How noisy is your neighborhood?
If you live in a city area, chances are you are familiar with the neighborhood noise that comes along with it. Morning, evening, and all hours in between loud noises have the potential to put hearing at risk. Between airports, highways, sports venues, and construction, cities often carry the most at risk neighborhood noise levels with the largest group of people exposed. If you’ve ever wondered just how noisy your neighborhood is, there is a new interactive map that you can use to figure out where your neighborhood stands.
Where are the noisy neighborhoods near you?
This interactive noise map displays data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics to visualize just how loud cities across America can be. You’ll notice a few bright hotspots such as Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago really stand out amongst the crowd. These areas expose residents to as much as 80 or more decibels of transportation noise a day! You can easily zoom in on areas that contain blue spots which represent 90+ decibels. In those areas, using ear protection is crucial to protecting your hearing on a daily basis.
This map is great for anyone who is looking to move to a new area, while this may not be the most important factor in buying a new home, it should be a consideration. You can protect your families hearing by opting to live in a quieter, surrounding suburb of a city and you can avoid surprisingly noisy spots that you may not have thought of originally. To learn more about this neighborhood noise map, you can also read what NPR had to say about it.
Does a noisy neighborhood impact property values?
Living in a noisy area can’t always be avoided, especially if you live in a big city, in a suburban area with lots of highways or near an airport. Of course, some of the most expensive areas of the country are also our biggest cities, such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. You can, however, help prevent hearing loss by spreading awareness. According to realtor.com, noise levels can even impact your property's value, "Quieter areas are generally deemed more desirable, and real estate prices tend to reflect that."
Workplace noise can also impact you
Even if you live in a relatively quiet neighborhood, is your workplace noisy? If you are exposed to common hearing hazards in the workplace, you may want to pay special attention to your hearing. You can take steps to prevent hearing loss, including downloading a decibel meter on your cell phone.
Make sure you and your family avoid prolonged exposure to areas of high traffic, construction, or other neighborhood noise without any hearing protection. If you know you’ll be at a loud event coming up, be sure to pack a few inexpensive foam ear plugs so you can protect your hearing and still enjoy your day or evening! And always remember to get periodic hearing check ups to ensure that your ears are still just as keen as they have always been.
Do you have hearing loss?
Hearing loss often happens gradually, over time. If you live in a noisy environment and are constantly exposed to beeping horns, airplanes taking off nearby or by a construction site, you may not notice any reduction in your hearing. We welcome you to make an appointment for a complimentary hearing assessment* to discuss your hearing and identify areas of weakness.
Helping veterans get help with hearing loss
If you have a loved one who has served in the military, your life may focus on caring for an injured veteran. While many wounds are noticeable, some of the most common injuries lead to so-called “hidden disabilities.” One hidden disability is hearing loss. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, hearing issues are veterans’ most common service-related disability in the United States.¹ With as many as 2.7 million veterans receiving disability compensation¹ or treatment for hearing issues, it’s important for people who care for vets to know how to help.
Step one: recognizing signs of hearing loss in veterans
For most people, hearing loss occurs gradually over time. However, for soldiers, hearing loss or tinnitus can happen after exposure to extremely loud noise or from the power of a blast, such as an IED. In fact, the ears are often the first and most common organ to sustain an injury from a blast.² If your loved one has served in the armed forces, it is important to look for the signs of hearing loss, which can be immediately noticeable or develop over time. These may include:
Problems understanding what someone is saying, even if you can hear that they are speaking.
Having trouble understanding conversations in restaurants or places where background noise is present.
Ringing or buzzing sound in the ears. This condition, called tinnitus, can indicate hearing loss.
Feeling a fullness in your ears, like you are underwater.
Needing the volume to be higher than others need in order to hear the TV, radio or music.
Treatment options for veterans with hearing loss
Fortunately for veterans, the Veterans Affairs medical program includes hearing care, providing coverage that includes hearing aids. In fact, the VA hearing aid contract has recently expanded to include the latest products from Oticon. For information on getting help from the VA, check out their extensive website, VA.gov, where you can also find VA locations that include audiology services.
Focusing on preventing hearing loss in soldiers
While we can’t change past exposure to noise or explosives, the Department of Defense has a Hearing Center of Excellence (HCE) that focuses on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss and auditory injury. Last year, they launched a new app that includes a course to reduce military hearing loss. The HCE has a host of hearing-related resources aimed at educating military personnel and veterans.
Caregivers need hearing care, too
Are you caring for a veteran? Even if you haven’t seen combat, you may have been exposed to excessive noise by living near a military base or even just by attending a rock concert. As a caregiver, you need to hear well. Whether it is for your own well-being, or so you can provide the best help to your loved one, it’s important that you can communicate clearly with physicians and others. And the benefits of hearing loss go far beyond hearing your loved ones better. In fact, we’ve identified 52 benefits of better hearing.
Celebrating veterans today and always
If you are a veteran, we thank you for your service and offer information on veterans and hearing loss. If you are among the millions of family members who care for veterans, we invite you to come for a complimentary hearing assessment to see if you have hearing loss.
Can plane travel worsen tinnitus symptoms?
If you’ve ever experienced buzzing, hissing or ringing in your ears, you are likely experiencing symptoms of tinnitus. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that more than 25 million Americans¹ experience this condition.
If you have tinnitus, traveling on a plane can be an uncomfortable experience. Many travelers are able to sit back and relax on flights. Tinnitus can make this very difficult to do, but can traveling by plane actually worsen tinnitus?
How does flying affect your ears?
You can't air travel without experiencing the change in air pressure. So, how does it impact your hearing? Changing air pressure can stress your middle ear and eardrum, and sometimes leads to a condition known as airplane ear. Symptoms of airplane ear typically include a feeling of fullness, discomfort or muffling of sounds. This can affect one or both of your ears, and the condition generally only lasts for a short time. If you continue to experience symptoms of airplane ear for more than a few hours after flying, we would suggest speaking to a hearing care professional.
Tinnitus and flying
You probably already know that airplanes are loud. A recent study documented that the median volume of an airplane cabin is 85 dB.² When you factor in the air pressure forcing your ears to adjust to the high altitude, it’s little wonder that your ears may be uncomfortable. If you have tinnitus, you may experience exacerbated symptoms during flights.
Whether or not noise will impact your tinnitus symptoms depends on the type of tinnitus you suffer from. Most tinnitus sufferers have what is known as high-frequency tinnitus. As the name would suggest, exposure to high-frequency sounds worsens the symptoms of tinnitus. As the frequency range of a typical jet engine is mid-frequency, the noise of an airplane is unlikely to worsen the symptoms for high-frequency tinnitus sufferers. However for those who have tinnitus that is exacerbated by mid-frequency noise or loud sounds, air travel can be uncomfortable.
Most air travelers are familiar with the experience of ears popping during the ascent and descent of an airplane. If you suffer from tinnitus, this natural popping of the ears can be a problem. The reason that your ears pop is actually your eustachian tube working as it is designed to. To equalize the pressure inside your middle ear, your eustachian tube releases a bubble of air.
If your eustachian tube is unable to equalize the pressure, the thin membrane of your eardrum is stretched unnaturally because of the vacuum that has been created inside your inner ear. This can distort sounds, and may sometimes be painful. The stretching of this membrane can also worsen symptoms of tinnitus.
How can I prevent airplane tinnitus?
The first step to preventing airplane tinnitus is understanding if you need hearing protection against altitude related tinnitus, sound related tinnitus, or both. Our team at HearingLife would be happy to discuss your tinnitus and advise on the most appropriate hearing protection. You can also try some of the below tips to alleviate your symptoms:
Travel with earmuffs or noise-canceling headphones. These will help protect your ears against the high volume of the jet engines. Take-off is when the noise from the engines are at their loudest, so you may only need the protection during that time.
Do not wear earplugs. They may worsen your tinnitus symptoms.
When selecting your seat, opt for one that’s far away from the engines.
Yawn and swallow during ascent and descent. This helps to open up your eustachian tubes, enabling them to equalize the pressure.
When possible, don’t fly if you’re congested. The flu or a cold can block your eustachian tubes, meaning it’s harder for them to equalize your ear pressure.
We don’t want your tinnitus symptoms to prevent you from flying. If you want to learn more about how we can help provide relief from the symptoms of tinnitus, get in touch today. Please contact us to schedule a complimentary hearing assessment with one of our hearing professionals today.
Innovations in Virtual Hearing Care
HearingLife anniversary recognized with innovations in hearing care
Dr. Soiles also shared that August marked HearingLife's 14-year anniversary. While their roots go much farther back (which you can read about in Our Story), they are proud of the great headway they have made as a company.
Industry-leading solutions in the age of Covid-19
As many parts of the country shut down in the wake of the Coronavirus, HearingLife listened to their customers and designed solutions to meet their needs. Dr. Soiles explained how these innovations in hearing care have become industry standards through the launch of new safety protocols and care you can count on programs.
If you haven’t been to a HearingLife office for a while, you will notice some changes. To keep both clients and team members safe, it is required that everyone wear a mask and staff are performing temperature screenings when customers enter the office. In addition, they are sanitizing surfaces between appointments, “We are limiting crossover contamination between clients by making visitors wait in the car, so we can invite them into the office only once the previous appointment is over,” the Chief Audiologist explains, "allowing for social distancing and a safer experience."
Hearing aid batteries for everyone
Dr. Soiles explained that during the height of the crisis, when many hearing aid centers across the country had to close, HearingLife shipped free batteries to thousands of people (both to their own customers and people who had previously not been to HearingLife for treatment), free of charge. Now that their locations are open again, they are asking customers to contact their local HearingLife office to get new batteries.
New drive-up hearing care service
To provide for minimal-contact care, HearingLife has implemented "1-2-3 Drive-Up Service." This allows customers to receive help without leaving their car, minimizing exposure for everyone. It's very simple. For repair or adjustment services, a HearingLife team member will meet you in your car, take your hearing aid in for service and return it to you. Please inquire about this service when you book an appointment to confirm availability.
