Did you know your hearing has been deteriorating since you turned 10? By age 60, nearly two in three people (64%) would hear much better with hearing aids. For people who’ve had exposure to loud sounds, it’s worse. Most Australian farmers over 50 have marked hearing loss.
Hearing and listening are complex processes involving the ear and the brain.
The ear detects the sound and converts it into a code of electrical impulses that the brain interprets. The more accurate the coding at the ear, the easier the task is for the brain.
There is good news. There are exercises you can do to slow the effects of hearing loss and greatly improve your listening capacity. Aural exercises are really helping your hearing brain, but I call it being “ear fit”.
Being ear fit is so important because once hearing pathways start to deteriorate, they continue to do so — unless you are proactive and strengthen the listening skills with simple exercises and techniques. If we decide to use hearing aids as well, at some point, then we will have a better chance of reactivating these sound pathways. Effectively, we are keeping our hearing and listening fit.
The earlier you act on hearing loss the less likely you are to suffer some of its more tragic documented impacts: isolation, relationship breakdown and even dementia for some of us. Early use of good quality hearing aids is recommended, because early hearing aid use, combined with listening exercises, will give you the best path forward to being able to continue to hear speech clearly.
Hearing aids are not all the same. You need to do your research on which hearing aids are really good, and price is not a particularly good guide any more.
Hearing affects our whole physical and mental health, but we commonly ignore it. I have helped thousands of people over my career, and I have seen for myself the sad outcomes of delayed diagnosis and action. It really upsets me to see the loneliness and marriage breakdown that hearing loss can cause, not to mention the evident anger and negativity that can accompany hearing loss.
Your hearing will be worse if you have ever been exposed to loud sounds, even for a short time. If you have used fire arms without good hearing protection then you will have caused some permanent ear damage – even if you haven’t noticed it for years.
So, my tips are:
- Avoid loud environments. If you must spend time in loud settings, use customised ear plugs; and
- If you already have hearing difficulties – you’re the best judge of that, get good quality hearing aids.
Dr Elaine Saunders, hearing expert and social entrepreneur, is an advocate for empowering people with and without hearing difficulty. Author, and co-producer of The Sound of Waves, she runs Blamey Saunders hears – an innovative and disruptive Australian hearing aid company, founded for social good which provides affordable, high quality hearing aids people that are designed to be so simple that people van set them up themselves. There she is able to indulge her passion for community work, and community education.
Find more about Blamey Saunders hears at www.blameysaunders.com.au
Managing Director Dr. Elaine Saunders is an award-winning businesswoman, audiologist and academic. Her accolades include being awarded Asia’s Leading Woman in Healthcare in 2011, the Victorian Pearcey Entrepreneur Award in 2011, and the American Academy of Audiology’s Award for Achievement in Industry in 2010. Elaine was awarded the 2012 Melbourne Award for Contribution to Community by an Individual.