At HearLife, sufferers of hearing loss get their lives back


The staff at HearLife of Minnesota, left to right: Teresa Newago, Amanda Wood, Tara Brink, Brenda Smieja and Jessica Quigley

Premier Bank honored recipients of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Chairman’s Citation Award.

Hearing loss can hurt health

and wellbeing, but it doesn’t

have to be that way

 

“We hear with our brain, not our ears,” is one of the first lessons that HearLife of Minnesota hearing instrument specialist Amanda Wood will teach you. It’s a simple statement, but what does it really mean?

“Having hearing loss is like putting your brain in a cast,” Wood explains. “It’s like if you have your arm in a cast for years, when you take the cast off, the muscles are atrophied. Hearing loss can cause permanent damage to the brain.”

The specialists at HearLife in Maplewood know that addressing the issues associated with hearing loss is crucial to living a high-quality life. Hearing connects to overall health and wellbeing in so many ways. 

For example, sufferers of hearing loss have a five-times greater risk of developing dementia. Other conditions correlate with hearing loss at high rates, including diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The human balance center is located in the ear, so balance issues are also impacted by the auditory system.

The most damaging part of hearing loss, though, is the blockage it can create between sufferers and social interaction.

“It’s social loss,” Wood says. “If you have hearing loss and can’t communicate with others, what are you going to do? You’re going to isolate yourself. There’s depression with that.”

Wood advocates for the steps people can take to protect their ears as they go through life. Mowing the lawn or attending concerts without earplugs can be damaging in the long run. A show at US Bank Stadium creates 110-decibel noise damage. Taking care now can prevent a reduction in quality of life later.

For many individuals with hearing loss, one of the first symptoms they notice — and the biggest sign that it’s time to get checked out — is difficulty hearing their loved ones. 

“Maybe they’re just noticing that they can’t join in on conversations anymore. The average person takes anywhere from seven to 10 years before admitting they have hearing loss, because there is a bit of a stigma,” Wood says. “Some people don’t wait. They say, ‘I can’t hear at work and it s affecting my job!’”

Wood points out that although many of her patients are elderly, and stereotypes generally reinforce that only seniors experience hearing loss, her clients come from every age bracket. 

“I have younger people with noise damage who have worked in noisy environments or who have been in an accident,” she says. “There are kids — it can definitely be hereditary. Pretty much everybody in my own family has hearing loss.”

Wood and her colleagues at HearLife evaluate, recommend, and implement hearing solutions — all the models offered are highly varied and completely customizable to each client’s needs. Specialists can also determine if the perceived loss is something else entirely. For example, an unglamorous reality is that impacted wax can block proper hearing and be mistaken for permanent hearing loss.

“Our job is not only to test people’s hearing and find out what their loss is like, but to find out other things like what their lifestyle is and what their budget concerns are,” says Wood of finding the right hearing aid for you.

HearLife’s work doesn’t end with the order of a hearing aid. The specialists build relationships with their clients, who are just beginning their journey to hearing.

“Honestly, when people are looking for hearing aids, it’s not about the instruments themselves, it’s about the person who takes care of you. It’s the relationship you build with your clinic,” Wood says. 

“When I walk my patients out the door, I say the same thing: happy hearing!” she adds. 

“Just because it’s been so long since they’ve had that opportunity. They get to be a part of their community again, they get to socialize again, we help them build their relationships with their family again.”

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