hearing month#1: There is a difference between hearing and listening!

#2: Your hearing is part of your overall health. You make annual appointments to see your primary physician, eye doctor, and dentist – so why not treat your hearing the same way? Establishing a baseline with an initial hearing evaluation is an excellent place to start. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, physicians often refer patients to an audiologist because they are better educated in the fitting and adjustment of hearing aids. An audiologist is a hearing health professional who specializes in evaluation and rehabilitation of hearing loss.

#3: It’s your brain that hears, not your ears! If you’re like most people, you’re used to thinking of hearing as something that happens in your ears. What people often don’t think about is that hearing happens between the ears, in the hearing part of the brain. That’s where sound turns into information that has meaning. Your brain has to work hard to make this happen. (Oticon, September 2014, Introducing BrainHearing Technology)

#4: Hearing loss is sensory deprivation. If you don’t use it, you lose it! While most people know the brain shrinks with age, you may not know that shrinkage speeds up in those with hearing loss. According to research conducted by Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging, older adults with untreated hearing loss lost an average of a cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year compared to those with normal hearing. Cognitive decline can occur 41 percent faster in older adults with hearing problems.

Lin’s research is important since almost two-thirds of adults age 70 and older suffer from some form of hearing loss, yet many delay seeking treatment due to stigma. Read the full article here: Hearing Loss Linked to Memory Loss, Dementia – AARP

#5: The main goal of getting hearing aids is not to make everything louder. Hearing aids make speech clearer and easier to understand so you can enjoy conversation with less effort. When sound signals from your ears are compromised by hearing loss, your brain has to work even harder to fill in the gaps. This extra effort can take its toll. The role of hearing aids is to feed the brain the very best information possible, helping to ease the toll hearing loss takes.

#6: Using communication strategies with family and friends are still necessary when you wear hearing aids. It is important to be open about your hearing loss, so you and your communication partners can take the appropriate steps to ensure you understand what is being said. Taking these steps can help to avoid hard feelings, frustration, or worse. Below, The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) has some tips to make sure you have correctly understood what was said:

Request for rephrasing Please tell me in a different way….
Request for confirmation The T.V. in the living room is broken?
Request for specification Which T.V. is broken?
Request for specific constituent repetition The T.V. in the living room is what?
Request for repetition Please repeat what you said.

The full article, with a complete list of effective communication strategies, can be found here: ASHA – Living with Hearing Loss – Effective Communication

#7: When we get hearing aids, we actually retrain our brains. There is an adjustment period when you first begin to wear hearing aids. This is called the aural rehabilitation period. (See #3 on this list) It is your brain that hears, not your ears. Your audiologist will work with you throughout this process to help you get used to hearing better! It’s a process that will take time, as hearing loss is very individualized. Hearing aids are not like glasses. You don’t receive maximum benefit from the moment you put them on. You need to wear them every day, a minimum of 10 hours a day, to receive the most from your investment. Make them your new ears! Hearing aids can’t enhance your hearing by themselves. Have patience and be prepared to mentally work during this time as your brain adjusts.

#8: Children who may act out or appear to be “not listening”, may actually have an unidentified hearing loss. An audiologist can test a child’s hearing at any age. Some children as young as 8 weeks wear hearing aids!

#9: Are you a musician or do you love going to concerts? Protecting your hearing is easier than you think. Your audiologist can guide you to the best solution for your needs. We can make custom hearing protection, designed for your ears alone. There are several hearing protection options that will preserve your hearing, without affecting your ability to enjoy concerts, play instruments and sing. It is equally as important to protect your hearing when you are using loud power equipment and outdoor lawn equipment. Custom hearing protection is available! Our sense of hearing is a one-time gift; once it’s gone…it’s gone!

#10: Hearing is vital as we are a culture that relies heavily on oral communication. When we have hearing loss that goes untreated, studies have shown that, over time, hearing loss can lead to loneliness, isolation and depression. That’s because, if you were born with normal hearing, this sense is a big part of the way you communicate with your family, friends and co-workers. When that sense deteriorates, whether suddenly or gradually, it can cause anxiety and frustration. Research studies show those with untreated hearing loss have to work harder to hear, which makes communication difficult and uncomfortable to participate in social gatherings. Those who get treatment for their hearing loss enjoy a greater quality of life.

If you think you have a hearing loss, you probably do. Don’t delay getting help, the sooner treatment begins, the greater the benefits.

Please join us for “Celebrate the Sounds of Life: Hearing Loss and What You Need to Know” on Monday, May 9, from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the McClure Lobby Conference Room at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Click here for more information and to register. 

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