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3 Summer “Social” Activities for Seniors With Hearing Loss

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Staying social and active in the community can be rewarding, especially as we grow older. A 1999 study by Harvard researcher Thomas Glass found that socializing is just as important for seniors’ well-being as exercise. This sometimes proves challenging for seniors with hearing loss who may find it difficult to hear in a group setting. As summer is right around the corner, here are some social activities for seniors with hearing loss that help promote fitness and mental well-being:

1. Gardening
Gardening is a great way to get outside and enjoy the sunshine this summer. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite gardening as a moderate-level exercise. Even those with arthritis may benefit from gardening! The CDC says people who engage in 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week may experience relief from the pain and stiffness caused by arthritis. Not only is it good for your body, but it’s great for socializing as well. Friends and family could help you plan your garden and see it to fruition. Grandchildren can be involved helping to plant, water and weed the garden. And the neighbors stopping by to admire your handiwork lends to the sense of community!

2. Exercise classes
Many senior centers, communities or YMCA locations offer exercise classes targeted directly to help seniors stay in shape. They’re also great environments for you to meet new friends or catch up with old ones. Yoga or stretching also provides a nice, relaxing way to spend time with others, getting fit together.

Swimming can also be a fun, low-impact way to stay in shape while enjoying the company of others. Water exercise has been shown to reduce joint pain and help people with osteoarthritis, among other benefits. Water aerobics is just one type of senior-friendly water class. Remember that pool environments sometimes make it difficult to hear, and if you wear hearing aids, be aware of what you can and can’t do around water. But if you go with a good friend, you’re sure to both enjoy the experience.

3. Art class
According to a report by The Assisted Living Federation Of America and the American Art Therapy Association, learning to paint can be a good way for seniors to express themselves and initiate communication with friends and family. It can also be a great way to relieve stress and stimulate your mind. Art is known for its therapeutic properties, so to take advantage of this, grab a few pals and check around for art classes. Painting, sculpting and poetry classes can be great for the body and the mind.

These are only a few examples of what seniors with hearing loss can do with friends and family this summer. Be sure to look around your community and see what your local centers have to offer!

 

For more information regarding this blog, please visit Captel.com.

Hearing Aids: Reasonable Expectations for the Consumer

© Maksym Yemelyanov / Dollar Photo Clubhttp://www.audiologyonline.com/

Since you are considering the purchase of hearing aids, it’s important for you to establish reasonable expectations from these highly sophisticated, miniature devices. Acquiring hearing aids is not merely a simple act of going to a store and purchasing a product.

Rather, it is a complex process – one that evolves over time and begins with the hearing-impaired individual accepting the realization that hearing impairment has detrimental effects on interpersonal relationships and safety. The hearing impaired person’s motivation to hear well is the single most important factor in determining the success of the hearing aid fitting. It is important to realize that you will not experience the exact same benefits from your hearing aids as your neighbor does. This individuality is a critical component, and I want to emphasize that your expectations should be based on you, your type and degree of hearing loss, your past experiences, and the improvements you personally receive from amplification.

The title of this article implies there are “reasonable expectations” for the consumer. Therefore, there must also be “unreasonable expectations”. For the most part, there is only one totally unreasonable expectation – do not expect normal or perfect hearing.

It is my hope that this point-by-point tutorial will help guide you in establishing realistic and reasonable expectations from hearing aids, from the professionals you interact with, through the process of acquiring hearing aids, using them effectively, maintaining them, and living the fullest life possible.

1. Expect others to notice your hearing loss before you do! A common complaint of hearing-impaired individuals is that other people mumble – and if they would just speak up, it would be easier to hear them! This is placing the “blame” externally, rather than accepting the reality that your ears are not as good as they used to be. Realize that it is your hearing. Take that step to have your hearing tested before you blast your loving spouse out of the den with the blaring sound of the TV set. Seek the advice of your local audiologist or hearing instrument specialist (HIS), who you will find listed in the yellow pages under “audiologists” or “hearing aids”.

