If you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss, especially if it’s a recent diagnosis, you may be wondering how it will change your day-to-day life. The good news is that as the number of people diagnosed with hearing loss has grown and technology has advanced, the options available to support those with hearing loss have grown. This means, with the right tools on hand, especially at home, navigating your day may be easier than ever.
Hearing loss becomes more common
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, an estimated 48 million Americans of all ages report trouble hearing. When experts break that down, it means:
- Almost 50% of people ages 75+
- Nearly 33% of people between ages 65-74
- Almost 15% of people between ages 45 and 64
- 8 million people between ages 18 and 44
That means millions of Americans, many with previously normal hearing, now diagnosed with hearing loss and living in a world that is designed for the hearing.
Thankfully, simple changes in the home can help those with hearing loss adapt and thrive.
Home technology for hearing loss
While there are numerous options now to support individuals with hearing loss, including advanced hearing aids, assistive listening devices and even apps for everything under the sun, tools like these are an important consideration for the home:
- Specialized alarm clocks – If you follow your hearing health care professional’s recommendations, you’ll remove and clean your hearing aids before bed, then leave them out and open to allow any built-up moisture to escape. That’s a smart strategy to maintain your hearing aid and hearing aid batteries, but if you need to hear an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, then what? Opt for a specialized alarm clock that uses light, a vibration of the bed or a watch on the wrist, extra loud sound or even a particularly strong smell to wake you up.
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for the hearing impaired – Similar to alarm clocks, these specialized detectors use alternative notifications to keep you safe. These include strobe light alerts, vibration, increased volume or varying tones. Many of these options can also be connected to in-home alert systems that notify you of emergencies such as severe weather as well as fire.
- Doorbells that connect – Doorbell technology has moved well beyond the simple old buzzers. That’s true for everyone, not just those with hearing loss. There are now plenty of WiFi-connected options that connect to other devices in the home. They can notify with an extra loud sound, lights and even screens around the house showing that someone is at the door or approaching your home. Prefer something that’s not so connected? Simple doorbells that flash or use higher volume are also available for those with hearing loss.
- Telephones – Whether it’s a traditional landline or your cellphone, consider options such a captioning phone or captioning app to help you maintain communication with hearing loss. Speech-to-text apps are another option. Many of today’s hearing aids also connect directly with phones via Bluetooth to make phone conversations more comfortable than ever.
Outfit your home to support your hearing loss with technology like this to make your everyday life easier.
If you have questions or believe you may need hearing aids to treat hearing loss, contact our office to schedule an appointment.
Healthcare is evolving. Holistic views of treating the whole person are gaining ground. The days of treating single isolated symptoms and health concerns without considering other systems of the body may soon be numbered.
A more holistic approach is now being explored by the Institute of Health Improvement (IHI) as a way to optimize the performance of our health system. That includes connecting interprofessional healthcare teams, including hearing healthcare providers, to provide optimal care to patients.
Improving health with team care
The Institute of Health Improvement is moving forward with an initiative to optimize healthcare in the United States. This approach is called the Quadruple Aim and includes four components:
- Improving the health of populations
- Enhancing the patient experience of care
- Reducing the per capita cost of health care
- Improving the work conditions of health care clinicians and staff
To do this, the IHI is exploring how best to connect health practitioners across disciplines.
Hearing healthcare providers on the team
There is no doubt that hearing is closely connected to so many other systems of the body. It has been linked to cardiovascular health, cognitive decline, diabetes, and moreover the years. In some cases, hearing loss is a symptom or early indicator of chronic disease, and sometimes a chronic disease is a cause of hearing loss. In other cases, hearing ability is found to be closely connected with acute health problems in one way or another. Either way, having a hearing healthcare professional on your healthcare team could prove invaluable when it comes to care and outcomes.
