Everybody Loses Their Hearing

What? You heard that right.

We won’t get too existential here, but it is simply a part of life that we age. And, as we age, the many different processes of our body slow down, wear out, and deteriorate. The same goes for our sense of hearing. You can see it in the numbers: hearing loss is currently the third most common physical condition in the United States, following heart disease and arthritis.

While some 48 million Americans, or 20% of the population, have a hearing loss, the bulk of people who experience this condition are older than 65. Approximately one in three people over 65 and 50% of people over 75 experience some degree of hearing loss.

With the understanding that everyone loses their hearing, we take a look at presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), how hearing loss and brain function are related, and why it is important to take an annual hearing test – no matter how young you are.


Understanding Presbycusis

Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is a form of sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is one of the three main types of hearing loss. Deep inside your inner ear, there are several thousand tiny inner hair cells. These cells are responsible for translating sound waves into neural signals, and then sending these signals to your brain to be registered as sound.

Presbycusis – and sensorineural hearing loss – occurs when structures of the inner ear deteriorate or when there is damage to inner ear hair cells (which do not regenerate once they have died). Presbycusis occurs with the natural process of aging: inner ear hair cells naturally deteriorate and do not regenerate with presbycusis. As a result, sound signals may be muddled and are not sent to the brain in an efficient and clear manner.

Unlike other forms of hearing loss, presbycusis occurs naturally and gradually over time. According to Dr. Justin S. Golub, presbycusis is often undiagnosed and undertreated, with under 20% of people receiving treatment for age-related hearing loss. Even more distressing is that “this statistic has not changed in over 40 years,” according to Dr. Golub.

If left untreated for a long period of time, presbycusis could lead to other issues that affect different areas of your life and overall well-being.


Consequences of Untreated Age-Related Hearing Loss

As an invisible condition, hearing loss often goes untreated. Age-related hearing loss, in particular, goes untreated simply because the symptoms are often relegated to the idiosyncrasies of older people. When hearing loss is “just a part of growing old,” there isn’t much motivation to do anything about it.

Unfortunately, if left untreated, age-related hearing loss (and other kinds too) could lead to a number of negative consequences in different parts of your life. People with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw socially, as communication becomes challenging. Rather than going through the awkward motions of asking people to repeat themselves or to please turn up the volume, people with untreated hearing loss may end up avoiding social gatherings altogether. This social isolation becomes a risk factor of developing dementia. Coincidentally, untreated hearing loss is also a risk factor for developing dementia.

Numerous studies from Johns Hopkins University have found links between untreated hearing loss and a higher risk for developing dementia. When the brain struggles to make sense of sound, its cognitive load is heavier and thus detracts from the brain’s focus on other functions, such as memory or concentration.  Over time, this heavier cognitive load to lead to dementia.


Schedule an Annual Hearing Test

Indeed, the signs of hearing loss are subtle and often, hearing loss develops gradually, which means that we find ways to accommodate our diminishing hearing abilities. With the understanding that everyone loses their hearing, we counter with the fact that hearing loss is treatable.

Treating hearing loss is a simple way to restore your abilities and reconnect yourself to your loved ones and the world around you. It is recommended that people schedule annual hearing tests at the age of 50. If you are younger than 50, it wouldn’t hurt to take an annual hearing test anyway – people of all ages experience hearing loss.

The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that people wait an average of seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing to the time they decide to seek treatment for hearing loss. By scheduling an annual hearing test, you are committing to your overall health and well-being at every age.

About our guest writer Gabe Nelson

Gabriel Nelson is a man of 31 years old. He is the kind of guy that loves to watch superhero movies, to read Harry Potter, and play video games. Gabe enjoys freelance content writing occasionally and tends to write about his passions. Gabriel also loves water, streams, brooks, lakes and oceans, which is probably due to once being a crab fisherman in Alaska for a couple of years.


