IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE FOR A PERSON WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND HIGH CHOLES- TEROL TO IMMEDIATELY SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT WITH A CARDIOLOGIST, or for someone experiencing back pain to see a chiropractor right away. But according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, on average people wait seven years between first suspecting they have hearing loss and seeking treatment for the issue.
Whether they are embarrassed, do not think the problem affects their daily lives or fear what the diagnosis may be, this delay in medical attention can have severe repercussions.
“That’s a common theme for many, many people with hearing loss,” says Dr. Elizabeth Kennedy, who has more than 25 years of experience in the field in a variety of roles. “Because hearing loss is typically slow and insidious, we kind of adapt to it along the way. In our world today we can just turn the radio up, turn the TV up or turn the phone up, so we’re not always aware of how much we’ve lost. When we finally notice and do something about it, that’s when we realize we waited far too long.”
Dr. Kennedy, the founder and clinical director of Associates in Hearing HealthCare, understands the reluctance people may feel, which is why she established a practice with a warm and inviting office environment and a compassionate staff determined to improve patients’ quality of life.
Associates in Hearing HealthCare offers a wide range of diagnostic and preventive services, from testing and evaluations to hearing aid sales and even counseling.
“I wanted to give people the best possible experience they could get,” Dr. Kennedy says. “I felt they were not always getting it in other alternatives and I felt I could provide a place where people would get a very positive, powerful impact on their lives.”
Dr. Kennedy earned her Doctorate in Hearing Science at City University of New York and spent nearly two decades as an Associate Professor of Audiology at Temple. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, but finds the most fulfillment in practicing “happy medicine” that makes a significant difference for patients of all ages.
Her diverse background, along with that of the other experienced audiologists on the staff, ensures that patients at Associates in Hearing HealthCare receive the utmost in personal attention and care.
“I’ve always found the field to be very interesting,” she says. “I’ve had an atypical career in that I worked as a clinician for many years and then went and got my Ph.D. and worked in research and academia for another 18 years before setting up the practice on a full-time basis. So I’ve covered a wider range of the field than many clinicians do. It’s been a lot of fun being able to help people.”
Hearing loss is a common issue that affects approximately 48 million Americans, and it is often noticed by family members or colleagues before the person suffering. Family history may play a role but it is also a natural result of the aging process.
If someone has trouble hearing in a loud environment, frequently asks people to repeat themselves, often believes others are mumbling or has difficulty hearing on the telephone, it could be a telltale sign of hearing loss.
Dr. Kennedy adds that hearing loss can be associated with cognitive decline, which occurs frequently when there is a loss of stimulation to the brain, whether it is visual or auditory.
“Cognitive decline is a multifaceted problem,” she says. “People may have a genetic component and there is very little you can do to change that. But there are a lot of things people can do to make sure the auditory cortex of their brain in and of itself is given the kind of stimulation it needs. A recent article that was published in The Lancet, a very well-respected journal, has noted that of all the contributors and correlated issues that go with predicting cognitive decline, the one that is most open to treatment would be hearing. You can do something about it and make some changes.”
Other comorbid conditions include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. Mental health is of particular concern considering the loneliness that can be tied to hearing loss.
“I think COVID-19 has certainly driven home that isolation is not good for us. We are social animals,” Dr. Kennedy says. “The consequence of that is less stimulation and more depression, and with depression comes less interest in the world around us. So it’s a very negative cycle and it’s hard to break that. We know that people who do not hear well have a tendency to misunderstand what is going on around them, and rather than being embarrassed or looking foolish, they will just pull back and that causes a whole bunch of other problems that are worse.”
Another common problem that Associates in Hearing HealthCare can help address is tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears. Dr. Kennedy explains that it is normal for everybody to experience tinnitus infrequently, per- haps while walking out of a loud concert. When it continues for an extended period, it could be an early indicator of damage to the ear.
Tinnitus can impact a person’s ability to concentrate, fall asleep or enjoy simple activities, but there are options for treatment.
“If you have hearing loss—and most people with tinnitus do, but not all—the first thing to do is to try hearing aids which actually will replace the stimulation that the hearing loss has suppressed,” Dr. Kennedy says. “It will not cure tinnitus—there is no ‘cure’ for it. But it will help manage it. One of the other methods is to avoid complete silence, because in complete silence the head noises are very loud. But you don’t want to get too loud either. So you want to find that Goldilocks moment.”
Like other facets of medicine, technology has played a major factor in audiology, particularly in regard to hearing aids. Associates in Hearing HealthCare offers the most advanced devices from leading manufacturers such as Widex, Oticon, Phonak and ReSound. They can be tailored to patients’ specific needs and budget.
“Prior to digital hearing aids our ability to modify sound was somewhat limited,” Dr. Kennedy says. “With miniaturization and the power chips available now, they can have a tremendous impact. Hearing aids are not just amplifiers; they are like little computers on your head that are constantly looking at the environment that you’re in and modifying it to improve performance in terms of speech. It’s pretty amazing. Most manufacturers upgrade every two to three years and there has been a huge improvement. I don’t know what it’s going to be like in five years but I’m excited to find out.”
No matter what type of hearing issue a person has, he or she can expect to receive a complete evaluation from the thoughtful and considerate team at Associates in Hearing HealthCare. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a thorough process in which the best course of action is determined. Dr. Kennedy encourages South Jersey residents to pay a visit and to not become one of the many who have neglected their hearing.
“I really recommend it in a preventative way starting at age 50,” she says. “The ear is getting assaulted much more than it used to, so the recommendation is to get a baseline test. This way, if things change we have something to compare it with and we know how rapidly it’s changing. People get their eyes checked frequently and they should do the same with hearing.”
Associates in Hearing HealthCare
121 Clements Bridge Road
406 Lippincott Drive, Suite G
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 9 (November 2020).
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