Don’t Put Off Dealing with Hearing Loss


hearing aid can helpThink of how many times you have witnessed this embarrassing scenario: a friend with impaired hearing makes an inappropriate remark because they misheard something in a conversation and then has to bear the brunt of everyone’s laughter. Maybe it has even happened to you or a loved one.

Why miss an “I love you,” in the morning because your back is turned or frustrate friends and family because you have to ask them to repeat what they said several times? If hearing loss has been gradual over time, it is easy to be in denial about diminished hearing or hearing impairment. If you are a Baby Boomer or a Senior and you think people are always mumbling, you are not alone! WebMd estimates that 30% of Americans ages of 65 to 74 have suffered some sort of hearing loss. By 75 and older, 48% of men and 37% of women experience hearing impairment. So why is it that only 2% of those who could benefit from a hearing aid will actually wear one?

Loss of hearing can be caused by many physical conditions such as illnesses, injury, heredity, age, and by excessive exposure to loud sound or noise on the job. Noise-induced hearing loss which is very common, comes from listening to loud music, radio or TV, etc. Your ear is like any other body part, aging and overuse can damage it. Generally, Seniors have a combination of both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss.

Generally, hearing loss is categorized as mild, moderate, severe, Hearing impairedor profound. An individual with a moderate hearing loss may be able to hear sound, but have difficulty distinguishing specific speech patterns in a conversation. As we age, background noise often makes it difficult to hear a person. Think of a noisy restaurant at the height of the dinner hour on a Saturday night. Many people find it difficult to follow a conversation when two or more people talk at the same time. Some folks pretend to follow every word of a conversation, nodding or laughing but hoping nobody asks them a question. Often the ability to hear high-pitched sounds gradually decreases with age and there is difficulty hearing high-pitched consonants like “S” or the voices of women and children.

The ways in which aging affects the inner ear causing hearing impairment include:

  •      ~  Changes in the structure of the inner ear
  •      ~  Changes in blood flow to the ear
  •      ~  Impairment in the nerves responsible for hearing
  •      ~  Changes in the way the brain processes speech and sound
  •      ~  Damage to the tiny hairs in the ear that are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain

High blood pressure and diabetes contribute to hearing loss. Medications that are toxic to the sensory cells in your ears, such as chemotherapy drugs, can also cause hearing loss.

The good news is there are remedies to help you hear well again. Start with a visit to a health care provider like an otolaryngologist, audiologist or a hearing aid specialist. After an exam and a few tests, your options might include:

     ~  Hearing aids: Electronic instruments worn in or behind your ear which make sounds louder. Hearing aids can be expensive and insurance does not cover the expense.

     ~  Cochlear implants: Tiny electronic devices surgically implanted in the inner ear that help provide a sense of sound to people who are profoundly deaf or hard-of-hearing.

     ~  Assistive listening devices: These are telephone and cell phone amplifying devices, smart phone or tablet “apps,” and closed-circuit systems in theaters and auditoriums or in places of worship.

Of course, we all know someone who is stubborn and will not wear a hearing aid (ourselves maybe?) because they feel there is a stigma attached to it. But how frustrating is it to have to read lips all day long or be able to communicate only by text or email? For those that cannot afford to buy hearing aids as they are not covered by insurance or Medicare, there is financial assistance available at these links:

 ~ AARP has several resources listed including Sertoma, SHARP, and Starkey Hearing Foundation: http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-05-2011/paying-for-hearing-aids.html

    ~  Audient: Program (www.audientalliance.org or 866-956-5400) helps with the purchase of digital hearing aids at reduced prices, but to be eligible, your income must be below $27,075 for a single or $36,425 for couples.

     ~  Hearing Loss Association: http://hearingloss.org/

     ~  Better Hearing Institute: http://www.betterhearing.org/

    ~  National Institute on Deafness:  http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/  or  (800) 241-1044 has information on groups offering financial assistance for hearing aids.

Please remember that if you have a Medical FSA (flexible spending account) or HSA (health saving account) the cost of a hearing aid and batteries is considered a reimbursable expense.

CONTACT US: Don’t let hearing loss slow down your active lifestyle. Regal can assist whether you need help in getting yourself or an elderly family member to the ear doctor and provide daily care for those who might also be physically or cognitively impaired as well. For more information, please contact Ferial Andre, RN, CCM, CDP, at 561-499-8382 or ferialandre@regalcares.com.

This article is not intended as medical or financial advice.