Love was in the air – and in the ear – the day before Valentine’s Day, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Ear Institute (PEI), as it showed some love to the community by offering an enlightening lecture on hearing loss and how it can impact patients’ lives and relationships.

Elizabeth SedunovBilled as the “Hear the Love” event, Elizabeth Sedunov, AuD, board certified audiologist and assistant professor in the Osborne College of Audiology as Salus University, presented the a program titled “Healthy Aging through Better Hearing” Feb. 13 at the University’s Elkins Park campus. The event also included free hearing screenings before and after the presentation for those in attendance.

“What helps with healthy aging is making sure that we’re maintaining cognitive and physical functioning,” said Dr. Sedunov. “You’re going to be able to age a lot healthier if you’re doing things and being social and out and about and you’re keeping your brain nice and busy.”

Dr. Sedunov explained that as we age, the higher pitched sounds are the ones that initially tend to give us problems.

“People often say, ‘I can hear people fine, I just can’t understand them.’ What’s most important in hearing is that we can perceive sounds and know that they are in our environment,” said Dr. Sedunov. “But our brain is what does the work. It makes us understand what those sounds are.”

So how is hearing related to healthy aging? Dr. Sedunov shared that by age 71, about 50 percent of adults have a mild hearing impairment. But how that hearing loss impacts people is an individual thing, based on things like lifestyle and activities. 

hearing screeningHow do you know that you have hearing loss? Among the symptoms include:
  • You can hear people talking, but it’s difficult to understand what they’re saying, particularly in noisy situations.
  • You think everyone is mumbling. “I can tell you that some people do mumble, or they don’t speak distinctly. But not everybody,” said Dr. Sedunov. “Some people do speak clearly and you just perceive it that way (that they mumble).”
  • You find yourself relying on the “smile and nod” approach more than every once in a while. 

One of the side effects of hearing loss is tinnitus. Dr. Sedunov explained that tinnitus is a sound or a noise in one’s head or ears that’s not in one’s environment. That can include maybe a “beeping” or high-pitched sound. Tinnitus can also be a symptom or side effect for someone who has been exposed to noise on a frequent or consistent basis, like being around jet planes or loud music.

Hearing aids can help, but Dr. Sedunov said that only one in five people with any kind of hearing loss use a form of amplification to help the problem. 

hearing screeningAfter the presentation, those attending who had not had their hearing screened prior to the event walked over to the Pennsylvania Ear Institute for their free screenings. There, Salus audiology students assisted the doctors with the hearing checks and reviewed the results with patients. Doctors then discussed the patients’ concerns and scheduled an appointment for further assessment if needed.

“Anybody over the age of 50 or so, if you’ve had issues like exposure to noise, diabetes, heart disease or a family history of hearing loss, those are all reasons to come in and have your hearing tested,” said Dr. Sedunov.

In a related matter, Lindsay Bondurant, PhD, CCC-A, director of PEI who introduced Dr. Sedunov at the “Hear the Love” event, will discuss “Aging Gracefully: How Addressing Hearing Loss Can Improve Your Quality of Life” at the next Lunch & Learn from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Willow Grove YMCA, 3300 Davisville Road, Hatboro, Pa., 19040. Dr. Bondurant will discuss the signs and symptoms of hearing loss and the impact untreated hearing loss can have on health, happiness and relationships. She will also provide an overview of current management options for hearing loss, including hearing aids, cochlear implants and communication strategies.