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Ignored by your elderly parent?

Maybe your parents seem to ignore you, or they don’t answer the telephone when you call to check in. If communication has become more difficult, one simple thing to check is whether they are experiencing hearing loss. Hearing loss is extremely common, and it progresses slowly, so slowly in fact that most people don’t realize they are being affected. This means it can be quite severe before it gets diagnosed. It can affect some sound pitches more than others, so it may masquerade as a memory problem, distraction, or even depression.

Hearing loss is often the punch lines of jokes, but to the 48 million Americans who have it, it is no laughing matter. Recent studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can affect a person’s ability to stay connected to friends and family, contributing to social isolation and other health problems.

Although hearing loss is a serious health issue, it has not gotten the recognition it deserves primarily because people don’t think their hearing loss is severe enough to seek treatment. They may not be aware that early treatment often results in better outcomes with hearing aids and an improved quality of life.

The first step is to encourage your loved ones to get a hearing test. If hearing loss is present, there are now high-tech, custom-programmed hearing aids that are affordable. For information on hearing tests, affordable hearing solutions and strategies to make communicating with your loved ones easier, go to www.hihealthinnovations.com.


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The Link Between Hearing Loss And This Health Issue Will Surprise You

Staying socially active and engaged with friends and family is important as people age, and hearing well is crucial to making that happen. New research from Johns Hopkins shows that hearing loss is associated not only with a range of physical problems, but also mental health problems such as social isolation and even dementia.

That important connection warrants greater attention during May, which is both Better Hearing and Mental Health Awareness Months. When a person cannot hear well, activities they used to enjoy – meals with friends, social events and worship services – become challenges. People can then become frustrated, skip social opportunities and potentially become socially isolated, which increases the risk of mental health issues. By contrast, people who seek treatment for hearing loss report significant improvements in relationships, self‐esteem, overall quality of life, mental health and safety.

People wait an average of 10 years after initial diagnosis before getting fitted for a hearing aid, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). That often means people may miss out on important life events with friends and family as their hearing worsens.

Hearing is similar to a muscle; if you don’t use it, you could lose it. When hearing loss is left untreated, the nerves that carry sound from the ear to the brain can atrophy. The longer this occurs, the harder it is for people to understand speech, and treatment can becomes less effective.

Here are some tips for better hearing health:

  • Talk to your doctor and schedule a hearing test – Common signs of hearing loss include turning up the volume on the TV or radio to levels that others find too loud, having trouble hearing people on the phone, and difficulty following conversations in noisy environments. People should consider getting their hearing tested once every two years after 50, or if they notice these signs of hearing loss.
  • Limit exposure to loud noises – People should limit their exposure to loud sounds, such as music, lawn mowers or motorcycles, to no more than 20 minutes at a time. When attending concerts or sporting events, consider wearing hearing protection such as ear plugs. Studies have shown that consistent exposure to loud sounds above 100 decibels, as compared to a normal conversation of 60 decibels, can permanently affect hearing, according to ASHA.
  • Use effective communication strategies – People with hearing loss should use effective communication strategies and choose settings that are “hearing friendly.” For example, people with hearing loss should opt for restaurants that are relatively quiet and go at times that are less busy. Some websites, including Eater.com, have published decibel levels for various restaurants using a smart phone app. Another strategy is to select a table along a wall or in a corner, which will reduce background noise. During conversations, watch lip movements, facial expressions and body language, all of which give important information about the speaker’s message.
  • Engage with family and friends – Hearing loss affects individuals, their families and their friends. It is important to discuss hearing loss together, providing support and encouragement for people experiencing hearing loss. When speaking with someone with hearing loss, make sure you face them and avoid covering your mouth while speaking. Also, it is important to avoid speaking too quickly.

For the 48 million Americans with hearing loss, now is the ideal time for treatment. For others, following the above tips can people can maintain their hearing health and help those with hearing loss live fuller, healthier lives.


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6 Tips to Reduce Risk of Falling

Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people 65 and older. Every 15 seconds, an older adult goes to the ER because of a fall-related injury, according to the National Council on Aging.

What could surprise some people is that new research shows an association between falls and hearing loss. Among people with mild hearing loss, falls are nearly three times more likely to occur, according to a recent study by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. When people can’t hear well, they may be unaware of their surroundings and often struggle to maintain proper balance, increasing the chance of tripping and falling.

There are many important strategies older Americans can pursue to reduce their risk of falling, and we encourage all seniors and their loved ones to take note of the following tips to both maintain their hearing health and prevent falls.

  • Exercise regularly and incorporate balance, strength training and flexibility components. Check with local community or senior centers, which often offer programs such as A Matter of Balance, Tai Chi and Stepping On.
  • Review your medicines with your health care provider — some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy.
    Have your vision checked at least once a year, as poor vision can worsen your risk.
  • “Fall proof” your home, where six out of 10 falls occur. Important steps to take include improving lighting, installing handrails and moving items to make them more accessible.
  • Have your hearing tested annually, and use hearing aids when recommended. Common signs of hearing loss include turning up the volume on the TV or radio to levels that others find too loud, having trouble hearing people on the phone, and difficulty following conversations in noisy environments.
  • Limit exposure to loud noises. People should limit their exposure to loud sounds, such as loud music, lawn mowers or motorcycles, to no more than 20 minutes at a time. When attending concerts or sporting events, consider wearing hearing protection.
  • Maintaining your hearing health is an important part of maintaining your overall health. New research from Johns Hopkins shows that hearing loss is associated with not only a range of physical problems, such as falling, but also mental health problems, including social isolation and even dementia.

By following the above tips, people live fuller, healthier lives.