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The Changing Relationship Between Hearing Loss And Chronic Illness

hearing loss and chronic illness

The way hearing health care providers are caring for their patients is taking a new shape thanks to the increasing amount of information coming to surface thanks to important scientific research highlighting comorbidities between chronic medical illness and hearing decline.
Past Awareness
In the past few decades, new information about the link between chronic illness and hearing loss has been trickling into the medical community. However, awareness of the issue and knowledge of the exact conditions that share a link to hearing loss has been slow to evolve.
According to a recent article in The Hearing Journal, Kathryn Dowd, Aud, first became aware of the link between comorbidities of chronic disease and hearing loss in 1984 when she found information from the Maryland Department of Aging recommending that anyone with diabetes, cardiovascular, chronic kidney, Alport syndrome, or Crohn’s syndrome have their hearing checked.
What Dowd soon realized was that this information was not widely known among the medical or hearing health community. She began an effort called the Audiology Project to help get the CDC and other organizations the right information to disperse to patients who need it so their hearing needs can be properly attended.
Research At Work
In the meantime, the evidence base for the link between chronic conditions and hearing loss has been growing steadily. In 2008, researchers established a higher rate of hearing loss among those suffering from diabetes than those who do not. In 2011, a research study highlighted the link between early-stage dementia and hearing loss.
Research continues to expand the list of chronic illnesses that have a definitive link to hearing loss. They’re also working to understand whether the relationship between the two is causal or correlative. As information expands, so is awareness among the medical and hearing healthcare community, which will continue to shape future provider care.
The Future Of Provider Care
Links between chronic disease and hearing loss, particularly in older populations will play an integral part in determining the right kind of provider care. Primary care physicians who are properly educated will increase referrals to Audiologists and other hearing health professionals.
In turn, these professionals will begin providing feedback to the referring physician or make their own referrals to medical professionals if they suspect possible links between a patient’s hearing loss and other conditions.
The Future Of Patient Care
The growing awareness of these links means more comprehensive care and communication between hearing healthcare and other medical care providers. Diagnosis of hearing conditions that may have otherwise be missed may now be more probable thanks to the awareness both providers are beginning to gain with the Audiology Project and similar awareness movements.
Awareness may reduce the chances of isolation patients suffer from living with undiagnosed hearing loss. It may also lead to improved means of communication between patient and medical healthcare provider thanks to proper hearing healthcare.
Audiologists will also be better suited to tailor hearing health solutions for their patients based on increased awareness of patients limitations due to chronic illness. Patients with early onset dementia may benefit from early intervention so hearing aids become a part of their established routine. Whereas those with vision problems due to chronic disease may be well suited for a hearing aid with bright colors so that it can easily be found and worn.

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Don’t Let Untreated Hearing Loss Steal Your Social Life

social isolation and hearing loss

“It’s important to make your social life and your friends and family – make that a priority.” Samantha Barks
Whether you have always maintained a bustling social life with a packed calendar and lots of time with friends and family or prefer a quieter and more relaxed social life with family and a few close friends, hearing loss can make an impact on your plans. It’s hard to deny how we communicate and stay engaged changes after diagnosis, even with hearing aids. Hearing loss can become a barrier to socializing… but only if we let it.
Social side effects of hearing loss
According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 15% of Americans report some difficulty with hearing. While recent research points to several potential side effects of hearing loss from an increased risk of injuries to an increased risk of dementia, one may be subtle enough to go unnoticed by many until it’s too late. That is social isolation.
Experts believe that as hearing loss changes how we communicate and interact, it can affect our desire to socialize. Many report increased levels of anxiety or stress over social interactions. For some, difficulty communicating due to hearing loss may lead to a withdrawal from activities and the people they once enjoyed. Social isolation and even depression then become concerns.
Maintaining your social life
Social connections and healthy relationships play an important role in health and longevity. If you have a hearing impairment, be proactive about maintaining your social life using strategies like these:

  • Schedule a hearing evaluation. If you haven’t already the most important step you can take to supporting a healthy social life is getting a hearing evaluation. Whether you suspect you may be missing part of what’s going on around you or others have brought up their concern that you may have hearing loss, a hearing healthcare professional can diagnose and offer treatment options.
  • Talk to your hearing healthcare provider about hearing aids. Treating hearing loss is essential to keep communication strong and help you feel more confident in social situations. In fact, a survey by the National Council on Aging found that those with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids were more likely to be socially isolated and report feelings of sadness than those who did wear hearing aids. Working closely with your hearing healthcare professional can help you find the best choice for you and your lifestyle and shorten the learning curve as you start using them. Enhanced programming capabilities and added features can make hearing in social environments easier and more natural than ever.
  • Be open and honest. Millions of Americans now have hearing loss. Chances are one or more people you know have hearing loss. If you’ve been diagnosed, be open and honest with family, friends and colleagues about your hearing loss. This can help to reduce any anxiety you feel, cue others into your need for more effective communication, and put everyone more at ease.
  • Adjust plans, but don’t cancel. While you may find yourself suggesting quieter restaurants or events that offer options for the hearing impaired, don’t cancel your plans. It can be easy to give into anxiety or fear of embarrassment, but it’s a slippery slope that can quickly lead to no plans or social interactions at all. Invest in your health and well-being by spending time with the people you care about.

Social isolation can be more harmful to our health than we realize. Don’t let hearing loss hurt your relationships and social life. Take steps like these to continue doing the things you love even with hearing loss.
If you have questions or would like to schedule a hearing evaluation, call our office today.

