Hearing loss isn’t as benign or straightforward as we once thought it was. Not just a minor annoyance that you could choose to manage if you wanted to with a hearing aid.
No, hearing loss is a complex condition that can affect every aspect of our life from the way we communicate and our relationships to our total health and well-being. Study after study is finding that treating our hearing loss is no longer an option because untreated hearing loss can have devastating consequences.
New research is finding that it’s not just the cognitive decline and anxiety we should be aware of now, either. It’s something as simple as an increased risk of accidental injury.
Hearing loss and accidental injury
As experts realize the more significant impact of untreated hearing loss, they are digging into existing data as well as compiling new data through various studies to identify patterns related to hearing health. One of the most recent findings is linking hearing loss to an increased risk of accidental injury.
Analyzing data from the National Health Interview Survey gathered between 2007 and 2015, researchers determined that individuals who reported having “a lot of trouble” hearing were twice as likely to have an accidental injury as those who reported no trouble hearing. This fact was true both in work and leisure settings.
While more research is needed into exactly why this is the case, experts believe that the simple effects of sensory impairment may be behind it. This is concerning because accidental injuries are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in America, according to the CDC’s National Health Report.
Reducing your risk for accidental injury could be as easy as scheduling an annual hearing evaluation to determine whether or not you have a hearing loss. This simple step could even help protect you from more than just accidental injury.
The importance of treating hearing loss
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions, affecting an estimated one out of every five Americans and well over 450 million people around the world, yet it often goes untreated. As we learn more about the cost of untreated hearing loss, experts hope that the tide will change and the crucial role that hearing health plays in our lives will be taken more seriously.
While this study found that untreated hearing loss may increase the risk of accidental injury, this isn’t the only often unseen effect of untreated hearing loss. Others include:
Don’t let untreated hearing loss put you, your health and your well-being at risk. Whether it’s an accidental injury, falls, mental health or other concerns, you can take action now to reduce your risk.
Contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation and discuss options to treat hearing loss, such as hearing aids. This could be the most powerful choice you make for your health.
Have you heard of a hearing amplifier? Sometimes called a hearing enhancer or a personal sound amplifying product (PSAP), a hearing amplifier does just what its name suggests: it amplifies sound. While this may sound similar to what hearing aids do, they are different tools for different purposes.
First, let’s start with what hearing aids are and who might need them. Hearing aids are designed for people with hearing loss. They work by boosting or enhancing certain frequencies of sound in order to help the person better hear that particular frequency. This can, in turn, help the person better understand speech and other sounds.
Hearing aids are typically professionally fitted and finely tuned to each person’s unique needs. This is because each case of hearing loss is unique. Hearing aids are highly personal and can be a great tool for improving a person’s ability to hear sounds and communicate with others. When properly used, hearing aids can improve a person’s quality of life.
Now, let’s turn to hearing amplifiers. Hearing amplifiers are made for people with normal hearing. Unlike hearing aids, which enhance only certain frequencies, hearing amplifiers work by amplifying all sounds.
A hearing amplifier’s abilities can be useful in situations where the sound needs a boost to allow you to hear it better, such as while watching TV, while birdwatching, or while at the theater. Sound amplifiers can also be used in closed environments where the sound level needs a boost, such as at the cinema or in a restaurant. Some sound amplifiers can even be used to keep an “ear” out for babies or small children at home. You may want to use a hearing amplifier if you have normal hearing and would like to enhance the sound by simply making it louder.
Sound amplifiers are not made for people who are hard of hearing. Using a sound amplifier when you suffer from hearing loss will likely do nothing to improve your ability to hear or understand sounds. This is because the amplifier will boost the volume of all sounds, while most people with hearing loss have difficulty hearing specific frequencies. Furthermore, neglecting to properly treat hearing loss can lead to further deterioration of your hearing ability.
