Link to memory, cognitive function elevates urgency of treating hearing loss

A growing body of research links untreated hearing loss to impaired memory and diminished cognitive function, raising the significance of hearing health to overall cognitive health

According to Brandeis University Professor of Neuroscience, Dr. Arthur Wingfield, who has been studying cognitive aging and the relationship between memory and hearing acuity for many years, effortful listening due to unaddressed hearing loss is associated with increased stress and poorer performance on memory tests.

His research shows that even when people with unaddressed hearing loss perceive the words that are being spoken, their ability to remember the information suffers—likely because of the draw on their cognitive resources that might otherwise be used to store what has been heard in memory. This is especially true for the comprehension of quick, informationally complex speech that is part of everyday life.

“Even if you have just a mild hearing loss that is not being treated, cognitive load increases significantly,” Wingfield said. “You have to put in so much effort just to perceive and understand what is being said that you divert resources away from storing what you have heard into your memory.”

Wingfield—along with Jonathan Peelle from the Department of Otolaryngology at Washington University in St. Louis—recently published a paper in the July 2016 issue of Trends in Neurosciences exploring the neural consequences of untreated age-related hearing loss. In the paper, they explain that although compensation of hearing loss by other areas of the brain “can frequently result in successful comprehension, it is not without consequence for further operations, such as remembering what we have heard.”

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Hearing Aids are not like Eyeglasses

One of the most used phrases in our practice is “be patient. It takes time to adjust to hearing again.” Sometimes we do use the analogy of eyeglasses to hearing aids, but they are actually very different. Glasses help you see better and hearing aids help you hear better, but that’s where the similarities end.

When people have a loss of visual acuity, they generally notice that images are blurry or not clear. For most people that need glasses, or contacts, the lenses are prescribed to compensate for refractive errors. Refractive error means that the shape of your eye does not bend light correctly, resulting in a blurred image. The main types of refractive errors are myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (loss of near vision with age), and astigmatism. In these cases, the retina and the optical nerve are intact. With proper fitting and prescriptive powers, vision is restored to crisp and clear vision at or close to 20/20. There is usually a short adjustment period to seeing better. The brain still needs to adjust to a change that is taking place. It should be noted that there are also incurable eye diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Unlike vision problems, the majority of hearing loss in adults (90-95%) is caused by degenerative or progressive nerve loss. Once the nerve (microscopic hair cells) is damaged, there is no cure for hearing loss, but hearing aids are prescribed to help compensate for the loss of acuity. Hearing aids do amplify sounds, but they do not always make a particular sound that you want to hear as crisp and clear as you might want. Modern hearing aids are programmed specifically to your individual hearing loss and needs, and are verified at the time of your fitting and at follow-up appointments. Even with the best technology and best-programmed hearing aids, they still are not like glasses meaning they won’t give you “20/20 hearing” in every situation. The science of hearing aids and ongoing research continue to improve but they cannot replicate the intricacies of the auditory system.

Another way that we wish hearing aids were more like glasses is when it comes to the stigma associated with wearing them. Billions of people around the world wear glasses and no one thinks of them any differently but for some reason, hearing aids have not yet become as mainstream.

We hear with our ears, but we understand (process) with our brain.

 

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ACA loved this article: Why Internet is Essential for the Hard of Hearing by Katherine Bouton

This past week, we moved to a new apartment and I found myself without high-speed internet — no DSL or Wi-Fi connection at home — for 10 (long) days.

It was an uncomfortable reminder of how vitally important the internet is for people with hearing loss. I did have a smartphone, so I was not completely cut off from communication, but it was very limited. Here’s what no home internet meant for me:

No captioned telephone. I hear on the phone, but not well. Even using the telecoil setting on my hearing aid does not make the speaker’s voice completely clear. Captioned telephones depend on DSL or Wi-Fi for the captioning part of the call, which appears on the screen of your special phone. Two of the major manufacturers of these captioned phones are CapTel and CaptionCall. They are available free of charge to people who can provide proof of their hearing loss, and oftentimes their representative will come to your home to set it up. But you do need a high-speed internet connection.

For captions on cellphones, a company called Innocaption has been developing a system to provide simultaneous voice and captioning. It’s still got some kinks to work out, but when it works, it’s terrific. Unfortunately, at least on my phone (an iPhone 5S) and with my carrier (Verizon), I cannot get voice and captions at the same time unless I have DSL or Wi-Fi. (Innocaption, which has very responsive consumer support, confirmed this in an email: “Unfortunately, Verizon supports voice and data at the same time from iPhone 6, not iPhone 5/5s.”) I need that connection to Wi-Fi.

This is a problem anywhere outdoors, but I live in a big city, and without captions my cellphone is close to useless on the street. This is because electromagnetic interference produces a buzz in telecoil mode that drowns out talk. I guess I need to spring for a new iPhone.

