I’m not ready for hearing aids yet!
Jade Faulkner, B.A., 4th Year Audiology Extern
Doctoral Candidate in Audiology, CUNY Graduate Center
ENT and Allergy Associates®
On average, a person diagnosed with hearing loss will wait up to seven years from the time of diagnosis to the time of first fit with hearing devices (Beck, 2014). During this time, hearing sensitivity, as well as, word recognition ability may further decline. Current research is continuing to build upon the link between dementia and untreated hearing loss. Liu and Lee (2019) remind us “the risk of hearing loss increases with age and is associated with lower scores on tests of memory and a higher risk of incident all-cause dementia.” Hearing loss is considered a “modifiable risk factor” for incident dementia, according to Livingston (2017). This means by addressing your hearing difficulties and stimulating your brain, you can help yourself stay healthy, longer!
After the initial appointments with your audiologist and otolaryngologist, it is important to learn more about the various options for aural rehabilitation. Returning for a follow up appointment, such as a Communication Assessment will allow you to learn more about your hearing loss and what your Audiologist recommends as solutions for your listening needs.
IMPORTANT: This appointment does not mean hearing aids only! There are many options to help you to improve your listening performance in your environments.
Assistive listening devices (ALDs) and hearing assistive technologies (HATs) are used in addition to hearing aids, or as a stand-alone device. Personal sound amplifiers (PSAPs) are used for individuals without hearing loss who require a better signal to noise ratio in particular listening environments. For example, in a noisy restaurant, a non-hearing impaired individual may still have great difficulty hearing and understanding his or her conversation partner. A PSAP such as a PocketTalker, or even an iPhone coupled to a set of AirPods can serve as a remote microphone sending the signal directly to the person’s earphones, overcoming the ambient background noise.
Good communication strategies are of the utmost importance to being a good listener and an active participant in conversation. Some strategies include preferential seating in a restaurant, theater, or lecture hall. In a restaurant, try to request a booth or a table near the wall to limit the other competing noises, such as talkers, dishes, and music. Request seating that has good lighting, so you may get all the visual cues from your communication partner. In a lecture hall or theater, you will want to look for closer seating to gain visual cues and to reduce the volume lost due to reverberation or distance. It is important to remember to be an advocate for yourself! If you are attending a theater performance, contact the venue beforehand to inquire about their hearing accessibility products. Many venues use an infrared system to stream the performers’ voices directly to your ears using special earphones, provided by the venue. If you have already decided to pursue hearing devices, some are equipped with a special telecoil that can connect to these venues’ “loop induction systems,” which will also help stream the voices comfortably into your ears. Ask your audiologist for more information about using your T-coil!
Two of the biggest concerns patients express about their hearing: The telephone and the television! One solution for the telephone is the CaptionCall or CapTel device. This landline telephone is provided free of charge to patients with a diagnosed hearing loss. It is used like a traditional telephone, with the added benefit of a “built-in screen that displays text captions” (Jones, 2018). A solution for television listening is TV Ears. Using infrared technology, this device will stream content from the TV directly to the listener’s ears. This helps to keep the television volume comfortable for all listeners.
Last, but certainly not least: Safety first! Another avenue of assistive listening technologies comes in the form of alerting devices. For patients that may not hear a door bell, a smoke alarm, or a baby’s cry, there are various alerting devices to help make these sounds more accessible. Some emergency alerting devices can have louder than average signals or may be accompanied by flashing strobe lights. Baby monitors and alarm clocks can also have increased volume, light indicators, or have a tactile vibration element to alert the hearing impaired individual (Atcherson, 2015).
Don’t wait 7 years to treat your hearing loss! It’s understandable, you may not be ready to take all the necessary steps on the first day, but think of all the sounds, voices, and experiences you could miss in those years. Untreated hearing loss leads to increased social isolation and health risks (Lin, 2019). You can stay active and engaged, by taking advantage of hearing devices, assistive listening devices, personal sound amplifiers, or a combination!
If you are experiencing any ear related issues, it is advised to make an appointment at ENT and Allergy Associates. Our ENTs and Audiologists work closely together to ensure the best hearing healthcare for you and your family! If you are experiencing hearing loss or listening difficulties, it might be time to see your local ENT and Allergy Otolaryngologist, Audiologists or Allergist!
Atcherson, S. R., Franklin, C. A., and Smith-Olinde, L. (2015). Hearing assistive and access technologies. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing.
Beck, D. L. and Alcock, C. J. (2014). Right product; wrong message. Retrieved from: http://www.hearingreview.com/2014/04/right-product-wrong-message/
Jones, S. (2018). Captioned phones. Retrieved from: https://www.healthyhearing.com/help/assistive-listening-devices/captioned-phones
Lin, F. (2019). The hidden risks of hearing loss. Retrieved from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-hidden-risks-of-hearing-loss
Liu, C. and Lee, C. T. (2019). Association of hearing loss with dementia. JAMA Network Open, 2(7). Doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.8112
Livingston, G., Sommerlad, A., Orgeta, V., et al. (2017). Dementia prevention, intervention, and care. The Lancet Commissions, 390(10113), 2673-2734.
Ross, M. (1997). A retrospective look at the future of aural rehabilitation. Journal of the Academy of Rehabilitative Audiology, 30, 11–28.