It may sometimes be difficult to tell whether you simply need the sound to be louder (as provided by a sound amplifier) or if you are experiencing hearing loss. The following are common signs of hearing loss:
- Difficulty hearing in crowded or noisy environments
- Constant need to increase the volume on the TV, radio, or music
- Difficulty understanding conversations
- A sensation of muffled hearing
- Frequently choosing to avoid social events and activities
- Spending more time trying to read lips
If you have noticed these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, hearing loss may be the cause. In these cases, it is important to receive high-quality care from a hearing professional. They will be able to evaluate your hearing ability and recommend the proper hearing device.
To learn more about the difference between hearing amplifiers and hearing aids, and to set up an appointment with our friendly hearing professional, we encourage you to contact our office today.
A hearing loss can have a profound impact on your life, your career, and your relationships. If you choose the correct one, a hearing aid can make a significant difference in your ability to communicate while enhancing your enjoyment of life. Knowing what goes into the design of hearing aids will help you choose the most appropriate device for your hearing needs. Regardless of the style of hearing aid you have, all hearing aids share three essential components:
- The hearing aid microphone picks up sounds and sends them to the amplifier. New technology distinguishes between speech and background noise, making it easier to understand a conversation.
- Converting sounds from the microphone into an electrical signal and then sending the message to the receiver is the function of the amplifier. Amplification power is dependent upon the severity of the user’s hearing loss.
- Power source. Batteries power the hearing device. Batteries may be either rechargeable or disposable, depending on the model.
These three components are in all hearing aids. Depending on the design and the severity of your hearing loss, a few other parts might be residing inside your hearing aid.
Buttons And Switches
Hearing aids that are of the receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) type come equipped with a button or a switch. A hearing healthcare professional programs the button or switch to perform different functions such as alternating between settings or increasing and decreasing volume. Make a point of knowing the purpose of your switch.
A hearing aid wire is typically thin and coated in plastic. The wire extends from the body of the hearing aid to the speaker, which resides in the ear. The transmission of power and signals takes place in the wire. Hearing aid wires feature conductor materials, shielding, and jacketing manufactured for custom hearing solutions.
Delivering the sound to the ear is the responsibility of the receiver, which is also known as the speaker. When the speaker receives an electrical signal from the amplifier, it converts it to sound. The speaker is inside the ear dome or earmold, depending on the severity of hearing loss and lifestyle.
A dome is a small piece of silicone that attaches to hearing aid tubing and fits deep in the ear canal. Domes come in an array of shapes and sizes to accommodate the unique anatomy of a person’s ear canal. A hearing healthcare professional can help you pick the appropriate size for a proper fit.
Earmolds are plastic or acrylic and fit inside your ear canal to form an acoustic seal for the electronic sound coming in. The fit and the shape of your earmold will depend on the model of hearing aid you are utilizing and the severity of your hearing loss. Because they provide the highest amount of amplification, earmolds are for those with severe to profound hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a severe health issue, so do not ignore it. If you suspect that you may have a hearing loss, schedule a hearing screening with a hearing healthcare professional. Swift acting will significantly enhance the quality of your life.
As technology and medical research continue to advance, more facets of your healthcare are becoming increasingly over the counter, whether that be medication, devices, or just medical advice. Treatment for hearing loss is no exception, with over the counter hearing aids becoming an imminent reality, invoking worry in many audiologists across the country. As hearing aids become more accessible over the counter, audiologists fear the impact on their profession and practice. This disruptive innovation is poised to achieve a new market foothold, becoming a more attractive option to new consumers who are looking for the most convenient and simple transition into hearing aids, taking business from traditional hearing aid manufacturers and audiologists who often bundle devices into their services. Though they seem convenient, the introduction of OTC hearing aids shows that despite intentions to increase accessibility and reduce costs, patients are not receiving the treatment they desperately need in exchange for ease.
