THERE IS A QUESTION that Dr. Lori Halvorson routinely asks her patients at Lake Forest Hearing Professionals, a question that often takes both men and women by surprise, a question that is far more important than it may sound on the surface.
“I ask them if they brush their teeth every day,” chuckles Dr. Halvorson, CEO of Lake Forest Hearing Professionals and a leader in hearing and brain wellness. “It sounds like a simple question, but we want to make hearing screenings as routine as dental checkups. You go to the dentist every year, but they don’t get their hearing checked. We need to educate the people in the medical community to see the value in that and take action.”
And she has done just that for over thirty years, having become one of the country’s most renowned authorities on all things auditory, from well-fit hearing aids to brain retraining to groundbreaking research into the connection between the brain and hearing.
“Helen Keller once said, ‘vision connects us to things, but hearing connects us to people,” recalls Dr. Halvorson. “Once I read that quote, it really sealed the deal for me. I wanted to make audiology my life mission.”
And like any accomplished visionary, Dr. Halvorson has long known that there has been much to be learned in a field that quite frankly doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
“It’s not just about the act of hearing,” says Dr. Halvorson. “It’s about the fact that when we let our hearing get damaged, the end result is dementia and that’s not acceptable.”
Indeed, in recent years, an increasing number of studies have pointed to the idea that hearing loss and dementia go hand in hand, and that even a mild hearing loss will double one’s risk for dementia.
“We hear with our brain,” explains Dr. Halvorson, who opened Lake Forest Hearing Professionals 15 years ago, essentially creating a boutique hearing experience for her patients via offices in Lake Forest, Northfield, and Lincoln Park. “So, I start really doing a lot of research on the brain. And now, so does the rest of the world.”
Today, we have come to find out that one-third of dementia cases could be prevented, simply by modifying one’s life, sometimes ever so slightly. It is these revelations that make up the backbone of Sounhaus.
“Sounhaus is my passion and is there to provide a comprehensive health approach for preservation of hearing,” explains Dr. Halvorson of the movement she worked on with a group of distinguished researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School. “The university owns the patent on a nutraceutical called Soundbites. This nutraceutical helps rescue the cell when it gets in trouble before the hearing loss occurs. We are all born with 31,000 hearing neurons and we need all of them. It’s like playing the piano with missing keys. The keys that are still there have to work harder.”
Certainly, this means that hearing health must be made a priority, not just when one experiences hearing loss, but long before that.
“Pediatricians stress to their patients the importance of wearing your bike helmet and brushing your teeth every day, but the idea of hearing doesn’t get too much attention,” says Dr. Halvorson, noting that a recent CDC study shows that one of every six teenagers today have some sort of hearing loss. “We want to educate people, from a very early age, on why they should preserve their hearing and not let external high-risk environments cause further damage.”
Not surprisingly, Dr. Halvorson says that one of the most highrisk environments involves headphones in your ears for too long and at too loud a volume.
“We need to change the model of audiology,” she says. “To wait until there’s damage and you have to get a hearing aid is quite frankly too late. We must start educating and encouraging daily preventative care and yearly screenings.”
Dr. Halvorson says that she knows that sharing this sort of information with the world is going to be a tough climb. So instead, she takes it one step…and one patient, at a time.
“We talk to our patients in Lake Forest, who take the facts to their family and friends on the North Shore, who share it with their friends in Chicago and across the state and around the country and so on and so on,” Dr. Halvorson says with a smile. “I’ve invested much time and passion into this, and I will do so until everyone realizes that they truly are in control of their future.”
Lake Forest Hearing Professionals is located at 225 E. Deerpath Road, Suite 223, in Lake Forest; at 400 N. Central Avenue, Suite 100, in Northfield; and at 1731 N. Marcey Street, Suite 530, in Chicago. For more information, call 847-295-1185 or visit lakeforesthearing.com.