2. Expect your audiologist/hearing instrument specialist to be knowledgeable, courteous, and accommodating. Your audiologist/HIS will take a thorough case history. He/She is searching for information about your hearing loss, it’s probable cause, and whether your offspring may be affected. It is important to establish the presence of any medical condition associated with your hearing loss as this will trigger a medical referral. Comprehensive hearing and hearing aid evaluations will be conducted. These evaluations will provide information about the degree and nature of your hearing loss, as well as your ability to process and discriminate the fine sounds of speech. Comfortable listening levels will be defined, as well as a determination about how well you tolerate loud, intense speech and other sounds. These findings are very important as they allow the professional to pre-set some of the characteristics of the hearing aid’s circuitry. You will have time to talk with the audiologist/HIS about the differing styles of hearing aids (in-the-ear, in-the-canal, completely-in-the-canal, behind-the-ear), the advantages and disadvantages of each style, and maintenance issues and costs involved. Approximately 80% of all hearing aids sold fit in the ear1. After you and your hearing professional determine the best style of hearing aid for your needs, an ear impression will be obtained. The ear impression is a plastic cast of your ear which reveals the exact shape of your ear, so the laboratory can place circuitry in a hearing aid shell that will fit your ear(s) only.

3. Expect differing opinions. If you choose to seek the advice of two or more audiologists/HISs, you may get differing opinions about the “best aid” for you. Everyone in the hearing aid industry acknowledges the fact that there is not a single “best” hearing aid. Rather, there are many excellent hearing aid brands available, and there are many different types of circuitry that may benefit you. Your audiologist/HIS uses the case history information and the evaluation results to make the best recommendation for you and your lifestyle. Expect a recommendation to purchase two hearing aids if both of your ears are hearing impaired and are “aidable.” There are many benefits to binaural (two ear) hearing, including being better able to understand speech in noise, and being better able to localize sound. Your audiologist/HIS will explain the advantages of a binaural fitting versus a monaural fitting in more detail2. Nonetheless, it is very important to understand that if you have two ears with hearing loss, and you only wear a hearing aid on one ear, you will still have significant hearing problems, even under the best of circumstances. A reasonably good analogy is to consider wearing a single eye glass (monocle) for a two-eye vision problem, such as being near-sighted or far-sighted – it simply will not work well for very long!

4. Expect your audiologist/HIS to assess your hearing difficulties in several environments and define individual goals for you. Although there are many self-assessment scales available, a popular one is the Abbreviated Profile of Hearing Aid Benefit (APHAB) developed by Cox and Alexander3. It may be administered to you prior to and following the hearing aid fitting to identify the benefits you receive from the hearing aids and to measure the reduction of any disabling effects of your hearing loss. The COSI (pronounced “cozy”) is the Client Oriented Scale of Improvement which was developed by Dr. Dillon and colleagues at the National Acoustics Laboratory in Australia 4. As you will remember from my earlier comments, I emphasized that benefits from hearing aids are highly individualized. The COSI allows the audiologist/HIS to determine, based on your input, five major goals or changes you want to occur as a result of wearing hearing aids. These goals may include hearing your spouse better in the car, hearing your friends better on the phone, or any others that relate to you and your hearing difficulties. These assessments are not like the hearing evaluation given by the audiologist/HIS. These are tools that allow us to measure your self-perception of how your hearing loss affects your activities of daily living and how amplification can improve your quality of life.

5. Expect to be offered a 30 day trial period. Although not always required by law, many audiologists/HISs offer a trial or rental period of 30 days for you to adapt to amplification. You may be asked to pay a non-returnable fee during this time. Ask about this trial period, and if not offered, seek a second opinion. Use this 30 day period to test the hearing aids in the environments that are typical of your lifestyle – not only at home, but also at your friends’ and relatives’ homes, your favorite restaurant, shopping center, grocery store, or place of worship.

