Depression and Hearing Loss

young-depressed-man-cartoonThe National Council on the Aging has published a study emphasizing the need for treating hearing loss, no matter how “minor”. Dr. James Firman, the President and CEO of the National Council on Aging reports that untreated hearing loss can lead to serious consequences.

According to Dr. Firman, “The survey of 2,300 hearing impaired adults age 50 and older found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and were less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.”

Dr. Firman further states, “This study debunks the myth that untreated hearing loss in older persons is a harmless condition.” This is not new information to audiologists who regularly see patients with untreated hearing loss. Many first time hearing aid users report an increase in socialization and family interactions. Being able to be part of a conversation is refreshing and relaxing. Family members report a renewed interest in outside activities once their loved one is fit with hearing aids.

There are over 38 million Americans with hearing loss. Hearing loss is just not for older Americans. About 7% of American teens have permanent hearing loss due to noise exposure. Fortunately, many teens are “turning the volume down” on their personal listening devices. But, for some the damage is already done.

Also, fortunately, Baby Boomers are recognizing the need for hearing tests and the necessity for hearing aids. Physicians are requesting patients have a baseline hearing test at age fifty. Many Baby Boomers are finding the need for understanding conversations in meetings and social situations. They are finding that with a high frequency hearing loss they are having trouble understanding speech in a noisy situation. They often report they are withdrawing socially because it is too difficult to follow the conversations.

Depression is real. Hearing loss is real. See an audiologist and have a hearing test. If you need hearing aids, find a way to purchase them. Do not let a treatable problem rule your life.

Written and Submitted by Loleata Wigall, M.S. CCC-A, FAAA

President of Atlantic Audiology, Inc.

781-246-0305

lwigall@gmail.com

 

 

 

Why WE Follow Best Practices

Audiology of Nassau County adheres to Best Practices
Audiology of Nassau County adheres to Best Practices

The landscape for hearing health care has changed dramatically over the past 35 years. This ever evolving profession has undergone legislative changes that prior to 1978 would not permit qualified audiologists to fit hearing aids for their patients, to laws, decades later, requiring that all audiologists entering the field hold a doctorate degree.  And while the profession has seen many positive changes that have augmented the professional scope of the practitioner resulting in better hearing and improved lifestyle for more patients, there is also a vagueness regarding hearing care standards that baffle both patients and some physicians.

One possible explanation for the confusion about hearing care and hearing health is a general lack of awareness about the auditory system, its effect on cerebral health, and the role of amplification and aural rehabilitation in the care of hearing impaired patients.  Another explanation for general befuddlement is the seeming overabundance of hearing care facilities.  Many facilities run aggressive advertisement campaigns that focus on “selling” and of course “discounting” hearing aids.  Sorting through the confusion of big box store proclamations, marketing gimmicks (see post Marketing Predators: The EAR-ie Truth), and too often hurried fittings by some audiologists both in private practice and those employed by otologists, often leaves patients vulnerable to making decisions that may not have the best outcomes for their hearing rehabilitation.

Hearing aids are prescribed to improve communication, increase brain stimulation and overall to improve quality of life. Yet, often hearing aids are not appropriately fit, verified nor measured for their success, nor accompanied by a systematic process to ensure that the fitting goals are met.  This logically can affect not only the patient’s satisfaction with the instruments, but with the quality of life improvement as well. It is therefore of critical importance that patients, and families who are ready to begin the journey toward better hearing, understand that there are industry standards in place to ensure best outcome.  These standards are called best practices, and by following best practices, there is a system available to ensure best outcomes both from an acoustic perspective but also from a quality of life perspective.

A recent article by Sergei Kochkin published earlier this year by the Hearing Review compares outcomes for hearing aids purchased by users through direct-mail hearing aids and those who opted for a more traditional route. The results indicate that patients are “significantly more satisfied if all best practices are employed by the hearing professional in the clinic or office. Satisfaction from direct-mail purchases exceeds that from offices where best practices are not followed.”  This study and others similar, and the organizations that guide our profession outline and emphasize the importance of the use of best practices as a tool to provide best care for patients.

For patients and their families looking for hearing care and for physicians seeking the best referrals for their patients, best practices format makes it easy. It demystifies so much of the hearing care process.  Indeed, hearing health care is a process, not a device.  Educate yourself, your patients, and your loved ones about the standards that should be expected for best hearing outcomes.

