Diminished or loss of hearing is one of the great frustrations in life. Hearing and understanding language is considered the most important part of learning and communication. But it doesn’t …
Diminished or loss of hearing is one of the great frustrations in life. Hearing and understanding language is considered the most important part of learning and communication. But it doesn’t just happen to folks as they age.
As many as three of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with detectable levels of hearing loss in one or both ears, according to the federal government’s National Institue on Deafness and Communication Disorders. Others develop problems due to environmental issues, accidents or illness. It can be devastating to development, according to Dr. Levi Asay.
The Powell High School graduate has a doctorate in audiology from the University of Utah and often works with children with hearing loss at Bighorn Basin Hearing and Speech in Cody.
“Sixty-five percent of people with hearing loss are under the age of 65,” he said.
Hearing tests often start soon after birth, beginning with screenings in the hospital. An auditory brain stem response test is often used – monitoring output from the brain – after a child is flagged for possible hearing loss in screenings. It’s critical for the learning process that children be checked, especially if parents notice the child isn’t responding to sounds other children hear.
Asay had ear infections as a child and spent time in speech therapy to correct enunciation issues. He also had a younger sister who naturally copied her older brother’s speech patterns. Despite not having difficulties hearing, she too was affected by hearing loss.
“Hearing is very important to acquire learning. If a child doesn’t have good access to sound, they won’t have access to learning,” he said.
Some parents wait until a child is in school before they receive their first hearing test. The tests are simple pass/fail, Asay said. Unfortunately, by the time they get the test, they may already be behind others. Even residual sound from friends and classmates in the process of discovery is an important source of learning, he said.
Asay has worked with patients from “infants to 106 years old.” A revealing way to look at how hearing is neglected as a physical condition through a lifetime is comparing it to the way we treat eyesight. Most people will have their eyes checked frequently. Eye care professionals recommend a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years, depending on age, risk factors and current eyeglasses or contact lenses. But it’s not uncommon for a person to go without a hearing test from that first childhood test until the symptoms are too obvious to ignore.
Don Doucet, owner of Modern Hearing Solutions of Wyoming, said it’s important to not put off having obvious symptoms investigated. Unfortunately, hearing loss can be gradual and difficult to recognize. “When your family or friends notice your hearing loss, believe them,” he said.
Doucet started his career in the corporate world, but longed to helped people. Now he has locations in both Powell and Cody. “I worked in the corporate world for decades, but I never had the satisfaction I get now from helping people,” he said.
He sees a variety of people walk through his doors, but men are almost twice as likely as women to have hearing loss among adults aged 20-69, according to the Institute, a division of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Men tend to work in noisier environments, like construction, and are less apt to wear hearing protection, said Chris Pelletier, owner of Heart Mountain Hearing. “As a whole, Wyoming is very industrial,” he said.
Efforts to mitigate hearing loss in the work place are improving, but it’s not just work that contributes to hearing loss. “Hunting, shooting and motor sports take a heavy toll on a person’s hearing over their lifetime,” Pelletier added.
So if you’re tired of having your husband reply to questions by saying “what?,” it may be time to have his hearing checked instead of thinking he simply doesn’t listen.
“Doctors often forget to suggest hearing tests, but it’s important to your overall health and should be included in wellness check-ups.”
Pelletier said hearing loss can lead to a number of health issues, from cognitive decline to relationship trouble. Even digestive issues, muscle loss and injuries can be attributed to hearing loss, he said.
“You are twice as likely to fall if you have hearing loss,” Pelletier said.
It gets worse: In a study tracking 639 adults for nearly 12 years, Johns Hopkins University expert Frank Lin, M.D., Ph. D, and colleagues found that even mild hearing loss doubled dementia risk. Moderate loss triples the risk, and people with a severe hearing impairment are five times more likely to develop dementia, the study concluded.
It can also lead to severe depression, Pelletier said. “People begin pulling out of social events as their hearing diminishes.”
It’s important to be proactive, he said. As people age, hearing often fails. More than 30% of people between the age of 69-74 have significant hearing loss, the Institute reports. “A hearing test should done every two years starting at the age of 55,” Pelletier said.
What all three practicioners emphasize is that it is just as important to get hearing checked and hearing loss mitigated as it is to take care of other health issues, no matter who delivers the care.