“What?” “Huh?” If you have a teenage son, you hear these multiple times a day. Earbuds and loud music are a sweet escape from parents and the outside world. My friends say their sons only clearly hear two words: “free” and “pizza.” It’s funny because it’s true. But I’m not laughing anymore. It’s not a joke for us. My son really isn’t hearing me.
A few years ago, my sweet, responsible, high school son complained that teachers were starting to get mad at him for not following directions. He said he just didn’t hear what the teacher said. I didn’t believe him. Hearing loss in a teen? Not likely. It must be an attention problem, right?
Off to our family doctor. He thought maybe it was ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. That’s what it sounds like, doesn’t it? I believed and he prescribed. Holy meds disaster! My boy took medication, but he was getting so tired and sick. He hated them! We went through three different doctors and meds. Sad and exhausted with side effects, we decided that we needed help outside our small town clinic.
We started over. We shared our story with a new clinic. The new doctor assessed my son, noticed those ever present earbuds and the first question she asked was, “Can I listen to what you’re listening to?” He gave her his earbuds and turned on the music. She jumped a foot! It was so loud that I could hear it from across the room. She asked him some questions about his music, took him for some tests, contacted an audiologist and we waited. What did his music have to do with ADD? She called us back in and said, “The problem isn’t ADD. It’s hearing loss. Your son is in the early stages of noise-induced hearing loss and it is irreversible.” I couldn’t believe it. Now what?
Now we are using an amplified listening device to help him hear the teacher’s voice. We are dealing with it. We are moving forward. But please, please, please learn from our story. Hearing loss isn’t just for the elderly. It can affect any person who is subjecting his or her ears to loud noises. In this crazy loud world we live in, all people need to be aware of this growing problem.
Hearing loss in teens? Yep, it’s a thing.
I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.
Growing up, I was always Daddy’s little girl. And my dad was always there for me, every step of the way. He believed in a good education, being your best and having solid work ethic. I found myself striving to get better grades, work harder and become better to make him proud. During the summers, he taught me how to plant vegetables, and as we weeded side by side, he would listen to me chattering about my life. He never missed a single sporting event, and sat in the front row at my theater performances. He has been a rock for my mom and me. I can’t imagine having a better father.
After college, I married my college sweetheart and I moved across the country for a job. We have three children and two dogs. Life is good. I video chat my parents at least 3 times a week. They like to keep up with the kids and see how life is treating us.
A few years ago, I noticed that Dad wasn’t hearing us very well on our calls. Especially with the kids, he had a hard time hearing what they were saying. He complained they were speaking too quickly. Last Thanksgiving, I made a trip home and he couldn’t even participate in the conversation when we went out to a restaurant. He claimed it was too noisy and made the wait staff turn down the music. Then, earlier this year, he stopped participating on our video chats at all. He said he was busy, or he just wouldn’t answer.
Like a lot of people, my dad didn’t want to admit that he had trouble hearing. It made him feel old. Fortunately my mom convinced him to go for a hearing test. When the audiologist let him hear the difference between how little he was hearing unaided, and how much he could hear with a hearing aid, he was finally convinced. And it helped him to see all the different styles available for hearing aids these days.
After he got his hearing aids, his audiologist recommended auditory therapy. She explained that my dad’s brain had stopped recognizing a lot of sounds that he hadn’t heard for a long time. Now that he can hear them again, it helped him a lot to get the therapy to help retrain his brain to understand them. And now that there was so much that he could hear all of a sudden, the training helped him distinguish words from background noise. It was a big help. And it was fully covered by Medicare.
My dad has rejoined our conversations. Noisy restaurants don’t get him angry anymore. My dad is back and that’s a good thing, because I’m never too old to be Daddy’s little girl.
Love you Daddy!
Did you know that 15% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 have a measurable hearing loss in at least one ear. The biggest culprit? Loud sound filtering through tiny earbuds, directly into their tiny ears. So, how can you protect your kids? Turn down the volume! For good.
