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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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Understanding Hearing Loss With Virtual Reality

Understanding hearing loss with virtual reality

Virtual worlds that people live in have long been a product of Hollywood. Science fiction films depicting people who spend their lives working and playing in digital environments are great entertainment. Video games are now able to put gamers into fantastic worlds to interact with other players. Now, thanks to technology, we are getting closer to making virtual reality a reality. Virtual technology is playing a role in helping people function in the world in which they live. How is this new technological world going to affect people with hearing loss?

Virtual Technology For Everyone

The people who create these virtual worlds are including those who are hearing impaired. Because virtual reality includes sound and sight, real-time speech captions allow hearing-impaired users to interact with others in a virtual environment. Developers of this technology are also working with the sense of touch and the use of vibrations to allow people with hearing loss to enjoy the full benefits of the multi-sensory experience that is virtual reality. There are even special gloves that mimic the movements of sign language as well as virtual sign language interpreters.

Virtual Reality And Hearing Loss Research

Virtual reality may benefit hearing loss research. Researchers at the Boys Town National Research Hospital are studying hearing loss and its impact on children in school. Researching in a real classroom does not allow experimental control, so the investigators are using virtual reality. The virtual class immerses students in a real classroom setting without making them feel uncomfortable. The result is accurate testing of the students hearing in noisy situations.

Experiencing Hearing Loss As A Child

The isolation that accompanies hearing loss is difficult to comprehend. However, virtual reality is now making it possible to experience life as a child with a hearing problem. The project intends to simulate what the world sounds like to a child with and without hearing aids. The virtual reality simulation begins on the playground, where the user experiences muffled environmental sounds. The user then moves to the classroom where a teacher asks a question that can’t be understood.

Better Understanding Through Virtual Simulation

The goal is to support parents in the understanding of their child’s hearing loss and to realize better the importance of early intervention for hearing loss. The group hopes that the simulator will find use with other schools and government agencies. Virtual reality allows the researchers to have a level of experimental control that is not possible in a clinical environment. The research helps to identify why children with mild hearing loss react the way they do in noisy environments and hopefully help the team understand what accommodations will benefit their learning environment.

Simulating A Better Future For Children With Hearing Loss

Virtual reality technology is impacting the way educators view their strategies for educating children with hearing loss. The researchers believe that this technology will go beyond simulating hearing research and include balance and visual studies in the years to come. Virtual reality is simulating a bright future for those who are hearing impaired.