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Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the 3rd most common health condition in the United States. By the time Americans reach their 70s, two-thirds have hearing loss. (AARP)

Hearing affects memory and accuracy

"The general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging," says Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. But recent findings, he says, suggest that it may play a much more important role in brain health (http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/) than we've previously thought. Adults with hearing loss are significantly more likely than adults with normal hearing to develop dementia.”

Hearing loss creates a “cognitive load” (Dr. Tun, Johns Hopkins U)

Basically, this assumes that “we only have a certain amount of cognitive resources, and if we spend a lot of those resources of processing sensory input coming in — in this case, sound — it’s going to be processed more slowly and understood and remembered less well,” she explained. In other words, when your brain has to work hard to hear and identify meaningful speech from a jumble of sounds, “you’ll have less mental energy for higher cognitive processing,” Dr. Tun said.

Hearing instruments successful treatment

Fortunately, there's a potential upside. If this connection — shown in several recent and well-regarded studies — holds up, it raises the possibility that treating hearing loss more aggressively could help stave off cognitive decline and dementia. (http://blog.aarp.org/2015/03/12/recipe-for-brain-h...)

Getting sound to the brain is the “first and most important step” in preventing sensory deprivation that can contribute to cognitive dysfunction, said Kelly Tremblay, a professor of speech and hearing science at the University of Washington.

“Arrange for a hearing test and consider getting hearing aids if problems are confirmed.”

Managing a hearing loss:

If speaking to someone who is hard of hearing:

  1. Get their attention before speaking to them. Tap them on the shoulder, wave your hand. or say their name before starting the conversation.
  2. Establish the subject of conversation first and if it changes, announce the change
  3. Speak normally, not louder or with exaggerated expressions.
  4. Use gestures as well as words - Visual clues aid understanding.
  5. Avoid speaking over background noise such as radios, TVs, fans, etc.
  6. Face the person you are talking to.
  7. If asked to repeat something, rephrase it rather than just repeating the same words over again.
  8. If saying something important, ask the recipient if they understand. Help them to make sure they get all of the intended meaning.

If you are hard of hearing and listening:

  1. Do not try to hide the fact that you are hard of hearing. Letting others know you have hearing problems allows them to try to accommodate to your needs.
  2. Ask others to get your attention and face you when speaking to you.
  3. If background noise creates a problem, shut it off or move to a more quiet setting.
  4. Arrive early and secure a good seat with good lighting, away from noisy areas, and if possible, with a wall behind you.
  5. Plan ahead for obvious questions likely to be asked so you can anticipate them and have answers ready.
  6. Carefully watch each speaker for helpful gestures, facial expressions, and body language.
  7. Tell others that you appreciate their understanding, but the problem is yours not theirs.

From Allan Feldt, “Adapting to Hearing Loss: What I learned during 30 years of hearing loss”, (2012, Amazon.com)