Hearing Aid use can Slow Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

It should be common sense that untreated hearing loss and the associated isolation would exacerbate cognitive decline, but a study was completed on behalf of the SENSE‐Cog WP1 group and reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol. 66, Issue 6, June 2018 provides backup data. The conclusion: “Hearing aids may have a mitigating effect on trajectories of cognitive decline in later life. Providing hearing aids or other rehabilitative services for hearing impairment much earlier in the course of hearing impairment may stem the worldwide rise of dementia.”

Note that it also says that addressing this earlier provides the best effect. Just another reason proper hearing health care is important to your quality of life. Don’t forget that changes in your hearing can also be indicators of other issues. As your Audiologist, I can help with these issues, and if necessary, direct you to other health care professionals with advanced skills in these areas.

Hearing Aid Finder

One of the cool things things about today’s hearing aids is all the new connected technology. I’ve talked about the benefits of connecting your hearing aids to your phone here before, but did you know that you can find your lost hearing aids with a phone app? Here’s a story from a hearing aid user that lost his hearing aids at a football game and ended up finding them after sorting through a dumpster. That’s dedication! He used the hearing aid finder app to pinpoint the bag each hearing aid was in! (Find the story here.) Pretty cool stuff!

Check out the Resound site here to see some of the other interesting things you can do with the new technology.

Can Hearing Loss Ruin Your Marriage?

I ran across an interesting article on helpingmehear.com. I thought it was worth sharing. Here’s an excerpt:

“Statistics show that there is a fourfold increase in the divorce rate of couples where one partner has severe hearing loss, as compared to couples where there is no loss or only mild hearing loss. But even mild hearing loss can make you miss or confuse sounds so that you end up not fully hearing what your partner just said. This missed conversation can eventually lead you to withdraw from interactions rather than deal with the frustration. That leads to an overall decline in your quality of life, and it can destroy your marriage.”

You can find the entire article here.

So many times, it’s the spouse that prompts a visit for a hearing test. While I joke about “spousal hearing loss” being the first thing to happen, it’s true that your spouse may often be the first one to notice the problem and is often the one most affected by it. If you find yourself asking your spouse to repeat themselves or just flat don’t hear what they are saying, come see me! Odds are I can help with that.

 

How do I explain this differently???

I had a deer hunter in the office the other day. We did a hearing test. I showed him his audiogram with its peaks and valleys.There’s a strong likelihood that his hearing loss is due to his hunting hobby. Shotgun blasts next to unprotected ears are not recommended. We discussed this. We discussed hearing protection.

He purchased new hearing aids. He was thrilled with the results and then commented, “I bet I’ll be able to hear the deer rustling through the leaves again with these! Can’t wait until deer season to try them out!”

Ugh! How do I explain it differently? Having a hearing loss doesn’t make you immune to additional loss! That is unless you have pushed it to where you’re completely deaf…

Like the guy at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wearing his hearing aids, there are times I’ll counsel you against wearing hearing aids too.

IMS Observations

My husband, Kevin, was at an Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) event the other day and I’ve trained (educated) him to look for hearing aids and hearing protection. Ha! He said there were multiple places where you could get ear plugs and most of them included some kind of marketing connection.  Hmmmm… something for me to think about.

Hearing Aids at IMS? Not during a race!!!

He snapped a picture of the gentleman to the right, watching a race with his hearing aids on.Yeah, this is an example of one of those few times I recommend NOT wearing your hearing aid!!! Even with an existing hearing loss, you should be wearing ear protection. You could be damaging ranges of hearing where you were previously adequate.

But then he also saw this cute “Pit Crew”. He spoke to their mother before taking the picture. They got recommendations from their audiologist for the proper headphones for this application. The set the baby on the left is wearing is a hand-me-down from her older sister, so they’re old hands at this. Getting used to them at a young age not only helps make them acceptable, but also starts a life-time habit of hearing protection. Will this prevent them from ever wearing hearing aids? That’s hard to say since there are so many potential causes including just advanced age, but it definitely gives them a leg up on others.

Kevin is becoming my #1 salesperson. He actually ran into someone else from Plymouth there and in the conversation on hearing conservation, he found out that he was a hunter and had been stymied trying to find fitted hearing protection for gun use. I can do that! Kevin gave him my card, so I’m looking forward to meeting this gentleman. I’m sure I can make his situation better.

Economical Hearing Options

Steve Martin is working on a new hearing aid prototype. They’re not as unobtrusive as the new behind the ear aids I sell, but it does target that low cost market of people who don’t think looks matter and aren’t concerned with the latest technology.

Celebrity endorsements can make all the difference. Just look at the success of the George Foreman Grille. You don’t necessarily need to have a background in the tech you decide to create to be successful.

I tend to agree with Josh to the left here though. Steve’s old friend Garrett Morris and Chevy Chase had this handled years ago with “News for the Hard of Hearing”. There’s no reason to be concerned about others in the room…

If by chance you aren’t interested in going old school and want to consider some of the latest technology. Give me a call. I’m not as funny as these guys, but I bet I can help you hear better.

