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For Millions With Untreated Hearing Loss, Holiday Season Can be Especially Difficult

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Nov. 25 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- For many of the millions of hearing impaired Americans, especially the 27 million living with untreated hearing loss, the holidays may not be all that happy, says audiologist Cindy Beyer.

Dr. Beyer, senior vice president of HearUSA (Amex: EAR), one of America's largest hearing care and hearing aids companies, said studies have linked hearing loss to stress, frustration, and social isolation, "which can easily be intensified at holiday gatherings with families and friends, when many of those with hearing impairment may find conversations both difficult and isolating."

"Hearing loss is often labeled 'the invisible handicap' because there are no outward signs of a handicap or limitations," said Dr. Beyer. "As a result, we are unlikely to be aware that accommodations may be necessary to avoid a breakdown in communication."

Here are some suggestions from Dr. Beyer for making holiday meals and celebrations more comfortable and enjoyable for those with hearing impairment and for the people around them.

  • Speak clearly and distinctly, but not too fast. And never shout.
  • If you're asked to repeat something, do so without raising your voice and appearing annoyed.
  • If your comment or question is still not being understood after repetition, reword it. Some words are easier to understand than others.
  • In a group situation, be sure that the person is included in the conversation. If not, bring him or her back in.
  • When speaking, look directly at the person and try not to be more than five feet apart.
  • Your facial expressions and gestures and your overall body language are important aids in communicating, so try to be sure that you have the listener's attention and that the room is well lit.
  • Conversation is greatly enhanced when there is no distracting background noise from a radio or television.
  • Dining out? Choose a quiet restaurant. Noisy conversations and the clatter of dishes and tableware in a crowded dining area are barriers to effective communication.
  • Ask if there is anything you can do to make communication easier. For example, conversation will be much easier to understand in a room with carpeting and well-upholstered furniture than in a room with tiled floors, high ceilings or wooden furniture.

While almost all hearing loss can be successfully treated with hearing aids, only 25% of the 36 million Americans with hearing loss have them, according to the Better Hearing Institute, which notes that most hearing aids users report significant improvement in their interpersonal relationships and social lives.

"Today's digital hearing aids are smaller, smarter and more comfortable than ever before," said Dr. Beyer. "I can think of no greater gift during the holiday season than encouraging a loved one or a friend with untreated hearing loss to consider the impact they could have on their lives."

About HearUSA:

HearUSA is the recognized leader in hearing care for the nation's top managed care organizations through its network of more than 2000 hearing care providers and 178 company-owned centers. HearUSA is the nation's only hearing care network accredited by URAC, an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation. HearUSA is also the administrator of the AARP Hearing Care program, designed to help millions of Americans aged 50+ who have untreated hearing loss.


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