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Hearing Loss in Seniors - Ear Problem or Not?

Approximately one-third of folks in this country between the ages of 65 and 74 have some level of hearing loss. This loss is often associated with the reduction of adequate functioning within the ear itself - Presbycusis. This is the normal aging of the ear in older people which correlates into such difficulties as differentiating particular sounds/conversations in a group of people. There is also the loss of hearing due to Tinnitus - a ringing in the ear possibly caused by loud noises (too many rock concerts as kids), medicines, issues with the heart, etc. And there is loss of hearing due to blockages - Conductive Hearing Loss, often from build of up of ear wax or some form of fluid. Remember when you spent too much time swimming as a kid and couldn't hear well for a little while? That was a form of conductive hearing loss.

Yet, not all hearing loss is directly associated with an ear problem. "What?" you ask. Well, it's true. Some hearing loss, in seniors especially, may be a result of the brain aging and not part of an ear issue. As the brain ages normally, its' ability to process various sounds, at the same time, becomes problematic. This is often called a "feedback" or "timing" problem. By this, it is meant that the brain does not, for example, separate the various sounds heard while you are standing in the middle of a crowded room with people all talking at the same time. The sounds tend to run over each other or blend together, making it very difficult to understand/hear what the person you are with is saying. Believe it or not, this entire breakdown process begins around age 50 and continues to degenerate from there, often preceding perceived hearing loss, which most people then claim to be a problem with their ears.

Although there is no cure for Presbycusis, being proactive can certainly make a difference in a hearing loss sufferer's life. First, an early diagnosis, or at least acknowledgment of the issue, is important. 

For example, is the sufferer:

*  Having difficulty hearing because of extraneous noises?
*  Turning up the volume on the TV or radio?
*  Noticing higher voices, such as women or children, seem problematic?
*  Isolating herself from social situations or not blending into conversations as much as before?

When any or all of these symptoms are becoming noticeable, the first step is to the doctor for an evaluation. Next is to begin some clear and decisive action for all those who come in contact with the sufferer. For example:

*  Speak a bit more slowly.
*  Speak in your normal voice - do not necessarily raise your voice.
*  Speak as clearly as possible.
*  Always face the person to whom you are speaking.
*  Don't be awkward about repeating what you said.
*  Use body expressions, i.e., hand gestures, smiling, or head nodding, etc.
*  Be patient

Remember, the senior who is experiencing a hearing loss may also be embarrassed about that loss and may simply need to have someone understand what they are experiencing in order for her to get the assistance required to begin some form of correction. Also, understand that not all hearing losses are a result of a problem with the ear itself, but could be a result of an aging brain and a timing problem. The sooner you get this person to their doctor, the better.   
Do you remember The Beatles landing in the U.S.?

On February 7, 1964, The Beatles landed in America. Of all of those who were screaming teenagers on that day, one in three now has some degree of hearing loss and will typically suffer for five to seven years before reaching out for help. Of those who are diagnosed with hearing loss, 75% of them do nothing about it. Why? "Hearing aids won't help." "I don't want to have to fiddle with it all the time like my grandmother did." "This guy at work has to take his out to talk on the phone." "They are too expensive." Well, like what makes teenagers scream has changed, so have hearing aids. There have been significant improvements in the sound quality of today's devices, especially in difficult listening environments such as background noise and features like Bluetooth technology. Today's hearing aids can improve the quality of life for more than 90% of those with hearing loss. When properly fit and custom programmed for your individual needs, hearing instruments can make a difference, not just for the person wearing them, but for those around the individual as well. Other life factors are impacted by untreated hearing loss such as fatigue, cognitive decline, loneliness, job performance and safety issues and more.
Kristy S. Dameron, HAD , explains, " That's why at Connect Hearing we urge everyone who may be exhibiting warning signs of hearing loss such as difficulty hearing from a distance, people appear to be mumbling, the inability to hear sounds like water dripping or turn signal blinking, to come see us for a complimentary hearing consultation. We will Connect with you and listen to your story, we will Discover and find the right hearing solution for your lifestyle and we will Engage you back with the sounds of life. For more information or to find a location near you, go to www.connecthearing.com " .  
Do you know a hoarder?

As Baby Boomer numbers increase, hoarding issues increase with them. Many hoarders are living with possessions they are holding on to believing they may be of value or will be needed in the future. As the hoarding increases, the lifestyle decreases and health issues are created.

We also see that as the living conditions decline so does the personal hygiene. Food is left out. Insect and rodent infestations begin and can quickly become a health issue. Many times pets are present and not being cared for in a healthy way both for the animals and the individual.
Worst case, over time, appliances, heating, and/or plumbing breaks down. Since hoarders do not want to let anyone in to their home, these essentials do not get repaired and this creates bio hazards that can bring about illness. These bio hazards need to be addressed by a professionally trained company to remove hazards and create a safe living environment.
"Since these individuals are dealing with mental health issues, it is important to gain their trust when getting involved. Many times this means bringing in professional mental health care.  Flood Department/Compassion Clean has trained technicians to work with compassion, keeping in mind the mental and emotional condition of the hoarder. We give a free estimate and work with the individual and family keeping in mind everything has value in the mind of the hoarder," said Bruce James of Flood Department/Compassion Clean.

For more information about the services Flood Department/Compassion Clean provides, please go to http://www.flooddepartment.com or call 301.829.2600.

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Dave Pyser
Visiting Angels of Pikesville