older

Why you’re never too old to try hearing aids

Walk down any busy street and you will see a plethora of people engaged in their technology. Specifically, their mobile phones.

It’s sometimes surprising when we notice a number of these people plugged into cyberspace fall into the 70-80 age bracket.

It shouldn’t really be a shock to think of the so-called older generation being interested and invested in new tech. As age, as the whole, has little to do with abilities and interests.

However, there is a downside to this. It is the simple fact that there is a significant figure within these age parameters that take the completely opposite viewpoint and find the whole idea of technology abhorrent in the extreme.

If the technology in question was only related to mobile phones it wouldn’t be that big a deal. However, this problem goes much further and a lot deeper and includes why many people don’t wear their hearing aids.

Not wanting to continue learning

There is a group of old older people who shun new technologies and offer the reason as a blanket statement, saying they are too old to learn new things.

The idea behind this statement comes from a once common misconception. The misconception was the idea that brain cells died every single day and were never replaced. So, learning new things was deemed a young person’s place.

This myth is still prevalent in workplaces, where often people are retired in favor of younger people because they are seen to have the mental advantage.

The truth is very different because the decline in question, as regards the mental processes, in fact begins at twenty years of age. It is also only between five and fifteen percent. The reality is that the playing field is level. It just depends on the individual and has nothing at all to do with a person’s age.

Alzheimer’s disease symptoms can be delayed by years, just by applying education and knowledge. It seems that the more thinking we do, the healthier our brains become. So, it seems that we really can think ourselves better.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

This does not help those people who have this particular mindset. Because they have convinced themselves that they just have no means to acquire a new skill set, such as is needed for technological interaction.

I know of two people both over seventy who refuse to even carry and use a mobile phone, despite a number of serious health-related emergencies. One of them who has hearing loss, keeps his hearing aid shut away in a drawer because it seems annoying and too difficult to get used to.

The other person is a lady who loves to talk and will stop and chat to anyone. She has a keen mind and enjoys historical days out. She would adore the internet and all it offers, including being able to communicate with loved ones in different countries. Regardless, in her mind, like that of the gentleman, is firmly made up.

There are many of us that know how much benefit we gain from using our hearing aids. Imagine if you will just for a moment, shutting away your aids in a drawer and just getting along without them. I know I would struggle. Not only that, I would also go out less and not feel as comfortable and confident in social situations.

Read more: A year on my hearing loss journey

My hearings aids have been nothing short of liberating and I would never want to be without them, even for a day. Having hearing loss distances a person and cuts them off from hearing society. A simple phone call can be nothing short of a frightening experience. The alternative to speaking on the phone, if you are of the generation and mindset we have discussed is alienation and loss of control.

“My hearings aids have been nothing short of liberating and I would never want to be without them, even for a day.”

A serious emotional and social issue

Untreated hearing loss has serious emotional and social consequences for older persons, according to a major new study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA). The study was conducted by the Seniors Research Group, an alliance between NCOA and Market Strategies, Inc.

This news shouldn’t really come as a surprise. If hearing loss goes untreated, especially in someone of advancing years, it can extremely life changing. Many older people live along and may have little or no contact with family or friends.

A hearing disability can weigh very heavy when it comes to communication and social interactions. According to the above study, untreated hearing loss can also lead to depression.

Therefore, it is surely vital that we all take the initiative and attempt to gently encourage a change from the old myths and help those around us to fully engage with technology and all it can achieve.

It is important to demonstrate to parents and grandparent, family friends and others, just how intelligent, aware and capable they really are. Sometimes it is all too easy for us to treat older people as though in a sense they are childlike, taking technical tasks away from them, but this helps nobody and achieves nothing.

It isn’t as though the problem has affected an entire generation because this is clearly not the case. I can attest to this, because of the number of older people going past clutching mobile phones and tablets and ignoring the world around them.

No, it is only certain people and this makes it all the more isolating for those who find themselves in this situation.

A call to arms

Look around you and think carefully. Is there anyone you know who would fit into this category. If the answer is yes, why not at least attempt a conversation on the subject. Who knows, you might just change a life.

soccerball

A Deafie’s Guide to Soccer’s Biggest Event: World Cup 2018

Fans are getting ready to celebrate their love of soccer with the biggest soccer event that exists; World Cup 2018!

