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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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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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Hearing Aid Use Is Associated with Improved Cognitive Function in Hearing-Impaired Elderly

By Columbia University Medical Center

A study conducted by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) found that older adults who used a hearing aid performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those who did not use a hearing aid, despite having poorer hearing.

The study was published online in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The researchers also found that cognitive function was directly related to hearing ability in participants who did not use a hearing aid.

More than half of adults over age 75 have hearing loss, yet less than 15 percent of the hearing impaired use a hearing aid device. Previous studies have shown that the hearing-impaired elderly have a higher incidence of fall- and accident-related death, social isolation, and dementia than those without hearing loss. Studies have also demonstrated that hearing aid use can improve the social, functional, and emotional consequences of hearing loss.

“We know that hearing aids can keep older adults with hearing loss more socially engaged by providing an important bridge to the outside world,” said Anil K. Lalwani, MD, professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery at Columbia and otolaryngologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/CUMC and NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “In this study, we wanted to determine if they could also slow the effects of aging on cognitive function.”

The study included 100 adults with hearing loss between the ages of 80 and 99. Of the participants, 34 regularly used a hearing aid. Audiometry tests were performed to measure the degree of hearing loss. Cognitive function was evaluated by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), in which participants give vocal responses to verbal commands. Executive function was also assessed with the Trail Making Test, Part B (TMT-B), which does not have a verbal or auditory component.

Hearing aid users, who had worse hearing than non-users, performed significantly (1.9 points) better on the MMSE. Among non-users, participants with more hearing loss also had lower MMSE scores than those with better hearing. Although hearing aid users performed better than non-users on the TMT-B, the difference was not statistically significant. In addition, TMT-B scores were not correlated with hearing level.

“Our study suggests that using a hearing aid may offer a simple, yet important, way to prevent or slow the development of dementia by keeping adults with hearing loss engaged in conversation and communication,” said Dr. Lalwani.

This blog was reposted with the permission of Columbia University Medical Center

Anil K. Lalwani, M.D. is the Head of Hearing Health Foundation's Council of Scientific Trustees and sits on our Board of Directors

We need your help in funding the exciting work of hearing and balance scientists.

To donate today to support HHF's groundbreaking research,

please visit hhf.org/donate.

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Psychology Effects of Hearing Loss in Teens

By Ann Steele, Psy.D., LMFT

Hearing loss is frequently associated with older folks. When we think of younger people and teens as being deaf or hard of hearing, we tend to assume they have been that way since birth. But that’s not always the case; children and teens can lose their hearing just as older people can, sometimes quite suddenly.

It is important to understand not only the causes of hearing loss, but also the serious issues that result. Hearing loss affects social interaction and emotional well-being, and only by appreciating these effects can friends, teachers, parents and other support figures help teens navigate the troubled times ahead. The below blog post discusses more root causes and the importance hearing has on our society. 

What causes hearing loss in teens?

Hearing loss in teens can result from many factors, including congenital defects, ear infections, autoimmune diseases, blows to the head or exposure to loud noises. This is not a complete list, unfortunately; hearing loss can result from many other issues besides.1

Understanding levels of hearing loss

While we tend to think of people as either hearing or deaf, hearing is not an absolute sense. Rather, it exists on a scale.2 So while some teens may have no hearing ability whatsoever, others may have some. When hearing begins to fade, people first have trouble picking up softer noises, then louder ones. Teens may first lose their ability to hear low hums and birds chirping and then lose spoken words in a vacuum. Eventually, in full hearing loss, they cannot hear even loud noises such as helicopters or gunshots.

The cultural importance of hearing

Sadly, hearing is not only a valuable means of communication; it is also fraught with cultural importance. Not being able to hear causes teens to miss many social cues that other, hearing, teens rely on.

For instance, they may miss the physical characteristics of voice, different dialects, varying speech registers (the ways we speak in informal versus formal situations, or at work versus at home), and the internal or emotional states of the people around them.3 These are all crucial pieces of cultural information to which the deaf and hard of hearing do not have access.

Learning impacts of deafness from birth

Deafness from birth, especially when it comes to deaf teens born to hearing parents, comes with a price tag not attached to deaf teens born to deaf parents or hearing teens who later become deaf.4 This is because when children are able to interact with parents on a daily basis during their formative years – hearing children with hearing parents or deaf children with deaf parents – they benefit from crucial language interaction.

However, teens who were born deaf to hearing parents often suffer from a disconnect that results from being unable to communicate easily. Reading levels, memory, emotional adjustment and other aspects of life may suffer.

Emotional, social and educational results of hearing loss

Even if children are able to skip the often negative effects of early deafness, hearing loss of any type has huge impacts socially, emotionally and educationally.

