Most of us can easily remember those times when we went to a family birthday party or a restaurant and we didn’t have to think twice about being able to hear what everybody around us was saying. We might even remember the times when we could follow along with two conversations at one time. While it may seem that background noise is just a nuisance, or perhaps it’s just all the young people who like the background music turned up really loud, chances are more likely that it is probably you. If you are having more difficulty following a conversation at your favorite restaurant or when you are out with friends and are over the age of 50, you might be one of the 50 million people living with the third most common chronic medical condition afflicting older adults: hearing loss.
Providing the proper diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss is an important part of the work Dr. Keith N. Darrow, a Clinical Audiologist and Neuroscientist, performs each day at one of the Excellence In Audiology centers across the country. He states:
"The challenge is helping adults recognize their hearing loss early so that they have the best prognosis for treatment and to help them avoid the pitfalls of living life without proper hearing. Unfortunately, too many people don’t understand that the value in treating hearing loss includes not only helping people to hear their best, but it also includes reducing their experience of tinnitus, helping them be more confident and remain independent, and helps them have fewer ‘senior moments’ by preventing significant decline and dementia.”
Donna O, one of Darrow’s patients, knows from personal experience the isolation and debilitating effects of living with hearing loss. This past June at her birthday party - which is an annual family get-together weekend - Donna realized that she was missing out on most of the conversations around her. “Things really came to a head for me when my son pulled me aside and asked me why I seemed to be upset with everybody and not taking part in the fun. I was heartbroken when he told me my granddaughter was upset that I wasn’t spending any time with her.” Once Donna heard this, she knew something wasn’t right and that she had to get herself checked out.
Once the weekend was over, Donna talked to her son more and they decided to seek help at their local Excellence In Audiology certified clinic. Donna, her son and her granddaughter, all met with Darrow’s team for nearly an hour to talk about what she was going through, how her difficulty hearing others was impacting her life, and how everybody in the family was concerned about her. They also discussed Donna’s goals and what her expectations for treatment were.
Once Donna got through all of the testing, the diagnosis was clear. Donna, like so many over the age of 60, was diagnosed with stage 2 hearing loss. As Darrow explains:
“Hearing loss is a natural process of aging and can start even sooner for those exposed to loud noises or certain medications like chemotherapy. Donna had two strikes against her, both her age and history of breast cancer treatment. So, this was something we had to start treatment on right away to help her recover her hearing.”
Donna and her family were told that once she started treatment that although there would be a period of adjustment, she would go from hearing good on day 1 to hearing great by day 30.
Many of Darrow’s patients are anxious when it comes to treating their hearing loss. Darrow’s newest book, Preventing Decline, Advances in the Medical Treatment of Hearing Loss and Dementia, details many of the reasons why so many patients are fearful of addressing their hearing loss; including fear of being sold something they don’t need, fear of aging and fear of the unknown. His book also has a top 10 list that includes everything a patient should know to help them choose the right hearing healthcare specialist.
“Every patient comes in with their story of a loved one, a friend or a neighbor who had a negative experience with hearing aids, which is why we take the time to discuss the advances in treatment, how affordable our treatment program is and our 100% satisfaction guarantee. This seems to help many patients overcome their fears,” said Darrow.
Donna knows that her hearing loss isn’t something that can be cured and that the treatment program she is in today will change over time; but she also knows that she is hearing better than she has in the past 5 years and loving life again. She urges others like her to seek treatment from an Excellence In Audiology certified center like the one she went to and to follow the specialist treatment plan.
After reflecting on her own missteps and realizing that she should have sought treatment sooner, she is forever grateful that her son had the hard conversation with her and that she can now spend endless time enjoying every conversation with him and others. Donna so eloquently says, "I'm in my early 60s, and I still have a lot of life to live. I don’t want to spend another birthday feeling alone and isolated, and so I have made the decision to hear my very best and to use every key I have to open the doors to a more fulfilled, independent, and active lifestyle.”