Get your hearing checked this Deaf Awareness Week
20 September 2013
Good hearing: A vital key to healthy ageing
Leading specialist urges New Zealanders to get hearing checked this Deaf Awareness Week
A leading hearing specialist is urging New Zealanders to have their hearing tested this Deaf Awareness Week (23 - 29 September 2013).
“Many of us are diligent in attending regular check ups for eyes, teeth and other health matters, but so often hearing is overlooked. An audiogram (hearing test) is a quick, pain-free and straightforward test that everyone should be considering this Deaf Awareness Week,” says Mr Michel Neeff, a leading New Zealand Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon.
Hearing loss often occurs progressively and insidiously Mr Neeff says. “A hearing test can provide early detection and help ensure the right advice is available. Hearing loss can also signal the presence of a more serious hearing condition that may need medical attention and early detection can make a significant difference in the type of treatment required.”
between hearing loss and serious illness
A study looking at the ‘Health effects of cochlear implants’ published in the NZ Medical Journal in May 2013 found that living with significant hearing loss can be detrimental to the individual’s health. The study of people with cochlear implants, and those waiting for a cochlear implant found those on waiting lists experienced a greater number of health conditions, longer illnesses, took medication for a greater number of conditions and had poorer mental health.
The New Zealand research demonstrates the impact of long term stress on both physical and mental health from living with significant acquired hearing loss. US researchers have also linked hearing loss to dementia.
In a recent study of 639 people aged 60+ at Johns Hopkins University, those with mild cognitive hearing loss (a loss of 25 decibels, meaning they would struggle to follow quiet conversation or a conversation in a noisy room) scored significantly worse in cognitive tests. Their scores suggested their cognitive abilities aged by the equivalent of seven years, compared with people with normal hearing.
One of the researchers, Dr Frank Lin from John Hopkins School of Medicine, has conducted a number of studies on hearing loss and dementia. In a previous study, those individuals with a mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss, respectively, had a two, three and five-fold increased risk of developing dementia over the course of the study.
Dr Lin has suggested some possible explanations for the association – social isolation, one of the risk factors for dementia, or some underlying brain damage which leads to both hearing and cognitive decline.
“It could also be that if you’re constantly having to expend more (mental) energy decoding what you hear, then it comes at a cost,” Dr Lin said. “Hearing loss doesn’t directly contribute to dementia, but leads to cognitive load on the brain.”
Dementia in New Zealand
New Zealand has an ageing population and in 2012, 14 per cent of the population was aged 65 or over, a figure expected to increase to 23 per cent in 2036 and 26 per cent in 2061.
And with the ageing population, the number of people with dementia in New Zealand is expected to continue to climb. In 2011, the incidence of dementia increased by 18 per cent in just three years. By 2050, 147,359 New Zealanders are expected to have dementia – over 2.6 per cent of the population, and more than triple current numbers.
“As we age it’s important to look after hearing as part of our overall health,” says Mr Neeff.
Mr Neeff says hearing loss can have implications for every aspect of someone’s life. “Even a small loss can make people feel very isolated and gradually decline from society. The better we hear, the more mentally alert and astute we are.
“Hearing does not have to be part and parcel of the ageing process.”
Next generation sound
Cochlear announced the Cochlear™ Nucleus® 6 in New Zealand earlier this month, with a next generation sound processor which automatically determines the type of hearing environment the user is in and adjusts the sound processor to suit.
“Speech discrimination in adult and paediatric cochlear implant recipients has improved greatly over the years, mainly due to improvements in cochlear implant sound processor technology and processing strategies,” says Mr Michel Neeff. “The Nucleus 6 will continue this trend but also introduces features which will make life easier for recipients and health professionals.”
The Nucleus 6 is built on a completely new microchip platform with five times the processing capability of its predecessor, the Nucleus 5. Plus it delivers a number of industry-first innovations designed to provide superior outcomes in a way that makes hearing a lot easier for adult and children recipients. These include:
• SmartSound® IQ: Automatically
determines the type of environment the user is in – e.g.
speech, noise, speech in noise, quiet, wind or
• True automation: Nucleus 6 features the industry’s only ‘scene classifier’, which analyses the sound environment and automatically applies the best sound processing technology to optimise hearing.
• Wireless capability: Wireless ready for a range of wireless accessories under development.
• Fully integrated hearing aid functionality in every sound processor: This allows the implant to stimulate the cochlear electrically but acoustically stimulate the natural hearing (similar to a hearing aid). This is key for music appreciation.
• No other behind the ear (BTE) sound processor is more water resistant
• Comprehensive data logging capability: It provides a rich source of information for audiologists to help optimise individual performance.
About Cochlear Limited – www.cochlear.com
Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions. It has a dedicated global team of more than 2,500 people who deliver the gift of sound to the hearing impaired in over 100 countries. Its vision is to connect people, young and old, to a world of sound by offering life enhancing hearing solutions.
Cochlear’s promise of “Hear now. And always” embodies the company’s commitment to providing its recipients with the best possible hearing performance today and for the rest of their lives. For over 30 years Cochlear has helped more than a quarter of a million people either hear for the first time or reconnect them to their families, friends, workplaces and communities.