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Sun, Jul 7 1:18pm · Cochlear Implants in Hearing Loss

A telecoil is a tiny component in a hearing aid or cochlear implant processor that allows one to connect directly, with a variety of audio technologies. The telecoil really should be called an 'audiocoil'. It is referred to as a telecoil because it was originally designed to be used with older landline telephones. Today it can connect with all personal audio devices that have an input jack. That includes your cell phone, computer, iPad, radio, etc. It will also allow you to connect wirelessly to a public address system in a large venue if a hearing loop is installed in that room. In all instances, turning the hearing aid to telecoil mode allows you to hear ONLY what is coming into the microphone or from the device it's plugged into. It does not pick up background noise in the environment, as it brings the sound direct to your ear. Some say it's like having binoculars for the ears! Because this component was originally designed for old landline telephones that were used in the 40s, some who don't understand its myriad uses consider it 'old technology'. It IS old technology that remains invaluable to hearing device users who wish to remain in the hearing mainstream. And, it is available in most hearing aids with the exception of tiny in the canal aids that don't have space for the component. If present, it must be activated by the fitter to be functional. And, the person who fits your hearing aids or cochlear processor has an obligation to tell you about it and to explain how it works. If you ask about it and they say "It's old technology you don't need." They are wrong.

Too many people, including those who sell hearing aids, think that BlueTooth technology has replaced the telecoil. In some instances it has, but not in large group/room settings. (Theaters, performing arts centers, lecture halls, worship centers, etc.) Consider this: If there were 20 hearing aid users in a lecture hall with 100 listeners, the speaker would need to have 20 BlueTooth microphones to transmit to those 20 people. With a hearing loop and telecoils, only the main microphone that transmits to both the hearing loop and the public address system is needed to transmit to all of them. No receivers needed. All one has to do is turn the telecoil on to connect.

It doubles the value of your hearing instrument.

Wed, Jul 3 9:20am · Is there a connection between dementia and hearing loss? in Hearing Loss

When these studies came out it put fear in the hearts and minds of many hard of hearing people, especially those with adult onset hearing loss, meaning post language acquisition. Many in that population are not elderly when their hearing loss is diagnosed. Hearing loss is more common in the elderly population, but it's important to understand it affects people of all ages. I was diagnosed in my early 20s. As my hearing loss progressed I became isolated, bitter and depressed. I felt totally 'out of it' with my social peers. I had always been an active socially outgoing person, but that started to change as my hearing loss progressed. It was embarrassing to make mistakes in conversation, and to be told I was misunderstanding things. That is what leads to isolation. It's easier to stop socializing than to feel chronically stressed with fear of looking stupid!

I resisted getting hearing help because my doctors had told me that hearing aids wouldn't help me. I felt hopeless until I became driven, in my 30s, to seek hearing help. That first hearing aid did help, but the stigma attached to using it embarrassed me. It took quite a while before I was comfortable enough to talk about it with others. Learning about the new organization Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc. (SHHH) in 1984 changed my thinking, my perceptions and my life. (SHHH is now HLAA, The Hearing Loss Assn. of America, Inc.) Because of this organization, I learned coping strategies. I learned about technology that could double the value of my hearing aid. I met other people like me. And, I accepted the reality that if I wanted to remain in the intellectual company of other people, I needed to use every possible piece of technology available to me. And, I have over all these years. Today it's being bimodal with both a hearing aid and a cochlear implant, AND using all the devices that work with my HA and CI, that connect with both telecoil and BlueTooth. Amazing stuff that far too many people with hearing loss don't even know exists. For example, I had stopped going to performing arts and theater for years, until these technologies became available. Now I look forward to enjoying them.

So, what does this have to do with hearing loss leading to dementia? I believe that hearing loss can mimic dementia in some cases. I also believe that when hearing loss goes untreated it leads to a state of inertia that most likely affects the brain. When you don't use it, you may lose it. When you don't keep up with current events and social activities you become isolated in many ways. How people react to the difficult issues of hearing loss is affected by many variables. Intellect, personality, experience, motivation, special interests, and innate self esteem are all variables that may determine how hearing loss affects a person. Each one of us makes choices in these areas, but we are also influenced by who we are and who we were before hearing loss entered our lives.

