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Hearing Aids

Keeping your brain fit through hearing aids

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Hearing Loss

Veterans and Hearing Loss

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Have money left in your FSA? Spend it before it’s too late

If you are an employee with a Flexible Spending Account, you might want to double check your balance. Now may be a smart time to take care of your hearing healthcare needs, especially if you are one of the 48 million Americans1 with hearing loss. You can use your FSA for hearing aids, and if you hurry, you can still purchase with this year’s funds.

Why are FSAs important?

Many employers offer a Flexible Spending Account2 (FSA) as part of their benefits package. Sometimes referred to as a Health Flexible Spending Arrangement, an FSA is an account in which you place pre-tax dollars to cover medical expenses. FSAs save you money by allowing you to withhold pre-tax money from your pay, up to $2,600 per year.

Who can you buy for, and what does it cover?

These funds can be used for yourself, your spouse and your dependents throughout the calendar year. They can be used for:

  • Copayments
  • Deductibles
  • Medical and dental costs
  • Some medicines
  • Other health-related spending, including hearing aids

Why the urgency? Because FSA is “use it or lose it!”

Although you can spend the money on a wide array of medical services, medicines and medical expenses, unfortunately, it is “use it or lose it” money. You must spend the money within the calendar year. Although some programs have a grace period, others require you to spend all dollars by December 31st.

Can I use my FSA spending on my parents’ hearing aids?

Maybe, but only if you claim them as dependents on your tax return. Even if your parents live with you, they may not be your dependents, and therefore you cannot use FSA monies toward their healthcare. The same applies for your children. If you claim them on your taxes, you can cover certain medical expenses using FSA funds.

Looking ahead

Thinking about 2018? If your benefits package offers an FSA program, remember to elect to contribute funds next year. Check your employer’s open enrollment dates. If they are still open and you haven’t taken advantage of this tax savings, it may be the right option for you. Also, if you change jobs, you may be allowed to join outside of the enrollment period.

Don’t have a flexible spending program? We have options, too

Even if you don’t have this option, there are ways to keep hearing aids affordable. CareCredit® is a financing program for health-related costs that may help you pay over time.

Contact us for more information on hearing healthcare

Hearing healthcare is vital to your well-being. Find out if you are a candidate for hearing aids with our free hearing assessment*. Call Total Hearing Care at (877) 323-8968 to learn more.

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Keeping your brain fit through hearing aids

One of the best ways to maintain brain fitness as you age is to stay mentally engaged through an active social life. You can achieve cognitive acuity through communicating with the world around you. When hearing loss interferes with your ability to connect with friends and loved ones, it increases your risk of cognitive decline. Fortunately, you may be able to improve your hearing, keep your brain fit and slow down the accelerated cognitive decline linked to hearing loss.

Think of your brain first

How is hearing health connected to your brain? Listening and understanding require your brain and your ears to work together, with the brain doing the heavy lifting. The auditory cortex (which is in the temporal lobe) sorts out and interprets the sounds your ears detect. Your brain translates the information from your two ears to orient you. It also deciphers where noise comes from. These processes help you focus on conversation and separate out unwanted noise.

When you have hearing loss, the sound signals your brain receives from your ears is compromised. Your brain doesn’t receive the sound information it needs, and it has to exert its energy to fill in the gaps. The extra effort to keep up with conversations can leave you feeling tired and frustrated. You may begin to withdraw and avoid the social connections that are so important to your well-being.

Avoid the risks of untreated hearing loss

Many studies have shown a link between untreated hearing loss and isolation, depression and a host of other health issues, including stroke¹. If you have hearing loss, you are also more likely to experience problems with thinking and remembering than older adults with normal hearing. Researchers have also found a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. The study shows that if you have hearing loss and don’t use hearing aids, you may accelerated cognitive decline².

How hearing aids help your brain

Wearing hearing aids actively addresses hearing loss and reduces your risk of cognitive decline. That is what French researcher Hélène Amieva and her team concluded in a major study. The research involved nearly 4000 volunteers over a 25-year period. It found that people who utilized hearing aids and were socially active experienced cognitive decline at a rate similar to those without hearing loss. The researchers believe that the ability to hear better helps improve mood, increases social interactions and enables more participation in brain-stimulating activities³.