Download our best practices “shopping guide” (available soon) on our website that can be used to compare process and procedures from one facility to another.  Best practices are the gold standard for hearing health care and regardless of the location, these methods should be applied. The savvy patient will use this guide as a tool, and ask targeted questions when interviewing a practitioner. Better hearing health begins with knowledge. The power is yours.

Hears to better hearing and better health!

Stefanie Wolf, Au.D.

 

Doctor of Audiology

Audiology of Nassau County

165 North Village Avenue

Suite #114

Rockville Centre, NY 11570

(516) 764-2094

www.audiologyofnassau.com

 

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How to Select a Hearing Health Care Provider

female_audiologist_postcard-r2147302d1ca64d8bbfec49ea325d8ed6_vgbaq_8byvr_324You’ve finally decided to move ahead and try to improve your communication skills. You’re excited about wearing hearing aids but don’t know how to get started. Choosing an appropriate hearing health care provider is as important as your choice of physician. Your audiologist is the hearing professional trained to evaluate and manage your hearing disorders and your concerns….so where to begin????

While a recommendation is very useful, it’s important to understand that one person’s success may not translate into success for you. Each person’s hearing loss is different and requires individual attention, not only to your hearing disorder, but to your lifestyle and your hearing requirements. Your doctor may have the names of qualified audiologists and this may be a good place to start. Asking a friend or relative is also helpful in terms of knowing the style and personality of the practice.

1. Choose a practice that adheres to the industry’s standards of “best practice”

2. Choose a practice where you will be seen by the same individual practitioner so there is continuity of service

3. Choose a practice that is not corporate in design so that decisions can be made by the audiologist managing your needs, and not by corporate protocols

4. Choose an audiologist who will listen to your needs and your concerns

5. Choose an audiologist who has state of the art equipment

6. Choose an audiologist who adheres to infection control recommendations, using disposable items when indicated

7. Choose an audiologist who is willing to make changes and corrections to the recommended hearing aid if it is not satisfactory

8. Choose an audiologist who takes the time to survey your hearing problems before you make hearing aid decisions

9. Choose an audiologist who offers many manufacturers’ brands of hearing aids

10. Choose an audiologist who incorporates multiple follow up appointments in order to assure your success

11. Choose an audiologist with appropriate university degrees

12. Choose an audiologist who has outcome measures to validate the hearing aid fitting

13. Choose an audiologist who is state licensed and abides by the state rules and regulations, and explains the state’s law for the trial period.

14. Choose an audiologist with a helpful staff for making insurance claims and answering questions

15. Choose an audiologist who will forward reports to your primary care physician

16. Choose an audiologist who will refer you to an otologist if your tests indicate the need for medical intervention

17. Choose an audiologist who you LIKE…you will be spending hours with this person which makes it even more important to put your trust and your confidence in a professional who is pleasant and accommodating and makes you feel relaxed and comfortable.

When it comes to your hearing, which is an integral component of your overall health, choose a hearing care professional who is patient and caring and provides counseling and aural rehabilitation to facilitate the adjustment to hearing instruments. Hearing aids are a process, not a product, and the relationship you build with your audiologist should be meaningful and built on a foundation of trust.

Hears to happy hearing and healthy living!

Stefanie Wolf, Au.D.
Doctor of Audiology
Audiology of Nassau County
165 North Village Avenue
Suite #114
Rockville Centre, NY 11570
(516) 764-2094

What’s the Buzz About?

imagestinnitusAn estimated 37 million Americans suffer from ringing, buzzing, humming or hissing in the ear known as tinnitus. Tinnitus, by definition is the conscious perception of sound in the absence of an externally generated sound source. Tinnitus can be a combination of sounds and for many people may vary in tone, character and loudness. It may remain consistent and persist or may subside or at times seem to disappear. For some, stress and diet exacerbate it. Others have difficulty determining what makes it better or worse.

And while tinnitus is perceived in the ear, and may, in some cases be generated in the middle ear space, most scientists will agree that in most cases, the sound perceived in the ear is occurring in the brain. Yes, that’s right, tinnitus is perceived in the ear, but occurs in the brain. This explains why many patients with severed auditory nerves will lose all ability to hear from the severed nerve ear, but will still experience tinnitus.

Scientists disagree over the causes, origins and models for how tinnitus originates and becomes weaved into the neural pattern, but what they do agree about is the fact that many different types of tinnitus exist. A popular theory suggests that damage to the peripheral auditory structures send disrupted, abnormal neural signals to the brain which subsequently causes persistent abnormal activity in the central auditory pathway (Nageris, et al., 2010; Jastreboff & Hazell, 1993).

