9 Secret Benefits of Hearing Aids:
Learning These Could Save Your Life…
How is your hearing? When was the last time you had your hearing checked?
Maybe you think you’re fine. A little hearing loss is no big deal, right? Think again. Even if your hearing is only marginally poor, it can significantly impact many aspects of your life. Read on to see how wearing hearing aids can not only improve your hearing, but many other important aspects of your life as well.
Benefit #9: Staying Connected to Friends & Family
“Grandma, will you come outside and play with me?” Little Jenny asked.
Grandma whirled around the instant she heard the sound of Jenny’s sweet voice and smiled brightly.
“Why of course, sweetheart! I’d love to!”
They went outside to the sandbox and began to play.
“Grandma, I’m glad you want to play with me again, Jenny said.
“Oh Jenny, I always love playing with you. Whatever made you think I didn’t want to play?”
“Well I asked you yesterday, and the day before, and last week a few times, and you didn’t even say anything when I asked.”
“Oh Jenny, I’m so sorry! I certainly would have played with you! I guess I just didn’t hear you. But I’ll tell you a little secret. Grandma just got these little things to put in my ears, see? They help me hear better. I promise, Jenny, I’ll never miss a chance to play with you again.”
They shared a warm hug.
When your grandchild asks you a question and you fail to respond, it can be hurtful to a little heart. Like Jenny, your grandchild might begin to think things like, “Maybe grandma doesn’t care. She always ignores me. I feel like I’m invisible to her. I guess she just has more important things to do than play with little kids like me.” If it happens repeatedly, failure to respond to a grandchild can have long-term impact on your relationship.
Of course, hearing loss can affect your relationships with others as well: your children and your friends also feel the brunt of your inability to properly hear them. When we can’t hear other adults correctly, it can lead to contention, arguments and frustration. In turn, people with hearing loss tend to lose motivation to keep up with their relationships. They visit with others less often, tend not to invite family or friends over for meals or get-togethers, and ultimately prefer to be alone.
Benefit #8: Remaining Independent
John crossed the room, handed his wife a tissue box, and put his arm around her. Claire took a tissue and wiped away her tears. John waited quietly, knowing that Claire would tell him what was wrong when she was ready.
“Oh John,” Claire sighed. “I went to see mom today. And I’m very concerned. I – I really don’t think she should be living on her own anymore.” I’m worried mom may be heading down a bad path, like Alzheimer’s.
“What makes you say that?” John asked.
She just seems so inattentive when I visit. And when I ask her about what she’s doing with her friends . . . I don’t think she’s doing anything anymore. She stopped singing in the church choir, doesn’t go to her bridge club anymore. . . .”
“Wow, honey, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize. What do you think we should do?”
“I think it’s time to consider some kind of group living arrangement for her. Maybe that would help her be more social, with what time she has left.” Claire shed another tear. “And at least that way I wouldn’t have to worry about her driving. She seems so disconnected, I’m really afraid that when she does go out, she could have an accident.”
“Okay, honey,” John said supportively. “Let’s look at the calendar. We’ll pick a date and then go talk to her about all this. But most importantly, we need to get those car keys from her. She could hurt herself, and it would be awful if she hurt others as well.”
Two weeks later, Claire, John, and her mother were leaving the doctor’s office. Claire was once again wiping away tears, but this time they were happy ones.
“Mom, I’m so relieved the doctor said that your cognition is fine. I was really afraid . . . I was afraid we were losing you! Why didn’t you tell us you were having trouble hearing?”
“Well, I was really afraid I couldn’t afford hearing aids. But now the doctor told us how affordable they can be . . . well maybe I can even go back to the bridge club. I’m sure I’ll play better when I can hear the other bids again,” mom laughed.
“Yes,” Claire said, relieved. “I bet you can.”
Disconnection, reclusiveness, and inattention are effects of hearing loss that can be easily misinterpreted as the beginning of a cognitive problem like dementia or Alzheimer’s. Your children may become concerned that you are no longer able to care for yourself. Out of love and concern, they could very well feel compelled to cinch the reins on freedoms you cherish. Financial independence, driving privileges, and even the choice of living in your own home may become hotly contended issues. In this case, the purchase of hearing aids would not only enable you to maintain your independence and your lifestyle, but would also serve to reassure others about your independence as well.
Benefit #7: Avoiding Embarrassment
“Wah wah blah, wah wah Aunt Ruth?”
Ruth turned her head toward her niece, Sarah, at the dinner table after hearing her name. “Oh, right, yes dear,” she smiled and nodded politely.
Sarah could tell by the somewhat vacant stare in her aunt’s eyes that she had no idea what was just said.
She raised her voice and said again, “Aunt Ruth, could you pass the butter?”