I believe that hearing loss can lead to dementia/cognitive decline if it goes ignored and untreated. We all know that many people who have hearing loss do not take steps to get hearing help for legitimate reasons. Stigma that leads to denial is huge. I have never seen an advertisement about hearing instruments that doesn't market denial. They all stress invisibility, as in 'no one will know you're wearing it'. Doesn't that promote the stigma that prevents many from seeking help? The other big factor is cost. It's a travesty that hearing aids are not covered by insurance and Medicare. It's also amazing that the cost has not gone down. I guess that if all the people who could benefit from hearing aids bought them, the cost would go down considerably

With all the research that's going on, there is no question that when hearing loss is untreated it leads to more serious issues. Not just dementia, but to unemployment, anger, and frustration; all of which can lead to anti social behavior that may lead to other societal issues. It's way past time to recognize that hearing loss is treatable, and that when not treated it often leads to issues that are troublesome. UNTREATED is a key word here.

Sun, Jun 23 5:56pm · How does hearing loss change you? in Hearing Loss

It will be interesting to see what happens with the OTC hearing aids. It's important to know that they are not legally being sold now, however, many innovative businesses seem to be selling products they call 'hearing aids' that are really categorized as Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs). How they get away with this is a mystery to me. This is incredibly confusing to all of us with hearing loss. I do believe that once the OTC aids are regulated in 2020 or 2021, many with mild/moderate hearing loss will benefit. Looking back on my personal experience. I was diagnosed with progressive sensorineural hearing loss in the 60s. I was told that hearing aids would not help me. Therefore, I did not seek help until I was desperate over a decade later. When I was basically dragged to a university testing center by a friend, I resisted even after tests showed that hearing aids would improve my hearing somewhat. Eventually I was fitted with an analog bi-cross hearing aid. Bi-cross because I fought getting two of them. That bi-cross aid did help me, quite a bit. It was primarily an amplifier. Once I got used to it, I did find it helpful and learned quickly that I did better with it than without it. Move forward several decades….My hearing loss progressed to the severe, then profound stages. Technology advanced to digital and BlueTooth. Ultimately, I became a cochlear implant candidate. I am now bimodal, using both a HA and a CI. So, what's the point? The point is: That basic analog hearing aid of the early 70s helped my moderate hearing loss, and I suspect that same basic analog technology that is likely to be used with the OTC hearing aids will help others just as it helped me. Would it help me now? No. It would be a waste of money. Just pointing out that OTC amplification that hopefully includes manual telecoils and volume controls may be the entry point level for many people who do not need the more expensive hearing instruments. Maybe it will encourage many who now resist to get hearing help. Yes, It will be interesting to see what happens. I truly hope it will encourage those who start at the OTC level to get the better aids they will need when/if their hearing loss progresses. I suspect it will.

Mon, Jun 17 11:36am · HLAA Convention 2019 - Who's going? in Hearing Loss

HLAA conventions are terrific opportunities to learn. HLAA does try to move them around the country as best they can. It was in Minneapolis last year, New York (Rochester) this year, New Orleans next year, etc. It has been in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, Phoenix, Little Rock, Orlando, Milwaukee, St. Louis and several other places over the years. I like it best when it's in a location that isn't so hot you can't stand to go outside! Thankful HLAA moves it around. Wish it was always on an AmTrak route. 🙂

Sun, Jun 16 12:05pm · Cochlear Implants in Hearing Loss

Be sure to get tested at a cochlear implant center in your area. I know several people who were told they did not qualify for a cochlear implant by their audiologists and/or ENTs. I also encourage you to use the telecoils on your hearing aids with assistive technology. A lot of people give up on their hearing aids because they are inundated with noise they find difficult to deal with. Hearing Assistive Devices can be very helpful in noisy settings like restaurants, church coffee hour, bars, sports events, etc. I believe that the tests for speech discrimination are a key factor in determining candidacy for CIs. So if you're doing OK in the testing booth, you may not qualify. Of course that environment isn't 'real life' if you are a social person who enjoys people. That's where the ALDs may be helpful to you. I use both a CI and a HA, which is called 'bimodal'. Both technologies were working well together. However, prior to having the CI and the time it took for my brain to adjust, I was doing poorly with the HA. The brain's ability to relearn to hear is amazing. Good luck to you.

