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Fri, May 1, 2009
Hearing Keeps Us Connected
The awareness about the importance of hearing is becoming a key component in making sound health choices. Hearing loss currently affects more than 31.5 million Americans today: that is around 10% of the population. Although hearing problems are commonly associated with the normal aging process, more than half of all hearing-impaired persons are younger that 65. With the increased use of personal music players and earbuds, loud workplaces, and loud recreational equipment, the number of Americans experiencing hearing loss at a younger age is growing.

Since most people consider hearing loss a condition that is simply associated with aging, they may not know how to recognize the condition or what is available to treat the condition. Often times people are unaware of how important hearing is to their quality of life and how the untreated hearing loss can impact that same quality of life.

According to Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D. of the Better Hearing Institute, people with hearing loss delay a decision to get hearing help because they are unaware of the fact that receiving early treatment for hearing loss has the potential to literally transform their lives.1 Hearing loss treatment was shown to improve among other things:
  • Communication in relationships
  • Emotional stability
  • Sense of control over life events
  • Perception of mental functioning
  • Group social participation
  • Physical health
  • Earning power

One of the first things to do if a hearing loss is suspected is to get evaluated by a specialist. An audiologist is a professional who specializes in evaluating and treating people with hearing loss. Audiologists hold masters or doctorate degrees from accredited universities with special training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and non-medical treatment of hearing disorders.

Audiologists can see patients of all ages—newborns, infants, babies, toddlers, children, teens, adults, and the elderly. Some specialize in specific populations. They conduct a variety of tests to determine the exact nature of an individual’s hearing problem and present a variety of treatment options to patients with hearing impairment. Audiologists refer patients to physicians when the hearing problem needs medical or surgical intervention.2

If a hearing loss is identified, the audiologist will review the amount and nature of the hearing loss and offer available treatments and recommendations. Of course, one of those recommendations would be assistance through the use of hearing aids. Hearing aid technology has changed dramatically throughout the years.

Most hearing aids today are digital. Digital hearing aids have been commercially available since 1996. If a hearing aid is said to be digital it usually means that it is 100% digital, basically like a personal computer. 100% digital hearing aids can process sound at millions of calculations per second, which allows the audiologist to be able to control sound quality and loudness of soft, comfortable, and loud sounds. It allows the hearing aids to be customized for each individual’s hearing needs. All hearing aids amplify, but digital hearing aids can be built to meet those hearing needs and improve communication abilities.

There are many myths of hearing aid use. One of the myths is that hearing aids will make a person look older and handicapped. Oftentimes, the loss of hearing is more noticeable than the hearing aids themselves. Hearing aid manufacturers are well aware of the cosmetic issue of hearing aid use. Today, hearing aids are becoming very small and cosmetically appealing, sometimes being so small that others are not even aware of them.

Another myth is that they amplify everything and are too noisy. Because of the digital technology, hearing aids now will automatically adjust in background noise environments; reduce annoying constant, static noise while still allowing speech to be heard comfortably; and cancel that annoying whistling feedback that was always heard by others.

Not only is the technology available to improve hearing with the use of hearing aids, but what is now available is the ability to connect the hearing devices with outside audio devices wirelessly. The hearing devices can now be automatically streamed to cell phones. At the press of a button the cell phone can be answered, channeled directly to both of your hearing aids.

The signal from your television, MP3 player or personal computer can now be transmitted directly to the hearing devices. The world of today’s hearing aids are now part of today’s lifestyle technology. By using the hearing technology of today, one can make improved health choices and therefore improve the quality of life.

Footnotes:

References

1 Better Hearing Institute, www.betterhearing.org

2 American Academy of Audiology www.audiology.org

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