“Oh sure, dear,” Ruth smiled as she passed the butter dish.
Ruth was quiet the rest of the meal. She wondered if Sarah asked her to pass the butter twice, or if the first time was a completely different topic. She had no idea.
If you have hearing loss you may feel badly about asking people to repeat things, especially if you fear you may still miss what was said after it is repeated. Rather than exposing your failure to hear, you may begin to simply nod and smile in agreement. If later in the conversation you realize that you responded inappropriately to what was said, it can be painfully embarrassing.
While inappropriate responses to your family or friends may be embarrassing, mishearing others such as your banker, attorney or healthcare provider could have dire consequences. Sadly, choosing to live without hearing aids may prove to be much more costly in the long run than the hearing aids themselves.
Benefit #6: Avoiding Criticism
Sarah and her mother cleared the dishes after the family dinner.
“Mom, really, you have to talk to Aunt Ruth.”
“I know dear, I know,” her mother sighed.
“Seriously, Mom. I love her, but it drives me crazy to spend time with her any more. Why doesn’t she just say something when she can’t hear? It makes me so uncomfortable!”
“You know your Aunt Ruth, she’s a stubborn one. I don’t know why she doesn’t get hearing aids. It drives me crazy too. I already talked with her once . . . I’m afraid she’ll get angry if I say something again.”
Sarah continued to vent. “Really, older people can be too stubborn for their own good. Remember when we were in the grocery line the other day, and those two older women were behind us? Not that I was eavesdropping, but their whole conversation was about a woman they played mah jongg with, and how they can’t stand that they have to practically scream to talk with her anymore.”
Just then, Sarah’s mom had a recollection. “You know Sarah, I was just talking to Sheila the other day, and she was telling me how her mother just got hearing aids and how well she’s doing with them. With the latest technology, they seem to really work well. Maybe I will bring it up one more time.”
Whether you are aware of it or not, if you are suffering from hearing loss and your friends and family notice, they are probably talking about it. If you let the problem linger, it can get downright frustrating for the others in your life. Your hearing weakness leaves you open to behind-the-scenes criticism by family and friends. Without your knowledge, your friends and family may be accusing you of being stubborn, of allowing your hearing loss to cause contention, and of weakness in decision-making.
Benefit #5: Maintaining Safety & Avoiding Vulnerability
It was a tough weekend for Joey. His grandfather was watching him while his parents were away, but with the way things were going it seemed like Joey was watching his grandfather.
On Saturday, Joey and his grandfather took his dog for a walk in the city. Out of nowhere, some kids with skateboards appeared. Joey heard them coming, but his grandfather was oblivious. Joey scooped up the dog and pulled his grandfather to the edge of the sidewalk just in time to get out of their way.
“Grandpa, didn’t you hear them coming?” Joey asked.
“I did, I just wanted to show those brats that I had as much right to the sidewalk as they did,” his grandfather lied.
Everything was fine until Sunday morning, when Joey woke to the sound of the smoke alarm. He felt the door to make sure it wasn’t hot, then rushed out of the guest room and found his grandfather asleep in a kitchen chair. Joey looked around and saw that the source of the smoke was Grandpa’s old toaster. Joey couldn’t believe that the alarm didn’t rouse his grandfather. Thankfully Joey was there to unplug the toaster before it caught on fire. Who knows what could have happened if his grandfather had been alone?
Hearing loss separates us from the sounds of the world around us. Sadly, you may be missing out on many lovely sounds, such as the sound of your grandchild’s laughter, birds chirping in the trees, or music that you love. However, there are many more important sounds to hear, such as sirens, shouts of warning, and the sounds of approaching vehicles or footsteps. It is downright dangerous to live without the inability to hear these sounds
Hearing loss also leaves you vulnerable. You may not catch innocent mistakes, like when a cashier makes incorrect change, but what’s worse, you are more likely to become a target of intentional defrauding by ill-willed thieves. Clearly, your inability to hear conversations and sounds increases your risk of losing money, valuables, or even your life.
Benefit #4: Staying Healthy
Monique was concerned about her mother. She had called her mother yesterday morning, and her mother had seemed awfully drowsy. In fact, Monique was almost certain her mother had drifted off for a bit during the conversation. She wondered if her mother was taking her medication correctly. She had just started to take Sinemet, a drug used to help counter the effects of Alzheimer’s.
After Monique got her kids on the bus, she drove to her mother’s house to check on her. She rang the doorbell, but there was no answer. Thank goodness her mother had given her a spare key, so Monique let herself in. She closed the door behind her and began looking around the house for her mother.
“Mom? Mom, where are you?”
There was no answer. Monique continued to look until she found her mother in her bedroom. She was asleep, and it was nearly 10:00 in the morning. This was very unusual for her.