Don’t Bypass Your Doctors Appointment Just Yet
According to the OTC Hearing Aid Act, the intention was to increase accessibility and affordability of devices, though OTC hearing aids have done little to achieve those goals. In fact, they hinder the ability of patients to get the information and proper assessments that they should have before finding the most effective hearing aid. OTC Hearing Aids utilize a business model designed to bypass diagnostic evaluations, hearing needs assessments, and audiologists all together in favor of self-identifying a device. Not only does this keep patients out of their doctor’s office, but also from receiving the medical advice they may need, ignoring the advocation by organizations such as the American Academy of Audiology for required medical evaluations for OTC hearing aids. Moreover, “receiving an OTC device is expected to be based on self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, not measured hearing capability that directly aligns with the definition provided by ASHA.”
As hearing loss can differ greatly from patient to patient, it’s critical that patients do not bypass professional medical advice. Herein lies the fear of audiologists, as numerous unofficial polls conducted via social media and trade publications have documented the anxiety had by medical professionals as OTC devices are positioned to impact not only their practice but their profession as a whole.
Changing Public Perception
To combat this imminent and disruptive technology, Audiologists must aim to change public perception about the importance of their profession and medical advice regarding hearing loss. ”The efforts of the profession should be focused not on a device, but rather on educating the public such that they recognize audiologists’ value and demand access to it.” says Dr. Sarah Sydlowski, Audiology Director of the Otolaryngology department at Cleveland Clinic, ”Take every opportunity to reinforce the value audiologists provide. Emphasize the importance of a hearing evaluation before deciding to use any hearing device. Help the public understand that an inappropriate hearing device can be as detrimental as no hearing device.” With proper advocation, audiologists can continue to give the critical information required for patients with hearing loss, ensuring that patients do not give up their doctors for convenience.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic. – Arthur C. Clarke (Author)
Our brains are the ultimate computer. They are always working and processing, anticipating and solving problems, running systems in the background while operating on the fly as we move through our lives. When it comes to hearing, the brain is just as crucial as the various parts of the ear.
What the brain can do, with the help of the ear, is to pick one voice out of a crowd and tune in to listen. So, what happens when hearing loss limits this advanced ability? Technology takes over.
While you may not often think about it, the way we can focus in on and listen to one voice in a larger, noisier crowd is pretty remarkable. Our brain quickly and seamlessly filters out others so we can hear the one. With hearing loss, this isn’t always possible. In fact, the difficulty so many with hearing loss face hearing in crowds or noisy settings is a problem so many hearing healthcare professionals and researchers have been trying to solve for years. With the newest technology, this problem could become a thing of the past.
While hearing aids have steadily become more powerful with numerous advanced features over the years, isolating voices in crowds has still proved an elusive problem to solve. That’s why recent research of an exciting new piece of hearing aid technology has those in the world of hearing health cautiously optimistic.
Still, in the early stages of development, the new AI-powered hearing aid is powered by the brain. By monitoring brain waves, the device can automatically boost the voice the wearer would like to hear.
“By creating a device that harnesses the power of the brain itself, we hope our work will lead to technological improvements that enable the hundreds of millions of hearing-impaired people worldwide to communicate just as easily as their friends and family do,” said Nima Mesgarani, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the paper’s senior author.
Using a speech-separation algorithm, the hearing aid can identify the voice on which the user wants to tune in. While previous versions were limited to just those voices that it recognized, this latest version, tested on volunteers epilepsy patients, can focus in on any voice in a crowd based on the brain waves and refined algorithm.
Hearing aids and hearing loss
Advances like this in hearing aid technology can mean more natural hearing for the millions of people diagnosed with hearing loss. This, in turn, could prevent millions more cases of associated conditions including depression, anxiety, social isolation and even cognitive decline. The possibilities are endless.
If you believe you or someone you care about have hearing loss, don’t wait for advanced hearing aid technology like this to take action. Contact our office to schedule an evaluation today. It’s vital that hearing loss is treated early to preserve your quality of life.