RemoteCare team provides best-in-class virtual hearing care
Earlier this spring, Dr. Soiles and her colleagues launched virtual services that would connect patients with an audiologist who could troubleshoot their issues with their hearing aids. Even with extraordinary safety measures in place, some of their clients did not feel ready or able to leave their homes. Their providers have now started to offer face-to-face tele-consults using a variety of apps, depending on the customer's comfort level. Whether via Facebook, Messenger, Skype, Zoom, Teams or FaceTime, the RemoteCare team answers questions from customers across the country.
Self-help guides – a video is worth more than a thousand words!
Often, when trying to coach clients over the phone, it is much easier to troubleshoot problems by providing videos via email or referencing online videos to troubleshoot problems with a hearing aid. Dr. Soiles explains, “A picture is worth a thousand words. Never was that more true.”
Anyone can access these complimentary videos and guides in our Self Help information. Dr. Soiles encourages everyone to explore this informative resource and discover important maintenance tips, such as how to take care of plugged wax guards. The guides include clear descriptions, pictures and videos on a variety of topics.
Next in innovations in hearing care: remote hearing assessments
“HearingLife is exploring all new opportunities to better service our customers,” explains Dr. Soiles to the Facebook Live audience. “HearingLife is partnering with a number of other companies that are looking for a way to have a hearing assessment conducted from the comfort of somebody’s home. As part of a beta study in a few select states, HearingLife is testing remote assessments. As we learn more about the program, we plan to provide this service across the country.”
Start a new decade focusing on hearing health
Keeping hearing resolutions is easier than other resolutions!
Many of the most common resolutions are difficult to keep up with. Some people struggle each January to lose weight or quit smoking. Others want to get more exercise, spend more time with family and friends, or maybe even downsize and live better in 2021.
Tips for better hearing
We have 5 easy tips that will help you make a big impact on your hearing health with minimal effort.
Protect Your Ears from Loud Noises: You may not realize what types of noises and sounds can actually cause permanent hearing loss. Many people already know that loud concerts, gun shots, fireworks, airplanes and machinery are loud enough to cause damage; however, there are unlikely culprits too.
How loud is too loud? Noise levels over 85 decibels can become dangerous, especially over long periods of time. You can download a smartphone app that will let you know how loud of an environment you are in. When you use it, you will realize that power tools, vacuums, lawn mowers or even restaurants can be loud enough to cause noise-induced hearing loss if you are exposed for extended periods of time. Spend a little time looking into options, and you'll find that there are lots of ways to prevent hearing loss.
Turn Down the Volume when Using Media: Another cause of noise-induced hearing loss is listening to media through earphones. Most newer devices give you a warning alert when the level is too high and we encourage you to pay attention to it. This applies to any sound listened through headphones including phone calls, music or other entertainment. If you find yourself constantly turning the volume up past 60% in order to hear through your headphones, then consider speaking with a professional hearing care provider.
Exercise: This is a common New Year’s resolution; however exercising isn’t just for weight loss! Studies have shown that you may be able to exercise your way to better hearing when you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Yoga and other fitness programs have been shown to promote healthy hearing.
Eat Healthy: Just like exercising, eating right is another popular New Year’s resolution. In fact, research shows that a healthy diet also helps preserve your hearing as part of a healthy lifestyle.
See Your Hearing Professional Regularly: If you are concerned that you are experiencing any hearing loss, then resolve to make an appointment for a complimentary hearing assessment with us in early 2021.
More resolutions for better living and better hearing in 2021
For more ideas of great things to take up in the new decade, see our latest version of Connected Living, HearingLife's e-Newsletter. With interesting tips and ideas on healthy living, activities, travel adventures, fine dining and more, we have plenty of tips to add a little adventure to your life. From learning how to culinary masterpieces in your kitchen, to trying a life-changing hobby, you are sure to find something to inspire you in the coming year.
Focus on your hearing this fall
Celebrating the autumn soundscape
* Lively birdsong? Birds are migrating. Whether they are heading your way if you live in the southern US, or practicing their formations to escape the approaching winter, America's skies are full of birds’ chirping.
* Rain’s pitter-patter? Not everyone enjoys the increase of raindrops hitting their windows, but many people find the sounds of a fall rain shower comforting and cozy.
* Whistling winds and falling leaves? If you have been out for a walk lately, you may notice an increase in the sound coming from trees.
* Kids’ voices from playgrounds? Some children are back in school. Although some classes are virtual, you can still enjoy children’s laughter coming from your local park or even your neighbors’ yards. And while 2020 might not be the best year for hearing "trick or treat," it's always important to be able to hear your doorbell.
If you can’t hear these sounds now, or they seem fainter, it may be a sign of hearing loss. If you have concerns, you may want to start by taking our online hearing test.
Fall isn’t just a visual and audio experience; there are plenty of meals associated with this time of year. Some foods are actually very good for your hearing. If you have been to a Campaign for Better Hearing event, you have probably heard that bananas promote hearing health because they are rich in potassium. Did you know that some of our favorite fall foods also contain lots of potassium? According to the University of Michigan, several foods that are rich in potassium include:
* Squashes (acorn, winter and pumpkins)
* Potatoes and sweet potatoes
When you plan your favorite fall meals, you may want to make foods that can help improve your hearing health.
Why is fall the best time to protect your hearing?
If you enjoy certain louder hobbies, such as hunting and riding ATVs, you may want to purchase specialty hearing protection. The professionals at HearingLife can fit you for in-the-ear hearing protection, fitted to your ears. Even if you only mow your lawn, it is important to protect your ears from loud noise.
Are you ready for the holidays?
Do you struggle to follow the conversation around the table? Maybe there’s too much background noise, especially when several people are talking at once. One of the many benefits of better hearing is the increased ability to communicate. Instead of asking people to repeat themselves over and over, or to just withdraw, hearing aids can help you hear in a complex sound environment.
Streaming sound to your hearing aids
Need more help? Our experts are available to answer questions today
Types of Tests Used to Evaluate Hearing in Children and Adults
But how do we hear? Hearing happens when soundwaves travel to your eardrum, causing it to vibrate. This vibration forces the soundwaves further inside the ear and triggers nerve cells to send useful information to your brain. This information is converted into the sounds you hear.
To diagnose hearing issues, it is necessary to conduct tests which measure how well you can hear. There are various tests which can identify and diagnose hearing challenges, and the type of test used will depend on several factors, including age.
Hearing tests types for children
Routine hearing tests are suggested for most infants and kids, and they are usually performed before they leave the clinic. In the event that your infant doesn't pass the assessment, it doesn't necessarily indicate a genuine hearing issue. In this instance however, your child should be retested within three months. Some of the hearing tests are:
* Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test: The OAE test checks part of the inward ear's reaction to sound. It measures otoacoustic outflows or OAEs, which the inward ear emits with the help of hair cells that respond to sound by vibrating. This test is generally performed on babies and younger kids who will not react to social hearing tests due to their age.
* Auditory brainstorm (ABR) test: This test is a useful instrument in deciding a child's capacity to hear. It uses a unique PC to gauge how the auditory nerves within a child's ear react to various sounds. This is a safe and easy way to perceive how the nerves and cerebrum react to sounds. It also provides the audiologist with information regarding conceivable hearing loss in children.
* Tympanometry: When it comes to eardrum movement, tympanometry tests are the go-to. For this test, the audiologist puts a small probe resembling a headphone inside the ear. The probe is then connected to another device which drives air into the ear canal. A diagram called a tympanogram then shows the results. This technique is also used to detect the presence of center ear emanation by providing information about tympanic layer compliance.
* Tuning fork tests: Tuning forks are a fast, straightforward way to determine the conceivable presence or absence of a substantial conductive component to hearing loss. They are generally used to give early demonstrative information when audiometry isn't accessible or possible and involve two tests: the Weber and Rinne tests. These tests help the audiologist determine whether a person has conductive or sensorineural hearing loss, and allows them to develop a treatment plan accordingly.
* Speech and word recognition tests: These tests are used to gauge speech segregation – also called word recognition ability. The patient is made to listen to a word or recording and then asked to rehash the words. The audiologist then measures their capacity to comprehend speech at a calm listening level. This can be helpful when determining how useful a specific hearing aid is for any given individual.
* Acoustic reflex measures: Acoustic reflexes measure the stapedius and the tensor tympani reflex created by the eardrum in light of extraordinary sound. When either ear is exposed to a rowdy sound, the stapedius muscles on the two sides contract. Constriction of the stapedius muscle inclines the foremost stapes away from the oval window and solidifies the ossicular chain. Measuring these reflexes can be useful when checking for specific kinds of hearing loss in circumstances where it is difficult to rely on the patient for information. Additionally, they periodically highlight focal sensory system pathology.
* Pure-tone test: Pure-tone audiometry is an interactive test used to quantify hearing sensitivity and involves the peripheral and central auditory systems. This is the principle hearing test used to distinguish an individual's hearing threshold by measuring the degree of hearing loss, and then finding a way to manage the issue. Pure-tone thresholds (PTTs) show the mildest sound perceptible to a person at any rate half of the time.
The bottom line is that one test may not be enough to diagnose the problem. Therefore, your audiologist may request any combination of tests to ensure accurate results.
Does your Medicare Advantage Plan include hearing aids?
What is Medicare open enrollment?
Medicare is health insurance for seniors run by the U.S. Federal Government. Because it is so widely used, our customers routinely ask, “does Medicare cover hearing aids?” Unfortunately, Medicare plans A and B do not currently cover the cost of hearing aids. But there are other options if you are a senior (or a caregiver) looking for hearing aid insurance coverage. There are many supplemental plans that work with Medicare recipients who are looking to expand their coverage beyond basic Medicare. In addition to Medicare Advantage Plans, there are also supplemental plans, sometimes called "Medigap plans." These are available from private companies. Information on choosing Medigap plans is available here.
Choose the right Medicare Advantage Plan for you
There are many options in the marketplace, and the professionals at HearingLife understand the choices can be confusing. Some employers offer special Advantage plans for their retirees. Even if you have an employer-sponsored insurance plan, you may have a lot to take into consideration.
* What are your current and future medical needs (you can't always predict this), your budget?
