Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s

Strong evidence exists that hearing impairment contributes to the progression of cognitive dysfunction in older adults. Unmanaged hearing loss can interrupt the processing of spoken language, exhaust cognitive reserve, and lead to social isolation. When an individual has both Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, many of the symptoms of hearing loss can interact with those common to Alzheimer’s, making the disease more difficult than it might be if the hearing loss had been addressed.

Research has shown that the use of hearing aids has helped to reduce Alzheimer’s patients’ symptoms of depression, negativism, disorientation, anxiety, loss of independence and general cognitive decline.

A comprehensive hearing assessment should be part of any Alzheimer’s diagnosis and any hearing loss should be addressed. Most hearing loss can be managed with hearing aids. These individual’s — and their families and caregivers — face many challenges. Untreated hearing loss shouldn’t have to be one of them.

Hearing Helper

One of the most aggravating aspects of living with an individual with hearing loss, who is in denial (everyone mumbles they say), is constantly repeating yourself, speaking louder, or interpreting the world for them.

Here is one very clever intervention. Explain to your loved one in a calm, loving voice:

The family has had a talk. We believe you have a hearing loss and in the past we have helped you by repeating ourselves, or interpreting what other people have said. We love you very much and want you to get help for your hearing loss. For the next few weeks we will continue to help you but we will preface our help with the words “Hearing Helper”. We think in a short period of time you will realize how many times you seek our help in hearing.”

A little bit of tough love, but this method does work.

Take the self hearing test

A “yes” response to an item is awarded 4 points; “sometimes”, 2 points;
and a “no”, 0 points.

  1. Does a hearing problem cause you to feel embarrassed when meeting new people?
  2. Does a hearing problem cause you to feel frustrated when talking to members of your family?
  3. Do you have difficulty hearing when someone speaks in a whisper?
  4. Do you feel handicapped by a hearing problem?
  5. Does a hearing problem cause you difficulty when visiting friends, relatives, or neighbors?
  6. Does a hearing problem cause you difficulty at movies, the theatre, or religious services?
  7. Does a hearing problem cause you to have arguments with family members?
  8. Does a hearing problem cause you difficulty when listening to TV?
  9. Do you feel that any difficulty with your hearing limits or hampers your personal or social life?
  10. Does a hearing problem cause you difficulty when in a restaurant with relatives or friends?

A score in excess of 10 suggests a need for referral to an audiologist for a complete hearing evaluation.

 

Three Stages of Hearing Loss

Most people who suffer from hearing loss pass though three stages of impairment: mild, moderate and severe, each one characterized by its own set of symptoms.

The most transient stage, mild hearing loss, is the stage where resistance to hearing help begins, but the individual must be encouraged to have a hearing test and receive amplification and/or intervention. Studies show that when a loss is corrected at this early stage, basic hearing functions remain within the normal range.

During the second stage, when moderate hearing loss occurs, people can experience growing frustration. The emotional feelings of insecurity may lead to a gradual withdrawal from social relationships and activities.

The third phase, the severe hearing loss, can isolate them from their families, friends and social networks, and plunge them into depression. They may feel trapped in a hostile world, fending against what they perceive as disrespect and ridicule.

When people start to realize how critical the sense of hearing is to one’s quality of life, they will begin to take advantage of the wonderful hearing solutions awaiting them. Then, their lives can be enjoyed to the fullest.

What is the best way to get used to my new hearing aids?

We recommend you wear your hearing aids in the quiet of your home for a few hours the first day and add an hour a day for each following day. Eventually you will wear your hearing aids most of your waking hours.

Helpful Steps to Learning to Use a Hearing Aid:

  1. At first, wear your hearing aids in your own home environment while listening to just one person.
  2. Do not strain to catch every word; even people with normal hearing do not hear every word.
  3. Practice locating the source of the sound by listening only.
  4. Listen to something read aloud, “books on tape” are available at your library.
  5. Gradually increase the number of people with whom you speak and gradually increase the level of noise in situations in which you use your hearing aids.
  6. Be patient, wearing hearing aids opens a whole new world of hearing.

 

We believe that hearing loss is a serious problem that deserves serious care.

A hearing loss makes it more difficult to meet new people, to enjoy social gatherings, to hear what’s funny in a joke. One of the hardest things about having a hearing loss is that other people just don’t understand. They can’t understand why sometimes you seem to hear fine, and other times not at all.

The selection of your hearing aid is based on a number of factors: degree of hearing loss, lifestyle needs, cost and appearance. By working with several manufacturers, and not just one brand, we are able to match the proper hearing aid to each patient on an individual basis.