For best results, keep your hearing aids in your ears – not in a drawer

Hearing aids can only help you stay socially engaged and help keep your brain alert if you wear them. Today’s hearing aids give you both comfortable and stylish solutions that are easy to wear and can be tailored to your exact needs. Hearing aids can give an extra boost you need to follow social interaction. Staying alert will help keep your brain fit and slow down the cognitive decline linked to hearing loss. Plus, you can enjoy brain-stimulating social activities such as playing board games, cards and charades.

Signs that it’s time to get started on your hearing health journey

It may be time for a hearing assessment*, especially if you have these signs:

  • Are people mumbling more than they used to?
  • Are you having difficulty hearing conversations?
  • Does your family complain about the volume on the TV?

Just by scheduling an appointment with Total Hearing Care, you are taking an important step to keep your brain fit. There are many modern, discreet hearing solutions available – far more than even 10 years ago. Today’s hearing solutions preserve as much natural sound and detail as possible so that your auditory cortex receives the information it needs to make sense of sound.

  1. www.healthyhearing.com/report/31633-Study-links-sudden-hearing
  2. www.asha.org/Articles/Untreated-Hearing-Loss-in-Adults/
  3. Amieva H, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Oct;63(10):2099-104
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Veterans and Hearing Loss

Returning home from duty, veterans face many challenges, especially those who have served in combat zones. Among them, is hearing loss – ranking among the most prevalent health issues for recently returning and former solders. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 933,000 veterans have received compensation for hearing loss and 1.3 million veterans are receiving disability benefits for tinnitus. Beyond hearing loss and tinnitus, Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) affects a high number of veterans who were exposed to blasts. APD impacts the brain’s ability to understand speech despite the sufferer being able to register sounds normally. While injuries to the ear or brain may cause physical damage, a communication breakdown with loved ones may be the greatest casualty of hearing loss.

Special risks for soldiers’ hearing

No matter where they train or deploy, soldiers face environmental factors that can be harmful to hearing. BioMed Central’s Military Medical Researchers looked at which environments were the loudest and biggest threat to noise-induced hearing loss. They found that the impact of noise on hearing in the military varies among the branches of service.

Yet almost every soldier, sailor, airman or marine will be exposed to very high levels of noise from:

  • Weapons – shotguns, rifles, pistols, grenades and anti-tank weapons
  • Armored vehicles
  • Engine rooms and carrier decks of navy vessels
  • Helicopters, fighter planes, transport aircraft and various jets
  • Jet propulsion fuel

For some, a single explosion with sounds exceeding 140 dB can cause irreparable damage instantly. This sort of acoustic harm to the ears results in permanent hearing loss.

For others, longstanding exposure to dangerous levels of noise can contribute to ear damage over time. Chronic exposure to high sound levels may lead to changes that soldiers don’t notice immediately.

Why veterans should address hearing loss

Many people associate hearing loss with the elderly. However people of all ages can lose their hearing – especially if they have had extraordinary exposure to noise. This is one instance when silence isn’t golden. Hearing well means communicating well. Think about it, if you can’t listen:

  • How can you engage with your loved ones completely?
  • Can you understand your colleagues or customers or participate fully in the workplace?
  • How can you really enjoy your favorite music, movies or television? Sure, closed captioning or subtitles may help but it’s not the same as hearing the intonation in voices.

Unlike the loss of sight, hearing impairment is usually more gradual. You may miss bits and pieces of sentences, but you think that your brain can fill in the missing information. Yet sometimes, the brain guesses wrong. You may believe you comprehended the information when you actually misunderstood it! This can lead to needless conflict and unpleasant rounds of “he said – she said.”

Stylish options for veterans

For hearing aids, design matters! If you have a hearing deficit, these devices may provide a vital service to your well-being just like eyeglasses aid your vision. As with glasses, you want hearing aids to fit well while looking great. Today’s models come in many colors and styles so we can be sure to match you with the right device for your individual needs.

