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FLORENCE — Florence Hearing Health Care (FHHC) is encouraging people of all ages to prioritize their hearing healthcare during Audiology Awareness Month this October. Florence Hearing is excited to see more people talking about their hearing healthcare this month as Audiology Awareness Month coincides with the launch of over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids being made available this month.

The American Academy of Audiology started Audiology Awareness Month in 2008 as a means of bringing awareness to hearing health and the importance of hearing protection. Florence Hearing is urging the community to help it encourage anyone who has been wondering about their hearing, regardless of age, to get a hearing test. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, even though 13% of the population has hearing loss, only 16% of adults ages 20-69, and 30% of adults over age 70, with hearing loss use hearing aids. Untreated hearing loss can have a significant impact on the quality of life for those experiencing it, such as social isolation. It is also associated with other conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.

OTC hearing aids are an option for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, but with many brands likely to hit the market, a patient may need to do some research to determine which device meets their hearing loss and lifestyle needs. Florence Hearing is encouraging folks to consider OTC hearing aids as the hearing equivalent to reading glasses. Florence Hearing always recommends the first step in any individuals’ hearing healthcare journey is to get a hearing test with an audiologist, even if the patient will be purchasing OTC devices. In addition to getting a hearing test beforehand, the staff at Florence Hearing encourages people to follow up with an audiologist if they find the OTC devices are not helping.

Audiologist Jennifer Sowards, Au.D., owner of Florence Hearing, points out that an important aspect that is missing from the OTC delivery model is the support that an audiologist provides, such as helping patients reacquaint their brains to sound after experiencing hearing loss, called aural rehabilitation.

“They are an appropriate starting point; however, it is still important to see an audiologist for your hearing evaluation to determine whether or not they will help you,” Sowards said. “We are hopeful that this launch will lead to more folks experiencing the positive benefits of treating their hearing loss.”

A baseline hearing test is recommended for folks over age 50 and for anyone who has a perceived change in their hearing and/or tinnitus. An audiologist will do a thorough diagnostic evaluation to make sure there are no underlying, potentially treatable conditions causing the hearing loss and whether further consultation with a healthcare provider is needed.

“Hearing aids aren’t hearing cures, and most folks require a level of in-person support to be successful with using them,” Sowards said.

Florence Hearing encourages the community to manage their hearing healthcare as they do other regular healthcare, like dental and eye care, and recommends that people get a baseline hearing test by age 50, understand the results and any recommendations, and have access to recommended communication solutions in a no-sales-pressure healthcare setting.

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