Say What? 3

What you Haven’t 
Heard about 
Middle TN Audiology

How have hearing aids evolved over the past few decades?

In general, hearing aids have improved tremendously in their ability to pick up sound and bring it to people. One of the biggest advancements in hearing aids is their capability to connect with other devices, such as your cellphone. Your phone can now be used as a direct remote into the hearing aids which allows for much easier conversation in environments where sound is more than 3 feet away. Apps on phones also grant people the option to change their hearing aids in response to the environment they are in. Additionally, there are remote microphones that allow people to channel sounds from a distance directly into their hearing aids. Such devices can improve a person’s capacity to hear in environments where sound is at a distance – church, a classroom or an auditorium.

Who is affected by hearing loss?

Hearing loss is definitely a family affair. It is not just the person suffering from it that is affected. The whole family—and anyone the individual might interact with—will be challenged by it. We counsel families on what the hearing aid will help with and what it won’t. They might assume they can talk from another room and someone with a brand-new hearing aid is going to be able to hear them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There will still be challenges.

It is crucial for families involved to understand the impact the hearing loss is having. We can show them the test results, explain how the hearing loss is affecting their loved one’s speech and talk about what can be done to make it less frustrating. We ask for a family member to come in whenever possible, not to pressure someone to do something about a hearing loss who doesn’t want to, but because they are the best observers of the person with the hearing loss. Oftentimes they can point out specific challenges they might see that the person with the hearing loss might not be aware of. Better communication and better education for the family is very important.

What is the biggest challenge in getting people to consider seeking out an assistive listening device?

People with hearing loss don’t always know they have it simply because they don’t hear what they don’t hear. Essentially, they don’t know what they are missing. They will say, “I can hear fine, I just can’t understand.” This is because high-frequency consonant sounds are very quiet when we produce them in speech and that is typically where the hearing loss is. Hearing loss acts as a filter, filtering out the most important parts of speech. Since most hearing loss happens in the high frequencies, a person with hearing loss can still hear the louder vowel sounds and most consonants. Oftentimes people are able to fill in what they are not hearing without even realizing it. However, when the signal is further reduced by a noisy environment, somebody talking from the other room, or someone speaking to them while facing the other direction, that filter becomes bigger and bigger, causing the person to miss more and more. Sometimes getting a person to understand the impact that their hearing loss is having is difficult.

When should someone consider being tested for hearing loss?

Listening, hearing and understanding are not all the same thing. We can hear something and completely ignore it. We can hear something and still not understand it. These are three very separate processes. We all get distracted. That is perfectly normal. But if you are trying to hear something and are really having to work hard to understand it, you might be dealing with hearing loss. What we want to do is make it easier for people who are having that kind of struggle.

Noreen Gibbens, Au.D., founding audiologist of Middle TN Audiology, has been in the health care field for over 30 years. Gibbens has created “a one-stop-shop for families looking for solutions to their hearing related issues.” She offers a personalized service combined with state-of-the-art equipment and accurate testing to provide real life solutions for individuals dealing with hearing loss.