Say what? Testing and treatment of hearing loss improves quality of life
November 12, 2016
Craig — Audiologists in Northwest Colorado remind people that regular hearing tests are as important as regular eye tests to ensure hearing loss is corrected to maintain or improve quality of life.
Audiologist John Burke who runs Northwest Hearing says that a good rule of thumb is that "our eyes go at 40 and our ears go at 60."
However, hearing loss can occur at any age due to "health conditions, hereditary conditions, illness, blows to the head and noise exposure can result in hearing loss earlier," Burke said.
Not being able to hear when we are older can be confused with other, more serious conditions such as dementia, said Burke, who recalled helping one patient go from non-responsive at a nursing home to regaining the ability to hear and interact with others with the use of hearing aids.
"Usually people will start saying things like your TV is too loud, people keep asking for things to be repeated, sometimes family members will notice and complain or they (the person with hearing loss) might miss sounds like the alarm on the microwave," said Cindy Hoest of the Hearing Aid Office.
"Everybody should have a hearing test no matter the age, just like an eye test," Hoest said.
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The test helps determine the type of hearing loss to determine the best course of treatment.
"A certain number are medically treated. A number are not treatable medically and require that people get hearing aids like they would glasses," said Burke.
Today's hearing aids hardly resemble those Grandma used to wear, as about 18 years ago the technology went digital.
"All hearing aids are digital, except Lyric. They have just gotten better and better," Burke said.
There are many types of hearing aids.
"There are over 40 brands of hearing aids," Hoest said who is nationally board certified in hearing instrument sciences.
With so many hearing aids to choose from AARP created a help sheet available on their website.
Hoest tries to get them into a test pair right away to begin to help patients determine if hearing aids will help.
"Most people now need a hearing aid for each ear," said Hoest.
Comparing hearing to vision helps Hoest explain the reason it is important to have good hearing in both ears.
"When was the last time you saw a monocle? With two ears you get sound direction and separate sound from noise and hear farther with two ears than one," she said.
Cochlear implants are an option for people who can't be helped with hearing aids.
Diane Brannan owner of Bargain Barn in Craig received an implant for her right ear in March due to damage she sustained from Meniere's disease.
Burke said that these illnesses are "accompanied with dizziness and ringing in the ears might be sign of viral infection that if not resolved could lead to permanent hearing loss."
The first signs something was wrong were episodes of vertigo, said Brannan.
Eventually, it would destroy hearing in her right ear and leave only 30 percent of her hearing in the left.
"The biggest thing is music. I can only hear the drums," Brannan said.
Hearing aids helped for a time, but eventually the loss of hearing was so profound that Brannan became a candidate for cochlear implants.
"It's helped. The brain can fill in the gaps," Brannan said. "I'm really good at that, but I still have problems on the phone."