What would motivate somebody to get their hearing checked? And why is it so important? That's today's topic on Ask The Hearing Doctors.
Hi, I'm Jim Cuddy. And this is Ask The Hearing Doctors, and I'm joined by Dr. Ana Anzola, Dr. Wendy Thorne, doctors of audiology at Hearing Doctors, the Washington DC area's highest-rated audiology practice with over 1,500 five-star reviews.
Ana, Wendy, let's get right at it. Daily interactions, situations becoming more difficult to navigate. This is what I'm noticing in somebody. Therefore it kind of makes it easier for them to just sort of back off and kind of close up and not be a part of things. Is that a sign of hearing loss, potentially?
Potentially. I think so. I mean, my father-in-law had a hearing loss and, um, it was very concerning for the whole family. You know, we, we thought that he could actually fall because it, uh, it actually, uh, potentially can lead to, you know, fall risk. Um, but it was just the more missing out on the conversations, with the grandkids, what they have to say, and he really wanted to participate, but he found himself not putting himself out there. It was, if he wasn't comfortable, um, he didn't want to get it wrong. Uh, he heard something, but then he interpreted as being something else and, and, you know, that can be very sad. And so we did something about it and now he was able to hear me. He's now passed away, you know, but, um, uh, but yeah, it could happen. Yeah. And, you know, situations like that too can also snowball into much more serious issues, you know, someone's, you know, disengaging cause they don't want to struggle to hear that can lead into loneliness, which can lead into depression, anxiety, um, down the road, even dementia and Alzheimer's, and we don't want that for anyone.
I would imagine just your quality of life in general is, is really negatively affected when you can't participate in things that you're accustomed to participating in.
Right. And, and you may not even know why you can't participate, why you're missing out. Why do you have to ask her for repetition? I never used to do that. And I think that is very disconcerting for people. Recognizing the issue that you have. Recognizing it...
But you, you end up, unfortunately you end up recognizing the issue when it becomes, you know, more of a moderate than when it's more mild, I think it's more obvious to the family, um, uh, work partners, um, other people very obvious.
Alright, so your personal and professional relationships. Um, they require a lot more effort when, when somebody has hearing loss and it seems to be a frustrating situation, whether it's for the person that has the hearing loss or the person that's trying to get through through to somebody, why is there such a breakdown?
And you nailed it. You know, I think it's more about the frustrations that we hear about all the time. The frustration comes from the patients saying, you know, "I want to participate, but I didn't get it. I wasn't sure." And then they may be scared to ask again and again, um, because when you ask, what happens is that the individual repeats it all over again the same way. So if you didn't hear it the first time, what makes you think that you're gonna hear it the second time around? Right. And so it's frustrating. Um, "We're going to the movies." What? "We're going to the movies." What? "We're not going to the movies!"
It's very frustrating because you're not asking the other individual to rephrase it. Um, and we ask patients to, you know, just, you know, tell somebody else, but you actually did here so they can use all the words to make communication a little easier. It's very frustrating for both parties, right? Yeah. Yeah. And it's, you know, very important to you as the person, not witht the hearing loss, but the other member to keep in mind, good communication strategy. So it is not great to ask your husband when you're in another room around the corner, something. Um, so if someone has a hearing loss, you need to get their attention. You need to make sure that you speak not necessarily louder, but slower and clearer that they don't hear you. Like Dr. Anzola said, rephrase. Don't just repeat the exact same thing. Yeah. Get their attention.
I would imagine it could spark a lot of arguments to share. And I don't think my wife and I have hearing loss per se, but we do yell at each other from other rooms all the time. So maybe I do need to get checked out. Maybe that's the answer here. Um, and earlier you mentioned something about effecting balance. How does hearing loss affect somebody's balance?
So we have the two organs in the same inner ear, right? So when one doesn't work as well, it's going to affect the other. So what she means is there's a hearing organ and the balance organ. They're actually connected. So if one part kind of starts to slide like the hearing loss, sometimes that can affect the balance.
Ah, so that's, it's directly connected. Yes, physically. Yeah. Yeah. Um, this, this is one that I found not too surprising, but there are studies that show incidents of dementia, obviously on the rise. I mean, we're a larger population. We're a growing population that would make sense. Hearing loss affects so many people that also, I would assume it's probably on the rise, but why is there such a link between those two? Dementia, any form of dementia, and hearing loss?
Well, I think it's more of the cognitive decline. You know, that part of the brain, that's responsible for processing that information. We don't hear with our ears, we hear with our brain. So if the information doesn't get translated very well, um, either because of lack of information, you're having to outsource the information from other parts of the brain, and that part of the brain tends to shrink. And so you're therefore, you're not exercising it - like you're using your eyes to maybe do a lot of lip reading. Now you're not going to be able to do it if your wife is around the corner, but if she's over, you know, over here at close to you, you end up using a lot more of your eyes and you know, unfortunately during COVID it, we're getting a lot of people coming through our door saying, you know, this is just making it real for me.