Like the Olympics, this event only comes around every four years, so from now until mid-July, expect most people to be glued to their TVs, computers, or mobile devices to stream the tournament. (Note: Work productivity may decline briefly) Or for some people, like me, we’ll be right in the action. It’s one event that brings people together from all over the world to share their love for and take part in the beautiful game!

This year’s World Cup is taking place in Russia across 11 of its cities. The country’s capital, Moscow, alone expects to draw in over 1 million attendees from all over the world over the course of the tournament.

While we’ll be rooting for our home country’s team on game day, or in the case of the United States, we’ll be cheering for our next favorite team, we’re excited to have a safe, engaging, and entertaining tournament, complete with subtitles, sign language, and hearing protection. We’re taking on one of the world’s largest sporting events from a deafie’s point of view.

Watching the Game in Person at One of Eleven Russian Host Stadiums or at FIFA Fan Fest

deaf soccer

There’s nothing like seeing a game in person or being a part of FIFA’s well known Fan Fest experiences, but that goes without saying that it can get rowdy and loud!

According to the FIFA Stadium Code of Conduct, vuvuzelas, the infamous horns made popular during the 2010 South African World Cup games are NOT allowed in the stadiums. But have no fear Russians have prepared an instrument for this event – wooden spoons. President Vladimir Putin even allotted a million rubles to “modernize” these percussion instruments from Ancient Rus’.

In the past, World Cup games have been considered some of the loudest games in the history of sports with many hitting near the 100 dB mark. Luckily, many of the host stadiums this year are on the smaller side with a capacity of 35-45 thousand people. The largest stadium is in Moscow at 80,000. The energy and passion from fans, however, will be in full force, so it’s advised that you take the necessary precautions to protect your ears!

Read more: How to recognise and protect yourself from dangerous sounds

Find yourself some earplugs! I promise, your ears will thank you during the next day when there’s no ringing going on. You can get your basic run of the mill earplugs, or if you’re feeling fancy (a la musician style), you can get plugs with frames and ear molds to fit your ears perfectly.

A more accessible World Cup!

deaf soccer

Since the networks that showcase the World Cup games are different across all countries, FIFA has been working hard to make World Cup 2018 accessible for all.

FIFA will be creating and promoting 64 match report videos in International Sign Language. Essentially, these will be game highlights and can be found on FIFA.com. These videos will be available online about three hours after each game. This service is not to promote FIFA sponsors but to give the deaf and hard of hearing community the opportunity to receive the same information as hearing people.

In the United States, FOX Sports will be the main provider for watching games on TV or online at FOXSportsGO.com. Fox Sports offers closed captioning through both platforms, so deaf and hard of hearing people can enjoy the games.

Playing Joga Bonito (Beautiful Game)

deaf soccer

There’s a reason soccer is the world’s most beloved sport. All it requires is a ball-like object, a flat-ish surface, and some teammates/competitors. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to play the game after watching the tournament (in fact, I encourage it!). It is a wonderful team sport, but as with any contact sport, there are some dangers that come with it.

Most injuries in soccer are knee, leg, ankle, and foot related, but since there is no padding, aside from shin guards, there are the occasional head bumps and concussions. We all know that with concussions there is the possibility for severe head trauma (or TBI) and with that, there is the possibility of onset hearing loss.

“This can be the result of damage to the tiny bones in the middle ear or a fracture of the inner ear or cochlea,” according to BrainLine.org. “Even if the hearing in the ear itself is not damaged, a person with TBI can have a loss of hearing that is caused by the way sound is processed in the brain.”

Remember to wear shin guards, play by the rules, and avoid head-on-head collisions when possible. Should you go up for a header or hit your head hard some other way, please be sure to get everything checked out!

As a side note, if you wear hearing aids, remember there is a possibility of them falling out when running or if you make contact with someone. Headgear or a headband is one way to keep them intact, but otherwise, go out there and kick some grass!

Deaf culture and soccer

Whether you’re a soccer fanatic or you’re new to the world of soccer, there are some interesting things of note in regards to deaf culture and soccer.

There are no deaf players in the upcoming tournament (that I know of), but there is one player that has been making headlines recently, Simon Ollert. Ollert is a brand ambassador for Sonova and plays for the German professional team, SV Pullach.

