Preparing for your visit to HearingLife
To help you the best they can, the hearing care expert needs to know all about your unique hearing. So please think about the following:
* Think about what situations you find especially difficult
* Review the ten warning signs of hearing loss – it’s in our guide
* Bring someone with you to help contribute information that only a third person can
Once you arrive for your visit, your hearing care expert will discuss your hearing history to understand what factors have influenced your hearing. They’ll want to get more information about your personal hearing needs.
The hearing care expert will also inspect your ears for blockages or any other visible problems.
Your visit may also include a listening experience with hearing devices, to see what kinds of sounds you can hear. Your hearing care expert will explain the results to you clearly. It will then be time to develop a plan for the next steps.
If you have a hearing loss, they may recommend hearing aids. If you are fitted with new hearing aids, don’t be afraid to go back for additional follow-up visits. You might walk out after the first visit completely pleased with your purchase. For other people, getting used to wearing new hearing aids can be tough. Especially if this is your first pair of hearing aids, it can take several weeks or even months to get used to them.
About hearing loss
There are different types of hearing loss, and different levels of severity. Without going into the details too much here, it is caused either because sound cannot get to the inner ear (conductive hearing loss), or because sound is not properly sent from the inner ear to the brain (sensorineural hearing loss).
Hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe or profound. What we call deafness is sometimes in fact ‘profound hearing loss’ – when the person suffering from it can hear very loud noises.
Hearing loss figures
* About 1 in 6 people are currently hearing impaired (about 1.1 billion people)
* At the age of 65, one 1 in 3 people has a hearing loss
* Hearing loss is the 3rd most common health condition among adults
* On average, people with hearing loss wait 8 years before getting treatment
Tinnitus (ringing or whooshing sounds in the ears) is related to hearing loss, and often accompanies it.
Because it takes so much more effort to listen, hearing loss can be very socially isolating. It can lead to depression and can hasten the onset of dementia. With more severe hearing loss, the risk of dementia is considerably higher. Not only does it disconnect sufferers from other people, it also cuts them off from current affairs and broader cultural participation via TV, radio, theatre and so on.
So how can people with hearing loss reconnect?
The level of hearing loss a person has affects the type of hearing aid they need. Typically, more mild types of hearing loss can be treated with smaller devices. However, the choice of hearing aid also depends on the size and shape of people’s ears – especially where ‘invisible’ hearing aids are concerned.
Hearing loss can affect only one ear. However, it often occurs in both. Some people choose to treat it only in one ear to save on buying one hearing aid. We don’t recommend this, because with only one working ear we lose many of our capabilities, such as the ability to determine where a sound is coming from.
Whether people need one or two hearing aids, each person’s hearing is unique – because hearing is, in fact, thinking.
We hear with our brains
Our ears are the organs we use to gather the sounds around us, but we actually hear with our brains. So if your ears are not properly picking up sounds and delivering them to your brain, your brain can have a hard time. Because the brain has to work harder to make sense of what’s going on – especially during conversations – hearing loss makes people more tired. The extra effort it takes to listen makes it measurably harder to remember things too.
Put simply: hearing is thinking.
Just as we all think in different ways, people hear in very different ways too. Your hearing is unique! So hearing aids must be tailored (fitted) to your ears.
Most hearing aids have different settings for different environments. If you are fitted with hearing aids, you will need to switch between programmes when you are in a noisy restaurant, listening to music, or having a conversation on a telephone. These programmes all need to be set by your hearing care expert.
If you are fitted with new hearing aids, don’t be afraid to go back for additional follow-up visits. You might walk out after the first visit completely pleased with your purchase. For other people, getting used to wearing new hearing aids can be tough. Especially if this is your first pair of hearing aids, it can take several weeks or even months to get used to them.
Living with someone who has hearing loss
It is one of the most common health conditions. Among the billions of people of the world, one in six has a hearing loss. Among the people aged 65 and over in the world, one in three people has a hearing loss.
Despite this, many people live with untreated hearing loss.
Although hearing loss can suddenly occur, it is often a gradual process. Without a marked change from one day to the next, it can be difficult to notice that your hearing has become worse.
In fact, it is often the friends and family of someone with hearing impairment who notice how much it affects life – long before they do.
Spotting the effects
You may notice that someone turns the volume up very loud on devices such as the TV, music player and radio. Perhaps it is difficult for them to follow conversations when you’re together in a restaurant or café. Maybe they struggle to hear what young children are saying.
Other people notice problems when they are on a busy street – they find it hard to understand sounds among the traffic and other diverse noises.
If someone you know is suffering from untreated hearing loss, you will probably find their social behavior has changed. They may have withdrawn from social activities and feel shame, guilt or anger. They may also become more self-critical, frustrated or depressed. All these types of behaviour can also have a negative effect on anyone who is near and dear.
Depending on the ears of others
If you spend a lot of time with someone who suffers from untreated hearing loss, you may find you regularly have to repeat what you say. They may ask you to explain things more often, and may depend on you to amplify what other people have said, whenever they feel the need.
In a way, you can easily become a supplement to the person’s ears. However, while they may cope with this situation, you probably feel exhausted by the end of the day – though it can continue into the night.
Breaking unhelpful habits
On average, it takes eight years for someone with hearing loss to get treatment. Those are eight years when they are missing out on sounds that make life rich: the laughter of children, the tweeting of songbirds, the crashing of waves on the beach.
Becoming aware of the numerous efforts you make to 'translate' could be an important first step towards their treatment. Realizing the extent of the support they need may empower you to take action, on behalf of you both.
When confronted, some people simply deny it. In these cases, it may take courage, patience, and persistence to get a loved one to accept they have hearing loss. It is usually best to approach it calmly and gently. And gradually. If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t push it – just try again another time.
Accepting you have a hearing loss is a big event in a person’s life. It takes everyone time to come to terms with hearing loss. The good news is that everyone can, and most can benefit from hearing aids.
Be Proactive with your Hearing Safety
It seems obvious – but it’s worth a reminder: the louder the noise and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk of damage to your ears. Even some sounds that don’t seem loud or give you noticeable discomfort can damage your hearing. Loud sounds, of course, can cause damage much more quickly. Always remember that safety counts.
Measuring noise and understanding decibels (dB)
The decibel scale is matched to human hearing, so 0 dB is the very quietest sound that a human can hear without hearing loss. A “typical” spoken conversation is generally estimated to be 60 dB. Although this is not enough to hurt you, many every-day sounds are in the near-harmful range and can impact your hearing long term – so think safety first. A lawnmower, for example, averages in the 90 dB level, so it can cause damage. That’s why it is important to wear protection whether you are mowing the lawn or around loud engines. Even a car travelling at 65 miles per hour or a vacuum cleaner can irritate your ears.
Most experts – including the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health – agree that continued exposure to sounds over 85 dB risks damage to hearing. Therefore, workplace safety regulations usually require employers to provide protection for employees exposed to noisy environments. In the US, the Department of Labor regulates occupational noise exposure and has set a “permissible exposure limit” (PEL) of 90 dB for an 8 hour long day.
The biggest sources of dangerous noise
More dangerous – with immediate impact – are sounds in the 140 dB range. These include jet engines and gun shots. Even louder, is 180 dB of a rocket launch. These sounds can lead to permanent hearing damage. According to Purdue University, your eardrum can rupture if you are 25 meters or less from a jet as it is taking off.
Knowing the danger signs and preventing damage to your hearing
Unfortunately, it is rarely immediately obvious when we damage our hearing – normally we notice it afterwards. However, with awareness, we can help protect our hearing. If you have to shout over background noise to make yourself heard, you may be in the danger zone where prolonged exposure could lead to damage.
Heed your ears’ warning
If you notice ringing in your ears or experience pain, these are signs that your noise exposure is too high. This often appears after a noisy event such as a music concert. If you find it difficult to hear for several hours after exposure to loud sounds, or hear ringing in your ears or other unusual effects, then you probably have been around harmful levels.
Safety first: tips for protecting your hearing
Avoid loud noises. If you are attending a loud event, avoid sitting near the amplifiers or take breaks outside the main venue.
Invest in earplugs. Whether you want to spring for higher-end ear plugs that are moulded to your ears or use noise-cancelling headphones
Take sound breaks. If you are near loud noise, escape for a break every hour.
Lower the volume. Turn the sound down on your earphones or earbuds.
Earphones and hearing loss
Many people regularly use earphones or earbuds – on the way to school or work, while out running, or just while relaxing at home without considering the excess levels of noise exposure.
