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Hearing Loss

Hearing is Big Business!

Are you assisting employees with hearing loss? If not, listen up.

In a 2009 survey of 46,000 U.S. households, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) determined that over the past generation, hearing loss grew at an alarming 160% of the U.S. population growth — largely attributable to the aging of the American population. Yet the study found that 60% of people with hearing loss are below retirement age, indicating that 16.3 million people with hearing loss were in the U.S. workforce in 2010. In other words, untreated hearing loss has serious consequences for both employers and employees. Untreated hearing loss is costing society and those with the loss millions of dollars annually in lost revenue, productivity, and manpower.

Good hearing is good business.  Given the incidence and prevalence of hearing loss, most businesses will confront this challenge in the context of management’s responsibility and oversight of human resources. So, what can companies do to plan for and address the impact of employee hearing loss?  There are a number of simple steps employers can take to educate employees about hearing loss and to facilitate the use of hearing aids, where needed, that are simple to implement and very cost effective.

Previous research at BHI has shown that 50% of people with untreated hearing loss have never had their hearing checked by an audiologist and lack sufficient information to know whether they need to take action to correct it. Company owners and human resource professionals can help employees understand if they need treatment by:

 

  • Educating employees regarding the impact of untreated hearing loss on quality of life.
  • Encouraging employees to have their hearing screened on an annual basis, and providing opportunities for them to do so.

Employers can create a corporate climate where hearing loss is recognized so those with hidden hearing loss feel more comfortable. Here are some suggestions:

  • Avoid noisy restaurants as meeting locations.
  • Summarize meeting minutes in writing to be sure that those with hearing issues are clear on the outcome of the meeting.
  • Provide easy accommodations, such as moving an employee’s desk away from noisy hallways, machines, or air conditioning and heating vents, or installing a phone that amplifies high frequencies.
  • Build work environments that facilitate better hearing by choosing cubicles with noise-absorbent materials and equipping meeting rooms with an inductive loop that creates a wireless zone for hearing aids with telecoils, headsets, or microphones.

In many cases, hearing aids can help protect employees from being at a competitive disadvantage with peers. Organizations can encourage the use of hearing devices, when needed, by participating with a private practice in audiology to contract for the provision of services, group discounts, hearing devices, and more! Audiologists can design and implement screening programs (on and off site), as well as effective follow up scenarios to assist employees with managing hearing loss if it is identified.

Companies can also encourage employees to purchase hearing aids using pretax medical flexible spending account funds. In Montgomery, Doctors Hearing Clinic offers just such an option through their BHP program, and the good news is that it is free to employers, as well as employees and their families. This Better Hearing Program (BHP) offers free screenings, group discounts on hearing devices, in-service educational presentations, and a host of other hearing related employment benefits.

If you’re currently employed, encourage your employer to seek offerings for the provision of hearing healthcare services, and remember, these services can often be contracted with local audiology practices. If you’re an employer in the Tri County region and don’t currently offer a hearing healthcare package, the program at Doctors Hearing Clinic is an example of what is available to your company. This free array of benefits for your staff and their families offers great value in hearing healthcare at no cost to you or your employees!

So, start the 2012  business year out right. By encouraging employees to treat hidden hearing loss rather than hide it, an employer creates a win-win situation by ensuring that the loss of hearing does not interfere with job performance, productivity, safety, or the employee’s career or quality of life on or off the job.

References:

Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., executive director of the Better Hearing Institute, a not-for-profit that educates the public about hearing loss, prevention, and treatment.

Better Hearing Institute (BHI)

The Society for Human Resource Management

Categories
Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss And Hearing Aid Myths Debunked — Fiction vs. Fact

A recent study by Johns Hopkins University — published on November 14, 2011, in the Archives of Internal Medicine — now confirms that 1 in 5 Americans have hearing loss in at least one ear. This is well over 50 million people and far exceeds previous hearing care industry estimates of approximately 25 million.

The Johns Hopkins study is unique in that the data used statistically corresponded with the entire U.S. population by including both men and women of all races, aged 12 and older, living in cities throughout the country.

Using the World Health Organization’s definition of hearing loss — being unable to hear sounds of 25 dB or less in the speech frequencies — the Johns Hopkins researchers found that over 30 million Americans have hearing loss in both ears and that over 20% of the population — in excess of 50 million people — have hearing loss in at least one ear.

Despite there being so many of us with hearing difficulties, too many people are still unaware of how or where to obtain professional help, as the misconceptions about hearing loss and hearing aids are commonplace in our society. The fact that you are reading this article is an excellent first step toward empowering yourself (or a family member) and taking control of your hearing health.

Common Hearing Loss and Hearing Aid Myths

Myth: Buying hearing aids online, by mail, or at a big-box store saves time, money, and gets the same results as professionally fit devices.

Fact: The proper diagnosis and selection of hearing technology as a solution for hearing difficulties is not the same thing as purchasing common consumer goods.  Rather, it should be a process built on a relationship of respect and trust between the patient and a highly trained, competent, and ethical professional whose services and products provide long-term value.

