Firsthand | Experiences with aging

By Kristine Mortensen

My mother had excellent hearing. Our family used to joke that Nana was able to hear children whispering, well into her 90s, no matter where they were hiding in her house. (It’s true, she could.) But my dad needed hearing aids, as did all of his siblings. And because I physically resemble my dad’s side of the family, I long assumed the day might come when I would need hearing aids, too. And, so it has.

Fortunately, just as I came to that realization, I learned about a hearing loss and successful aging study that was seeking volunteers at the U of M. I applied for and was accepted into the ACHIEVE study, and, soon after my initial screening, was fitted with a pair of sleek, “smart” hearing aids in June 2018.

My hearing loss is moderate. Nevertheless, I am amazed by the difference I experience with my hearing aids. It’s simply wonderful. I can now easily hear the soft-spoken elementary school students I tutor; I have no trouble conversing with a small group of people in a noisy public place; and I can easily understand dialog, even poorly recorded, on TV—I simply stream the audio directly through my hearing aids! 

In addition to hearing aids, the study equipped me with several communication strategies for making it easier to hear and understand. Foremost among them: Don’t bluff! 

Hearing loss affects about one-third of all adults in the U. S. between ages 65 and 74 and more than half over age 75. In other words, hearing loss is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is normal. 

Did you know that untreated hearing loss can increase your risk of falls? It can also lead to social isolation and cognitive decline, neither of which is conducive to healthy aging. 

If you suspect you’re experiencing hearing loss, I encourage you to get your hearing tested by a qualified audiologist. A thorough evaluation includes testing to produce an audiogram—which charts your hearing at low, mid, and high frequencies—and to determine your ability to discriminate between similar sounding words. I did that annually for about three years before I eventually got my hearing aids, and it really helped when it came time to decide that hearing aids, for me, were no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.”



The election of UMRA officers and new board members for 2024–25 will be conducted via an online poll from May 13 to 19, with the results to be announced at our annual meeting on May 21. Look for the ballot in your email inbox on May 13. Diane Young has been nominated to be president-elect.