Earphones generally produce up to 100 dB, while some can produce even more. At this level, you risk damage to your hearing after a mere 15 minutes. Some smartphones have a feature that warns uses when the volume is at a dangerous level. Heed this warning and limit music at excessive volumes piped directly into your ears.
City life’s impact on your ears
According to a recent study, just living in an urban area can increase your risk of hearing damage – by 64%. Traffic, construction, loud music, sirens and other environmental sounds of the city provide continuous exposure to noise can cause hearing damage.
At HearingLife we strive to educate and advise. If you want to learn if exposure to music, explosions or other noise has damaged your hearing, contact HearingLife for a complimentary hearing assessment*.
How we use our brains to hear
Of course, we need our ears to capture sounds, but we only understand these sounds once they arrive in our brains. So hearing – and especially speech understanding – is a cognitive process, not a mechanical one.
In other words: hearing is thinking.
Our ears deliver all sounds to our brains. They do not choose what to send; in fact, they never rest. Even when we are asleep, our ears are sending sound information to our brains.
Our brain then does all the hard work. The brain filters out irrelevant sounds, like other people talking in a restaurant, and like traffic in the background. Without us realising it, our brains are constantly at work selecting what we hear, and deciding how much attention to give each sound.
But before any decisions can be made, our brains must first extract meaning from the mass of overlapping sound waves that fill the air. By taking the sound signals from both of our ears and comparing them, our brains locate the source of different sounds.
We use location information to determine which parts of this mass of sound are coming from certain objects or people. Or animals – these skills evolved during our primitive past, when effectively locating threats and food were critical to our survival.
The brain transforms sound into meaning
Once our brains have singled out a sound source, it compares these sounds to our memory. By doing this, it can determine if the sound is something we have heard before, and therefore something we know already. Equally, our brains sometimes find no reference in their memory bank. Then, it can add a new one, ready for comparison next time. In the meantime, we are alerted to danger by a sound of the unknown.
Once your brain has taken raw sound data from your ears and transformed it into meaning, it can extract more information about your surroundings. From the length of time it takes a sound to echo, and the amount of echo it creates, our brains give us a feeling for how big a space is. We also infer the type of surfaces there are in a room from the way they change the sound, as it bounces off them on its way to our ears.
All of these calculations happen simultaneously, in the brain. Since it is the brain that transforms sounds into meaning, good hearing isn’t simply a question of making sounds loud enough. Good hearing requires that we ensure the brain gets all the sound information it needs. It must not miss out on some frequencies, or some sounds from particular directions.
If your brain is not getting the right sounds to work with, it takes intense effort to extract meaning from the partial sound. Whenever there are missing sounds, the brain tries to fill the gap – an often difficult and exhausting process.
Hearing aids can support the brain
Instead of turning up the volume and overloading your brain, we need to support your brain by giving it the conditions it needs. To properly extract meaning, the brain needs access to the full soundscape, so it can naturally focus on the most relevant sound sources.
Modern hearing aids can provide this. With more powerful processors than ever before, they no longer need to narrow down the soundfield when you are in noisy environments. And when a skilled hearing care expert fits hearing aids, they can compensate for the missing parts of the soundfield, to restore the conditions in which your brain is designed to work.
Tinnitus: What you Need to Know
Tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss
More than 80% of people with tinnitus also experience some degree of hearing loss. However, many sufferers are often unaware that they likely have issues with their hearing, even if they notice symptoms such as buzzing. Fortunately, experts can treat both conditions.
Why do our brains ‘invent’ noises that aren’t there?
Experts don’t know exactly what causes us to hear sound these phantom sounds. Many suspect that it happens when the auditory system reacts to damage by trying to compensate for missing signals. However, some people who experience tinnitus don’t have hearing loss indicating additional causes of tinnitus.
Although there is no known cure for tinnitus, these tips can bring relief:
Ensure auditory stimulation—Make sure you can hear well by adopting hearing aids if necessary. This can help to minimize the appearance of your tinnitus symptoms.
Get quality sleep—If you don’t get enough sleep, your blood circulation can be reduced, which affects both hearing loss and tinnitus. In addition, using an extra pillow to keep your head raised can reduce congestion, which can help.
Eat and drink healthily—Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) may all negatively contribute to hearing loss.
Importantly, how you feel has a big effect on how annoying you find tinnitus. Reducing the impact is therefore often about reducing how much you notice it.
The best first step you can take is to visit a hearing care expert.
Get effective tinnitus treatment
There are several ways to reduce your symptoms, although there is no actual cure. Some people play white noise (sound that has no discernible features) as a first step toward relief. This background noise helps to mask the phantom sounds, helping distract the brain while they fall asleep.
Increasingly, hearing aids are incorporating such technologies. Hearing care experts can program newer models to match your tinnitus symptoms, giving you a range of relief sounds to choose from whenever you need them.
Talking with experts: How can I explain my symptoms?
* We know, it’s not easy to describe noises that only you can hear. But before you visit to your primary care physician or even an an expert in hearing care, it might help you to think about:
* How long have you experienced tinnitus? Have you noticed problems hearing, too?
* What does it sound like? High- or low-pitched? Is it loud or soft?
* Does the sound change throughout the day? Does it get worse at certain times of day or locations?
* Does it worsen after drinking coffee or alcohol, or being in a noisy environment?
* Is it in both ears?
How does this happen?
The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the sensory cells in the cochlea. This is the snail shell-like organ in the inner ear where sounds are converted into electrical signals. Damage to the hair cells here causes tinnitus and hearing loss.
However, middle ear infection, earwax build-up, inflamed blood vessels around the ear, medications and other drugs, and anxiety and stress can all cause symptoms.
Recent research suggests that there may also be a genetic basis, especially in men who have it in both ears.
Can I prevent it?
As with hearing loss, protecting your ears from noise damage is the best way to prevent tinnitus. If you are exposed to excessive noise, try to limit the length of time or move away from the source.
Untreated Hearing Loss and its Consequences
The sooner you take action on hearing loss, the sooner you begin to regain sharpness, confidence and control. Now is the time to end the negative effects of the hearing loss, such as:
Dulling of the senses—When you can’t hear what’s going on around you, you lose mental agility. Due to this reduction in aural stimulation over time, your brain’s ability to process sound and recognize speech is impaired. Therefore, the brain doesn’t get the practice that it needs.
Mental decline—Research consistently demonstrates the considerable effects that hearing loss has on social, psychological and cognitive performance. Also, it can lead to cognitive decline and dementia.
Social isolation—Because conversations are taxing when you struggle to hear, an untreated hearing loss results in a decline in socializing. This can lead to isolation and depression.
The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you feel the improvement
You don’t need to struggle with your hearing. Especially if you or a loved one is experiencing these effects:
* Insecurity because you can’t hear where sounds come from
* Loneliness and depression
* Fatigue and needing to rest after work or social functions
* Challenges remembering what people say in meetings or social gatherings
* Difficulties picking out individual conversations when at gatherings with several other people
* Decreased quality of life
Remember: Hearing loss affects not only the sufferer but also the sufferer’s family, colleagues and friends. That’s why it’s important to seek help if you notice signs of hearing loss in yourself or in a loved one.
Our hearing care experts stand ready to help
If your vision were bothering you, wouldn’t you see the optician? If you had a tooth problem, you would go to the dentist. Don’t let misunderstandings about your hearing prevent you from seeing a hearing care specialist. The team at HearingLife is happy to walk you through the process to regaining control and improving your quality of life. So make an appointment* today.
Do I Have Mixed Hearing Loss?
Examples of how this occurs
Patient One frequently attends loud concerts and subsequently develops noise-induced hearing loss. She subsequently develops an ear infection. Patient Two experiences natural, age-related hearing loss. He then experiences a trauma that perforates his eardrum. Both people exemplify this condition.
How a combination of sensorineural and conductive losses impact hearing
Impairment ranges from slight to profound. Conductive hearing loss makes it difficult to understand speech. Sufferers have trouble picking up softer sounds, especially with competing background noises. If the individual has mostly sensorineural hearing loss, speech and other sounds may seem distorted. So even if the volume is loud enough, the individual may struggle deciphering words.
Some types of conductive hearing loss need an ENT specialist to treat the conductive component first. Afterwards a hearing care specialist will address the sensorineural hearing loss. This may include fitting with hearing aids.
What Should I Do If I Suspect Mixed Hearing Loss?
If you or someone you love is experiencing hearing loss or other hearing-related symptoms, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a licensed specialist who can properly assess* your needs. We welcome you to make an appointment today.
