• co-founder Jenni Perkins

What did you say?

Increasingly over the last few years I have accused family members of mumbling, and have had reason to complain that the sound reproduction on Hollywood movies has deteriorated, contemporary actors don’t speak clearly, and speaker systems on modern day televisions are second rate to what they used to be. After being nagged for some time from family members that I needed my hearing checked, I recently bit the bullet and made an appointment with the Lions Hearing Institute.

It was an enlightening, if somewhat humbling experience. After a series of simple tests it was official – I have age-related hearing loss, placing me just on the cusp of requiring hearing aids. It was illuminating and I have learnt a lot about hearing. Mistakenly, because I can hear (most) things, it was difficult to understand that I had experienced hearing loss (and that it wasn’t because others weren’t speaking clearly). But I now understand that while I thought I could hear, I have lost the capacity to hear high pitched noises – resulting in muffled sound. Ironically, my daughter’s voice is the precise pitch that I have most trouble with.

Signs of potential hearing loss include difficulty hearing others speak when there is background noise; finding that others mumble; difficulty understanding people when they are not facing you; asking people to repeat themselves; people complaining that you are speaking loudly; or turning up the volume on the TV more loudly than before.

I also learnt that hearing aids don’t provide the crystal clear sound of our youth – but one has to adjust to what might best be described as a ‘tinny’ sound across all pitches. Further, I learnt that hearing aids are more successful if they are worn full time. If you wear them only occasionally, the brain does not process the incoming sound as well, and you will not find the hearing aids to be as effective.

Over half of people aged between 61-70 years old, and nearly 75% of those aged over 70 years, experience some hearing loss in at least one ear. Yet it is not uncommon for people to persevere untreated – or deny that they have hearing loss.

A key message from hearing specialists is that it is best to seek help sooner than later. Specifically, the sooner you address your hearing loss the easier it is for your brain to adapt to receiving sounds that it has not been accustomed to. In fact – strange as it may seem, we process sounds with our brains – not our ears! Further, hearing loss is increasingly being linked to depression and isolation in older age, along with early onset cognitive decline. In this regard, addressing your hearing loss in a timely way is believed to be important in helping to maintain good cognitive health.

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