If you child uses an iPod, iPhone or iPad, you can lower the maximum volume on the device. That way, they can only turn it up as loud as is safely possible. Will they thank you? Maybe not now. But maybe later in life, when they still have their hearing? Well, yeah they probably won’t thank you then, either. But they should.
- Open Settings
- Scroll down to Music, and tap to open
- Scroll down to Volume Limit, and tap to open
- Drag the scroller to the left, to the desired upper limit
What does this do?
This prevents music from unexpectedly blasting your kid’s ears.
It also prevents them from listening to music at unhealthy volumes, especially with earbuds or headphones,
when the sound is more concentrated, and it’s harder for you to monitor.
To lock the changes:
- Go back into Settings
- Tap General to open it
- Scroll down to Restrictions and tap to open
- Choose a 4-digit passcode
- Scroll down to Volume Limit and tap to open
- Tap Don’t Allow Changes
There’s also a solution for those songs that play more quietly than usual. I’m talking about the ones where the only way to hear them properly is to crank up the volume. That’s where the Sound Check setting comes in handy. It lets the device scan all the songs stored on it to understand the basic volume, and adjust it accordingly, without affecting the quality of the sound.
One final step
Be careful. Some headphones and external speakers have volume controls that override the Apple device. Better to use products that are designed to protect hearing, such as the SmartSound earbuds, which protect hearing while delivering excellent sound, with Reverse Sound Technology. This is true for children and adults.
Is it worth it?
You only have two ears. Damage to the inner ear caused by ongoing exposure to loud noises is one of the leading causes of hearing loss, and in cases like this, it’s preventable. So do your kids a favor. Turn it down.
Want to know 15 more ways to protect your child’s hearing? Check out this free download from ClearSounds: Hearing Safety Tips from ClearSounds
Summer is around the corner, which means many of us will want to take advantage of the good weather by traveling. A little advance preparation can help the trip go more smoothly for those of us who travel with hearing loss. Here are some tips to help:
Tips for Planning Ahead
- Make as many arrangements in advance as possible and print out your reservation information, tickets, event info and maps.
- Pack extra batteries for your hearing aids.
- Take the 800 number of your hearing aid manufacturer so they can direct you to a local shop if a repair is needed.
- Bring a notepad or have an app on your electronic device to make it easy for people to write a note to you if you can’t understand what was said.
- Pack your Quattro 4.0, or other assistive listening device if you use one, to make sure you can hear the GPS on your rental car, the TV in your hotel room, and friends and family that you visit.
- When visiting museums or theater performances, ask for assistive listening devices.
- Contact the hotel in advance to find out if they have hearing impaired rooms equipped with special phones and fire alarms, etc.
- If taking a tour, ask in advance if assistive listening devices will be provided or consider bringing your own.
- Explain to others you have a hearing impairment and give them tips for communicating with you (ex: speak slowly, get my attention first, rephrase if I didn’t understand you the first time, move to a quieter area. Often times speaking louder is not helpful.)
Bring a notepad or have an app on your electronic device to make it easy for people to write a note to you if you can’t understand what was said.
Tips for Air Travel
Consider the following tips, especially if flying alone.
- Reserve a seat on the aisle and/or near the flight attendants to make it easier to speak with them.
- Know all your flight and gate information and sign up to receive a text for changes.
- Keep your hearing aids on in security and inform the TSA screening agent of your hearing aids. They usually do not pose a problem unless you are wearing a large body aid.
- Tell the gate agent you are hearing impaired and ask if the agent could let you know when it’s time to board. And request pre-boarding privileges, so you can get to your seat and speak with the flight attendants before general boarding.
- Inform the flight attendants you have a hearing loss and let them know what strategies to use when speaking with you (“Please get my attention first and speak slowly.”)
- Ask the person sitting next to you to repeat any cabin announcements you didn’t understand.
- Ask if the in-flight movie is subtitled. Bring a book or your own electronic device for watching movies.
- Sit back and enjoy your flight!
Enjoy your vacation and remember that there will always be a few difficulties when you travel. Roll with the punches!
