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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Duke University Says Hearing Aids Help But Are Often Not Used

Difficulties with hearing can effect many areas of life, and many seniors do not get hearing aids, or use their hearing aids, if they have them. An article at Medical News Today titled "Duke University Study Finds Hearing Aids Are Underused" says that only "one in five who could benefit from a hearing aid has one and just one-third of those who have hearing aids use them."

The Medical Technology Assessment Working Group at Duke University studied hearing aid use and seniors. They found that, as caregivers know from experience, many seniors who need hearing aids do not get them, or if they have them, they do not use them.

As a caregiver I've seen that often the hearing aids remain in a box on the dresser or counter. Sometimes seniors need assistance with putting hearing aids in and other times they have decided not to use them for a variety of reasons.

Seniors may need assistance with adjusting the sound level until it is comfortable or help making sure the hearing aids are resting in the right place in the ears.

Many elders have told me that the quality of the sound is not the same as regular hearing.
A local hearing aid store in my area explained the new digitial hearing aids can be custom programmed, and the new hearing aids are a big improvement over the old technology.

Without hearing aids, people realize they cannot hear conversations with others. They may begin to avoid social interaction, and others may begin to avoid them.

Sometimes others may mistake lack of hearing and misunderstanding for dementia. If someone does have Alzheimer's or Dementia, poor hearing can be an additional challenge.

As a caregiver, have you assisted someone who was used to having the television turned all the way up, so it could be heard from the neighbors house? The new wireless headphones for television can be worn by a senior who needs to have the sound amplified.

One senior told me that wearing these headphones made all the difference in the world, and he could enjoy music on TV this way too.

Seniors with hearing difficulties have explained to me that hearing aids can make sounds echo, small sounds like road noise are magnified, or there is sometimes a static or other sound coming from the hearing aid. A trip to the hearing aid specialist can help in these situations.

Other comments seniors have made to me include the problem that the tiny wheels or adjusters on the hearing aid are too small for a senior to adjust, so it is necessary to wait for a caregiver to help.

One senior said he wanted to get one of the hearing aids that connects by a wire to a large component that he could put into his shirt pocket, because he would be able to adjust it by himself then.

Another senior had red sore places on the ears from the hearing aids, and it was necessary to make a trip to the hearing aid specialist.

If someone does not wear hearing aids for some reason, there are ways to communicate without using a loud voice. Often if you speak within a foot or so of the person's ear, directly toward it, not from in front or an angle, a normal voice level will suffice.

The article about the Duke University study finished with Executive Director Martyn Howgill saying "We need a better understanding of why people are not using hearing devices in order to improve hearing aid technology in ways that would surely aid untold millions of potential recipients."

This article was from 2006, written by Michael Stewart, and it is unfortunate that such large numbers of people are not getting hearing aids or not using them. Digital hearing aids and modern advances have made the old hearing aids a thing of the past.

Being able to hear and to communicate is a major part of staying connected to family, friends, and the world out in public. Advances are being made constantly in the world of hearing aids.

If someone you know does not have one, or has one with older technology, perhaps a chance to try one of the newer hearing aids will make a difference.

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