Hearing Loss Linked to Depression
About the research
The 2014 study, authored by Chuan-Ming Li, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher at the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, was published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. The study found a significant association between hearing loss and moderate to severe depression. Researchers showed that 5% of individuals without hearing loss had symptoms of depression, compared to 11% of individuals with hearing loss who also exhibited signs.
Who is most at risk of developing depression?
More than 18,000 adults responded to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It required filling out a questionnaire with questions the researchers designed to reveal symptoms of melancholy. The research demonstrated the strongest connection between hearing deficits and depression in women age 18 and 69 years. The research did not show a correlation in men over age 70, only in women. This may be due to the fact that women, after the age of 65, begin losing the ability to hear higher frequencies. The brain needs these higher pitched sounds to comprehend speech in loud environments. A decrease in communication leads to loneliness and feeling left out.
Why are individuals with hearing loss more likely to experience depression?
People with hearing loss often express difficulty in communicating with family members, colleagues and friends. There are also links between hearing loss and dementia. This can lead to the individual with hearing loss retreating from social life and isolating him- or herself. But treatment is effective in restoring relationships. If you have symptoms of hearing loss and sadness, contact your health care provider. If you are concerned about hearing loss, make an appointment for a free hearing assessment*.
Research Links Stroke to Sudden Hearing Loss
Vascular occlusion and hearing
While medical practitioners can’t say definitively what provokes an episode of SSNHL, sometimes the vascular system seems to play a role. Besides vascular occlusion, other causes may include:
* Viral and bacterial infections
* Ruptured inner ear membranes
* Autoimmune diseases
Researchers have focused on understanding the role that the vascular system plays in sudden hearing loss, including strokes. A stroke is brain damage that results from an obstruction in its blood supply. A stroke that occurs in the outer part of the brain stem can impact hearing.
Risk of Stroke Development among SSNHL Patients
Published in 2008 in Stroke, a study based in Taiwan sought to determine whether there was a link between SSNHL episodes and an increased risk of stroke. The study, conducted by Herng-Ching Lin, Pin-Zhir Chao and Hsin-Chien Lee, evaluated 7,115 patients over the course of five years after hospitalization. Of these 7,115 patients, 1,423 of them were hospitalized right after sudden hearing loss. The researchers used the remaining 5,692 appendectomy patients as a control group.
At the conclusion of the five-year study, 621 patients of the entire sample population had experienced a stroke – 180 of whom were SSNHL patients. After the researchers adjusted for gender, income, medical background and other relevant factors, the data indicated that the hazard for having a stroke was 1.64 times greater – more than a 150% increased chance – for SSNHL patients than the control group appendectomy patients. For the first time this study demonstrated that sudden hearing loss may serve as an early warning sign for a stroke.
What Should Patients who have Experienced Sudden Hearing Loss do Next?
Since approximately 40 – 65% of SSNHL cases result in spontaneous recovery, there is hope. However, anyone who has experienced sudden hearing loss should monitor their health and look for signs of impending stroke. According to the 2008 study, the average time between initial SSNHL hospitalization and the onset of stroke was 804 days. Most strokes occurred within the first two years.
After you or a loved one has experienced sudden hearing loss, it’s important to undergo a comprehensive neurological exam and schedule routine follow-ups, even years after the initial event. For more information on hearing and audiological effects of stroke, make an appointment for our free hearing assessment*.
Memory Function and Hearing Loss: What You Need to Know
About the research
Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. led the study. It tracked and analysed 639 adults over 12 years. Brain scans showed degeneration occurred at a faster rate in those with hearing loss over those without. The study concluded that:
Individuals with mild hearing loss were two times as likely to have dementia.
Those with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely to have dementia.
Individuals with severe hearing loss were five times as likely to have dementia.
Why does hearing loss contribute to mental deterioration?
We don’t know for sure. However, medical practitioners believe that social isolation may play a role. Individuals with hearing loss tend to disconnect and withdraw from their social world. As a result they miss out on conversations and everyday interactions that stimulate the brain. Without the frequent mental stimulation of socializing, the brain may begin to undergo atrophy. Therefore, an individual’s diminished hearing impacts memory.
Additionally, the brain works harder to process surrounding sounds and signals to compensate for hearing loss. This increased exertion and mental multitasking may interfere with the neural connections needed to walk and move around.
Reducing risk factors
Hearing aids help individuals process sound and follow conversations. Data shows that even though millions of Americans have hearing loss, only one in seven uses a hearing aid. And, hearing aid users wait seven years before seeking audiological assistance. Despite common misconceptions, today’s hearing aids are inconspicuous, affordable and highly effective in combating hearing loss.
If you or someone you love exhibits signs of hearing impairment, we can help. Since hearing loss can impact memory and other aspects of brain function, it is important to have a hearing assessment. Contact us today to discuss if hearing aids or other services are right for you.
Can you Test for Tinnitus?
If you or someone you love has been experiencing ringing in the ears of other sounds that no one else can hear, it might be tinnitus. The first step for answers is to make an appointment for a hearing assessment*. After discussing your medical history with a hearing care professional, your provider will check for obstructions in the ear canal and clear out any built-up earwax.
If the tinnitus is reported as being unilateral (only in one ear) you may need to speak with a physician. An Ear, Nose and Throat specialist may order an X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan to rule out larger issues. If no obstructions are present in the ear canal and no other potential causes are discovered, an audiologist or other hearing care provider will consider other causes, including hearing loss.
Professional hearing assessments
Your hearing care provider may conduct a pure tone audiogram, especially if your tinnitus is unilateral or accompanied by loss of hearing. A pure tone audiogram plays different frequencies at varying volumes. Even if you haven’t noticed reduced hearing, an audiogram may show areas of weakness that you may not have noticed before. In addition to an audiogram, your audiologist may consider performing speech audiometry, which looks at how well a patient can hear and repeat certain words.
Sound matching and other methods
Since generally tinnitus’ perceived sound cannot be heard by another person, audiologists use sound matching to determine what the patient experiences. Sound matching consists of playing a series of audio clips to identify which sound is closest to the internally perceived sound.
A hearing care provider may use minimum masking levels to determine if a patient is experiencing tinnitus. This also determines how loud a sounds seem. The audiologist or hearing care professional plays audio clips at increasing volume levels until the patient registers that the external noise entirely conceals the phantom sounds.
How is tinnitus impacting you?
You may be asked to fill out a self-assessment form or questionnaire. This will establish how your symptoms are impacting your life and emotional well-being.
Tinnitus is not an illness. If you are experiencing buzzing, ringing or other sounds you cannot identify, and want to discuss options for relief, contact our professionals so we can discuss your challenges – and provide solutions. Make an appointment for a free hearing assessment* today.
Hearing Loss: A Worker’s Nightmare
“No one in my office has hearing loss! They just don’t want to do work!”
In an EPIC Hearing Healthcare study…
40% of employees said they have had to pretend that they heard something a co-worker has stated.
42% of employees said they often experience miscommunication between others at work.
57% of employees said they frequently have to strain to hear a conversation due to background noise.
61% of employees have had to ask a co-worker to repeat themselves while in conversation.
Out of 2000 workers surveyed by EPIC Hearing Healthcare, 95% said that untreated hearing loss has a negative impact on their job.
2,000 workers were surveyed in this study and their overall finding was staggering! 95% of those workers said that untreated hearing loss has had a negative impact on their job. Whether it was their own loss or that of a co-worker, the result was detrimental to their experience on the job.
“95%! What can I do?”
Treating hearing loss means a world of a difference in all aspects of your life. But the benefits can be very rewarding while on the job. All too often, people speak over each other or mumble in office discussions which makes it hard to always hear and comprehend. For those who may even have mild hearing loss, this can be a burden that could be avoided.
Treating your hearing loss (even in the slightest) can mean better job performance, leading to an overall improvement in happiness. The results may also improve production in the work place. Who knew that getting your ears checked could make your boss smile? But new research suggests that miscommunication is one of the largest factors in profit-and-loss in the workplace. So, that smile is just one result of you taking care of you auditory health. Increase your chances of being a top performer at work by improving your communication skills!
Finding Balance While Enduring Vertigo
What causes vertigo?
Extended bed rest
Inflammation of the vestibular nerve or of the inner ear
Reduced blood flow to parts of the brain
Are there any symptoms?
It is common to experience dizziness when you have vertigo. The dizziness can range from mild to being so severe that a person may not be able to stand due to fear of falling.
Nausea is another common complaint… but is usually just the result of the intense dizziness.
Ringing in the ears that might even turn into temporary hearing loss.
Difficulty seeing straight or clearly.
