The fact of the matter is that you, your spouse or your loved one may or may not need a specialist for his or her hearing needs. The question within a question becomes, “How will you know if you need a specialist or not?”
Before we explore the additional question of whether or not your spouse needs to see a specialist to treat their hearing loss, let’s be clear on what, exactly, an audiologist is:
Audiologists are auditory system specialists who have completed years of additional education beyond college to learn the proper way to diagnose and stimulate the auditory system and brain through restored hearing. This further training qualifies your audiologist to identify, diagnose and more importantly treat a broad spectrum of auditory concerns your family doctor may not, such as :
The nature of some of these issues grow increasingly serious with lack of proper treatment. Having a specialist identify, diagnose and treat such ailments is the # 1 reason for seeing an Audiologist.
From what your Audiologist does, let’s shift to what he or she doesn’t do. For instance, your Audiologist doesn’t do lip-reading classes. He or she exclusively provides medical treatment of hearing loss, including the most common form of hearing impairment: Age-Related Hearing Loss.
This begs the question, are Audiologists medical clinicians? Yes, actually, they are. In fact, all Audiologists are clinicians, but only a small percentage of hearing care providers are Audiologists (many are just Hearing Aid Sales people).
So, why should I choose a specialist for my (or my family member’s) care?
Some problems simply need a specialist’s care. When you’re pregnant, you go to an obstetrician. When you have stomach problems beyond what your general practitioner is qualified to handle, you visit your gastroenterologist.
Well, in the same way that pediatricians or obstetricians are medical specialists, Audiologists are hearing specialists. When you choose an Audiologist, you are choosing a specialist with the broadest experience and most extensive training possible.
In the interest of receiving the most efficient and effective hearing loss treatment possible, choose an Audiologist – the specialist in management of hearing loss.
How do I know my clinician is an Audiologist?
One question I get asked frequently is “How do I know if my clinician is an Audiologist?” It’s a good question, and a critical one to ask as you seek additional treatment for your auditory processing and hearing issues.
Here’s the answer: Only Audiologist can belong to the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and be liecensed by your state to be a practicing Audiologist. If you’re looking for a local audiologist, go on-line and visit www.ExcellenceInAudiology.org to find a specialist in your area. This FREE website features not only a searchable database of Audiologists but educational tips, answers and resources to help you on your quest for improved hearing, improved cognition and overall increase in quality of life.
Or you can simply ask your doctor if he or she has completed a 3-4 years of extra school and a minimum of a 1-year fellowship in Audiology and check with your state licensing board to follow-up on the reply.
Do your homework; be a “hearing detective” while on the hunt for such vital information. Look for the words “hearing specialist in Audiology” or ask your general physician for a referral to an Audiology specialist. In urban and suburban areas, it will take minimal effort to find a specialist.
In more remote rural locations, your search might take you to another city or town. Don’t be afraid to ask your physician if an Audiologist travels to your town every month to see patients. There’s a chance an Audiologist from a larger city comes to your town and works out of another dental office once or twice per month. Looking around can save valuable driving time and money.
The fact is, hearing care is health care. Like anything else in life, balance is all about proportion. Hearing is an integral part of everything we do, everyday, and is the building block to forming and maintain relationships with others. Healthy Hearing is also vital to cognitive health.
First and foremost, I am a doctor and a specialist who deals specifically with making sure you are hearing and cognitively functioning to your full potential. This includes such possible hearing loss treatment as:
Why go to the trouble of seeing a specialist for you or your spouse’s hearing loss? Simple: so you can stop the embarrassment of not hearing what is said at home, at work, and when with friends. Have you noticed you or spouse is becoming less confident in what is being said in conversation? Have you or your loved one become less secure, more irritable, and easy to dismiss what is being said?
Hearing loss can be a slow, gradual progress that it can be easy to overlook having difficulty hearing in certain situations and chalk it up to ‘everybody mumbles’. And sometimes we just laugh it off when our brain replaces words in conversation with something that sounds funny. These breakdowns in communication can present real obstacles in confidently communicating with others and maintaining relationships with family, co-workers, friends and loved ones.
