Understanding the importance of hearing well – Orange County Register

Many seniors cannot partake in the simple luxury of sound. Even with advances in hearing aids over the years, many users have given them up due to minimal benefits of the technology.

This is a consequence that Dr. Dennis Colucci, a specialist in audiology, said he sees with his patients much too often – along with heartbreaking effects.

“A senior patient not hearing well deserves every opportunity to be engaged and to communicate with their family and friends,” Colucci said, noting the harmful effects of isolation for a senior’s well-being.

As Better Hearing Month approaches in May, local audiology professionals are hoping to raise awareness about the importance of having hearing aids that are properly fitted.

What typically happens is a hard-of-hearing senior will purchase and use a hearing aid that is not properly fitted or adjusted to their needs, Colucci said.

“I had a lady come in yesterday and for two years she’s not hearing, thinking she did the best she could do, saying ‘I’m done, I’m finished.’ And I see this kind of patient all of the time,” said Colucci, whose office is in Laguna Hills.

A common cause for hearing aids not fitting properly is that the clinician applying it does not have the proper training or medical experience, Colucci said.

“This fitting and dispensing issue requires a lot of care, not just putting it on your ear and walking out, because most of those will be misfitted from day one,” he said. “So my view is half of all of the hearing aids from the beginning are not fitted correctly.”

The public often thinks everyone who sells hearing aids are doctors, but half are not, Colucci said. The primary difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser is a doctorate degree – or Au.D.- versus a high school diploma and a three- to six-month training course for dispensers, he said.

“That should not be on the public’s back that the state just gives licenses freely. I’m against it, I think they need to tighten it up,” Colucci said.

“The public are the ones who are at risk, as far as I’m concerned.”

Laguna Woods resident Penny Flaherty, speech therapist and associate professor of speech pathology and audiology at Saddleback College, echoes Colucci’s thoughts.

“The average consumer has no idea about the difference between a hearing aid,” said Flaherty, who teaches a beginning lip-reading class for seniors with hearing problems through the Emeritus program.

Flaherty raised concerns about a segment on ”This Day” on TV6 that presents a hearing aid dispenser as a doctor.

“I think these interviews are misleading to the viewers,” she said. “Seniors are bombarded with these kinds of paid advertisements yet often their qualifications are not included. In fact, for my class I am developing a handout on how to decipher these ads and what they do and don’t say, so seniors are better informed.”

Flaherty said that with about 75 percent of her class using hearing…

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