Read more: Simon Ollert to host second soccer camp for children with hearing loss

There have been a number of deaf and hard of hearing players in the past including Ian Redford, Jimmy Case, Cliff Bastin, and Rodney Marsh. Additionally, many countries have fully deaf and hard of hearing teams that compete in the Deaflympics and Deaf World Cup. All of these players perfectly prove that #hearinglosswontstopus.

Show us your team spirit on social media by decorating your hearing aids with your team’s colors! Remember to use #phonak!

 

hearing-aid-close-0

When the Hearing Aid is in the Drawer.

No matter how great hearing aids are, they can’t help anyone when gathering dust in a drawer not being used. Here’s a look at three situations where people have tried – but given up on – their hearing aids, and how those frustrations could have been avoided.

Wary At Work

George is in his late 50s and has finally purchased a pair of hearing aids, something his wife has been trying to get him to do for almost three years. His first week at work wearing his aids ends with George completely frustrated — and his hearing aids in the drawer! When George’s wife asks what happened, he gets defensive and describes his experience. Sounds were too loud; the hearing aids were uncomfortable to wear; they didn’t help him hear in meetings; and he’s sure that people were staring and talking about him behind his back. Worst of all, he’s afraid he’ll be seen as “over the hill,” and never receive another raise.

Get Fit (or Refit)

Find a good fitter to make sure that your hearing aids are comfortable, and meet your specific needs. In a recent study by Consumer Reports, two-thirds of hearing aids provided to customers were not fit well.1 Properly fitted hearing instruments need to not only be the right size, but also calibrated and amplified for your specific needs. If your first fit isn’t right, make another appointment with your hearing care specialist. Your fitter is as interested as you are in making sure you find hearing success.

Be Realistic

Unlike eyeglasses, which can produce instant results, it takes time to adjust to hearing aids. Remember, your brain is being asked to process sounds it hasn’t heard in a long time – or ever. Be patient and give yourself at least six to eight weeks to acclimate. Your patience just may pay off. According to one study, sticking with hearing aids eventually led to higher hearing satisfaction in nearly 75 percent of users.2

Increase Your Potential Earnings

A 2005 study, conducted by the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), found that people with unaddressed hearing loss make less money per year, than people with normal hearing. The key word here is unaddressed hearing loss. The study found a difference of up to $23,000 per year!3

 

Avoiding “Awkward”

Cassie is a typical teenager. She spends her days (and nights) with her cell phone wedged in her hand, texting about everything from boys to bands. Texting is her preferred method of communication, since most of the time at school her friends are all talking so fast (and at the same time) that she misses what people are saying. She’s so afraid of being “different” that she finds herself staying out of crowds and hectic social situations to avoid “awkward.”

Even though Cassie has moderate-to-severe hearing loss in one ear, and a hearing aid to compensate, the teen won’t be caught dead wearing it – despite the hair-thin tube that is almost invisible. She’s sure everyone will notice, resulting in the “end of her social life.”

Super Size Your Social Life

More than half the participants in a recent poll say that their relationships and social life improved significantly as a result of hearing aids.4 The truth is that hearing and interacting more successfully with others may not only improve your social life, but also allow you to be who you are, and do what you love.

Embrace Technology

In today’s world, there are earpieces and personal electronic accessories galore. With the advent of Bluetooth wireless headsets, more and more people are walking around with something in their ears. The net result is that others may not even notice the hair-thin tubing of a mini behind-the-ear hearing aid. If they do happen to notice, they probably won’t care. In fact, they might even think it’s cool.

Gain Confidence

Hearing better can actually make you feel better about yourself. A 2010 BHI survey showed that 4 out of 10 respondents felt a boost in self-confidence and independence when wearing their hearing aids.5

 

Too Much Fuss

For Rick, the issue with his hearing aids isn’t cosmetic; it’s technical. He spends time fidgeting and fussing with them, and notices almost no difference in his hearing. “It’s just more trouble than it’s worth,” he explains, “Besides I get along fine without them.”

Being a no-nonsense guy, Rick went to the first fitter that he found. He didn’t ask about the fitter’s experience, provide detailed information about his own specific hearing challenges, or research the different brands and features available on the market. Basically, he didn’t fully participate in the fitting process, which can lead to an unhappy ending.