Restoring your hearing clarity gives you or your loved one the confidence needed to stop living in isolation and to stay engaged in the conversation. If you are experiencing hearing loss, isolation or depression, please do yourself a favor and talk to someone you love about it. If you are reading this because your family member is experiencing the symptoms of hearing loss, ask them how it makes them feel and let them know there is help and that they don’t have to live in the silence of hearing loss.
And if you, or your loved one are suffering from hearing loss, keep your eye out for the following signs that let you know its time to see a qualified Audiologist:
Early, or mild, hearing loss often results in difficulty hearing on the phone, asking for the TV to be turned louder, saying ‘What?’ or ‘Huh?’ often, having difficulty following conversation in background noise or when multiple people are speaking, and can leave a person feeling less confident and engaged in social settings.
Such signs are an indication that you should visit an Audiologist sooner rather than later.
Let’s face it: hearing connects us to everyone around us. I think Helen Keller, who suffered from both vision and hearing problems, said it best:
Blindness separates us from things, Deafness separates us from people.
Communication is the building block and foundation of every relationship we have with our family, loved ones and colleagues at work. Hearing loss can take it all away. Hearing loss, even in its earliest stages, can significantly reduce social activity, reduce physical activity, and increase rates of isolation and Depression.
You might be surprised what your family member will tell me while sitting in my chair that they won’t tell others while sitting at the dinner table. Hearing loss is something people tend to push aside, feel embarrassed about because its only for ‘old people’, yet I’ve heard so many stories about having difficulty hearing a grandson while on a fishing trip, or not being able to follow the conversation when at a restaurant for book-club. Restoring hearing to full potential can not only give you or your loved one the confidence to live active and engaged but can also pave the way toward a easier socialization at home, at work, at church, in groups and during activities with family and loved ones.
A recent report from the Lancet medical journal has found that treating hearing loss is the single most effective means of preventing Dementia and cognitive decline.
Our brain is bombarded with stimulation at all times – everything we hear, see, touch, feel, smell, etc. is brought together in our brains, simultaneously, to help us process what is happening all around us. But I’ll tell you a little secret about our brains (perhaps you’ve heard it before): Our brains are only as good as the input it receives. This simple concept is very powerful, and the rational for making sure that we properly treat our brains and maintain proper inputs. For example, how can you possibly be expected to remember something said to you if you didn’t hear it properly?
There are vast connections of the auditory system throughout the brain, including significant input to the memory-storing portions of the brain. If left under stimulated, it is possible that these connections can degrade in quantity and quality and further impact memory function. Cerebral atrophy (aka brain shrinkage) occurs at higher rates in individuals with hearing loss and has been suggested to be the link of hearing loss increasing rates of developing Dementia by 200-500%.
As an adult-child with a parent and many Aunt’s and Uncles in their 60s and 70s, I want to provide them every opportunity to actively age and remain independent. No child, spouse or loved one wants to see a family member suffer from isolation, depression or cognitive decline as they age because of hearing loss.
The fact is, you or your loved ones most enlightening, socially active and engaging years come as work is winding down (or perhaps already in retirement), the kids are out of the house, and the grandparents come over for a finite amount of time. Now is the time to pay close attention to your hearing, your communication with others, your tendency to socialize with peers, and remain active and engaged.
If you or a loved one are having any difficulty hearing, or even if you just want a baseline evaluation, a qualified Audiologist can give you and your loved one the peace of mind you both crave.
I probably didn’t need to tell you most of this. As a son, husband, son-in-law, nephew cousin, and friend to many in my community that are over 50 years young, there is no doubt I only want the best for you and your loved ones. Hopefully this chapter has solidified how important early, safe and expert help can be to ensuring improved hearing and communication and help you maintain proper brain health as you age.