* What options are covered?
* What are your out-of-pocket costs?
* What specialists take this insurance?
Medicare Advantage Plans and hearing care
Hearing healthcare can seem complicated. Since traditional Medicare doesn't cover hearing aids, we encourage people who have hearing loss to pick plans that cover their hearing needs. As policies vary widely, it is important that you check with any plan you are considering if they cover hearing care. When you book an appointment with HearingLife, we make every effort to confirm your insurance benefits prior to your visit, so you know what's covered.
Care for everyone
HearingLife serves people whether they have insurance or not. We understand that you may have questions about hearing aid prices, especially for technologically advanced devices. Periodically, we have special offers to help with the cost of hearing aids. We also are proud to be part of the Campaign for Better Hearing, which offers free hearing aids to people with financial needs. There are many benefits to better hearing, so we make every effort to keep hearing healthcare accessible to all.
Pick your Medicare Advantage Plans soon
Now is the time to make decisions regarding hearing care and Medicare Advantage Plans. Many insurance plans don’t include hearing care and your hearing health matters! The professionals at HearingLife encourage people with potential hearing loss to take their hearing care into account when choosing 2021 plans. Better to have the coverage when you need it.
3 Things You Can Do To Promote Better Hearing Health During Winter
Even if you aren't hearing impaired or using a hearing aid, it's in your best interest to manage your hearing health this winter season. Let's talk about how you can do that. Here are a few steps you can take to promote better hearing health this winter.
In addition to potentially damaging the sensitive electronics in your hearing aid, prolonged exposure to extreme cold can actually cause damage to the ear itself. We've all experienced temperature-related tinnitus at one point or another. Per the United States National Library of Medicine, cold weather can also aggravate other pre-existing conditions associated with hearing impairment such as Ménière’s Disease.
It can also increase the risk of an ear infection. With all this in mind, if you have to go out in winter weather, bundle up. Get a hat that covers your ears, or invest in a pair of warm earmuffs.
Wear them when you go out.
We already know that excessive moisture can be bad for the ears. In winter, it's a whole lot worse. Moisture trapped in the ear can freeze, leading to a whole lot of extreme unpleasantness.
Most commonly, this can manifest as a condition known as Surfer's Ear. Basically, this happens when water and debris get trapped in the ear canal — such as through freezing. In response, the ear starts to develop a series of small growths of bone which can only be removed through surgery.
Fortunately, avoiding this is easy enough. Simply make sure your ears are properly dried before you go out. Avoid staying out in cold, wet conditions any longer than you absolutely have to.
Manage Your Earwax
If you use a hearing aid, you're already at a higher risk of excessive earwax growth. Winter weather can make that even worse, with the earwax effectively growing and hardening out of control. Fortunately, this can be treated in the same way one would generally treat an ear blockage.
While you can clean your ears on your own at home, more severe cases of hardened earwax may require a visit to a professional audiologist. If that ends up being what you require, Connect Hearing can help. We can get you connected with a professional for not just ear cleaning, but also a full hearing test.
Contact us today for a free consultation.
The Impact of Insomnia on Hearing Loss
Insomnia can involve difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep as long as needed, and if left untreated, can contribute to such health problems as higher blood pressure and a greater probability of stroke.
Many people may not realize one potential side effect of insomnia is hearing impairment. This article discusses the potential impact of insomnia on hearing loss and the ways that sleep disorders can be linked to hearing disorders.
Insomnia and Blood Circulation
Studies have found that insomnia can sometimes lead to poor blood circulation, which can lead to impaired hearing. Normal hearing involves detecting sound vibrations through the ear and the auditory system.
If insomnia diminishes the efficiency of the cardiovascular system, poor blood circulation can impair the function of the arteries in the inner ear. This can lead to hearing loss, either suddenly or over time. People diagnosed with poor blood circulation should also consider having their hearing checked.
Research at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center has found a potential link between hearing loss and sleep apnea, which affects almost half of people with insomnia. This common sleep disorder usually involves increased instances of shallow or interrupted breathing during the night. These disruptions of normal sleep patterns can make people feel more tired or fatigued without knowing why.
Sleep apnea may not affect hearing directly, but researchers suspect that they can be correlated. People with sleep apnea may have inflammation or abnormal function of the blood vessels, which can lead to hearing impairments. Sleep apnea may not be accompanied by hearing loss, but patients who have both may experience improved hearing if the apnea is treated.
Insomnia is known to sometimes exacerbate the symptoms of tinnitus, a hearing disorder associated with such phantom sounds such as ringing in the ears. A study has shown that insomnia can have a negative effect on tinnitus, with insomnia patients reporting decreased tolerance of tinnitus symptoms and greater stress. As anxiety and awareness of tinnitus can make sleep more difficult, the two conditions can easily magnify each other.
Successful treatment of insomnia may see improvements in hearing. Nevertheless, if you have tinnitus, hearing loss, or other forms of hearing impairment, consult with a general physician and seek a referral to an ENT or hearing care specialist as needed. Insomnia and hearing loss both can lead to increased negative effects if left untreated over time.
Cultivate good sleep habits such as a consistent bedtime every day. Get at least 20 minutes of exercise a day and do a relaxing activity such as reading before bedtime. Some doctors recommend that people who wear hearing aids should remove them at bedtime for increased comfort while falling asleep, as well as giving the devices time to dry out and your inner ear time to rest.
* What is Otosclerosis?
* What Causes Otosclerosis?
* What are the Symptoms of Otosclerosis?
* How is Otosclerosis Treated?
What is Otosclerosis?
To understand this condition we have to know how sound is transmitted in the human ear. Sound first hits the ear drum and is then transmitted to the inner ear via the ossicles in the middle ear. It works its way there via the hammer, anvil and stirrup. These three ossicles must be flexible and able to vibrate to transmit sound. Sound is then transmitted from the stirrup to the inner ear via a transition area. This function is impaired in persons suffering from otosclerosis. The stirrup is most often affected by ossification, where it becomes inflexible. This inflexibility results in hearing loss as no sufficient signal can be passed on to the cochlear in the inner ear.
What Causes Otosclerosis?
Many suspect a genetic component that is passed down through a family as scientists have found evidence of family predisposition. Differences can also be found between the sexes: This condition is twice as common among women as opposed to men. Since it is commonly aggravated during pregnancy, hormonal influences are also regarded as a cause of this condition. Finally, the measles virus is believed to be a potential cause.
Unfortunately, at this time there are no known measures to prevent otosclerosis.
What are the Symptoms of Otosclerosis?
It’s best to consult an audiologist. In rare cases, examinations of the ear drum, middle ear and auditory tube show no signs of the condition, but the Schwartze Sign can still be diagnosed as a symptom of hardening. The Schwarze Sign is a reddening in the tympanic cavity seen through the ear drum.
The condition is not easy to detect, but it can be identified by means of various audiometric measurements (tone air threshold audiometry and impedance audiometry). In certain cases, further tests such as balance tests, x-rays of the ear region or a tympano-cochlear scintigraphy (TCS) might be required to diagnose the active center of inflammation.
How is Otosclerosis Treated?
Audiologist checking a patient's ear for hearing loss.
An operation is the only way to successfully treat otosclerosis. The chances of recovery are very high: More than 90 percent of otosclerosis patients report improved hearing after the operation and about half are permanently cured of tinnitus. Therapies using medication, on the other hand, have shown little success.
Today, the primary method is the stapedotomy. During a stapedotomy just the upper part of the stirrup is removed – while the footplate remains. Using a laser beam or small needle, the surgeon drills a tiny hole into the footplate and a prosthetic is inserted. Today, this method is the most widely used as it results in fewer complications. Laser stapedotomy is regarded as particularly precise.
The implanted prosthetics help directly conduct the oscillations of the ossicular chain to the inner ear. This bypasses the removed stirrup and the oscillations of the other, healthy ossicles are conducted to the prosthetic.
Such an operation can be performed under local or general anesthesia. For further information on the procedure and the risks of the operation please ask an audiologist.
Patients who only suffer from minor hearing loss should also consider hearing aids as an alternative to improve their hearing. This will not put a halt to the process of increasing ossification, however, they can improve hearing and quality of life before surgery is required. Regardless, regular hearing checks will be necessary.
Generally, ossification of the ear can be treated very well. Consult an audiologist if you notice signs of reduced hearing on yourself. Hearing loss can be a sign of many conditions and should always be looked at by a specialist.
Hearing Loss in Children
* How common is hearing loss in children?
* How to recognize hearing loss in infants?
* Causes of hearing loss in kids
* Types of hearing loss in children
* How to prevent hearing loss in infants
* What are hearing loss treatments for children?
How common is hearing loss in children?
According to reports from the Center for Disease Control, hearing loss affects 1.7 out of every 1,000 babies screened, and five out of every 1,000 children from ages three to 17. Hearing loss can occur on a spectrum ranging from mild to total hearing loss, also called profound hearing loss.
You should start by looking for your newborn to widen or move their eyes in reaction to loud sounds.
At five or six months, you can further test their localization ability by making soft sounds such as rattling or whispering behind or beside them while they are looking forward. Normally, your baby should turn their head towards the sound.
First four months:
* Becomes startled at loud sounds
* Recognizes a familiar voice by becoming calm
* Becomes awoken or reacts to loud noises
* Responds to your voice by smiling
* Notices or responds to noisy toys
* Responds to the speech of others by smiling
* Turns their head towards familiar sounds
* Recognizes hand motions such as waving
* Responds to their name
* Begins repeating simple sounds
* Uses their voice to get your attention
* Understands basic requests
15 to 24 months:* Builds spoken vocabulary
* Follows basic vocal commands
* Points to familiar objects that you name
* Takes interest in songs, rhymes, and stories
It is possible for children to develop hearing loss after the toddler stage. Below are some signs to watch for in your child if you believe they may be suffering from hearing loss:
Finds it challenging to understand what others are saying
Speaks differently than children their age
Turns up the volume of the TV and electronic devices very high
Does not reply when they are called
Is experiencing academic problems
Complains of earaches or noises
Says “what” or “huh” repeatedly
Causes of hearing loss in kids
Congenital hearing loss
Genetic factors, or those inherited from parents, that can lead to hearing loss include:
Autosomal recessive hearing loss, which accounts for roughly 70% of genetic hearing loss cases. This is when neither parent has hearing loss, but each parent carries a recessive gene for hearing loss and passes it onto the child.