Interview with Cheri Perazzoli/Let’s Loop Seattle, Part II

By Kim Ward

Cheri Perazzoli, Let’s Loop Seattle, is the Director of Advocacy for HLA- Washington state. This is Part II of a three part interview on advocacy strategies she employs. If you missed part I read here.

Previously Cheri discussed how she convinced Town Hall Seattle to install a hearing loop. In this segment she will answer more questions about her involvement with the Seattle Repertory Theater and Seattle-King County Metro’s library systems. Additionally, she discusses her strategy for dealing with resistance.

K:  In our last interview, I asked you to describe some of your greatest successes in hearing loop advocacy, and you talked about Town Hall. I understand the Seattle Rep is also a win that is dear to your heart. How did you work with the Rep to make the loop happen?

Seattle Rep Theater/Let’s Loop Seattle!

Build your Community; Timing is Everything

C:  Since our arrival in the Pacific Northwest, Lou and I have been patrons of the Seattle arts scene. As season subscribers, we’ve engaged with front-of-the-house staff and key folks in the arts community. Upon seeing me check out an assistive listening device at the Paramount, one of my personal friends asked the Seattle Rep to install a similar system. This was years ago. When the Rep leaders learned customers were frustrated with their current assistive listening system, my friend suggested the Rep install a hearing loop, and that got the conversation started.

This picture, taken from the Let's Loop Seattle site, shows signage at the ticket counter indicating the presence of the hearing loop at the Seattle Repertory Theater
Signage at the ticket counter indicating the presence of the hearing loop at the Seattle Repertory Theater.

K:  So you are saying that the Seattle Rep saw problems with their system, but they didn’t know what to do about it until your friend suggested they install a hearing loop?

C:  Well, kind of. 

We’ve found timing is key. If a new building is being built or if a venue is undergoing a remodel or upgrade, you can sometimes work with planners to include a hearing loop. Here’s where existing ADA law and local ordinances can work to your advantage. The 2010 standards for assistive listening were altered to require that 25% of all assistive listening system receivers be hearing aid compatible.

Focus on hearing assistance

Since the people who need hearing assistance the most are those of us who wear hearing aids and cochlear implants, it makes the most sense to install a system that is likely to be used, and which requires much less maintenance, staff service and storage on the part of the venue. The telecoil in the hearing aid or cochlear implant enables the patron’s personal hearing device to double as an assistive listening receiver. What could be easier than simply changing a program on your own device when you need to hear better?


Budgets are always a challenge, so requesting that funding be allocated for a hearing loop or other hearing access is the first step. Suggesting ways that a venue can fund (or should fund) is also helpful.

Asking for communication access to be included (or for access more broadly) is part of any organization’s strategic plan that sets the stage. For example, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution (31641) in 2015 stating they intended to improve hearing accommodations. We point to that and say, “Remember?”

With the Rep, it was a matter of timing and their commitment to build community. Like many theaters, the Rep has a lot of volunteers who might not be aware of Assistive Listening System options. And sometimes front line staff or volunteers hear about issues. That can take a while to reach decision-makers.

An all-inclusive staff retreat revealed issues with the Seattle Rep system. Once the Rep found out though, they were wonderful to work with. They even held a fundraiser to pay for the loop. Not only did they install the technology, they continue to test the equipment before each show. And they market the accessibility. Lou and I are subscribers. Before every show, we get an email and the info about the loop is included.

K:  That’s so important. A lot of times when I want to know what kind of access a venue offers, if any, I have to search through several web pages to find that information.

C:  Jeff Herman, the Rep’s Executive Director, was honored with the Northwest Access Fund’s Best Practices Award in 2015. The Rep is committed to accessibility and includes this in their marketing and publication materials.


