Understand your hearing loss before buying a hearing aid

Hearing deteriorates as we age. According to the authors of "Adult Development and Aging", at middle age hearing loss of h
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010


Hearing deteriorates as we age. According to the authors of "Adult Development and Aging", at middle age hearing loss of high pitched sounds begins to deteriorate because a break down of cells in the organ of corti. "This is the inner ear that transforms the vibrations picked up by the outer ear into nerve impulses. Low pitched sounds do not decline very much in middle age." (page 80)

15 percent of all baby-boomers (ages 45-64) have hearing loss and 29 percent of people over the age of 65 have hearing loss. (betterhearing.org). With more than 16,000 people age 60+ living in Erie County -- and growing -- the hearing aid market is growing. For this reason, it's important that middle and older aged adults begin arming themselves with information to prevent buying something they don't need, don't like or won't use.

Just because you have hearing loss doesn't mean it can be corrected by a hearing aid. The Better Hearing Institute reports that in 5 percent of the cases of hearing loss in adults is improved through medical or surgical treatment. Yet only 13 percent of physicians screen for hearing loss. If this is true, it means that it will be up to you to tell your doctor about your hearing loss and to ask him/her for a hearing screening. Otherwise, it's highly unlikely that this will be part of a regular physical exam.

Purchasing a hearing aid is not like purchasing a pair of glasses. Unfortunately, you can't just put them in and your impairment goes away. Using hearing aids requires that the person retrain his or her brain to listen. It takes patience and it takes being given an accurate diagnosis and an accurate prescription for the hearing problem.

If you or someone you know has a hearing impairment, I encourage you to come to the forum, "Consumer Be Aware: Understanding Your Hearing Loss Before You Buy A Hearing Aid.," at 2 p.m. June 14 at the Erie County Office Building (third floor), Sandusky. This is not a sales pitch. No products will be sold at the presentation nor will any contact information be shared with any hearing aid/audiology business. It is a presentation of information provided by Charleene Kuns, retired audiologist with more than 20 years experience.

For the forum to be effective we ask that you RSVP at 419-624-1856 or 800-564-1856. When you RSVP you will be asked four questions, so we can target information we provide for this specific audience. We are interested in knowing if you want to attend because you want to help someone else who has a hearing impairment or are you there to gather information for yourself? This will help make sure we cover the important issues about understanding hearing impairments and their treatment.

Ask Sue

Q: When is the reverse mortgage presentation that Serving Our Seniors is sponsoring? Can I bring my son, who is under the age of 60?

A: The presentation, "Understanding Reverse Mortgages" will be from 2-4 p.m. May 31 at the Erie County office building downtown (third floor). Those 60-younger are welcome to attend. We do ask that you RSVP so we can plan for adequate seating. Please call us at 419-624-1856 or 800-564-1856

Q: I'm a senior citizen raising my 12 year old grandchild. She is a good girl, but I would still like to know what is out there to help children and mentor them to become good students and good citizens.

A: Serving Our Seniors does not have information on youth programs. This is a perfect question for the new telephone hotline, 211. It's free to call. Just dial 211 (do not dial the 419 area code). Someone will answer the call who has a database filled with information about all of the social service programs for all ages in Erie County. It's a great service and needs to be used more often. Give 211 a call. If you have the time, call me back after you have talked with them. I'd love to hear about your experience. Maybe I can learn something from you.

Q: My brother and I are concerned about my mother's memory. She doesn't seem to remember things we ask of her and she doesn't give answers that make sense when we ask her questions. What can we do to help her?

A: First, based on the very little bit I know, two things come to mind. It may not have anything to do with her memory and everything to do with her hearing. Are you absolutely sure that she hears everything you are saying? If she is giving you answers that don't make sense, are you certain that she was able to hear the entire question? It could be that her memory is fine, but if she is misinterpreting her environment because her hearing is impaired.

It could also be that your mother does have early Alzheimer's Disease or a related disorder. To get to the bottom of this seek out a professional geriatric assessment center. These are health care professionals that specialize in properly diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease and related disorders. I know of one such center, the University Hospital's Foley Elder Health Center (216-844-6300). You can also call the Alzheimer's Association of Northwest Ohio at 800-272-3900 and ask for a list of centers that specialize in properly diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease and related disorders.