Making a message heard

We meet Life Unlimited hearing therapist Sue Jennings.

Try these for size… Sue with one of tools of her profession.

Sue Jennings has a message for people who invested in a hearing aid several years ago.

This is Hearing Awareness Week, and many of those hearing aid users should be getting them out of the draw.

Sue, a hearing therapist with Life Unlimited, says many people who get hearing aids struggle with them initially, and eventually decide to go without.

It’s an error – not least because they miss out, but also because when they do pull them out of the draw it’s possible their hearing will have worsened, so the aids won’t be doing the best job.

“With hearing aids, the brain has to be retrained to understand what noises are important and what are not. It can take time. If the hearing aids have been left unused for two or three years, we must start from scratch – but it doesn’t necessarily mean new hearing aids”.

This is Hearing Awareness Week and Sue is urging people who are not getting the best out of their aids to come and see her.

She has the same message for anyone over 50.

“They should have checks – I had a client in this week who was encouraged by a family member and couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Unfortunately, I had to give her some bad news. The good news, though, is that aids will restore much of what she is now missing out on.”

Sue says many people with hearing loss are oblivious to it.

There are common indicators – being told the television is far too loud is a primary one.

She makes use of a device to amplify sound for clients and many are shocked at what they are missing out on.

As a hearing therapist it is all about offering support to the client and family and educating on the needs of the client to be able to communicate more effectively

Many go through life unaware of what they are missing out on – but for others with more severe hearing loss the inability to join in conversations can be isolating and depressing.

An estimated 880,000 New Zealanders – one in six people – have a hearing loss including about 300,000 people in the working age group of 20 to 65 years. The theme for the annual Hearing Awareness Week, which ends tomorrow, is “Early Identification and Intervention of hearing loss”.

The call to action by the World Health Organization, which recently launched a new app called hearWHO available on both the Apple and Google Play stores, is “Check your Hearing”.

Where industrial noise was once the major problem today it can be music – played at high volumes through the earbuds everyone with a smart phone owns.

New research underlines the importance of having hearing checks as they show a correlation between dementia and hearing loss.

The service provided by Life Unlimited, and funded by the Ministry of Health, is independent and includes free hearing assessments, information, hearing screening and support for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents aged 16 years and over. The service does not involve selling hearings aids.

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, can be aggravated by stress, caffeine and alcohol.

“Hearing loss can lead to communication breakdown and result in frustration and isolation,” Sue said. “I work with people to reduce that impact, so they can live well with hearing loss.”

That support includes providing information on effective communication strategies and listening devices. Amplified telephones, smoke alarms, television management and personal listening devices could provide additional tools to – or be a possible alternative for – hearing aids for some people.

Life Unlimited hearing therapists also advise on funding criteria and are credentialed assessors on behalf of the Ministry of Health for hearing assistive technology systems, devices that help people with hearing difficulties to communicate with others.

Sue also helps clients with lip reading and will even talk to their work colleagues to help them understand the impact of hearing loss.

Sue, who lives just out of Cambridge, has been a hearing therapist for 12 years and loves her work because it is so rewarding.

Her region covers the Waikato District Health Board area and the free service extends to having Sue speak to community groups. Sue can be reached via Life Unlimited’s freephone number, 0800 008 011.

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