K:  Cheri, I wanted to ask you about about libraries in the Seattle-metro area. Information and circulation desks in libraries can be super challenging for people with hearing loss because there’s all this ambient noise from computers, printers, babies crying, and sometimes loud street noise at some of the busier city libraries. Most people use their “quiet voices” in the library to the point of barely whispering, which as you know decreases the ability to lipread, as well. (Whispering requires less mouth movement.) KCLS has always been very good about accommodating me as an employee. But, I didn’t know about the loop until you installed it at my branch in 2012. I like to think I’m well informed about all of the access options available. That a technology existed that could help both me and our patrons surprised me. And to think I never heard about it!

Reading into your earlier comments, it sounds like you face three challenges. 1. Educating people with hearing loss about what is available. 2. Convincing vendors to install it, and 3. Getting the word out that it’s there. Because — even after venues install the technology, their patrons may not know without adequate signage and some kind of promotion.

C:  Right. Kim, when we launched Let’s Loop Seattle in April 2012, we reached out to libraries, and they sent their HR and facilities folks. We’ve found libraries to be receptive to loops, including KCLS, Burlington, and Bainbridge Island.

K:  The Seattle-metro area is a diverse region, and libraries are aware of the positive impact they can have on neighborhood communities by reaching out to the various populations. The loop at KCLS turned out to be a lifesaver for me. Best of all, it’s extremely convenient to use. It’s always on. My colleagues are hardly aware of it. They don’t have to turn it on or check its batteries or speak into a microphone or anything. So, it’s very easy to use and offers access to anyone who has hearing loss and t-coil capability.

Holistic approach

C:  One of the things I was not prepared for, and there were many, was that some of the places that already had some sort of communication support were the ones most interested in making improvements!

K:  Yes that is surprising. 

C:  There were and there still are so many places that do not have anything in place to help with communication access. My focus has been on getting more places in the hearing loop, rather than upgrading or replacing existing technology.

K:  I would love it if we could get more access at places like Jazz Alley and The Triple Door. I don’t know that anyone has ever approached them. I haven’t. Though Seattle is ahead of the curve when it comes to deaf access, there are so many venues that still offer nothing. So I wanted to ask what do you do when you are denied access?

Determining need

C:  I’ve never filed a formal complaint, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t. Whenever I’m called to talk to a venue about communication support, I always try to find out exactly why. Is there a patron or group of residents making the request? What is the patron’s preference? What are they offering now? Priority seating, a script? If there’s an assistive listening system, I ask why they want to replace it. This is really important in live theater where actors are not traditionally miked. In having the equipment, the theater may have checked the compliance box, but they have not addressed cultural changes to make the access effective.

With any assistive listening transmission type, the outcome is directly related to the quality of the audio and microphone arrangement. These aspects must be reviewed before a replacement is considered. So many times, we hear that the infrared (IR) system isn’t any good, or the loop doesn’t work well, when the problem can be traced to the original AV/mic situation. True — there are poor loops, outdated IR and inferior FM systems. But many times, inadequate performance can be traced to the human factor. Therefore, we are most adamant that all contracts for a loop system be written to specify the system be installed to meet or exceed the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standard for performance.

K:  How open have various venues been to looping technology compared to other types of accommodations?  

C: Most venues will tell you that they want to do it, it’s just that it costs so much, or aesthetics must be addressed. They don’t want to cut the carpet. One challenge has been the lack of qualified, reputable installers. Facilities that are required to get multiple bids have often been persuaded to choose a different type of assistive listening system.

K:  I am aware that publicly funded building projects are required to get several bids while using performance based standards to determine the lowest bid on comparable work. Given funding constraints and possible confusion over the various listening systems available, I can see why they might choose a less expensive option.

“It’s a great idea, but it costs so much.”

C:  I heard this so often. So I went on a search to find some grant funding. In 4Culture here in King County, we found a wonderful grant source for the arts community. Applications must be completed, and 4Culture makes all the decisions.

