Reader’s Digest: It’s clear from your music and social media that you’re really close with your mother. How did hearing loss come into the picture with her?
Jann Arden: My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about five or six years ago. Her short term memory is shot: She knows who everyone is, and that I travel and sing, but she doesn’t know how to use the phone or coffee maker. A few months after my dad died, I started noticing that my mom wasn’t responding and I always thought it was the Alzheimer’s. I would catch her sitting at the dinner table not participating in the conversation. I always felt kind of heartbroken because I would think to myself, “Ah, she’s just not getting it.” No! It turns out she just wasn’t hearing it!
We would loudly ask mom if she could hear us okay, and she would respond (just as loudly!), saying there was nothing wrong with her hearing. We were all shouting to be heard, and I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with this equation?” I spoke with her daytime companion worker about it and we took her for a hearing test, which determined she has 70% hearing loss in each ear. I was shocked.
Looking back, were there any earlier signs that your mother was experiencing hearing loss?
Even 10 years ago, I’d go over to mom and dad’s place and find they had TV on so loud. We literally had to turn it down or off to have a conversation with them. My dad also had dementia, and I’m sure he had hearing loss, too. Just like with my mom, he would never participate, and I don’t think he could really hear. But couples tend to do a dance, especially when they’ve been married 50 going on 60 years. They work in tandem.
What happened after the doctor told you your mom had significant hearing loss?
She was fit with hearing aids. The idea of hearing aids was always daunting to me. I had always pictured my granddad-it looked like he had an ear behind his ear, you know?-but Mom’s hearing aids are so tiny, and you can get them in different colours to match your skin tone. You don’t even have to see them!
How much of a difference have the hearing aids made?
Night and day! The first day she had them in, she was really taken aback by things as simple as the sound of the fireplace crackling, or the ticking clock. It has been a profound difference. And for me, it’s given me hope. I can actually deal with this. Her hearing aids are just as much for us as they are for her!
What advice would you give Canadians regarding hearing loss?
There are at least three million people walking around this country with substantial hearing loss, and 80% of them don’t know it. That’s a lot! Prevention is definitely where it’s at. Don’t run your headphones too loud, and use ear protection. I have five acres that I mow on a Husqvarna ride-on mower, and I can’t hear for 15 minutes afterwards. I should be wearing ear protection!
Hearing Loss Prevention Strategies:
Dr. Marshall Chasin, Director of Auditory Research at the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada recommends the following hearing loss prevention strategies:
• When listening to a personal audio device, use headphone-style earphones that automatically limit volume without any distortion.
• Wear ear protection when you are doing anything that involves high amounts of noise, like mowing the lawn or attending loud concerts.
• Being physically active helps get oxygen to all parts of your body and can actually help make your ears less susceptible to hearing loss.
• Consume foods high in antioxidants, like blueberries.
• If you have hearing loss, don’t put off a hearing aid for too long. Hearing loss can exacerbate cognitive decline, particularly after the age of 50.
• Get your hearing tested with the Duracell Stay Connected campaign, which runs until June 26th, 2016. To take a free (and anonymous) hearing test over the phone, call 1-844-9-DURACELL.