Don’t let hearing loss dampen the holidays

6 causes of hearing loss, according to the Mayo Clinic Damage to the inner ear A gradual buildup of earwax Ear infection Abnormal bone growth Tumors Ruptured eardrum

If you’re among the 1 in 8 people in the U.S. living with hearing loss, don’t be surprised if the holiday season comes with an extra set of hurdles.

This time of year, people are more likely to be traveling, visiting relatives, attending concerts, going to parties, and engaging in other activities when the ability to hear is especially important. Even mild hearing loss can have an impact on how well you’re able to participate. But help is available, and you don’t have to struggle alone.

“I can’t stress how life-changing it can be when you do seek assistance,” said Ibrahim Dabo, a board member of the Hearing Loss Association of America who is active in the Atlanta chapter. “Hearing loss had affected me for at least 15 years before I started using hearing aids, so you can imagine how profoundly my life changed.”

Ibrahim Dabo is a member of the Atlanta chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

While some hearing loss can be prevented by minimizing prolonged exposure to loud noises and wearing ear protection in loud environments, hearing loss can also be age-related. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 1 in 3 people between ages 65 and 74 have hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss can be due to changes in the inner ear, middle ear, and nerve pathways from the ears to the brain, according to NIH.

Hearing Loss Association of America executive director Barbara Kelley said some early signs of needing a hearing assessment include trouble hearing on the phone, thinking other people are mumbling, turning the volume on the television up too loud for others, and friends and family complaining you often ask them to repeat what they say.

“Hearing can be elusive,” Kelley said. “We don’t know what we’re missing, and we assume we can wait to address it. But there’s truly no such thing as a small hearing loss because hearing is the way we stay connected to the world around us and to people in our lives.”

Untreated hearing loss, she said, can cause people to leave careers and withdraw from relationships and social settings. When that happens, it can lead to isolation, depression, and cognitive decline.

“Better hearing is better thinking and better living,” Kelley said. “So it’s important to treat hearing loss sooner rather than later.”

The reasons people delay addressing their hearing include social stigma, access to care, cost of treatment and not realizing what they are missing. Dabo said many years passed before he realized the extent of his hearing loss. A native of Sierra Leone, Dabo is a former war refugee who is now a motivational speaker and advocate for those with hearing loss.

As a commissioner of the Georgia Commission for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing, he advocates for installing hearing loops – technology that directly transmits sound from a microphone to the listener’s hearing aids or cochlear implants – in key public places. He described his journey to better hearing as “an evolving miracle” that drastically changed his life for the better.

“I could hear sermons in church more clearly, understand conversations without feeling lost, reduce my stress levels significantly, and no longer isolate myself from social interactions,” he said.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for hearing loss, but getting a hearing test is a great first step, Kelley said. Finding hearing aids that are comfortable can involve some trial and error. Sometimes, it can take a few weeks for your brain to adjust to hearing new sounds. Kelley advised that if you’re purchasing hearing aids from a professional, be sure there is a trial period, ongoing support, adjustment, and fitting included.

For more information on HLAA, visit hearingloss.org.


Tips for managing hearing loss during the holidays

  • Be well-rested to hear your best at gatherings.
  • Ensure you can view everyone’s face and read lips by sitting toward the center of the table.
  • If you can, sit with a wall behind you to help with background noise and possibly put space between you and a busy kitchen.
  • Have an ally to sit with so they can help you.
  • Have one one-on-one conversations in a separate room.
  • Make sure to take breaks often.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a person to repeat themselves if you don’t hear them.
  • No one hears everything, so don’t expect perfection.

Source: HLAA

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