Better times for those with hearing loss



I’ve been having problems with my aging hearing aids lately. I’ve had them for almost a decade, long past the scheduled replacement by the Veterans Affairs facility in Reno, which normally replaces them every four or five years. I asked for an appointment in the acoustic department and was scheduled for mid-July. That’s a longer wait than normal so I called a number from the VA and steps were taken to set me up with a Carson City audiologist, Dr. Nanci Campbell for this week.

I’m looking forward to seeing her after a visit with Brett Weeks, doctor of audiology. He sent me an invite to a free hearing screening, otoscopy exam and an introduction to the latest developments in hearing assistance devices. That visit was well worth the time as the youthful and easy-going Weeks gave me a hearing exam, much like the one I took in his office about three years ago with a different expert.

A comparison of the two tests showed little change, a minor loss in upper range hearing. And the word test where he read from a list of words and asked me to repeat them was satisfactory.

Then came a discussion of advances in hearing aids. Mine are the olive-sized ones that go into the ear canal. They have worked long past their expected lifetime but have problems.

Weeks showed me some new aids, much smaller then mine, that fit behind the ear with a thin wire tied to a small piece that fits comfortably into the ear.

The change was marked. I could not only hear more but the words were clearer. Weeks offered me the opportunity to wear them for a week or so. I passed in anticipation of seeing Dr. Campbell today.

Weeks also asked if I used Caption Calling, which I do. He told me that the free Caption service has now been extended to iPad users, call 1-877-557-2227 for details or visit (I guess I better get an iPad.)

New technology does not come cheap. The new aid that I liked best costs $5,788 for a pair. Two other models came in at about $4,605 and $4,088 a pair. These aids direct incoming calls directly to these wireless aids, with the right equipment you don’t even have to tape a device to send the call to your iPhone. I know I’m looking forward to that connection to my iPhone even more handy. I suspect my bill is going to go up however. I felt that I should compensate Weeks for his time. Nope, he said, he sent out the free invitation. And he gave me a coupon for use at Raley’s.

After spending more than an hour with Weeks I rate him as a patient helper, even speaks some Chinese after two years in Taiwan. His Hearing Care of Carson City office is at 408 N. Roop St.

I’ll report on how my results with Dr. Campbell next week. I’m looking forward to sharing what she finds with readers.

Meanwhile, on the Internet I found the following information that seniors may find enlightening; I know I did.

Here’s what the Hearing Health Foundation reports:

Almost 50 million Americans have hearing loss in at least one ear, including 1 in 5 teenagers.

60 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan come home with hearing loss and tinnitus; it is the No.1 war wound.

Depression and isolation are common among those with hearing loss.

Those with a mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia, and this risk increases with the severity of the hearing loss.

Over a six-year study, the cognitive abilities of older adults (ages 75 to 84) with hearing loss declined 30 percent to 40 percent faster than in older adults whose hearing was normal. On average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with typical hearing.

Men are more likely than women to experience hearing loss.

In the United States, three out of every 1,000 children are born deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Hearing loss becomes more prevalent with age; hearing impairment occurs in about 18 percent of American adults between ages 45 and 54, 30 percent of adults between ages 65 and 74, and 47 percent of adults ages 75 and older.

About 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises at work or in leisure activities.

High levels of cotinine, the chemical that indicates exposure to tobacco smoke and second-hand smoke, has been directly linked to higher risks of some types of hearing loss.

Not the most encouraging words, I’m afraid.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.


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