Melita Peselj says it takes about seven years for some people to work through the process of needing to address a hearing loss.
There are common indicators – being told the television is far too loud is a primary one.
“People don’t know what they don’t know,” Melita says.
“I use a device to amplify sound for them and they are shocked at what they are missing out on.”
As a hearing therapist it is all about offering support to the client and family and educating on the needs of the client to be able to communicate more effectively
Many go through life unaware of what they are missing out on – but for others with more severe hearing loss the inability to join in conversations can be isolating and depressing.
An estimated 880,000 New Zealanders – one in six people – have a hearing loss including about 300,000 people in the working age group of 20 to 65 years. The theme for the annual Hearing Awareness Week, which runs from March 3 to 9, is “Early Identification and Intervention of hearing loss”.
The call to action by the World Health Organization, who recently launched a new app called hearWHO available on both the Apple and Google Play stores, is “Check your Hearing”.
Where industrial noise was once the major problem today it can be music – played at high volumes through the earbuds everyone with a smart phone owns.
New research underlines the importance of having hearing checks as they show a correlation between dementia and hearing loss.
Life Unlimited hearing therapist Melita recounted one of her favourite stories – the life-changing cochlea implant operation on John Reweti-Davis.
His story can be read here
What was inspirational for Melita, who is based in New Plymouth, was hearing John stand to talk at a seminar about how his life changed.
“There were hundreds of people there, and everyone stood and clapped this shy, private man.”
The service provided by Life Unlimited, and funded by the Ministry of Health, is an independent service that includes free hearing assessments, information, hearing screening and support for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents aged 16 years and over.
“I like to spend an hour with clients. We do the initial consultation where we listen to the client’s story, carry out a screening hearing evaluation, look at issues such as communication challenges and impact of tinnitus then provide information, advice and management support.”
Tinnitus, or ringing in the ear, can be aggravated by stress, caffeine and alcohol.
“Hearing loss can lead to communication breakdown and result in frustration and isolation.”
“I work with people all around Taranaki to reduce that impact, so they can live well with hearing loss,” said Melita.
That support includes providing information on effective communication strategies and listening devices. Amplified telephones, smoke alarms, television management and personal listening devices could provide additional tools to – or be a possible alternative for – hearing aids for some people.
Melita will also, if necessary, go with clients who have decided to get hearing aids to their audiology appointment to provide further support.
Life Unlimited hearing therapists also advise on funding criteria and are credentialed assessors on behalf of the Ministry of Health for hearing assistive technology systems, devices that help people with hearing difficulties to communicate with others.
Melita began her therapy work in the far north, servicing Whangarei, Kaikohe and Kaitaia for five years. She always wanted to work at “home” though – and home was Taranaki.
When a position came up at Life Unlimited in New Plymouth earlier last year, Waitara-born Melita jumped at the chance. Her sister Gina commenced training in the same profession at the end of last year and now provides hearing therapy services in Manukau.
Melita runs regular clinics and workshops and is available to talk with community groups about hearing loss. She also spends a day every month in Hawera and Waitara.