News

Why So Many Can’t Afford to Hear Better

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Only about 14 percent of Americans with hearing loss use hearing aids. For many others, this vital, life-changing treatment that facilitates participation in meaningful conversations with friends and family is out of reach financially.

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s 2017 hearing loss survey, created to better understand our constituents’ opinions related to hearing loss, was cited by a WBUR-FM Here & Now radio segment highlighting the barriers to hearing loss treatment that Americans encounter.

The news story opens with commentary from retiree Betty Hauck, 72, who was shocked when her first pair of hearing aids cost her $5,600—with no assistance from Medicare.

“A price tag like that is often a surprise to people buying hearing aids for the first time. Four states—Arkansas, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island—require health plans to cover hearing aids for children and adults,” explains reporter Peter O’Dowd.

“But those benefits are rare. A 2017 survey by the Hearing Health Foundation, a group that funds research and advocates for treatments and cures for hearing loss, found that 40 percent of the people they asked had no hearing aid coverage through health insurance.”

Kevin Franck, director of audiology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, among other experts, are hopeful that the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 will reduce barriers—cost, stigma, and hassle—encouraging greater adoption.

You can access the full WBUR segment, here.

Note: The audio segment is not captioned but is summarized in print.

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Cochlear to Support Hearing Research By Reaching One Million Ears

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Today marks the start of Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM), a campaign to advance public knowledge of communication disorders. To celebrate, international hearing implant manufacturer Cochlear is launching the #MillionEar Challenge with the goal of informing one million people about the importance of hearing health and research.

Proceeds from the campaign will benefit Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s longstanding Emerging Research Grants (ERG) program. Cochlear has pledged to donate to ERG when the #MillionEar Challenge is met.

“Awareness is at the heart of Hearing Health Foundation's efforts to prevent, treat, and cure hearing loss," said Nadine Dehgan, HHF’s Chief Executive Officer. "I am deeply grateful Cochlear is committed to raising awareness of hearing loss, which will inspire more to pursue hearing tests and life-changing treatments."

  HHF staff thanks Cochlear in their own #MillionEar Challenge shirts.

HHF staff thanks Cochlear in their own #MillionEar Challenge shirts.

Cochlear’s generous gift will allow HHF to continue funding up-and-coming scientists who investigate various hearing and balance conditions. Such funding has historically led to the development of many new treatments including cochlear implants which, today, benefit more than 300,000 people worldwide.

You can support the #MillionEar campaign with the purchase of a t-shirt, available in child and adult sizes. Read the full press from Cochlear release here.

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Ménière's Disease Grantee Featured in Reader's Digest

  Credit: Agnieszka Marcinska, Shutterstock

Credit: Agnieszka Marcinska, Shutterstock

Ian Swinburne, Ph.D., a 2018 Ménière's Disease Grant (MDG) recipient, shared his expertise regarding vertigo with Reader's Digest in an article called "What Causes Vertigo? 15 Things Neurologists Wish You Knew" published in March 2018. 

"The spinning, dizzying loss of balance which earmarks vertigo can come without warning," the article opens. Various professionals provide information about its duration, how it feels, and different types.

HHF-funded Dr. Swinburne notes specifically that the inner ear and balance disorder Ménière's disease can cause vertigo. He explains that "[b]outs of vertigo likely arise in patients with Ménière's disease, because the inner ear's tissue tears from too much fluid pressure—causing the ear's internal environment to become abnormal.'" He is currently pursuing a research project to understand the inner ear stabilizes fluid composition, which he believes will help to identify ways to restore or elevate this function to mitigate or cure Ménière's disease.

View the full article from Reader's Digest, here.

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HHF’s Fiscal Practices Endorsed by Consumer Reports for Second Consecutive Year

By Nadine Dehgan

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  Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF), the largest nonprofit funder of hearing and balance research, is thrilled to be recognized by Consumer Reports as one of the “Best Charities for Your Donations” for the second consecutive year.

Consumer Reports’ prominent charity roster, released annually to facilitate informed giving, includes 11 categories ranging from Animal Welfare to Youth Development. HHF is acknowledged as a top-rated nonprofit in the Blind and Hearing-Impaired category, and the only organization listed whose mission is to better the lives of those with hearing loss.

The “Best Charities for Your Donations” are determined using metrics from three major charity watchdogs: BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and Charity Watch. These watchdogs independently research charities’ financial histories and moral standards to evaluate how donors’ contributions are used. Each of them have previously highlighted HHF for its excellence in fundraising, governance, effectiveness, and financial standards.