6. Expect a referral to a physician to rule out any medical condition that may contribute to your hearing loss. All hearing aids are medical devices and, as such, are governed by regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA requires that all users of hearing aids be examined by a physician, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the ear. If you are over the age of 18 years, you may be given the opportunity to sign a medical evaluation waiver that will allow the audiologist/HIS to proceed with your hearing aid fitting. It is in your best interest to be evaluated by a physician prior to the hearing aid fitting, but particularly so if you have a history of ear problems or hearing loss of unknown origin.

7. Expect the hearing aids to cost more than you think they should. There are three categories of hearing aid technology – analog, digitally programmable, and digital. Analog technology has been around for many years. Aids utilizing this technology are also called “conventional” hearing aids and they are the least expensive. According to the most recent dispenser survey published in the Hearing Review in June of 2001, the average price of a hearing aid with analog technology will cost approximately $900 to $1500 per aid, depending on the size of the aid – the smaller the aid, the larger the price1. Digital hearing aids use digital signal processing – the newest form of technology on the market. Digital hearing aids are indeed complete computers, similar to the PC on your desktop, but they are the size of a pencil eraser! These aids cost approximately $2500 per aid, similar to your PC. Digitally programmable hearing aids will probably cost somewhere between the conventional price and the digital price. You may benefit from any of the three types of technology. Speak with your audiologist/HIS about the types of circuitry and which would be best for you. Importantly, in 2002, some basic digital hearing aids are available at a lower price than in previous years. Many of the manufacturers have switched the focus of their product lines to completely digital offerings, as digital products are more efficient and have broader application. Consequently, as the demand and sales have increased, the price has gone down a little. The bottom line is that there are many more digital hearing aids on the market in 2002 than there was in 1999, and the prices vary tremendously, as do the products.

8. Expect an initial orientation session with your audiologist/HIS in which you will learn how to handle and care for your new aids. You should invite your spouse or significant other to attend this first critical session in getting oriented to your new aids. During this session, you will be taught how to operate the hearing aids, how to clean them, and how to change the batteries. You will receive written information about your aids – a booklet called a ‘User Instructional Brochure’ which is a requirement of the FDA. Please note, batteries are particularly important. Please be sure to store them and use them exactly as your hearing healthcare professional advises. Please be sure to keep all batteries way from pets and children. It may be difficult for you to remember all the things the audiologist/HIS tells you during this first session, so don’t leave the office without your instructional brochure! It will be very valuable to you, particularly during the first weeks of owning your new hearing aids.

9. Expect a period of adjustment. Remember the 30-day trial or rental period mentioned earlier (see point 5 above)? Once you get your new hearing aids, expect an adjustment period of several days to many weeks to get used to the daily care and maintenance of the hearing aids.

You’ll need time to learn how to; insert and remove the hearing aids from your ears, learn to adjust the volume control (some hearing aids have volume controls, other are automatic), learn how to clean them, learn how to open and close the battery door, learn to change the battery, get accustomed to placing the hearing aids in a dry-aid kit for the times when they are not in your ears. As you can see, there is a lot to learn, and people learn at different speeds. I recommend that you go slowly, learn one thing at a time, practice, and stay in contact with your hearing healthcare professional.

Many times, a spouse (or significant other) is very useful in helping you adjust to the new responsibilities of ownership of hearing aids. The largest adjustment you will go through is, of course, listening with your new hearing aids. You will hear sounds that you have not heard for a long, long time. Some of these will be “good sounds”, like the songs of the birds or high-pitched voices of children. Other sounds, the “obnoxious ones”, are sounds we need to hear for our safety and/or general knowledge of what is happening around us. These are sounds like the refrigerator or air conditioning units humming and buzzing, the sound of our footsteps, or a “knock” in the sound of the car engine. Research in this area has shown that this adaptation or adjustment period may last a few months. It takes time for the brain to re-learn all these sounds. Be patient!

10. Expect your voice to sound different. For many reasons, your voice will sound strange to you at first – like being in a barrel. This is a normal early perception and it is often called the ‘occlusion effect’. If you don’t adjust to this after a few days, discuss this with your audiologist/HIS. Many times, this feeling can be alleviated through changing the vent size in your hearing aids or changing the amount of amplification you are getting for low-pitched tones. Your audiologist/HIS deals with this issue regularly, and they will be able to solve this with you, over a short period of time.

