Reducing the Curse of Isolation for People with Hearing Loss

by Dr. Alexander Goldin

♦ Social isolation is a fundamental health-related problem. This excellent article gives a lot of information about how social isolation may be related to hearing loss.

In these turbulent times brought on by the COVID-19 virus, lives of people with disabilities may be even more difficult than usual. Hearing loss greatly limits our ability to communicate. People with hearing loss often utilize other channels of information, such as lip reading, body language, and other visual cues, or even the sense of touch, to compensate for the lack of information typically received from a healthy auditory system. These days, such people may require live, face-to-face interaction with others much more than people with normal hearing. Isolation caused by preventive measures against spreading the virus deprives them of those additional information channels. While some of them can live almost normal lives in good times, compulsory physical isolation may significantly and disproportionately exacerbate their problems. It is a well-known scientific fact that hearing loss is a major health factor leading to social isolation, depression, cognitive decline, and premature dementia. If the hearing loss is not addressed in a proper and timely fashion this process of decline can accelerate rapidly.

Traditionally, hearing loss has been treated through the use of hearing aids. However, with less than 20% of hearing-impaired people in the U.S. using hearing aids, we can surely say that hearing aids have failed to provide a comprehensive solution. This is, mainly, due to 4 main factors:

1. Price: Hearing aids are extremely expensive

2. Social stigma: People don’t like hearing aids, thinking they make them look older or handicapped.

3. Limited functionality: Basic hearing aids provide hearing amplification only. Today, the most expensive, top-of-the-line hearing aids allow the wearer to make phone calls, but the quality of sound and the frequency range is still far from perfect.

4. Time to set up and tune: Hearing aids are distributed and tuned by professionals, requiring between 4-7 visits to get them adjusted properly.

In today’s reality of limited mobility and closed or restricted access to audiology services, the fourth factor is becoming a real bottleneck, even if the first three problems are somehow resolved (e.g., if high end hearing aids are distributed for free and people don’t care about how they look). For many people there is simply no way to get help. Hearing loss is not considered a life-threatening condition. Of course, it is not, but the consequences of not treating it are. The situation may become critical as cognitive decline may happen quickly and irreversibly for elderly people. We’d better not wait until too late and try to get them help ASAP.

We feel that our Wear & Hear line of Personalized Hearing Products provides a good, comprehensive, and timely solution for quickly getting help for hearing loss these days. Our products provide an advanced, no compromise, yet affordable, easily-to-operate, and fully personalizable hearing solution. And the great news is that personalization of our products does not require any professional service. It can be done easily by the user or his/her friends or relatives through a simple, intuitive, and free smartphone application.

Our Wear & Hear line of products addresses all aspects of voice communication:

BeHear ACCESS use case couple in kitchen
Reduce the stress resulting from involuntary, prolonged confinement with better communication tools.

1. They resolve difficulties of face-to-face communication between people confined inside their homes. Being able to communicate with a hearing-impaired person without raising your voice or, from the impaired side, without asking the speaker to talk louder, clearer, etc., may greatly reduce otherwise quickly accelerating stress and mutual antagonism. Wear & Hear products can be a family peace saving option in many such cases.

BeHear ACCESS enhances hearing in mobile calls
Improve phone conversations by clarifying and amplifying speech to suit the listener’s hearing abilities.

2. Many seniors are prevented from communicating in person with their families and are relying on phone conversations to stay in touch. For those with hearing loss it is more difficult to understand phone speech because they do not have the visual cues afforded by in-person conversation. Also, phone amplification options and the sound quality of modern phones are limited. The sound options of mobile phones may also not allow suitable personalization. Wear & Hear products resolve these problems by enabling phone calls with high quality sound which is optimized for the user’s specific hearing loss. They can even slow down the voices of fast talkers, making them more intelligible, without asking them to do so.

BeHear ACCESS enhances hearing of television dialogue
In confined quarters, having mutually agreed upon television volume prevents antagonism among housemates.

3. People are watching more television these days. Being able to comprehend TV dialogue at normal volumes will be appreciated by other house dwellers / neighbors. When used with HearLink transmitters, Wear & Hear products work as top-quality TV listening systems with personalized sound.

Couple wearing BeHear ACCESS hearing headsets practicing yoga indoors on mat
Music has a soothing effect if it can be heard properly.

4. Stress is a big problem for people confined to a small space. Quiet, calm music is a great relaxation tool when you can hear it as it was meant to be heard. Unfortunately, hearing impaired people are often deprived of this. Listening and enjoying quiet music requires good hearing. Otherwise, people either cannot hear it, or it is too loud. There is simply no comfortable listening level. Wear & Hear products can help resolve this difficulty, allowing people to reduce their stress.

Patient wearing BeHear ACCESS headset receives meal from orderly.
Hearing well simplifies and tempers communication between patients and their caregivers.

5. Hearing better with Wear & Hear products can help people avoid panic (typically the physical representation of fear, which is a result of feeling helpless or lacking self-confidence). When a person can hear and understand the guidelines for keeping safe they will be calmer, overall.

Last but not least, things may be getting worse in some cases and people may need to rush to hospitals. Even people actively using hearing aids rarely take them to hospitals as they are afraid of losing or damaging their very expensive devices. People without hearing help will experience difficulties in communication with the hospital staff, thus receiving unclear or inadequate treatment. The communication challenges are compounded if the staff are wearing face masks, concealing the physical clues that are useful for comprehension, and taking into account the general background noise which characterizes emergency rooms and hospital wards during a pandemic.

Patient in hospital with oxygen mask wearing BeHear ACCESS hearing headset
Improving patient hearing can impede the onset of hospital-induced “delirium”.

This situation may further increase mental stress and eventually lead or contribute to a well-known disorder called “delirium”, an acute disturbance of mental abilities. We believe that Alango Wear & Hear products can provide a hearing enhancement solution that is affordable, durable, and easy-to-use in hospital conditions.

The earlier people get help, the faster they recover, and the less it costs us as individuals and society in general.

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