I did have Ava. Ava is a voice recognition system used for in-person conversations. Two or more people sign on to the app on their smartphones. Their voices are simultaneously captioned on each user’s phone, color-coded by speaker. Ava is still in the testing stage, but you can download it here. The version I was using required Wi-Fi, but the newest version, which I downloaded (free) today, no longer requires Wi-Fi. I had a nice conversation with someone in the dog park. I could understand him over the yapping dogs because he was talking into my Ava-equipped phone.

Email was difficult. I’m a voluminous emailer, not only because I’m hard of hearing, but also because of the work I do both professionally and as a volunteer. The volume of mail I receive gets lost on the small screen of a smartphone. For those of us with hearing loss, email tends to be a lifeline for communicating with others. I did email on my smartphone (using satellite technology rather than Wi-Fi). But once I had Wi-Fi again and went back through the emails on my computer, I saw I’d missed quite a few. Also, no matter what size phone screen you have, it’s still pretty small.

Sherry Turkle‘s 2011 book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, prompted consternation about the “death of conversation” due to an over-dependence on technology.

But for those of us with hearing loss, technology is sometimes the only way we can communicate. In a restaurant we may be looking at our smartphones, but that’s because we’re getting captioning from a program like Ava telling us what the speaker across the table is saying. At the theater we may be looking at a smartphone, but that’s because we’re lucky enough to be at a performance with I-Captions or Globetitles.

Texting and emailing are conversation for people with hearing loss. I was surprised by how handicapped I felt without high-speed internet. I lived two-thirds of my life before the internet came along, so you’d think I’d know how to manage for a week or so. I wasn’t as hard of hearing then, it’s true. But also, once you’ve enjoyed the advantages that Wi-Fi and DSL offer those with hearing loss, it’s really hard to give them up.

This post first appeared on AARP Health on 10/18/2016.

 

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Technology You Can Use – Captioned Telephones

Not all modern technology is easily accessible and easy to use. Sometimes we are told how easy it is to use a new technological innovation only to quickly learn that the technology requires the memorization of untold steps just to access it—definitely not easy at all! And, seemingly not worth the trouble to learn how it works!

But, this is not always the case! I am writing today to provide information about a relatively unknown product, available from two different providers in Georgia that serve to greatly enhance your telephone communications with others. This innovation is the captioned home telephone. Yes, just like closed-captioning on your television, there are now telephones that convert the spoken word into easy-to-read text that will help ensure that you receive every last bit of your important communications. Wouldn’t it be great not to be “guessing” at words, or asking people to repeat?

Closed-captioned phones can serve as an aid to your residual hearing, and enhance your ability to communicate over the telephone. The great “fringe” benefit of having a closed-captioned phone includes the appearance of large, real-time, high-resolution captions that appear on a large display screen, making it easy for you to read and confirm what you are hearing. Most phones also have adjustable volume controls which you can set to your comfort level, and some even have answering machines that will play back both audio and close-captioning for all of your missed calls. With additional options such as caller ID and speed-dialing, these phones offer many attractive advantages.

A terrific advantage is that the companies that offer these telephones also offer installation in your home, installation that includes personalized in-home instruction in how to set the phone’s options to your liking, and how to navigate through the settings.

If you have ever had the experience of being frustrated when trying to communicate over the telephone, perhaps it is time that you look into some technology that is designed to help.

General Requirements to take advantage of this service:

  • Medically-recognized hearing loss (application signed by your Audiologist)
  • A high-speed internet connection (either wired or wireless)
  • A standard home phone (land line), though not necessary if using the mobile app.

There are two services for hearing impaired Georgia residents that provide free telephones with call-captioning for all incoming and outgoing telephone calls. If you have an interest in a close-captioned telephone technology, please contact Audiological Consultants of Atlanta for more information.

 

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Consultative Support

Many of us go to doctor appointments on a fairly routine basis. Each individual harbors a variety of emotions when keeping such appointments. While some of us may have grown comfortable with our practitioners, others, may have had negative experiences that lead to anxious feelings. These uncomfortable feelings may arise from poor bedside manner, negative medical results, or a poor explanation of treatment plans. As a result, these negative circumstances may serve to create a sense of anxiety and emotional distress that can carry over to any future medical appointments. In these situations, a useful approach for turning these bad experiences around is to consider bringing along a spouse, family member or friend that you trust. This can be especially effective during an appointment for an initial consultation.

We at Audiological Consultants of Atlanta highly recommend that when making your first appointment with us that you make arrangements to bring a spouse, family member, or close friend with you. The benefits of having four ears versus two can be of greater benefit than you can imagine. During such an initial appointment a lot of important information will be delivered. And, you will most likely have questions. Having a second set of ears can aid with taking notes regarding what was discussed.

