Hearing Testing

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By Frankie Huang

In honor of World Hearing Day, which takes place on March 3 every year, Hearing Health Foundation is joining forces with the World Health Organization (WHO) to draw attention to the economic impact of hearing loss and the importance of treating hearing loss.

Did you know the economic cost for unaddressed hearing loss is estimated to be $750 billion globally? In the U.S. individuals with untreated severe to profound hearing loss are expected to cost society $270,000 each over the course of their lifetimes. Most of these costs are due to reduced productivity in the workplace, although the use of special education resources among children and other social services are also factors.

Lifetime earnings for those with untreated hearing loss average 50 to 70% less than their typical-hearing peers in the U.S., and has been shown to negatively impact household income up to $12,000 per year, on average, depending on the degree of hearing loss, according to the Better Hearing Institute. This is largely due to having fewer opportunities for promotions, reduced job performance, and decreased earning power.

Beyond economic losses, untreated hearing loss can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Researchers have found that individuals with untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy. They may also avoid or withdraw from social situations. Left undetected in children, hearing loss can negatively impact speech and language acquisition, academic achievement, and social and emotional development.

Prevention, screening for early identification, early intervention, and rehabilitation through hearing devices are among the strategies that mitigate hearing loss and its consequences. Those who treat their hearing loss with hearing aids and/or cochlear implants show improvement in social, emotional, and psychological well-being. Interventions can significantly decrease isolation, increase self-esteem, and lead to better employment opportunities and earnings—all of which will benefit society as a whole.

For World Hearing Day 2017, the WHO has joined forces with Mimi Hearing Technologies. To raise awareness of hearing loss, Mimi hopes to have 1 million people test their hearing. To do this, they are offering the Hearing Test app on iOS free for everyone. If you suspect you or a loved one may have hearing loss, this is a great opportunity to test your hearing with Mimi’s Hearing Test, which is an initial online assessment. The results may require a follow-up appointment with a hearing health professional. However, by detecting signs of hearing loss early on the benefits of treating hearing loss far outweigh the consequences if left untreated.

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When It's Not Just Hearing Loss

By Morgan Leppla & Laura Friedman

This year Autism Sunday, an international day to raise awareness of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is on Feb. 12.

Did you know that one third or more of pediatric hearing loss cases overlap with another condition? This may sometimes be ASD, making treatment and management of co-occurring conditions a challenge.

In a 2007 report in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, British researcher Lindsay Edwards, Ph.D., cites an estimate that 30 to 40 percent of children with hearing loss have co-occurring conditions that could prohibit them from forming language, speech, and sociocognitive skills. But despite this large percentage, there is little research on hearing loss that occurs with other disorders. What research there is has shown the benefit of cochlear implantation for children with additional needs (such as physical or learning disabilities), and the difficulties of language acquisition and development for 3-year-olds with developmentally related conditions such as ASD, cerebral palsy, or Down syndrome.

One silver lining is that the fact that 30 to 40 percent of pediatric hearing loss may occur with other conditions may prove helpful in predicting future disorders. A July 2016 Autism Research paper suggests that a noninvasive measure of otoacoustic emissions in the inner ear—a common hearing test for infants, who are preverbal—may help identify the risk of ASD at an early age, accelerating treatment. Study author Anne Luebke, Ph.D., of University of Rochester Medical School, found that children with ASD often have trouble hearing a frequency range (1–2 kHz) that is important for understanding speech. The range includes sounds for the meaning-conveying consonants S-, H-, and F-.

Scientific conclusions can help shape future research, but cannot illustrate daily life for families with children with co-occurring conditions. Dual diagnoses make unlocking any child’s learning style challenging, but reviving research and upgrading professional training are essential tools in order to advocate for and successfully educate children with co-occurring conditions.

If you’re interested in funding research related to diagnosing and treating co-occuring disorders, such as hearing loss and autism, please consider donating today: hhf.org/donate or contact us at development@hhf.org.

This blog was adapted from an article original appearing in Hearing Health magazine’s Fall 2016 issue. For references in this story, see hhf.org/fall2016_references.

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Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Affects More Than 50% Not in Noisy Jobs

By Yishane Lee

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made an announcement Feb. 7 on the dangers of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Among the many statistics cited, the CDC says:

  • 40 million U.S. adults ages 20 to 79 have NIHL

  • More than half (21 million) with hearing damage do not have noisy jobs

  • One in four U.S. adults who say they have good or excellent hearing actually show hearing damage

  • Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in the U.S.

  • People report hearing loss at a rate nearly double of those reporting diabetes or cancer

The CDC says its latest Vital Signs report, using data from more than 3,500 hearing tests in the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), shows “much of this [hearing] damage is from loud sounds encountered during everyday activities at home and in the community,” such as using a leaf blower or going to a loud concert without hearing protection. Nearly three-quarters of those who are exposed to loud noises never or rarely use hearing protection, the report says.