But there is good news…
In most cases, vertigo is a treatable condition. With the proper medicine, most people who suffer from the disorder can resume a normal life without enduring any of these symptoms. Although, in a few severe cases, treatment may not fully cure the problem. Still, any medical attention will produce small improvements. Thus, if you think you may have vertigo, you should reach out to your doctor immediately.
Do You Have Ear Wax Build Up?
“Why do I have excess wax? I eat well, exercise, and am a perfectly healthy person!”
Although, ear wax build up is not always directly related to general health and hygiene. Some people simply just produce more ear wax than others. There is no magic pill that can cure you of this condition. Thus, when you clean your ears, you need to be very careful not to push the wax any further into the ear canal. Which is why Q-Tips are not meant for ear canals and should never be used for this.
Here are some tips so you can become wax free:
If the ear wax is too hard (enough to cause pain), you can try to soften the wax with a simple over the counter purchase. Try some mineral oil, baby oil, or for the most daring hydrogen peroxide. These can be used in small amounts (eyedropper) to help soften and break up the excess ear wax. Use a cotton swab to gently wipe the outer part of the ear.
If the buildup is too serious to soften, ear irrigation is the best technique to attempt. You can often buy an ear irrigation kit at a local pharmacy. The process is simple. Make sure you are standing with your head centered (no leaning). Pull your ear gently upward to open it. Use your irrigation kit: take a syringe full of lukewarm water and push a stream into your ear. Lean your waterlogged head over to let the liquid drain.
Sometimes home remedies will not solve the issue. Go to your local audiologist and ask to have your ears cleaned. If you are worried about tackling this task on your own, simply make an appointment at your local hearing care center. This is the quickest solution to true ear care.
But remember this above all else…
NEVER PUSH ANYTHING INTO YOU EAR CANAL! This includes those harmless cotton swabs that are stereotypically viewed as your ear’s best friend. These foreign objects may alleviate the problem, but they will more likely cause damage to your ear canal. They can also push the wax further in your ear causing unneeded damage to your ear drum.
Finding the Perfect Balance at Summer Music Festivals
Going to be in an unusually loud atmosphere? Take precautions
It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you are at a concert, ear plugs are a smart choice. We love concerts, but we don’t love the high decibel levels. Depending on where you stand, the amplification and the acoustics, you could be putting your ears in danger. Remember, if you are going to attend a very loud event and you already wear hearing aids, talk to your hearing care professional about how to handle it. You may still need to wear your hearing aids – to hear your friends, if not the music.
Give your ears a break
For every 60 minutes of excessive sound, give your ears equal amounts of “rest.” If you cannot leave the venue, try to find a less noisy spot, as far as possible from the amplifiers. One sign that your ears have enough is if you hear residual ringing after you have left the venue. Like after an evening in high heals or tight toes, your ears have a way of saying enough is enough.
The hearing aid wearer’s golden rule: keep your hearing aids dry
It’s less fun to be outdoors in a pouring rain, but the show must go on. If you wear hearing aids, remember to cover them up. Hearing aids are mini computers. Even getting a little wet may cause problems for their electronic components. Make sure when you are out in the open, you keep them protected from any elements, including rain, sprinklers and even excessive sweat.
Invest in earplugs
Worried about seeming uncool? Some professional-grade ear molds focus on discretion as a key component of their design. So no one needs to know you’re using them. If you are bringing children with you to any concert, it is always a good idea for them to wear noise-cancelling ear phones or other protection. Once you lose your hearing through noise exposure, the damage is irreversible. Speak with a hearing care provider to order your own fitted hearing protection. If you are concerned about past exposure to excessive noise, make an appointment today.
Simple guide to enjoying social events with hearing loss
Noisy social gatherings where many people are speaking can be especially challenging when you have hearing loss. Add in background music or restaurant clatter and you’ve created a listening situation that is difficult even for people with normal hearing.
A little planning can help you socialize more, with less effort in any number of social situations.
Choose your spot
If you’re dining out, select a restaurant with details that minimize background noise. Look for carpeting, cork or acoustic ceiling tiles, curtains, table clothes, seat cushions and other noise-absorbing features. Request a corner table or a quiet spot away from the kitchen.
At parties, stand away from the center of the room and the source of music. Position your back to a wall or soft furnishings, such as curtains, to block distracting sounds. Corners create a good barrier to noise on several sides. Even in a lively party setting, you can find a quiet spot and invite one-on-one conversation.
Pick the best seat at the table
Select a seat that lets you see as many faces as possible. That way, you’ll be able to see their lips while people are speaking. Avoid candle light. Choose brighter lighting that lets you more easily pick up visual cues. Sometimes the best seat is the one beside a friend or loved one who can help fill you in on parts of the conversation you may miss.
Don’t shy away from telling guests that you have a hearing loss and noisy situations can be difficult for you. It’s tempting to nod and pretend you hear but people are usually happy to accommodate. Let people know you’ve missing some of the conversation with simple visual cues like placing your hand to your ear. You won’t disrupt the flow of conversations but you will be signaling to the speaker to speak up or slow down.
Wear your hearing aids
This is an obvious strategy for hearing better in social settings and one of the best. The newest hearing aid technology gives you access to all sounds in the environment. You can hear what you want to hear, even in the situations with multiple people speaking. Try out different hearing aid settings in advance to see which setting is best in noisy environments. You may also want to consider the extra help of a discreet clip-on microphone.
Relax and enjoy
Be easy on yourself. Take short breaks to give your brain a rest and re-energize when you feel fatigue setting in. If conversation at the table is challenging, talk to people nearest you. If a group is too noisy or fast-paced, find a smaller and quieter group to join. Social events are for your enjoyment – not a test of your stamina.
Follow this easy checklist to help you get the most out of social gatherings:
* Find a quiet corner away from the noise, the music and the chatter.
* Position yourself so you can see faces.
* Let people know you may have difficulty hearing.
* Give them a signal when you need a little help.
* Wear your hearing aids faithfully.
* Smile and enjoy the fun.
How to support a loved one with hearing loss:
* Get their attention before you speak. Gently touch their arm or hand or say their name.
* Face them directly. Seeing your mouth and facial cues makes it easier to follow the conversation. Gestures also help.
* Speak naturally and clearly but don’t shout. Avoid speaking too quickly. Pause briefly between sentences. Be sure you’ve been understood before going on.
* Repeat if they don’t hear something. Restate what you said using different words – it may be a difficult word or sound that they missed.
* Stay attentive. Watch for puzzled expressions so you can bring them back into the conversation if they’re having trouble.
* Be patient and respectful. You’ll build their confidence and make the exchange more enjoyable for all.
Is Hearing Loss like Vision Loss?
Both are very important senses, and both cause us great difficulties if they don’t work effectively. But due to the way we use them, their loss affects us in different ways. Many adults get their vision checked regularly, so why do so many people ignore their ears?
Addressing vision loss
When you go to an optician, you look at a letter chart. If you have a loss of vision, you may not be able to read the lower lines of smaller letters, because they become blurry. Your eyes can’t focus on them.
Another way to understand vision loss is to think of how we age. Over time the eyes gradually lose their ability to focus so close objects become blurry. If you are farsighted you know that seeing things close to you – like reading – become more difficult. This loss of sensitivity to nearby objects does not vary; it is uniform.
Comparing to hearing loss
Like vision, our ears often gradually lose the ability to hear high frequencies, both through damage and aging. However, unlike with vision loss, the actual effects of this are not uniform.
Speech is made up of many different frequencies and tones. If we can’t hear high pitched sounds, we find it hard to understand specific letters such as f, s and t. This is because they contain high frequencies. Such letters can also be drowned out by louder, low-pitched vowels like a, o and u.
In contrast to vision loss where we miss chunks of vision (such as the lower rows on a vision chart), the loss of hearing sensitivity affects many different parts of speech that are scattered throughout the conversation, so random bits of conversation get lost.
Are there similarities with vision and hearing loss
There are clear differences between hearing loss and vision loss. But there are many similarities too:
Healthcare professionals offer solutions for both
Both have stylish and discreet options
Treatment makes it possible to live life fully
The consequences of not treating the problem are similar for both, including tiredness, mental decline and social isolation
Vision aids (glasses) versus hearing aids
When people struggle to see, they wear glasses. These “vision aids” help a broad range of people. Whether you wear them for distance, computers, reading or a combination, they work best when an optometrist or ophthalmologist checks your vision, writes a prescription and a professional, such as an optician orders lenses specifically addressing your individual needs – whether you are near-sighted, far-sighted, have astigmatism or a combination of challenges.
The same holds true with solutions for hearing. Since modern hearing aid designs are discreet and stylish – and come in a range of subtle colors – many people find any stigmas to be silly. That’s why our hearing aid wearers are happy that today’s technology-packed aids are cool. Besides, if you hear and see well, your entire world is brighter.
