Hearing Loss In Young People
Around 840 babies a year are born with a significant hearing impairment. About 1 in 1,000 children are deaf at age three. Effects of hearing loss will vary according to the severity of the loss, and at what age or stage of development the loss occurs within each child. Hearing loss in children needs to be diagnosed and managed by a team of health care professionals.
Whilst more severe hearing loss in children may be easier to identify, there is a growing concern among hearing healthcare professionals that prolonged exposure to high levels of noise is leading to hearing loss (albeit milder losses) among young people. While UK figures are not widely available, according to the American Academy of Audiology, more than 5 million children age 6 to 19 in the USA are thought to show noise-induced hearing loss. The degree of any resultant hearing loss caused by noise exposure will depend on the level of the noise and the duration of exposure. Children and teens may be more at risk due to the widespread use of devices such as MP3 players. Many of these devices are capable of producing high volume levels for long periods of time due to their high-tech long-lasting batteries.
For the vast majority of hearing loss causes including NIHL, once damage has been done, it is permanent, and can be managed rather than cured. Ways to reduce hearing loss amongst young people include education, use of hearing protection as well as setting an example for them to follow.
1. Education - Children should be made aware of the dangers of loud noise. Sounds that exceed 85 db are potentially harmful to ones hearing system and appropriate action should be taken. Children are acutely aware of the actions and reactions of their parents, so you should lead by example and demonstrate that you understand the risks of hearing loss and doing your best to prevent those.
2. Music Devices – When headphones are worn, volume settings are often increased to override environmental noise, which can place the listener at risk for noise damage. Some headphones and MP3 players will automatically limit the volume of sound.
3. Hearing Protection - Earplugs are the most popular form of hearing protection. These are inserted in the ear canal to protect the wearer's hearing from loud noises caused by any number of reasons. Noise can be from machinery such as when mowing the lawn (100 db) or even from strong wind such when riding a scooter. Ear protection in the form of headphones is also available, and can offer even more attenuation of sound than earplugs.
4. Precaution – Encourage young people not to stand too close to loud speakers at concerts – however tempting it may be!
If you suspect that your child’s hearing might be impaired, visit your GP for a hearing test. This testing is quick and painless.
Loud Or LOUD
If you have a relative or acquaintance with hearing loss, you may have heard those words before…or perhaps you’ve had to say them yourself?
Most people understand ‘hearing loss’ to mean that more volume is required in order to hear. However it is not only about adding more volume; many people with hearing loss perceive loud sounds in a similar way to normal hearing individuals; and may even be more sensitive at certain frequencies or pitches.
The ability to manage the range of incoming sound volume is referred to within the world of psycho-acoustics as a person’s ‘dynamic range’. Psycho-acoustics is the study of how sound is perceived; and is central to developing products designed to help with hearing loss such as hearing aids. So, in other words, dynamic range is the range of hearing between hearing threshold (i.e. just audible) and uncomfortable listening levels.
Being able to process different volumes is controlled by the cochlea, which is a part of our inner ear. This is a non-linear organ, in that it handles sounds with lower intensities differently to sounds with higher intensities. Within the cochlea, tiny hair cells pick up various aspects of the incoming ‘wave’ of stimulation. Hearing loss occurs when these hair cells are damaged. If this happens, we often see a reduced dynamic range which indicates that the ear’s ability to process loudness is impaired.
For the normal hearing ear:
10dBHL is ‘I can only just hear it’ ; 100dB HL is ‘very very loud!’
Therefore the dynamic range is 90dB.
For the ear with sensorineural hearing loss:
60dBHL is ‘I can only just hear it’ ; but 100dBHL is ‘very very loud!’
The dynamic range is 40dB.
Hearing aids can not (yet!?) replace a normally functioning cochlea however they try to imitate the function of the hair cells, particularly when it comes to restoring normal loudness growth. For a hearing aid to do this well means that a hearing aid wearer should perceive soft sounds as soft, medium sounds should be comfortable and loud sounds should sound loud, regardless of their dynamic range. Digital hearing aids therefore aim to provide what is referred to as non-linear amplification so that low-intensity inputs are given more increased volume more than high-intensity inputs.
