Vision and Hearing News

Did you know that: Hearing loss affects 1 in 10 Americans and 1 in 4 households. Although experts say that 95% of individuals could be successfully treated with hearing aids, only 23% currently use them.

 

Vision and Hearing POSTS from 2014

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Living Successfully with Hearing Loss

Anna Gilmore Hall
Executive Director
Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)

Are you afraid you might suffer from hearing loss? You are not alone–about 20 percent of adults in the United States, 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss is a major public health issue.  Hearing loss impacts people of all ages and all professions. It is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease, yet there is good news! There are tools and resources that can help you and your family live successfully with hearing loss. Yes, your family – because hearing loss impacts not only the individual with hearing loss, but the entire family.

The first step is to educate yourself on hearing loss and find out what you can do to improve your hearing. Don’t wait thinking it is going to get better or fix itself. Research shows that people often wait 7 to 10 years before they finally take action. That is way too long. Just think what you are missing. Just think what your brain is missing.

How do you know if you have a hearing loss?

  • Do you:
    • Often ask people to repeat what they say?
    • Think others are mumbling?
    • Fail to hear someone talking from behind you?
    • Turn up the volume on the TV or radio?
    • Dread going to noisy parties and restaurants?
    • Have trouble at work during meetings and in noisy environments?
  • Or, is your spouse, or family, or friends telling you it’s time to act?

What are the causes of hearing loss?
There are many causes of hearing loss, but one of the major causes is noise exposure. Tiny hair cells in the ear are damaged when assaulted by loud noise. Once those hair cells are destroyed they cannot be replaced or repaired. Noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable so take immediate steps to protect your hearing.

Other causes of hearing loss include….

  • Some medications (ototoxic)
  • Loss of blood supply (vascular disease)
  • Virus or other disease
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Otosclerosis
  • Genetic causes
  • Aging
  • Head and ear trauma

Health conditions associated with hearing loss

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Increased risk of falling
  • Numerous recent studies show an association between hearing loss and dementia. This does not prove a cause and effect and it is unclear whether intervention (amplification and other treatments) reduces the risk
  • Social isolation
  • Depression

What to do if you suspect you have hearing loss?
See an ear, nose and throat doctor (otolaryngologist or otologist) or your primary care physician to see if you have a hearing loss and to rule out any medical condition. You may also choose to go to an audiologist directly without seeing a doctor. In this case you would need to sign a waiver, because currently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that you see a physician first. If your doctor rules out a medical condition and tells you that you have “nerve deafness” or sensorineaural hearing loss, find an audiologist and get a complete hearing evaluation.

If a hearing aid is recommended
There are many types of hearing aids that vary in cost, design, and features. Hearing aids are covered by some private insurance plans, company plans, the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan, and Tricare.  Some plans cover hearing testing, but not the hearing aids. Medicaid covers hearing aids for children in some states. Medicare does not cover hearing aids.

Hearing loss and the workplace
It is estimated that about 20 percent of today’s workforce is working with a hearing loss and that is expected to rise as baby boomers stay in their jobs longer, and younger people (especially veterans) with hearing loss enter the workforce. This provides challenges to employees and employers. While people in the workplace with the mildest hearing losses show little or no drop in income compared to their normal hearing peers, as the hearing loss increases, so does the reduction in compensation.

A 2009 study by the Better Hearing Institute found that untreated hearing loss resulted in a loss of income per household ranging from $12,000 to $30,000 per year, depending on the type and severity of the hearing loss. That is a loss to society of $26 billion in unrealized federal tax revenue and an estimated aggregate yearly income loss of $176 billion due to underemployment. People with untreated hearing loss are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as their peers who have their hearing treated. The implications for individuals, families, employers and society, are significant. This trend is costing society and those with hearing loss millions of dollars annually in lost revenue, productivity, taxable revenue, and wasted skills and experience in the workplace.

Anyone who has any degree of hearing loss deals with a number of unknown issues and faces anxieties when it comes to finding a job or being successful on the job. Again, there are solutions for employers and employees that can keep highly-skilled and experienced employees in their jobs and careers. HLAA has developed an “Employment Toolkit” to provide information about the workplace for employers and people with hearing loss – download it at http://hearingloss.org/content/workplace.

