Age and noise-related hearing loss affects not only the individual but his or her family and friends, as well.
There are ways to minimize the impact of hearing loss on quality of life.
The Anacortes Senior Activity Center offers free bi-monthly hearing consultations for seniors and their families. The consultations are provided by Joel Bergsbaken of the nonprofit Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center in Bellingham.
People get hearing aids, become frustrated and don’t use them. Therefore, Bergsbaken’s consultations focus on what hearing aids can and cannot do. For example, they do not do well in noisy environments. This is because the device does not completely separate the background sounds, Bergsbaken said.
He often suggests to clients other technology they can use in the interim while they prepare for a hearing aid, such as a Pocketalker, a handheld device that amplifies the sounds closest to the listener while reducing background noise. It can be used with or without a hearing aid, and volume and tone control can be adjusted.
When discussing the problem with an audiologist, it’s easier to clearly explain what the individual needs, Bergsbaken said.
Arlene Stadler, who went with her husband to a consultation on his hearing loss, said they received a lot of helpful information and she recommends these consultations to others.
Bergsbaken also offers advice. Watch out for fear-based advertising on hearing loss, he said. If an advertisement warns that a hearing aid not purchased today will cost more tomorrow, that is fear-based advertising.
Consult an audiologist, not the advertiser, to learn more, he said.
Most people who walk into the Senior Activity
Center are hearing impaired. The free consultations are a great resource, said Sally Hill, Senior Activity Center administrator.
Hill said the center has made efforts to make the center more inviting to everyone, including those with hearing impairments.
In the main room, a hearing loop has been installed, which is like a wire that goes around the perimeter of the room. Anybody wearing a hearing aid in that area with a correctly adjusted t-coil should be able to hear through the room’s sound system without any background noise, she said.
After it was set up, some people from the Hard of Hearing support group came in to test it. Some had tears in their eyes because they could finally hear clearly, Hill said.
The loop was installed about eight years ago while other audio-visual work was being done at the center. Two years ago, the center had an upgrade to its AV system thanks to a $45,000 gift.