Seniors & Aging

There is no reason for Whatcom seniors to miss out on anything going on around them

Joel Bergsbaken, program coordinator at the Bellingham Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center, speaks sign language to his colleague Dec. 2 in the center’s office downtown.
Joel Bergsbaken, program coordinator at the Bellingham Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center, speaks sign language to his colleague Dec. 2 in the center’s office downtown. For The Bellingham Herald

Not hearing can be very frustrating and a common challenge for seniors, says Joel Bergsbaken, Program Coordinator of the Bellingham Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center (HSDC).

“Misunderstandings occur and people become impatient when they have to repeat things,” he said. “It causes family stress that can often be resolved with the proper hearing devices.”

The non-profit, Seattle based organization has been helping patients for more than 75 years with the obstacles faced by hearing loss, speech challenges and other communication barriers. Their goal is to provide quality care by getting to know clients personally and involving family to create the best possible outcomes.

The 13 year-old Bellingham office does not offer hearing tests or audiologists, but advises hundreds of people each year on selecting and utilizing appropriate technology for their particular hearing needs. Their services are free.

“Because we are a non-profit, supported by DSHS and grants, we don’t represent particular brands or professionals, but are able to assist in recommending products that will work well for each individual before they spend money on something that might be never used or used incorrectly,” Bergsbaken said.

“People often give up entirely if it doesn’t do the job right off. Also, the wrong hearing aid can actually make the problem worse.”

Hearing loss usually occurs in the higher frequencies, Bergsbaken said, and other background sounds can muffle the sound of a voice.

“Dining out is a good example, with the sounds of dishes clanking and water running making it hard to hear your companions,” Bergsbaken said. “Your hearing aid may be set loud to overcome the distractions, but then everything sounds like a jumbo jet. The right setting is extremely important to prevent further damage.”

He notes that phones are a challenge for many people with hearing loss.

“Many seniors come to us because they’ve heard we can help with phones,” he said. “In our office we have both amplified and caption phones available to try. We can help people obtain one through DSHS on a sliding scale based on ability to pay. The most expensive amplified phone you get will still be half the cost of retail, and the state will set it up and train you to use it.

“There is no reason to miss out on anything going on around you.”

Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center

North Sound Office Crown Plaza Building

Address: 114 West Magnolia St, Suite 106, Bellingham

Hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Website: hsdc.org/

Phone: 360-647-0910, (toll free) 1-866-647-0910, (TTY) 360-647-8508 or (toll free TYY) 877-647-8508

Videophone: 360-255-7166

Email: bellingham@hsdc.org

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