According to the press release, CDC researchers “found that 20 percent of people who reported no job-related noise exposure had hearing damage in a pattern usually caused by noise. This damage—shown by a distinctive drop in the ability to hear high-pitched sounds—appeared as early as age 20.” But it added that while a few studies have linked noise exposure among young people to the use of portable devices and entertainment venues, more research is needed to determine the relationship between this type of early noise exposure and hearing loss in older age.

Untreated hearing loss is linked with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress, the CDC says. In addition to causing hearing loss, chronic noise exposure can worsen heart disease and increase blood pressure, among other adverse health effects.

But don’t forget, noise is the only fully preventable cause of hearing loss.

Please see HHF’s resources on NIHL here, as well as our Summer 2015 cover story about NIHL. Taking care of your hearing should always be part of your overall health. If you suspect a hearing loss, get your hearing checked, and if you do have a hearing loss, get it treated. Avoid noisy areas, and wear protective earplugs or stronger when you need them in noisy environments. Download the CDC’s fact sheet here.

Receive updates on life-changing hearing research and resources by subscribing to HHF's free quarterly magazine and e-newsletter.

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Want to Be Happier in 2017? Try a Hearing Test.

By the Better Hearing Institute

When you’re making your list of New Year’s resolutions and to-dos for 2017, be sure to put this one near the top: a hearing test.

That’s right. Research shows that when people address hearing loss it improves their quality of life in many ways.

And it’s no wonder. Ignoring a hearing loss and leaving it unaddressed can be exhausting, lead to isolation, and has been tied to an assortment of health conditions, including depression, diminished cognitive function, and an increased risk of falling.

But when people get a hearing test and use professionally fitted and individually programmed hearing aids—when recommended by a hearing care professional—most say they’re happy with the improvements they see in multiple areas of their lives.

Here are just a few potential perks of treating hearing loss that may surprise you:

  1. Your spirits may brighten. People with hearing loss who use hearing aids are less likely to feel down, depressed or hopeless, BHI research shows.

  2. Your relationships may benefit. Most people with hearing loss who use hearing aids say it has a positive effect on their relationships, according to a BHI survey. Research also finds that they’re more likely to have a strong social network.

  3. You may start to see life’s sunny side a little more. People with hearing loss who use hearing aids are more likely to be optimistic, feel engaged in life, and even get more pleasure in doing things, BHI research finds.

  4. Taking the reins on life might become easier. BHI research shows that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids are more likely to tackle problems actively. Not a bad New Year’s resolution in and of itself.

  5. It may lighten your cognitive load. Experts say that effortful listening due to unaddressed hearing loss is associated with increased stress and poorer performance on memory tests. If you don’t have to put so much effort into listening due to untreated hearing loss, more cognitive resources may be available for other things—like remembering what was said, or enjoying the conversation with friends.

So, go ahead. Make a hearing test one of the New Year’s resolutions you keep in 2017. 

So do it for your health. Do it for your happiness. Get a hearing test.

To take a free, quick, and confidential online hearing check to help determine if you need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing health care professional, visit www.BetterHearing.org

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute.

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8 Reasons to Put a Hearing Test at the Top of Your To-Do List

By Better Hearing Institute

Of all the life hacks for better living, taking care of your hearing is among the smartest and most economical.

From pilfering away at your relationships and quality of life, to putting you at risk for other health conditions, untreated hearing loss is a silent thief. Here are eight reasons why you should get a hearing test today.


  1. It may help your pocketbook. A study by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) shows that using hearing aids reduces the risk of income loss by 90 to 100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss, and lost as much as $30,000 annually.

  2. Your mind may benefit. Research shows a link between hearing loss and dementia. Leading experts to believe that addressing hearing loss may at least help protect cognitive function.

  3. It could boost your job performance. Most hearing aid users say it has helped their performance on the job. That's right. Getting a hearing test could benefit all those employees (a whopping 30 percent) who suspect they have hearing loss but haven't sought treatment.

  4. Life’s challenges may not seem so intimidating. Research shows people with hearing loss who use hearing aids are more likely to tackle problems actively. Apparently, hearing your best brings greater confidence.

  5. Your zest for life might get zestier. Most people who use hearing aids say it has a positive effect on their relationships. They’re more likely to have a strong social network, be optimistic, feel engaged in life, and even get more pleasure in doing things.

  6. It could protect you against the blues. Hearing loss is linked to a greater risk of depression in adults, especially 18 to 69-year-olds.

  7. You’ll probably be more likely to get the drift. The majority who bought their hearing aids within the past five years say they’re pleased with their ability to hear in the workplace, at home with family members, in conversations in small and large groups, when watching TV with others, in lecture halls, theaters or concert halls, when riding in a car, and even when trying to follow conversations in the presence of noise.

  8. Your heart and health may benefit. Some experts say the inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it’s possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body.

So do it for your health. Do it for your happiness. Get a hearing test.

To take a free, quick, and confidential online hearing check to help determine if you need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing health care professional, visit www.BetterHearing.org

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute.

