How to Make the Holidays More Hearing-Friendly

I love the five weeks that begin with Thanksgiving and end with New Year’s, but a part of me also thinks, “Bah, humbug.” That’s the part that knows I’ll struggle to follow conversations at family dinners, holiday parties, concerts and pageants. It’s also the part of me that will want to leave early, or maybe even just stay home.
If you feel the same way, here are a few tips and strategies for making the holidays more hearing-friendly. My favorite is Mindful Listening.

The Skype Solution for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

The other day I was sitting in my neighborhood Starbucks surrounded by the chatter of conversation and people hunched over their laptops or newspapers.
At one table, however, something remarkable was going on. A woman was sitting in an armchair, her laptop perched on a table in front of her. She was having an exuberant conversation — in sign language.
Not a sound came from her except for an occasional guffaw, but her conversation was so animated you almost felt you could hear it.
 Read more here.

Aural Rehab — Learn More Tonight 11/17

Aural Rehabilitation for Consumers:  
Best Practices in Hearing Healthcare 
Tuesday, November 17th
5:45 announcements
6 – 7:15 Program with Q&A
Muhlenberg Library
209 W. 23rd Street, 3rd Floor Community Room
Presented by
Peggy Ellertsen, MEd, C.C.C.-S.L.P.
Jaclyn Spitzer, PhD.
Aural rehabilitation – also referred to as patient-centered care, aural rehab and “A.R.” – is an approach to the practice of audiology that includes a broad set of practices that help people with hearing loss learn new skills for coping effectively. Aural rehab offers people with hearing loss opportunities for learning how to listen and attend, how speech-read, and how to create solutions with assistive devices and communication strategies. Importantly, aural rehab also shifts the process of hearing healthcare to one that invites the voice of the person with hearing loss in the creation and revision of an active communication management plan. In our presentation, we will explain some of the important components of aural rehab and describe the many benefits of this approach. Participants will leave with materials and information about how to access aural rehab tools and resources in their management of hearing loss.
Peggy Ellertsen currently serves on the HLAA’s national Board of Trustees and maintains the Boston chapter’s website.  She is a past member of the HLAA Boston Chapter Steering Committee, and coordinated the chapter’s Speaker and Workshop series.  Trained in the field of communication disorders, membership in the American Speech Hearing Language Association has provided Peggy with access to rich resources for patient centered hearing healthcare.

Jaclyn Spitzer, PhD, is Professor of Clinical Audiology and Speech Pathology at Columbia

University College of Physicians and Surgeons, as well as Director of Audiology and
Speech-Language Pathology and Director of the Cochlear Implant team at Columbia
University Medical Center.
CART (real-time captioning) provided by Lauren Schechter of TotalCaption. Note: CART can be streamed onto any smartphone, computer, or tablet that has Internet access. At the meeting, ask Lauren to send you a link via email, click on the link, and the streaming text will appear. For additional information, see Lauren’s website,
HLAA is a volunteer association for people with hearing loss, their relatives, and friends. It is a nonprofit, nonsectarian educational organization devoted to the welfare and interests of those who cannot hear well. Your contribution is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. We are a 501(c)(3) organization.  Mention of suppliers and devices in this newsletter does not mean HLAA endorsement, nor does exclusion suggest disapproval.

New Study Suggests Hearing Aids May Help Protect Brain Health

For several years, studies have linked hearing loss and dementia, but no major study has addressed the big question: Could using hearing aids reduce the risk of cognitive decline? Now an important new French study finds that older adults who use hearing aids experience the same rate of cognitive decline as their peers with normal hearing. In other words, while hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline, hearing aids can slow that from happening, researchers say. The study, published …Click here to read about the surprisingly nuanced finds of this study.

Buying Hearing Aids Should Be Cheaper and Easier

A new federal advisory report wants to make buying a hearing aid as easy and inexpensive as buying prescription eyeglasses, calling for changes to “dramatically increase competition and increase new choices for millions of Americans” experiencing hearing loss. Nearly 30 million Americans have age-related hearing loss, the report notes, but only “a small fraction” are getting help for the condition “and that rate is even smaller among low income and racial and ethnic minorities.” The report from the President’s Commission …

Test Your Hearing — In Your Own Home.

What if you could accurately test your own hearing in your own living room at no cost and in complete confidentiality. Would you do it?

That opportunity exists. The National Hearing Test is a telephone test developed by researchers at Communications Disorders Technology and the University of Indiana, based on an existing Dutch model. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the test came on the market in the United States in 2014. So far 40,000 Americans have taken the test, which ordinarily costs $5.

Beginning this month, AARP is offering more than 16,000 free tests to members. The screening can help people determine if they need a complete hearing evaluation. It has no financial connection with any hearing products or services.

The test takes five minutes per ear, and the results are given at the end. There are three categories of result: “within normal limits,” “slightly below normal limits” and “substantially below normal limits.” If the results are outside the normal limits in either ear, the caller is advised to see a hearing professional of their choice.

During a one-month promotional period last year, nearly 31,000 people took the test at no charge. Most apparently already suspected they had hearing loss because the results showed that 81 percent had some hearing loss.

Did this result in immediate trips to an audiologist? No. Followup studies found that only 5 to 10 % of those with abnormal results purchased hearing aids in the following year. (This is still about double the number expected to have gotten hearing aids without the tests.)

“So why take the test if most callers were aware that they had a hearing problem?” asked Charles  Watson, professor of speech and hearing sciences at Indiana University and coauthor of a paper on the test to be published in Audiology Today, the journal of the American Academy of Audiology. The value, the authors wrote, is the affirmation that the suspected hearing loss is real. Many studies have shown that taking a hearing test and failing it is only the first step in a long multi-stage process leading to the purchase and successful use of of hearing aids.

What about those for whom even $5 is a burden. Dr. Watson, one of the creators of the test, suggests that there might be a small surcharge on certain services to enable the test to be offered free to all. This is the procedure used to support captioned telephones, which are free to those with documented hearing loss. The cost is underwritten by a surcharge on all phone bills.

If your test results are below normal, there are two good reasons to follow the test’s suggestion that you see a hearing professional. The first is that the problem may be something simple like excess or impacted earwax, which a doctor can quickly resolve. No need for hearing aids. The second is that an audiologist may see danger signs of an underlying medical condition, which hearing aids will do nothing to correct.

The educated consumer can recognize the red flags, as I wrote last week – the same red flags your audiologist is looking for.

Asymmetrical hearing loss – hearing loss that is more severe in one ear than the other, or with a different pattern.

Sudden hearing loss. If you wake up one morning and you can’t hear out of one ear, get to an ENT. Your primary care doctor may dismiss the problem as congestion but with certain kinds of sudden loss, immediate treatment by an ENT may reverse that loss. A delay of two weeks or more and you’re past the optimum window for successful treatment .

Hearing loss accompanied by other symptoms: vision problems or a headache, dizziness, tinnitus.

All of these are indications that you are not suffering from simple noise or age related hearing loss.

I can’t think of any reason not to take the test.