HHF’s superior charity ratings and our placement on the Consumer Reports list illustrate how we pursue our mission in a financially responsible way. These accolades differentiate HHF from its peers and assure donors we are worthy of their trust.

HHF exists to better the lives of those with hearing loss by funding life-changing research and through our awareness and education programs. Our endorsements from Consumer Reports and charity watchdogs show our commitment to our mission. We have achieved many scientific milestones in our 60 years, but more work is needed. We are grateful to those who give their time and financial resources in pursuit of better treatments and cures for hearing and balance conditions.

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Studying Difficulties in Sound Localization

HHF partner Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech published briefings on three Emerging Research Grants (ERG) recipients’ projects that investigate Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).

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CAPD causes one to have trouble with sound localization, specifically in their ability to isolate a sound source in social environments. Individuals with CAPD also have difficulty decoding the meaning of language, even though they do not necessarily have a hearing loss. CAPD occurs when the part of the brain that translates what the ear delivers does not function properly.

The individual works of ERG recipients Elizabeth McCullagh, Ph.D., Andrew Dimitrijevic, Ph.D., and Yoojin Chung, Ph.D. are summarized in the Clarke news piece.

Combined, their research efforts and related studies will lead the way to possible CAPD medical intervention, including that for children and cochlear implant recipients.

Read full piece from Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech here.

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Untreated Hearing Loss Puts Overall Health at Risk

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) CEO Nadine Dehgan’s “Treating Hearing Health for Better Overall Health” was published online to My Prime Time News following its original print appearance in The American Legion’s December 2017 issue.

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The article details how the state of the inner ear impacts other critical functions, like the heart and the brain. Cited are the various conditions that can arise as a result of untreated hearing loss, including cardiovascular disease, dementia, diabetes,  depression, and falls. When the auditory system is functioning well, however, the risk for these ailments declines.

Additionally, hearing loss is also linked to other medical conditions and drugs. People with anemia are twice as likely to have hearing loss. According to Peter Steyger, Ph.D., a scientific adviser to HHF. Further, certain cancer-fighting chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin, may permanently harm hearing.

While the relationship between hearing health and overall health is always significant, the publicity of “Treating Hearing Health for Better Overall Health” is an especially timely and helpful follow-up to ERG recipient Harrison Lin, M.D.’s new findings concerning the gaps between self-reported hearing loss and patients evaluation and treatments for hearing loss, which appeared in this month’s issue of JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery.

Individuals who believe they may have a hearing loss are encouraged to consult an audiologist or ENT, and can learn more about the relationship between hearing health and overall health in the full article on My Prime Time News.

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HHF Launches Faces of Hearing Loss Campaign

Think of someone you know who has hearing loss. Who do you see?

You envision a relative, but you are not thinking of your 4-year-old niece. A neighbor comes to mind, but not the 32-year-old who lives across the street.

This is a trick question. Hearing loss—and related conditions like tinnitus, Ménière's disease, and hyperacusis—can affect anyone, anywhere. Hearing loss is your 4-year-old niece, your 32-year-old neighbor, your colleague in her mid-20s. Hearing loss affects every age, race, ethnicity, and gender.

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No one is immune from developing a hearing and balance disorder—and hearing loss has no single face. To refute common misconceptions that it only affects older adults, HHF has collected images of individuals living with a hearing condition to capture the diversity of its impact across the country. These are HHF’s “Faces of Hearing Loss.”

Participants shared their picture, current age, state of residence, type of hearing condition, and the age at onset or diagnosis. Among the tens of millions of Americans with hearing loss are an 11-year-old boy in Oregon, an 80-year-old woman living in Washington, and a 47-year-old man in North Dakota. These individuals may never meet, but “Faces of Hearing Loss” connects them through their shared experiences.

If you or a loved one has hearing loss, please consider participating in “Faces of Hearing Loss” by completing this brief form, sending in picture, and answering a few basic questions. If you are the parent of a child under 18, you may sign a release form on their behalf.

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Talk to Your Loved Ones About Hearing Loss, HHF Urges in Renew Magazine

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) Board of Directors member Anil Lalwani, M.D. and Communications and Programs Manager Laura Friedman recently shared their expertise about untreated hearing loss and how to encourage a loved one—with compassion—to get help.

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The story, "Heart of Hearing," is found on page 26 in the latest issue of Renew, a publication of United Healthcare and AARP. 

“Regardless of age, type of hearing loss, or cause, if left untreated or undetected, hearing loss can have negative effects on your well-being,” says the Hearing Health Foundation’s Laura Friedman. “Untreated hearing loss can lead to numerous negative social, psychological, cognitive and health effects, and can seriously impact professional and personal life, at times leading to isolation and depression.” 

