By Lolly Wigall
I did pick two summer squash the other day. I keep reminding my husband to use them otherwise I won’t grow them next year. Now, tomatoes, he eats whenever I pick them.
Getting a late start is typical in the hearing aid industry. What do I mean? There are numerous studies that tell us that almost 40 million Americans have a hearing loss. That is forty million with an M.
That is a lot of people, and that’s just in America. Hearing loss is a health issue that seems to be ignored by most of us. Hearing loss has been shown to affect a person’s salary, and possible earnings over a lifetime. Hearing loss has been shown to be very prevalent among Baby Boomers.
Audiologists and hearing instrument specialists have been “warned” to expect an huge influx of Baby Boomers beating down their doors to purchase hearing aids. This prediction has been floating around the industry for years. My door is still intact and has not shown any signs of people beating on the outside!
The population in America is aging. There are all kinds of predictions for the health industry related to the aging population. However, hearing testing and hearing aids are often not at the forefront of most physicians.
Hearing Often an Afterthought
Hearing testing is unfortunately not part of the routine testing when a patient begins chemotherapy or radiation. Most oncologists do not require a hearing test prior to beginning treatment for cancer. There are numerous other tests such as a PET scan, an MRI, blood work, cardiac workups, X-Rays and more. But, a hearing test is not routine.
Chemotherapy drugs are well known to cause hair loss. Hair loss on the outer body can reflect hair loss in the cochlea (though not due to the same mechanism). Hair loss in the cochlea causes hearing loss. These changes should be monitored during treatment.
Hearing testing is not a routine part of a person’s annual physical. I have never had a physician recommend a baseline hearing test to me. Maybe it is because they know I am an audiologist. But, I believe they should make sure I have a periodic test after age fifty.
Some professionals believe that age fifty is too late to begin monitoring hearing loss. With the use of earbuds, hearing loss is beginning at an earlier age. Some friends have suggested to me that age thirty would be a good beginning place.
The Need for Hearing Checks
Hearing testing is part of the Department of Transportation’s annual or biannual examination for truck drivers. I see many truck drivers for their testing. They have to pass the test to maintain their job, or show they wear hearing aids in order to hear while driving.
Wouldn’t it be a novel idea to have everyone pass a hearing test or show they wear hearing aids to renew their driver’s license? Now, that would cause my door to be broken down with the flood of new patients to test!
Hearing testing is part of a physical when a person enters the armed forces. Hearing protection is provided during training, especially during target practice. However, in the field of combat traditional hearing protection cannot be used since the soldiers have to be able to hear everything around them.
Many of those over the age of 50 have probably attended a loud concert or two over their lifetime. They’ve probably also attended loud sporting events at some point as well.
It really bothers me that at football games, the crowd is encouraged to “Make Noise”. Certain stadiums are known as “loud stadiums” due to their construction and their fans creating a lot of noise. But, loud noises can cause hearing loss. It bothers me that we are encouraging fans to create loud noise which can affect their hearing as well as the hearing of their favorite teams and the opponents.
Summer Isn’t Over Yet
Summer is still here. It will be hot over the next few weeks and I am happy about that. I will still be able to grill on the charcoal grill and enjoy a hamburger or two. The flowers are in full bloom in the garden.
While it’s true I do need to weed, I can at least do that at my leisure. Hearing testing and purchasing hearing aids often seem to fall into the category of: “When I get around to it“.
As professionals we are not educating physicians on the need to refer every patient for a baseline hearing test. We are not educating the public that hearing testing shouldn’t be something to do “when you get around to it”. We are not doing a good job of testing ourselves, and sending the results to our own physicians. We are not giving out information to the general public about the need for hearing protection, hearing testing, and hearing aids.
Having “May is Better Hearing and Speech Month” in May, and “Hearing Awareness Month” in October, is not enough. Each audiologist and hearing instrument specialist needs to make a concerted effort to educate their friends and family.
We need to spread the word that hearing matters.