Prime Time 2017: Hearing loss can create barrier in daily living

Seniors’ hearing should be tested, problems treated

For many seniors, hearing loss may feel like an inevitable annoyance, but it doesn’t have to be a barrier that keeps them from their family, friends and the world around them, said several senior and hearing care providers.


As seniors’ hearing deteriorates, they may choose to participate in fewer activities and somewhat withdraw from others. To combat that, several businesses are looking to enhance seniors’ hearing and reconnect them with the world.

“You want to be as involved as you can be,” said Justin Tourtillott, an audiologist with Hearing Doctors of Kansas, 6001 S.W. 6th Ave. “You don’t want to isolate yourself because of hearing loss.”

Tourtillott said he serves patients of all ages with diagnostic testing, hearing aid services and other hearing devices that connect to phones and electronic devices. About 75 percent of his patients are seniors.

It’s important seniors get their hearing problems treated and remain connected with their loved ones, he said. Undiagnosed hearing loss is associated with dementia.

On average, Tourtillott said, patients wait as long as seven years to confront their hearing problems.

“It’s a real insidious thing that happens very slowly over a long period of time, so oftentimes they don’t realize how much hearing loss they have,” Tourtillott said, adding he also thinks people stigmatize hearing aids.

Ediger Hearing Aid Service owner Rick Ediger said seniors struggling with hearing may put the issue on the back burner.

“It’s a really silent thing that takes away from people,” Ediger said.

Both businesses offer a range of hearing aids, including newer technology that is smaller and more discreet.

Ediger said his clients oftent will have significant hearing loss associated with high-pitched noises but may maintain their hearing for deeper pitches. Advancements have allowed Ediger to adjust hearing aids with a computer and further amplify ranges depending on each person’s type of hearing loss.

Ediger most commonly sees seniors with age-related hearing loss or people with noise-induced or hereditary hearing loss in his office at 3461 S.W. Plass Ave. Often, those with hearing loss lose everyday noises like rustling leaves or birds.

“It affects everything you do, because you have to hear,” he said.

To make sure hearing aids work for everything a senior does, some senior care providers, such as Pioneer Ridge Independent Living, 1000 Wakarusa Drive in Lawrence, offer hearing-assisted services. Pioneer Ridge has a movie theater with a system that connects the movie’s sound directly to residents’ hearing aids.

Debbie Walker, who serves as regional director for independent living at Pioneer Ridge’s parent company, Midwest Health, said the system transmits sound from copper wiring installed under the carpet to make the sound clearer and crisper for residents who want to watch a movie, look at videos of family members or watch a University of Kansas football or basketball game.

It could be frustrating for seniors who want to participate in activities but struggle because of their hearing loss, she said.

“When people have minimal to moderate or severe hearing loss, any event that we’re experiencing with full hearing — it’s just muffled, it’s downplayed,” Walker said. “It’s not a full experience.”

Walker said the whole Pioneer Ridge facility was designed to create a full living experience for its residents. Seniors have access to the movie theater during events or independently at any hour. The facility also has a gym with a fitness coach and machines that program to each individual’s size and strength and a pub that Walker said is open to the public.

Walker said she wants the facility to be a part of Lawrence.

“If we can make those minimal adjustments, take the time, put a little bit more of our finances into creating an environment to allow everybody to enjoy it, we’ll see more involved individuals and happier individuals,” she said.

Contact reporter Allison Kite at (785) 295-1285.

“It’s a real insidious thing that happens very slowly over a long period of time, so oftentimes they don’t realize how much hearing loss they have.”

Justin Tourtillott, an audiologist with Hearing Doctors of Kansas in Topeka



Prime Time 2017: 20 things to know before moving into a senior-care home

There may come a time when a loved one can no longer care for themselves in their home. Perhaps they’re prone to... Read more