April 29, 2019. A few months ago, audiologist Peter Benstead of PEI Audiology gave a presentation at one of our monthly meeting on two topics of interest: an ongoing campaign for Public Awareness on Hearing loss, and a discussion on telecoils.
Peter explained that the public awareness campaign was important as studies show that 3 million Canadians have hearing loss, but only 1 in 6 wear hearing aids. Most people wait 7 to 11 years from the start of noticing they have hearing loss symptoms until they go for their first hearing assessment. Indeed, Mike Smith, publisher of the County Line Courier, whose story was told in an earlier posting, told us that it took him 15 years! (See Do You Wish You Had Listened To Your Parents?)
With May designated as Speech and Hearing Month, Peter’s primary message is apt: “Get your hearing checked regularly, especially if you, or anyone else, has noticed a change in your hearing function.”
“Early intervention of hearing impairment is a huge determining factor toward positive long-term hearing AND cognitive health” he explained.
Early intervention is important for several reasons, among them:
- Hearing loss can worsen.
- People tend to adapt to hearing aids more easily if they get them earlier.
- Some studies show that untreated hearing impairment can affect your socioeconomic status.
- Untreated hearing loss can lead to higher depression and anxiety rates.
- Untreated hearing loss may increase the likelihood of dementia.
Adam Felman, an editor and writer for Medical News Today, had first-hand experience of the gradual effects of hearing loss… at the age of 29. He wrote: “Communication is a huge part of navigating this formative stage” of one’s career, education, or family life. “If any element of communication is lacking, it can have a significant impact on the way your personality develops, and the methods you use to connect with the outside world.”
Felman wrote frankly about how risky socializing became for him. “The big kicker with gradual-onset hearing loss is that you are not aware of how it’s changing you until the physical symptoms have become moderate to severe. Every pang of guilt or embarrassment after saying ‘what?’ or ‘huh?’ might lead to another night when you don’t risk going out to socialize. You end up distancing softly-spoken colleagues, friends, and even family members, simply because the effort it takes to process their speech can become draining.” Sound familiar?
Felman reminded me of my mother when he went on to say that he used stock phrases as a coping mechanism. My mother would always smile, nod, and say ‘yes, dear’ or ‘I’d like that’ in most conversations, even though she wasn’t sure what was being discussed.
After receiving his hearing aids, Felman noted that “even food comes alive with hearing aids” and described the joy of hearing a packet of potato chips being opened and hearing the crunch of food as it’s being chewed. To his surprise, his balance and spatial awareness also improved. He also described going to a concert where a hearing loop was in place. “Using a hearing loop system for the first time at a concert was emotionally overwhelming.” You can read the entire article at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324995.php
In the second part of his presentation, Peter Benstead gave an explanation of telecoils, which have been the subject of many blog postings since hearing loops were installed here on the Island in several venues last May. (For the latest posting see Misconceptions About Telecoils). Peter noted that the first hearing aid with a telecoil was patented in 1938, and explained that a telecoil converts electromagnetic fields into sound. It was initially used for improved telephone communications, providing better audio quality and no feedback. As regular readers of this blog know, telecoil compatible phones are inexpensive and widely available today. (See Sometimes Technology Advances Are Great)
Many people also have a Bluetooth program in their hearing aids for phone conversations, which allows them to connect with any Bluetooth-enabled electronic device. You can have BOTH telecoil and Bluetooth programs in your hearing aid. They are NOT the same, but complementary. They are often described as being like apples and oranges.
So what is the difference? An article in Assist2Hear explains that “Both are wireless technologies, but Bluetooth is a short range signal that must be ‘paired’ with a phone or TV and typically requires an intermediate device to interpret the Bluetooth signal and convert it to a signal the hearing aid can accept and transmit. A loop has no range limit – one just needs to be ‘in the loop’ area, as opposed to the short range Bluetooth signal. Loops do not require any intermediate devices since the signal is sent directly to the t-coil in the hearing aid.” (You can read the whole article at https://assist2hear.com/ufaqs/loop-differ-bluetooth/)
Hearing through a telecoil in venues with an audio loop system gives a clarity of sound that is unbelievable. As Peter explained, it provides:
- Direct to ear sound
- Removes the distance between the listener and the source of the sound.
- A great improvement in sound quality.
Peter advises that your audiologist or hearing aid dispenser can let you know if your hearing aid has a telecoil and if it is activated.
Our thanks to Peter Benstead of PEI Audiology for taking the time to give his presentation at a recent meeting, and for answering all the questions he was asked.
A reminder that our petition requesting the PEI government to: Supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar program is ongoing. (See Petition Update For Week 2) If you haven’t signed the petition, please do so. And if you would like to help circulate the petition amongst your family and friends, at work, or an organization you belong to, please let us know. A big thank you to Seniors Active Living Centre, located at UPEI in Charlottetown, for letting us know the petition is available in their centre!
We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs. Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed. If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness. Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.
© Daria Valkenburg
Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT: Phase II & Friends Concert – Here Comes Summer at West River United Church in Cornwall, May 5, 2019 at 7 pm. Fundraiser for the church. Advance tickets may be obtained after church on April 21st and 28th, or by contacting the Church office at 902-566-4052. Tickets are $10.
Upcoming fundraising ceilidh offered by Bonshaw Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 2 to 4 pm. The organizers are generously sharing their proceeds with us, to help in our non-project related activities. We hope you come out and enjoy the show, while helping us at the same time. Can’t attend? You can donate directly to us or through our Canada Helps page at: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.
May Chapter meeting: Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church.