Getting a hearing assessment* is as easy as a vision test. And no drops in your eyes. Plus, with us, it’s free. Contact us and make an appointment to get started.
Exercise Your Way To Health and Good Hearing!
Every doctor has one prescription ready for patients: keep your body healthy through diet and exercise!
This suggestion may include a diet full of plenty leafy greens or getting extra steps by parking the car a little further away from the office. Regardless of your method of staying fit, it has been proven time and time again that your quality of life benefits from an active, healthy lifestyle. This doesn’t stop with toned muscles and a heightened stamina. Studies have shown that exercise (especially in women) is related to a decreased risk of hearing loss.
Here is our version of a Wellness Prescription for Health:
Exercise! Yes, adding even just 20 minutes of aerobic exercise can help do the trick. Keeping up with exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight. This helps lower the odds of hearing loss in the future!
Just say no to smoking! Smoking can lead to hearing loss… and yes, this even includes second hand smoke. Yellow skin and black lungs are not the only thing that await, so think before you light up.
Be careful of NSAID pain relievers. Taking over the counter pain relievers that include ibuprofen or acetaminophen too frequently can lead to damage in the ear. This can result in unneeded hearing loss. Try to take these medications only when absolutely necessary.
Turn the volume down on your headphones and earbuds. Setting your volume settings to 60% limits how loud a phone or MP3 player can play music automatically. Your ears will thank you… as well as your companions.
Include fruits and vegetables in your diet. You especially want to try and eat ones that have magnesium and antioxidants (berries, leafy greens, bananas, avocados, etc..).
Always remember to wear hearing protectors when attending loud events or recreational activities. This can include concerts, yardwork, sporting events… any gathering that makes your heart flutter, not out of affection, but reverb! Hearing protectors are comfortable and easy to use for all types of ears.
When caring for your well-being, don’t forget that your ears are important! Like your knees and your teeth, they need protection. And like the rest of your body, your ears benefit from eating well, getting enough rest and aerobic activities.
How to Keep Your Ears Clean
First of all, earwax is natural and necessary – our ears evolved that way for a reason.
Earwax acts as a natural lubricant that protects the sensitive skin in the ear canal. It also creates a natural barrier that prevents dirt and foreign objects from reaching the eardrum.
What’s more, earwax is a key component of the ear’s self-cleaning mechanism. As skin inside the ear canal grows outwards, it carries earwax with it. During this process earwax captures dirt and dead skin, this all naturally exits the ear together with the wax.
If you find it annoying, chewing and yawning also help to move the wax outwards along your ear canal.
Tips on cleaning ears safely
Remember—we need earwax as protection for the eardrum. So, you shouldn’t clean it too much. It just isn’t necessary. It is safe to wipe away visible excess earwax using a wet cloth. But do not use swabs to remove wax (or anything else) from your ears.
Do you know the saying, “don’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear?” It’s true. You shouldn’t stick anything in your ear canal. While many people may think are safe to clean your ear, Q-tips™ or Cotton Buds™ are definitely a bad idea for wax removal! Why not?
They can scratch and inflame the sensitive skin inside the ear canal, leaving it open to infections.
They also can push debris farther in the ear canal, rather than drawing it outward.
Swabs are not suitable to remove anything from the ear.
If you think you have a blockage in your ear canal, have a foreign object in the ear or think you are experiencing excessive wax, consult a hearing care expert for specialist cleaning.
How should I clean my children’s ears?
The same way you clean your own ears: minimally and without sticking anything into the ear. Although some companies market cotton swabs for children’s use, or even designed not to go far into the ear canal, these are still abrasive, so we don’t recommend them. Our professionals recommend you use a wet cloth to wipe out earwax only from the outer part of the ear.
Can wax block your ears?
Ironically, yes. Often when people try to clean their ears by sticking things in them to clean them, they actually push the wax inwards and create a blockage. Pushing the wax too far in the canal can force it beyond where the skin grows outwards, so it gets stuck. Eventually, this wax can become compacted, leading to hearing loss.
Addressing excessive earwax
In general, our ears produce the appropriate amount of wax to stay clean. However, some people do experience excessive earwax. Over-cleaning can cause this, as the ear produces more wax that it needs in an effort to re-establish an appropriate amount. Sometimes, however, medical conditions can cause the ear to produce too much wax. If you feel you have too much wax, please come see us and we will assess them and help you clean them.
Earwax and hearing aids
Sometimes, hearing aids may contribute to the perception that people have too much earwax, as they sit in the ear canal and prevent it coming out naturally. Most hearing aids have wax filters for this purpose which need to be changed regularly.
Preparing for Holiday Gatherings with Hearing Loss
When people gather it can be noisy. Especially if many people are speaking at the same time. Add in holiday music, restaurant chatter or a football game on in the background, and even people with excellent hearing may have trouble understanding a conversation with someone standing next to them.
If you follow these tips, it may be easier to catch up with loved ones and enjoy their company.
Pick a good place to hear at holiday events
Whether you are in a home or a restaurant, try to position yourself in a space with less background noise. Follow these tips:
Flooring and walls – Carpeting, tablecloths and drapery help to absorb noise.
Pick the right room – In a home, try to avoid the kitchen or areas near the TV. If you are in a restaurant, ask for a seat away from the kitchen or bar.
Avoid the amplifiers – Although you can’t always get away from blaring music, try to be as far from speakers as possible. Corners or booths can provide some relief.
Try for 1:1 conversations – If you really want to catch every word, there is nothing wrong with finding a quieter spot in the hallway, or even outside for one-on-one conversations.
Arrive early to choose the best seat in the house
When choosing your seat, try to be where you can see people’s faces – that way you can pick up on facial cues. Try to sit where there is good lighting. If one ear is stronger than the other, offer the person you wish to speak to the seat on your strong side. You can also ask a relative or friend to help you fill in the gaps if you miss part of the conversation.
Don’t be shy about your hearing loss this holiday season
In noisy situations there is no reason to hide your hearing loss. While it may be easier to pretend that you can hear, nodding along with the others, this is not fair to you (or to the person speaking). If you feel you missed out, there is nothing wrong with asking for a recap afterward.
You can also let people know you are missing some of the conversation with simple visual cues like placing your hand to your ear. This won’t disrupt the flow of conversations but will signal to the speaker to speak up or slow down.
Sometimes a simple reminder for relatives to speak slower works wonders.
Noticed changes in your hearing? There’s still time to get help
Although planning may be underway, the holiday season is still a few weeks away. If you are worried about hearing at Thanksgiving, holiday parties or other gatherings, there’s time to have a no-obligation hearing assessment* to see if hearing aids are an option for you. A hearing specialist can also give you tips on communicating with loved ones. If you are concerned about a loved one’s hearing, offer to bring them for an appointment. We encourage caregivers, friends and family to join our patients for the first appointment.
Let your hearing aids help you
Sometimes the most obvious strategy is the best solution. If you have hearing aids, wear them. Plus, if you forget them and have trouble following along, it may frustrate your family. The newest hearing aids have technical advancements designed for complex hearing environments, where noise is coming from multiple sources. Newer devices make it easier to hear what you want to hear, even in the situations with multiple people speaking.
For best results, try various settings in advance to see which works best for you in noisy environments. If this isn’t enough, you may also want to consider the extra help of a discreet clip-on microphone. If you would like help with your hearing aids’ settings or perhaps reprogramming them, stop in.
It’s your holiday too, so enjoy it!
If you have new hearing aids, go easy on yourself. Take short breaks to give your brain a rest and re-energize when you feel fatigue setting in. If conversation at the table is challenging, focus on the people nearest you. If a group is too noisy or fast-paced, try a smaller and quieter group to join. Social events are for your enjoyment – not a test of your stamina.
Don’t let hearing loss keep you from enjoying the people and things you love. Locate your closest hearing professional and make an appointment with HearingLife.
5 Tips for a Stress-Free Hearing Test
But fear not! Our handy guide is here to help you understand what to expect and ensure you get the most out of it.
1. Bring someone with you
It is a very good idea to bring someone with you – a family member or close friend. For one thing, having someone along who knows you will give you emotional and moral support. Secondly, they will help you remember information that the hearing care expert will share. And finally, they will give another perspective on your hearing loss – they know about how it looks from the outside.
2. Know what to expect
First, you will take a hearing screening. This is a pure tone hearing test where you put headphones on and listen to precise, clear sounds. You’ll hear a series of tones at different volumes. This determines how well you hear different frequencies of sounds.