“Mom? Mom, wake up,” Monique said as she shook her mother gently. There was no response.
“C’mon Mom, wake up! What’s wrong with you? Wake up!” Still nothing. Terrified, Monique quickly dialed 911.
Thankfully, Monique’s mother was okay. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she was monitored until she finally woke a few hours later.
A hospital worker came by to ask Monique’s mom a few questions.
“Tell me about the medications you’re taking,” she inquired.
“Well, I take, I just started taking . . . oh what’s the name of it . . . oh yes, Sinemet.”
“And what is your dosage on that, Mrs. Jackson?” asked the worker.
“I take four pills every morning, just like the doctor said,” she replied.
Monique gasped. “Mom, you’re supposed to space them out over the course of the day!” No wonder you were passed out!” Monique was relieved, now knowing her mother’s problem could be fixed. However, she realized that she would have to start going to her mother’s doctor appointments with her from that day forward.
Following instructions by healthcare providers can be a critical component to your overall health. While you may think you heard the dosing information from your doctor correctly, if you fail to verify it, an overdose or under-dose could be tragic.
Failure to hear your caregivers could ultimately lead us to unnecessary hospitalization, and this, in itself, can be life-threatening. According to a study by Dr. Robert Wilson, author of the Chicago Health and Aging Project, there is a direct and dramatic link between just one multi-day hospital stay and accelerated cognitive and memory decline, roughly equivalent to 10 years’ of instant aging. Said Wilson, “Hospitals can be a very risky experience. Once you get out of the hospital, your trajectory is downhill.”
Of course, one solution to this problem is to take another person with you to your appointments. However, this practice limits your freedom to schedule appointments solely based on your own calendar, and places a burden on the friend or family member who accompanies you. Depending upon your physical condition, you could prolong this necessity for years with the purchase of hearing aids.
Benefit #3: Being Respected as Trustworthy
Mary and Kelly were working together in Mary’s craft room, sewing costumes for their daughters’ upcoming school play.
“So yeah, I’ve got a lot to do this next few weeks. We have to get these costumes done, I volunteered to help with a program at church, and then I have to make cookies for the bake sale,” said Mary.
“Bake sale? I thought your mother volunteered for that. Wasn’t that her with you at the PTA meeting?” Kelly replied.
“Well yes, she did. But don’t you remember what happened last year? They asked for four batches of chocolate chips, which is nearly 100 cookies, but Mom thought they said four bags of cookies. So all she showed up with was four little gift bags with six cookies in each. I’m going to let her make cookies so she still feels included, but I feel like I need to make back-ups in case she doesn’t come through again.”
“That’s sweet of you to cover for your mother,” Kelly said.
“Unfortunately, there’s something else I can’t be so sweet about. She loves to have Addison sleep over, but my husband Jeff doesn’t want to allow it any more. And I suppose he’s right. With her hearing declining, what if she took Addie out for dinner or a movie, and got in an accident with her? I could never forgive myself.”
“Wow, that’s a tough decision,” Kelly said. “But it sounds like you’re doing the right thing to protect your little Addie.”
We all want to be trusted by others, especially by our children and grandchildren. However, if your hearing becomes noticeably impaired, your families and friends may become reluctant to trust you with important responsibilities. It would be awful to find out that someone else was doing extra work because he or she didn’t trust you, but it would be even worse to learn that your hearing loss is depriving you of precious, one-on-one time with your grandchildren.
Benefit #2: Preventing Falls
“Suzette, I’m afraid I have to tell you some sad news,” her mother said.
“What is it, Momma?” Suzie asked.
“Grandma had a fall yesterday. She tripped over little Coco when the dog crossed her path in the hallway. I guess Grandma didn’t hear Coco coming.”
“Are they okay, Momma?” Suzie asked, worried.
“Well, Grandma broke her hip, so she’s going to be in the hospital for a bit. Coco is okay. Your Aunt Bea is going to watch Coco until Grandma’s better, and I told Bea that we’d take Coco for a while too.”
“Oh Momma, it’ll be fun to watch Coco! You know how much I love Grandma’s dog. But I’m so sad for Grandma. She’s so much fun to play with! She runs with me in the yard, pushes me on the swings . . . .”
“I’m sad too, sweetie. But you’re going to have to understand that Grandma may not be able to be as active after this fall.”
“Okay, Momma,” Suzie said sadly.
“If only mom had agreed to have a hearing test, she might not be in this mess,” Suzie’s mom thought.