I really have to deal with the issues I've been putting it off. And it's so easy to put it off, put it off, put it off, put it off because remember it's somebody else's problem. It's not your problem. You're the one that were, that was mumbling, not me. And so that that can become very serious. Ya, and that connection to with dementia. Um, it was actually a study that came out of John Hopkins... What was that, like 2014 or so, you know, not, not too long ago where they actually found that link. Um, and what they think is, when that portion of your brain isn't hearing, like Dr. Anzola said, those neurons rewire for something else, or it can actually physically shrink and that can lead into someone, isolating themselves, dementia and loneliness, all of that. Sure.
Could it potentially make the dementia worse? In other words, fast track it to the, to the downside.
Yeah. I mean, remember you're, you're isolating yourself. You're not using all your resources, you're outsourcing the information and, but it takes so much work. It takes a lot of energy out of your brain. You can get very fatigued, um, and tired, it's too much work. And you'd rather say, I'm not going to attend. I'm not going to that restaurant. I'm not going to that place of worship. It's just too complicated. Yeah. And even a mild hearing loss can double your risk of, or mild untreated hearing loss can double your risk of developing dementia. A moderate loss can triple your risk for dementia and a severe loss can quadruple your risk for dementia.
And here again, we're talking about things that are connected. Everything's connected. So if your hearing is bad, it's going into the brain. And if there's a breakdown, other things could go wrong.
And you know, hearing is a lot more about communication relationships, right? It's the only organ that keeps us all in great communication. And if it's failing, you know, it, you're not going to do well. Right.
What about the risks for someone at home or in an emergency situation that has hearing loss and it's untreated hearing loss. I just think of, you know, if there's a fire in the home and, uh, you know, you don't, you don't, you can't hear the smoke alarms going off or, or, or things like that. I mean, is that a, is that a pretty major issue?
I, yeah. And I actually had a patient that this happened to her. Um, she, her house had actually caught on fire, middle of the night. She did not. She, I mean, she had a pretty significant hearing loss. She thankfully was able to get out, got her children out safely, but it was a wake-up call to her because she did not hear those smart smoke alarms go off. And it's scary. It's very scary.
And it's, and thankfully she, they were okay. On perhaps a smaller, even driving. Right. If a, you know, an emergency vehicle was coming up from behind you and you can't hear it. Yeah. The, I mean, I would imagine there are all sorts of environmental problems that would come from, from hearing loss. Yeah.
And we also see uh, the single-sided deafness. So imagine if you're driving, and you only have one good ear. The other ear is bad. You don't really realize what's going on. You lose the ability to localize, right. And that can pose a big risk and danger for themselves and others. And just trying to tell where the horn was honking from, the ambulance is. It can really throw things off, but this would be the person that would probably put it off the longest because they have one good ear.
You have one good ear. Right. I can hear it for the most part. Right.
we'll see you later.
Um, why do you always sit over that one? Um, you know, something else that I don't think people think a lot about, you know, obviously we're here in the DC Metro area. Yes. It's expensive cost of living is high in the DC Metro area. If you have a hearing loss, how does that potentially impact your income?
Yeah. We, we, we also see a lot of that, right. Um, if you're not performing at your job, um, you're going to miss out, you're going to miss out on an opportunity to advance your career, that promotion, um, they're going to judge you on how you perform, but again, it wasn't because you are not trying to participate, it's because you just simply missed it. You know, a key word came out and it, you couldn't do it. Right. Um, for the companies they're having to put out a lot of money to make sure that they're taken care of. So it works both ways. You know, so companies, you know, we'd like to talk to huge organizations to really take care of more, take more of a proactive, um, uh, effect on, on their healthcare, on the people that are under their memberships, you know? Um, but you know, we also see it with patients missing out in meetings and boss... conversations with their bosses and stuff.
Your confidence is low. You're not participating in that board meeting or whatever it is. I mean, you could even potentially get fired just because... and nobody realizes that it's just because you have a hearing loss. That's pretty devastating.
Yeah. And there are, you know, hearing aids that are completely invisible. So if someone's worried about not just, you know, missing things at work, but now, you know, "I have like big alarms," like, "look at me, I can't hear." There are invisible options that are out there, you know, to help you, you know, not miss that information. And so overcoming the stigma, it's, it's really what it's all about. So we have miniaturized nanotechnology that is very discreet, but very effective.
Yeah. I want to go back to, you know, how the whole body seems to be connected, but what about things, cardiovascular disease, you know, diabetes, things like that. These also can have an effect on hearing.
Absolutely. Um, so from a cardiovascular disease, uh, there's a study out there that talks about and, and it proves that a hearing loss... by, by us doing a hearing test, if there is a low frequency hearing loss, it could lead to a cardiovascular disease.
Wow. The hearing loss would lead to the disease, not the other way around? Well, or I guess it could work...
It will show up on the actual hearing configuration we could say, we could say that there is some sort of indication that, that this person could have cardiovascular disease.
Wow. Just amazing. Ana, Wendy, thank you so much. It's great information as always. We appreciate it and look forward to doing it again soon.
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