6 Lifestyle Changes for Better Hearing Health
Work On Your Nutrition
According to a study published in Ear and Hearing, the official journal of the American Auditory Society, there exists a known link between diet and the susceptibility to conditions like tinnitus, the sensitivity of the inner ear to noise, and age-related hearing loss. Per the study, a diet high in vitamin B12 reduced the odds of these conditional, whilst high intakes of fat, iron, and calcium had the opposite effect. Vitamin D also reduced hearing difficulties, as did a high intake of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.
In other words, if you tend to overindulge in stuff like pizza, burgers, and other unhealthy meals, your hearing health (and your health in general) will suffer. If you focus on a balanced, healthy diet rich in natural foods and low in stuff like sodium and saturated fat, you will be in far better shape overall. And not just where your ears are concerned.
Do Some Light Exercise
As noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exercise reduces the risk of a wide range of debilitating conditions, including both diabetes, heart disease, and even certain types of cancer. It's also been linked to reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression, and dementia. In addition, because it promotes better cardiovascular health, it can even help protect against age-related hearing loss.
Make sure you don't overdo it, though. You should start with 15 to 30 minutes of light exercise daily. Just enough to get your blood flowing and work up a bit of a sweat.
You can always amp things up later, so as to reduce the risk of self-injury.
Stay Away From Cigarettes
Even secondhand smoke can cause hearing loss, according to a study published by Web MD, an online health information network. Not only do cigarettes wreak havoc with your blood pressure and central nervous system, but the smoke can also create blockages in the eustachian tube. Any of these problems can cause hearing loss.
It seems like we never get enough sleep. Especially now, with all the stress of what's going on in the world around us. And that's a problem.
Not only does a lack of sleep cause significant issues with your mental health, but it can also cause a number of different problems related to your physical wellbeing, including increasing your risk of developing a wide range of illnesses and diseases. And yes, this includes hearing loss.
Watch The Noise
As you might expect, loud noise tends to be one of the most significant causes of hearing impairment and hearing loss. Fortunately, protecting yourself against it isn't too difficult. Avoid listening to loud music via headphones for extended periods, and wear hearing protection in loud environments such as construction sites and nightclubs.
Schedule Regular Hearing Tests
Last but certainly not least, talk to an audiologist. Especially as you get older, it's critical that you contact an audiologist and schedule a hearing test at least annually. Not only can this help you correct any ongoing issues with your hearing, but it can also help you catch potential causes of hearing impairment before they cause permanent damage.
Is there a tinnitus cure?
Tinnitus – the ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears that may be constant or come and go – has annoyed people for thousands of years. It is a phenomenon highly associated with hearing loss. Not all people who experience tinnitus have hearing loss, and some people with hearing loss don’t experience tinnitus. HearingLife’s professionals have options for you to help you treat tinnitus.
Despite worldwide efforts to address a chronic issue that impacts more than 50 million Americans,¹ scientists and audiologists are still searching for an overarching cure for tinnitus. Until there is one, here are some remedies that could mean an improved quality of life for millions.
Recent research and a cure for tinnitus
Fortunately, researchers are examining multiple aspects of tinnitus. Across the globe, studies are ongoing to expand understanding of the phenomenon, including exploring new treatment options for tinnitus, with the goal of a tinnitus cure. Some are looking at triggers for tinnitus, others at therapeutic treatments.
In one study researchers, including Martin Jensen with the University of Marburg in Germany and Eriksholm Research Centre, are investigating how retraining the brain could improve tinnitus symptoms. (Eriksholm Research Centre partners with Oticon in developing Oticon More™ and other hearing aids that offer tinnitus settings.)