Hearing loss has been found to increase the chances of life-altering falls by 300%. According to research by Johns Hopkins researcher, Frank Lin, M.D., an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, people with a mild 25-decibel hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. Every additional 10-decibels of hearing loss increased the chances of falling by 1.4 fold. This finding still held true even when researchers accounted for other factors linked with falling, including age, sex, race, cardiovascular disease and vestibular function. And even excluding participants with moderate to severe hearing loss from the analysis didn’t change the results.
Benefit #1: Preserving Your Brain
David called his parents to invite them to dinner on Sunday. His mom picked up the phone.
“Hi, Mom, it’s David. How are you?”
“What? Who is this? Can you please speak up?”
David chastised himself for forgetting to speak more loudly into the phone.
“Hi Mom, its David,” he said more loudly.
“Oh, David, it’s so good to hear your voice! How are you, dear?”
“Good, Mom. I’m calling to see if you want to come over for dinner on Sunday.”
“That would be great, David! You know I love to spend time with your family.”
David and his mother shared some pleasantries. They talked a bit about the weather, and of course, the grandchildren, Jackie and Wilson.
“So, when am I going to get to see my little darling grandchildren again?” David’s mother asked.
“Oh Mom,” David thought to himself. Then he said to his mother, “Remember? I invited you and Dad over for Dinner Sunday night. You’ll see Jackie and Wilson then.”
“Oh, of course dear“, his mother replied pleasantly.
They chatted a bit more. As they were nearing the end of their conversation, David’s mom asked, “So how are my grandchildren? When am I going to get to see the little darlings again?”
“This weekend, Mom,” David said sadly. “Hey, can you put me on the phone with Dad? I need to talk with him about something.”
“Sure, David. I hope I see you soon dear,” she said before handing the phone to her husband.
Various university studies have linked hearing loss to dementia, and the greater the severity of hearing loss, the more dramatic the increase in likelihood of dementia, and possibly Alzheimer’s.
According to an article on AARP.com, “The general perception is that hearing loss is a relatively inconsequential part of aging,” says Doctor Frank Lin, an otologist and epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. But recent findings, he says, suggest that hearing loss may play a much more important role in brain health than previously thought. In a 2013 study, Dr. Lin and his colleagues tracked the overall cognitive abilities (including concentration, memory and planning skills) of nearly 2,000 adults whose average age was 77. After six years, those who began the study with hearing loss severe enough to interfere with conversation were 24 percent more likely than those with normal hearing to have seen their cognitive abilities diminish. Essentially, the researchers concluded that hearing loss seemed to speed up age-related cognitive decline.
In a 2011 study focusing on dementia, Lin and his colleagues monitored the cognitive health of 639 people who were mentally sharp when the study began. The researchers tested the volunteers’ mental abilities regularly, following most for about 12 years, and some for as long as 18 years. The results were striking: The worse the initial hearing loss, the more likely the person was to develop dementia. Compared with people who have normal hearing, those with moderate hearing loss had triple the risk.
“Everyone in the field agrees that hearing loss is a risk for cognitive problems,” says P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Duke University and author of The Alzheimer’s Action Plan. “But I don’t think the field takes mild hearing loss as a cause of Alzheimer’s seriously yet.” Still, he adds, “There are plausible reasons for why hearing loss might lead to dementia — the brain’s hearing centers are very close to the regions where Alzheimer’s first starts.”
Another possibility has to do with what researchers refer to as “cognitive load” — essentially, that the effort of constantly straining to hear stresses the brain. “If you put in a lot of effort just to comprehend what you’re hearing, it takes resources that would otherwise be available for encoding [what you hear] in memory,” says Arthur Wingfield, who heads the neuroscience program at Brandeis University.
A third factor, Wingfield and Lin suggest, is that hearing loss may affect brain structure in a way that contributes to cognitive problems. Brain imaging studies, Wingfield says, show that older adults with hearing loss have less gray matter in the part of their brain that processes speech. “It’s not necessarily that you’re losing brain cells,” he adds. Certain parts of the brain cells are known to shrink when they don’t get enough stimulation. This suggests, he says, that getting clearer speech signals to the brain might allow these brain structures to grow back to their previous size and function.
Finally, it seems very likely that social isolation plays a part. Being hard of hearing tends to isolate people from others: When you have to struggle to converse, you’re less likely to want to socialize in groups or go out to restaurants. And being socially isolated has long been recognized as a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.
Treating hearing loss has become wildly successful in recent years, erasing much of the stigma relating to the wearing of hearing aids: size, discreetness, cost, effectiveness and ease of use. One provider of hearing aids that has broken the old mold and the barriers for thousands of people around the world with hearing loss is Hearing Central. Hearing Central offers small, discreet, affordable, effective and very simple to use and wear hearing aids at $1,000’s below traditional retail hearing and audiology centers. Visit www.HearingCentral.com to enjoy all the benefits and protection that improved hearing can provide.