Sat, Jun 8 11:59am · Anxiety and disbelief over sudden hearing loss and tinnitus in Hearing Loss

Chuckm, You are expressing every emotion that people with adult onset hearing loss have in common. We are 'hearing people' whose lives have been turned around. Some of us lost hearing gradually, while others had sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) Some had this start in their younger years, while many led lives w/o hearing loss until they were older. We all experience a traumatic loss. It would be fair to say that people who are introverts naturally, experience it differently than those of us who are extroverts. We extroverts feel this in every aspect of our lives; especially socially and in situations where we depend on typical communication to do our jobs.

There is no easy solution, but it does help to understand what is going on. Also that we are not alone in experiencing this. Misery loves company, so they say. The key is to get past the misery stage, and accept the invisible disability as a new norm, while figuring out how to minimize it. Exhaustion from the effort it takes to listen is typical. It's also something that people who don't have hearing loss do not understand unless we are able to explain it to them. Simply withdrawing, becoming depressed, and cranky, while complaining about what is going on doesn't help much. Yet, we do it all the time. Does it make us feel better? Probably not.

Very few people in this conversation are counselors, but most of us have experienced what you are going through. It has affected our jobs, our relationships and our well being. That introvert/extrovert thing is important to understand. That's often where the difference lies in our ability to cope. You sound depressed. I encourage you to seek help from a professional who understands the ramifications of adult onset hearing loss. They are not easy to find as very few psychiatrists have any background in this area. Yet, mental health is a huge issue among the deaf and hard of hearing population. I suggest you contact your state's Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing or state commission for a referral. Every state has an 'office' of some kind, but they have different names. I don't know where you are from, so cannot suggest specifically. Find out which providers work with the hard of hearing population, and ask for someone who speaks without using sign language. You are not a sign language person. When someone is using manual communication it can be a huge distraction to people who are trying to speechread and listen. (Many do not understand that, but it's related to that fatigue thing.)

Most likely you will benefit from hearing aids and assistive technology that goes with them. Some of it can be used independently. Your state office should be able to direct you on that also. Your employer should provide you with the technology you need as it is part of the Americans with Disability Act. That does not include hearing aids, but does include the assistive technologies you need, including those installed in large listening areas. Learn what will help you and ask your employer to provide it. There are apps that provide speech to text on cell phones to use in direct communication. There are phones that provide captioning. It's a different way of doing things, but it works if you let it.

Please seek help from someone who understands hearing loss from a personal perspective. Your state office for Vocational Rehabilitation may be a good place to begin. VR may also help cover the cost of hearing aids. You don't have to let this disability destroy your life.

You mention listening to the radio. Since having a cochlear implant, I've been able to enjoy the radio again, especially in the car. TV has been fine all these years because I, and my family have accepted the reality that I need to have the captions on. It really helps when your family and friends are willing to learn along with you, and will do what you need them to do. They don't know unless you can tell them, so you have to learn first. Same with your clients. I did similar work to what you describe as I worked with low income wage earners. I always explained my hearing loss to them, and I can say that nearly all of them were helpful and willing to adapt to my unique needs. In the unusual event that a client was resistant, I managed to have another case manager work with them. I sincerely hope that you find the same support I did when I opened up about my unique needs.