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My Father: My Model in All I Do

By Audra Renyi

Audra with her father

Audra with her father

My model in all I do is my father. He is my hero and always will be. He has gone through so much, and never a complaint, he just carries on. I always have my father’s advice to support me in whatever I do. He is very calm and analytical and looks at things from every angle.

Ever since I was little, I knew he had trouble hearing. He grew up in Romania and when he was 9 years old, an ear infection impaired the auditory nerve in both his ears. He wears a hearing aid in his left ear, but needs one in each.

In 1967, my father was working in the engineering department of Volkswagen in Brazil. They were test-driving cars in the state of Mato Grosso. During a night hunt on the Jauru River, a local in my father’s dugout canoe fired his gun right next to my father’s head. For two days afterward, my father could not hear a thing. This only worsened his hearing, of course.

Eventually I will have to persuade him to wear a second hearing aid to improve his stereo perception. Since I dedicated my career to hearing loss five years ago, I started noticing things about my father that I had taken for granted. For instance, he does not hear me as well when the light in a room is dim; I came to realize how much my father lip-reads and how important it is to look at him when I speak.

When he turned 50, he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and had to undergo dialysis in a hospital four times a week. He did receive a kidney transplant but the kidney died after a few years, so he is back on dialysis. Not to worry, it did not manage to slow him down. But I get angry sometimes when nurses at the hospital mumble or do not speak clearly to him. Hospital staff should be trained to communicate clearly with an ever-growing number of older patients with hearing loss. Patients can miss critical information from their health providers, just because they can’t hear.

My brother Aras has also become hard of hearing. He’s an explosives specialist with the Canadian Army who fought in the infantry in Afghanistan. At 32, he will soon need hearing aids to help offset the effect of all those explosions. But there’s no problem hearing him, he’s got the voice of a drill sergeant!

One of the things I learned working with hearing loss around the world is that this invisible disability affects not just the individual but the family as a whole. Not having hearing aids when you need them will cut you off from school and a decent job but it will also affect your parents, siblings, and children.

So it is not a coincidence that when the time comes to buy a hearing aid, the initiative often does not come from the person affected but rather from her parents, his children, or the spouse. They take the person by the hand and drag her/him to the audiology test. People are reluctant to acknowledge that they need a hearing aid, much more so than when they need eyeglasses. And yet, once they are wearing the hearing aid, people just grin with the pleasure of hearing again, and are grateful for having been pushed into wearing it.

One day in Jordan, where our team was working to screen children and provide them with hearing aids, we had just fitted a little boy with his first hearing aid when his father walked in the door and called his name; the boy looked up, saw his father, and burst into tears: He had never heard his father’s voice before. Put simply, that is what motivates me to carry on.

Audra Renyi is the executive director of the Montreal-based World Wide Hearing Foundation International, which provides access to affordable hearing aids and services to children and youth in developing countries. A former investment banker who then worked in Kenya, Rwanda, and Chad for organizations such as Doctors Without Borders, Renyi is also launching her own social enterprise, Hearing Access World, to sell low-cost, high-quality hearing aids.

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Marion Downs Appreciation

By Amy Gross

I had no idea how influential Marion Downs had been—and at the time, still was—regarding newborn infant screening, but it didn't take much research to discover that this woman was a big, big deal. I don't know why, but her passing on November 13, 2014, caught me by surprise. It didn't matter that she had reached her 100th birthday; I, like many of her fans, found it difficult to accept that the force known as Marion Downs had moved on, peacefully, in her sleep.

Marion (she wouldn't let me call her "Ms. Downs") was 92 when we spoke. She was still skiing and swimming and playing tennis competitively, and one of the photos in “Shut Up and Live!” showed her gleefully skydiving with a handsome young instructor (she made sure to point out the "handsome" part several times). I had read every word of her book, in which she provided candid advice for anyone dealing with the aging process: the importance of weight training, why hearing aids are critical in the health of a marriage, and how to maintain a healthy sex life into one's senior years. I loved that she was able to make me blush more than a few more times; the woman minced no words.

What had put Marion Downs on the map, audiologically speaking, were her pioneering efforts, beginning in the early 1960s, in the essentially unheard-of area of infant hearing testing. An audiologist herself, Marion and a research partner started hearing testing for newborns before those infants had even left the hospital, fitting even the tiniest babies with hearing aids. Today, thanks to Early Hearing and Detection Intervention programs, 97 percent of newborns have their hearing screened. Knowing what we know today about the importance of hearing with respect to language and even cognitive development in extremely young children, there's no telling how many infants with hearing loss were identified as such in a timely manner, and their developmental skills saved, because of Marion Downs's work.  

The Marion Downs Center in Denver, Colorado, a nonprofit organization that espouses, as Marion did herself, a cradle to grave approach in dealing with hearing loss, will continue her efforts in advocating for those with hearing loss. Marion was a visionary in the world of hearing health. Her legacy lives on, quite visibly, in the children whose lives she touched.

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