Autosomal dominant hearing loss, which accounts for roughly 15% of genetic hearing loss. This is when one parent carries a dominant gene for hearing loss and passes it onto the child.
Genetic syndromes, such as: Down syndrome, Usher syndrome, Treacher Collins syndrome, Waardenburg syndrome, Crouzon syndrome, and Alport syndrome.
Non-genetic factors that can lead to congenital hearing loss include:
Birth complications, such as: maternal infections, lack of oxygen, or blood transfusions. Also, premature birth, nervous system or brain disorders, gestational or maternal diabetes, and drug or alcohol use or smoking during pregnancy.
Acquired hearing loss
Hearing loss can also develop after birth, and in these cases, it is called acquired hearing loss. Acquired hearing loss can happen in a number of ways, including: a perforated eardrum, premature birth, Otosclerosis or Meniere’s disease, a serious head injury, untreated or frequent ear infection, and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Types of hearing loss in children
Conductive hearing loss
Some common causes of conductive hearing loss can include: ear infections (otitis media), ear wax (cerumen), and swimmer’s ear (otitis externa).
Sensorineural hearing loss
Causes of sensorineural hearing loss can include: abnormal development in the womb, certain medications, injury from certain diseases and infections, fluid backup, tumors, aging, and overexposure to loud noise.
Mixed hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, and is permanent.
How to prevent hearing loss in infants
There are several steps you can take to help prevent hearing loss in children, such as: proper nutrition, regular visits to your obstetrician while pregnant, recommended vaccinations, seeking immediate treatment at the first sign of an ear infection, and limiting your child’s exposure to loud noise.
What are hearing loss treatments for children?
Hearing aids are devices worn in or around the ear that make sounds louder and easier to be heard. There are several different style options for hearing aids for your child, and technology has progressed to make them smaller and more discrete while offering improved hearing assistance.
Cochlear implants are devices implanted into a patient and work differently than hearing aids. They work to pick up sounds and bypass specific areas where hearing is difficult for the patient. Cochlear implants are a more permanent treatment option, and you would have to consult with your audiologist to decide if they are the right choice for your child.
Speech and language therapy
Speech and language therapy should be a part of your child’s care plan to help them learn to effectively communicate with those around them.
If you suspect your child is suffering from hearing loss, please see a medical doctor for a hearing evaluation or newborn hearing screening immediately.
* What is Menière’s Disease
* What Causes Menière's Disease
* Symptoms of Menière’s Disease
* Diagnosing Menière’s Disease
* Treating Menière’s Disease
Man with hearing loss caused by meniere's disease
In a Menière’s attack, these canals overfill, resulting in serious problems. Menière’s disease frequently develops in patients between the ages of 20 to 50 and usually only affects one ear. If the condition persists untreated for a long time, however, there's an increased chance that it will spread to both ears.
Viral infections may be another cause of the disease, as they often result in inflammation and excess fluids.
* Severe rotary vertigo lasting from several minutes to several hours.
* Deafness, particularly in the deep tone range and usually just in one ear.
* Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
However, patients suffering from Menière’s Disease may experience severe anxiety, especially if they are undiagnosed and do not understand what is affecting them. As such, Menière’s also carries with it a definitive psychological impact which should not be overlooked. Days, weeks, months, or even years may pass between individual attacks.
On a positive note, the frequency of rotary vertigo attacks often decreases over the course of the disease.
Prolonged illness, however, can result in permanent sensorineural hearing loss, particularly where deep tones are concerned.
Currently, there is no known cure for Menière’s Disease, as scientists are still attempting to pinpoint the exact cause.
However, treatments do exist, both for during an attack and as preventative measures. First, because dizziness and nausea are the most common symptoms, anti-vertigo and anti-nausea medication can be prescribed to a patient. A doctor may also prescribe a drug such as gentamycin to deactivate the vestibular apparatus, which may put an end to the patient's vertigo - this may, however, adversely impact the patient's hearing.
For more advanced cases, surgery may be an option. In some cases, severing the patient's balance nerve can put a permanent end to vertigo. Another common treatment is known as a sacculotomy, which involves poking a tiny opening into part of the inner ear to relieve pressure.
Although a permanent cure does not exist, a healthy lifestyle goes a long way towards improving the condition and helping a patient live with Menière’s Disease. Many people coping with the illness have reduced the frequency and severity of attacks by avoiding cigarettes, eating low sodium/high-potassium foods, and avoiding stressful situations. Regular exercise, balance training, and meditation may also be helpful.
Degrees of Hearing Loss | What Causes Hearing Loss?
What is Hearing Loss?
It isn’t uncommon for people with hearing difficulties to turn away from friends and family and become isolated. Loss of hearing means that you are no longer able to carry conversations and interact with your loved ones the same way you did in the past. This can be extremely frustrating.
The most common causes are:
* Prolonged exposure to loud noises
* Diseases such as meningitis
* Hereditary factors
* Certain medications
The term, degrees of hearing loss, refers to the various levels of the damage. Your hearing loss may be completely different in severity than someone else’s and falls into one of four categories:
Audiologists measure the intensity of a sound and the degree of hearing loss in decibels (dB). What that means is, if you have a hearing loss of 40 dB, you are unable to hear sounds below 40 dB.
When a certain measurement borders two distinct categories, it is referred to it as a combination of the two. Your hearing is considered normal if it can detect sounds between 20-25 decibels. If you can hear only above that range, you are deemed to have hearing loss.
Infographic - Degrees of hearing loss
Mild Hearing Loss
If you have mild hearing loss, you may have trouble hearing sounds under 40 decibels. People often describe this stage as trying to hear someone speak while your fingers are in your ears. You can't detect soft-spoken words, the hum of the refrigerator motor, or the ticking of the clock. If your hearing loss falls into this type, you do not yet have difficulty with loud or more intense vowel sounds. However, you will likely miss some of the softer consonant sounds. If you catch yourself asking people occasionally to speak up because you cannot hear them, you should get a hearing test done by a hearing care professional.
Moderate hearing loss is one step higher on the scale. With this level of hearing impairment, you have trouble hearing sounds below 40 and 70 decibels. At this stage, you will not only miss the soft consonant sounds, but you will find yourself struggling to make out the vowel sounds as well. With moderate loss, you will notice that even though you can hear without your hearing aid, you often can’t understand. At this stage, it is hard for most people to deny or ignore their struggle with this level of hearing loss.
At this stage, whenever you don’t have your hearing aids in place, you do not hear spoken words. You might be extremely frustrated, that even when you do have your hearing device, you can’t always understand what is being said. Turning up the volume level doesn't necessarily make it the conversation any clearer.
Severe Hearing Loss
If you have severe hearing loss, you cannot hear sounds that are below 70 to 90 decibels. Even the sound of a ringing phone could be completely inaudible. To ensure a better quality of life, a hearing aid or a cochlear implant is a must. If you haven't yet, it is essential to make an appointment with a hearing care professional to discuss possible solutions.
At the profound hearing loss stage, you can only perceive sounds that are over 90 decibels. Even a very loud noise, like an airplane engine, cannot be heard. Profound hearing loss is a very serious situation, and those afflicted often resort to lipreading in order to communicate. The hearing aid at this point will offer only partial improvements, helping one to hear the sounds of your surroundings and even have some oral communication.
If you or someone you know are showing signs of hearing loss, be sure to see a hearing care professional and get a hearing test done. Only a trained professional can make an assessment, interpret your hearing test results and recommend the best solution.
The loudest jobs in the world
Unless they wear protection, these professionals don’t stand a chance when it comes to their hearing
Their jobs are among the loudest in the world. The risk of sustained hearing loss is correspondingly high in these professions. It is important to remember that the louder the noise, the shorter the exposure should be. People who are exposed to permanent sound levels of 85 dB or more at work, must wear ear protection. The pain threshold is around 125 dB.
In bars and clubs around the world, bartenders and other personnel are exposed to noise levels of up to 110 dB for hours every day. Nevertheless, hearing protection is usually not an issue in this industry.
From just a few feet away, jet engines are excruciatingly loud. Without reinforced hearing protection, hearing would be irreparably damaged within minutes.
Musicians need to be especially careful with their hearing. Yet for instrumentalists in a large orchestra, it is usually quite the opposite: Studies have shown that professional musicians are four times more likely to suffer hearing damage than the general public.
Who'd have thought? Dentists and dental assistants also risk hearing damage in their line of work. This is due to the screeching and whistling of drills and other devices, which can bring noise levels up to 90 dB.
Road construction workers
Everyone knows how noisy road construction sites are. Jackhammers and other heavy machinery easily reach noise levels of up to 120 dB – so work sites are off limits without ear protection.
The use of white noise has been around a long time in trying to sooth a fussy baby or drown out the hum of a big city. It has also been used with great success to help reduce the bothersome symptoms of tinnitus, i.e., the perception of ringing in the ear. But what exactly is white noise, and how does it help you relax?
Man staring at static TV with white noise
The term "white noise" refers to sounds that are used to mask other, naturally occurring sounds in your environment. White noise machines can produce sounds that are similar to a bedroom fan, the hum of an air conditioner or a soft static from a radio. With its equal power across all ranges, it is quite monotonous, which helps your brain ignore high-pitched, or other unpleasant sounds.
To understand what white noise is, we have to take a closer look at what sound waves are made of. If you could take apart a sound wave, you would find two fundamental elements:
* Frequency, which is how fast the waveform is vibrating per second. Humans can normally hear frequencies ranging from 20 to 20,000 Hz (Hertz)
* Amplitude, which indicates the size of the waves. Amplitude is another way of saying how loud the sound is.
White noise derives its name similarly to white light. While white light contains all the frequencies of visible colors, white noise contains all the audible frequencies.