Next you do a speech test where the hearing care expert will say several words and ask you to repeat them. This test determines how well you understand speech.
You can try our online hearing test here – it is similar to a hearing screening, and gives you an indication of your hearing ability.
3. Prepare for success
Feeling prepared reduces anxiety and helps you get the most out of your hearing test. Try to answer these questions about your hearing, to bring it to the top of your mind:
What hearing loss symptoms do you have? How long have you been experiencing them? Is your hearing loss in one ear or both? You could also ask people if they’ve noticed any changes in your hearing
Have you had any chronic infections, injuries or surgeries related to your ears?
Have you ever had a job that exposed you to loud noise?
Do you have any questions? Write them down so you are ready to ask your hearing care expert. And here’s a top tip: arrive at the clinic 15 minutes before your appointment.
4. Now is less stressful than later
Delaying your hearing test may increase the anxiety you feel about the need to take action. And if you do have a hearing loss, delaying treatment can actually make it harder to treat. This is because your ability to understand speech degenerates more quickly if hearing loss is not treated.
With hearing loss, your nerves and brain get less stimulation. Both need stimulation to keep functioning properly, and when they lack it due to hearing loss they gradually lose the ability to discern speech. Addressing hearing loss prevents such degeneration, and also avoids having to re-learn hearing skills.
5. A good hearing care expert = Peace of mind
Wichever clinic you choose to go with, you need to feel confident about your choice. If your test shows that you do have a hearing loss, your hearing care expert must be able to suggest hearing aids that are suitable for your kind of hearing loss, your lifestyle and your budget.
HearingLife guarantees you experts who help people like you every day. We can determine your hearing level and offer a wide range of hearing aids and accessories – if you need them. We let you try out hearing aids so you can feel what it’s like to wear them and experience how well they work before you buy them. What’s more, all our clinics must live up to very high levels of service, to give you peace of mind that you’re in good hands.
Have you booked a hearing test? Find a clinic near you and schedule your hearing screening today.
Caffeine and Hearing Loss: Good News for Coffee Lovers
Research reveals good news for coffee and tea drinkers
According to the American Journal of Medicine1, in a study of more than 65,000 women, caffeine has positive associations with your hearing health. Specifically, over a period of 18 years, women who had higher intakes of caffeine showed lower incidence of tinnitus. In fact, those who drank less than 150 mg (approximately an 8-ounce cup of coffee) a day showed higher rates of tinnitus.
Why is this important?
Tinnitus, a ringing, buzzing or similar noise that individuals hear without anything present producing the sound, can be debilitating. Especially when it presents as a chronic issue. Although some people develop tinnitus after a trauma, for many others the cause is unknown, so preventative measures provide much-needed help.
Too much of a good thing?
But how much caffeine is too much? The study showed that the women who ingested 450 milligrams to 599 milligrams of caffeine daily were 15% less likely to experience hearing loss. Those who consumed more than 600 milligrams were 21% less likely to develop tinnitus. To put it into perspective, to meet the 450-599 mg category, a person would have to consume about four 8-ounce cups of coffee. Casual coffee drinkers are in luck.
Good for your ears – and your heart!
Benefits for coffee lovers do not end with decreased incidence of tinnitus. At a recent meeting of the European Society of Cardiology2, Spanish researchers presented the results of a 10-year study of nearly 20,000 people called the Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra (SUN) Project. The results showed that healthy people who consumed a Mediterranean diet and drank more coffee lived longer. Dr. Adela Navarro, a cardiologist at Hospital de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, said in presentation, “In the SUN project we found an inverse association between drinking coffee and the risk of all-cause mortality, particularly in people aged 45 years and above. This may be due to a stronger protective association among older participants.” You may wonder how much coffee is helpful. Dr. Navarro told the audience that drinking four cups of coffee daily is fine for healthy people.
Good for your hearing, good for your heart
Starting tomorrow, the days will get a little bit lighter. Nevertheless, you may still enjoy a second cup of joe without regrets.
If you have concerns about tinnitus, hearing loss or hearing health, make an appointment to speak with our hearing professionals. We have plenty of tips for hearing wellness.
Eating Well May Mean Hearing Well
Hearing loss impacts some 48 million Americans1, or about 20% of the population of the United States, and can lead to more than just trouble following a conversation. For women, reducing the risks for hearing loss may start with the basics. A study published in June 2018 in The Journal of Nutrition2 showed that following a healthy diet is linked to lower incidents of hearing loss. Specifically, the study found three diets that have been proven to reduce the risk for hearing loss.
While current trends focus on eating well to help people overcome a wide array of medical concerns, a link between what we eat and how well we hear is the subject goes as far back as the 1950s3.
What should you eat to help your hearing?
Many people associate bananas with hearing well because this is a fruit high in potassium. Here are the diets specifically mention in the study of women.
* The Mediterranean Diet – This way of eating revolves on practices used in Italy, France, Spain and Greece, where the focus is on vegetables, fish and poultry, cheese and yogurt, and avoiding refined sugars and trans fats. Keep in mind that “Mediterranean” doesn’t mean pasta.
* The DASH Diet – With a focus on eating well as a method of lowering blood pressure, DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” It’s not surprising that this diet encourages lowering salt intake.
* The Healthy Eating Index – This diet suggested by the US Government uses a scoring system to evaluate foods and to teach people healthy eating habits. To get started, check out the resources at www.choosemyplate.gov. If that is too complex, the message is simple. Eat more veggies and drink less sugar-sweetened drinks or alcohol.
Poor nutrition linked to hearing loss in children
Adults aren’t the only ones at risk for hearing loss. A study of children in Asia4 found that young children who were malnourished had higher rates of hearing loss as they grew up.
Why address hearing loss?
Hearing loss is an issue that impacts more than just your ears. Studies show that there are links between hearing loss and multiple health issues, including dementia, depression and stroke, just to name a few.
Protect your ears with noise-canceling headphones – and good nutrition
And while it would be ideal to always protect your ears from loud noise, especially at dangerous levels, we understand that you can’t prevent an unexpected sound, such as a car backfiring or loud cheers if you attend a sporting event. Fortunately, you can help reduce your risk for hearing loss by making good choices in the kitchen.
If you have concerns about your hearing or would like more information on hearing loss, contact HearingLife today.
Hearing Does Amazing Things
Sound is everywhere, all of the time. Whenever anything moves, it usually makes a sound. The slightest brush, scrape or tap creates a tiny vibration that becomes a small noise. And every sound carries information. Over time, animals and humans have developed highly sensitive hearing that provides a way to interpret their environment. In fact, most animals can hear in some way – even though some animals are blind.
After millions of years of evolution, our ears have become amazing tools that bring the world to life.
Hearing makes your world high-resolution
Your ears make you aware of all sorts of things without having to look. If there is traffic outside, you can tell if it’s moving fast or slow by the sound. Even the drivers send an impactful message via the sound of their horns. A beep can indicate danger or annoyance, or even a friendly hello.
Of course, you could look. Our senses work together to provide a complete picture of the world. So the more data we get from each of our senses, the more accurate a picture we receive.
In this way, hearing helps make life meaningful. Just as a soundtrack can transform a movie or tell you how to feel, your ears add rich details to any experience, such as birds flying above you, waves on a beach or wind blowing in the trees.
With good hearing, you experience thousands of small details like these throughout the day.
We have built hearing into civilization
Because hearing has always been important to us, we’ve built our world around it. Bells mark the passage of time. Public address systems provide information while walking through a train station. Increasingly, we use electronic beeps to tell us things, such as if our food is ready, our computer is starting up, or our seat belt is undone. We continue to develop sound-based trends. Today's GPS apps provide verbal commands so you can follow directions without looking down.
Our ears help us keep things in order, too. Squeaks tell us that something needs lubrication. Knocking sounds tell us that things need maintenance. Rattles tell us that something is loose. These simple cues alert us to a host of details, from the latest news to a malfunctioning car.
We hear even when we are asleep
Even when we are asleep, we still hear. Unlike our closed eyes, our ears remain open and ready to alert us to anything that needs our attention. That’s why we use alarm clocks to wake ourselves up in the morning.
During the less safe periods of our evolution, the ability to wake up to danger was vital. With this being said, it’s no surprise that we have evolved to react very quickly to sound – quicker than we react to touch and smell.
Binaural hearing makes you more aware of your surroundings
Through our ears, we get advance warning of things we can’t see, so they arrive as less of a shock – whether it’s a territorial dog barking as you walk past, or a family member entering the room behind you.