Not all vendors who specialize in serving the hard-of-hearing with assistive listening technology install loops. Mainstream AV installers are not incentivized to learn the specifics of loop installation. It’s labor intensive, and it requires training, experience — and math and physics to make it all come together. Often these vendors simply want to sell their specific product, and they don’t really care about the user experience. Thus, many more places than I would like to count have installed a different assistive listening system. Still, I have to count that as a success of sorts . . . It’s disappointing, but I mainly feel bad for the advocate who’s driving the install. Consumers prefer hearing loops almost nine out of ten times. And of course, user-friendly loops are the most likely to get used.

K:  When you find a public venue that doesn’t offer access to the deaf and hard-of-hearing, what is your normal plan of attack if you have one? 

start the conversation

C:  Send an email/letter to start the conversation.

For a specific event, I start with an email to the event planner, or the person noted to contact for additional information, explaining that I’m hard-of-hearing (HOH), and I do not use American Sign Language (ASL). I reference our numbers to indicate that while I am making the request, that I am not alone. Next, I ask what kind of hearing accommodations are put in place. This is a necessary step because it indicates to them any forgotten ADA considerations as well as the deaf/HOH community’s expectations. Also, the question may flush out an assistive listening system that is locked away, that no one knows about. Or arrangements may have been made. Yet, staff are unaware, or they may not have publicized the access.

Depending on the situation, I may wait for a response, or I may expand to describe how I hear in public venues such as theirs. I give examples and describe the process and details of using hearing assistive technology, and I also request CART/captions, (where appropriate). I state how those accommodations will help me participate. “As each person speaks into the microphone, the loop enables me to hear the speaker’s voice clearly, and CART allows me to catch any dialogue I may have missed.” 

For a specific venue. I send something similar, but, depending on the venue, I may reference a program I attended and liked, that I could not hear. I explain how much better it would be if I could understand and participate like others. Or when a venue is in the process of a remodel, I do something similar. I always point to other venues and programs that are accessible.

K:  How often do venues flatly refuse to install a loop and what do you do when that happens?

Pinpoint the Excuse

C:  Yes, it does happen occasionally. I try to pinpoint the excuse, and I hear a lot of them. 

  • We have no plans for hearing assist.
  • The venue doesn’t have an assistive listening system.
  • We aren’t planning to use a PA.
  • It costs too much.
  • We don’t have enough time.
  • We are just a non-profit..
  • Okay, we’ll get an interpreter.  (!!???)
  • We don’t want to spend the money.
  • Too complicated.
  • Nobody else has it.
  • No one has ever asked or complained; we don’t want to. 
  • Our AV guy says his system (insert FM/IR ) is better.
  • The hearing resource center recommends FM or IR.
  • We don’t want to remove the carpet.
  • It won’t look good; we don’t like it.  
  • Mainstream AV are not incentivized and do not have training and pass along false information: “You have to be really careful if you install loops.”: “Loops have too many problems.”: “It’s too expensive.”
  • We don’t want to.

K:  It sounds like you’ve heard every excuse possible.

C:  Right. Once you track down and identify the real excuse, it’s easier to address. When places realize the law requires communication access, most install an assistive listening system. But sometimes they install something else, instead of the loop. They may look for the cheapest system available. Sometimes local resource experts and existing venue contacts persuade them to try something different. They don’t realize that others have their own agendas, or are motivated by profit. Many times, you don’t find out until it’s too late. Folks who do not use the technology, or who have not experienced the hassles of distributing and maintaining equipment really don’t understand the user experience. They make the decisions on our behalf and that’s just wrong. 

clarify the need

Often times, people contact me after asking a venue for accommodations for months, even years. I try to find out from that person exactly the listening situation they are trying to remedy, the problem, exactly what they want, and why. That way I can better work with the person and the venue to come to an agreement that will best meet everyone’s needs.

I use ADA lingo and reference links. I provide testimonials, and I connect folks to people in similar venues. We maintain a list of looped theaters — both local and national. We have a list of looped municipal buildings, too.

Education is Key:

Incorporate the terms: auxiliary aids and services and alternate formats, required by law….and reference similar locations, venues, or programs that are accessible. Reference ADA resources. I point folks to my website where I have a listing of looped venues and information about how to plan an accessible meeting, Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) resources etc.