11. Expect a good, comfortable fit. Initially, it will take a while to get used to having the hearing aids in your ears. You may experience a little soreness or irritation at first, but after a few days or a week or so, you should be able to wear the aids for several hours per day without any pain or discomfort. I always find it reassuring when patients tell me they often forget that they are wearing their aids. Remember – even though the audiologist/HIS will make your ear impressions so your hearing aids will be custom fit, many things can happen in the manufacturing process and any discomfort should be reported to your audiologist/HIS immediately. If your aids are not comfortable, you will not get the maximum benefit from them, and you should not wear them. Report all discomfort or irritations to your hearing healthcare professional, and do not wear the hearing aids until he/she advises you as to how to best address the problem.

12. Expect multiple follow-up appointments. The greatest advantage of digital hearing aid technology is the flexibility in programming the sound quality, as well as many other electro-acoustic characteristics of your hearing aids. These hearing aids are highly sophisticated instruments with many features. The computer software that is used to program your hearing aids allows the audiologist/HIS to make a multitude of adjustments while the aids are in your ears. You can actually hear many of the changes as the audiologist/HIS is adjusting different features or characteristics. Other features will only be noticeable in other environments. So, be sure to tell your audiologist/HIS as much as you can about your listening experiences in many environments. If you are a new user, you may get an initial setting of about two-thirds of the amplification that will be ideal for you. As you get used to your aids, the audiologist/HIS will increase the amount amplification over several visits. This will help in your adjustment period and lessen the chances of rejection due to over-amplification.

13. Expect your audiologist/HIS to evaluate the benefits provided by your hearing aids. This is normally done in at least two ways. First, electronic measurements of “real ear” performance give the audiologist/HIS an idea of how the aids are functioning when the hearing aids are in your ears. Your audiologist/HIS may make measurements in which a small microphone is placed in your ear to measure what is happening in your ear canal with and without the hearing aids in place. This is an objective measure and a starting point for successive changes in the performance of your aids. Secondly, the APHAB, COSI, or other assessment scales may be repeated so the audiologist/HIS can help you evaluate pre- and post-fitting hearing difficulties. These two evaluation methods are important in establishing the benefits you personally receive from amplification. If there are no significant changes in these measures, your audiologist/HIS will need to make additional changes in your hearing aid fitting.

14. Expect to be able to hear well, but not perfectly, in quiet one-to-one situations and most small group settings. In order for you to hear well, we must make sound audible, then comfortably loud. Your hearing aids will amplify sound so speech will become comfortably loud. You should be able to hear most of what is said without having to watch a person’s lips all the time. However, even people with normal hearing watch the person speaking in order to gain more information! Even when wearing the hearing aids, you should combine your vision and your hearing to maximize your benefits from the hearing aids. When sound is comfortably loud, it will be easier for you to listen and the stress of straining to hear rapidly diminishes. Therefore, listening in social situations becomes pleasurable again. If everyday sounds are uncomfortably loud, report this to your audiologist/HIS immediately.

15. Expect an optimal “distance for hearing”. The best distance for hearing with your aids will be dependent on the type of microphones in your hearing aids, and other factors. The hearing aids may be directional or omni-directional. Find out from your audiologist/HIS which type of microphones you have, and the effective listening range or effective “distance for hearing”. People within this distance will be the most audible to you. Once you increase the distance from the source you want to listen to, it will get increasingly difficult to hear – just like without the hearing aids.

16. Expect to have difficulty hearing in noisy situations. You may say that you can hear fine in quiet and that the noisy situations are the ones in which you need the most help. This is a common statement made by individuals who have presbycusis (hearing loss due to aging), noise-induced hearing loss, or any hearing loss where the
high-pitched tones are affected the most. Eventually though, as your hearing loss progresses, your ability to hear in quiet settings is also affected. Background noise is a nuisance for everyone, even normal hearing individuals. As sophisticated as today’s technology is, hearing aids still cannot eliminate background noise for you. Some of the more sophisticated digital circuitry can effectively reduce (although not eliminate) background noise. If you are in a lot of noisy environments, it is important to discuss this with your audiologist/HIS when discussing your case history and setting your goals for improvement.