Mon, Jun 3 3:52pm · Anxiety and disbelief over sudden hearing loss and tinnitus in Hearing Loss

I've been living with hearing loss since the 60s. Had I not discovered Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc. (SHHH) in 1983 I know I'd be expressing the same things here. SHHH changed its name to The Hearing Loss Association of America in 2005. Its mission has always been to make hearing loss an issue of concern by providing information, educational opportunities, peer support & advocacy. I was a member of the first elected national board of the organization, and ultimately served two terms as president. I have watched the development of technology; the metamorphosis of people with hearing loss, the identification of a population separate from the culturally Deaf population, and a movement to change the stereotypes that hard of hearing people are often pegged with. You know; absent minded, not smart, snobby, anti social, reclusive, no fun, etc. We allow those labels to define us when we hide our hearing loss and stop doing things because of it. There are many excellent hearing assistive technologies that can cut out noise in restaurants and at social gatherings, but the reality is…we do best when we can talk one on one with people. Our disability is invisible. We often choose to keep it that way by not using the assistive technologies because they show. Nearly every ad you see on TV or in print media pushes the 'invisibility ' of hearing aids. They all market denial, and we embrace that concept without realizing it.

Yes, I hid my hearing technologies for years. Way back in the early 90s I discovered a hand held microphone that would plug into the direct audio input of my hearing aid. I didn't even know my aids had that feature. I learned about it from another member of the SHHH board. It was a Phonak device. It changed my life. I even went back to school and earned a masters degree in my 50s because of that device, along with others I learned about afterwards. The funniest experience I had when using it, happened early on. I was in a social group where people were talking about the recent election…Ronald Reagan to date myself. I was participating in the discussion freely because of that microphone. One of the ladies in the group took me aside and said something that I will never forget. "Whatever that is that you're using is amazing. I've known you for years and never thought you were smart." I am sure she wanted to swallow her tongue after saying that, but it gave me the opportunity to explain what it was. And I've been sharing information ever since.

SHHH/HLAA has had such an impact on my life that I decided long ago to give back however I could. I've remained involved. I've helped develop new chapters, I've advocated and I've learned from others. I continue to do a lot of presentations for service organizations, schools and anyone who is interested, even now that I'm retired. I'm in my 70s. Speaking of retirement… I retired from a job I loved when I was in my 30s because of my hearing loss. I went back to a similar job in my 50s because of technology. That hand held microphone worked for years until I decided to get a cochlear implant. That too was a game changer.

I am thankful that devices that work like that old DIA hand held mike did are now wireless. They keep me going socially. It isn't always easy. Some people avoid me because they have difficulty understanding that I miss things. It's their problem, or at least that's how I try to look at it. I can only do what technology allows me to do. I use it all the time. I know I'm smart. I love it when I have the opportunity I tell people what it is. Young people are fascinated by it and often ask for more information…because their parents or grandparents 'really need to know about this'. These same young folks should know about captioned telephones and speech to text options on cell phones. It's all out there, but so few who become hard of hearing even know it's there. What a shame.

As long as I'm writing a dissertation here, I want to say more about HLAA. HLAA needs YOU. It's a membership organization. It advocates for you. If everyone who was concerned about hearing loss joined HLAA, the legislators would open their ears a bit more about hearing aid costs, Medicare not covering them, medical research, etc. If there isn't an HLAA chapter in your area, start one. Go public with your hearing loss and set up a discussion group. Talk about it. It's only invisible because we allow it to be. No doubt it hurts. It leads to depression, and now they are saying it can lead to cognitive decline due to isolation. Stay involved. Do things even if you have to do them differently. Find new hobbies; meet other people with hearing loss who 'get it'. You will not regret it. http://www.hearingloss.org

LOL. After that one, I think I'd like a glass of wine with my Wisconsin cheese!

Sun, Jun 2 10:04pm · Anxiety and disbelief over sudden hearing loss and tinnitus in Hearing Loss

chuckm, I sincerely apologize for sounding flip with the 'ready to pop' statement. I did not mean to trivialize your experience. It's very unusual for someone to have such an experience due to dental work. Regardless, it sounds awful. You shouldn't blame yourself for this happening. It would be totally abnormal to insist a dentist stop in the middle of a procedure. Wouldn't it? You are welcome for the information about HLAA. I can honestly say this organization gave me back my life after hearing loss 'stole' it. I hope you live in a state where there are active HLAA chapters. Lots of information at http://www.hearingloss.org

Hang in there!