Covid-19 and tinnitus
In late 2020, researchers from the UK and the United States looked at links between Covid-19 and tinnitus. The study of more than 3,100 people found that Covid-19 exacerbates tinnitus for people who already had tinnitus prior to having Covid. The study included patients in 48 countries. 40% of participants experienced a worsening of tinnitus after becoming ill with the Coronavirus.² If you or a loved one have experienced increased tinnitus with Covid and would like to discuss treatment for tinnitus, we invite you to schedule an appointment online. As scientists continue to look at the impacts of the pandemic, there may be more news on this front.
Is there research for a tinnitus cure?
With diverse causes, a tinnitus cure may not be one-size-fits-all. In the interim, research continues in both treatment and cures. Focusing on the causes of tinnitus, which are very similar to hearing loss, may lead to new ways prevent it. on the causes of tinnitus and how to prevent it. Tinnitus has many of the same causes as hearing loss.
Hope on the horizon with clinical trials
If you are considering seeking innovative therapies, you may want to look into joining a US government-approved clinical trial. More than 20 tinnitus clinical trials are recruiting candidates as of February 2021. You can find the latest admissions criteria and opportunities to take part at the U.S. government’s clinical trials online information. To learn more, talk to your physician to find out if this is right for you.
The American Tinnitus Association is a professional organization focused on tinnitus relief. Since 1980, they have contributed more than $6 million to sponsor research aimed at finding a cure and optimizing treatments. For information on their research program, how to submit a proposal, and to learn about their findings, go to https://www.ata.org/research-toward-cure/research-program.
Tinnitus and hearing loss and why it’s important to check your hearing
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, roughly 90% of people who have tinnitus also have underlying hearing loss.³ If you have debilitating tinnitus, it may be beneficial to check for hearing loss.
When Should You See a Doctor About Tinnitus?
However, if your symptom persists, you must seek medical attention. Some underlying conditions can be cured or at least slowed if treated early enough.
Even if the condition can't be cured, healthcare professionals will be able to help you find solutions to deal with tinnitus.
So when should you see a doctor for tinnitus?
Below are some indicators that you should discuss your tinnitus symptoms with a healthcare professional immediately.
You’ve experienced ringing in the ears for more than a week
If you woke up this morning with a slight ringing in your ear, it might not be anything to worry about. Perhaps you have water in your ear from last night's pool party or a buildup of wax.
However, if you've experienced a constant ringing, static or buzzing sound for at least a week, you should contact a doctor to see if there is an underlying condition.
Therefore, even if your tinnitus is bearable, don't hesitate to go to a doctor if your symptoms persist.
You’re experiencing discharge from the ear
If you're experiencing discharge from an ear and also experience a constant ringing or buzzing (tinnitus), you may have an ear infection.
Ear infections are particularly common in children with four out of five children experiencing an ear infection before their third birthday. An ear infection occurs when an infection overtakes the air-filled space in the middle ear. The ear is typically painful to the touch.
While some ear infections go away on their own, you can contact your doctor to receive an antibiotic to speed up the healing process. If left untreated for an extended period of time, ear infections can result in hearing loss, mastoiditis, perforation of the eardrum, and more.
This type of tinnitus usually isn't lasting, but it's worth getting a doctor's opinion.
You feel dizzy or nauseous
If dizziness or nausea accompanies your tinnitus symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately. While there are multiple causes for tinnitus, dizziness and nausea are also symptoms of Meniere's disease. There is no cure for Meniere's disease right now, but treating it quickly will help slow the disease's progression.
In the meantime, you should avoid caffeine, tobacco, high sodium foods, and even chocolate.
While Meniere's is a rare disease that affects only about 0.2 percent of American adults, it should be seriously examined.
You only experience symptoms in one ear
Tinnitus usually occurs bilaterally (in both ears). However, if you experience tinnitus unilaterally (one ear ringing), you should talk to a doctor as soon as possible.
Unilateral tinnitus is usually a sign of Meniere's disease, or Idiopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (ISSNHL). ISSNHL is quite serious, and studies have shown that patients that are treated earlier (in say 24 hours) have a much higher recovery rate. In fact, most doctors will refer you to a specialist for a same-day appointment to begin treatment immediately.
