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Managing conversations challenged Luana

Luana Waru first noticed her hearing was deteriorating when she found it difficult to manage conversations, particularly with her whanau.

The Gisborne woman found trying to hear was frustrating and hard.

“It was easier to not take part in the conversation. My friends and family said I was yelling at them and I should get my hearing checked.”

So she made an appointment with Cheryl Scott at Life Unlimited Hearing Therapy in Gisborne.

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.

“Cheryl supported me by listening to my concerns, testing my hearing and explaining what was happening. We are working on communication strategies that help me cope with my hearing loss.

“One of the most useful things has been explaining to my family what’s happening for me and having the option of hearing devices that assist me to hear. I feel I am getting to where I want to be,” said Luana.

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Cheryl Scott and Luana Waru catch up in LIfe Unlimited’s Gisborne Hearing Therapy rooms.

Cheryl referred Luana to Gisborne Hospital for further investigation, and she is now on the wait list to see the Otorhinolaryngology service (formerly Ear, Nose and Throat).

“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,” said Cheryl.

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”.

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The call to action by the World Health Organization, which 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.

“Hearing loss can lead to communication breakdown and result in frustration and isolation,” said Cheryl.

“I work with people all around Tairawhiti to reduce that impact, so they can live well with hearing loss.”

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.

Cheryl will also, if necessary, go with clients who have decided to get hearing aids to their audiology appointment to provide further support.

She runs regular clinics and workshops in Gisborne and is available to talk with community groups about hearing loss. She also spends one day a month in Wairoa and TePuia Springs.

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