Meandering Through the Hearing World
There is Hearing Hope in Research
I felt very hopeful after listening to the Zoom presentation put on by the Sun City Chapter of Hearing loss Association of America. The lecturer was Victoria Sanchez, AuD, PhD. Dr. Sanchez is an audiologist and researcher with the University of South Florida. Her topic Clinical Research Applications of Hearing Healthcare Self Management demonstrated how she is working to improve outcomes for those suffering from hearing loss.
Dr. Sanchez began her talk by stating that 5% of the world’s population suffers from hearing loss. Typically hearing loss is age related and prevalent in those 50 years old and older. Once you reach age 50, your chances of having hearing loss doubles with each decade. Two out of three 70 year olds end up with clinically significant hearing loss. Yet, less than 20% of that group wears hearing aids or treat their hearing loss in any beneficial way.
Hearing Loss is a chronic condition which requires management. Hearing loss can bring on emotional responses and cognitive behavioral issues. In managing hearing loss, one most consider the psycho-social impact on a person’s lifestyle.
Older adults who have hearing loss and who are poorly self-managed have a decrease quality of life. They tend to suffer from social isolation and depression. They have higher instances of mental health issues which can lead to dementia. Older adults with hearing loss tend to have more falls thus leading to other health issues. Struggling to hear leads to the break down of brain tissue. It has been suggested that one-third of all people with dementia brought on by hearing loss can reverse their affliction by treating their hearing loss.
Dr. Sanchez is part of the ACHIEVE study in South West Florida. The study’s purpose is to understand how dementia can be reduced by treating hearing loss. Participants in ACHIEVE includes 977 healthy individuals aged 70 to 84. All have mild to moderate hearing loss.
Each participant in the study is assessed and cared for by Dr. Sanchez and her team methodically. Everyone in the study undergoes a comprehensive hearing evaluation that includes audiograms and word recognition evaluations in noise and quiet. Everyone is taught how to set hearing goals, that is, how and in what situations do they want to achieve better hearing. These goals may be anything from hearing better on the telephone to being able to conquer background noise.
Once hearing goals are established, each participant receives hearing aids, which are programmed based on their hearing evaluations and their goals. All are taught how their hearing aids work and how to manage them. All learn to use Bluetooth connections and how to pair their aids with their phones, computers, and television adaptors. Each is given peripheral devices that might help meet their goals of being able to hear in challenging environments.
All in Dr. Sanchez’s study have access to a number of educational materials that participants can read or listen to, thus helping them understand more about their hearing loss and how to achieve their hearing goals.
From time to time, Dr. Sanchez’s patients return for outcomes assessments. At this stage, the patients are evaluated for improvements in hearing and improvements in their social lives and their cognitive behavior.
Dr. Sanchez said that anyone with hearing loss can learn from this study, particularly in the area of goal setting. She feels that all patient’s with hearing loss should evaluate their hearing needs regularly and assess whether their hearing and peripheral devices meet their needs.
Those of us suffering from hearing loss should set hearing goals, and we should identify our hearing challenges. We should make sure that we have the best hearing equipment possible. As technology improves and more options become available, we should be ready to embrace better hearing solutions. Ultimately, the work that you do to keep yourself in tip-top hearing shape will help you meander through the hearing world with ease.