The symptom is rhythmic with your pulse (pulsatile)
Tinnitus noises can be constant or infrequent, though if you notice it's steady with your pulse, you should make a doctor's appointment sooner than later.
Pulsatile tinnitus can be an indicator of anything from high blood pressure and vascular malformations to head and neck tumors or aneurysms.
However, the majority of underlying conditions are not very serious, and pulsatile tinnitus is usually just an indicator of a blood vessel with fluid in the eardrum.
Only 10 percent of all tinnitus patients suffer from pulsatile tinnitus, and it is often audible to doctors as well.
What Kind of Doctor Treats Tinnitus?
As nearly 90 percent of those with tinnitus also experience hearing loss, a tinnitus audiologist is an ideal doctor for hearing loss. The audiologist will give you a tinnitus hearing test to see what is causing your tinnitus and better understand how to treat it. You will be able to live with tinnitus and there are options to increase your quality of life.
What People with Hearing Loss Can Teach Everyone About Better Communication
At the end of our first full week of working from home due to the COVID-19 crisis, my team held a 20-person meeting over Zoom. Cheering to a hard week of working from home, attendees turned off Mute to start clapping. Unlike the other team members, I applauded the Deaf way, using sign language, which I felt was appropriate for a virtual meeting – raising, waving, and shaking my hands along with an expressive face. My team loved the idea and followed my lead.
A week later, in another large meeting, the head of my team used the Deaf silent applause. I was touched that my team had remembered this small tidbit. My voice as a hearing loss advocate felt valued, and I realized how much the world can benefit from the communication styles of the hearing loss community during this COVID-19 crisis.
Virtual Meetings Highlight the Need for Communication Best Practices
With social distancing, virtual meetings, and working from home, effective forms of verbal and nonverbal communication are more important than ever. As compared to phone calls, video calls provide enhanced abilities to read someone’s body language. Utilizing virtual whiteboards for brainstorming sessions allows for visual ways to illustrate concepts, making it easier to follow unstructured conversations. Sending next steps in an email promotes accountability and sets clear expectations. The world is beginning to prioritize written forms of communication, speechreading, and active listening, communication best practices that the hearing loss community have always used.
The same is true with technology. Many technologies that support people with hearing loss have revolutionized the world, not just in the COVID-19 crisis, but for decades. Although I strongly disapprove of his view on deafness, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone for people with hearing loss. Dr. Vinton Cerf reported that he invented the Internet in part to help people with hearing loss. Speech-to-text technology, such as Google’s Live Transcribe, is an extraordinarily powerful tool with a wide range of applications for both hearing and hard-of-hearing people. Hearing aids have inspired the hearables industry.
Today, the entire world is relying on these very tools to work from home in order to flatten the COVID-19 curve.
Tips For Inclusive Virtual Meetings
Here are some tips for making your next virtual meeting more inclusive for people with hearing loss.
* Create multi-sensory experiences by using visual features, to ensure that the meeting is not solely audio based. For instance, Zoom has annotations and whiteboard features. Write down the key transitions and main points being brought up by others on the screen. Alternatively, a meeting attendee can share a screen and type in Word.
* To minimize background noise, turn on Mute when not speaking.
* Turn on videos so others can speech-read. Research shows that nonverbal communication is often as important as verbal communication.
* Make sure that only one person is speaking at a time.
* Summarize key points and next steps in a follow-up email.
* Ensure everyone is in a quiet room with good Wi-Fi connectivity.
* Have all meeting attendees test their microphones to make sure the sound is loud enough.
* Utilize headphones, if needed, to hear better.
* Make sure there is no light behind you, which prevents others from seeing your face clearly and from speech-reading.
* For more tips, see Hearing Loss Association of America’s employment toolkit.
As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, I hope that the world continues to apply the skills of effective listening valued and relied on by the hearing loss community. I hope that we better appreciate the hearing loss community. And most importantly, I hope that society continues to value and learn from the hearing loss community.
