Monday, October 25, 2010

Link between Hearing Loss and Depression Highlighted for World Mental Health Day

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) announced today that it is participating in World Mental Health Day on October 10th by educating the public on the link between hearing loss and depression. This year’s World Mental Health Day focuses on the close association of depression with chronic physical illnesses and calls for integrated care. Depression can be a disabling illness that seriously impacts overall health.

“When left untreated, hearing loss often leads to isolation, depression, and other emotional conditions that can affect both mental health and quality of life,” says Sergei Kochkin, PhD, executive director of BHI. “Yet, hearing loss remains one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today.”

The link between unaddressed hearing loss and depression is compelling. For example, a large-scale study by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that people 50 and older with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, anger and frustration, emotional instability and paranoia, and were less likely to participate in organized social activities than those who wore hearing aids. The degree of depression and other emotional or mental health issues also increased with the severity of hearing loss.

A recent survey released by Australian Hearing, part of Australia’s Department of Human Services, found that people who suffer from hearing loss may be at increased risk of developing the debilitating effects of depression. As reported in its 2008 Annual Report, the survey found that 60 per cent of those with hearing loss had displayed some of the symptoms associated with depression. It also found that almost 20 per cent of those with hearing loss demonstrated at least three key symptoms of depression. Specifically, 52 per cent had displayed increased irritability and frustration; 22 per cent had trouble sleeping or experienced restlessness; and 18 per cent showed a loss of interest or pleasure in most activities.

"Hearing loss is not a harmless condition to be ignored or left untreated,” says Kochkin. “It has tremendous impact on your life. And if left unaddressed, it can have serious emotional and social consequences."

It’s important to understand that in the vast majority of situations, hearing aids can help the individual hear better and thereby alleviate the conditions that may lead to depression when hearing loss is left unaddressed. Studies have shown that hearing aid wearers experience significant improvements in quality of life and decreased depressive symptoms; have significantly higher self-concepts compared to individuals who do not wear hearing aids; and their functional health status improves significantly after three months of hearing aid use.

In fact, the NCOA study found that those who used hearing aids to address their hearing loss had a reduction in depression and depressive symptoms; improved interpersonal relationships, including greater intimacy; experienced less anger and frustration; enhanced emotional stability; decreased paranoid feelings; reduced anxiety symptoms; reduced social phobias; greater belief that they were in control of their lives; reduced self-criticism; improved cognitive functioning; improved health status; reduced incidence of pain; and enhanced group social activity.

Today, there are more than 34 million people in the United States with hearing loss—roughly 11 percent of the U.S. population. And over the last generation, hearing loss has increased at a rate of 160 percent of U.S. population growth.

“More Americans than ever before are suffering with hearing loss,” says Kochkin. “That means greater numbers are leaving their hearing loss unaddressed—simply because they don’t understand how significantly it affects their quality of life and mental health.

“Unaddressed hearing loss has become an entrenched public health issue that is closely linked to depression, especially in older individuals. World Mental Health Day is an extremely important acknowledgement of the inter-relatedness of physical and mental health. We need our healthcare gatekeepers to recognize the importance of addressing both in an integrated healthcare setting.”

The World Federation for Mental Health established World Mental Health Day in 1992 to provide an annual opportunity for public education about current issues and improving well being. It is the only annual global awareness campaign to focus attention on specific aspects of mental health and mental disorders.

The World Federation for Mental Health encourages local, national and regional authorities and organizations to observe World Mental Health Day on October 10th with events and programs that focus on “Mental Health and Chronic Illness: The Need for Continued and Integrated Care.” Campaign materials prepared by the World Federation are available for download on its website at

Monday, October 18, 2010

You may need a hearing aid if...

