In our previous articles about overcoming the stigma of hearing loss, we examined what’s behind the existing stigma and how advocacy can help diminish it. For this third and last article in the series, let’s look at the broader issue of the importance of health care for hearing — and how people with hearing loss can be positively impacted by technology.
What Happens When You Put Off Your Hearing Health Care?
Because hearing loss often happens gradually, once they suspect they have hearing loss, the average person takes seven years to get help or seek medical advice. Putting off having your hearing checked until it is so far gone removes the possibility of receiving treatments that may prevent it from getting worse. It also affects your overall physical and mental health. Someone experiencing hearing loss tends to withdraw from social situations because they struggle to follow conversations, and they don’t want to feel like a burden by asking others to repeat themselves.
What the Experts Say
According to Stephen DeMari, resident audiologist and CaptionCall’s Director of Business Development and Education, “Wearing hearing aids to help you hear and understand the conversation is less conspicuous than not wearing them and having to ask people to repeat what was said. Pretending to hear (for example, by laughing when others do) may bring more attention to your hearing loss than hearing aids. Doing that can draw more attention to the ‘disability’ or make people wonder if perhaps the person has a cognitive issue.”
“Those who are hearing impaired may also be [receiving] weaker auditory signals [in their] brains, which means our [brains have] to work harder to process sounds — resulting in a loss in function in other processes such as memory,” says Brian Wind, PhD, CBSM.
In other words, untreated hearing loss affects more than just your ability to hear. People with hearing loss live with depression at more than twice the rate of the general population. When communication becomes difficult, loneliness, sorrow, and social isolation tend to follow. There could be other neurological effects of hearing loss as well. “Our neural pathways may reorganize, causing our brains to change the way they function, including the areas that regulate depressive symptoms,” explains Brian Wind.
Is it vital to your health to get regular check-ups with an audiologist even if it’s just to establish a baseline in your hearing. Here is a link to some helpful tips if you notice hearing loss in a family member to help them take the necessary steps to get treatment.
If you or someone you know has been affected by hearing loss, many technologies are available (with more coming) to help treat or prevent further loss.
Technology has come a long way in the treatment of and help for hearing loss. Hearing aids can be much more than just a device to make you hear better — newer hearing aid devices allow you to connect to your smart phones and computers via Bluetooth to listen to music, take your phone calls, hear the movie you are streaming, etc. They do everything that wireless headphones do and more because they also help you hear the world around you. Amazing!
Cochlear Implants and Devices
Cochlear devices are improving all the time as well. According to Cochlear America, cochlear implants are surgically implanted medical devices that “are designed to mimic the function of a healthy inner ear (or cochlea). They replace the function of damaged sensory hair cells inside the inner ear to help provide clearer sound than what hearing aids can provide.”
Cochlear device systems have two parts: the external sound processor and the implanted piece under the skin that is attached to an electrode array placed in the inner ear. These parts work together to essentially bypass the part of the ear that doesn’t work properly, sending the sound directly to the hearing nerve. How awesome is that tech!?
Coming Down the Pipeline
According to Stephen DeMari, who has more than 30 years of experience as an audiologist, many exciting technologies are being developed right now to help improve, treat, and maybe even reverse hearing loss. Here are some things to look forward to:
- Advancements in cochlear implants and cochlear technology.
- Brain stem implants.
- Inner-ear-heair-cell regeneration.
- Speech optimization devices.
- Neo-sensory devices.
- Over-the-counter hearing helpers.
CaptionCall is Here to Help
While new technologies will bring exciting changes, our captioned phone services for home and smartphones are here now and can help you or someone you love overcome the challenges of having hearing loss and speaking on the phone. CaptionCall is making accessibility to the phone a possibility for people with hearing loss by providing true no-cost captioning service so you can read and hear what your caller is saying.
This service is available to anyone with hearing loss that needs captions to use the phone effectively. If you are on the go all the time and are eligible for the service, you should try the CaptionCall Mobile app on your Apple and Android devices. If a smartphone is not your thing, you have the wonderful home phone option delivered directly to you by one of our amazing trainers who will sit down with you and teach you how to use it. They can answer any questions you have, and our round-the-clock customer support team can help you any time after that if you run into any more questions.
Remember you are not alone, and your hearing loss does not define you, rather it is part of what makes you unique and special.