Overcome Barriers to Better Hearing

Northwestern Medicine
Ear, Nose, Throat May 03, 2019
Approximately 15 percent of American adults report some trouble hearing, but early intervention and treatment is routinely not occurring despite the potentially serious impact hearing loss can have on a person’s life. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), only one in seven adults over the age of 50 with hearing loss who could benefit from amplification uses a hearing aid.

Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital has opened a new hearing aid dispensary to assist those adults could benefit from using a hearing aid. Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group audiologists Laura Spinelli, AuD, and Laura Buskirk, AuD, provide diagnostic testing and work with patients to determine what hearing aid will best fit their needs.

“The topic of hearing aids can be very emotional for many adults who associate them with getting old,” said Dr. Buskirk. “We work closely with our patients to overcome barriers and help regain quality of life lost due to hearing issues.”

According to Buskirk, hearing loss can affect every area of an adult’s life, including physical health, mental health, career success, social life, personal relationships, and overall quality of life. A serious condition on its own, it is associated with other conditions, including dementia, diabetes, falls, and depression.

“Patients are more successful with hearing aids if they get them at the early stage of hearing loss,” said Dr. Spinelli. “The longer you wait, your brain has a harder time recognizing, adjusting and prioritizing the many sounds around you.”

Dr. Spinelli notes that hearing aid technology has improved significantly. Some devices are so small they are nearly invisible to others. Devices with Bluetooth technology can be controlled with a smartphone app and stream high-quality audio directly from a smartphone, computer or TV. Additionally, some hearing aids are now rechargeable and no longer require the hassle of changing tiny batteries.

“In the past hearing aids basically made all sounds louder,” said Dr. Spinelli. “Newer hearing aids sound much more natural by amplifying the soft sounds you are missing, while managing background and wind noise. Many even offer different programs, such as restaurant or theater, to optimize hearing in the setting.”

Dr. Buskirk and Dr. Spinelli encourage the public to learn the signs of hearing loss and speak to their physician if they have concerns—a timely message because May is recognized nationally as Better Hearing & Speech Month.

In adults, signs of hearing loss include the following:

• Buzzing or ringing in their ears
• Failure to respond to spoken words
• Muffled hearing
• Constant frustration hearing speech and other sounds
• Conversation avoidance
• Social isolation
• Depression

In addition to addressing hearing issues, audiologists offer recommendations and accessories to help prevent hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense sound or continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period.

“We recommend hearing protection at loud events, like concerts, but also things people don’t think about, such as mowing the lawn or blow drying your hair,” said Dr. Buskirk. “Earplugs and other protective devices can be bought at many stores, or we can provide custom ear pieces for musicians, iPods or swimming.”

The hearing aid dispensary is a service of Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group ENT, Allergy and Audiology, located in Suite 519 of the Outpatient Building at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, 25 N. Winfield Rd., Winfield, Illinois. For more information, call 630.938.6161.