Since then, the engineering side of me couldn’t help but delve into the world of hearing loss and learn as much as my wife was willing to teach, including building a website devoted to everything hearing related.
Here are five things I learned along the way…
More than 360 million people are affected by hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization. A global study in 2013 showed hearing loss ranking 5th in leading causes of years lived with disability. Comparatively though, funding, research, and public awareness is limited relative to many other chronic conditions, which is probably why I didn’t know so much about hearing loss prior to marrying an audiologist.
A few years ago we had to move my 90-year-old grandmother to a skilled nursing facility. She had taken a fall that she wasn’t able to recover from. Unfortunately it didn’t stop there because we weren’t able to talk her into a pair of hearing aids for another three years, which resulted in significant memory loss.
Talking to her now, with hearing aids, is a world of difference. She’s still not entirely used to wearing them and sometimes doesn’t want to, but I honestly believe she would be a lot better off if she had started wearing hearing aids, five or even 10 years ago.
I’m still learning how the ear works to process sound, but it’s a beautiful thing. The inner ear, middle ear, and outer ear all working in conjunction with the nervous system, and so much more.
There’s conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, central hearing loss, functional hearing loss, mixed hearing loss, hidden hearing loss, the list goes on…
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that hearing aids aren’t one size fits all. There are hearing aids for single-sided deafness like the Phonak CROS device, and even hearing aids for tinnitus. Not to mention the hundreds of hearing related technologies that have sprouted up in the past couple years.
Be proactive, not reactive. Hearing loss devices, such as cochlear implants, or auditory assistive devices, have come a long way to support those with hearing loss. But, a better solution for most of us is to protect your ears from the get-go.
I’m not going to pretend that people aren’t going to attend concerts, or listen to music, or attend live sporting events. But technology has come so far to allow us to both do these things and protect our hearing. For instance, if you go to a concert consider bringing some earplugs, if you love music try a pair of active noise-canceling headphones. Whatever you do, protect your hearing.
I’m still learning more each and every day. But thanks to my wife, I now have a lot more respect for hearing loss and how it can affect your life.