Hearing loss is nothing be ashamed of and hide. But if you choose to, we offer many discrete hearing aids that are hardly recognizable to the naked eye. Whether you wish to wear a stylish mini-computer that sits subtly behind your ear or you hide your hearing aids in the ear canal, there are plenty of options.

Thank you for your service! Now, take time to focus on your needs now!

At Total Hearing Care we offer free hearing assessments* for veterans and non-vets alike. If you have concerns about your hearing or that of a loved one, we are happy to discuss your options with you. Make an appointment today to get started.

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Preparing for holiday gatherings with hearing loss

Whether you are preparing to host an event this coming holiday season or are attending an impromptu gathering of friends, this is an important time to catch up with loved ones. But what if hearing loss poses a challenge for communicating?

When people gather it can be noisy. Especially if many people are speaking at the same time. Add in holiday music, restaurant chatter or a football game on in the background, and even people with excellent hearing may have trouble understanding a conversation with someone standing next to them.

If you follow these tips, it may be easier to catch up with loved ones and enjoy their company.

Pick a good place to hear at holiday events

Whether you are in a home or a restaurant, try to position yourself in a space with less background noise. Follow these tips:

  • Flooring and walls – Carpeting, tablecloths and drapery help to absorb noise.
  • Pick the right room – In a home, try to avoid the kitchen or areas near the TV. If you are in a restaurant, ask for a seat away from the kitchen or bar.
  • Avoid the amplifiers – Although you can’t always get away from blaring music, try to be as far from speakers as possible. Corners or booths can provide some relief.
  • Try for 1:1 conversations – If you really want to catch every word, there is nothing wrong with finding a quieter spot in the hallway, or even outside for one-on-one conversations.

Arrive early to choose the best seat in the house

When choosing your seat, try to be where you can see people’s faces – that way you can pick up on facial cues. Try to sit where there is good lighting. If one ear is stronger than the other, offer the person you wish to speak to the seat on your strong side. You can also ask a relative or friend to help you fill in the gaps if you miss part of the conversation.

Don’t be shy about your hearing loss this holiday season

In noisy situations there is no reason to hide your hearing loss. While it may be easier to pretend that you can hear, nodding along with the others, this is not fair to you (or to the person speaking). If you feel you missed out, there is nothing wrong with asking for a recap afterward.

You can also let people know you are missing some of the conversation with simple visual cues like placing your hand to your ear. This won’t disrupt the flow of conversations but will signal to the speaker to speak up or slow down.

Sometimes a simple reminder for relatives to speak slower works wonders.

Noticed changes in your hearing? There’s still time to get help

Although planning may be underway, the holiday season is still a few weeks away. If you are worried about hearing at Thanksgiving, holiday parties or other gatherings, there’s time to have a no-obligation hearing assessment* to see if hearing aids are an option for you. A hearing specialist can also give you tips on communicating with loved ones. If you are concerned about a loved one’s hearing, offer to bring them for an appointment. We encourage caregivers, friends and family to join our patients for the first appointment.

Let your hearing aids help you

Sometimes the most obvious strategy is the best solution. If you have hearing aids, wear them. Plus, if you forget them and have trouble following along, it may frustrate your family. The newest hearing aids have technical advancements designed for complex hearing environments, where noise is coming from multiple sources. Newer devices make it easier to hear what you want to hear, even in the situations with multiple people speaking.

For best results, try various settings in advance to see which works best for you in noisy environments. If this isn’t enough, you may also want to consider the extra help of a discreet clip-on microphone. If you would like help with your hearing aids’ settings or perhaps reprogramming them, stop in.

It’s your holiday too, so enjoy it!

If you have new hearing aids, go easy on yourself. Take short breaks to give your brain a rest and re-energize when you feel fatigue setting in. If conversation at the table is challenging, focus on the people nearest you. If a group is too noisy or fast-paced, try a smaller and quieter group to join. Social events are for your enjoyment – not a test of your stamina.

Don’t let hearing loss keep you from enjoying the people and things you love. Locate your closest hearing professional and make an appointment with Total Hearing Care.

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