As the consequences of untreated hearing loss can be devastating, Anil Lalwani urges readers to offer encouragement to their loved ones with untreated hearing loss. 

“Often the individual with hearing loss is unaware of what they cannot hear,” explains Lalwani. Whether you think your loved one is aware of his or her potential hearing loss or not, it’s important to approach the topic lovingly."

Read the full piece in Renew magazine on page 26

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The Hearing Journey: What Matters to You?

By Laura Friedman

  Participants used post-it notes to express their desired improvements to the hearing journey. Photo by Darcy Benson.

Participants used post-it notes to express their desired improvements to the hearing journey. Photo by Darcy Benson.

Recently, in October 2017, I represented Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) at a seminar that took place in Skodsborg, Denmark, where I and 30 other attendees from around the world were tasked with closely exploring and developing tactical strategies to better the patient experience when receiving audiological care.

The seminar conversations focused on person-centered care, a treatment model that focuses on the whole person, rather than just the ailment or condition experienced by the patient. The peer-reviewed Permanente Journal says that person-centered care is “based on accumulated knowledge of people, which provides the basis for better recognition of health problems and needs over time and facilitates appropriate care for these needs in the context of other needs.” Furthering this sentiment, the World Health Organization identifies empowerment, participation, the central role of the family, and an end to discrimination as the core values of person-centered care.

The two-day symposium was titled, “The Hearing Journey: What Matters to You?” The 31 attendees fell into one or more of the following groups: individuals with hearing loss, representatives from prominent consumer-driven associations for people with hearing loss, audiologists, and hearing healthcare thought leaders. The conference was hosted by the Ida Institute, a Denmark-based nonprofit that aims to better understand human dynamics associated with hearing loss.

  The symposium participants pose as a group. Photo by Darcy Benson.

The symposium participants pose as a group. Photo by Darcy Benson.

One of the most eye-opening takeaways was recognizing that all those who are part of the care-cycle feel shared sentiments of frustration, poor communication, lack of access, and high costs. Addressing each of these hurdles from a variety of vantage points is key to bettering person-centered care and may not be limited to just audiological care, but rather medical care as whole.  

Exercises and projects resulted in several meaningful insights related to person-focused hearing healthcare. We spoke openly about stigma, barriers to rehabilitation, and the need for creating a “new narrative” for how we speak about hearing loss. Changing how we talk about hearing loss, such as how our current nomenclature addresses it as a loss or deficit, will hopefully play a role in changing social stigmas and taboos experienced by those who are hard of hearing, like myself.

  HHF's Laura Friedman presents to the group with Paul Breckell, Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss. Photo by Darcy Benson.

HHF's Laura Friedman presents to the group with Paul Breckell, Chief Executive of Action on Hearing Loss. Photo by Darcy Benson.

All parties stressed the importance of including caregivers and family members in the rehabilitation process, and the need for a multidimensional model of care to address the psychological and emotional aspects of hearing care. This included developing a “human audiogram” to discuss diagnoses and their subsequent treatment options in more friendly terms that empowers the patient, rather than discouraging them. It was also advised that clinicians should be more cognizant that diagnoses are difficult for the patient to come to terms with and remember that the most successful patients want treatment, but that it may take time for them to feel motivated to take that next step. Follow-up appointments, rather than immediate discussion of treatment options, was a suggestion most agreed would serve the patient and clinician well.

I feel honored to had been afforded the opportunity to represent HHF at this important symposium and to meet and learn from fellow leaders in the hearing healthcare space. I look forward to working with Ida and my fellow attendees to develop and employ tangible tools and solutions to better a patient’s hearing journey both in and out the audiologist's office, as well as provided better resources to health care providers.

Laura Friedman is the Communications and Programs Manager of Hearing Health Foundation. Read her hearing loss story in the Spring 2016 issue of Hearing Health magazine.

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Idaho Seniors Receive Hearing Health Resources

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Idaho Senior News, the Gem State's oldest and largest publication for individuals 50+, printed hearing loss resources in its October 2017 edition. Authored by Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)'s Communications and Programs Manager Laura Friedman, the piece educates readers about hearing loss—the third most common health problem in the U.S.—noting that the condition is most common among older adults.

Left untreated in adults, hearing loss can "lead to considerable negative social, psychological, cognitive and health effects and can seriously impact professional and personal life, at times leading to isolation and depression," Laura writes. 

But there is good news. The most common form of hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss, is preventable. "If you are in an environment where you have to shout to be heard, it is probably too loud."

Laura's full article, "Hear, Hear: All About Hearing Loss," is available in this PDF on the Idaho Senior News website on page 19

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