When Hearing Loss Happens...

Hearing loss can leave sufferers isolated and depressed. Here’s how to take control

STORY BY CHRIS WORTHY

For many seniors, the world is getting quieter. Hearing loss can leave sufferers isolated and depressed. For some, the loss creeps in barely noticed until someone else points it out.“Typically, it’s the family around them and the friends who notice it,” said Jennifer Waddell, owner, hearing aid specialist and certified tinnitus care provider at Sound Hearing Care. “Hearing loss can be gradual over time, so the patient may not notice.” Family and friends might notice that the TV is too loud or that the patient is avoiding restaurants and missing church and other activities. “It can be emotional and depressing,” Waddell said. “Alot of people struggle with depression and anxiety because of it.”

Some senior adults will retreat from activities as a result.  “It’s a downward spiral,” Waddell said. But many patients areconcerned about wearing hearing aids because of

the cost involved or because they fear the hearing aids won’t work.  The first step to health is seeing a hearing professional for an evaluation, Waddell said. That evaluation should include checking the ears for wax.  “If your canal is blocked, you won’t get sound in,” she said.Then, the patient should have hearing tests. These are noninvasive and easy to do. “If we find a medical issue, we then refer them to an ENT,” Waddell said.

Otherwise, they may need a hearing aid. Waddell said people can have normal hearing even as a senior adult. She said health concerns can reduce hearing, such as cardiovascular disease, smoking and diabetes, and those with diabetes are three times more likely to have hearing loss than patients without it.  Nicotine is an ototoxic substance, Waddell said, including cigarettes and vaping.  Some patients suffer hearing loss as a result of years of noise exposure, sometimes from heavy equipment or firearms.

“A lot of seniors back in the day didn’t wear hearing protection,” Waddell said.  Horror stories of buying hearing aids that don’t work can keep seniors from addressing their hearing loss.  “The thing you have to be aware of is that when you buy hearing aids, sometimes you are paying for branding, not technology,” Waddell said. “They are charging you for thename, not the product.” Waddell said there are just six major manufacturers that make most hearing aids.

“Pricing is going to be all across the board,” she said.  Waddell said the hearing professional’s programming of the hearing aids is critical.  “If they aren’t programmed correctly, it doesn’t matter what you buy,” she said.  For those who have not experienced hearing loss, Waddell said they should take steps to avoid it, including wearing hearing protections, controlling blood sugar and maintaining heart health.

“If you need hearing aids, the technology is amazing,” she said.  Today’s hearing aids can come with Bluetooth technology and a smart phone app to set the aid to the environment.  “Ninety-five percent of all hearing losses can now be handled,” Waddell said. “The longer you wait, the less benefit you have. It’s your brain that hears. You do permanent damage to your brain if you don’t deal with it.”

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