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Hearing Facts
Family or friends may notice that you are having difficulty hearing before you do. Talk to them about how they think you are hearing and then ask them to join you for a hearing test. A sudden change in hearing can occur due to exposure to a loud sound or a medical emergency. If you experience a sudden change in hearing, see a Physician as soon as possible.

Video Published on Aug 24, 2012

4 of 4 Presentations from the Research Symposium: How the Brain Makes Sense of the World of Sound at the Hearing Loss Association of America's Convention 2012.

Presenter:
Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Hopkins University

Description:
The potential impact of hearing loss on the health and functioning of older adults and the role of rehabilitative devices (hearing aids and cochlear implants) in mitigating its effects remain largely unstudied. Despite availability of aural rehabilitative methods, less than 20% of older adults use a hearing aid, and even fewer use assistive listening devices or take part in aural rehabilitation. Dr. Lin will discuss recent research that has begun as well as studies that have demonstrated independent associations between hearing loss and the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

Now, let’s flip this scenario around to an older person that’s perhaps fifty-five or over. Imagine if they were just diagnosed with a hearing loss. What would they do?

The reality is, there’s no difference other than age. Just because someone is older doesn’t mean they should neglect being treated for hearing loss. Actually, with all of the new research that’s been done over the past twenty+ years, especially from Johns Hopkins University*, which shows how much hearing loss affects the brain over time, it’s very important for anyone with a hearing loss to be treated. They have found that even a mild hearing loss left untreated ages the brain quicker, and those individuals are five times more susceptible of obtaining dementia.

You would think that one of the main reasons why 85% of Americans with hearing loss don’t receive treatment with hearing aids is due to the cost. But, in the United Kingdom (UK), where hearing aids are covered by socialized medicine 100%, the statistics are exactly the same as the US. Hearing aids are absolutely free in the UK, and yet only 15% of individuals who know they have a hearing loss elect to get hearing aids each year. This means it’s NOT THE COST! But, why do we look upon a young person with hearing loss so differently than we do with someone older? And, why aren’t older people with hearing loss receiving the treatment they need? 

The sad conclusion we face in answering these questions, especially for those of us living in the western world, with all of our technological advances, education, economic standards, and modern medicine, is that most people are truly ignorant to the effects hearing loss has on the aging process and the brain. The other sad reality is that vanity and pride also deter a vast number of people from being treated.
Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss is usually a gradual change in hearing sensitivity over a period of years. Because it occurs so slowly, it often times goes undetected until later in life.

The following is a list of common signs of hearing loss:

Difficulty hearing in noisy situations
Ringing in the ears (Tinnitus)
Asking people to repeat themselves
You can hear but can’t always understand the words
Need to have TV turned up louder than normal

Imagine being told your seven-year-old grandson, or twelve-year-old granddaughter, or some other child you love has just been diagnosed with a hearing loss. What would you do? You would probably do all that you could to help that child get the treatment they need, even if it meant paying out a good amount of money on hearing aids. And why would you do that? The most likely answers would be, ‘because they need to hear everything so that they’re able to do well in school, interact with their friends and family, and not feel left out to grow up healthy and happy.’

It is estimated that there are nearly 50 million Americans right now, walking around, asking people to repeat themselves over and over, turning up the volume on their TV’s so loud that it can be heard a block away, driving everyone else nuts with their hearing loss, who are doing nothing about it. Due to the greater risks associated with unhealthy aging as our population continues to get older and live longer, something has to be done about it. In order to combat these elevated risk factors of unhealthy aging, a paradigm shift has to occur in the way older Americans view the treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids and other assisted listening devices (ALD’s). Similar to what’s already been done with smoking, cholesterol, diet and exercise, enhanced education is the logical first step.





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Disclaimer:
Hearing aids do not restore “normal” hearing. Personal experiences vary depending on type and severity of hearing loss, accuracy of testing procedures, proper fitting and one’s ability to acclimate to amplification.
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Additional education related to hearing loss and its aging affect on the brain needs to be implemented across the board, especially for all health care providers. Insurance carriers have to recognize the importance of healthy aging in relation to treating hearing loss with hearing aids and ALD’s by offering plans that offset the costs involved. Vital information regarding this issue needs to be made more readily available to the general public. And the hearing industry, including hearing aid and ALD manufacturers, audiologists and dispensers, as well as governmental agencies such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), need to address this important matter more effectively.

Hopefully, someday in the not too distant future; family physicians will be more inclined to screen their patients for hearing loss and offer those patients in need of treatment available options; insurance providers will be more inclined to cover hearing aids and ALD’s; and the majority of older Americans with hearing loss understand the real benefits of healthy aging with hearing aids, and are also able to lay aside vanity and pride in order to receive treatment. The next twenty years will determine whether we stay on our current course of ignorance regarding the treatment of hearing loss for older Americans, or a whole new comprehensive perspective comes into place, whereby the vast majority are treated. The latter would benefit untold millions. 

(*Source: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_and_dementia_linked_in_study)

See Press Release from Jacksonville Florida Times Union News Paper.