Working in tandem (called binaural hearing), our ears can tell which direction a sound is coming from – even if we can’t see the source. We can tell where people and things are without looking, even at night. And we can hear if something is approaching from the side or behind – be it a speeding vehicle, a dangerous animal, or a happily laughing child.
In this way, hearing contributes significantly to your mental map of the world. It helps you to orient yourself in it: to know where things are, how they’re moving, and whether they are relevant for your attention.
Hearing loss may make you more accident-prone
No one knows for sure why, but people with hearing loss are more accident-prone than people with normal hearing.
One study tracked injuries related to driving, work, leisure and sports. The people with "a little trouble hearing" were 60 percent more likely to have been injured, those with "moderate trouble hearing" 70 percent more likely, and those with "a lot of trouble hearing" were 90 percent more likely.1
In another study, hearing loss was linked to a much higher incidence of falling over. Even when the researchers factored in the age of the participants, they found that those with hearing loss were still more likely to have a fall than people without hearing loss2.
One of the experts behind the latter study believes the link may be due to lower general awareness, and also to higher cognitive demand. This is because people with hearing loss need to use more mental energy to hear, leaving fewer resources for other activities, such as maintaining balance.
Sounds help us relate to other people
One of the best parts of hearing well is effective communication. Out of the billions of people in the world, our ears can recognize the voice of a single person. What’s more, our hearing can tell us about their mood. From a single word, we can decipher if an individual is happy, tired or sick.
The tone of someone’s voice is very important, too. The same words can mean completely different things depending on the speed and rising or falling intonation. The way people say words can make the difference between something being perceived as a joke or a statement. Being able to hear subtle differences is thus critical for effective communication.
Then there are the sounds we make during our actions. Without necessarily thinking about it, we get a feel for a situation through sounds: a slamming door can indicate anger; clattering in the kitchen can mean someone is rushing; singing in the shower shows contentment.
In this way, hearing well helps you read other people’s emotional state, making it easier to empathize with others.
For all these reasons and many more, hearing is one of the most important ways we gather information that completes our picture of the world.
Do you have concerns about your hearing? Contact us to find out how HearingLife may be able to help you communicate better.
HearingFitness focuses on hearing wellness
Tracking your hearing throughout the day
Many people track their steps or monitor their sleep patterns, but recent additions to the Oticon ON app include hearing-related data. Dubbed “HearingFitness,” this new tool resembles an exercise tracker in capturing data related to hearing aid use, listening environments and other hearing-aid-related behavior.2 It works similar to other trackers, recording how an individual hearing aid wearer uses their devices and gives data on how many hours a person wears their hearing aids each day. HearingFitness’ information includes how many hours the hearing aids are used on various settings. For example, if you’ve used a remote mic or the tinnitus relief option, you can see how many hours (or minutes) you have needed tinnitus relief each day. The app and its features are designed to work with Oticon Opn™ hearing aids.
Other functions of the Oticon ON app
What else does the app do? It allows you:
* To adjust the volume of your hearing aid
* Personalize how you refer to the various programs
* To select instrument programs
* Set streaming sources
* Use built-in tinnitus sound therapy
Don’t worry if you lose your hearing aids; the app also has a “find my hearing aids” function.
It also connects to a whole array of devices, services and programs through the IFTTT (if this, then that) website. If you get an email or text message, you can set IFTTT up so that you hear a beep in your hearing aids.
HearingFitness helps more than just the hearing aid wearer
Do you care for a friend or family member who wears hearing aids? The latest upgrades to this app can make it easier for you to help them. You can set up the app to alert you when batteries are running low. You can also help your loved one to use the HearingFitness data to identify times when they can use help hearing better. Perhaps certain rooms or situations, such as restaurants, are more challenging than other places. You can help identify patterns in use to discuss at your next visit with your hearing care professional.
How does HearingFitness’ data help you improve hearing health?
Knowledge is power. By knowing how many hours a day you use your hearing aids, and which programs you use most, you can identify how to optimize your hearing aids and ultimately improve your hearing wellness. When used in conjunction with a fitness tracker, you compare this data with information on your steps taken, heart rate and sleep patterns for a complex picture of your daily health.
For information on hearing health and wellness, or more detailed information on how hearing aids help people with hearing loss, make an appointment with your local hearing care provider.
1 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/most-owners-of-wearable-fitness-devices-continue-to-use-them-daily-according-to-new-national-study-300572030.html Accessed November 7, 2018.
2 Denise DiMeglio. “Oticon Launches HearingFitness to Help People Improve Hearing Health.” Oticon Press Release. https://www.oticon.com/inside-oticon/news/News/2018/sept-12-hearingfitness. Accessed November 7, 2018.
Veterans and Hearing Loss
Special risks for soldiers’ hearing
No matter where they train or deploy, soldiers face environmental factors that can be harmful to hearing. BioMed Central’s Military Medical Researchers looked at which environments were the loudest and biggest threat to noise-induced hearing loss. They found that the impact of noise on hearing in the military varies among the branches of service.
Yet almost every soldier, sailor, airman or marine will be exposed to very high levels of noise from:
Weapons – shotguns, rifles, pistols, grenades and anti-tank weapons
Engine rooms and carrier decks of navy vessels
Helicopters, fighter planes, transport aircraft and various jets
Jet propulsion fuel
For some, a single explosion with sounds exceeding 140 dB can cause irreparable damage instantly. This sort of acoustic harm to the ears can result in permanent hearing loss.
For others, longstanding exposure to dangerous levels of noise can contribute to ear damage over time. Chronic exposure to high sound levels may lead to changes, such as sensorineural hearing loss that soldiers don’t notice immediately.
Why veterans should address hearing loss
Many people associate hearing loss with the elderly. However people of all ages can lose their hearing – especially if they have had extraordinary exposure to noise. This is one instance when silence isn’t golden. Hearing well means communicating well. Think about it, if you can’t listen:
How can you engage with your loved ones completely?
Can you understand your colleagues or customers or participate fully in the workplace?
How can you really enjoy your favorite music, movies or television? Sure, closed captioning or subtitles may help but it’s not the same as hearing the intonation in voices.
Unlike the loss of sight, hearing impairment is usually more gradual. You may miss bits and pieces of sentences, but you think that your brain can fill in the missing information. Yet sometimes, the brain guesses wrong. You may believe you comprehended the information when you actually misunderstood it. This can lead to needless conflict and unpleasant rounds of “he said – she said.”
New research on veterans and hearing loss
In 2019 the Journal of Neurotrauma published an article focus on how blast exposure impacts hearing loss, "Blast Exposure Impairs Sensory Gating: Evidence from Measures of Acoustic Startle and Auditory Event-Related Potentials." Between 2000 and 2017, nearly 380,000 service members have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which lead to brain-related deficiencies. People with TBIs report that hearing impairment is among the most common symptom. One of the challenges that this study looked at was "sensory gate impairment" (the brain's ability to filter out superfluous information so it can focus on what's important). This study found that veterans who had been exposed to high-intensity blasts resulting in TBIs were more likely to have sensory gate impairment.
This isn't the only area of research regarding solders and hearing-related problems. For more information on studies related to VA health care and hearing loss, see the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research (NCRAR), which has multiple studies underway.
Stylish options for veterans
For anyone needing hearing aids, design matters. If you have a hearing deficit, these devices may provide a vital service to your well-being just like eyeglasses aid your vision. As with glasses, you want hearing aids to fit well while looking great. Today’s models come in many colors and styles so we can be sure to match you with the best hearing aids for your individual lifestyle.
Hearing loss is nothing be ashamed of and hide. But if you choose to, we offer many discrete hearing aids that are hardly recognizable to the naked eye. Whether you wish to wear a stylish mini-computer that sits subtly behind your ear or you hide your hearing aids in the ear canal, there are plenty of options.
Higher education opportunities for students with hearing loss
After the IEP: Students with hearing loss and higher education
Picking among colleges may feel like a daunting task. So if you have aspirations for a degree and you have hearing loss, you have options. To start, many colleges and universities have departments that help students with needs design individualized solutions. This may be similar to the IEP services you received in high school. If you are returning to college as a non-traditional aged student, it may surprise you how much easier it is to access help today. Remember, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public colleges and universities to offer equal access to all students. While support mechanisms may differ from one school to another, hearing loss should not impede getting an education.
Finding the right fit for students with hearing loss
Colleges and universities must provide appropriate academic adjustments to make sure students are not discriminated against based on disability. However, many programs go beyond that help students to get the most out of their learning experiences. And this includes hearing loss.
Prospective students have to face many choices. Is a large university or a small liberal arts college what you want? Or maybe an urban environment seems like a better fit. Perhaps an enclosed campus feels more at home. In addition, if you have hearing loss, maybe you prefer schools with exceptional accommodations for your needs.
