Why Better Hearing Means Better Living

Better Hearing Means Better Living

Why Better Hearing Means Better Living is contributed by Larry Wonnacott, President; Hearing Loss Association of America-Whatcom County Chapter. This article is published in the Spring/Summer 2024 Edition of Vibrant Senior Options Resource Guide Magazine

Unfortunately, hearing loss is one common trait shared by many seniors.  By some estimates, more than 50% of the over 60-year-old population has some level of age-related hearing loss.  This could be due to changes in the nerve structure of the ear or long term exposure to loud noises. Also, drug side effects or other medical conditions can also bring about changes in hearing.  Regardless of the cause, the results of hearing loss are often the same. These results include social isolation and increased stress. Perhaps surprisingly to you, hearing loss can also result in an increased risk of cognitive decline.  The good news is that hearing loss can be treated, and the cost of doing so is decreasing.  As a New York Times headline recently proclaimed, “Hearing Aids Are More Affordable, and Perhaps More Needed, than Ever.” Hearing Aids and Dementia

Improved Affordability for Better Hearing

The reason for the improved affordability of Hearing Aids is the passage of legislation permitting the sale of Over the Counter (“OTC”) Hearing Aids. These products are designed for those with “mild to moderate” hearing loss and are available in many retail locations. Because age related hearing loss can occur gradually over time, you may not realize how significant your loss is. The only way to know if OTC aids might be appropriate for you is to have your hearing tested. Testing can be conducted by an Audiologist or Hearing Aid Specialist. Medicare will generally cover this test if you have a referral from your doctor (and sometimes without). That is the first step to better living with hearing loss. You probably have your eyes tested regularly – why not your ears?

The Importance of Treatment

Why is treating hearing loss so important? There are many reasons, but recent research indicates that the most critical may be the prevention of cognitive decline (aka, dementia), a condition none of us wants to experience. The Lancet Commission on Dementia reports that untreated hearing loss is the single largest “potentially modifiable” risk factor accounting for dementia. Perhaps another surprise to you, hearing loss ranks higher than traumatic brain injury as a cause for dementia! “Modifying” hearing loss is simple – consistently wear a hearing aid (they do not work in a dresser drawer).

Better Hearing and Better Living

Many of us have taken this step to wear hearing aids with good results. Because we can better comprehend what is being said, we are more likely to attend and enjoy social events. More importantly, our loved ones are less frustrated and less likely to feel ignored when they don’t have to frequently repeat themselves. If you won’t address the problem for yourself, do it for those that love you. Hearing aids don’t make you look old. However, not hearing well does that job for you when it causes you to miss participating in conversations and social outings such as coffee with friends or attending a symphony. Put simply, better hearing equals better living.

Hearing Loss Management and Support

The Hearing Loss Association of America – Whatcom County Chapter is celebrating our 20th year of helping our neighbors that are living with hearing loss. We provide education and information, advocating for hearing access and support for each other as we deal with the impacts of hearing loss. We do not sell or endorse any products. Rather, we are a group that has learned how to manage our hearing loss, and we share our successes (and failures) with each other. We often have expert speakers share the latest research results. For example, these speakers discuss new approaches to managing hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance issues.
We invite you to join us on the 3rd Saturday of every month for our free meetings. Find information at the website below. Find information at hearingloss-whatcom.org 

Larry Wonnacott, President

Hearing Loss Association of America-Whatcom County Chapter



In-Person Meetings

We meet the 3rd Saturday of every month:

Christ the Servant Lutheran Church;  2600 Lakeway Drive,  Bellingham, WA

Social time starts at 9:30 AM and the

Meeting runs from 10 – 11:30 AM.

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