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Why Identifying Unrecognized Hearing Loss Is So Important

Over 48 million Americans have hearing loss, with estimates of global numbers set to reach in the hundreds of millions in just a few short decades. Though hearing loss is an extremely prevalent condition, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Despite the high prevalence of age-related hearing loss, many adults still have hearing loss that never gets recognized, or they choose to forgo treatment options altogether. Older populations may miss the subtle changes in their hearing as they age because the onset is often gradual and slow, or possibly, they do not recognize the subtle changes they are making to compensate for their impaired hearing, such as increasing the volume on television sets or audio devices. To understand how some patients can have hearing loss without even realizing it, a study conducted by Wayne State University observed two groups of adults with and without hearing loss, had given them hearing screenings and had concluded with astounding results.

The Risks of Unrecognized Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can present serious risks for patients who do not seek treatment. Unfortunately, many struggling with hearing loss can wait up to 15 years to finally seek help. Research has shown a clear correlation between hearing loss and serious health complications such as depression, anxiety, a higher risk of suicide, and developing dementia. Communication difficulties are also common, as hearing loss causes higher rates of social isolation and a diminished quality of life. However, a majority of hearing aid users report satisfaction with their device, expressing a better quality of life while protecting their hearing for the long term.
Hearing loss is far more dangerous when unrecognized or undiagnosed. Early identification and intervention are critical for positive long-term outcomes when treating hearing loss. According to a 2012 study by Barbara Hutchinson of North Dakota State University, “In fact, adults who delay treatment until their hearing loss is severe do not respond to interventions as well as those who initiate interventions early in the course of their hearing loss.”

Wayne State University’s Conclusions and Recommendations

Self-defined as aiming “to explore characteristics that differentiate adults with unrecognized hearing loss from those with recognized hearing loss and adults with normal hearing”, researchers could determine how likely it was that a participant who described themselves as having no hearing issues, actually had unrecognized hearing loss. As part of the study, participants would complete a subjective and objective assessment of their physical health, various measures of cognition, and personality assessment of their traits for positive and negative affectivity (emotionality).
The results had proven researchers worry about unrecognized hearing loss to be true. “Participants who volunteered for the normal hearing group underwent hearing screens using a portable audiometer as part of the research study. Of the 69 adults who volunteered for that group, our hearing screens indicated that only 39 had hearing in the normal range. Unrecognized hearing loss was identified in 30 volunteers who had described themselves as having no hearing difficulty.”
The study’s research team had concluded that there is a sizeable subset of patients “who are likely to deny hearing difficulty upon questioning but have meaningful hearing loss.”, going as far as to recommend that new research should explore the best practices in psychoeducation about hearing screening that targets patients who do not endorse hearing loss.
If you believe you are suffering from signs of hearing loss but are not completely sure, it’s time to speak to a hearing health professional for a hearing evaluation. Unrecognized hearing loss should not go untreated.

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Assistive Listening Systems and Your Hearing Prerogative

With over 48 million Americans across the country and an astounding 466 million worldwide suffering from disabling hearing loss, staying up to date with advancing technology and new laws and regulations may be the difference between accessing your right to hear in public and private settings or struggling to receive the help you’re entitled to. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), everyone has the right to hear in public places, making sure that if public address systems are used, an assistive listening system (ALS) is available for those with hearing loss as well. With numerous types of ALS systems available, technology has made it much easier to increase your quality of life while in public settings, whether they help eliminate background noise, or are discretely hidden to aid you without needing to use and return noticeable devices.

What Type of ALS’ Are There?

Fortunately, finding venues with an ALS should be simple thanks to ADA guidelines. To abide by the ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design, venues must have signs that properly show that they utilize assistive listening systems by displaying the blue international symbol, and numerous types of systems must be made available upon request with strict standards, right down to the size of audio jacks.

1. Hearing Loops

The most widely used and preferred ALS, hearing loops are a discretely hidden wire that surrounds a seating area that plugs into an amplifier and PA system. The loop then converts sound from the PA system into an electromagnetic signal that is received and translated into sound by telecoils found in most hearing aids.

 2. WiFi Systems

Though these do not follow ADA guidelines and are not an acceptable ALS system in the eyes of the law, WiFi systems are becoming increasingly popular with the rise of smartphones and tablets. While audio is streaming, sound is delivered through a WiFi connection to an appropriate app on your smartphone or tablet. Unfortunately, this requires attendants to use their own device as a receiver, failing to reach the ADA’s requirement of equal access.

3. RF Systems

Requiring a receiver that you must borrow from the venue, RF systems are becoming less popular for more convenient and user-friendly listening systems. Utilizing radio frequencies, RF systems transmit sound to receivers and earbuds like a personal radio. Though the ADA Compatibility Mandate required RF systems to be upgraded in 2012, they are still drastically lacking in technology compared to other systems.

You Have A Right To Hear

Assistive listening systems are increasing the quality of life for the millions of users with hearing loss by fulfilling their right to hear. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, whether it be concert halls, transportation hubs, or places of worship, systems such as the Hearing Loop or WiFi are ensuring that hearing loss will not stop you from participating in the joyful activities of your daily life. Whether you wear hearing aids or are struggling with untreated hearing loss, it’s important to know your rights when it comes to hearing in public places.