Families, friends urged to help loved ones address hearing loss

Staff Report

Professional Hearing & Audiology Clinics is urging families within the Rockford area to be alert for relatives and friends who seem to have trouble hearing this holiday season.

Hearing loss affects the ability of people to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, often leading to isolation and depression. Hearing loss is one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today. More than 34 million people in the United States have hearing loss — roughly 11 percent of the population.

The holidays are a time to gather together with family and friends,” said Donald R. Kleindl II, BC-HIS, ACA, MCAP, director of Professional Hearing & Audiology Clinics. “But for friends and relatives with untreated hearing loss, the holiday season can be bittersweet. By staying alert to the signs of unaddressed hearing loss, and by encouraging those we love to address the problem, we can help them regain their quality of life and strengthen our relationships with them.”

There is a free and convenient way for people to check their hearing this holiday season, or encourage loved ones to do so. As part of Professional Hearing & Audiology Clinics’ community outreach effort, they are offering complimentary hearing evaluations and video otoscopic examinations in their clinics between now and Christmas. They can be reached at (815) 964-3131; Camelot Tower Medical Building, 1415 E. State St., Rockford.

Hearing loss occurs at all ages. For example, among people aged 46 to 64, about 15 percent already have hearing problems. Sixty percent of people with hearing loss are below retirement age. Hearing loss can occur as the result of exposure to loud music or noises.

Increasing evidence suggests people with certain medical conditions — such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, heart disease, and even vision loss — may be at an increased risk of hearing loss. Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a range of physical and emotional conditions.

According to a study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute, family members play a critical role in whether loved ones address a hearing loss. More than half (51 percent) of new first-time owners of hearing aids said family members were a key factor influencing their purchase. Fifty-five percent of new hearing aid users sought treatment once they realized, through testing, how serious their hearing loss was.

In the vast majority of situations, hearing aids can help a person hear better. Studies have shown that hearing aid wearers experience significant improvements in quality of life and decreased depressive symptoms; have significantly higher self-concepts compared to individuals who do not wear hearing aids; and their functional health status improves significantly after three months of hearing aid use.

Many people have decided to get their hearing checked because someone they love suggested it and provided support,” Kleindl said. “If someone you love appears to have a hearing loss, please urge them to have their hearing checked. We are offering complete hearing examinations free of charge to help make it easier for people to take that first, critical step in reclaiming their hearing, quality of life, and relationships. What better gift can you give someone you love this holiday season?”

Signs of hearing loss

People can watch for several social, emotional and medical signs of hearing loss this holiday season.

Social signs of hearing loss could include the following:

• Require frequent repetition;

Have difficulty following conversations involving more than two people;

Think that other people sound muffled or like they’re mumbling;

Have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms;

Have trouble hearing children and women;

Have your TV or radio turned up to a high volume;

Answer or respond inappropriately in conversations;

Have ringing in your ears; and

Read lips or more intently watch people’s faces when they speak with you.

Emotional signs of hearing loss could include the following:

Feel stressed out from straining to hear what others are saying;

Feel annoyed at other people because you can’t hear or understand them;

Feel embarrassed to meet new people or from misunderstanding what others are saying;

Feel nervous about trying to hear and understand; and

Withdraw from social situations that you once enjoyed because of difficulty hearing.

Medical signs of hearing loss could include the following:

Have a family history of hearing loss;

Take medications that can harm the hearing system (ototoxic drugs);

Have diabetes, heart, circulation or thyroid problems; and

Have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period or single exposure to explosive noise.

From the Dec. 7-13, 2011, issue

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