You will need hearing assistive technology (HAT)
Unlike the situation years ago, nowadays just about everyone with any type or degree of hearing loss can be helped with some kind of hearing assistive technology – including  hearing aids, cochlear implants, other implantable devices, assistive listening devices, alerting devices or captioning speech to text. If you are told there is nothing you can do and you should just learn to live with the hearing loss, seek a second opinion.

Even if you get a hearing aid or cochlear implant, chances are you are going to need to use other assistive hearing devices to get the best results. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are not like glasses and won’t restore your hearing to the level you had before your loss – but they can dramatically improve it. For example, hearing in a crowded noisy restaurant may still be a challenge for you. You might need to use an assistive listening device (ALD) to aid in understanding. These include something as simple as a Pocket Talker with a directional mic attached to a neck loop, all the way to more sophisticated solutions such as Bluetooth microphones paired to a receiver keyed to your hearing aid, or even an FM system. You will need to learn about how telecoils in hearing aids can be a life saver when you go to places of worship or theaters that are looped and the sounds from the stage or speaker are transmitted directly to your hearing aid. Ah...the wonders of technology! For more information about assistive technology, visit http://www.hearingloss.org/content/technology. For a directory of places equipped with hearing assistive technology, visit http://www.aldlocator.com/.

The other exciting news is that we live in a world where emerging technology is turning the world of hearing aids and other assistive devices upside down. There are many new and exciting improvements to products and cutting-edge products being developed. It is a great challenge and opportunity for consumers and will continue to escalate. HLAA can help provide you with tools to understand this confusing world and help you make informed choices.
 
Hearing loss is not easy, but it can be managed. People like Derrick Coleman can live successfully with hearing loss and so can you.

Get the resources you need! For more information about living successfully with hearing loss, including communication tips and facts about hearing loss, and to join HLAA, visit www.hearingloss.org or call 301.657.2248.

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Prevention is the Best Medicine

Every day we experience sound in our environment, such as the sounds from television and radio, household appliances, and traffic. Normally, we hear these sounds at safe levels that do not affect our hearing. However, when we are exposed to harmful noise—sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time—sensitive structures in our inner ear can be damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). These sensitive structures, called hair cells, are small sensory cells in the inner ear that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back.

Impulse sound (very loud sound for a short period of time) can result in immediate hearing loss that may be permanent. This kind of hearing loss may be accompanied by tinnitus—a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears or head—which may or may not subside over time. Hearing loss and tinnitus may be experienced in one or both ears. Tinnitus may continue constantly or occasionally throughout a lifetime.

Continuous exposure to loud noise also can damage the structure of hair cells, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus, although the process occurs more gradually than for impulse noise.

Exposure to impulse and continuous noise may cause only a temporary hearing loss. If a person regains hearing, the temporary hearing loss is called a temporary threshold shift.  The temporary threshold shift largely disappears 16 to 48 hours after exposure to loud noise.

The Safe and Sound program advocates three ways to fight back against excessive noise:

Block the noise by wearing earplugs or protective earmuffs, like those used by airport or lawn service workers.

Walk away from loud noises or limit time spent in noisy environments.

Turn down the sound—if it’s under your control—on the growing number of tools, toys, and gadgets that add to the increasing noise level of daily life.

Statistics:

  • Nearly 50 million Americans experience hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) affects 20% of Americans, and hearing loss occurs in 90% of those cases
  • 1 in 5 teens has hearing loss
  • 60% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan come home with hearing loss and tinnitus
  • Those with even mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia
  • Men are more likely than women to experience hearing loss
  • In the United States, three out of every 1,000 children are born deaf or hard-of-hearing
  • Hearing loss becomes more prevalent with age; hearing impairment occurs in about 18% of American adults between ages 45 and 54, 30% of adults between ages 65 and 74, and 47% of adults ages 75 and older

(Sources for these stats can be found at  hearinghealthfoundation.org/statistics)

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Ask the Expert: Cochlear Implants

David Haynes, M.D., FACS

Departments of Otolaryngology, Hearing and Speech Sciences

Division of Otology and Neurotology

Cochlear Implant Program

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Medical Director, Hearing Health Foundation

Mediaplanet: What percentage of people with hearing loss can benefit from cochlear implants (CIs)? What about other types of implants?

