Summer is over -- the beach balls, sun hats, and bathing suits are finally stored away, and in their place come the books, backpacks, pencils, pens, and calculators. Yes, finally, it's that time of the year again.
The start of the school year can be quite a busy time for most people, especially the school-aged kids. But this sudden burst of frenetic activity can also make them forget their usual hearing aid and ear health routine, which, if left unattended for quite some time, would just cause bigger problems for them at school.
Here are the steps to kick-start your hearing health routine into high gear this school season:
Start Wearing Your Hearing Aids. Again.
Hearing aid wearers tend to store away their hearing aids when going swimming during the summer, and probably forget about not wearing them. If you’re one of them and have gotten into the habit of not wearing your hearing aids, now is the time to dust them off. It may also be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist or healthcare professional first. Your hearing aids might need slight adjustment (or be replaced entirely) to better fit your hearing needs.
Below are some of the things that you should discuss during your appointment:
1. Are you satisfied with your current hearing aids and how they sound to your ears? Do you feel uncomfortable when wearing them? Do you hear weird, annoying feedback when using them? Is operating them too confusing? If you find that your current hearing aids are not meeting your expectations, let your hearing specialist know. There are literally hundreds of hearing aid models out there on the market today -- there's bound to be something there that would have the features and specifications that meet your needs.
2. Hearing, like eyesight, may change over time. When was the last time you took a hearing test? There's a huge chance that your hearing ability might have changed over the last few years. Your current hearing aids would need to be adjusted or upgraded.
To get more out of your hearing aids, let your healthcare professional know what your needs and listening environments are. Be very specific. Do you want to be able to keep a conversation going, without going "What?" all the time? Do you want to hear your professor more clearly? Do you want to hear on your smartphone better? It's details like these that can help your hearing specialist fine-tune the adjustment on your hearing aids and keep your hearing in tiptop shape.
3. Have your hearing aids inspected and cleaned. Earwax, dust, and other small debris can build up on them and cause damage internally or externally (note: hearing distorted audio is usually a telltale sign that your hearing aids need cleaning). You can also buy a hearing aid cleaning kit so you can do the cleaning yourself at home without the help of a specialist.
4. Ask your healthcare specialist if there are any new, better hearing aids on the market. A hearing aid equipped with new and improved assistive technology that can hone in exactly on the sounds that you want to hear might have been released. The field of hearing aid research is constantly improving and expanding, and these new technologies can potentially change your (hearing) life for the better.
Get Hearing Aids, If You Know You Need Them
You know you need hearing aids, but you think that you can still get by without them.
It's understandable why people wouldn't want to get hearing aids (there's a stigma that hearing aids are for elderly people only), but this would just cause more trouble than it's worth.
Not only do you get bad hearing, you are also increasing your chances for other conditions too. Studies published by hearing researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown that hearing loss could be one of the first signs of Alzheimer's disease. Another study, this time from the Lance Commissions on Dementia Prevention, lists hearing loss as one of the nine risk factors for dementia.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Other reports have shown that hearing loss can also be an indicator for other diseases and conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Untreated hearing loss may also lead to mental conditions like depression, social withdrawal, and anxiety.
There's just no compelling reason why one would forego the use of hearing aids especially if one already experiences hearing loss. Modern digital hearing aids can literally save lives.
If you find yourself strapped for cash at the moment, there are numerous resources and foundations out there that can help you afford your needed hearing devices. All you need to do is to pick up the phone and contact them. For example, students and employees may qualify for assistance at their state's Vocational Rehabilitation Center, while veterans can go to their local Veteran's Administration.
Have Regular Hearing Evaluations
Prevention is better than cure. Even if you haven't been diagnosed with hearing loss, it's better to be safe than sorry. Knowing the current state of your hearing through regular hearing evaluations can help you in the long run.
According to the Association of Independent Hearing Healthcare Professionals, the ideal time for hearing evaluations are:
- Every 5 years, for those aged 18 to 45 years
- Every 3 years, for those aged 45 to 65 years
- Every 2 years, for those aged 65 years and above
As you grow older, the need for having regular hearing evaluations increases. Elderly people are more at risk for hearing loss. Once you've had a hearing evaluation test done, your healthcare professional would now have a baseline with which they can monitor your hearing health as time goes by.
The busy life of a student shouldn't keep you from keeping your hearing at tiptop shape. The steps mentioned above aren't that hard. They're probably a whole lot easier than most tests you will take in school. It's just a matter of knowing what you want from your hearing aids, and being honest and clear about your hearing condition with your hearing healthcare professional.