Find a Pro

Finding the right hearing solution depends on a number of important variables, beginning with your hearing care professional. Work with an expert who determines your lifestyle and listening needs, and then matches the technology to meet those needs. Once you’ve found that hearing care partner and have selected your technology, establish a schedule of follow-up visits to make sure that your devices are addressing your needs, and that you have a successful fit.

Know the Market

Features like adaptive directional microphones and feedback suppression can make a tremendous difference in hearing results. Directional microphones are useful in noisy environments. They tend to pick up speech or the primary source of interest and reduce competing sounds, making conversation much easier. Today’s hearing aids also include automatic feedback suppression, which greatly reduces the chances of high-pitched feedback or whistling. Remember, many fitters carry just a few brands, making it a good idea to look around at what else is available on the market. You can then discuss what you’ve found with your hearing care professional. Doing so will help ensure that you’re making the right choice for your individual needs.

Get Ready to Reconnect

In a recent study, half of hearing aid users said that their hearing aids improved their relationships, and one-third of the respondents even saw improvements in their romantic lives.6

Whatever your reason may be for not using your hearing aids, the truth is that you’re missing the chance to fully connect. Whether it’s details on the big project in the office, the latest gossip in a classroom hallway, or a heartfelt moment with your significant other, hearing is a critical part of your daily life.

You may try to convince yourself and others in your life that you’re doing fine without hearing well, but the truth is that situations can slowly deteriorate without your knowing it, leading to increased frustration and social isolation.

Ready to get back into life at full volume? The first thing to do is be honest about why you’re not wearing your hearing aids. Then, come up with a realistic solution, set goals, and reward yourself for reaching them. Who knows? The sounds you recapture may very well become rewards in themselves!

talkingloud

Am I speaking too loud when wearing my new hearing aids?

For the first-time hearing aid user, there’s a common issue everyone faces, and that is adjusting to the sound and volume of your own voice as heard through the hearing aids.

Learning how to adjust the volume of your voice in different situations can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you understand and manage the issue.

Hearing your own voice with hearing aids

When your hearing aids are switched on and you speak for the first time, your own voice may sound strange to you. It may sound tinny, or hollow, or have a booming quality that you don’t recognize.  If this happens, talk to your audiologist and explain how your voice sounds. They may be able to make some immediate adjustments to make your voice sound more natural. After a settling in period, you should hopefully start to become used to the sound quality of your hearing aids. This includes hearing your own voice through the hearing devices. But, if you’re still not happy with the sound of your own voice, try and see your hearing care professional again and ask for more adjustments.

Perception of noise with hearing loss

According to this article on Audiology Online, It takes an average of seven years for most adults with a gradual hearing loss to get hearing aids. When hearing has been lost gradually, it’s easy to be largely unaware of some sounds that can no longer be heard. Hearing aids pick up and amplify a large range of sounds of which the first-time user will suddenly become aware; many they may not have heard in years. For this reason, new users may complain that ‘everything is too loud’. Some sounds may be instantly recognizable – a knock at the door, a phone ringing – others may take to distinguish – a kettle boiling, a tap running. These sounds may sound almost unbearable at first and we may feel the need to compensate (for our perception of being in a noisy environment) by speaking more loudly. Sometimes we may be speaking unnecessarily loudly. When I first started using hearing aids, I found the noise of the extractor on my cooker hood almost deafening. I would shout to make myself heard above the din, but to my husband, who was used to the sound and to tuning it out, I was speaking louder than was necessary.

Gaining and insight

If you have a close friend or family member who is willing to help you work on your volume control, you could give them an insight into the issues you’re facing by asking them to wear ear defenders or ear plugs whilst having a conversation with you. Video the conversation and then play it back to them. They will then be able to judge for themselves how much louder they were speaking when their hearing was temporarily impaired and they couldn’t hear their own voice normally. Keep in mind that whether we have hearing loss or not, we all tend to increase the loudness of our voice as our perception of the background noise around us increases. The more background noise in a bar or restaurant, the more we will speak up in order to be heard. Gauging how loudly we’re speaking over what we hear as background noise can sometimes seem like a fine art. Like most things, getting it right takes practice. Read more: “Sound” is relative when you have hearing loss