Hearing Loss Affects Friends and Family

Resound.com has an excellent page on how hearing loss affects your friends and family. You can find it here.

A quote from the website that I witness almost daily is, “The older we get, the more likely we are to experience a hearing loss. In fact, more than 5% of the world’s population experience some degree of hearing loss. Oddly enough, the person with hearing loss is often the last one to realize. This why I try and ask new patients to bring friends or family along to their visits. This provides positive reinforcement and outside validation that the hearing aids are making a difference… (Some people don’t trust their own ears!)

There is a link within the Friends and Family page to another page discussing smart hearing. More and more people are telling me how impressed they are with the new technologies that link their hearing aids to their electronics, such as smart phones and smart watches. As I previously discussed here, smart apps, Multi Mics and TV streamers can further enhances the advantages of adding hearing aids to your life.

Hearing aids are much smarter than they used to be. Smart technology can allow the aids to change between pre-programmed settings on their own, adapting to the situation at hand. Some clients choose upgrades just because they want their hearing aid experience to be completely hands free.

Check out the page at Resound.com. Please give me a call with questions. I currently use some of the smart technology in my personal life so I can give you the scoop on how it works!

Smart phone image borrowed from Resound.com

Wireless Technology for Hearing Aids

I had a long time client come in to purchase new hearing aids this week. This was his first experience with the new wireless technology. He went from skeptical to blown away when I showed him how to link his hearing aids to his iPhone through the Native Hearing Aid app. He was particularly impressed when I called his phone from the other room and the conversation streamed directly through his hearing aids!

The link can do a lot of things. (See the screen capture from my phone on the right.) It can allow you to adjust your volume on each aid or switch between programs. It can allow you to use your phone as a microphone (Live Listen) in noisy situations. (It doesn’t do as well as the dedicated Multi Mic, but it can definitely help.) It shows you your battery life on each aid. Very cool stuff. If you use additional accessories with your aids, such as the Multi Mic or the TV Streamer, they can be controlled here as well.

There are also other free apps that you can download onto your iPhone to get more control of the hearing aid features, such as the ReSound Smart app which, among other things, can help you find your lost hearing aids; and the ReSound Relief app which is an app to help manage your tinnitus.

The technology continues to advance. I’ll be attending the American Academy of Audiology conference (The National Convention is in Indianapolis this year! Yea!) where I’ll get to see and experience some of the cutting edge technologies that will be coming out in next couple of years. Make an appointment to see me. I’d love to tell you about the latest technology advances.

If they can make self-driving cars…

I had a patient come in the other day and ask me, “If they can make self-driving cars, why can’t they perfect hearing aids?” 

<sigh> Well, first, this, from QZ.com regarding Tesla’s autopilot cars:

The NHSTA’s findings were generally favorable to Tesla’s testing procedures, attention to safety measures, and success reducing the number of traffic incidents involving Tesla vehicles. Investigators analyzing Tesla’s mileage and airbag deployment data from 2014 to 2016 for vehicles outfitted with Autopilot software found crash rates dropped by about 40% in that time frame. After the installation of autosteer technology in the Autopilot package, crash rates dropped from 1.3 per million miles in 2014 to 0.8 in 2016—significantly lower than the US average of 1.85 crashes per million miles.

Crashed Tesla S picture from QZ.com article quoted above

No doubt a 40% drop in accident rates is wonderful, but it’s not 100%. I would say they haven’t perfected  the self-driving car yet. And neither have they perfected hearing aids… or are they likely to do so…

Hearing loss can be attributed to a wide gamut of causes ranging from congenital to causal. There are times that there are more than one issue occurring simultaneously. A hearing aid is an instrument to compensate for these issues. It is not a cure for the underlying problem. We’ll have to wait for biomedical scientists may find a way to repair the underlying problems, but for now hearing aids are equivalent to a crutch. But what an ever-improving crutch they are! The advances in recent years are phenomenal.

If you’re a long time user, you may remember what hearing aids used to be. Possibly you remember the hearing aids your grandparents wore. The amount of technology in each hearing aid has increased exponentially while simultaneously the size of the hearing aid has decreased to where they are light, comfortable and nearly invisible… sometimes even to me and trust me, I’m always looking at people’s ears! Ha!

That said, it doesn’t mean the advances are through. And there’s the possibility that future advances might make hearing aids a choice of enhancement for people with normal hearing. Sunglasses have become a fashion statement. Will hearing aids someday reach that same level of acceptance? Many of the hearing aids I sell today offer features such as phone connectivity, streaming music and streaming TV. I can link to a Multi Mic and enhance a hearing aid user’s ability to hear at parties, restaurants and presentations. Again, quoting Quartz, a company called Doppler Labs is working on computerized earbuds that can live translate languages. Star Trek’s Universal Translator is one step closer to reality! Will we someday be wearing the equivalent of Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home to answer all our questions right in our ears? That future may not be that far off. At that point, having the latest and greatest hearing aid might be something to brag about!

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