While it may be hard to know where to start, here are a few programs that you may want to consider. Most of these colleges are especially relevant for students with severe or profound hearing loss:
Gallaudet University in Washington, DC describes itself as “the world’s only university designed for deaf and hard of hearing students.”
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology (NTID) combines classroom work with a co-op work program giving students work experience in their field of choice.
California State University, Northridge offers services for students who are deaf or have significant hearing loss.
SouthWest Collegiate Institute for the Deaf has associate-degree programs for deaf students. This school focuses on preparing students for bachelors programs or entering the workforce.
"In college I realized I needed to be proactive about my hearing..."
As HearingLife's Chief Audiologist, Dr. Leslie Soiles, explains, it was in college that she realized she needed to address her hearing loss in order to get where she wanted to go in life. "When I got hearing aids, it was life-changing." Hear her incredible story about how treating her hearing loss launched a career in audiology.
Pursuing hearing-related research and education
Is audiology your passion? Maybe you want to consider a path researching audiology and hearing loss. Across the country, schools offer programs to train tomorrow’s audiologist. One resource is the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s online directory of higher educational programs in audiology. Most noteworthy, prospective students may apply for scholarships to study audiology.
A few colleges also offer future educators tailored programs for working in deaf education, including a collaboration between Smith College and the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. In addition, there is the University of Tennessee at Knoxville Center on Deafness. They published a guide for service providers with information that potential students and families might find useful.
Fall is peak season for applying for college
Most of all, if you are considering programs that start next year, now’s the time to get your ducks in a row. Our staff can provide a demonstration the latest in communication-focused technology. Even more, we can advise how to integrate hearing aids in certain learning environments and help you select what's the best hearing aid for your lifestyle. Finally, contact HearingLife at (888) 873-8292 today to set up an appointment for a hearing assessment.*
When do you need to protect your hearing
Even sounds that don’t appear to be too loud or don’t cause you excessive discomfort can damage your hearing if you are exposed to them for long enough.
However, loud sounds can cause damage much more quickly.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB)
The decibel scale is matched to human hearing, so 0 dB is the very quietest sound that a human can hear. A conversation with a friend would be about 60 dB. Once we are up at the 90 dB level that a lawnmower will produce, we are at relatively loud noise levels that can cause damage over time. In fact, most experts agree that continued exposure to noise over 85 dB risks causing damage to your hearing. For that reason, workplace safety regulations usually require the employer to provide hearing protection for people working in areas where noise exceeds 85 dB.
Up at the 155 dB of exploding fireworks (yes they can get that loud!) or 180 dB of a rocket launch, permanent hearing damage can occur very quickly.
Unfortunately, it is rarely obvious when damage is occurring to our hearing – we tend to notice it afterwards.
However, we can try to be aware of the noise levels in the situations we find ourselves. If you have to shout over background noise to make yourself heard, your hearing is probably in the danger zone where prolonged exposure could lead to damage.
Obviously, if you find you have ringing in your ears or experience pain, it’s a sure sign your noise exposure is too high. This often appears after the noisy event (like a music concert) is over. If you find it difficult to hear for several hours after the noisy event, or hear ringing in your ears or other unusual after-effects, then your hearing has probably been in danger.
You can rest your ears by avoiding loud noises. And in future, similar situations, you can be more aware and act earlier to reduce the effects.
If you are in any doubt, wear hearing protection (such as cheap, disposable ear plugs), and get away from the noise as quickly or as often as you can.
Hidden dangers to our hearing:
These days, many people regularly use earphones - on the way to school or work, while out running, or just while relaxing at home.
Earphones are very handy, but it’s not always clear how much sound they are creating. However, they can produce up to 100 dB, while some can produce even more. At this level, you risk damage to your hearing after a mere 15 minutes.
Some smartphones show when the volume is at a dangerous level, using red bars on the volume indicator.
Just living in a city can also increase your risk of hearing damage – by 64 per cent.
This is a according to a study that was recently published in the medical journal The Lancet. It just goes to show how continuous exposure to noise can cause hearing damage.
Tips for learning sign language
What is Sign Language?
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) defines American Sign Language as a complete, complex language that employs signs made by moving the hands combined with facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and is one of several communication options used by people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Learning Sign Language
Nowadays there are so many different ways to learn sign language, it makes it easy to find whichever method works best for you. In addition, there are quite a few free ways to learn sign language, so you don’t have to tax your budget in order to learn it. Here are 10 different tools and methods you can use to learn sign language.
Start out just learning the alphabet.
* Hire a private tutor.
* Take a class at your local school or community center (or a college that focuses on higher education opportunities for people with hearing loss).
* Find a hearing loss support group near you, this can be a great resource for learning sign language and you can get even more out of it.
* Get a sign language dictionary or a how to book. Free ones are usually available at the library.
* Take an online course.
* Watch videos online. (Hint: YouTube has many free tutorials).
* Ask a friend who knows sign language to teach you.
* There are many different software programs, websites, or mobile apps that teach you sign language. We have a short list below.
* Practice makes perfect! Continue to practice as much as you can.
Mobile Applications and Websites that Teach Sign Language
The ASL App: http://theaslapp.com/
Basic ASL: First 100 Signs: http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/pages-layout/concepts.htm
Sign Language Apps: ASL Coach, ASL: Fingerspelling, and Marlee Signs (by the acclaimed movie star, Marlee Matlin).
HearingLife has options for people with hearing loss
Across the nation, the team at HearingLife is always here to help you through all aspects of your hearing health. If you are having trouble communicating and are concerned you may have hearing loss, contact us for a complimentary hearing assessment.*
All Ears on the Woodstock Generation
Musicians at higher risk of tinnitus
Musicians are particularly prone to developing tinnitus. Prolonged exposure to loud sounds is the most common cause of the disease, and up to 90% of people with tinnitus suffer from some level of noise-induced hearing loss.² Further, a recent German study focused on the health insurance records of 7 million people from 2004 to 2008. The results: professional musicians are nearly four-times more likely to suffer noise-induced hearing loss than people of other professions.³
Celebrities speaking out about hearing loss
Legendary rocker, Neil Young, played Woodstock on August 16th, 1969, and continues to perform on the big stage to this day. He also happens to be one of the most well-recognized musicians who suffers from tinnitus. According to the Hearing Health Foundation's (HHF) research on celebrities with hearing loss, Young likely developed tinnitus through years of playing rock music, but he lays the blame on a live concert record he released in 1991 called Weld. He started writing softer songs following this performance, because he “didn’t want to hear any loud sounds.” Woodstock-veteran Pete Townsend of The Who went on to have a similarly long and successful career in rock and roll. HHF quotes Townsend as saying, “I have severe hearing damage. It’s manifested itself as tinnitus, ringing in the ears at frequencies that I play guitar,” Townsend said. “It hurts, it’s painful, and it’s frustrating.”
How well does the Woodstock generation hear today?
It may come as no surprise that musicians are prone to tinnitus, but what about the 400,000 in attendance at Woodstock? Oticon recently commissioned a survey by The Harris Poll to learn more. The survey found that 47% of people in their teens and twenties during the 1960’s and 1970’s now reports some level of hearing loss.4 Ear plugs sure would have helped. However, ear plugs historically have come with an outdated stigma of being “uncool” among the younger music fans.
Longtime music critic, Jim Sullivan, shared on a WBUR post earlier this year that his passion for live music has led to an unfortunate diagnosis from his audiologist. She advised him that he suffers from “high pitch and high frequency loss in both ears,” damage that translates into moderate hearing loss. As a result, Sullivan leaves the reader with some advice: bring earplugs to every gig — even if you don’t need them. Recognize that the quality of life […] is affected by hearing loss.”
What can HearingLife do for Woodstock fans and other music lovers
That’s where HearingLife comes in. Our hearing care professionals are here to help with quality, personalized care as well as cutting-edge technological solutions whether you belong to the Woodstock generation or not. We can tell you when and where you should consider protecting your ears (like at concerts) and what signs you should be aware of so you can face things head-on. We also understand that our services don’t end after you’ve had your fitting, so we’ve introduced our Aftercare program to make sure you enjoy all the perks of being a HearingLife customer. You can also make an appointment to speak to your hearing care provider about having ear plugs molded to your ears.
When you get down to it, life can be just as loud as Woodstock was 50 years ago. Whether you’re listening to your favorite band at a music festival, in your car, or with headphones, the risk of inducing hearing loss and suffering from tinnitus down the road will always be there. Luckily, so will HearingLife.