David Haynes: In the U.S., approximately one million patients with severe inner ear hearing loss may benefit from cochlear implantation. Another half million patients with less severe hearing loss may benefit from a "hybrid" cochlear implant, a device with a shorter electrode that fits in the cochlea potentially preserving existing hearing. One million patients may also benefit from bone conducting hearing aids indicated for single sided inner ear deafness or significant conductive (non-inner ear) hearing loss.

MP: What makes someone a good candidate for CIs?

DH: Anyone with severe inner ear hearing loss who is not receiving benefit from standard hearing aids. In the early years of cochlear implantation only patients with profound losses were implanted. Currently the criteria for implantation have expanded to patients with more hearing. This expansion is due in part to advanced technology, improved surgical techniques, and improved post-surgical implant programming.

MP: How does a CI work?

DH: A cochlear implant is a small complex electronic device that consists of 2 parts: an external component and a surgically implanted internal component.

The external component sits behind the ear and resembles a hearing aid.  It consists of 3 parts: the microphone, speech processor and the transmitting coil. The microphone picks up sound that then sends the signal to the speech processor. The speech processor analyzes and digitizes the sound picked up by the microphone. The signal is then sent via the transmitting coil to the internal receiving coil housed in the receiver stimulator. The internal receiver stimulator converts the signal to electrical impulses that are distributed to an electrode array which is placed in the cochlea (inner ear). The electrode array is designed to stimulate specific areas of the inner ear and subsequently the auditory nerve.

While standard hearing aids amplify sound, the cochlear implant has the capacity to break down sound and deliver this signal to specific areas of the cochlea improving understanding.

MP: How do you prepare before and what steps do you take after CI surgery?

DH: Cochlear implant centers function as teams. A patient will be evaluated by a surgeon who will evaluate the patient by history and physical examination. An imaging study (MRI or CT) is usually done to determine the suitability of the cochlea to be implanted. An audiologist will perform pre-operative hearing tests to determine the candidacy of the patient for the appropriate technology - hearing aids, cochlear implants or other implantable devices.

After surgery, extensive programming of the device is performed by the audiology team. They work closely with the patient to maximize the performance by determining which parts of the cochlea respond best to sound and constantly adjust the volume and complexity of the signal to achieve the best results.

The Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)

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A Clear Vision for Success at School

Did you know that 80% of what your child learns in school is through their eyes? Yet, one in four students in the United States has trouble seeing because of nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.  These disorders typically begin between the ages of 10 and 15, when self-consciousness skyrockets and children are less likely to speak up if they are having vision problems, especially if it means a trip to the doctor.

Clear vision and academic potential go hand in hand.  If you can’t see the board or the words in a book, how can you follow lessons or do homework well?  A child who suffers from vision problems is more likely to fall behind – academically and socially – than a child who is confident in what they see.  Research shows that children who fall behind in middle school are more likely to drop out of high school.  To keep your child on a positive path, be aware of what they are seeing, and what they may be missing.  Get your child’s eyes checked and stay informed about their eye health.

  1. Keep an eye on your child. Do you notice your child sitting closer to the TV than usual? Or holding books, phones or tablets close to their face? Are they squinting when they go to a movie or a sports event? Other signs to look for include tilting their head to read or frequently rubbing their eyes.

    Also, with clear vision comes confidence, so if you notice that your child is not engaging with friends or participating in sports and other afterschool activities, it could mean that they are having trouble seeing.
     
  2. Talk to your child’s teacher. Find out if your child has been disruptive or uncomfortable participating in class, which could mean your child isn’t fully engaged and may be a sign that they cannot see clearly.
     
  3. Talk to the school nurse. Many schools conduct vision screenings, but research shows that only 50% of students who fail an eye test given at school make it to the eye doctor. Speaking with your child’s school nurse will help ensure that your child isn’t one of them.
     
  4. Get your child’s eyes checked regularly. The best way to know for sure whether or not your child needs eyeglasses is to bring them to a licensed optometrist and get their eyes checked.

