The third most common chronic physical health condition in the U.S. is hearing loss. “COVID brought to the forefront a hearing reckoning,” says Bill Schiffmiller, founder and CEO of Seattle-based Akoio, a hearing wellness company dedicated to making life easier for people with hearing aids, including the convenience-focused battery subscription.
With masks covering faces and physical distancing, people noticed words and phrases were being missed. COVID inspired a 500% increase in the use of online hearing tests. “Without being able to read lips and see a person’s facial expression, comprehension decreases significantly for someone like me with severe hearing loss,” says Bill. “But even for a person with mild hearing loss, communication suffers.” A professional audiologist can help find the right solution. Akoio’s website’s find an audiologist search function connects people with an audiologist in their neighborhood.
“Hearing is part of your overall health and wellness,” notes Bill. One in 8 people has hearing loss with many people over 65 having some level of difficulty. For older people, the loss happens gradually and all too often is not attended to in a timely manner. Bill urges people not to delay in addressing their hearing wellness. “Unaddressed hearing loss is linked to depression, earlier onset of dementia, increased hospital recovery time and more,” he notes.
Akoio knows that a simple but critical aspect of hearing aids is the battery. Some hearing aids use rechargeable batteries, but most use zinc-air batteries. The tiny batteries come in four different sizes which are 10, 312, 13 and 675 or yellow, brown, orange and blue. The colored sticker keeps the battery inactive until it’s pulled off. Batteries last from 3 to 20 days, depending on usage, such as the amount of streaming or environmental noise. Akoio offers a convenient, competitively priced battery subscription service that mails your batteries to your home. Top-quality power one batteries arrive by mail, so you never have to worry about your supply or need to go out and buy more. “It’s all about making it easy,” says Bill.
Akoio and the Hearing, Speech & Deaf Center (HSDC) are pleased and excited with a new partnership that provides HSDC’s clients with the battery subscription service. “Our patients will get the same or better service,” says Dr. Brad Ingrao, director of audiology. HSDC has a mission “to foster inclusive and accessible communities through communication, advocacy and education.” Many of HSDC’s services are offered at a free or reduced cost to give those in need high-quality communication access and care.
Ingrao agrees that hearing loss contributes to a decline in the quality of life. “One in five people who need hearing aids get them,” he says sadly. “Accepting your hearing loss is hard work, emotional work,” he adds. Akoio and HSDC are here to help you on the road to improved hearing. Akoio has free resources to facilitate hearing-related conversations with the people around you. You can download guidebooks with ideas for talking to parents, teens and other family members about hearing loss. Akoio is also making new products to help in innovative ways.
Hearing is a life-long topic for Bill, who was born with significant hearing loss that was not diagnosed until he was in first grade. Children with developmental delays from undiagnosed hearing loss are often considered cognitively deficient, which creates a cascade of other problems. The intervention of Bill’s teacher changed his life. Hearing aids brought new levels of communication, learning, connection and meaning to his life. Bill is intimately aware of the challenges and problems with wearing hearing devices. His adult life is committed to caring for people’s hearing needs.
“There is a lapse in time with men in particular,” notes Bill, who cites people who wait seven years on average to address their hearing loss. Women are faster, but still wait three to five years before getting tested. Pandemic restrictions had people postpone seeing their health care providers. Hopefully, now people are feeling safer.
It is quick and easy to sign up you or your loved one for a battery subscription at Akoio’s webpage. Talk readers can use promo code TALK50 to receive $.50 off per pack when they subscribe, receiving batteries delivered to their home every 3 months. Additionally, HSDC will receive a rebate for Talk readers’ subscriptions.
If you have an interest in services for people who are D/deaf*, hard of hearing or have speech-language differences contact HSDC. They also offer training for organizations that wish to better serve D/deaf and hard of hearing community members.
*The term D/deaf can differentiate between Deaf people who identify themselves as culturally Deaf and have a Deaf identity, and deaf are people who are hard of hearing but have English as their first language and may use hearing aids and/or lipread.