While tinnitus can occur for individuals with normal hearing, 85% of those with tinnitus do have some degree of hearing loss. (Simpson & Davies, 2000). This makes sense when we think about how damage to the ear can result in disrupted and abnormal signals to the brain.

For many patients, simply acknowledging the presence of the tinnitus and understanding that it is a result of damage to the auditory mechanism is enough for them to accept the noise intrusion. Others find their tinnitus more debilitating and seek other avenues for help.

For many tinnitus sufferers with hearing loss, a properly fit hearing aid will help to reduce the perception of tinnitus in over 60% of cases. Some find that use of amplification can suppress tinnitus. But for most, decreased awareness of tinnitus is either a result of a complete or partial masking of the sounds or a reduced contrast between silence and the tinnitus, or because of a more structured neural pattern, among other possible occurrences that contribute to diminished awareness of the presence of tinnitus.

For others, amplification alone will be insufficient to help deal with the effects of tinnitus. Stress management and counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy is often extremely useful when used alone or in conjunction with amplification therapies.

Certainly, one with tinnitus should know that there is help. An appointment with an audiologist can help identify whether there is hearing loss, need for medical referral and design an approach for dealing with tinnitus.

Hears to Healthy Living!

Stefanie Wolf, Au.D.

Doctor of Audiology
Audiology of Nassau County
165 North Village Avenue
Suite #114
Rockville Centre, NY 11570
(516) 764-2094
www.audiologyofnassau.com

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Sources

Jastreboff, P., & Hazell, J. (1993). A neurophysiological approach to tinnitus:
clinical implications. British Journal of Audiology, 27, 7-l7.

Nageris, B., Attias, J., & Raveh, E. (2010). Test-retest tinnitus characteristics in patients with noise-induced hearing loss. American Journal of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery, 31, 181-184.

Simpson, J., & Davies, E. (2000) A review of evidence in support of a role for 5-HT in theperception of tinnitus. Hearing Research, 145, 1-7.

Baby Boomer, Audiologist, Grandma, Hearing Aid User…

 

grandmareadingFor decades as a hospital based and later a private practice audiologist, I had been counseling my hearing impaired patients about the benefits of amplification. Most were receptive, but for a small group of resistive die-hard “denial-ers” I would attempt to motivate them to take steps toward better hearing by quoting scientific research, sharing success stories of the “non deniel-ers” and demonstrating the effectiveness of the latest in amplification technology.

And as a younger, normal hearing audiologist I was empathetic to the concerns of my hearing impaired patients, but on some level I couldn’t completely relate to their daily struggles of living with hearing loss. Until one day, I was one of them!! I too needed some hearing improvement and in 2006 I bit the bullet and fit myself with my first set of hearing devices. Suddenly, I had creds!

As a hearing instrument user, I was able to share my joy, not just my knowledge and professional experience, at hearing the birds chirping, listening to my classical music selections, enjoying movies and my favorite English TV programs that had previously eluded me. Hearing devices, I proclaimed, were giving me an improved quality of life that I was able to share with all of my patients, including the “denial-ers”. And they listened. Hurray!

BUT, as the old infomercials would proclaim, “but wait… there’s more,” I soon unearthed my own amazing discoveries…..experiences I didn’t find in a text but rather from my daily exposure to the sounds around me. I detected the police sirens and ambulance sirens (not that I didn’t hear them before I became a user) when they were further away enabling me to make a maneuver in a timely fashion. I was now a safer driver! I burned fewer dinners because I heard the timer ringing when I was in an adjacent room. I had dryer window sills and floors because I heard the rain against panes and managed to close windows before the deluge. You can imagine how these little improvements reduced the number of spousal complaints.

AND then there was the BEST discovery of all. I have three grandchildren and I no longer protest that they talk too softly or mumble. Grandchildren are the dividends in life’s journey, and if you can’t share or connect with them, a whole segment of the wonderments they bring to the table are lost and never recaptured.

So to all you drivers, cooks, TV viewers, but especially you grandparents of any age, give yourself a gift that brings a whole other world to your doorstep….try to improve your hearing. Find an experienced, well regarded audiologist near your hometown and get started. It will be a journey you won’t regret!

Barbara Rosen, Au.D.

Director of Audiological Services
Audiology of Nassau County
165 North Village Avenue
Suite #114
Rockville Centre, NY 11570
(516) 764-2094
www.audiologyofnassau.com

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