Communication Access Relay TranscriptionI don’t think I’ve ever been denied CART. Once, I arrived to see the reader board in place, but the organization didn’t seem to understand it was their responsibility to arrange the Cart reporter! I have built relationships with my local CART providers, CCAC and others. I’ve walked folks (myself included!) through how to set up remote CART. I’ve had venues and CART providers who were unable to deliver as promised. At times, I’ve had to be graciously persistent, to the point of referencing the legal obligation, but I’ve never had an outright denial for CART.

K:  I have been denied CART, but I was persistent and got what I wanted in the end. It was a case of an event planner not understanding ADA laws. Actually, I filed a Civil Rights complaint. I was polite about it, and sent information. After he refused, I did let him know that I would be filing a complaint because he told me flat out the venue wouldn’t pay for CART, and that he had no intention of offering any type of access at all.

Things changed in my favor very quickly after I filed. It turned out the event planner misrepresented the venue’s policy on providing access. The venue sent a nice message within a day and assigned someone else to work with me on access for that event. If I had to do it over again, I would ask to speak to a supervisor before filing — which I think should be a last ditch effort. It was a learning experience for me and the event planner, I think.

 C:  Good for you! Unfortunately, lack of education on the part of event planners is far too common. Loops and HAT are a completely different story altogether. Installing, implementing and utilizing HAT requires not only an investment, it requires others to change their behavior to accommodate your hearing loss.

Captions versus Loops

Seahawks fans break sound record - Elaine Thompson/AP
Captioning access is nice at CenturyLink field, especially when the Seahawks break sound records causing small earthquakes.

K:  Right — There are pros and cons to both CART/captioning and Loops/HAT. I can’t see the hearing loop working in a football stadium, for example.

However, after it is installed, nothing else needs arranging. That means deaf/HOH people can attend every performance, not just the one captioned performance offered during a two week period. The flexibility is nice, especially for working people who may not be excited about commuting to Seattle on a rainy Thursday night to see the one captioned performance offered. You can pick any performance and going to a play can be more spontaneous.

However, all of the Seahawks games have captions, and I love the captioning at CenturyLink and Safeco fields though. One advantage of captioning is that people who don’t use listening devices may also read the captions. That includes signing Deaf, as well as people who are HOH who don’t benefit from hearing devices, and those who speak English as a second language.

C: Kim, did you know the Michigan State basketball stadium is looped?

K:  No — Really?? That must have been a huge undertaking!  I’m not sure it would work for me at CenturyLink field. I actually take my devices off there. The noise is deafening! But I could see it in a basketball or hockey stadium. A very large area to loop, though!

C:  Yes, a perfectly designed, hearing loop, one that meets IEC standards and that’s properly integrated with appropriate AV can benefit a great many folks in the hard of hearing community at each and every performance, each and every day!

K:  Cheri, thanks again for this interview. I have learned a lot about the business aspect of offering access, and the many issues vendors have to deal with when considering ADA laws, funding and city ordinances. It helps to know their viewpoint, and that “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “never.” Things keep getting better and better all the time for those with hearing loss, thanks to people like you. In our next interview, I want to talk more about some of the bills you and others in HLA-WA have been advocating in Washington state. I’m very excited about what’s happening here, and I hope other states follow suit.

 If you are interested in finding out if there is a looping organization in your area, Cheri has listed other loop orgs on her website here.

Hearing Loss and Dementia

Hearing loss and dementia: Is isolation a factor?

by Chelle Wyatt

The link between hearing loss and dementia has been big news for the last couple of years. Because of this news, people seem to think if someone has hearing loss they’d better get hearing aids to keep from getting dementia. Also seen are giant ads using with information that scares people into buying hearing aids. This is wrong; this is people selling a product. The link between hearing loss and dementia is there, but by focusing on hearing aids only they are missing the bigger picture. Hearing aids are only PART of the answer.