Tips for managing your voice’s volume

  1. Talk to your hearing care provider. They can adjust the programming of how you hear your own voice. It may be that as you adjust to using hearing aids, you may need a few programming tweaks.
  2. If your hearing aids have a volume setting, turn down the volume of the background noise is making you feel as though you need to shout to be heard. This will reduce your perception of overall background noise, so you won’t feel you have to shout over it.
  3. Do your hearing aids have the capacity for different program settings e.g. ‘speech in noise’, ‘echoey places’? Ask your audiologist to add additional programmes relevant to the type of setting in which you’re struggling to hear yourself speak.
  4. Is your model of hearing aid compatible with a remote control? A remote can be great for discreetly changing programs or increasing or decreasing volume.
  5. Practice speaking with a trusted friend in a variety of environments and ask for their feedback. Get an idea of which program, and voice volume, work best for you and your companions.
  6. Use a decibel measuring app to get a visual representation and measurement of how loudly you are speaking in different settings. Check with your trusted friend which volume they would recommend. Then, practice speaking at that volume at home.
calendar

A year on my hearing loss journey

My hearing loss journey started a little over a year ago and I can’t believe the ups and downs I went through to get to where I am today.

Going from having normal hearing all your life to suddenly losing it, is an experience that is only relatable if you have gone through it. Even if it is just a small loss, the effects of the experience of learning about your hearing loss, getting fit with hearing aids and readjusting back to normal life are significant.

Here is a glimpse of my transformation over the full year. You will be able to see how my attitude has changed and what it took for me to accept my hearing loss.

The beginning months

September

My initial experience with hearing loss was years of stressing over my vain attempts at keeping up with conversations, trying to catch mumbling television dialogue and listening to songs not sounding like they used to. This becomes tiring and I am persuaded to take a hearing test.

My first idea is to first an online hearing test because it is so easy. I failed the test. Instantly I thought ‘the result is wrong’ as I read the results telling me to consult a doctor to arrange a referral to an audiologist.

I am in disbelief and take the test a second time. This time I use headphones instead of pc speakers. The same result popped on my screen. My wife smiled at me gently and mentioned that even with my headphones on, she could still hear me missing many sounds.

I am not pleased and agree to take the test one last time. The result is exactly the same. I phone my GP and make an appointment.

My first appointment

Two weeks later and I’m talking to my family doctor and she is smiling and nodding and telling me not to worry, because I don’t seem to have any problem with my hearing. This is a huge relief. She does tell me that as I do have a build-up of wax, she will arrange for a nurse to remove this and then all will be back to normal once more.

Now that my ears are clear of wax, the nurse told me that she could clearly see the eardrum in both ears, I am wondering why there seems to be some kind of deadening to my hearing, as though I had foam earplugs in.

Another couple of days passes and I am back to my old habits of missing conversation and having the TV volume on high. I telephone the surgery and ask to speak to my doctor.

She is really nice and explains that my hearing must be fine if I am able to have a phone conversation. This makes me frustrated and I ask her to refer me to a formal hearing test. She verbally fences with me for several more minutes and then gives in. With a sigh, she says I will be hearing from the hospital soon.

October

When I go to my audiology appointment, I fully expect them to find a slight problem with one of my ears. I assume that they will not be able to help, but at least I will know for certain.

At the hospital audiology department, I am surprised by the fact that I am taken care of by an obviously deaf student audiologist. I feel slightly uneasy because I am not prepared and feel unsure of how to talk to her. She is so nice and appears to understand my answers to her questions perfectly. She has a deaf accent and I suddenly feel a fraud.

Part of me wishes that I’d listened to my doctor and not insisted on the appointment. Here, right in front of me, is a genuine person with hearing issues. I feel ashamed and can’t wait for the tests to be over, so I can go home.

After the tests, I am shocked to be told that I have hearing loss in both ears and will require two hearing aids. I sit there stunned, listening to my audiologist explaining that my life will not be the same again.

The workings of my hearing aids are explained to me making me feel a little reassured that they are so small, but I feel scared at the idea of having to wear these alien devices in my ears for the rest of my life.

“I feel scared at the idea of having to wear these alien devices in my ears for the rest of my life.”

My hearing aid fitting appointment isn’t for six weeks, which makes me frustrated again. I go through various moods and later discover that this is, in fact, a grieving process, for the loss of my hearing.

