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Why More People Should Be Wearing Hearing Aids (And Why They Choose Not To)

Hearing aid technology has seen miraculous advancements since their bulky predecessors of the 1970s, with new devices performing more like supercomputers than listening devices. Utilizing artificial intelligence, smartphone capability, and even reading your brain activity, some hearing aids are truly out of this world, helping millions across the globe bring sound back into their lives. Though the technology is impressive, studies continue to show that many choose to forgo hearing aids altogether, even when they can directly benefit. Whether you have obvious hearing loss or still aren’t sure, health experts are indicating that more Americans should be wearing hearing aids.

Hearing Loss is Extremely Common

Whether it is profound or mild, many Americans have hearing loss; 48 million in fact! Hearing loss is not an adult-only problem either, as every 2 to 3 children out of 1000 are born with a detectable level of hearing loss. Unfortunately, the estimates continue to grow. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 900 million people may suffer from hearing loss by 2050 across the globe. This is an alarming statistic, as hearing loss comes with many challenges, risks, and quality of life issues for those affected. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to increased risk of dementia, accidental falls, depression, and hospitalizations, making this common impairment a public health concern.

Why Some Decide Against Hearing Aids

Though technology and treatment options have become more advanced, a big percentage of hearing loss cases still go untreated. Various surveys have found that many struggling with hearing loss will wait years before purchasing hearing aids even though their hearing loss is known, some as long as 15 years! Why is this? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer.
Research indicates that stigma plays a large role in the decision-making process of whether to wear hearing aids. A 2009 study published by Dr. Margaret Wallhagen of the University of California San Francisco found that many patients associated hearing loss with aging or being handicapped. “Some people feared that wearing a hearing aid would make them appear unattractive.” explains Dr. Wallhagen, “They worried about the technology drawing attention to their ears and emphasizing their hearing loss.”
Cost is another worry for many. Though most indicate satisfaction with their device after purchasing, many patients believe they may not be worth the price before making the commitment.

What Experts Are Saying

Using hearing aids has been proven to minimize the risks involved with hearing loss and can truly improve the lives of patients. “Instead of worrying about ‘looking old,’ realize that hearing aids are a gift for you, your family, your friends, and everyone else you interact with,” says Dr. Steven Rauch, an otologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear, “They make everyone’s lives better.”
If you are struggling with hearing loss and have concerns, speak to a hearing health professional to learn about affordable and effective treatment options. Hearing aids will not only protect your health in the long term but will allow you to hear the things that matter to you today.

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Newest American Girl Doll Doesn’t Let Hearing Loss Hold Her Back

Growing up, it can be a very special thing to find a toy that you relate to. That special toy that speaks to who you are. This can be especially true with dolls.
American Girl has long created dolls that reflect the children by whom they are loved. With stories, accessories, clothes, furniture and even physical features that speak to kids and parents alike. American Girl’s newest doll is doing it again, this time with kids with hearing loss in mind.
American Girl dolls
If you have kids in your life, chances are you’ve heard of the company American Girl. The company’s dolls are often a popular choice with backstories that help turn the dolls into almost living and breathing girls and so many options to customize the dolls that each one can become entirely unique. They are so popular that they even have entire stores across the country offering doll designs, salons, doll makeovers, dining and more.
It’s not hard to find a doll that’s seemingly made just for you. Joss Kendrick, the newest addition to the American Girl line, is making that especially true for kids with hearing loss.
Meet Joss Kendrick
In a recent announcement, American Girl introduced Joss Kendrick as the 2020 Girl of the Year. According to the announcement, Joss is “a fierce athlete born with hearing loss and a passion for surfing and competitive cheer.” While American Girl has long offered hearing aids as an accessory for their dolls, Joss is the first doll to include hearing loss as part of her story and identity.
American Girl did not take the creation of this newest character lightly. To create Joss, they teamed up with several experts including:

  • Crystal DaSilva—Women’s Deaf Shortboard champion and winner of national and world titles
  • Sara Jo Moen & Julie Peterson—Owners of Fury Athletics in Madison, WI, a training gym for competitive cheer teams
  • Sharon Pajka, Ph.D.—Professor of English at Gallaudet University and a specialist in portrayals of deaf characters in adolescent literature
  • Jennifer Richardson, Au.D.—Educational audiologist and founder of Hearing Milestones Foundation
  • Bianca Valenti—Professional big wave surfer and co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing

This inspirational new doll, the company believes, will help demonstrate to kids the importance of trying new things and going beyond stereotypes, among other things.
To help bring it all to life, the company is also working with 17-year-old surfer Caroline Marks, who is currently preparing to be part of the first-ever U.S. Women’s Olympic surfing team next summer, on the launch of Joss.
“American Girl has a rich legacy of creating timeless characters who encourage girls to reach for new heights and discover who they’re meant to be,” said Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl. “We’re proud to welcome Joss Kendrick, whose stories are sure to instill confidence and character in girls who are learning to think about the possibilities in their own lives. Working with Olympic hopeful surfer Caroline Marks adds real-world inspiration about what can happen when you go ‘all in’ on your dreams.”
This newest doll from American Girl is a welcome addition to the line for families with hearing loss, bringing to life a child who doesn’t let hearing impairment hold her back in any way.