The Institute of Health Improvement began exploring just this solution in 2018 with a survey of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Audiology Advisory Council. A 20-question online survey was completed by 104 members of ASHA’s Advisory Councils focusing on interprofessional work and education. The survey found:
- Almost 70% of those surveyed had engaged in interprofessional activity within the past 18 months.
- Audiologists reported engaging in interprofessional practice more often than in interprofessional education.
- Audiologists most frequently reported serving as team members in interprofessional teams, working most frequently with otolaryngologists, nurses, social workers, and SLPs.
Those surveyed also shared the benefits of interprofessional team collaborations they had seen including:
- Consensus building across professions for difficult treatment decisions
- Coordinated care for patients
- Streamlined treatment planning for patients
The results underscore the importance of hearing healthcare professionals as part of an interdisciplinary team to provide comprehensive and effective care to patients.
Where we go from here
Healthcare is changing, and surveys like this help to confirm the value of switching to a more connected and collaborative approach to healthcare. Hearing healthcare professionals such as audiologists play a vital role in this care that is only now becoming truly appreciated. They are able to identify acute health concerns and chronic disease early thanks to routine hearing evaluations and examinations for complaints such as dizziness or ringing in the ears and refer patients to other members of their healthcare team for further examination and treatment.
As hearing is so connected to many systems of the body, so should hearing healthcare providers be closely connected to other healthcare providers to offer the best outcomes for their patients.
Hearing loss is the number one congenital disability in the United States. Whether the hearing loss is congenital or an acquired hearing loss, the consequences of hearing loss can be devastating if left untreated. Even a slight hearing loss can cause speech and language delays that are considered to be educationally significant. These children can have emotional difficulties, perform poorly in school and can suffer from personal-social maladjustments. A child hearing screening is an essential tool in dealing with the loss of hearing. The school hearing screening’s impact on hearing loss is the subject of a new study.
Children in North Carolina receive screenings only before the beginning of public school. This practice goes against the recommendations of several organizations guidelines that suggest testing throughout multiple grades. Because of this, hearing loss may go untreated in many children. Because of the potential negative impact of hearing loss on auditory learning and communication, researchers are looking at the effects that screening procedures have on outcomes.
1.181 children in grades kindergarten through ninth grade received a screening at a charter school during the fall of 2016. Two years after this, 862 children in grades kindergarten through eighth grade underwent testing to replicate the previous study findings and to collect additional data if possible. Two hearing healthcare professionals, two speech-language pathologists, and a large group of graduate students took part. The protocol for the screening includes:
- All children in the study receive a screening at 1, 2, 4, and 6 kHz at 20 dB HL with a minimum of two stimuli before recording a response or no response to the stimuli.
- The children who fail at least one frequency receive rescreening at 20 dB as a check for reliability. The examiners remove the headphones and reinstruct the child.
- Any failure to respond at one or more frequencies in either ear is a failure at 25 dB HL.
- A rescreening of children within three weeks by a clinician who is not familiar with the initial results will need scheduling and a referral for a diagnostic evaluation if they do not pass the rescreening is also a possibility.
- A hearing healthcare professional will administer otoscopy and tympanometry on all children who fail the initial screening.
According to the conclusions of the study, a comparable number of children failed the screenings for pure tone in 2016 and 2018. This finding suggests that the results are replicable. All of the children failing the rescreening were part of distribution across grades with the majority of failures concentrated in third grade in 2016 and fifth grade in 2018. The otoscopy and tympanometry findings were abnormal in four percent of the children in the 2016 screening and three percent in the 2018 testing. Those students passing the pure tone rescreening at 25 dB received a referral for medical intervention. The results indicate that the screening criterion increases the failure rate of the initial screening.
The study indicates that a school-wide hearing screening can identify more children with potential hearing loss. More research should take place to recommend universal screening criteria. Although the authors recommend diagnostic testing following a screening, the study indicates that parents are not prone to follow up even when the testing is free. These and other barriers to compliance must receive exposure.