If you live in the city, you know exactly how irritating the sounds of traffic can be, especially when you try to fall asleep at night. Some people turn on a fan, more so for the calming sound than the air it moves. The hum of the fan is white noise and can help cancel out some of the unwanted sounds in your surroundings and help you drift off to sleep.
If you are wondering right now if there is any evidence to any of these benefits, the answer is yes. According to one study, white noise can be especially helpful with putting newborn babies to sleep. You can find various types of sound machines to help your baby sleep.
You may be surprised to learn that depending on the intensity and frequency range, white noise can be divided into several other noise colors. Some of the examples are:
Pink noise is the same as white noise, but with reduced higher frequencies. It is louder at the low-frequency end of the spectrum and softer at the higher end. Listening to it while sleeping can improve your memory of the following day.
Brown noise is even stronger and deeper at the low end without the high-frequency sounds of pink and white noise. It can help you relax, focus, and improve your sleep.
Blue noise is sometimes considered high-frequency white noise. It is a noise color with a spectral density that is proportionate to its frequency. Blue noise raises in volume with increasing frequency, but at a lower rate than violet noise.
Violet noise is a type of sound that increases in volume at higher frequencies. It is also known as purple noise. It is particularly beneficial in blocking some higher frequency sounds associated with tinnitus.
Can I Relax with White Noise?
Having a perfectly silent bedroom is often impossible. Noises from neighbors' dogs, construction equipment, nearby trains passing or typical traffic can creep into your room and keep you from falling asleep. And because hearing continues through the night, it may be necessary to give your brain something to easy focus on to calm your system down.
So what if you can not fall asleep, or struggle to focus on work or study? Purchasing a white noise machine at a store or online may be a good solution to your problem. White noise machines produce soothing sounds and should help improve your sleep quality. Besides improved sleep, you may find that it helps reduce stress, increase your focus, soothe headaches and migraines, and mask tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Due to its soothing properties, white noise has also been also used in hypnosis.
Several explanations exist for why white noise works. One theory is that the louder the environment, the less sensitive the ears become. For example, a dripping faucet likely does not bother you during the day. At night, however, when everything is quieter, it becomes annoying. White noise raises the threshold again, and the dripping tap or other sounds are no longer audible.
According to another theory, the brain is always on the lookout for (acoustic) stimuli. The steady noise "occupies" the brain, without overwhelming it. It is too monotonous for that. Many report positive results using free versions of white noise apps on their smartphones. One example is the White Noise Lite app, which produces white or pink noise (available for Android and Apple).
This and other similar apps do an excellent job of combating different bothersome background sounds and creating an ambient environment. Most apps include most color noises (brown, white, pink, etc.), mechanical sounds like a bedroom fan or air conditioner, light to heavy rains, rushing water sounds, beach and ocean waves. Be sure to download the latest version to get the best possible experience. Turn on the app at night and let it play in the background as you drift off to sleep.
White Noise for Babies
White noise generators are very popular with parents of small children. The reason for the popularity is that the monotonous sound reminds babies of being in their mother's womb, which in turn has a calming effect. Babies, as early as the 6th month of pregnancy, can hear various subtle sounds, such as muffled tones of the heartbeat of their mother.
Parents should be mindful of setting the volume at an appropriate level. Speakers emitting sounds up to 80 decibels (dB) loud are at the same level as a hairdryer or a vacuum cleaner. Remember to set speakers a good distance from a child and that white noise should be a subtle background noise.
Hearing Protection - An investment in health
* Why should I protect my hearing?
* What impacts on my health can loud noises have?
* Do I need hearing protection?
* Strategies for protecting your hearing
* What types of hearing protection are available?
Unlike the eye, which can close its lid in a fraction of a second, the ear is unable to protect itself from noise. We cannot deliberately shut off our hearing or temporarily switch it off, it is always ready to pick up sounds and noises, including loud ones. Accordingly, with regular or acute loud noise, the hair cells can suffer and even die off. In worst-case scenarios, this can lead to hearing loss.
So to ensure we maintain the ability to enjoy the full spectrum of the sounds of life, it is paramount to protect our most important sense. If not, we may no longer be able to rely on it in future, may it be in conversations or in dangerous situations.
What impacts on my health can loud noises have?
Often, we are completely unaware that our hearing is at risk in everyday situations: Excessively loud music in discos, at concerts or noise from DIY work at home can quickly cause hearing loss, even in young people. Constant noise, of the type we hear on busy roads for example, is classed as being in the hazardous range at volumes of around 80 decibels, and can cause long-term damage to our hearing. In addition to noise-related hearing loss, which is affecting more and more people, loud noises can also lead to tinnitus or even sonic trauma.
With the right hearing protection, you can effectively prevent hearing damage and other risks to your health.
The point at which noise becomes disruptive or unpleasant varies from person to person. The pain threshold is set at 120 decibels (dB), but street noise, engine noise or even a visit to a disco involving values of over 80 dB can impair health. But exactly how loud is one decibel, or even 10 decibels? Below you will find a graphic illustrating how many decibels the following everyday noises generate.
To avoid hearing loss, you should follow a few tips on how to protect your hearing. They are easy to follow and help to ensure that your ears are less exposed to harmful noise, allowing you to continue enjoying problem-free hearing.
Radio, TV, MP3 players: Ensure that you do not go above a certain volume level. It's better to keep it quieter.
Reduce the number of parallel sources of noise. Simultaneous conversations, music on the computer and running electrical appliances can place a strain on the ears.
Washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator: Look out for the decibel rating when purchasing electrical appliances: The lower the rating, the quieter the appliance and the better it is for your ears.
Stay as far away as possible from the source of the noise. If it gets too loud, move even further away, even if it means leaving the room.
If you’re doing anything noisy, such as mowing the lawn or sawing wood, you should always wear hearing protection. A circular saw can generate noise levels of 110 dB, which is just below the pain threshold.
Conversations, ringing telephones, listening to music, and approaching cars: Hearing is one of our most important senses, but we often take it for granted in daily life. To ensure that we can rely on our hearing for the rest of our lives, we need to make a conscious effort to protect it.
Adults need to be reminded to do something that comes reflexively to children: If there is a sudden, loud noise, put your hands over your ears and move away!
By following these simple tips, you can make sure your ears continue to provide you with optimal hearing performance. You won’t have to miss a single sound!
To protect your ears from loud noises, and safeguard you from the associated impacts on your health, there is a wide range of hearing protection available to suit every situation and every need. In the following section, you can find out more about the most important categories of hearing protection:
Capsule hearing protection (ear muffs with strap)
Capsule hearing protection provides excellent sound insulation and can be worn either directly on the head, or attached to a safety helmet. Some models fold easily and can be used in the event of very loud noises or short-term exposure.
Earplugs – foam earplugs
Earplugs are made from dermatologically safe expandable foam. Before insertion, they can be rolled into a narrow cone, and once inside the ear, they adapt to the shape of the ear canal.
These earplugs feature grip stems and a cord, depending on the model. This makes them quicker to insert and remove. They are thus ideal for working environments with alternating loud and quiet periods. They are also available mounted on a band.
An impression of your ear canal is taken, which is then used to create personalized hearing protection. Personal hearing protection earmolds provide a high level of comfort and come with various sound filters. This means that the right level of noise protection can be selected for every occasion. Specially designed earplugs are available for musicians and concert-goers, motorcyclists and swimmers.
The cheapest option for single-use earplugs, cotton plugs still offer a good level of protection.
If you are exposed to loud environments, or if loud noises make you anxious or unable to concentrate, hearing protection is certainly recommended. Thanks to various filters and different levels of sound insulation, appropriate hearing protection is available for a range of leisure activities. Whether swimming, motorcycling, doing DIY, or attending a festival, you can find the ideal hearing protection for every occasion here. Our audiologists are happy to help you choose.
Do You Really Need an Annual Hearing Test?
You should start with baseline hearing testing once you reach adulthood, every few years or so. Beginning at age 55, you should increase the frequency of your hearing tests and speak to an audiologist annually. By doing this, you can track your hearing over a longer timespan, and spot potential hearing loss indicators before you suffer irreversible damage.
Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States. According to research gathered by the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, and only one in five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually use one. Research from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders further found that approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and hearing loss further afflicts more than half of people aged 75 and older.
With such statistics, you might assume hearing impairment is a problem only older people need to worry about. Injuries, infections, and diseases aside, noise-related hearing loss becoming more common amongst the younger generation due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues and events. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people aged 12-35 who are at-risk totals approximately 1.1 billion globally.
The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss
Without an annual hearing test, hearing loss usually goes undetected until it becomes serious. Unfortunately, many people wait until they start experiencing serious communication problems until they get tested. They may delay for as long as ten years after the initial signs of hearing loss manifest.
This is highly inadvisable, as it can lead to, among other things:
* A downturn in your social life
* Difficulty understanding concepts at work
* The inability to hear some of the simpler, more pleasurable sounds in life, such as the crunch of fresh snow, your grandchildren's laughter, or the morning songs of birds
* Missing the early signs of certain severe conditions such as diabetes or heart disease
In short, hearing loss can damage your social, emotional, and even physical health. The good news is that this isn't inevitable. Taking action promptly and getting your hearing tested right away can help reduce the risk that it'll get that bad.
Get Your Hearing Tested Now
The earlier you assess your hearing, the easier it is to take action. Hearing evaluations are free, painless, and take only a few minutes. Even if you aren't feeling the effects of hearing loss now, it's best to take a proactive approach.
Visit a hearing professional for an annual test today. Connect Hearing offers free evaluations, personalized expert consultations, and treatment recommendations based on your unique lifestyle and needs.
What is Ear Wax and How to Remove Ear Wax
* What is ear wax?
* Ear Wax Buildup: How to Recognize It
* Ear Wax Removal at Home?
* Are there things I shouldn’t try?
* When is necessary to see a doctor?
* How to Prevent Ear Wax Build Up
What is ear wax?
Ear wax captures tiny particles of debris, dust, and dead skin cells, and prevents them from reaching the ear drum or causing damage. In effect, the ear wax protects the ear canal and lubricates the skin to stop dry, itchy irritation that might develop. Sometimes, excess ear wax can harden causing blockages or buildups that can affect hearing.
