Newsletter - April/May 2012

Download a pdf of this newsletter

State of Hearing

Aarp and asha (American Speech and Hearing Association) partnered in a
recent poll of 2232 individuals over the age of fifty. The focuses of the poll were the needs (met/unmet), attitudes toward and aids/ barriers for hearing health in this age group. There were many interesting findings.

  • 76% stated that hearing health was very important to the quality of life, yet 47% did not seek assistance for hearing issues.
  • A mere 43% had hearing testing within the last five years.
  • 68% felt that hearing health did not receive enough attention
  • 44% felt hearing issues had an impact on relationships
  • More would talk to their primary care physician rather than discuss hearing issues with family
  • The principal reason for not seeking help for hearing loss was a perception that their hearing loss was not "severe enough"
  • 70% Would seek treatment if they felt their hearing loss was affecting their relationships
  • 75% stated they would seek a highly trained provider if they sought help
  • 65% stated they would seek assistance, if they felt they could afford to do so.

So, if you feel you have a hearing problem, you should discuss this with your family or primary care physician. In the least, you should have your hearing tested. This will allow you to determine what should be considered to help you hear better. Hearing aids are not always the only choice. There are many assistive listening devices that will help you for specific difficulties.

The Older We Get, The Harder It Is

How many times have you felt this way? Now there is scientific proof that as we age, we show a greater deal of difficulty in understanding conversation in noisy environments. It is not that we cannot hear and understand the conversation; rather, it is that we take a longer time in processing the incoming signal than those younger than us. A recent study using younger and older normal hearing individuals provided good insight as to what may be happening. When sentences were presented in quiet, both age groups did well. But, when
competing noise was presented, the older group took longer to respond. The younger participants completed the task in approximately one hour; whereas the older group took approximately one hour and forty-five minutes to complete the same task.
These were people with normal hearing. If the scientists choose to study subjects that have hearing loss, one can only suspect that the time will be longer and the struggle harder. So, what can people who have trouble in noise do? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. When considering a hearing aid, select one that is the best in reducing background noise.
  2. When having trouble keeping up with the conversation while using your hearing aids, it may not be that you do not hear the speech.
    It may be that you need to ask people to slow their speech rather than speak louder.
  3. Try to control your environment and its competing noises as best you can (see December/January 2012 issue of this newsletter.)
  4. Ask Dr. Hansel about how to train your brain to develop better skills for hearing speech in background noise.

Noise: Your Best Enemy

  • Excessive noise is the number one reason for hearing loss.
  • Experts agree that continued exposure to noise of 86dB or louder, over time, will eventually harm hearing.
  • If you cannot carry on a conversation in the presence of noise, it is too loud for your ears and can potentially cause hearing loss.
  • 1 In 4 workers exposed to high levels of noise will develop a hearing loss.
    Professions at risk of hearing loss include firefighters, police officers, factory workers, farmers, construction workers, military personnel, heavy industry workers, musicians, and entertainment industry professionals.
  • Sitting in front of a speaker at a concert can expose your ears to
    120 decibels and can begin to cause damage in 7 ½ minutes
  • The ear has over 25,000 tiny hair cells to help you hear the nuances of sound. Noise exposure destroys these cells.

Did you know?

  1. Even small noises cause the pupils to dilate. Some believe that this is why surgeons and people who do intricate work are so bothered by unwanted noise. Their vision blurs with the changes in pupil dilation and interferes with their task.
  2. In World War I parrots were kept on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, because of their remarkable sense of hearing. When the parrots heard the enemy aircraft coming they would warn everyone of the approaching danger long before any human ear would hear it.