As you well know, we can’t cure hearing loss, but most people can do surprisingly well — in spite of a significant hearing loss! Our commitment is to work with you to help you reach your maximum hearing potential.

What is the best hearing aid on the market?

The best hearing device on the market depends on you. How much hearing loss do you have? How long have you been hearing impaired? Are you concerned the hearing aid may show? What is your lifestyle; are you active and involved in many activities, or are you more sedentary and relaxed? Do you want to hear the very best possible or are you willing to compromise features to cut costs?

There is no “best” hearing aid. The idea of using the right tool for the right job comes to mind. In order to determine and successfully fit the best hearing aid for each individual, an audiologist must perform a comprehensive hearing evaluation to assess the type and degree of hearing loss as well as discuss individual lifestyle and specific needs. Our commitment is to work with you to help you reach your maximum hearing potential.

How can I help a hearing impaired person?

There are steps you can take to help someone with a hearing loss hear you better. Get the listener’s attention before you speak; call their name and wait for them to respond. Be sure to face the person when you are talking and be at a good distance (5-10 feet). Make sure you can see the whites of each other’s eyes. Keep your hands away from your mouth so that the hearing impaired person can get all the visual cues possible. Do not talk from another room and expect to be heard.

Slow down and pause between sentences. Speaking at a moderate pace, with a slight pause between phrases and sentences can allow the hearing impaired person to process the information easier. Most importantly, empathize and be patient with the hearing impaired person.

Your Third Ear

Many of us have a third ear. You may not realize it; you may not use it all the time. Your third ear helps you out of a bind, clarifies for you what was just said, and repeats the punch line of a joke. Your third ear is usually a partner or close friend who already knows you have a hearing loss.

Your third ear loves you and is trying to keep you in the game. Sometimes your third ear gets tired of working so hard or frustrated that you won’t seek help for yourself. Why not give your third ear a rest? Call today and schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation, your third ear will be glad you did.

My ears itch. Is there anything I can do?

The ear canal is dark, warm and moist. People often over clean their ears in hopes of stopping the itch. For the most part ears are self-cleaning. They only need a little soap, water and a dry towel. Stop putting things in your ears! No more cotton swabs, keys, or paperclips. No more alcohol, peroxide, vinegar or witch-hazel. If your skin gets dry and itchy you usually apply a moisturizer.

MiraCell is an all-natural product that helps soften, smooth, and replenish your skin. Our patients who were familiar with this product asked us to carry it. Some ingredients include: aloe vera oil, Vitamins E, A, and D3, as well as avocado and jojoba oils. A few drops in the ear canal can really help with the itching. If you feel the need to scratch into your ear canal, try a few drops of MiraCell instead.

MiraCell is available locally at Hearing Consultants.

My sister wants to clean my ears with a candle. Is this safe?

Ear candling is an often asked about ear cleaning method. To perform this procedure, the individual lies on their side and a cone-shaped object covered in wax is placed in the ear and is lit on fire. This allegedly creates a vacuum that draws impurities out of the ear. The act of ear candling is extremely dangerous and ineffective. There are many reported cases of hot candle wax dripping and burning the user or even obstructing the ear canal.

The ear will usually take care of itself and should not need to be cleaned. Wax in your ear protects it from dirt and debre. If you feel your ears are being blocked by excess ear wax, the best method of removal is to visit an Audiologist or physician.

Protect your hearing when around loud sounds

Loudness is measured in decibels (dB). As decibel level increases the length of time that you can safely hear without ear protection decreases. For example, sounds that are 90 dB can be dangerous to your ears if you are exposed to them for 8 hours or more. As the dB level increases by 5 the length of time decreases by half. A noise, which is 95dB, is only safe for 4 hours and so on.

A rock concert can average between 110 and 120 dB. The maximum length of exposure for those levels is around 15 minutes, but the average concert is two hours in length. Permanent hearing loss can occur instantly from sounds like firearms (150 dB) and impact tools. 

Repeated exposure to loud noise will damage your hearing permanently.

How to Manage TV Volume

When I visit my parents, the TV volume is so loud I must leave the room. Is there a device that will keep the TV volume at a normal level, but also allow my parents to hear it comfortably?

TV Ears is a wireless infrared system that consists of a headset and base/charger that sits on the television. The TV could be turned all of the way down while the person with the TV Ears headset listens at a comfortable volume level. TV ears have improved TV viewing for people with hearing loss while relieving family members from the stress caused by loud TV. Currently there are four models of TV Ears. The Original model is used most often. The professional model is recommended for plasma TV’s. We have TV Ears in stock, as well as a demonstration set in our waiting room.

