By Kathy Feist
Were you unable to hear funny family stories over the holidays but laughed anyway?
Are family members annoyed with repeating themselves to you?
Are you avoiding social situations and drifting into loneliness?
Maybe it’s time for a hearing test.
“Nobody wants to get a hearing test. But they want to hear,” observes Sheila Cockman, hearing instrument specialist and owner of Advantage Hearing Aid Center in Harrisonville. “They don’t want to be broken.”
But most often, broken can be fixed in the audiology industry.
A loss in hearing can be due to something as simple as ear wax build-up or fluid behind the ear. Or it can be due to aging, as many fear.
Some people can hear normally until the noise level becomes overwhelming.
Or perhaps they hear better out of one ear than they do another. (A red flag to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, according to Cockman.)
And, as two recent studies have found, untreated hearing loss can lead to dementia, due to lack of stimulation to the part of the brain that interprets sound.
For all of these reasons and more, Cockman recommends screening.
Screenings can eliminate different hearing loss symptoms that should be referred to an Ear Nose Throat doctor, such as wax or fluid build up and dizziness. Screenings can determine the need for cochlear implants. Or find hearing aids that can tune more specifically in certain sound environments or different pitch losses.
“Getting a baseline hearing test, or screening, is not going to cost you anything,” Cockman reassures. “But at least you have an idea of where you’re at. From there we can make a plan.”
To further put the customer at ease, Cockman also allows the customer to test a hearing device overnight at no cost. There’s no obligation and the device must be returned.
This process allows for a more customized approach to hearing.
In October, the FDA approved a more generalized approach. Stating that “only about one-fifth of people who could benefit from a hearing aid use one,” the FDA ruled that hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss, could be sold over the counter, without a prescription or medical exam.
The over-the-counter devices come with directions, an app and a 1-800 number for help. They are also less expensive than prescription hearing aids.
But purchasing over-the-counter devices can be similar to buying a suit online versus one that is tailored, according to Dr. Kathy Grote, an audiologist and hearing instrument regional sales manager.
“Like a tailor-fit suit, you’re literally going to get measured,” she explains. “And if [the tailor] got the arm length wrong, you can go back and it will be adjusted and fixed. This is the same thing with prescription hearing aids. They can have adjustments made because the hearing aids are fully programmable.” Audiologists can program hearing aids by pitch rather than volume. “Hearing aids are designed to be able to grow with the patient as their hearing loss changes,” she says.
Regardless of where one purchases their hearing aids, Grote believes screenings should occur regularly. “We should all know where our hearing is, much like we do with vision, dental or physicals.”
Cockman agrees and issues a challenge. “What’s something you can do this year as a resolution? I challenge you to get a hearing test.”