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Managing Expectations Of Patients With Tinnitus

managing expectations for tinnitus treatment

There is no cure for tinnitus. The typical treatment options for tinnitus address the emotional and cognitive effects associated with tinnitus but do not repair the underlying origins of tinnitus. A new research study finds that 83 percent of patients with tinnitus feel like their office visits with hearing healthcare professionals are ineffective. Patients with tinnitus have expectations for their care, and the new study looks at what healthcare professionals can do for them.

What Tinnitus Patients Expect

The research survey includes 230 patients seeking treatment to either eliminate tinnitus or decrease the loudness associated with tinnitus. 29% of the patients were expecting medication, 25% came with expectations for hearing aids, and 17% felt sound therapy would be the answer. A big surprise was that 37% went with no expectations of treatment of any type.

Hearing Healthcare Professionals Definition Of Success

Sixty-eight hearing healthcare professionals took part in the research survey and defined how they measure tinnitus treatment success. 77% believe a decrease in a person’s awareness of their tinnitus was a success. 63% saw improvement in thoughts and emotions as an accurate measurement. Finally, 63% feel that increasing public knowledge about tinnitus is the key to success.

Findings

The researchers note that only 60% of the healthcare professionals involved in the study took the time to use questionnaires or outcome assessments on their patients. Although the majority of patients receive the necessary information about tinnitus, they rarely receive any specialized counseling for the condition nor have their concerns about tinnitus addressed. Disturbingly, more than half of the patients do not feel that they receive an answer to their questions about the situation. 70% of the healthcare professionals in the survey do not think that specialized counseling for tinnitus is an essential part of treatment.
The universal agreement seems to be that most people with tinnitus want a quick fix for their problem. The difficulty is that there is no magic cure for tinnitus. There are however ways to lessen the symptoms of tinnitus and manage the disease more effectively. The researchers have faith that the time has come for healthcare providers to expand their services to include teaching patients about tinnitus management. They also encourage specialized counseling, hearing aids, and sound therapy for tinnitus patients.

Treatment For Tinnitus

If you receive a diagnosis of tinnitus, remember that treatment focuses on treating your symptoms. Possible remedies for tinnitus include:

  • Noise suppression. Relief may come by tuning out annoying Devices include hearing aids, white noise machines, and masking devices.
  • Yes, a drug can’t cure tinnitus, but a few may help to ease the symptoms. Effective drugs include anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.
  • Coping and support. Coping with tinnitus is an integral part of treatment. Counseling, support groups, and patient education are useful coping tools.
  • Alternative medicine. Some alternative therapy is useful for tinnitus including acupuncture, hypnosis, ginkgo biloba, melatonin, zinc supplements, and vitamin B.

Effective management of tinnitus depends upon providing patients with tools for the effective management of their condition and encouraging healthcare providers to educate them regarding tinnitus.

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A Holistic Approach To The Management Of Hearing Loss

holistic approach to hearing loss

Holistic medicine is an approach to health treatment that emphasizes cooperative relationships. It is the practice of medicine that addresses the wants of the whole person including physical, nutritional, environmental, social, spiritual, and lifestyle changes. This approach to health treatment includes the use of drugs and surgery if needed, and focuses on education for balance and well being. Now, hearing healthcare professionals are using a multi-step process to improve treatment outcomes for hearing loss patients. The transition is placing hearing health as part of whole-body health.

Evaluation

Evaluation is the first step in the holistic approach to hearing loss treatment. Hearing healthcare professionals identify the presence of hearing loss and if present, determine if the damage is due to a sensorineural impairment. The inner ear is susceptible to numerous chronic diseases, and as a specialist in this area, the hearing healthcare professional can assist in the detection and possible treatment of chronic diseases.

Case History

A review of the patient’s case history is essential for identifying the presence of chronic diseases. Chronic diseases often have multiple and overlapping pathophysiology so a method of identification of these diseases should be a part of a medical history form for patients of hearing healthcare professionals.

Hearing Loss Comorbidities

At this step, the professional will determine if both a chronic hearing loss and another chronic condition are co-existing. If this is the case, then comorbidity, the presence of two or more chronic conditions simultaneously exists. Poor health outcomes increased healthcare costs, and highly complex clinical management are part of treating comorbidities. This interaction between the two illnesses affects the manner of treatment and prognosis.

Odds Ratio

At this point, the hearing healthcare professional determines if the odds ratio of chronic disease is increasing. This increase may indicate associated pathology. Vascular diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and chronic kidney disease as well as neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease are known to elevate odds ratios.

Self-Evaluation

Self-evaluation is a time for hearing healthcare professionals to assess readiness to attempt patient co-management of the patient’s diseases. The practitioner must decide if they wish to be involved in the sharing of information with other providers to improve the patient’s outcome. This access allows the hearing healthcare professional to provide awareness regarding the interactions with hearing and balance disorders.

Team Management

This phase is communication that works toward team management of comorbid chronic health conditions. These interactions usually involve the patient’s primary care physician. A hearing healthcare professional can add a clear insight to a healthcare team for a few reasons:

  • The hearing healthcare professional is the only member of the treatment team who can assess inner ear function.
  • Hearing healthcare professionals are the sole members who can provide treatment for sensorineural hearing loss.
  • The hearing healthcare professional can notify the other health care professionals of hearing disorders.

The future of hearing health is gearing up for enhancement through the collaboration of hearing healthcare professionals with other medical specialties.