    Even if your child already has eyeglasses, as they grow their eyes will change. An annual eye exam can assure they are using eyeglasses that will give them the best vision possible.
     
  5. Let your child pick out their own frames. The simple fact is, if your child doesn’t like their glasses, they won’t wear them.

No child deserves to miss out on opportunities to learn and grow because they need a pair of glasses.  Make an appointment to get your child’s eyes checked today.

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Giving the Gift of Hearing

Hearing is the foundation for building relationships, connecting us to the people we love and the world around us. More than 360 million people (32 million children) worldwide have hearing loss. With barriers to communication and connection with the world, many people with hearing loss struggle with language development and lag behind in education and economic opportunities. If communication barriers are removed, children and adults with hearing loss perform just as well as their peers. However, the challenge, particularly in developing nations, is finding the resources and creating the infrastructure necessary to unlock this potential.

Starkey Hearing Foundation is dedicated to overcoming these challenges by using hearing as a vehicle to reflect caring and improve the lives of people in need around the world. This organization develops systems of hearing care in the United States and around the globe in an effort to bring the gift of hearing to people in need. It fits more than 100,000 hearing aids annually through global hearing missions and the daily efforts of its domestic, application-based Hear Now program. Starkey Hearing Foundation has committed to fit more than one million hearing aids this decade.

“Hearing is a powerful gift that brings people together, opens doors and empowers individuals to reach their full potential in life,” said Bill Austin, founder of Starkey Hearing Foundation. “The transformation we see in each person is unmistakable.

When we help someone hear, they can grow closer to their families, follow their dreams and become an inspiration for others who face similar struggles.”

Starkey Hearing Foundation has some powerful and inspirational advocates who often join them to help change lives. Among them is Seattle Seahawk Derrick Coleman, who also has hearing loss. The day before winning the Super Bowl, Coleman took time to help the Foundation provide hearing aids to more than 100 New Yorkers in need at Yankee Stadium and inspire children who have faced similar.

“I went through all the pain, and I know that other people have too. The fact that I’m here and I didn’t make any excuses—that my parents didn’t let me—is a blessing,” said Coleman. “That’s why I like talking to kids and meeting them—to let them know I’ve been through it too.”

 

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Achieving Better Health and Wellness for Adults who are Blind and Vision Impaired in New Jersey

When individuals experience vision loss, they often lose more than just their ability to see.  Without the right support system in place, vision loss may lead to social isolation and physical inactivity which can then cause a downward spiral of decreased balance and muscle strength; falls and hip fractures; and severe depression especially among older adults and seniors.

Better Health & Wellness for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a program of NJ Foundation for the Blind using activities carefully chosen to help offset the specific physical losses and emotional challenges of vision loss.  These disciplines are widely accepted by the medical community as effective healing arts and have been successful in improving the health and wellness of its participants.

Ongoing classes

  • Yoga
  • Horticultural Therapy
  • Group Drumming
  • Low Impact Aerobics

Results (% of participants reporting gains in target areas)

  • Improved Balance - 73%
  • Reduced Stress - 83%
  • Increased Energy - 73%
  • Improved Feelings of Well-Being – 95%
  • Improved Ability to Cope with Vision Loss - 91%
  • A Sense of Belonging to a Community - 91%

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Five Tips for a Lifetime of Healthy Vision

Mitchell T. Munson, O.D, F.A.A.O.
President
American Optometric Association

Vision plays one of the most important roles in daily life. Every waking moment, the eyes are working to see the world around us. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) annual American Eye-Q® survey, 40 percent of Americans worry about losing their eyesight over their ability to walk or hear. 

It’s easy to incorporate steps into your daily routine to ensure healthy eyes and good vision. Eating right, protecting against UV rays and visiting your local eye doctor on a yearly basis are just a few things that can help keep your eyes and vision at their best.

