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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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How Hearing Loss Can Change a Child’s Brain

Did you know that approximately 1.4 babies out of every 1000 have hearing loss, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14.9% of children age 6 to 19 years have at least some hearing loss?  Whether it’s due to noise exposure, genetics and injury, or something else, early detection of hearing loss is critical.
Up until now, the focus has been on those children with deafness, but new research indicates that any level of hearing loss can affect a child’s brain and development.
The risk of hearing loss
Hearing loss in children can be a whole different ball game than hearing loss in adults. This is because children’s language and social development are so deeply rooted in hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been shown to impact social interaction and development, delay language and speech, and even leave children struggling academically. Early intervention is critical in avoiding these concerns.
But, do children with mild to moderate hearing loss face the same risks or just those with severe or profound hearing loss?
The research
New research led by Dr. Lorna Halliday, now at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, suggests that any level of hearing loss could lead to changes in how the brain processes sound. This, in turn, could pose developmental risks for the child.
The research team worked with 46 children diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss. An electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to measure their brain responses while they were listening to sounds. Dividing the children into two age groups (8-12 years old and 12-16 years old), researchers compared their results with those of children with normal hearing.
The results were not surprising. Those in the younger age group showed results similar to normal-hearing children their age, but those in the older group showed less response to sounds than those of normal-hearing children their age. The team repeated the test with the younger group several years later, finding consistent results. Their brain responses changed and were less than those of normal-hearing peers.
The team believes this is not due to a change in hearing loss but a change in how the brain works to hear sound with existing hearing loss.
“We know that children’s brains develop in response to exposure to sounds, so it should not be too surprising that even mild-to-moderate levels of hearing loss can lead to changes in the brain,” says Dr. Axelle Calcus, lead author of the paper, from PSL University, Paris. “However, this does suggest that we need to identify these problems at an earlier stage than is currently the case.”
The team believes that findings like these could help change how we diagnose children with hearing loss, and when hearing loss of any level is present, how we can better support them to foster strong language and social development.
If you believe your child has a hearing loss, contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation today.
 
 

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Have Hearing loss? Try This Home Technology

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.

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An Audiologist Could Save Your Life

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.

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The Importance of Child Hearing Screenings and Their Impact on Hearing Loss

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.

The Problem

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.

Study Methods

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.

Results

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.

Indications

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.

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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.