What is the normal life of a hearing aid battery?

How long your battery lasts will vary across brands, length of time worn, and by the type of technology in the hearing aid. Depending on the size of the battery and the power of the hearing aid, the battery may last between 3 days and four weeks. Once you remove the sticker from a battery it begins to drain whether you use the battery or not. Placing the sticker back on the battery does no good. If you would like to measure how long your batteries last, place the sticker that you remove from the back of the battery on your calendar every time you open a new battery. After a few battery changes, you will have a good estimate of your battery life.

Myths and Facts of Hearing Loss

Myth: If I had a hearing impairment, certainly I would know it.

Fact: Not necessarily. Often hearing loss develops gradually over time. Soft sounds are lost first, the refrigerator hum, the sound of a zipper. Losing the soft sounds may not be noticeable to you but when you begin to loose conversational sounds other people around you will notice.

Myth: Hearing loss is a sign of aging.

Fact: Aging yes, growing older no. If we live long enough we will all loose our ability to hear well. However, more than 60 percent of people with hearing loss are 64 years of age or younger.

Myth: There is nothing that can be done for my hearing loss.

Fact: Tremendous advances have been made in hearing aids. Today’s digital hearing aids can help 95 percent of people with hearing loss and the majority of those who have chosen hearing aids are satisfied with their decision.

Questions you may want to ask before you purchase hearing aids

  • Will my hearing be tested by a licensed audiologist, or by a hearing instrument specialist who has a high school diploma and sales training? Ask to see their credentials.
  • Will I have more than one option to choose from, or do they represent only one manufacturer?
  • Are routine hearing aid check-ups & cleanings provided at no extra charge forever?
  • Are they truly looking out for your best interest, or pushing to meet their sales quota?
  • Call the Better Business Bureau (421-3015) before scheduling your appointment. Our record is spotless. 

Remember, you’re not just choosing hearing aids. You are choosing your hearing healthcare provider; both are equally important.

I am getting a new cell phone. How do I make sure it is compatible with my hearing aids?

Cell phones create “Radio Frequency Emissions” when a call is placed. These emissions create an electromagnetic field, which hearing aids may or may not be able to shield. The electronics used for backlighting, display and circuit board can cause magnetic interference. Flip-up phones tend to work better with hearing aids because the electronics that cause this interference are farther away from the hearing aid. Speakerphones, text messaging, and vibrating ring mode are standard features that benefit the hearing-impaired cell phone user.

Models and features of cell phone technology change quickly so it is important to stay informed. The Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association (CTIA) website on accessibility and wireless technology is www.accesswireless.org. It includes wireless and cell phones that work well with hearing aids.

Dead Ear Information: What You Need to Know

First, no hearing aid restores normal hearing. Yes, there is a hearing device that is used when the hearing loss in one ear is too severe to benefit from a hearing aid. These devices are called CROS hearing systems. In a CROS hearing system, a device that looks like a hearing aid is placed on the poor ear to act strictly as a transmitter, picking up the sounds on that side of the head. The sound is routed across to the other ear, where a second device is worn. This allows the better ear to hear sounds from the poorer side. The hearing impaired person hears only in the good ear but has regained localization abilities and directionality of sound. CROS hearing systems can be either hard wired together or can be wireless.

If you suffer with hearing loss

Admit you have a problem. We need to be able to hear effectively to communicate with people. Your hearing loss and the mistakes you make are more conspicuous than wearing a pair of today’s miniature hearing aids. Acknowledge the problem that others already know exists and do something about it.

Have you hearing tested by an audiologist.

If you have been tested by an audiologist and told you need hearing aids proceed with a positive attitude. Your motivation will determine your success.

Educate yourself. Learn all you can about your hearing loss, your options and new technologies available.

Ask questions. Your audiologist will make recommendations that are appropriate for your hearing loss and your life style, cosmetic concerns & budget.

Hearing Aid Care Information

Examine your hearing aids daily. Clean them if necessary with the tools you were given. Don’t use any sharp objects or toothpicks in the openings. Wipe them off with a soft cloth or tissue if slippery or wet. Don’t use hairspray while wearing hearing aids. Spray your hair before you put your hearing aids on, let it dry and then insert your hearing aids. Don’t wear your hearing aids while exercising; your perspiration is harmful to the electronic components. If you want to use hand lotion put your hearing aids in first, then use the lotion. You don’t want to clog up or drop the hearing aids. Open the battery door when not in use. Not only does this turn off the instrument, but also allows harmful moisture to evaporate.