Kari Lane is a doctoral-level registered nurse. Her expertise is in geriatrics. She has a familial, hereditary, sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Is the Third Most Common Chronic Illness
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic illness in older adults today, topped only by hypertension and arthritis, and it results in significant disability. Hearing impairment greatly hinders communication, impeding the ability to transmit health and nursing care treatment information. Untreated hearing loss also affects a person’s cognitive status, functional status, social integration, and interactions with family.
Amplification offers many benefits. Hearing aids improve audiometry scores on average by 15–20 decibels (dB) and improve hearing handicap up to 55%.
This improves speech understanding, especially in one-on-one situations. When persons are able to hear better and communicate more effectively, they experience less depression, anxiety, fear, and isolation. Persons who adopt hearing aids exhibit higher functional ability scores than those who do not. Recent research also demonstrates the potential to increase cognition scores over time in hearing aid wearers, though this recent research needs to be validated.
What Does a Person With Hearing Loss Experience?
A primary complaint of hearing aid wearers is that they can hear just fine, but they cannot understand what is being said. This stems from difficulties in frequency discrimination and causes difficulties in differentiating certain consonant sounds. For example, one may confuse words such as mash and mast or cash and cap. This can frustrate not only the individual but also their family and others with whom they communicate. Many older persons do not realize they have a hearing problem, due to the slow progression of loss. To those with good hearing, the following spoken sentences are easy to understand: “Take one tablet three times a day until the medication is gone. Do not skip any doses and do not double up any doses,” But to those with a mild hearing loss similar to what many persons experience as they age, the sentences would sound like: “ a e one able ree imes a day un il e medica ion is gone. Do no ski any do e and do no double u any do e .”
Hearing Loss Affects Both Men and Women of All Ages
All ethnic groups are affected by the hearing loss associated with aging, though certain diseases can be more prevalent in one group than another, For people under the age of 65, hearing loss is often associated with exposure to hazardous noise levels at work or leisure—for instance, listening to loud music through headphones or at a concert, or working on the farm around loud mechanical equipment.
One of the most devastating things about hearing loss is that it interferes with the ability to communicate. Patients often realize that they’re not hearing as well as they used to; they’ll say, ‘I’m asking people to repeat themselves, and they’re getting annoyed, or everyone seems to be mumbling.' It is important to treat hearing loss because otherwise persons begin to get isolated and that lack of interaction can impair a number of body systems.
I've Heard of Hearing Aids, but What Else Is There?
"I've heard about hearing aids, and frankly I've heard my share of negatives. Many of my friends just don't wear them and are not satisfied, so why spend the money? Are there other alternatives that might not put me in the 'old' category if I wear them?"
The statement above is a frequent one that I hear others say. Sometimes people are looking for alternatives other times they are not. But there are alternatives to hearing aids today. They may be more cost-effective, too. Let's review some of the alternatives.
Read More From Youmemindbody
Hearables are the combination of two technologies, hearing aids and consumer electronics. Some of the hearables are devices that can be added to hearing aids or used without hearing aids. Some of the hearables are apps that are combined with your Smart Phone to enhance audibility. Typically hearables are more accepted by consumers because others are using them for a variety of reasons.
Hearables cannot replace hearing aids, but do have a role in the marketplace. Hearables may be the first step towards amplification for some or may enhance the hearing aid's ability to help a person perceive sound. Some examples include
- Smartphone-Based Apps
- Made for iPhone hearing aids/devices
- Personal Sound Amplification (i.e. Pocket Talker)
How to Use Personal Listening Devices
The key to any personal listening device is to be a good consumer. Make sure you have a trial period and/or a warranty so that you can return it if you do not like it. Make your first purchase on the lower-cost end and work your way up if you have to. Personal listening devices are a "first" step towards a hearing aid. They amplify all noises and may or may not be helpful for you. A hearing aid can be programmed for your hearing loss and will be more specific.
What to Keep in Mind about Hearing Loss
Keep in mind:
- The inner workings of your ear are damaged. A hearing aid or personal listening device does not fix that, it only helps it out by adding a louder sound environment.
- You will have to work at wearing the devices and you will still need to work to understand speech well.
- Tell people about your hearing loss, and let them know how they can help you. For example, I can hear better when you do not cover your mouth with your hand when you talk.
- Encourage others to face you when they talk to you.
- Pick good areas when you want to talk with others. Very loud restaurants are not the best option, chose a quieter location when possible.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.