Teens who experience hearing loss and can’t compensate for its effects often respond in typical ways: becoming confused, checking out, losing self-reliance, feeling isolated and losing their identity.5 This impacts their ability to engage in school, to form peer relationships, to be close to their families and to pursue their interests. Such issues can be hard to overcome, but with good communication, it’s possible.

Tips for communicating with the deaf and hard of hearing

It can be quite difficult to learn to communicate with deaf or hard of hearing teens if you have never learned sign language, especially if the onset of hearing loss is sudden. However, there are a number of steps that you can take to make communication easier.

Remember, hard-of-hearing teens will rely heavily on your facial and mouth movements, so give them a full view of your face, avoiding moving or fidgeting. Don’t exaggerate your words, because this distorts how you form them, and supplement the conversation with bodily and facial gestures as you normally would.6

Mitigating the psychological effects of teen hearing loss

Helping teens foster a sense of self that moves past the disability is important, as is helping them to establish an understanding community. Supporting their efforts to communicate is crucial, but offering space where needed is very important as well. Overall, it will take time and effort – on the teen’s part and on the part of his or her support team – to overcome the disability and learn to lead a full and natural life once more. But with understanding, love and help, teens can get there.

Ann Steele, Psy.D., LMFT is the author and publisher of the "Psychology Effects of Hearing Loss in Teens." 

  1. Hearing Loss Association of America (2016). Types, Causes and Treatment. Retrieved from http://www.hearingloss.org/content/types-causes-and-treatment.

  2. World Health Organization (2016). Grades of Hearing Impairment. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/pbd/deafness/hearing_impairment_grades/en/.

  3. Krauss, Robert M., & Pardo, Jennifer S. (2006). Speaker Perception and Social Behavior: Bridging Social Psychology and Speech Science. Retrieved from http://www.columbia.edu/~rmk7/PDF/Bridges.pdf.

  4. Henderson, Valerie, Grinter, Rebecca E., & Starner, Thad (2005). Electronic Communication by Deaf Teenagers. Retrieved from https://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/handle/1853/8451/05-34.pdf.

  5. Better Hearing Institute (2016). Consequences of Hearing Loss. Retrieved from http://www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/consequences-hearing-loss.

  6. South Carolina Hospital Association. Tips for Communicating with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People. Retrieved from http://www.scha.org/files/documents/tips_for_communicating_with_deaf_and_hard.pdf.

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How Society Treats Hearing Loss

By ConsumerAffairs

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 3 of every 1,000 children are born with a detectable level of hearing loss, and around 30 million Americans over age 12 have disabling hearing loss. However, only about 20% of the people who could benefit from hearing aids use one.

By themselves, those statistics are unsettling. However, compared to the fact that 75% of U.S. adults use some sort of vision correction, they highlight the stark differences in how society treats hearing loss versus a similar disability like vision loss.

Price

According to the Better Hearing Institute, 68% of people with hearing loss cite finances as the main reason for not using hearing aids.

Availability

While glasses have been adopted as must-have fashion accessories for NBA players and presidential hopefuls alike, hearing aids are still lacking in aesthetic options.

Accommodations

Don't count on your favorite hotel or restaurant offering a pair of complimentary hearing aids if you leave yours at home.

At work and school

Untreated hearing loss is proven to affect children's attention and comprehension in classroom lectures, and adults with untreated hearing loss lose as much as $30,000 in salary and wages annually.

In social settings

Kids with hearing loss struggle in social situations, and their difficulty interacting or following along in conversation is often mistaken for aloofness.

In relationships

The say communication is the key to any good relationship, but communication can be challenging for hearing impared individuals, especially in a relationship with a person with normal hearing.

According to the World Health Organization, 360 million people worldwide are hearing disabled. Hearing loss is a major public health issue, the third most common after arthritis and heart disease. Yet because we can’t see hearing loss, only its effects, many mistake it as aloofness, confusion, or personality changes. To learn more about how hearing aids can help with hearing loss, and to find the one that’s right for you, check out ConsumerAffairs' Hearing Aids guide.

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

 
 
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How Hearing Loss Affects Other Aspects of Your Health

By Patricia Sarmiento

A few years ago, my dad began experiencing hearing loss. He worked in loud factories all his life. And while in recent years he began wearing ear protection, I think there were many days on the job where he didn’t use any. As he grew older, all that time without ear protection took its toll.