Myth: Anyone licensed to sell hearing aids is qualified to test a person’s hearing.

Fact: By law in the state of California, only audiologists are licensed to perform diagnostic hearing evaluations.  The free tests that hearing aid dispensers frequently advertise are not comprehensive exams and are merely designed to determine if a person could be helped by a hearing aid.

Myth: Hearing loss affects only elderly people and is merely a sign of aging.

Fact: Hearing loss can affect people of all ages. As mentioned in the Johns Hopkins study, 20% of the U.S. population aged 12 years and older have hearing difficulties severe enough to impact communication.

Myth: Hearing aids don’t really do anything but amplify sound.  Besides, they’re unsightly and uncomfortable.

Fact: While the hearing aids from 20 years ago left a lot to be desired from both technology and cosmetic standpoints, today’s hearing devices are exceptional technological performers and are so small as to be very discreet.  However, the most important consideration for you, the consumer, is not what the product is, but rather how it is fit to your hearing lifestyle and to what extent you are provided with expert follow-up in the fitting of that device.   That is what makes my patients so successful in being able to enjoy better hearing.

Would you like to learn more about solutions to hearing difficulties and  hearing aid technology?  Here are two great places to start:

#1.) My Internet website at www.nsaudiology.com. This educational website offers a world of information, including highly informative videos; a free guide to better hearing; online specials; current news and events; and the “Ask Dr. Chalmers” section, where I have posted previously published original articles such as the one you are reading now.

#2.) Attend my upcoming free educational luncheon seminar, which will be held Wednesday, January 25, 2012, starting at 11:30am at the Chico Women’s Club. I’ll be providing an in-depth discussion, covering everything from how your hearing works to what the different types of hearing care professionals are, and even insights about technology solutions for hearing difficulties. A delicious catered lunch will be served. There is no cost or obligation to attend, but due to limited seating, reservations are required. Simply call my office today at 1.888.893.1352…Because hearing is wonderful gift.

Categories
Hearing Loss

What Should You Expect from Your Hearing Evaluation?

More than 32 million Americans have significant hearing loss, yet only a fraction of that number have ever had their hearing tested by a board certified audiologist. Everyone over 25 should have a baseline audiogram. Consider this fact: 17% of all those involved in motor vehicle accidents will have resultant permanent sensorineural hearing loss. However, if you’ve never had a valid hearing evaluation, you’d be hard-pressed to show that your hearing was normal prior to such an accident.

A thorough hearing test is the first step in determining if you do, in fact, have hearing loss. The hearing test results also allow your audiologist to recommend the best treatment options if you do, in fact, have a hearing loss. A hearing test is a quick, painless, and non-invasive test, and it should always be performed by a licensed, board certified audiologist. Ask to see the credentials of those who will be doing your testing! As with most healthcare  professionals, credentialed individuals have the greatest amount of educational training in diagnosis and treatment of hearing impairment, and they will offer you or your loved ones solutions that reflect their knowledge base.

The test begins with a thorough case history, which reviews specific health information that could provide insight into hearing loss causes, and will assist in determining which tests should be performed. Following the case history, the audiologist will examine your ear canals and eardrums with a special light called an otoscope. Your middle ear function will also be assessed by a test called tympanometry, which offers insight regarding the status of the area behind your eardrum. This area cannot be easily seen, and so the tympangram offers valuable information to the examiner. The test involves a pressure change, and it might replicate the feeling you experience while going up in an elevator, but is not painful in any way.

Next, the levels of hearing in each of your ears should be measured in a sound-treated test booth. Some hearing aid technicians don’t use this type of equipment, but be wary of any hearing test that is not conducted in such a booth, as reliability could be seriously compromised. During this test, a series of tones of different pitches and speech signals are presented to each ear through headphones. You will be asked to respond to the signals by either pushing a button, raising your hand or in the case of speech signals, repeating what you heard. You will be asked to respond to the lowest level that you can hear, which determines your hearing thresholds. Thresholds for each pitch and ear are plotted on a graph called an audiogram. These thresholds indicate the level at which you are just barely able to detect sound. The speech testing yields a word recognition score, which is important in determining in part how well you will perform with hearing aids, which listening situations will be most challenging, etc.

Further tests may be conducted during the hearing test. Your ability to understand words or sentences at different volume levels or in the presence of noise may be assessed to determine how clearly you hear speech in various conditions. Following the tests, the hearing professional will discuss the results with you and may provide further recommendations, including treatment options, like hearing aids.

If you suspect you have hearing loss, it is important to have your hearing tested as soon as possible. The use-it-or-lose-it principle does apply to our hearing; the sooner you treat hearing loss, the better the outcome of treatment. Most people wait an average of seven years from the time they suspect they have hearing loss until they purchase hearing devices. During that time period, the auditory system is at extreme risk for auditory deprivation, or lack of stimulation due to insufficient volume. This can make a difficult situation worse than it really needs to be. So why wait? Have a board certified audiologist evaluate your hearing as soon as you (or others!) suspect there might be a hearing loss.