Audiology and Hearing Healthcare Technology @ Providence

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from: Longevity Explorers | Providence

Discussion Summary

June 17, 2020, Providence Longevity Explorers.

Dr. Sarah Caldwell, a clinical audiologist in private practice, led a very informative presentation dealing with the latest technological advances in audiology, with a particular focus on hearing isssues for older people. Along the way she covered the physiology of hearing, the measurement of hearing with audiogram reports, the role of all participants in a conversation to make it work well, and even a little advice about video communication in a time of physical isolation for many of us. 

She began by explaining some roles of audiologists, noting that in addition to her clinical practice she spends some of her time in schools as an educational audioolgist developing interventions for students with hearing issues. She went on to some statistics regarding the relationship of age to hearing loss -- with roughly 50% of those over 75 experiencing some loss.  To identify the sources of these losses she provided some diagrams of the physiology of hearing, explaining the three levels of loss linked to that physiology.  Audiograms depict the pattern of loss for an individual, graphing volume by frequency. As she illustrated, typical age-related loss starts with higer frequencies, which reduces clarity -- so that we still hear much of the speech coming our way but miss the needed high notes. That leaves the brain to fill in the blanks using visual cues and logical deduction. 

Hearing aids can only help with some types loss, those that leave enough cochlear cells (like piano keys) to carry the tune of incoming speech. Early intervention can reduce longer term loss by giving the brain more to work with. She introduced the range of hearing aids now available, noting the importance of individual needs and preferences in determining the best choices. Some of the latest features include noise reduction, bluetooth comnectivity, rechargeability, fall detection, and remote programming. There are also more and more accessories for hearing aids, such as remore microphones, TV boxes, and transcribing apps.

After some suggestions for improving two-way communication and video communication, she concluded with advice about how to make best use of professional services and answered several pratical questions.


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Key words: 
hearing aids, audiograms, hearing physiology