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From Hard Rock To Hard Of Hearing – Am I Too Cool for Hearing Aids?
by Thea Wood, TheaWood.com, and
Dr. Natalie Phillips, www.advancedotolaryngology.com
photo credit: Mark McCarthy, www.StarkeyHearingFoundation.org
Approximate number of concerts I’ve attended since I was 22 years old.
Approximate number of times I’ve worn ear plugs at a concert and watched the cult classic “This Is Spinal Tap.”
The number of times I’ve tested my hearing since graduating college. Am I simply in a state of denial?
With concerts, sporting events, earbuds/headphones, and other audio-based technologies, we are all prime for hearing loss. HealthyHearing.com states that people suffer an average of seven years with hearing loss before doing something about it. Perhaps because it creeps up on you in subtle ways, like it is for me.
Signs You May Have a Hearing Loss (healthyhearing.com)
1. You have trouble hearing on the telephone.
2. You have trouble following a conversation when people are talking at the same time.
3. The family complains that your TV is too loud.
4. You’re tired from straining to hear conversations.
5. You have trouble hearing in noisy environments.
6. You say “what?” a lot.
7. People don’t seem to speak clearly.
8. You misunderstand what people say.
9. You have trouble hearing children and women.
10. You become annoyed and frustrated during conversations.
Dr. Natalie Phillips, 43, of Advanced Otolaryngology & Audiology in Fort Collins, Colorado, clued me into the surprising number of women and men suffering from hearing loss at an average of 63 years old. “My typical fitting age range for new users is between the ages of 40-60 years of age,” she confirms. “This is a much younger population than what you would think.”
Natalie can say this with authority. After years of private practice, Natalie began working with the Starkey Hearing Foundation— a non-profit organization that sends her around the world to fit hearing impaired people for hearing aids. Natalie’s first trip was in 2016 to India where the team fitted 900 people per day for hearing aids. She later went to five cities in Peru as well as Guyana. This year, Natalie is taking her 12 year-old son with her to Mexico, where she expects to meet 500 patients per day.
The scary (but perhaps not surprising) part is that both men and women deny their need for hearing aids, even though they can significantly improve your quality of life. Not to mention that aid capabilities are something that 20-somethings would happily adopt.
“We just fit someone this week in the office who put off getting hearing aids— although, as a mom (40), she was not able to hear her own kids and was missing out on conversations at home and with friends,” says Natalie. “Once she was fitted with her made-for-iPhone hearing aids, and found out she could stream music while working out, cleaning the house, and take phone calls through her hearing aids, she posted on her Facebook page that $200 Beats earphones have NOTHING on her new hearing aids!”
“There is one major reason why to get into hearing aids at an early age: to preserve the clarity of your hearing. You can lose your hearing both by loudness and clarity. If it is loudness only, it is easy to return by use of amplification to make things louder. But amplification also allows you to be able to stimulate the auditory nerve. Think of a muscle and working out. If you exercise your muscle, the nerves will fire to the muscle and keep it strong. The less you exercise, it will atrophy and weaken. It is similar to hearing. If you have a significant hearing loss and are not using amplification to get sounds loud enough to pass the damaged parts of the ear to stimulate the auditory nerve, where clarity is housed, it can deteriorate and reduce the clarity portion of your hearing at a faster rate.”
All of this information convinced me to run out and get a hearing test. Natalie set some expectations for me first. Here’s her advice:
“We need to educate and not ‘convince,’ empowering both men and women to check their hearing and be their own best advocate to hear and communicate better so that they may be able to participate in life and repair any lost communication breakdown that can happen. I tell my patients that you have to be ready to wear hearing aids as it is a process.”
1) You have to wear the hearing aids ALL the time during your waking hours. You don’t just take them out and wear them as needed. Your brain has to get used to hearing sounds that you have not heard for a while (i.e. soft sounds or sounds in the distance that you did not actively listen to because you didn’t hear it and it takes effort to actively listen). The more you wear it, the faster your brain will acclimate, even in a quiet environment (i.e. you are home alone and no one there to talk to). Once your brain acclimates to soft sounds that it has detected and learned to ignore, when you find yourself in a crowded situation, your brain will automatically tune out to sounds it does not need to hear opening up your ears to sounds that it needs to focus on, such as speech and conversation close to you.
2) Once you receive hearing aids, you will have follow-up appointments so that the audiologist can take into consideration your experience in your own environments as well as how your brain is adapting to sounds to be able to make appropriate adjustments. Everyone is different and in order to get you as close to success, both the patient and Audiologist have to work together to achieve the best adjustment and programming for the individual.
What SheSpark loves most about Natalie is her commitment to giving back. Her volunteer experiences abroad inspired her to start a second business called Connect4Excellence.
“I work with businesses to find their own voice and help them broadcast that voice to a bigger audience to further push forward their branding through the why of their businesses,” she explains.
“It is never too late to do what you want to do, or what you dream of doing, or to unleash what you have inside of you that you keep pushing down or away.”