Prior to his experiences with hearing loss, I must admit that I didn’t know much about it. As he began going through the necessary steps, like getting fitted for hearing aids, I began to look into how hearing loss can affect our overall health. Here’s what I found:

Falls: This was my first area of concern when my dad’s hearing loss was diagnosed. I knew that our ears play an important role in our balance. However, I was surprised to see how significantly one’s chances of falling increased with their hearing loss. WhittierHearing.com cites a study that found that even just mild hearing loss meant you were “three times more likely to have a history of falling.” Of course, the older someone is the more dangerous these falls can be. My dad was lucky in that his hearing loss didn’t ever seem to affect him in this way. But if you have a loved one who has fallen or is experiencing balance issues, get their hearing checked!

Depression. We actually began suspecting that my dad was experiencing hearing loss long before he began seeking treatment for it. I think he was simply too proud to admit that he was having problems. We had to repeat ourselves to him and sometimes at family gatherings he would withdraw altogether. It was when he stopped going to his weekly Men’s Breakfast at our church that we knew something was going on.

While my dad received treatment before his hearing loss really began to take a toll on his mental health, I can definitely see how it could lead to depression. People experiencing hearing loss may experience poorer quality of life, isolation and reduced social activity.

Dementia. Through my research, I found out that in older adults there is a connection between hearing loss and dementia and Alzheimer’s. Those with mild hearing impairment are nearly twice as likely to develop dementia compared to those with normal hearing. The risk increases three-fold for those with moderate hearing loss, and five-fold for those with severe impairment. It isn’t yet clear what causes the connection, but the article says some researchers believe it may result from those with hearing loss straining “to decode sounds,” which may take its toll on the brain.

So, what can you do to protect your hearing? I’d like to suggest going for a swim. Here’s why: This guide on swimming and heart health notes what an excellent cardiovascular and full body workout swimming can be. That’s important because there have been many studies showing a connection between heart health and hearing. Yet another reason to be sure you’re getting plenty of exercise!

Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their Shih Tzu in Maryland.

See our Hearing Health story, “Have a Hearing Loss, Have Another Health Issue?” for more information about health conditions associated with hearing loss.

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6 Facts Every Woman Should Know About Hearing Health

By Laura Friedman

National Women’s Health Week may only last a week (May 10-16, 2015), but women’s health is a year-round issue. A growing body of research shows an association between hearing loss, quality of life, and a number of common chronic diseases and health conditions.

In the United States today, as many as one-third of women in their 50s have some degree of hearing loss, along with nearly two-thirds of women in their 60s. The findings of a 2008 study also suggest that the prevalence of hearing loss among younger adults, specifically among those in their 20s and 30s, is increasing. Fortunately, for the vast majority of people with hearing loss, hearing aids can help.

For many years, experts have known the positive impact that addressing hearing loss has on quality of life. Research shows that many people with hearing loss who use hearing aids see an improvement in their ability to hear in many settings; and many see an improvement in their relationships at home and at work, in their social lives, and in their ability to communicate effectively in most situations. Many even say they feel better about themselves.

In honor of National Women’s Health Week, we are sharing 6 Facts Every Woman Should Know About Hearing Health from The Better Hearing Institute:

  1. Women with hearing loss are more likely to be depressed. Research shows that hearing loss is associated with depression among U.S. adults, but particularly among women.

  2. The ear may be a window to the heart. Cardiovascular and hearing health are linked. 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. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, according to the American Heart Association.

  3. If you have diabetes, you’re about twice as likely to have hearing loss. What’s more, having diabetes may cause women to experience a greater degree of hearing loss as they age, especially if the diabetes is not well controlled with medication. About 11% of women in the United States are affected by diabetes.

  4. Many of the same lifestyle behaviors that affect the heart impact hearing. More evidence of the interconnectedness between cardiovascular and hearing health is found in three studies on modifiable behaviors: One found that a higher level of physical activity is associated with lower risk of hearing loss in women. Another revealed that smokers and passive smokers are more likely to suffer hearing loss. And a third found that regular fish consumption and higher intake of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with lower risk of hearing loss in women.

  5. Hearing loss in women is tied to common pain relievers. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are associated with an increased risk of hearing loss in women. The link is even stronger among those younger than 50.

  6. Addressing hearing loss may benefit cognitive function. Research shows a link between hearing loss and dementia, which leads experts to believe that interventions, like hearing aids, could potentially delay or prevent dementia. Research is ongoing.

HI and HHF are encouraging women of all ages to take a free, quick, and confidential online hearing check at BetterHearing.org to help determine if they need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on May 8, 2015. 

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Your Brain Is a Muscle: Use It or Lose It

By Sloan Blanton

Brain Awareness Week (March 16-22, 2015) celebrates one of the most important organs in the human body and current progress and breakthroughs in brain research. While the brain literally affects every organ and bodily function, did you know hearing loss, especially when it goes untreated, can affect brain function and size? It can also affect quality of life. Depression rates are higher for those with hearing loss, as is the likelihood of emotional issues, such as anger and withdrawal, which can lead to poor mental health.

