SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - May marks National Better Hearing and Speech Month. The Morning Break team spoke with Doctor Susan Timna with Audiology and Hearing Aid Services to learn about the impact hearing can have on your health.
She says many seniors struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness even without quarantining. That’s because poor hearing can be destructive to socialization.
“You start having more trouble in social situations, and therefore you slowly pull out of those social situations, and you’re home more because either you’re embarrassed because you can’t guide the conversation or answer appropriately," Doctor Timna said. "It can even happen the isolation even in their own homes because, you know, if they can’t talk and communicate well with their primary family and their primary relationships, that’s going to take a toll on those relationships as well.”
If you have a family member that’s getting a little older, you want to look out for some of the signs of hearing loss. People usually won’t admit to themselves that they’ve started to have trouble hearing.
“Typically, you know, a family member brings somebody in saying, you know, ‘I’ve been noticing the TV’s been turned up really loudly, and I can’t stand walking in that room when they’re watching TV,' or that they ask them a question, and the family member answers something totally off the wall that has nothing to do with what they asked," Doctor Timna said. "Slowly when you get hearing loss, you lose those soft sounds at a distance, so people are just used to asking by habit, you know, ‘What do you want for dinner?’ or, you know, ‘Can you take out the garbage?’ and some of that may be that they selectively didn’t want to hear, but over time you realize you can’t get away with doing some of those selectively distant conversations at home.”
Noticing these changes is especially key because hearing loss can impact more than just your mental health if left untreated.
“I tell my patients they’ve got to wear those hearing aides, I don’t care if they’re sitting home watching the rain outside, they’ve got to hear that rain hitting their roof or their window," Doctor Timna said. "Because we hear with our brain. The ears are just a conduit, so if we block the brain from getting that sound, it’s sort of not exercising, therefore it’s going to slow down faster. I mean, all the studies will show you that untreated hearing loss, which means sound not getting into the hearing system, will make you have documented 3 to 5 years earlier issues with dementia.”
Audiology and Hearing Aid Services is taking a number of precautions right now, especially since many of their patients are also in a high risk group for COVID-19. They’re allowing you to test out hearing aides remotely through an app on your phone. They’re also giving you more time to test out your hearing aid.
“Where we test out hearing aids is where a lot of people have trouble with hearing aids is in a group or a crowd, and right now they can’t be in a group or a crowd,” Timna said.
Doctor Timna says the office is planning for a soft reopening May 11. Only two people will be allowed in the office at a time. Everyone will be screened at the door by checking their temperature and asking targeted questions. Both patients and staff members will be required to wear a mask.