Friday, November 6, 2015


Hearing aids may slow mental decline in hard-of-hearing elderly

A research study concludes that hearing aids slow mental decline in "hard of hearing elderly".

The cost of aids too high for many elderly says the article (click here). Well, yes, at $6,000 a pair for good aids, that would be true.

But I’ll tell you what seems curious to me. It seems odd that Medicare will pay for a cochlear implant for those who qualify (and I do) but not for a pair of hearing aids. A cochlear implant would run about $50,000.

Do some people go with cochlear because it’s “free” if you're on Medicare, whereas a pair of hearing aids would be a pricey out of pocket cost? I’ve heard that sort of buzz around the otolaryngology department at a local hospital.

Would cochlear slow mental decline more effectively than hearing aids? There’s a researchable question for a follow-up study. I won't be participating of course.

I’ve chosen not to go cochlear until I simply must because the surgery ruins your natural hearing entirely. I don’t want to pay that price.

Further, I’m unsure that I’d hear music as well after cochlear as I do now. Hearing musical sound is easier than hearing speech, and I truly enjoy music. Always have. Hopefully always will be able to.

As I admitted  by stating that I qualify for cochlear, you can believe that I’m pretty hard of hearing. You have to be way down the scale to qualify for cochlear. I inherited this condition, maybe, from my lovely mother. She was truly hard of hearing. Like her, I have trouble hearing even when my hearing aids working properly, especially in telephone conversations. 

"I'm very sorry, but I can't understand you very well," I tell the telephone rep. at least two or three times a week. "But my wife is right here. I'll hand her the phone." My poor spouse has to pick up on the conversation and speak for me without having a clue as to the previous part of the conversation.

I do well with emails though, so my typing skills are still working.  If any researcher cares to check on relative typing ability among hard of hearing elderly, please start with me.

But how about this? I’ve have had hearing aids for decades. I stopped teaching in the university, in part, because I could no longer carry on dialogue in the classroom without embarrassing misunderstandings, pauses, asking for “rephrasing” and so forth.

And has my mental decline slowed because I've used aids for all these many years?

To answer that, I’ll refer in general to my brain profile compared to others’ brain profiles. I play Lumosity, an online brain training game. (Thanks, Dave R. for getting me onto this.) After many dozens of sets of games I stack up well to others in my age group (75 and over.) But in all lower age groups, starting with 70 to 75 increasing right down to 25-30 years, I am embarrassingly slow! My mental speed is slow. I can see why hitchhikers don't want to ride with me when I'm driving.

Nevertheless, I’m truly grateful for hearing aids. Without them, I’d be at a crawl and could scarcely understand even a one-on-one family conversation in a soundproofed room. And I’m going to take the researchers’ word for it; my mental decline may be really, really slow compared to what it would be without hearing aids. That gives me some bit of comfort.

I feel truly sorry for the young man with decent hearing, I presume, who drives by my home every night about 9:45 p.m. on his way  from work. His entire car vibrates from his stereo system. I can feel the vibrations (but not hear them) when he's a block away. Will someone whose  mental speed hasn't yet gone to pot please tell him that he won't have it when he destroys his aural nerves and his cochlea?

“What’s that, you say?”

I wonder whether decreasing physical hearing is offset by increased spiritual hearing. A research question for an investigator. It’s hard for my soul to be still when my hearing picks up all the white noise going on around my on streets and in the skies. It’s easier or my soul to be still when I pull out my hearing aids.


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