Say what? Good hearing improves quality of life |

Say what? Good hearing improves quality of life

Audiologist John Burke has been helping people in Northwest Colorado hear better for over 40 years.
Sasha Nelson

Audiologists in Northwest Colorado remind people that regular hearing tests are as important as regular eye tests to ensure hearing loss is corrected to maintain or improve quality of life.

Audiologist John Burke, who runs Northwest Hearing, with offices in Steamboat Springs, Frisco and Craig, said that a good rule of thumb is, “Our eyes go at 40, and our ears go at 60.”

However, “health conditions, hereditary conditions, illness, blows to the head and noise exposure can result in hearing loss earlier,” Burke said.

Not being able to hear when can be confused with other, more serious conditions, such as dementia, said Burke, who recalled helping one patient go from non-responsive at a nursing home to regaining the ability to hear and interact with others through the use of hearing aids.

“Usually, people will start saying things like, ‘Your TV is too loud,’ people keep asking for things to be repeated, sometimes, family members will notice and complain or they (the person with hearing loss) might miss sounds like the alarm on the microwave,” said Cindy Hoest, of the Hearing Aid Office, a hearing clinic with offices in Glenwood Springs and Craig.

“Everybody should have a hearing test, no matter the age, just like an eye test,” Hoest said.

The test helps determine the type of hearing loss to determine the best course of treatment.

“A certain number are medically treated. A number are not treatable, medically, and require that people get hearing aids like they would glasses,” Burke said.

Modern options

Today’s hearing aids hardly resemble those Grandma used to wear, as about 18 years ago, the technology went digital.

“All hearing aids are digital, except Lyric. They have just gotten better and better,” Burke said.

Hoest, who is board-certified in hearing instrument sciences, said there are more than 40 brands of hearing aids.

She tries to get patients into a test pair right away to help determine if hearing aids will help.

Cochlear implants are an option for people who can’t be helped with hearing aids.

Diane Brannan, owner of Bargain Barn in Craig, received an implant for her right ear in March due to damage she sustained from Meniere’s disease.

Burke said these illnesses are “accompanied with dizziness and ringing in the ears (and) might be signs of viral infection which, if not resolved, could lead to permanent hearing loss.”

The first signs something was wrong were episodes of vertigo, Brannan said.

Eventually, it would destroy hearing in her right ear and leave only 30 percent of her hearing in the left.

“The biggest thing is music. I can only hear the drums,” Brannan said.

Hearing aids helped for a time, but eventually, the loss of hearing was so profound Brannan became a candidate for cochlear implants.

“It’s helped,” she said. “The brain can fill in the gaps. I’m really good at that, but I still have problems on the phone.”

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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