Ear Wax Buildup: How to Recognize It
* Earache or pain in the ear or neck
* Sensation of fullness in the ear canal
* Tinnitus or ringing in the ear
* Hearing loss or noises sound like they’re being heard while underwater
* In very young children, it can cause them to stick their finger or an object in the ear out of frustration or agitation. It’s best to have this treated by a healthcare provider to avoid causing damage to the delicate ear of a child.
* In older people, ear wax buildup and blockage is the single greatest cause of conductive hearing loss and can be made worse by the use of hearing aids which block the ability for the ear to self-clean.
Earphones and earbuds are extremely popular today. If you frequently use earphones, then you need to exercise some precaution.
Should be noted that wax in the ear canal cannot cause ear infections on its own. Complications from inappropriate wax self-removal techniques can.
Ear Wax Removal at Home
The ear is self-cleaning, and having cerumen is healthy/needed. Therefore, in case of ear wax buildup it is in the person's best interest to visit a hearing healthcare professional - the average individual does not own an otoscope that would allow them to even assess blockage (whether partial or complete).
They will assess whether or not removal is necessary. If for any reason the consistency is too hard and the cerumen cannot be removed, the patient will be advised to use a few drops of mineral oil daily for one week before the clinician can safely remove it.
Again, if you are experiencing significant pain or hearing loss, you may have an infection or something more serious going on that requires professional intervention, i.e., medication, surgery. In that case, you will need to see a health professional to fully resolve the issue.
How To Prevent Ear Wax Build Up
While some people just produce more ear wax or cerumen than is needed, for most of us there are a few simple things we can do:
* Enlist your doctor’s help at your annual check up; once per year should be plenty to keep excess ear wax in check.
* Be aware that the only part of the ear that should be cleaned at home is the pinna.
* Be careful wearing earbuds or wear them less often to allow the natural self-cleaning to take place.
* If you have hearing aids, then be sure to routinely clean your ears to prevent ear wax buildup or blockage. This would be performed by your hearing healthcare provider.
Your ear health is important and removing excess ear wax can make improvements to your hearing and your overall health and wellbeing. Contact us if you have questions about improving or maintaining ear health for you or someone in your family.
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
What is Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease occurs when the immune system mistakes cells in the inner ear as a virus and attacks them. Patients usually begin experiencing hearing loss in one ear as the immune system kills the cells in your inner ear. If left untreated, it will eventually spread to the other ear and cause lasting damage.
It's a rare disease afflicting less than 1 percent of all Americans suffering from hearing loss, and therefore is often misdiagnosed by doctors.
Unfortunately, many people suffering from Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease also suffer from other types of autoimmune disorders. For example, your immune system may attack the eyes or entire body in addition to the ear.
Even if the body isn't directly attacking the inner ear, debris from the body attacking other areas of itself can be deposited in the inner ear and cause damage.
While there is no solid evidence to prove the cause of Autoimmune disease, there is a theory that drugs or viruses can cause the body to confuse helpful and harmful tissue. Genetics may also play a role in it as some people being more susceptible to the disease than others.
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease Symptoms
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease symptoms usually include:
* hearing loss,
* tinnitus, and
Medical professionals often misdiagnose it as an ear infection as most of the symptoms overlap. As this disease causes permanent damage, it's important to catch it early to prevent permanent hearing loss from spreading.
Unfortunately, because the disease is rare, there isn't an effective test to diagnose it. Many doctors will perform several balancing tests to see how your body is connecting with your brain. They may also do bloodwork, but test results are often inconclusive.
More commonly, your doctor will prescribe medication and treat you as though you do have Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease. If your body responds positively to treatment, you will usually be diagnosed after the fact.
During the first few weeks, your doctor will probably recommend steroids. Unfortunately, while steroids are very effective, they often have strong side effects. One study showed that hyperglycemia was the most common side effect occurring in 17 percent of patients, while weight gain came in a close second.
Due to the side effects of steroids, your doctor will probably move you to a long-term medication after a few weeks. Most long-term medications include methotrexate, azathioprine, and cyclophosphamide.
Many patients also use hearing aids to compensate for any hearing they have lost in the process.
Despite the rarity of Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease, scientists are working on new treatments. Gene therapy is a solution that helps damaged ear cells function properly again and restore hearing. While it isn't perfect yet, scientists are hopeful it will be successful soon.
While Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease is a serious disease, catching it early and getting on a treatment plan will allow you to retain some hearing and function in daily activities.
Ear Pressure: Causes and Remedies
* How does ear pressure work?
* How to get rid of the pressure in your ear canal?
The Eustachian tube is a tiny passageway that connects your middle ear to your throat. It plays a vital role in equalizing the pressure in your middle ear. It does so by opening when you sneeze, swallow, or yawn. This mechanism prevents air pressure and fluid from building up inside your ear canal, behind your eardrum.
When the Eustachian tube gets plugged, you may not hear clearly as sounds become muffled. Feeling pressure, pain, and fullness in your ear space is not
Woman getting hearing exam from audiologist to check ear pressure
uncommon either. Allergies, sinus infections, the common cold or the flu, can all cause the openings of your Eustachian tube to become partially blocked. Tissue inflammation and mucus secretions are a large part of the reason for the Eustachian tube dysfunction.
Traveling by air and changes in altitude can also be a reason for your Eustachian tube not to function correctly.
How to get rid of the pressure in your ear canal?
To relieve your symptoms and to find the best remedy, first, you have to identify the cause.
Here are the common causes and our tips to resolve them.
As mentioned above, sinuses, ears, throat, and nose are closely connected. Problem impacting one area will often involve another. When your sinuses are congested, they can create middle ear pressure and a feeling of fullness.
The most common causes of sinus related congestion are:
* viral infections such as the common cold and the flu
* sinus infection
* tobacco smoke and similar environmental irritants
There are several remedies you can use to relieve your symptoms of sinus congestion and the associated pressure:
* Try a nasal decongestant.
* Use a neti pot or a saline solution to irrigate your nasal cavities.
* Use a humidifier to keep the air moist. Dry air can be irritating to your already inflamed nasal passages.
* Use aromatherapy. Eucalyptus oil can help open up your airways. You can use it in steam inhalation, place a few drops in your bath water, or inhale it from the bottle.
* Drink one glass of clean, quality water every two hours during the day. Drink plenty of herbal teas, vegetable juices, and broths. Increasing the amount of liquid will help loosen mucus.
Fluid can build up in your ears when there is a problem with your drainage tubes. This dysfunction can cause fluid to be trapped behind your eardrum. Some of the symptoms you may experience when you are dealing with trapped fluid:
* Popping, ringing
* Feeling of fullness
* Ear pressure
* Hearing loss
* Problem with your balance
Several causes can be at the root of this issue:
* Colds or other infections causing congestion
* Sinus infections
* Ear barotrauma
It is important to figure out what prevents the tubes from draining properly. If the problem remains unresolved, the accumulated fluid behind your eardrum can cause it to rupture.
Here are our tips to help remove fluid from your ear canal:
* Tug on your ear lobe while tilting your ear toward your shoulder.
* Use a hot compress. Apply it for 30 seconds, then remove for a minute. Repeat this process until you get relief. Make sure you lay on your side.
* Try an OTC (over-the-counter) ear drop. Make sure the drop contains alcohol for its drying effect.
Earwax buildup happens when the wax gets pushed deep within the ear canal or blocks the full width of the canal. A wax blockage causes several symptoms, such as hearing loss, dizziness, ear pain, ear fullness, pressure, and tinnitus (ringing in the ear). You might inadvertently cause your ears to become blocked when you use Q-tips to clean them. If you use hearing aids or earplugs, you are also at higher risk of wax buildup.
The safest way to remove earwax from your ears is by running warm water or saline solution into your ear canal for a few minutes. If you want, you can use an ear irrigation kit for that. Once the water softens the wax, it will drain through the outer ear.
Allergies can also cause ear congestion. Taking antihistamines and decongestants can relieve your allergy-related ear pressure and other symptoms. Antihistamines come in different forms. Tablets, capsules, liquids are some of the most popular formations. Some brands are only available by prescription. Check with your healthcare provider to help choose one for you.
During takeoff and landing, the rapid change in air pressure can cause a pressure difference between the air pressure in the middle ear and the environment. This imbalance prevents your eardrum (tympanic membrane) from vibrating as it should. Ear pain, a feeling of fullness, and pressure can all signal a condition often referred to as airplane ears.
Here are some tips to correct the condition:
* Try yawning, chewing gum and swallow during ascent and descent to activate the muscles that open the Eustachian tubes.
* Try the Valsalva maneuver. Blow your nose gently with your mouth closed while pinching your nostrils. Do this as often as necessary.
* Use filtered earplugs. These help to slowly equalize the pressure in your ears.
* If you are congested, try a nasal spray 30 minutes to an hour before takeoff and landing.
Middle ear and outer ear infection
Middle ear infections (otitis media) produce a variety of symptoms, such as hearing loss, dizziness, and ear pain. Viruses that cause respiratory infections are often to blame.
Outer ear infections (otitis externa) are frequently called swimmer’s ear. They typically result from water remaining in your ear after exposure to moisture. Trapped water after swimming or bathing provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Most of the time, your ear infection will resolve on its own. Ear drops and pain medications can, however, be beneficial in relieving your pain and other symptoms. If your symptoms worsen in spite of home treatment, it is a good idea to visit your doctor.
As you can see, pressure in your ear can be associated with various conditions. It's essential to get to the bottom of it and find the cause for your discomfort. Home treatment is often all you need. If, however, your symptoms last longer than two weeks, and they get worse over time, you should seek medical attention. Make an appointment with your doctor if you develop a fever, drainage from your ears, severe pain, or complete hearing loss.
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Causes of Sudden Muffled Hearing in One Ear
If your ear feels clogged and muffled, you may have a Middle Ear Infection, also known as Otitis Media. You may even see fluid visibly draining from the ear, and it will probably also be sensitive to touch. In more severe cases, it can cause nausea and vomit. The Middle Ear Infection can affect both children and adults, though it is more common in children. In fact, about 80% of children experience a Middle Ear Infection before they reach the age of 3. It usually lasts 2-3 days (even without medication) though some cases can go on for weeks.