17. Your hearing aids may squeal (also called “whistle,” or “feedback”) under some circumstances. If a hearing aid is somewhat functioning and has a good battery in it, this squeal (acoustic feedback) will occur when the hearing aid is cupped in the hand. Most users find that this helps determine the status of the battery and it is a good sign! However, you should be able to wear your hearing aids at a comfortable loudness level and not experience this squeal. If you do not have a volume control on your aids, they will squeal when you place them in your ears – until you get them placed comfortably. Sometimes, your aids will squeal if you press the phone too tightly to your ear. Report these events to your audiologist/HIS and determine what is normal, what is abnormal, and what can be done to reduce unnecessary acoustic feedback.

18. Expect repairs. You should realize that hearing aids are incredibly sophisticated devices being inserted in the ear canal where moisture and cerumen (ear wax) is waiting to attack any foreign object! Hearing aids are also prone to being dropped if our fine motor dexterity is a little compromised. Microscopic solder joints that connect the tiny wires of the microphone and receiver to the computer chip in the hearing aid can be jarred loose. All repairs cannot be avoided, but the majority of repairs can be avoided with regular and careful maintenance! Being careful and establishing and maintaining a good preventive maintenance schedule, at home and at your audiologist’s/HIS’s office, can significantly reduce the number of repairs on hearing aids. Your aids will probably come with a standard one year warranty, and after that, you can purchase hearing aid insurance from a number of companies. Talk to your audiologist/HIS about additional warranty options when you purchase the aids.

19. Expect to buy batteries. Hearing aid batteries will probably last a week or two in the hearing aid. Hearing aid battery service life varies based on the hearing aid circuit and the quality and type of battery and is also dependent on environmental conditions (temperature, humidity etc.). Some people ask why hearing aid batteries don’t last as long as watch batteries. The answer is the hearing aid battery accomplishes a great deal more work and requires much more electrical energy than does a watch battery. The information you receive during the hearing aid orientation session will define a reasonable length of time for your batteries. When your hearing aids are new, you might want to keep a calendar indicating the days you change batteries. Report any significant changes in battery usage to your audiologist/HIS. Many professional offices offer battery promotions or special programs for their patients. Ask your hearing healthcare professional about this.

20. There are two ‘NEVERs’ with batteries. NEVER keep batteries with your medicines, as you might accidentally ingest one. NEVER allow young children to handle batteries, as they might ingest them. All hearing aid batteries are toxic if swallowed. Keep them in a safe place and be sure to recycle your batteries properly.

21. Expect to purchase new hearing aids every 5 years. This may come as a surprise, particularly if you just purchased a set of digital hearing aids! However, hearing aid technology changes rapidly, just like computers, and new technology may benefit you greatly. Some people may keep the same pair of hearing aids for 10 to 12 years, particularly if their hearing loss remains stable over time and if they do a great job with maintenance, but the average life expectancy is about five years.

22. Most importantly, expect to enjoy the sounds of life again! Your hearing aids are a key ingredient to staying active and improving the quality of your life. You will once again enjoy social events, leisure activities, and conversations with your family, friends, and co-workers. Your hearing aids will also help you hear sounds to keep you safe and well.

Hearing Aids For Kids Could Improve Speech and Language

© pololia / Dollar Photo Club

© pololia / Dollar Photo Club

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – For young kids who are hard of hearing, the longer they wear a hearing aid, the better their speech and language skills, according to a new study.

“Parents get some conflicting information, especially if their kids only have mild hearing loss: should they get hearing aids now or wait until later,” said Mary Pat Moeller, an audiologist. She worked on the study at the Center for Childhood Deafness at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.

But even kids in the study with only mild hearing loss had significantly improved speaking skills if they wore hearing aids, Moeller told Reuters Health. And the longer they wore them, the more speech improved.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies suggest anywhere from less than one percent to almost 15 percent of U.S. children have hearing loss.