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Is the Media’s Portrayal of Hearing Loss Accurate?

“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”
Tom Stoppard
Every day we are bombarded with information from the media. World events, politics, human interest stories and more flood our newspapers, televisions, radios, Internet browsers and email boxes. The media tells the stories of the day, and it’s hard to argue that they are top influencers in this day and age.
One of the stories the media has begun to tell more and more often is that of hearing loss. With an estimated 48 million Americans of all ages now reporting trouble hearing, it is a topic that is becoming more and more relevant to audiences. But, is the media’s portrayal of hearing loss accurate?
Researchers recently dug in to find the answer, at least in print media, studying how the media portrays hearing loss. The findings offered insight into how that portrayal affects people with hearing loss and their decisions about their hearing health.  It also highlighted what the information could mean for hearing healthcare providers as they adapt to serve an ever-growing and more educated group of patients better.
Hearing loss in the media
There is no question that the media educates and influences us every day through their stories, but what does that look like when we’re talking about hearing loss and hearing aids?
In a recent study out of Lamar University in Texas, researchers looked at the themes in how newspapers portrayed hearing loss and hearing aids. The team focused on U.S. publications between 1990 and 2017 and how topics around hearing health changed over time.
Researchers found that overall, newspapers “provide a wide and realistic portrayal of hearing loss and hearing aids.” Household name publications such as The Washington Post, U.S. Federal News Service, the Chicago Tribune, Targeted News Service, and the U.S. Federal News Service led the pack on the total number of articles on hearing loss and hearing aids. Several associated topics that came up frequently in the more recent reporting such as “cognitive hearing science” and “signal processing,” surprised the team.
Researchers also noted that between the years of 1990 and 2017, the number of articles on these topics increased. Not surprising considering the rising number of people diagnosed with hearing loss eager for more information.
The implications
These findings aren’t just interesting to consider. They offer hearing healthcare providers valuable information on what consumers with hearing loss may be looking for.  The results can help guide these providers on how to better serve these individuals to diagnose and treat their hearing loss.
Without a doubt, providers have an opportunity to educate people on hearing loss, picking up the conversation where media leaves off. This conversation includes in-depth and usable information on what hearing loss is, how to manage it and the importance of treating it for overall health.
If you believe you have hearing loss and are looking for more information, contact our office to schedule an appointment. We can help you diagnose and treat your hearing loss, discuss hearing aid options and answer your questions.

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A Holistic Approach To The Management Of Hearing Loss

holistic approach to hearing loss

Holistic medicine is an approach to health treatment that emphasizes cooperative relationships. It is the practice of medicine that addresses the wants of the whole person including physical, nutritional, environmental, social, spiritual, and lifestyle changes. This approach to health treatment includes the use of drugs and surgery if needed, and focuses on education for balance and well being. Now, hearing healthcare professionals are using a multi-step process to improve treatment outcomes for hearing loss patients. The transition is placing hearing health as part of whole-body health.

Evaluation

Evaluation is the first step in the holistic approach to hearing loss treatment. Hearing healthcare professionals identify the presence of hearing loss and if present, determine if the damage is due to a sensorineural impairment. The inner ear is susceptible to numerous chronic diseases, and as a specialist in this area, the hearing healthcare professional can assist in the detection and possible treatment of chronic diseases.

Case History

A review of the patient’s case history is essential for identifying the presence of chronic diseases. Chronic diseases often have multiple and overlapping pathophysiology so a method of identification of these diseases should be a part of a medical history form for patients of hearing healthcare professionals.

Hearing Loss Comorbidities

At this step, the professional will determine if both a chronic hearing loss and another chronic condition are co-existing. If this is the case, then comorbidity, the presence of two or more chronic conditions simultaneously exists. Poor health outcomes increased healthcare costs, and highly complex clinical management are part of treating comorbidities. This interaction between the two illnesses affects the manner of treatment and prognosis.

Odds Ratio

At this point, the hearing healthcare professional determines if the odds ratio of chronic disease is increasing. This increase may indicate associated pathology. Vascular diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and chronic kidney disease as well as neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease are known to elevate odds ratios.

Self-Evaluation

Self-evaluation is a time for hearing healthcare professionals to assess readiness to attempt patient co-management of the patient’s diseases. The practitioner must decide if they wish to be involved in the sharing of information with other providers to improve the patient’s outcome. This access allows the hearing healthcare professional to provide awareness regarding the interactions with hearing and balance disorders.

Team Management

This phase is communication that works toward team management of comorbid chronic health conditions. These interactions usually involve the patient’s primary care physician. A hearing healthcare professional can add a clear insight to a healthcare team for a few reasons:

  • The hearing healthcare professional is the only member of the treatment team who can assess inner ear function.
  • Hearing healthcare professionals are the sole members who can provide treatment for sensorineural hearing loss.
  • The hearing healthcare professional can notify the other health care professionals of hearing disorders.

The future of hearing health is gearing up for enhancement through the collaboration of hearing healthcare professionals with other medical specialties.