The Boomer is a column written for adults nearing retirement age and those already in their golden years. It will also promote reader interaction by posting e-mail responses and answering reader questions. E-mail your questions or topic ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Knowing the volume that I blasted my stereo at during the 60s, its a wonder I have no hearing problems...that I am aware of.
Getting older is no fun, bones start to creak and for some of us boomers, we start to experience hearing loss. Some studies show that a far greater percentage of boomers are experiencing hearing loss compared to previous generations, but given the years of noise exposure at the concerts we attended, I guess thats not too surprising.
Just as boomers see their primary-care doctors for their annual checkups, boomers need to include a visit to an audiologist to have our hearing checked. Dr. Deborah Price, an audiologist and founder of the Hearing Professional Center in Dallas, spoke more specifically to the topic of hearing loss among the aging population.
Boomer: What is the biggest challenge your patients with hearing loss face?
Price: One of the biggest challenges for them is recognizing that they have a problem. Hearing loss is something that is hidden, we don't see it happening, no one starts limping around over hearing loss. It is so subtle that people don't realize that they are no longer understanding the way they use to; the mental clarity of the individual is greatly affected because they are no longer as sharp as they use to be and they are not hearing what they once heard. What we find is that when we do aid patients or provide assistance for their hearing they are just as sharp as they ever were, they are back engaged in conversation not only with colleagues but with family, friends and loved ones.
I am seeing it having a huge impact on baby boomers. We all start losing our hearing in our late 30s but it is so very subtle that we don't even notice it and we can't document it. When we hit our 40s and 50s, we find background noise bothering us more than it use to and a lot of us will attribute it to people talking too fast or not enunciating. By the time we get into our late 50s, we start to think, maybe I have a problem with my hearing and seek out a baseline hearing test.. When I first came into the field of audiology 30 years ago, people waited until they were in there 70s to have their hearing checked, baby boomers are very pro active. When they start noticing hearing difficulty, boomers are coming in for a baseline hearing test. Long term, that means boomers are going to be in the market place longer. Boomers will not lose their mental clarity at a young age like their parents because they are going to continue to stimulate those auditory receptors and enhance clarity. The generations before them would classically say, I am gonna wait until I really have a problem. As soon as I personally noticed that things just didn't seem as clear I had my hearing tested and I am wearing a hearing aid and I am in my 50's.
Boomer: What is involved in the baseline testing?
Price: The baseline test is a thorough, comprehensive, diagnostic evaluation. We review what kind of environments patients are in and when/if they are having difficulties. We also find out case history information including any family history of hearing loss, any heart problems or diabetes and whether patients had ear problems as a child. We want to know everything about their history so we know if there is a predisposition to hearing loss.
It is also important to know what kind of noise exposure they have had so we know if noise could be a factor in any problems. We then put patients in a sound-proof room with inserts in their ears and they listen to a variety of tones in varying loudness levels. We will say different words to them and ask them to repeat them back to us at different loudness levels. We also do an evaluation of their middle ear; we want to know if the ear drum is moving like it should and whether the bones in the middle ear transmitting the sounds through to the inner ear. If these test show the ear in good working order, we then check to see if some reflexes that they cannot control are present, like a tightening of some of bones when loud sounds occur (this tightening keeps us from hearing our heartbeat in our ears). We then review with the patient all of our findings so they have a better understanding of their results.
We may request a follow up once a year if the patient presents some signs that can cause hearing loss or if they have a family predisposition to hearing loss. If they have borderline hearing loss, we will let them know what to look for in order to know if it is time for some sort of amplification or hearing aid.
Boomer: How have you found ClearCaptions has affected your patients lives?
Price: The service removes an obstacle for someone having difficulty hearing on the telephone. So many of us have either computers or iPads that we work on all day long so to be able to have that typed out response and be able to pair that with what I am hearing is excellent.
Boomer: What is your background and expertise?
Price: I have been a solo practitioner in private practice for 30 years. I have a doctorate from the Arizona School of Sciences in Clinical Audiology and have done philanthropic projects in Mexico and Brazil. I have been the chair of the audiology foundation of American and served on their board for 12 years. I have been very active across the U.S. in the Academy of Doctors of Audiology Organization, which is an organization made up mainly of private practitioners. I am also a member of Audigy Group--a group of premiere practices across the country that work together to create systems that consistently provide service across the entire country in the same manner; if I saw you here in Dallas and you went back to New Jersey, I could refer you to another audigy practice there that would provide the same kind of service and same level of expertise that we have here.
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