Meandering Through the Hearing World
The Broad View of Hearing
From my home in Southwest Florida, I immediately felt the jubilation after virtually entering the
Florida Hearing Loss Association of America hybrid meeting held in the Sarasota library on the morning of April 27. This was the first in-person meeting held in two years. Those participating in-person were having the time of their lives, getting reacquainted with friends. Debbe Hagner moderated the meeting for those online. Several Sarasota Chapter board members spoke on various topics. The audience was reminded of the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Annual Meeting to be held in Tampa from June 23 to June 25. Those interested in attending can visit the Florida HLAA website for details.
The breakfast meeting was followed by a wonderful talk by Dr. Jeffrey Olsen, an audiologist in practice at HearCare, located in Sarasota.
Dr. Olsen spoke on Brain Hearing Heath. He takes a 360 view of hearing, considering more than just audiogram results. As he stated, it isn’t just about the result of the beeps. Hearing is much more complicated than earlier thought. When evaluating a patient’s hearing loss, Dr. Olsen considers the person’s environment, how active they are, their age, and what they expect from hearing aids. He explained that rehabilitation is needed and that most patients need time, at least 3 to 6 months to adjust to their aids.
He went on to say that sound traveling through our ears is only the beginning of the hearing process. There is a section in our brain called the mental lexicon, the place where our brains process sound. Here our brains make sense of what we hear. With hearing loss, sound enters the brain through damaged ears, forcing our brains to work harder to identify sounds. Because conversation takes place rapidly, our brains cannot catch up, and we miss words or entire parts of what is being said.
Since hearing requires concentration, Dr. Olsen tests his patients for cognitive skills and recommends training after prescribing hearing aids. He mentioned a site called brainhq.com, visit the site to see the cognition exercises that can be practiced on a daily basis.
Dr. Olsen believes in a holistic approach to evaluating hearing loss. He recommends communication strategies and advises people to listen in a well lit environment so that one can easily see the face of the person talking. He also recommends lip and speech reading classes to his patients. Understanding body language is important in the process of understanding speech.
He stated that prescribing hearing aids was only the start and that patients need to follow up and be willing to undergo further treatment and evaluation in order to make the most of their aids.
This fascinating talk led me to believe that we can help ourselves hear. All it takes is patience and practice and a bit of gumption.