Dr. Frank Lin, Otolaryngology, John Hopkins, has been researching the connection between hearing loss and dementia which you can find here. Lin says currently the main rehabilitative care being offered is hearing aids, and he goes on to say it’s not just about hearing aids, but ensuring people with hearing loss can communicate in all settings.

“Far more is involved.” – Dr. Frank Lin

Many deaf and hard-of-hearing people feel isolated when communication with friends and loved ones becomes difficult.

I believe it’s the isolation factor that typically comes with hearing loss that causes dementia, and that idea comes from personal experience. My grandma didn’t have hearing loss, she had diabetes. She thought her life was over as she knew it, there was no more joy to be had. (Sounds like the hearing loss diagnosis?) Once a very active and social person, she withdrew from those activities, her friends, and she stayed home running errands for necessity only. Her mental health began to decline, slow at first, and later it picked up speed. It was frightening to witness and from then on I associated isolation with mental decline.

Twenty something years later, hearing loss and dementia were linked – and my first thought was social isolation. People with hearing loss tend to isolate themselves, as it’s a noisy world out there, and hearing devices are far from perfect. Audiologists hand out hearing aids, program them, reprogram them if needed, and people still struggle socially.

Even though hearing aids may have a noise reduction program for restaurants, separating the waitress’s voice though the clattering of dishes, background music and talk from other patrons remains difficult. Poor acoustics in these environments make the situation worse, reverberation confusing hearing aids/cochlear implants further. Not just words are lost but whole sentences. This is where people start bluffing because they just want it over with.

Restaurant noise can be challenging for people who wear hearing devices

There’s a lot less of this confusion at home. Home is safer where the environment can be controlled. There are captions on the TV, books as easy friends, and embarrassing repeats can be avoided. It’s too risky in public, maybe that’s why my grandma stayed home. We aren’t given the proper tools and strategies to deal with this when they hand out hearing aids.

Another bummer is high dollar hearing aids can’t keep up in social venues such as theatres or at the movies. Dialog is lost in the booming background noises and/or overriding music. The dialog is delivered at a fast pace, just like some family functions. Conversation bounces around and by the time we figure out who’s talking, someone else is already speaking. This makes people with hearing loss feel left out, like an outcast in a sea of noise. They might resort to bluffing to give the appearance of fitting in, especially around people they know and love. Why? The words “never mind” or “I’ll tell you later” (which rarely happens) are also a dismissal. Maybe they were brave enough to ask for a repeat and then heard, “are your ears in?” We are shut out of the world communication.

Yes, we are wearing our hearing aids and they aren’t a magical fix. They are flawed, so repeats and certain accommodations will be needed. I’ve worn hearing aids for over 25 years now. For the first 16 years I thought something was wrong with me. I had expensive hearing aids, and I still had a hard time understanding speech. The feeling of inadequacy and the fear of judgement kept me socially withdrawn. What if I said something off the wall, again? Or maybe I’ll repeat what someone else already said, again. Easy street, in the short run, is to stay away from all dangerous situations.

Hearing aids do help and they have their place, but their limitations are not often discussed in full. If you’re lucky you run across someone knowledgeable about hearing loss, or happen to find the right book or article. It was a book for me and reading it, I finally understood why I hear the way I do and that hearing devices have their limits. What a relief to find out it wasn’t me after all, I’m just sorry it took me 16 years to learn that. It was freeing but anger soon followed. Why didn’t any one of the audiologists I had over the years tell me that? Why didn’t they offer me more support, isn’t that their job? After that I was on a mission to learn all I could about hearing loss and hearing aids. Here’s some of what I learned….

The big 3 of hearing aid limitations:

  • They only work well within 4-6 feet, after that their ability goes down.
  • If it’s a high frequency hearing loss, then hearing aids only replaces some hearing.
  • Even though digital hearing aids are better at masking some of the background noise, some noise is still overpowering for hearing aids. Bad acoustics can wreak havoc on hearing aids rendering them nearly useless.