Middle Ear Infections usually begin because the patient previously had an infection in their respiratory tract. As the fluid tries to drain, it causes a buildup behind the eardrum, creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This ultimately causes both the infection and the resulting soreness and muffled hearing.
Some of the most common causes of muffled hearing are colds and sinus infections. About 30 million people experience sinus infections every year, and even more people experience common colds. The difference between the two lies mainly in the duration that symptoms last. A cold tends to last for about 10 days while a sinus infection may go on for weeks.
The exact cause is the blockage of a small tube that runs from the middle of your ear to your nose. While colds are annoying, they don’t need to be treated by a doctor immediately. However, is symptoms persist for weeks, you may want to schedule an appointment. To decrease the irritation, consider taking a decongestant and use a humidifier. Also avoid smoking as it can further irritate your nose.
Symptoms include vertigo (you feel like you’re spinning), muffled hearing, and even ringing in the ears (tinnitus). If you suspect that you have Ménière’s disease, immediately consult a doctor. To avoid worsening your condition, don’t consume any tobacco products. For treatment, your doctor may prescribe drugs for motion sickness or nausea.
Presbycusis is age-related hearing loss and occurs crucial nerve hair cells begin to erode. Presbycusis is typically a form of sensorineural hearing loss (disorders of the inner ear or auditory nerve) and early symptoms include not being able to hear high pitched speech and sounds like birds chirping become muffled.
While most cases experience hearing loss in both ears, it can be in just one. It is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in older adults with about 40-50% of adults over 75 suffering from it. You can avoid the onset of Presbycusis by protecting your hearing throughout your life by using earplugs, particularly if your job requires you to be exposed to loud noises.
Fortunately, advancements in technology have made it possible for seniors to manage with hearing aids. Taking an annual hearing test can help predict if you are experiencing the onset of Presbycusis. If you experience any of the symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor.
Ear Blockage occurs when an object (such as an insect or water) is lodged in the ear canal. Ear blockage is most common in children and it can usually be treated at home. Symptoms include immediate muffled hearing in one ear and there should not be any bleeding or discharge from the ear.
If it is water, encourage the child to tilt their head to use gravity to dislodge the water. If it is a mosquito or insect, you might need help to get it out. Do not probe the object further into the ear, though if you are sure that it is an insect (there should not be any discharge or blood coming from the ear) consider using oil to withdraw it.
Most muffled ear cases are easily solved either with time, a decongestant or oil, though some may indicate more severe problems. Understand why you can’t hear out of one ear and treat it accordingly. If your symptoms persist, contact a medical professional to assist you.
Tinnitus Impact On Mental Health
While an estimated 20 million people suffer from tinnitus, about 2 million people suffer from it to a debilitating degree.
Those that suffer from it to a debilitating degree become angry, anxious, and depressed as their quality of life declines.
Unfortunately, tinnitus suicide is not uncommon, with roughly 9 percent of women and 5 percent of men with tinnitus having attempted or committed suicide. While tinnitus itself won’t kill a person, the effects of it certainly can.
Here’s how tinnitus can affect mental health, how you can recognize tinnitus depression, ways to control it, and how to seek further help.
Recognizing tinnitus depression
While most people don’t struggle with tinnitus depression on a clinical level, one bad day or instance can be enough to push a patient to suicide. One study of suicide survivors showed that 48 percent took less than 20 minutes to decide to take their life.
Therefore, it’s crucial you recognize depressive signs immediately and begin taking steps towards minimizing risk.
If you’ve had thoughts of taking your life, this is a clear indicator you could become a tinnitus suicide victim, and you should call a suicide hotline immediately and seek treatment.
Early signs of depression include irregular sleep patterns (both oversleeping and insomnia), a general disinterest in hobbies, constant anxiety, and exhaustion.
Fortunately, encouraging research shows that there are effective ways to control a patient’s response to tinnitus and reduce his or her negative reaction to the disorder. Among them are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and healthy routines.
Multiple studies have shown that CBT is an effective treatment for depression, though recent studies have also shown it is particularly effective for people struggling with tinnitus. It usually takes several months to several years to be effective, though it can be successful given the time and patience.
The process works by first identifying the pain you face and then understanding what your thought process towards that pain looks like. Once you understand your negative or inaccurate thinking towards that pain, a therapist can help you reshape that perception.
Mindfulness is similar to CBT, though rather than trying to change how you view a problem, it helps you accept the present moment.
In a study performed by the University College London Hospitals comparing mindfulness and relaxation therapies on tinnitus patients, mindfulness led to “significantly greater reductions in tinnitus severity than the relaxation treatment, and this improvement lasted for longer.”
Mindfulness can either be performed with a therapist or on your own.
Insomnia tends to exist along with tinnitus, and the constant exhaustion that ensues can trigger a depressive episode. One of the best ways to combat tinnitus induced depression is through regular exercise.
Exercise will help you fall asleep faster at night and cause your body to release endorphins, triggering a euphoric state that will help you avoid a depressive episode.
Finally, you should contact your doctor to learn how hearing aids can help reduce the noise from tinnitus. While these won’t change how you react to the problem, it can decrease the problem itself.
How to seek helpIf you're suffering from tinnitus depression, seek professional treatment. It will help reduce depressive episodes and help you deal with tinnitus in a healthier way. You can seek help with a local therapist trained in handling tinnitus or connect with a tinnitus support group.
Tinnitus and mental health certainly go hand in hand. As you continue searching for tinnitus treatment, realize that learning how to deal with it mentally will make you a stronger person better equipped to handle other life challenges.
How to Recognize the First Signs of Tinnitus
How to Recognize the First Signs of Tinnitus
If you’ve been experiencing hearing loss or ringing in your ears, you may be suffering from tinnitus. It’s common in people that spend their professional career around loud noises, such as firefighters, rock stars, and those that spend time around jet engines.
Tinnitus can come on very suddenly or slowly and there are a few different kinds of tinnitus. It’s most common in older adults, though it can develop at any age. The most common age for Tinnitus onset is 60-69 years old and it affects roughly 15% of all people.
There are two main kinds of tinnitus:
This is the most common and is caused by damage in your outer, middle, or inner ear. Typically subjective tinnitus is caused by exposure to loud noise over a period of time.
This type of tinnitus can actually be heard by a doctor. It is less common than subjective tinnitus and can be caused by damage to your middle ear bone, a blood vessel problem, or muscle contractions.
Tinnitus is common, but it’s important to recognize signs early so that it doesn’t become more serious or permanent. An audiologist, for example, can assess the kind of tinnitus you may have and let you know if it’s permanent or if there are measures you can take to ensure it doesn’t become permanent.
Here are things to look for (and listen for!) to see whether or not you have tinnitus.
A constant ringing in both ears
You’ll hear this during moments of silence. The buzzing, or ringing sound is more pronounced when there is no competition for noise. Instead, the sound is persistent inside your head and you’re the only one who can hear it. A low pitched ringing is commonly seen in patients with Meniere’s disease and it often occurs before a vertigo attack. A high pitched ringing is usually caused by long-term noise exposure, aging, or even certain medications. It may go away after a few hours or it may become permanent.
Like the constant ringing, loud thumping inside one’s head is another phantom noise that is persistent. It will sound like a large bass drum or a bass guitar that repeats like a heartbeat. This could be a sign that you have pulsatile tinnitus.
There is a kind of tinnitus that expresses itself as “musical hallucinations.” This can come in the form of what might sound like background music. You might have heard a song earlier and are convinced that you are hearing part of it in real again. If this persists, you could have tinnitus.
If you’re constantly asking people to speak up or turning up the TV, you might have tinnitus. It isn’t the only type of hearing loss, though it certainly is a common one. If there is a noticeable change in how you are hearing and it lasts for at least two weeks, get your ears checked out to see if the loss is temporary or is here to stay.
If you are experiencing any or all of the symptoms above, it’s time to make an appointment with an ear specialist. Not only will you get more information about why you are going through what you are experiencing, but you may have an opportunity to lessen the potential long-term damage to your hearing.
How Cotton Swabs can Damage your Hearing
In the case of earwax, an excessive amount can interfere with your hearing by blocking the ear canal. Alternatively, you may use a hearing aid and find wax plugs the tiny tubes and inters with amplification. This being the case, it might be your audiologist suggested you clean your ears regularly.
But did you know there is a right and a wrong way to clean your ears? Unfortunately, one of the most popular tools for the job, the cotton swab, may actually add to your problems. To understand why, it helps to learn a little about how earwax works.
Earwax is produced by the outer third of your external ear. The ear is equipped with a ‘wax elevator,’ a series of hairs that waft very slowly, pushing the wax up and out of the ear. This happens incredibly slowly, but is very efficient at what it does. This natural mechanism is nature’s way of ensuring the ear canal is self-cleaning, as the wax it produces eventually finds its way out, along with the impurities it trapped.
Cotton swabs, also known as cotton tips or cotton buds, are cheap and readily available. They also appear to be the perfect tool for cleaning the ears, but appearances can be deceptive. When your reach for a cotton swab and put it in your ear, you are highly likely to be pushing wax back in the direction from which it came.
Indeed, pushing wax deeper into the ear can also compact it and make a dense plug of wax. This plug sits just out of reach in the ear canal in an area where there is no wax elevator to move it out of harm’s way. Over time, a plug of wax can form and acts as an earplug, muffling your hearing.
If you regularly use cotton swabs and your hearing has deteriorated, then get your ears checked by a hearing care provider. They will use an instrument called an otoscope, to examine the ear canal and visualize problems such as a plug of wax. They can then use appropriate methods to flush out the ear and clean it. After this procedure, it’s also a good idea to have a hearing test, because it’s perfectly possible to have more than one problem. If you get the all clear this is excellent news, but if not, it’s a great opportunity to address those hearing issues.
And don’t forget; speak to your hearing care professional about the correct way to keep your ears clean for better hearing health.