For the new report, the researchers analyzed data from 180 hard of hearing three- and five-year-olds, almost all of whom had been fitted with hearing aids. Kids were evaluated with speech, language and articulation tests.

The researchers found that the more a hearing aid improved a child’s hearing, the better he or she scored on the tests. And the longer kids had worn a hearing aid, the better their scores – especially among those whose hearing improved most with a hearing aid.

The relationship held true for kids with varying degrees of hearing loss, according to findings published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery.
“That may be because hearing aids bring those with severe hearing loss up to moderate levels, and those with moderate loss up to mild,” co-author J. Bruce Tomblin, of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, told Reuters Health. “The change in hearing is about the same.”

“Kids with mild losses can appear as though they’re getting along okay so it’s easier to be casual about it,” he said. “But hearing aids do in fact have an influence.”
The speech assessment scores kids on a scale similar to an IQ test, he said, and hearing aids seem to take kids from somewhere in the low-average area to “very much average.”

That’s not to say kids can’t “catch up” in their speech and language development if they start using hearing aids later on, Tomblin said. Some researchers argue that early childhood is a “critical period” for kids’ exposure to language, but he said he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to that theory.

There is now the technology to fit hearing aids for children as young as one month old, Moeller said, and these results suggest the earlier a child gets a hearing aid, the better.

Hearing aids must be well-fitted by an audiologist, as they were in this study, she said. Fitting a child with a stronger hearing aid than necessary can further damage hearing.

Kids with mild hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids beyond improvements in speech and language; their quality of life and overall functioning often improve as well, said Dr. Judith E. Cho Lieu.

Lieu, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, was not involved with the new study. Still, “Placement of hearing aids alone is not sufficient for acquisition of normal speech and language,” Lieu told Reuters Health in an email.

“There are likely to be multiple other factors that were not included in this study’s analysis that affect speech and language development in young children,” she said. Those could include kids’ race and thinking and memory skills, for instance.

The new results do not apply to deaf children, who were not the subject of the study, Tomblin noted. Deaf children may learn American Sign Language or receive cochlear implants, but hard of hearing children do not qualify for cochlear implants, he said.

“The impact of these language skills we’re talking about have not gone into effect in schooling yet,” since the study only addressed kids up to age five, he said.
“We hypothesize that the benefits may be even better in the classroom, since language skills are so important for learning,” he said.

Hearing aids for children can cost around $8,500, but prices vary widely by brand, Moeller said. The benefit the child gets is probably worth the cost, Tomblin said.
“The big message for parents and for pediatricians and others is to help reinforce the importance that the child gets a hearing aid, that it is well fit, and that the child wears it,” he said.

For more information regarding this article, please visit ChicagoTribune.com.

Hearing Aids And Dementia – How Hearings Aids Can Help Patients

Prothèse auditive

Hearing aids might help increase memory, reduce anxiety and increase social interaction among dementia patients, local health experts say.

“Whether you have dementia or not, you need to hear,” said Ronna Fisher, audiologist and founder and president of Hearing Health Center in Chicago and three suburbs. “It’s not normal not to hear. Hearing is what makes us happy in our relationships. If you can’t hear, you stop talking.”

Improved sensory perception won’t stop the progression of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, experts said, but increasing the ability to hear will help reduce a patient’s loneliness and confusion.

The staff at Smith Village, a continuing-care retirement community in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, said it has noticed increased participation among residents who address their hearing problems.

“Getting hearing aids does help them,” said Diane Morgan, memory support coordinator. “When their hearing is down, they experience paranoia or anxiety because they can’t hear what’s being said to them.”

Fisher, whose father suffered hearing loss at an early age, said she began noticing in 2008 that when her dementia patients were fitted with hearing aids –– especially deep-insert hearing devices that remain in the ear for three months at a time –– they socialized more and their memories improved.

In a study released this year, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institute on Aging found that seniors suffering from hearing loss were more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. Among other things, the research suggests that hearing loss could lead to social isolation, a risk factor for dementia.

