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Covid-19 pandemic has helped sound the alarm about gradual hearing loss

The new protocols of masking, social distancing and plexiglass barriers have made individuals more aware that their hearing ability is declining
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It takes the average person 5 to 7 years from the time they first notice hearing loss to do anything about it. (stock photo)

Lorrie Matarazzo, a nationally certified audiologist who holds a doctorate in her profession, has a passion for educating her patients about their hearing loss and ways to manage it. In her 25 years of experience in treating people living with hearing loss, she has noticed a shift through the pandemic.  The new protocols of masking, social distancing and plexiglass barriers have made individuals more aware that their hearing ability is declining.

Lorrie noted that, “Not only does someone who is hard of hearing not hear as well through a mask, I’ve seen an influx of people coming in saying, I didn’t realize how much I was watching people’s faces and now that I can’t see them, I realize I’m not hearing very well.”

It takes the average person 5 to 7 years from the time they first notice hearing loss to do anything about it. Lorrie notes, “When people finally make that decision to come to see me, it’s not because of the hearing loss, it’s due to a communication loss with their family and friends.”

Lorrie and her team at the Northern Hearing Health Centre in Sudbury are here to help. Patients are invited and encouraged to bring family or friends to provide additional support. A lot of time is spent with the patient, testing their hearing and discussing their challenges. Are they finding it more difficult to socialize with others?  Are there specific settings that pose more difficulty than others? Is the hearing loss causing conflict with family?

A significant part of the initial meeting is education. Lorrie explains that, “If the patient and family understand the hearing loss, it helps set realistic expectations for moving forward on their hearing journey and helps to ensure more successful outcomes.”

Lorrie will demonstrate the use of various types of hearing aids and will often invite the patient to try them as well. One of her favourite aspects of treating someone’s hearing loss is the memories that are triggered when people can hear more clearly.  “I’ve streamed music through people’s hearing aids, and they start to cry in my office. They hadn’t heard music like that in years. As well, putting a microphone on a spouse who is walking around to demonstrate how well they can hear again can be quite emotional at times.”

As the industry will eventually move toward online and over-the-counter hearing aid sales, Lorrie wants to caution people on the importance of seeking the help of a professional.  Hearing aids are prosthetic devices that are fit by regulated health professionals.  It is important to ensure that the hearing aids are functioning and fit well.  Scientific measures are used to ensure that hearing aids are providing the right level of amplification and not potentially causing further damage.

Helping a patient to engage more confidently with others demonstrates the Northern Hearing Health Centre’s motto, “Connecting People Through Communication.” Lorrie indicated, “I really feel privileged in being part of improving people’s lives, it’s not just a job to me.”

Locally owned and operated, the Centre’s goal is to provide services that exceed patient expectations. They’ve clearly been successful, given that the Northern Hearing Health Centre has recently been voted the #1Audiology Clinic in Sudbury by CommunityVotes 2021. If you would like to contact the Northern Hearing Health Centre, please call (705) 222-6442 or visit northernhearinghealth.ca