The family member or friend can be act as a key bridge between important information that may be valuable to the Audiologist when discussing medical history, daily challenges that the patient may be experiencing, living situation, safety measures and treatment options. Another key factor of significant importance is that their presence provides helpful moral support. Having a strong support system can really make the patient being evaluated much more at ease, and less anxious regardless of what the results may be. At Audiological Consultants of Atlanta, our Audiologists take the time to educate the patient about the results that were obtained, and demonstrate effective hearing treatment options that may provide help. Having a loved one with you may aid in remembering to ask important questions and ensure that the patient is fully aware of all options, and feels comfortable with what is being explained.

Our staff will always be glad to demonstrate various makes and models of hearing aids, and go through the many benefits and limitations of wearing them. This demonstration can enhance their understanding of what they may have been missing and how life changing hearing aids can be. Hearing a voice that is familiar to you can also be helpful in validating the benefit of new hearing aids.

 

The entire staff at Audiological Consultants of Atlanta is committed to uncompromised quality and value through our teamwork, compassion, innovative services and personal guidance. We are committed to the success for each patient in making their experience one that is life-changing.

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What is Hearing Loss? Oh, and What can be Done About It?

“I can hear, but I can’t understand.” “I’m wearing my hearing aids, but I am still having trouble in a restaurant.”  Do these statements sound familiar to you? Read Full Article

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New Award Given to ACA Employees – “YOU ROCK”!

ACA created a new award this year for an ACA staff member(s) that is presented during each of our monthly office meetings.  The recipient of this special award is chosen as a living example of our ACA mission statement of exemplifying our leadership role through commitment, dedication, innovation and excellence of the highest quality. Let’s congratulate all recipients on our “YOU ROCK” award!

March recipient: Lori McCorry, Au.D., Audiologist

April recipient: Maureen Connon, Support staff

May recipient: Katherine Pollard, Au.D., Audiologist

June recipient: The Griffin office staff: Sheila Pack, Au.D., Audiologist, Tammi St. Claire, Support staff and Miya Wright, Audiology Assistant

 

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INSURANCE, FINANCING, WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

Are you or a loved one in the market for hearing aids?  If so, you’re not alone.  There are over 36 million Americans suffering from hearing loss. In fact, hearing loss ranks third behind heart disease and arthritis as the most common disorder among those over 65.  With more people needing hearing aids consumers are becoming increasingly aware that routine hearing services and hearing aids are rarely covered by Medicare or private medical insurance companies.  There are however, certain supplemental plans or assistance programs that individuals can use to assist them with their hearing aid purchase.  Coverage for hearing services/aids differs from the traditional medical insurance coverage in the way the benefits are administered.  The following are examples of some reimbursement and financing scenarios:

1-      Some plans pay a set amount of money toward the retail cost of hearing aids and the patient is responsible for the balance.  This type of benefit is typically available for renewal every 3-5 years.

2-      A discount program is where the insurance company has partnered with providers to offer subscribers a percentage off the retail cost of hearing aids and hearing services.  These programs often offer extended warranty plans as well as batteries.

3-      Certain unions or larger corporations have a specific hearing aid for federal and state employees.  Federal employees are covered under the Federal Employee Benefit Health Program for a basic hearing aid and if they want or need an upgrade they are responsible for the difference.  State employees typically have hearing benefits also and the amount of coverage varies with each state.

4-      For those individuals without hearing benefits and limited financial resources there are programs such as GA Lions Lighthouse Foundation that offer assistance for those who meet certain qualifications.  Your audiologist can provide the application.

5- Financing through Wells Fargo and Care Credit is also available.

When purchasing hearing aids, it’s important to be an educated consumer.  With so many different hearing aid providers and numerous insurance plans it can be confusing to know where to start when shopping for hearing aids.  The product is important but the “expert” is most important.  Finding the right hearing solution may not be easy but there are certain tests and services that are a must for those to receive the most beneficial outcomes.

Audiological Consultants of Atlanta is dedicated to improving hearing health and we will work with you and your benefits.  Don’t miss out on the important things in life due to hearing loss.

 

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NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF PRACTICE INDUCTS HELENA STERN SOLODAR, AU.D.

2016-helena-stern-solodar-240Founded in 1981, NAP is an interdisciplinary, nonprofit organization, with membership representing 14 health care professions willing to serve as distinguished advisors to health care policy makers in Congress and elsewhere. The 14 academies of practice within the NAP include: Audiology, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Osteopathic Medicine, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, Podiatric Medicine, Psychology, Social Work, Speech-Language Pathology and Veterinary Medicine.

Membership in the NAP is an honor extended to those who have excelled in their profession and are dedicated to furthering practice, scholarship and policy in support of inter-professional care. The central purpose of NAP is to advise public policy makers on health care issues using NAP’s unique perspective — that of expert practitioners and scholars joined in interdisciplinary dialogue.

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BE AWARE!

Do you enjoy listening to live music? Do you use power tools or are you around loud equipment? Read Full Article

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