Come again: Hearing loss common

Hosted by the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning, audiologist Jacob Sommers gave a presentation about hearing aids at the Peter White Public Library on Monday. (Journal photo by Taylor Johnson)

MARQUETTE — Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Aging.

Jacob Sommers, an audiologist with Superior Ear Nose and Throat Specialists, gave a presentation about hearing aids at the Peter White Public Library hosted by the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning on Monday. He covered several aspects of hearing aids including the process of acquiring them, the different styles, and the technology that is offered with some of them.

“The first step is to come to terms with the fact that you might not be hearing as well as you once were, and take the first step in getting a hearing test,” Sommers said. “It’s not a big deal to do the hearing test and determine that you may need hearing aids. That just means that there could be help available for you and that you’re in the right place.”

Making an appointment to have a hearing test done is the kick off to the rest of the process of the hearing aid journey. The hearing test is a medical evaluation that will help to determine how a medical professional can help a patients specific hearing issue. “It’s hard to say exactly what’s going on without doing a hearing test,” Sommers said.

After the hearing test, and it is determined that the patient is a likely hearing aid candidate, the next step is to get medical clearance for hearing aid use. Medical clearance is required by insurances from a physician. Once this step is completed, a consultation is scheduled.

Sommers recommends that the patient bring someone with them to the consultation, such as a spouse or relative, as a second set of ears to ask questions and provide support. In the consultation, the audiologist and patient will discuss hearing aid options, styles, technology, prices, and answer any questions about them. Insurance is checked at this time to determine how much of the aids, if any, will be covered. Measurements will be taken, and the audiologist will give advise as to which hearing aids might be best for the patient. “There are a lot of different options out there, and some of them make more sense for people than others, so that’s where my recommendation would come in,” Sommers said. To wrap up the consultation, a hearing aid is selected and ordered, and a fitting date is scheduled.

Once the hearing aids come in, the fitting occurs. They get programmed to the patients hearing loss, making sure they sound good and are comfortable. The patient will learn how to use them, including putting them on and taking them off. “It takes a little practice,” Sommers cautioned.

After the aids are fitted, a 30 day trial period begins. After the first 14 days, the patient goes back to the office and has any necessary adjustments made to the aids and speaks with the audiologist about how they are working. “Making sure that everything is going well for you, the hearing aid user, is the main priority,” Sommers said. At the end of the trial period, the patient determines if the aids will work for them. At this point, exchanges can be made to try out a different type or style of hearing aid if the patient isn’t comfortable with the initial trial period ones. In this case, another trial period would begin for the new type of aids.

Once the trial is over and the right aids are picked out, verification measures are taken. This means the audiologist will hook the patient up to a machine that will take a measurement of the output of the hearing aid at specific frequencies in the patient’s ear. Not every office takes these verification measures, but Sommers’ does. “We do it because it’s best practice,” Sommers said. Once everything looks and sounds good, the patient is free to go.

The last step in the hearing aid journey is the follow up. Sommers said he likes to see his patients every six months to see how things are working out for them. In the follow up, he looks at the aids and makes sure they’re still working like they should, adjusts them if needed, answers any questions, and provides supplies if necessary. A follow up can be done sooner if needed.

According to Sommers, the average life span for hearing aids is five to seven years, but some people can wear them for ten years or more. Usually, the better care a patient takes care of them, the longer they’ll last.

An audience member asked Sommers how often people who have hearing aids actually wear them. Sommers answered that most people wear them all waking hours. “It’s up to you, you’re the one that paid for them, you should wear them as much as you want to,” he said. However, he recommended not wearing them in the shower, and that most people take them out when going to sleep. He also reminded the audience that for those working in construction or other noisy jobs, that hearing aids are not hearing protection.

Sommers briefly went over the different styles and technologies associated with hearing aids today. “There’s a lot of advanced technologies now that hearing aids didn’t have five, even three, years ago. There’s a lot of different technology there that is just a step above where we used to be,” Sommers said. Some aids even have Android and IPhone bluetooth connectivity.

A new, handy feature for hearing aids are rechargeable batteries, so those who wear them don’t have to worry about replacing the batteries. These aids come with a charging port that the aids sit in to charge. Most aids will hold an average charge time of about 24 hours before needing to be recharged.

The group that hosted the presentation, the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning, is a volunteer member-directed, and self-supporting nonprofit organization. The group is open to anyone who enjoys learning, new experiences and meeting people. NCLL programs and general information can be found on their website at: www.nmu.edu/ncll. They also have a Facebook page that they update frequently.

Taylor Johnson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is tjohnson@miningjournal.net.


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