I was born with a sensorineural hearing loss in both ears so it is all that I have ever known. While I sometimes feel socially isolated because I am not always able to follow the conversations around me, and I also know my speech development has been directly affected by my hearing loss, my cogitative ability has been in no way impaired. However, several studies have found a correlation between aging, cognitive function, and hearing loss. For a long time, many researchers believed the two to be unrelated, but recent findings have proven otherwise.

From 2001 to 2007, the Health, Aging, and Body Composition study tested the hearing and cognitive abilities of nearly 2,000 adults between ages 75-84. In the study, those with hearing impairment lost cognitive abilities up to 40% more quickly than typical-hearing participants. Additionally, participants with hearing loss developed cognitive issues on average three years sooner than those with typical hearing.

Numerous theories dive into the relation between the brain and hearing loss, such as that the brain must work harder to process sounds when there is an inability to hear, which then takes the brain’s attention away from other cognitive functions. "We take for granted that processing sound is simple, but for the brain it's very energy intensive," Dr. Frank Lin, the assistant professor conducting the study, reported. "The most powerful computers in the world are no match for the sound-processing capabilities of the brain of a 3-year-old child."

The decline of cognitive ability impairs other brain functions, such as thinking and memory retention. Social isolation resulting from hearing loss can put the elderly at greater risk for dementia and other cognitive impairments. "It's early days yet, but we have seen that if you take an adult with typical hearing and put her in an MRI scanner while listening to garbled speech, the scans reveal that the brain has to spend extra energy to decode it," says researcher Jonathan Peelle.

In 2014, Neurolmage published Lin’s study on hearing loss possibly causing the brain to atrophy, like an unused muscle. Those who have had hearing loss for at least seven years or longer tended to have brains with small temporal lobes, making short- and long-term memory and processing meaning from sensory input difficult.

According to Healthy Hearing, a deeper understanding of hearing loss, both its causes and its effects, is crucial. The hope is that individuals with age-related hearing loss could benefit from cognitive and perceptual training exercises, and thus can have an improved quality of life. That includes better physical health, better mental health, improved relationships, and the ability to continue to engage in society. To make sure you're receiving the best care and are living the highest quality life possible, make an appointment with your hearing healthcare professional for your annual checkup; more than just your hearing will benefit.

Watch out for the “Break the Stigma” issue of Hearing Health Magazine this spring, which will include research on how addressing, and then treating, hearing loss leads to happier, healthier outcomes. If you're not already a subscriber to the FREE magazine, subscribe here.

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Good Acoustics for Green Buildings

By Kathi Mestayer

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification program run by the U.S. Green Building Council. Its objective is for buildings to save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, and promote renewable, clean energy.  

This includes good acoustics. “Our 2009 ratings systems for schools and healthcare institutions cover sound because of the overwhelming evidence that it critically affects learning and healing environments,” says Larissa Oaks, the LEED Indoor Environmental Quality Specialist with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Surveys by the Center for the Built Environment and other groups have shown that occupants of office buildings and other work environments rated “acoustic comfort” low, even when the air quality and temperature were deemed acceptable. Acoustic comfort is defined as conducive to speech intelligibility, speech privacy, and concentration where appropriate, with few distractions and annoyances.

Optimizing green design and good acoustics can be a balancing act. "The imperatives of green design—such as lower-energy consumption mechanical equipment and designs, harder-surfaced materials, reduction in use of full-height partitions, and more glass—resulted in spaces that achieved high marks for efficiency, and high LEED certification levels, while simultaneously not meeting the needs of the occupants acoustically," says Ethan Salter, a principal at Charles M. Salter Associates in San Francisco and a lead technical adviser for the LEED acoustics credits.

These credits specify measures to create (and ways to measure) sound isolation and speech privacy, and reduce background noise and external noise. For example, for school acoustics, limits apply for noise from HVAC (heating and cooling) systems and noise from adjacent spaces.  

Limits are also set to minimize the effect of reverberation from hard surfaces, which makes speech harder to understand. Reverberant environments can degrade speech intelligibility and increase the “noisiness” of a space, with greater potential for distraction. To mitigate reverberation, designers can incorporate absorptive materials where possible; there are a number of new, sustainable material options that fit within the “green” framework.

As of this writing, LEED credits are in place for acoustical performance for healthcare facilities, classrooms, offices, and other workplaces. There is also a pilot credit for exterior noise control.

Take a closer look at an example of LEED acoustical credits here.

I’ve written about the dangers of workplace noise; the perils of an open office plan, especially for anyone with a hearing loss; and one company’s efforts to protect their employees’ hearing.

 

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