Lara S Bruce, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech Language & Auditory Therapy
Americans for Better Hearing Foundation
You hear with your ears. Everyone knows that. But you also hear with your brain. Have you ever been presented with a new popular song and from then on you realize that it plays everywhere, at the store, on the radio, or in the elevator. You have been “hearing” it for months, but never “heard” it. Now that you know it, you notice it. This is the way our brain works. Takes away the “noise” of our entire sensory environment and focuses on the things that we care about. Once we train our brain to focus on something new, we start to hear it. This is much like Auditory Therapy, teaching our brains what we hear.
So why does it matter?
Well, your brain follows the old adage: Use it or lose it. It is constantly rewiring itself. So, in a manner of speaking, your brain shrinks when hearing loss is untreated. After a period of hearing loss, when your brain hasn’t been receiving as much meaningful sound as it used to, it stops using a large amount of the neurological pathways associated with hearing.
What Exactly is Auditory Therapy?
Auditory Therapy works like Physical Therapy. After knee surgery, your doctor prescribes Physical Therapy to speed up the process of re-learning to walk correctly, despite the fact that you already knew how to walk. When you begin to receive sound signals to your brain again, your brain will probably eventually learn how to process those sounds into hearing. Auditory Therapy makes the process of listening and understanding happen much more quickly and more effectively.
In many cases, hearing loss doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t hear sound. More likely sounds are distorted by damaged nerves in the inner ear. The problem is more pronounced in noisy situations, when you need to distinguish voices from background sounds. Auditory Therapy helps you develop skills and strategies to deal with these types of situations, when your inner ear hearing distortion causes word understanding problems.
Can they make my current hearing aid devices perform better?
When you get hearing aids, and you begin to hear sounds more clearly, some degree of neural rebuilding occurs, but it may not be enough, and it may take a very long time. Auditory Therapy jump starts this rebuilding process, and brings about much greater neural changes than waiting for the changes to happen on their own. Hearing aids can provide enhanced access to as much sound as possible, but they don’t directly teach a person’s brain to interpret the new sounds, nor do hearing aids correct for distortions due to damage to the inner ear. Even with all the advances in hearing aids, they don’t provide a perfect representation of sound.
Auditory Therapy helps with this. It is designed to delay the need for any hearing devices at all, to enhance the benefits you get from your hearing aid devices, and potentially to eliminate or postpone the need for expensive device upgrades.
How do the sessions work:
The therapy generally starts with an initial consultation, where your hearing and your particular situation are evaluated. If the evaluation shows that Auditory Therapy will benefit you, your therapy plan is created. Each session takes approximately 30 minutes, and a therapy program typically involves about 20 sessions.
Types of issues covered in Auditory Therapy:
- Hearing Speech in Noisy Environments
- Fast Talkers
- Multiple or Competing Speakers
- Targeted Listening for Key Words
How expensive is it?
Good news – it can be free! It is fully covered by Medicare and many private insurance carriers will reimburse for Auditory Therapy. Hearing aids are expensive and often out of pocket costs. Although Auditory Therapy isn’t routinely prescribed with hearing aids, it can be remarkably helpful at making aids work more successfully, so that you get greater benefit from your investment. The therapy can also help postpone the need for hearing aids, by helping you maximize the hearing you have. It also helps postpone the need to upgrade to stronger hearing aids, which can be expensive.
How do I sign up?
ABHF is offering open registration for a limited number of participants, but don’t wait. Sign up today. Call or stop by the Downer’s Grove clinic to ensure a spot in the next Auditory Therapy session.
Warren Avenue Clinic
1034 Warren Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Welcome to the Americans for Better Hearing Foundation blog! It’s our mission to provide hearing health care, education, information, and amplification products for seniors in long term care facilities and other underserved individuals. Hearing is an essential component of the human experience. Our goal is to bring you quality, educational posts about the causes of hearing loss, solutions for hearing loss, and programs that can help bring solutions to your community or facility. We hope you will stop by again!