Blindness separates us from things, but deafness separates us from people
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This quote, attributed to Helen Keller, describes the isolation felt by persons suffering with age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis. However, there is hope.
Theresa Hnath Chisolm, professor of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, College of Behavioral & Community Sciences, and Vice Provost for Strategic Planning, Performance and Accountability at the University of South Florida, was a featured speaker at the 2014 joint Institute of Medicine/National Research Council Forum on Aging, Disability, and Independence. Over one hundred stakeholders from academia, policy and regulatory agencies, advocacy and consumer groups, and the business community attended the Forum’s workshop to discuss this pressing social and public health issue. The report, Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging: Workshop Summary, has just been released by the National Academies Press.
Dr. Chisolm’s presentation, The Spectrum of Hearing Impairment, emphasized the importance of evidence-based protocols to inform diagnosis and developing an integrated, individualized treatment plan for managing not only hearing loss but also an individual’s ability to understand speech in noise and other functional hearing-related difficulties, such as activity limitations and participation restrictions. In addition, Dr. Chisolm addressed technology interventions, such as hearing aids, assistive listening technologies, and cochlear implants and non-technical interventions, such as communication strategies, problem-solving approaches, listening or auditory training, and group aural rehabilitation programs.
Dr. Chisolm ended with a recommendation for comprehensive integrated hearing rehabilitation for older individuals as best practice and further research on health beliefs and attitudes about hearing loss and intervention in addition to studies on the cognitive, functional, and social-emotional effects of hearing loss. “This workshop could help change the landscape,” she said, so that people can learn to live well with hearing loss as a part of healthy aging.”
For more information on age-related hearing loss and effective treatments, visit the Departmental website. Read the recently released Hearing Loss and Healthy Aging: Workshop Summary online at the National Academies Press site. The report examines the ways in which age-related hearing loss affects healthy aging, and how the spectrum of public and private stakeholders can work together to address hearing loss in older adults as a public health issue.