  • Your hearing frustrates you when you converse with family or friends.
  • Your spouse tells you they often have to repeat what they have said to you.
  • Your hearing problem embarrasses you when you meet strangers.
  • You have difficulty hearing the television or radio at a normal volume level.
  • Your hearing causes you to have arguments with family members.
  • You feel that hearing difficulties hinder your social life.
  • You attend church services or other group activities less often because of your hearing problem.
  • It is difficult for you to hear or understand when someone speaks to you in a whisper.
  • You feel that you are impaired by your hearing problem.
  • Your hearing creates difficulties when you visit a restaurant with friends or family.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What You Should Expect From Hearing Aids

If your hearing loss has progressed to the degree that you need hearing aids, a critical factor in their success is your understanding and acceptance of realistic expectations of their capabilities. Hearing instruments, regardless of brand or type of technology, can never replace normal hearing in all listening situations.
Expecting results that cannot be achieved will only lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. If you know what to expect, you'll be free to enjoy the improvements that hearing aids can make in your life. Here are some guidelines which should help you and your provider agree on a set of realistic expectations for you.
  • The extent to which the lost hearing function can be restored through amplification is based on the severity and duration of your hearing loss. The degree and extent of hearing loss is determined by using calibrated equipment called an audiometer.
  • The more sever your hearing loss, the larger the hearing aid must be to provide room for a larger amplification and components.
  • Crowded social gatherings and restaurants are examples of noisy conditions where even a person with normal hearing has trouble hearing conversation. As a person's hearing deteriorates, so also does the ability of a hearing aid to correct for hearing loss in these situations. Your provider's goal is to select an appropriate circuit for your hearing aid that will deliver a natural loudness throughout your entire listening range without getting too loud or too quiet.
  • In difficult listening situations normal hearing listeners rely on using speech reading cues and focusing their attention on the speaker. These listening skills are even more important for the hearing aid user when faced with these circumstances.
  • In quiet, many hearing aid users can achieve a performance level equal to normal hearing. But as the difficulty of the listening task increases, the gap between a person with normal hearing and a person with hearing loss widens. The more severe the hearing loss, the wider the gap.
  • With properly fitted hearing aids you should be able to hear many normal sounds that you may not otherwise be able to hear clearly, such as the voice of your client or the words of a loved one. You may also begin to hear sounds you have forgotten were a part of your world, such as the hum of the motor on your refrigerator or the buzz of your fluorescent lights.
  • Hearing aids in the advance, programmable and digital categories should prevent normally loud sounds from becoming uncomfortable.
  • Depending on the degree and severity of your loss, hearing aids may allow you to hear speech more clearly in some noisy situations.
  • You'll need time to get used to your new hearing aids to learn how to achieve maximum performance from them.
  • Hearing aids will not restore your hearing to normal. Science has not been able to match the human hearing mechanism.
  • Hearing aids will not "filter out" background noise, despite some advertising claims. Some hearing aids have circuitry that will avoid boosting the volume of some types of background noise, but this can also remove some of the speech you want to hear. This is usually a benefit, however, providing a more comfortable listening experience and better sound quality in some types of noisy situations.
  • Hearing aids should allow you to understand speech more clearly, with less effort, in a variety of listening situations.
  • Hearing aids should keep others from noticing your hearing loss.
  • Your hearing health care provider should have the same goal as you: to find a way to help you reach the best possible hearing improvement. Using the best testing and assessment equipment science has to offer, and the availability of hearing aids from more than 30 national manufactures.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Conventional Hearing Aids

Hearing aids which use conventional electronics have been the mainstay of the hearing aid industry for 35 years. Conventional hearing aid electronics use basic analog Class A technology to provide quality, linear-type amplification to patients with a wide range of hearing losses. Class A amplifiers have as their defining feature the characteristic of adding the same amount of amplification to all levels of sound intensity. Thus, low bass-type sounds will be amplified with the same amount of volume as high treble sounds. For this reason, some patients may find that conventional electronic hearing aids provide either too little sound or too much sound to comfortably reach a listening level for the particular hearing loss. When this is the case, the patient should consider a prescription circuit instrument of the advanced, programmable or digital technology type. Priced at the lower end of the cost pyramid, conventional electronics represent the most basic type of amplification and are a good choice when finances are the major concern.

User benefits:
  • Lowest cost
  • Often ordered as a spare or backup set
  • Comfortable low-distortion sound
  • Available in all shell sizes: larges sizes needed to hold larger amplifier for patients with severe losses