The research should offer hope to physicians treating dementia patients, said Dr. Marsel Mesulam, director of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern’s medical school.
“Doctors and health care providers treating elderly patients should not throw up their hands treating dementia,” Mesulam said. “They can look at other factors that are treatable, like hearing loss or vision.”

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a term used to describe the common symptoms of memory loss and declining cognitive abilities that interfere with daily life, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Other causes of dementia include brain injuries, infections and tumors, and vascular, Parkinson’s and other diseases that affect neurological function.

Nancy Rainwater, a spokeswoman for the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said that at the very least, a person’s hearing loss might cause caregivers to assume there is dementia when there is not.

“Each patient is different,” Rainwater said. “Get a formal diagnosis.”
Naperville resident Debby Berger began taking her 86-year-old mother to Hearing Health Center last year. At the time, her mother’s memory had declined. Since she has been fitted with deep-insert hearing devices, her memory has improved.
“Now that she can hear, if you tell her something, she remembers it,” Berger said.

For more information, please visit ChicagoTribune.com.

Playing Sports with Hearing Loss

Happy senior couple  riding  in the park.

When Heather Whitestone became the first deaf contestant to win the Miss America pageant in 1995, she wowed the judges with moving classical ballet en pointe for the talent portion of the competition. Because she couldn’t hear the music, she counted the beats in her head and synchronized her dance moves to reflect changes in pitch.

As Miss America, Heather helped launch the nation’s largest multi-media public awareness campaign to identify early hearing loss. She certainly wasn’t the first deaf athlete, but as a national title-holder she became a role model for thousands of young hard-of-hearing, would-be dancers all over the country.

Other competitive deaf athletes have competed on the world stage, too. American diver Chris Colwill and WNBA player Tamika Catchings competed in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. Deaf swimmer Marcus Titus posted the fastest time by an American in the 100-meter breaststroke before narrowly losing a spot on the2012 Olympic team by .79 of a second.

Other individuals with hearing loss may not be Olympic-class athletes but with a few adjustments they can still enjoy their favorite sport, regardless of whether it’s a casual game of golf on the weekends or a competitive game of tennis at the local tennis court.

Tell your audiologist what sport you play. The type of hearing aid you use will depend as much upon the amount of physical activity you exert as it does your level of hearing loss. Hearing aids that fit inside the ear canal (ITE) are more protected from elements such as wind and rain, those that fit behind the ear (BTE) can be secured to your clothing with specialized gear to prevent damage from accidental falls.

Invest in protective gear for your hearing aid. Athletes who wear hearing aids often damage them when they accidentally fall out or from too much moisture. If you swim or play a sport where excessive perspiration is a concern, consider investing in water resistant hearing aids. At the very least, purchase a hearing aid dryer or dehumidifier. These small, inexpensive units dry the excess moisture in the battery compartment at night while you sleep. Additional inexpensive accessories, such as sweat bands and cords, keep perspiration and other moisture away from BTEs while securing them to your clothing to guard against accidental falls.

Keep friends and teammates informed. Some athletes opt not to wear their hearing aids during competition. This is a personal decision and should be carefully considered. If this is your choice, let your teammates and officials know so they can alert you to game whistles or other warnings and signals.
Lobby for changes in your sport. Many sports already incorporate sign language or hand signals as a result of the influence of hearing impaired athletes. A long-held theory is that William Elsworth Hoy was the first to use hand signals in baseball in 1886. William, who was deaf, played centerfield for the Oshkosh baseball club and developed a set of hand signals to communicate with his third base coach. Paul Hubbard, a deaf quarterback for Gallaudet University, is credited with inventing the huddle in 1894. And deaf swimmer Marcus Titus successfully lobbied for the use of hand signals at the 2012 US Olympic trials races.

Compete in the Deaflympics. If you’re a competitive hearing impaired athlete, you may also want to investigate competing in, or at least attending, the Deaflympics. More information on these world-class athletes can be found at deaflympics.com.

For more information, please visit healthyhearing.com

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