7 Questions With the Woman Who Got the World to Stop Mumbling Around Me
Oshkosh Northwestern blog post with Candy McGinnis Dahl, AuD, audiologist
12 / 30 / 2008
Maria Nelson, Media Relations
Affinity Health System
(920) 554-0686 (pager)
Blog post written by Grace Lim, professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Now let's hear it from the woman who gently, but firmly, showed me that the world wasn't conspiring to mumble around me. In my Q & A with Candy McGinnis Dahl, a long-time audiologist in the Fox Valley, she debunks a hearing loss myth, tells an audiology joke and mulls the tree falling in the forest question.
1. What is the No. 1 indicator that someone has a hearing problem?
McGinnis Dahl: Could be the TV is louder than others would want it, it could be ringing in the ears... hearing loss is usually slow and insidious, you don't realize it is happening to you. It is often apparent to family members first when they notice you can't catch what they say, you ask for things to be repeated, you misunderstand others, you turn the TV up, etc. When you have a vision problem, you notice. When you have a hearing problem, other people notice.
2. Is hearing loss a normal sign of aging?
McGinnis Dahl: I have seen people in their 80s with hearing in the range of normal. Granted I don't see a lot of that, but then why would they see me if they aren't having trouble? About half of the population over the age of 65 have hearing loss, but it is becoming an issue for people at a younger and younger age. I don't think this can be attributed just to aging. Genetics, exposure to noise over many years, medications, etc., can all play a role in hearing loss.
3. Why do you think there is a social stigma to hearing loss? No one questioned my getting glasses or a root canal.
McGinnis Dahl: Maybe because in the past, people waited until they were almost deaf to do something, and by then they seemed senile? Perhaps because the older devices were big bulky beige things that weren't cosmetically appealing? Maybe because it used to be more an "age" issue, but with the noisy culture we live in today, younger and younger people are suffering hearing loss. I fit children, I fit people of all ages. In the past, the stigma was bad enough to cause teenagers to stop wearing their aids because of social issues and then struggle in school because they can't hear the teacher clearly! That would then cause them to achieve lower academically and then occupationally. At least now we have some cool, technologically advanced devices that a teenager isn't ashamed to wear. I fit two teenage girls this year, and last I checked, they are using their devices.
4. Who suffers more when it comes to hearing loss? The person who can't hear or the people around that person?
McGinnis Dahl: That is a double-edged sword. Can I say both? I think the person with the loss truly suffers because they miss out on so much of the world around them, the subtleties of communication with their families and friends. They miss the joke the pastor told, and feel left out when the congregation laughs. They become isolated because they start to avoid social situations that are just too difficult to hear in. They feel resentment when family members won't take the time to speak loud enough or repeat often enough. They feel anxious when they can't hear everything the doctor tells them. It causes depression and anger, which affect your entire body's health and well-being. However, the family suffers also. They are saddened that the hearing impaired won't get the help they so desperately need. They are frustrated that they have to repeat, repeat, repeat, speak louder than is comfortable, or just give up on trying to talk to Dad because he won't do something about it. They lose the easy connection of love and emotion that we express with our voices. They worry about how isolated Mom has become and worry about her living alone and not hearing someone at the door or in the house.
5. You got me using a receiver-in-the-ear hearing device. What about the rule: Never stick anything bigger than your elbow in your ear. Was that all a lie?
McGinnis Dahl: I think they made that rule to see how many people would try to stick their elbow in their ear! No, really the rule was made to stop people from digging in their ears with keys, bobby pins, toothpicks, and Q-tips (yes, I said Q-tips). All of those things can damage the skin of the ear canal, especially long term use of Q-tips which cause eczema and canal wall infections. There are also tons of documented cases of a person cleaning their ear and through one way or another, the Q-tip was pushed through the eardrum. This causes severe ringing, dizziness, nausea, bleeding, possible infection, reduced hearing, etc. etc. Hearing devices could never enter the ear canal that far, at least not without serious effort on the patient's part.
6. I like the mute button on my hearing aids. I like being able to retreat into my cone of silence, especially in an auditorium full of kids. Too bad hearing people don't have that. I realize this is not a question. This is merely a statement of superiority.
McGinnis Dahl: I do feel jealous that at times you can "unplug" from the world. Lucky you!
7. Since I started using my hearing aids, I notice that my sons are constantly thumping around the house. In fact I described the thumping noise to a friend as if "they are chopping down redwoods." That, of course, led to the question: If a tree falls in the forest and you are there, but you can't hear it fall, did it really fall?
McGinnis Dahl: Hmmm, I will have to create a consortium of audiologists and get back to you on that one.
Tell us your favorite audiology joke.
McGinnis Dahl: Ah, there are so many! A man comes back to see his audiologist for a check up. The audiologist says, "So, what does your family think of your new hearing aids?" The gentleman replies, "Oh, I haven't told them yet, but I have changed my Last Will & Testament three times!"
For the Editor:
Affinity Health System, a faith-based regional health care network, is the Fox Valley’s second-largest employer, according to the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry. For the fourth consecutive year, Affinity has been named one of the nation’s top 64 health systems based on clinical performance according to Thomson Reuters, a leading provider of information and solutions to improve the cost and quality of health care. For ten consecutive years, Affinity Health System has been named to the SDI (formerly Verispan) Integrated Health Network Top 100, an annual assessment of the 100 most highly integrated health care networks in the nation. Both St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton and Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh rank among the top 1 percent of hospitals nationwide in terms of quality and efficiency, as determined by the 2007 Premier | CareScience Select practice National Quality Award. Members of Affinity include Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Health Foundation, Oshkosh; St. Elizabeth Hospital and the St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, Appleton; Affinity Medical Group, a regional network of 25 family practice and specialty clinics – 22 of which are recognized as NCQA Level III medical homes, the highest level of recognition – in 14 communities; Calumet Medical Center, Chilton; and Affinity Occupational Health.