Senior Power: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark iv. 9)

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Tuesday July 20, 2010 - 12:47:00 PM

About one-third of people over age 65 report hearing impairment, hypertension, or heart disease. More than one-third of men and one-half of women over 65 report some form of arthritis. Many people have more than one condition. 

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) conducts research to learn about the changes that take place as we age. The NIA supports the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), America's longest-running scientific study of human aging. More than 1,400 men and women are currently study volunteers, ranging in age from their 20s to their 90s. Since 1958, more than 1,500 male participants have entered the BLSA. Starting only in 1978, 700 women were enrolled so, considerably less information is available about the female volunteers. 

Changes in the senses have been revealed by the BLSA. The sense of hearing changes with age in most people. There is a progressive loss in the ability to hear sound at all frequencies. Hearing loss in males 70+ years of age is greatest at the highest frequencies. 

Presbycusis is a progressive hearing impairment accompanying age, typically affecting sensitivity to higher frequencies (above about 2 kHz). Otosclerosis is a hardening of the stapes (or stirrup) in the middle ear causing conductive hearing loss. Neither of these changes is considered a disease by the people who define disease… 

For most people, the ability to hear higher sound frequencies begins to diminish in their thirties. However, there is considerable variation when the process begins and in the rate at which it occurs. In one large study, from 2 to 5 times more men aged 30 to 59 showed a decline in ability to hear the higher notes than did women; whatever level of loss that was found, increased from one and a half to 4 times more in each subsequent decade. The diminution in ability to hear high notes is accompanied by a decreased ability to hear louder sounds. Age-related sensory changes can be traced to degeneration in some of the cells that compose the sense organ itself. 

The vowel sounds of words are generally heard in the lower notes and consonant sounds mainly in the higher range. Because most of the information in speech is encoded in the consonant sounds, the loss of high-frequency hearing makes speech unintelligible. About one-third of people over age 65 have hearing impairment to the extent that some unfavorable social consequences can occur. However, some older people who have a hearing loss actually suffer from blockage of the ear canal by normal wax buildup. 

Many people can estimate the age of an older person from the sound of his or her voice, based on such signs as a lower pitch for females (Elaine Stritch), a higher pitch for males, increased hoarseness (Bill Clinton), changes in the rate of speaking, and imprecise articulation. 




True or false? 

Medicare does not provide even partial coverage of hearing aid costs… In California, there is no charge for a deaf person to obtain an amplified phone… Rush Limbaugh's hearing loss was at least in part caused by narcotic pain killers … In the U.S., there are Telecommunications Relay Services enabling a hearing impaired person to communicate over the phone with a hearing person via a human translator… Use of the term impaired implies that deafness presents an inherent disadvantage, a view that is rejected within the Deaf Culture… Most private U.S. health care providers do not provide coverage for hearing aids … The cost of hearing aids is a tax-deductible medical expense… For low-income senior citizens whose rents are subsidized under HUD Section 8, whether costs related to hearing aids are viewed as medical expense and or acceptable to the project operator when computing ones annual rent recertification is up for grabs… Helen Keller believed that “The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important, than the problems of blindness.”… 


They are all true! 

Medicare does not cover hearing aids for adults. However, diagnostic 

evaluations are covered if they are ordered by a physician for the purpose of assisting the physician in developing a treatment plan. Since Medicare has declared the BAHA ( Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid) implant a prosthetic device and not a hearing aid, Medicare will cover the BAHA if other coverage policies are met. Some nonprofit organizations provide financial assistance for hearing aids, while others may help provide used or refurbished aids. Contact the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders’ (NIDCD’s) Information Clearinghouse with questions about organizations that offer financial assistance for hearing aids.  

Commentators have speculated that radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh 's hearing loss was at least in part caused by his admitted addiction to narcotic pain killers, in particular Vicodin and OxyContin. Some medications cause irreversible damage to the ear, and are therefore limited in their use. Extremely heavy hydrocodone (Vicodin or Lorcet) abuse is known to cause hearing impairment. Various medications may reversibly affect hearing. They include some diuretics, aspirin, NSAIDs, and macrolide antibiotics

The Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program (DDTP) is a California State mandated program, administered by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The programs are funded by a surcharge on all telephone bills in the state. This surcharge appears on bills as "CA Relay Service and Communications Devices Fund." The DDTP has 2 components: The California Telephone Access Program (CTAP) which provides assistive telephone devices, and the California Relay Service (CRS). 

Use of the term impaired implies that deafness presents an inherent disadvantage, a view that is rejected within the Deaf culture movement, where the terms Deaf and hard of hearing are preferred. 

In the U.S., U.K., Netherlands and many other Western nations, there are Telecommunications Relay Services so a hearing impaired person can communicate over the phone with a hearing person via a human translator. 

Most private U.S. health care providers do not provide coverage for hearing aids, so all costs are usually borne by the recipient. 

The cost of hearing aids is a tax-deductible medical expense. 

For low-income senior citizens whose rents are subsidized under HUD Section 8, whether hearing aid-related costs may or may not be acceptable as health-related medical expenses when one’s annual rent recertification is computed is “unpredictable”. 

Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968) was an American author, political activist and lecturer and the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The story of how Keller's teacher, Anne Sullivan, broke through the isolation imposed by a near complete lack of language, allowing the girl to blossom as she learned to communicate, has become known worldwide through the dramatic depictions of the play and film The Miracle Worker





Insurance Agents Trained to Take Advantage of Seniors ,” reported California Health Advocates in June. Agents for 100-year-old insurance giant, Bankers Life and Casualty, were caught on tape training new recruits how to take advantage of the elderly. A report produced by American news magazine Inside Edition has prompted the U.S. Senate Committee on Aging (neither California Senator is a member) to launch an investigation into company practices. Among the many questionable sales pitches used is calling on seniors to sell them Medicare supplemental insurance (Medigaps), but switching the subject to annuities as soon as they arrive. Agents were told to think of themselves as “buzzards” and the elderly as their “prey.” Trainers told them to play on the fears of seniors, particularly their fear of confinement to a nursing home. “You need to almost bring them to tears,” said one. One even encouraged company agents to drive elderly clients to the bank to close a deal. (For further information about California Health Advocates and Medicare, contact Karen Fletcher, MPH, California Health Advocates. Medicare: Policy, Advocacy and Education 


Potatoes and strawberries among the Dirty Dozen? Yes! July’s Tri-Center Nugget reprints USDA lists of fruits and vegetables with the lowest and highest average levels of chemicals and pesticide residues. Sweet corn and cantaloupe are among the Clean 15






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