  1. Schedule yearly comprehensive exams
    Eye care should begin early in life. The AOA urges parents to bring infants six to 12 months of age to their local optometrist for a thorough assessment. Now, under the Affordable Care Act, vision coverage is part of the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit.  The good news is that millions of children (up to age 19) now have access to yearly comprehensive eye exams, follow-up care and treatment, including eyeglasses, through their local doctor of optometry. Comprehensive exams not only evaluate a patient’s vision, but can also detect certain serious health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
  2. Protect against UV rays
    Long-term exposure to the sun poses significant risk, not just to your skin, but to your eyes as well. No matter what the season, it’s extremely important to wear sunglasses, choosing a pair that blocks more than 95 percent of UV-A and more than 99 percent of UV-B radiation.
  3. Give your eyes a break from digital device use 
    Two-thirds of Americans spend up to 7 hours a day using computers or other digital devices such as tablets and smart phones. This constant eye activity increases the risk for dry eye, eyestrain, headaches, neck and/or backache, and fatigue. The AOA recommends that people practice the 20/20/20 rule—every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. 
  4. Eat your greens
    As part of a healthful diet, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day—particularly the leafy green variety. Nutrients such as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, essential fatty acids, vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc, help protect eyesight and promote eye health. Since the body doesn’t make these nutrients naturally, it’s important that they are incorporated into a daily diet.
  5. Practice safe wear and care of contact lenses
    More than 40 million Americans use contact lenses to improve vision. While some adhere to the medical guidelines for wearing contacts, many are breaking the rules and putting their vision at risk. Follow your optometrist’s recommendations for appropriate wear and replacement to avoid problems such as blurred vision, red or irritated eyes, pain in and around the eyes or, a more serious condition in which the cornea becomes inflamed, also known as keratitis.

To learn more about eye and vision health, or to find a nearby doctor of optometry, please visit www.aoa.org/.

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Choroideremia: Deborah Ann Woll Sees the Light

Mediaplanet What is the most difficult part about Choroideremia (CHM) for you and EJ?
Deborah Ann Woll I often feel very helpless. While we can fundraise, try to talk about the disease and help people cope with it, we can't actually control the trials or their outcome. It's up to science and nature to decide whether EJ and the other sufferers of this disease will retain their sight. That's hard for me as an observer to deal with and I imagine even more difficult for those with the condition. I know EJ struggles, especially watching his family go through it. We want to give them their sight back so badly but there is nothing we can do but hope our fundraising gives the doctors what they need.

MP How do you cope with this struggle on a daily basis?
DAW I wouldn't say we struggle with it daily, but it is present on a daily basis. Logistically, living in sunny LA is difficult for EJ, who is very light sensitive, and we have to be extra vigilant about organization so that he doesn't lose things or trip over anything. But mostly I think you love each other, have patience and try to understand things from the other persons perspective. It's not too different from any other challenge in a relationship.

MP What advice do you have for readers affected by vision disorders or impairments?
DAW Again, I'd say patience and communication. Both from those directly affected by the disease, and indirectly like myself. Let others know what your experience is so that they can understand and help instead of feeling frustrated and alone. For example, in my experience, things take a little longer when traveling with a person who is visually impaired. I used to get frustrated and nervous about getting where we needed to be and started to feel like a chaperone instead of a partner. I finally expressed my worries and we agreed that neither of us wanted to feel like a burden, so now we leave more time, get access to the handicap TSA line and pre-board the plane so that he has as much time as necessary to settle in. This way, he is in charge of himself and I'm not worried that we are holding people up or are going to miss our flight. We will probably be tweaking things like this forever—and that's a good thing.

EJ would extend that even broader and advise that anybody who has any vision impairment should speak up and not be ashamed to tell their story. So many people ignore blindness and there is no reason to hide it. He welcomes questions about his condition. Sharing can only bring about better understanding.

MP How can readers get involved in raising awareness for CHM?
DAW Anything helps. Even a simple retweet can go a long way. Most of our fundraising comes in lots of small doses from generous people just like you and me. This year the Choroideremia Research Foundation is campaigning to raise $1 million in 2014. Previously the most raised in a year was half that. Our main goal is to motivate as many people as possible to take action—mow lawns, bake cookies, have a yard sale. EJ and I have been auctioning off tons of our own things on eBay with the proceeds going to the CRF. It's been great to recycle the things we don't use anymore and raise some money at the same time.  The point is you can't go wrong if you try.

 

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