The first time Diane McCormick, 80, realized her audition was okay was when her kids came clean with her about five years ago.
“They were the first to talk about it when I spoke to them on the phone and I had to ask them to repeat what they were saying,” McCormick said. “They may have noticed it earlier, but that’s when they started telling me.”
McCormick, who lives in Chester Springs, Chester County, is a retired English teacher and currently a circulation clerk at the Chester Springs Library. When it comes to staying on top of her health, including her hearing, she is evaluated by an audiologist twice a year as part of her ear, nose and throat practice.
“There is some decrease in both ears, but they haven’t recommended hearing aids yet,” she said.
The onset of age-related deafness
Dr. Mindy Brudereck, owner/audiologist at Berks Hearing Professionals, with offices in Wyomissing and Exeter Township, said age-related hearing loss typically begins to develop when patients are in their 50s or the sixties.
“Many people don’t get their hearing tested as adults until they reach their 60s, but hearing loss can certainly start at a younger age,” Brudereck said. “Signs of hearing loss include needing to repeat words/phrases frequently, ringing in the ears, turning up the volume on the TV. Subtle signs of hearing loss may include withdrawal from social gatherings, speaking loudly or focus intensely on a person’s face and mouth.
The biggest changes McCormick notices in his hearing are everyday conversations, especially when they happen on the phone.
“I notice I have to ask people to repeat themselves and the phones are harder than talking in person,” she said. “Cell phones aren’t as clear.”
McCormick is open to the possibility that hearing aids are in her future.
“I’d be willing to try it, but I’ve heard people say it’s not always wearable,” she said. “It doesn’t provide them with as much help as they are supposed to provide.”
Latest Advances in Hearing Aids
Brudereck discussed the latest advancements in hearing aids, which have become more tech-savvy.
“Almost all hearing aids have some type of smartphone connectivity, either through Bluetooth connectivity or through an app,” she said. “These features can make it easier to listen on the phone and make it easier for the patient to control the hearing aid because they can see the changes they are making.”
She said some hearing aids can actually detect if a patient is falling and can alert a loved one with a notification that the patient has fallen, in addition to other newer features that make hearing aids more user-friendly.
“Charging has also come a long way in recent years, making hearing aids easier to handle and less resistant to moisture.”
Resistance to hearing aid use
McCormick’s mother, who lived to be 92, was reluctant to get a hearing aid despite her problems, so she never ended up getting one. As a result, McCormick remembers always having to raise his voice in his mother’s later years. That’s why she doesn’t hesitate to get a hearing aid if and when she needs it.
“I would make an effort so that my children and grandchildren wouldn’t have to speak so loudly for me to hear them,” McCormick said. “It probably annoys them to have to constantly rehearse.”
If you have a family member who has hearing problems but is resistant to fixing them, Brudereck offers some tips on how to be more successful in getting proper medical care for your loved one.
“Offer to accompany them to the appointment, and even offer to have your hearing tested at the same time if it’s been more than three years since your last test,” Brudereck said. “It’s always helpful to have someone in the appointment who knows the patient and their communication. If the person doesn’t feel there’s a problem, it can be difficult for them to be open about the issues. that she encounters with her hearing.
When it comes to driving, McCormick, a safe driver, always makes sure to keep all her senses under control on the road and makes the necessary adjustments.
“I turn off the radio if I’m in bad traffic to make sure I can concentrate,” she says.
Brudereck discussed some challenges that can accompany untreated age-related hearing loss that can impact driver safety and normal functioning at home.
“It could impact driver safety if the person can no longer hear sounds in the car, like the turn signal,” Brudereck said. “In addition, the patient may have difficulty hearing sirens from a distance, which could impact driver safety. Security inside the house could also be an issue if they cannot hear the doorbell or warning signals inside the house. Even something like running water can be hard to hear.
McCormick, who lives with her husband, Jim, 87, finds they communicate best when they’re in the same room.
“We’ve been married 58 years and we got along better from the start,” she said. “In the meantime, we are fine, but we are regularly assessed by professionals.”
Brudereck offers a recommendation for everyone once they reach the age of 40.
“Your last ‘required’ hearing test is usually in the 11th grade of high school, and the next one will be part of your Welcome to Medicare test,” she said. “I recommend that an asymptomatic patient have their hearing tested around age 40 and then every five years thereafter.”
Age-related hearing loss
Age-related hearing loss affects about a third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 and nearly half of those over 75, according to the National Institutes of Health. It’s important to protect what you have and keep it for as long as you can. Often the hearing loss is so gradual that you don’t realize it.
Notice a change in your hearing? Don’t put off a visit to the doctor.
If you don’t seek treatment for your healing loss – and many older people underestimate just how bad their hearing really is, research shows – you’re at higher risk for falls, hospital visits, anxiety and depression, as well as higher levels of inactivity and higher healthcare costs.
Free hearing test
You do not have to leave your home for this hearing test. AARP has partnered with the National Hearing Test to offer free screening to its members each year. Non-members can take the test for a small fee. The test mimics one of the most challenging real-life situations: trying to hear in the midst of noise, notes James Miller, senior scientist at CDT and director of research emeritus at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. Think family dinners, cocktail parties and crowded restaurants. It effectively detects changes in the inner ear caused by age or exposure to noise – the two most common causes of hearing loss.
The results are immediate. Anything outside the normal range results in a recommendation to get a more complete evaluation from a hearing specialist.
Call: National Hearing Test at 800-299-9195
Credit and for more information: www.aarp.org