
  • impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
  • reduced job performance and earning power
  • diminished psychological and overall health

Hearing loss can even masquerade as other conditions because of symptom similarity. It is especially important to get hearing checked in cases where dementia or Alzheimer’s is suspected, as research from Johns Hopkins Institute shows untreated hearing loss can contribute to the development of these conditions. Other Johns Hopkins studies reveal that patients with untreated hearing loss show accelerated brain tissue loss, more hospitalizations, and poorer health outcomes compared to those with normal hearing.

As you can see, the effects of hearing loss go far beyond an occasional misunderstanding. It is truly a health issue. With modern advances in hearing technology, hearing loss does not have to negatively impact our lives. Properly fit hearing aids are high tech, discreet and can help bring back the clarity that is missing, reconnecting us with the world and helping us make the most out of life. I can tell you from experience that you just don’t know how much better life can be until you hear well.

When you’re ready to get help, we’re here.  Call our offices at 800-605-9608 to request your free hearing exam.  We will check your ears to see if you have wax or a medical condition that needs attention.  We will test all the frequencies of your hearing and show you if you have a hearing loss.  We will review options with you and find a hearing solution that will fit both your hearing loss and your budget so that hearing loss doesn’t have to hold you back from living the fullest and healthiest life possible.  Lastly, we will either help your hearing and make you happy or we will refund 100% of your investment.  There is no other health care that comes with a money back guarantee, so there is no risk to you to find out whether helping your hearing will improve your life.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

Alina Phoenix, HIS

 

*A version of this article will be appearing in July’s edition of Prime Life Times.

The Causes of Hearing Loss

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Hearing loss is a growing epidemic.  Thanks in part to the noisy world we live in, hearing loss is becoming more and more common even among younger demographics.  Teenagers are increasingly acquiring noise induced high frequency hearing loss as a consequence of consistent use of personal listening devices at high volume through earbuds.  Johns Hopkins reveals that 30% of 40-50 year olds have some degree of hearing loss, and it affects 40% of people over the age of 50.

So what are some of the causes of hearing loss, and how can we prevent it?

Hearing loss is often caused by noise exposure.  Some sounds like gun shots or explosions are loud enough that a short burst of the sound can cause permanent damage.  Other sounds, like hair dryers and lawn mowers, with repeated exposure will cause hearing loss.  The rule of thumb is, if the sound is loud enough that you need to shout to be heard over it, it is loud enough to damage your hearing.  

To prevent noise induced hearing loss, wear earplugs.  Disposable foam earplugs are available in any pharmacy and are appropriate to use when you know you are going to be in a loud environment infrequently, such as when mowing the lawn or going to a summer concert.  Even some movie theaters keep the sound levels loud enough to justify wearing earplugs (and you’re still able to hear the dialogue clearly with them in!)  Other situations to be aware of protecting your hearing include fireworks displays, convertible cars, motorcycles, and parades.  Because we never want to miss out on the enjoyment that these situations can bring us, it is sensible to keep foam earplugs handy, such as in the glove compartment of our cars.

If you are someone who works in a noisy environment, or who is around loud sounds consistently, such as a professional musician, a hunting enthusiast or factory worker, then you may benefit from wearing custom hearing protection.  Hearing professionals offer a wide range of custom hearing protection products that are appropriate for a variety of situations.  Musicians earplugs tamp the volume of the music down without losing the fidelity, so your hearing is protected without changing the musical sound.  Hunting protection amplifies soft sounds like the approach of a deer, but suppresses the gunshot so your hearing is not at risk.  Custom molded earplugs that fit the exact contours of the ear may be preferred by factory workers as a more comfortable option compared to off-the-shelf hearing protection.

Other causes of hearing loss may be medical.  Certain infections of the outer, middle or inner ear can affect our hearing levels.  Earwax impaction can reduce our hearing.  Certain medications may affect our hearing levels.  It is important to have a screening by a hearing care professional if you notice your hearing changing to rule out a medical issue, and if a medical issue is revealed by the screening, you will be referred for the appropriate care.  It is important to go to the doctor immediately if you experience a sudden change in your hearing, pain or itching in your ears that lasts more than 24 hours or is severe, or if you are having dizziness.

According to the Better Hearing Institute, up to one-third of all hearing losses may be preventable, so make sure you protect your hearing!  Wear hearing protection any time you know you will be exposed to loud sounds, purchase products that make less noise, turn down the volume on personal listening devices and get your hearing screened routinely. 

The Unintended Relationship Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss

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If you ask any professional relationship counselor what the key to lasting relationships is, communication always ends up on the list.  Communication is essential to maintaining our relationships and when communication breaks down, the relationship soon follows.

Unfortunately, communication really suffers in a relationship where one person has an untreated hearing loss.  When someone has trouble hearing, they just do not catch all that their partner, children, friends, and others have to say.  So they fall back on coping behaviors to try and fill the gap, such as asking people to repeat, smiling and nodding, making a non-committal response and/or agreeing to be agreeable, not realizing they may be alienating their loved one with their responses.

Think about it.  How do you feel when you are talking to someone, but they don’t appear to be listening?  How does it feel when you are sharing something deeply important to you and they don’t seem to get it or care?  How about if you repeat yourself multiple times, but they still don’t respond?  It hurts your feelings.  It makes you feel like what you have to say isn’t important.  You may even stop trying to communicate with that person because of those feelings.

What if we are unintentionally making someone feel this way by leaving our hearing loss untreated?

Hearing loss is as much a social issue as it is an individual issue because it impairs our ability to communicate with others.  Other people notice our hearing loss very much, and often the coping mechanisms that we use to try and avoid the embarrassment of admitting we can’t hear, instead communicates to others that what they have to say is not important to us.  This is not intentional, it is a consequence of our hearing impairment.

However, choosing NOT to get help for our hearing loss when we know we have one is an intentional decision.  When we choose not to get help for our hearing, it is communicating to others through our actions that we do not care enough to hear what they have to say.  It is communicating to them that the frustration they feel when we don’t hear them is ok with us.  It sends the message that hearing them just isn’t important.  This may not be what we mean to communicate, but our actions often speak louder than words.

Often, hearing loss sneaks up on us over a number of years and we don’t recognize how bad it has gotten. It’s not easy to see that you’re not hearing as well today as you did 10 years ago.  It is also easy to rationalize that it is everything else BUT us when it comes to our hearing.  After all, how do you know that you haven’t heard a sound you’re supposed to hear?  You don’t.  Not unless someone else brings it up to you.  Because of this, it is easy to live in a land of denial when it comes to our hearing, not realizing how much it is impacting your life and your relationships.  However, those close to us really notice, and they often notice our problem before we do.  They notice how often we ask them to repeat.  They notice when we are smiling and nodding but obviously didn’t get what was said.  They often feel very frustrated with us because even though it’s not easy to admit we have a problem and most people recognize that, they are the ones who are dealing with many of the consequences in terms of impaired communications, misunderstandings, embarrassment, anger and even resentment.

If your spouse, children, friends or extended family have expressed concern about your hearing, the most caring thing you can do is listen.  Schedule yourself a complimentary hearing test at one of our offices.  We will take you through the painless process of checking your ears for wax or medical issues that may need attention, as well as getting your hearing tested to see if you are suffering from hearing loss.  Your hearing professional will make a personalized recommendation that will fit your hearing loss, your lifestyle needs and your budget, so you can get back to hearing the people that matter to you most.  Call 800-605-9608 to make your appointment today!  It may just be the best possible Valentine’s Day gift you could give to the ones you love!

Here is an excellent article on how untreated hearing loss negatively impacts relationships: Click Here