Is Everyone Mumbling?

    Answers for the Hearing-Challenged

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    As our parents get older, we often find ourselves encouraging them to live a healthy lifestyle. Part of that healthy lifestyle includes regular hearing checks. The simple fact is, hearing loss affects people of all ages, and studies show that two-thirds of those with hearing loss are younger than age sixty-four. 

    Here are some common indicators to watch and listen for: difficulty hearing other people clearly; frequently asking others to repeat themselves; listening to music or watching the TV with the volume higher than others require; ringing, buzzing or whistling sounds in your ears; increased difficulty hearing in noisy environments or group settings; becoming more withdrawn from social settings; and being unable to follow conversations.

    Persuading loved ones to see a professional and have their hearing tested may not be a simple task. One approach to addressing the problem is to point out that annual hearing tests are recommended for everyone. With this approach, your loved one doesn’t feel singled out, and it may be easier to convince them to make an appointment.

    It may also be helpful to explain the risks of waiting. On average, people struggle with their hearing for seven to ten years before deciding to address the problem and get their hearing checked. It is important to treat hearing loss when it first begins. Untreated hearing loss worsens over time, and the longer you live with the loss, the more rehabilitation will be needed.

    Be prepared for resistance and excuses. It’s natural for loved ones to become defensive at the idea of seeing a professional about their hearing issues. Familiarize yourself with some common objections, so you’ll be prepared with an appropriate response.

    1. My hearing loss isn’t bad enough for hearing aids. Even those of us with mild hearing loss may miss out on conversations and certain environmental sounds. You can benefit from hearing aids with any amount of hearing loss, no matter how minor. Fortunately, you can teach your brain to recognize sounds again by wearing hearing aids regularly.

    2. Hearing aids didn’t work for my friend, so they won’t work for me. Success with hearing aids depends on having the right combination of technology and professional support. Regardless of the reasons behind a friend’s dissatisfaction, the first step in improving your hearing health is to get a hearing test and explore your hearing aid options with the help of an audiologist.

    3. Wearing hearing aids will make me look old or will be embarrassing. Wearable assistive technology is more prevalent across all age groups, making hearing aids a bit more status quo. Hearing aids are considerably smaller and more discreet than ever before. Bottom line, there are more drawbacks to missing out on important moments and relationships than there are to wearing hearing aids.

    4. Hearing aids are too expensive. While it’s true there are a wide range of products and price points available these days, effective hearing aids are not cost prohibitive. Some insurance plans also cover hearing aids, so make sure you investigate that option.

    It’s important to be supportive, sympathetic, and understanding. When communication is difficult, it typically becomes less frequent and reduces the quality of relationships. Ultimately, breakdowns in communication from hearing loss can cause people to become withdrawn and feel isolated. Knowing that others experience similar feelings can be reassuring, and can help your loved ones gain the confidence they need to talk about their hearing loss, share their feelings, and ask for help. What’s more, wearing hearing aids will be a sign that they are taking control of their hearing health.

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    Valerie Moore, AuD
    Valerie Moore, AuD, is an audiologist with extensive training in assessing children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. A mother of two, Valerie has worked with Virginia Ear, Nose & Throat since 2005, and sees patients at the Midlothian office.