All About The Inner Ear
Plainly put the inner ear looks like one crazy rollercoaster ride. With three loop-de-loops and a seashell type ending, it would be one crazy ride for sure. But it is what is in the structure that matters the most. The inner ear is a very complicated system that works in creating the sound we hear and sending the proper information off to the brain as well the inner ear maintains our balance. The inner ear consists of two main areas the cochlea, which is the hearing part of the ear and the vestibular system, which is the balance area of the ear. Within these two areas are two further defined structures of the inner ear the bony labyrinth, which is the hard outer structure of the inner ear and the membranous labyrinth, which is the softer area inside of the bony labyrinth inside the inner ear.
The cochlea is where sound is converted into the electrical impulses that will be sent and interpreted by the brain. The cochlea is shaped like a seashell and inside of it are all of the tiny little hairs floating around in liquid waiting for the correct sound to hit them to send of the electrical impulse to the brain. These tiny hairs are very fragile and can be easily damaged over time due to noise or disease. Once damaged these little hairs will never repair or regrow; once the damage is done it is irreversible. The electrical impulses are sent to the brain through the auditory nerve.
The vestibular system looks like three loop-de-loops on a rollercoaster. These canals are strategically placed for balance purposes and are known as the semicircular ducts. There is the anterior, the lateral and the posterior duct each containing a liquid that adjusts and work together to keep a person balanced.
The inner ear can be further broken down, but to be honest it can get kind of confusing. The inner ear is the end of how the ear works and how sound is transferred and interpreted by the ear to the brain of a person. It can be a little bit of an overwhelming process but very interesting to think about the process as a whole and how quickly it is executed.
The Safe Way to Clean your Ears
First, a couple of safety points. Do not use cotton swabs, because these push wax deeper into the ear where it can create a complete blockage. Also, if you have earache or experience a sudden loss of hearing, schedule an appointment with your hearing care provider immediately. It might be you have an ear infection or even a ruptured eardrum, in which case cleaning your ears is not advisable.
Regular ear cleaning once or twice a month helps prevent a buildup of excess earwax that could muffle your hearing or plug your hearing device. Don’t clean more often than this, unless advised by your doctor or hearing care professional, because this can lead to irritation of the skin lining the ear canal or excessive drying of the ear.
Your pharmacist or hearing healthcare practitioner can advise you on a good commercial ear cleaner to purchase or you can make a suitable solution at home. Here are two ‘recipes’ which have been deemed safe and effective.
The first involves mixing equal parts of:
• White vinegar
• Warm tap water
• Rubbing alcohol
Or alternatively try mixing equal parts of:
• Hydrogen peroxide
• Mineral oil
Mix up the ingredients fresh each time and put few drops of solution into your ear.
While you can pour the cleaning solution direct from a bowl or cup into your ear, this can be messy. You will find it helps to use an eye dropper or a syringe in order to control where you squirt the solution and the quantity.
Drip a few drops into the ear and then tip your head to one side and wait. It helps to have the ear canal as near vertical as possible, so the drops trickle downwards. This could be a good excuse to rest the opposite ear on a cushion and watch TV for ten minutes!
Then tip your head in the opposite direction while holding a pad of cotton wool over the ear to catch the mess. Don’t be tempted to push cotton wool into the ear as this can push debris deeper, instead, let it drain out and then gently wipe around the ear flap for a final clean up.
If you use hydrogen peroxide be aware you may hear a bubbling sound. This is nothing to worry about and is the peroxide fizzing up and helping to loosen debris.
One tip to make life easier is to clean your ears after bathing or a shower. The heat and humidity helps to soften the wax and facilitates cleaning. Popping the cleaning solution in after a shower makes it more effective for no extra effort. Remember, regular ear cleaning can improve your hearing health, but if you experience pain or discomfort always consult your hearing professional first.
Why Should I Visit an Audiologist?
Audiologists are often referred to as hearing doctors or ear doctors, and rightly so. These professionals have a comprehensive knowledge of the body’s auditory system and how sound works. They specialize in preventing, identifying, assessing and treating non-medical hearing disorders such as hearing loss, tinnitus and problems with balance. Most audiologists who practice at the clinical level possess a doctorate in audiology and must be nationally certified, as well as licensed to practice in their state. Some of the special skills an audiologist practices include the following:
• Conducting various types of hearing tests using specialized equipment
• Evaluating test results in order to diagnose hearing loss at all ages
• Conducting balance testing and providing treatment
• Presenting a variety of treatment options for hearing loss, including hearing aids and other assistive devices
• Fitting and adjusting hearing aids
• Providing hearing and speech rehabilitation, counseling, research and support
About 10 percent of the time, audiologists will identify medical causes of hearing loss, such as physical defects, trauma, infections or benign tumors. They refer these cases to an ENT (an otolaryngologist), who may recommend other medical treatments or surgery.
Most newborn infants are tested by an audiologist for hearing loss before being released from the hospital. After that, children receive periodic hearing checkups throughout their growing years, including school-based screening programs. As an adult, you may receive basic hearing screening as part of routine medical exams or checkups with your primary physician. Many of these tests aren’t designed to conclusively diagnose hearing loss, but rather to indicate the need for a full exam with an audiologist.
Besides these regular screenings, anyone who experiences sudden hearing loss or notices a gradual dulling of their hearing abilities should meet with an audiologist for a detailed exam as soon as possible. Many types of hearing loss are treatable; so trust one of your most valuable senses to the expert care of a licensed audiologist.
Different Types of Hearing Tests
There are a range of different hearing tests and diagnostic procedures that your audiologist can use to measure your hearing loss and pinpoint its precise cause. Which tests apply to you will depend on the severity and type of hearing loss you are experiencing, combined with other factors such as age, medical history and hearing history. Here are some details regarding possible tests and procedures:
• Pure tone audiometry (PTA): This is a standard test, designed to measure your hearing range in each ear. You can certainly expect this test at your first appointment; it is the first port of call for identifying the presence and extent of your hearing difficulties. You will be seated in a sound proof room and asked to wear headphones. The test operator will channel sounds of different pitches and volumes into each ear using a machine called an audiometer. You will be asked to signal to the operator every time you hear a sound, usually by pressing a button or raising your hand.
• Speech perception: This test measures your ability to understand speech without visual cues. It will involve you identifying or repeating words as you hear them, the words may be spoken by the operator or pre-recorded and played through headphones.
• Tympanometry: A healthy eardrum will allow sound to pass through it unimpeded. This test is designed to determine how well your eardrum is functioning. It will detect problems such as fluid behind the eardrum, perforated eardrum and abnormal movement of the eardrum. Tympanometry involves plugging the ear and slowly increasing the air pressure in the ear canal in order to measure the response of the eardrum.
• Tuning fork test: A tuning fork is a metal, fork-shaped instrument that emits sound waves when tapped lightly. The tuning fork test involves placing the vibrating fork against your head in various places. It helps to determine whether sound is passing though the inner and middle ear normally. Abnormalities could indicate conductive hearing loss.
• Bone conduction test: This test is a slightly more specific version of the tuning fork test, it involves gently placing a vibrating tuning fork against the bone behind your ear. This allows the sound waves to bypass the outer and middle ear. It helps your audiologist to determine if there are any problems with your inner ear or auditory nerves that could indicate sensorineural hearing loss.
• Auditory brainstem response (ABR): This test is much less common; it is usually only conducted if your audiologist suspects that your hearing loss could be caused by a problem with your auditory nerves, or a neurological disorder. It involves electrodes being placed around the head, which then measure the brain’s response to various auditory stimuli.
Tips For Choosing a Hearing Care Professional
Licensed professionals, usually audiologists or hearing instrument specialists (HIS), fit hearing aids. An audiologist has typically completed six to eight years of higher education and holds a Masters or Doctoral degree in Audiology. An HIS typically has completed licensure requirements as dictated by the state in which they practice. Licensure requirements vary from state to state and some states require audiologists have a dispensing license, in addition to their audiology license, while other states include dispensing under their audiology licensure.
When choosing a professional to work with, it is very important to remember that this is likely to be a relationship you will maintain for many years - much like the relationship with your primary physician. You should be comfortable with your provider, and should feel that you can express concerns to them when you have them. The professional you work with is well versed in the amplification (hearing aid) options they offer, and knows how to address any concerns or issues you have with the instruments.
Experienced - knowledgeable - professional
Since a hearing aid is an electronic device and therefore cannot be prescribed like eyeglasses, an appropriate hearing aid recommendation, and fitting is greatly dependent on the judgment and skill of the professional selecting the device. Education and experience are key factors in finding a qualified hearing healthcare provider.
Connecting with hearing care providers
Sometimes the best way to find a hearing professional is the simplest way - ask your friends with hearing aids who they recommend. Primary care physicians can also have good recommendations as they often hear the good and bad reviews from other patients.
Check the clinic out online and by word of mouth. What are their reviews like? Even bad reviews offer useful information; if the only thing someone has to complain about is the color of the chairs in the waiting area, the clinic must be pretty good.
When it comes to communication channels, we have three distinct media options today: paid, owned and earned. Paid media includes print, broadcast, direct mail, and online; the hearing industry is saturated with paid media. Savvy patients have learned to dig through ads to find the information they are seeking.
Owned media does not require paying a media outlet. It includes a provider’s website, blog and newsletter. Owned media the opportunity for hearing care providers to show (not just tell) what makes them different.
Earned media is achieved when the media and consumers promote a provider’s brand. Press coverage, word of mouth, online reviews, comments on blogs, shared links and social interaction are powerful sources of earned media.
Yelp is more commonly known as a source of reviews for restaurants, bars, and shopping. However, as people increasingly are crowdsourcing their consumer transactions, patients are increasingly turning to online physician ratings, just as they have sought ratings for other products and services, healthcare providers, including audiologists, are being reviewed more and more frequently on Yelp and other sites like Google+ Local and Angie's List. There are also health-specific review sites, like Healthgrades, RateMDs, and ZocDoc.
Down the road, as the “digital native” generation grow older and more of them require hearing healthcare, online reputation management will become even more important for audiologists and other hearing care providers.