How to conquer those limitations:

Most speech sounds fall within this yellow area on an audiogram.


How do you hear and why? Where do you fall on the speech banana and what sounds of speech do you miss? If your audiologist didn’t explain this to you, make an appointment right now and have him/her explain it to you. They owe you that. That way you know more of what you need to make communication easier on you and those around you. In fact, take your significant other with you so they too understand


So many people with hearing loss don’t know what they need so let me give you a starting list.

  1. People need to be within 4-6 feet.
  2. They need to get your attention first so you’re prepared to focus.
  3. At all times they should face you when talking (you lip read some whether you know it or not).

Just those 3 rules will make communication easier on both parties. Create a habit together.


When you tell people what you need, you’re advocating for yourself. Woo-hoo! That’s a giant step forward and it’s absolutely okay to tell people what you need. The next step would be introducing yourself to new people with your needs. Here’s what I say: “I lipread.” (It gets them to face me pushing sound right at me and I can use lipreading in combination with my remaining hearing.) “I hear well enough to know you are talking but unless I’m looking at you I won’t understand much.” I’ve given them direction on how to communicate with me, there’s no guessing. If I don’t answer a question while looking down, I’m not rude, I didn’t hear/see.  

Look for this international sign that indicates access for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.


Hearing aids pair wonderfully with assistive listening devices (ALDs). While out in public look for the symbol, an outline of an ear with a slash/dots. Typically there are FM systems and if you’re lucky you’ll find hearing loops which are even better. There’s also live captioning, called CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) and caption devices in theaters (CaptiView and Sony Caption Glasses). If the public venue’s devices don’t work well, be sure to let them know because you’re not only advocating for your needs but you’re also advocating for people with hearing loss who come after you.


Most states have a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center/Commission and offer some form of help. Here in Utah we have Hard of Hearing Assistants in rural areas who go to senior centers (younger people are able to attend some) to teach classes, free. They teach lipreading, Living with Hearing Loss (based on Sam Trychin’s work), tinnitus, hearing aids 101 and slow paced sign language classes. Most states aren’t exactly like Utah but they should be able to offer some direction or support. Lipreading and the sign language classes helped me. I can use my lipreading ability in noisy situations such as restaurants, even taking my hearing aids out so the noise isn’t distracting me. I had my husband learn the ASL (American Sign Language) alphabet to help me when I’m stuck on words. I now have more tools at my disposal, helping me to be more successful in a variety of situations. If a state agency isn’t available, check for other resources such as college classes, local hearing loss support groups and online support (SWC is a great start with email lists and Facebook groups) and…


Find others with hearing loss. Find the role models who make themselves available to help others.  Because they were once where you are, they can help you climb out of the isolation hole. The SayWhatclub (SWC) saved me twice in my life after big hearing drops; once in the late 90’s and again in 2009. Seek local support groups, and go to the hearing loss conventions each organization offers. SWC has an annual convention I can’t get enough of it, because I feel like I’ve come home.  The conventions have given me something to look forward to, to learn from (every single time) and enables me to meet new friends and greet old ones. It’s socialization in my environment with people who know how to talk to me. All workshops are captioned and have hearing loops. It’s a world catered to me.

The World Dementia Council has not declared hearing loss a risk factor, but social isolation is a risk.

Hearing aids alone will not combat dementia. Audiologists need to expand their services, or at least point all clients in a direction where they can grow with hearing loss. I might believe ads about combating dementia with hearing aids AND rehabilitative services. What if all audiologists made themselves aware of state agencies for deafness and hearing loss? What if they passed out information on available hearing loss organizations to every client? What if audiologists offered mentoring services, someone with personal experience in hearing loss to help with questions, doubts and self-confidence? What if audiologist offices offered once a month talks on different aspects of hearing loss and communication? Only then would I believe they were focusing on the link between hearing loss and dementia.

Hearing loss is not the end; it’s just a matter of learning another way of doing things.