Mel Walsh

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April 24, 2008
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Say it again, and this time, speak up


Can you hear me?

I said: CAN YOU HEAR ME?

Older people do experience hearing loss, though many don't call it that. Instead, they say other people mumble or don't speak loud enough. The trouble, they say, is with other people's voices.

Well, in reality, up to half of the people now over 75 have age-related hearing loss and my guess is that when rock and rollers and the ear-budded MP3-ers get older, those numbers will go up.

Are you losing some hearing?

Here are some clues:

People complain you turn the TV volume up too loud.

It's hard to hear in crowded rooms (which is why older people prefer quiet restaurants).

You have to ask people to repeat themselves.

It's harder to hear on a phone or a cell phone. (I blame that one on bad reception.)

You feel a bit out of it and socially isolated because you can't hear at social events or meetings.

You have begun to fake it by smiling and nodding, hoping what you are agreeing to is not an assignation in the park.

When people talk to you from another room, you find you can't hear around corners.

So Why Not More Hearing Aids?

Because many people have trouble with them. Let me count the reasons I've heard: They make what you hear too loud - over-amplification - and with feedback issues, the devices can emit noise themselves. The batteries die. They have to be removed to shower or sleep. They are also said to be too ugly and obvious, too cumbersome - the wearer notices their presence. Other complaints: they are not at all sexy, an indicator that you are old and falling apart, too expensive and not paid for by Medicare. So, in general, the cost-benefit ratio of a hearing aid just doesn't add up for many people.

On the other hand, some get great benefits from their hearing aids. The aids allow them to live near normal lives, to remain in the world socially and professionally and to hear the nags of their beloved with greater clarity. (Of course that only means the spouse is heard, no guarantee that they are listened to. That is a whole 'nother subject.)

New Hearing Aid Making Debut

If you or your nagged one has a hearing problem, keep an ear out for a new kind of hearing aid, known as The Lyric, made by InSound Medical of Newark, California and advertised as "the world's first extended wear hearing device." The Lyric is placed so far in the ear, it is invisible to the observer. You can wear it 24/7, can shower with it and, since it is not an implant, the tiny device can be removed with a small magnet. It lasts from one to four months and when the battery gets low, a ten-minute appointment with a qualified ear care provider will replace the entire little Lyric. For some, that appointment will be a drawback. For others, it will be a worthwhile inconvenience in order to enjoy a giant step forward in hearing aid design.

Now, not every ear configuration is suitable for the Lyric and it does cost $2,900 to $3,600 for an annual subscription that includes its periodic replacement. Right now, according the company website, there is no provider yet in Nevada County, but a list of Northern California providers can be pulled up on the company website at www.insoundmedical.com. Here you will find more information plus illustrations of the actual device. Their address is: 39660 Eureka Drive, Newark, CA 94560. Phone: 1.800.941.6072.

The first local ear care specialist to offer The Lyric has an open invitation to an interview on my radio show, Second Wind, KVMR-FM, 89.5, to talk about the device and people's reaction to this new way of combating hearing loss.

Meanwhile, to help your family members keep their hearing, tell your grandkids to turn down the volume on those earbuds. At current decibel rates, by the time they are forty, they won't be able to hear a brass band if the 76 trombones were in bed with them.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist and certifiable geezer. Her book of advice for older women, Hot Granny, is available at The Book Seller in Grass Valley and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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The Union Updated Apr 25, 2008 03:30AM Published Apr 24, 2008 03:00AM Copyright 2008 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.