To find out more information I started consulting doctor Google and search websites and forums for answers. I find the usual, the good, the bad and the indifferent. Yes, there are a number of success stories, but there is also a plethora of horror stories as well. At this time I also discover Hearing Like Me and begin to see a far more optimistic future.

“At this time I also discover Hearing Like Me and begin to see a far more optimistic future.”

I watch endless YouTube videos and soon have a pretty good understanding of different hearing aids, hearing loss and deafness. Even though I am learning so much, I still feel depressed, as I await the fitting of my new aids. They still feel like something of a prison sentence, waiting to be carried out.

November

I meet the audiologist that fit my hearing aids and he took me by surprise. We have music in common, both having been in bands. I feel better and he explains that my new aids should help to give me access to the missing areas of my hearing. I have mild to moderate loss in both ears. Although it doesn’t sound much, it is significant. The aids feel odd and uncomfortable. They’re plugged into a computer and various sounds come through them and into my ears. One test is where he screws up a piece of paper and to my ears, it sounds as though he were smashing a metal tea tray on his desk.

Later on, I leave with my new silver aids. In the case, not my ears, having been warned not to wear them in the street, until I get used to them. I am to try them in short doses at first. On the way home I go into a coffee shop and decide to try out my hearing aids.

The noise is very loud. My aids have automatic volumes and so I’m stuck with the sheer volume of noise. I can hear conversations from tables away, but struggle to hear my wife’s voice, over the coffee making machines. All the sounds seem to be misplaced. The coffee machines sounded like they were on our table, instead of behind the counter and across the far wall.

I decided there and then to keep them in. I will get used to them. After all, the idea is for them to help me hear. They can’t do that sitting in a case.

“I decided there and then to keep them in. I will get used to them.”

Back home, things are noisy, but fun. Voices sound metallic and unreal. I’m told that this will take about three weeks for my brain to adjust to the new sounds. I decide that it should be shorter for me, as I’m now wearing my aids all the time, only taking them out to sleep and shower.

The television gets turned down. In fact, the normal volume now sounds a little loud. I can even hear the characters whisper and breathe. The direction sounds come from is different particularly in the street. It is slightly alarming, to begin with, as I can’t quite tell where the sounds of cars are coming from when crossing roads.

An optimistic new future with hearing aids

December

I rediscover music, once more picking up my guitar. No longer do my guitar strings sound off, nor my voice slightly off-key. In fact, my music is now better than it’s been in years. The same happens with favorite albums because suddenly I’m hearing songs, as though for the first time and this is so good.

“In fact, my music is now better than it’s been in years.”

Read more: How hearing aids helped me rediscover my love for music

January

I joined a hearing loss charity, which pushed me to begin my acceptance of my hearing loss. Also, accepting that I am now a member of the deaf community, even if it is only on the outer circle. I became determined to learn more and hopefully do more, but unsure of what, when or how.

February

Getting used to my hearing aids was going well. I was finding that at times I forgot I even have a hearing problem. I realize that I am one of the lucky ones, in that my aids suit me perfectly and compensate very well for my hearing loss challenges, most of the time.

March/April/May

The weeks run into months, as I enjoy life again. Thanks to my hearing aids! I find that during this time my confidence soars and I feel able to live my life to the full.

June

I join another charity, Hearing Link. Their focus is on hearing loss rather than deafness. I find that I really identify with the charities aims and set to learning all I can from their very informative website.

July/ August

Hearing Link’s volunteering opportunities stand out to me and I begin to really consider if I could offer anything to them and to hearing loss suffers in general. I decide to take the plunge and offer the charity my services. I begin to feel good about my hearing loss.

September

I become a Phonak hEARo and start to write articles for Hearing Like Me. This now gives me a voice and allows me to offer my own experiences to others in similar situations.

“This now gives me a voice and allows me to offer my own experiences to others in similar situations.”

I have focused on just a twelve month period, but have recently gone on to more advocacy work. This includes being a part of a local disabilities forum and providing a voice for the hearing loss community within my own area. I personally have found wearing hearing aids to have added greatly to my life and am honestly happier these days. The secret if there is one, is to embrace the experience, rather than fight it. After all, it is still a beautiful world.