An Audiologist’s Guide to Hearing Loss
We have 5 senses vital to everyday life, yet hearing is thought to be one of the most important. In terms of communication, hearing allows us to connect with loved ones, contributing to our happiness and well-being.
However, to communicate effectively, our hearing should be accurate and instant. Hearing reduction can gradually affect how well we communicate with one another.
Because hearing loss can be so gradual once many of us reach 50, it can be difficult to detect hearing reduction over several years. People close to you are often the first to notice.
Yet, suffering from hearing loss is not necessarily a serious condition. There are many hearing solutions available. Suffering from hearing loss is no more serious than experiencing a loss of close vision. Yet, even mild hearing loss can affect our quality of life and how effectively we communicate with others.
Causes of hearing loss
There are several potential causes of hearing loss. Some of these include:
* noise exposure
* trauma, strokes and more.
It can be difficult to determine the exact cause of hearing loss sometimes, yet often it is due to the natural ageing process. Only 1.7% of people aged below 40 in western society (NIDCD) suffer from significant hearing loss, yet these figures increase after the age of 40.
Levels of hearing loss
There are different degrees of hearing loss. These include:
There are, however, solutions to each above level of hearing loss.
Each level of hearing loss has its own issues and solutions. It is important to look for solutions quickly if possible. Taking a proactive approach by having regular hearing tests and check-ups can catch any form of hearing loss early.
Over 90% of people who experience hearing loss are in groups 1-3. It is straightforward to find hearing solutions for these degrees of hearing loss. Same-day solutions can even be arranged.
Some solutions include hearing aids, as well as several hearing accessories which work in conjunction with phones, doorbells, and televisions. There are hearing solutions which can help with several aspects of hearing, not just communicating. Following a hearing test, if appropriate, the audiologist will be able to determine which hearing aid and programming are most suitable for you. The programming is just as important as the hearing aid.
Audiologists can carry out regular hearing checks to maintain good ear health.
As mentioned, hearing loss is usually gradual, with the slow decline being hard to detect. It is often picked up by loved ones before us. This is why regular hearing checks are so important. They are quick, non-invasive, and often free of charge. If same-day service is available solutions can be provided on the day.
What is normal hearing?
The 2 main elements of normal hearing are volume and frequency. Volume determines how loud (how many decibels) a sound needs to be before we hear it, whereas frequency determines the range of pitch we are able to identify. This is why there is a difference between how loudly and how clearly we hear.
Hearing tests determine the effectiveness of both elements. Audiologists can then determine an appropriate hearing solution depending on the results of the test.
When should we have regular hearing tests?
Whereas eyesight begins to reduce from 40, our hearing naturally reduces from the age of 50. Usually, our ability to hear frequencies reduces first, then eventually volume reduces too. Hearing loss does not necessarily affect our quality of life until it interferes with how well we hear volume and clarity of speech. This can take many years of gradual hearing loss.
Over 40% of people of 50 experience hearing loss, this figure rises to 70% for people aged over 70.
Hearing is vital for communicating with loved ones and forming connections with new people. When our hearing decreases, whether it is how well we perceive volume or frequency, this ultimately affects our quality of life.
Hearing tests can determine how you struggle to hear and allow an audiologist to provide you with appropriate solutions. Modern hearing aids restore hearing ability similarly to how glasses restore vision.
Ultimately, hearing solutions can have a great effect on our hearing, and our everyday lives.
How to Handle the Holidays When You Have a Hearing Loss
The holidays are a great time of year, filled with family dinners and celebrations, gatherings with friends, holiday parties, and lots of socializing. I love getting dressed up, enjoying the decorations and participating in the general feeling of happiness that comes along with the season. But if I’m not careful, all the socializing and holiday hubbub can become exhausting and overwhelming. I want to be a part of the fun, but the concentration required to hear can be taxing, particularly at holiday parties held in noisy restaurants or similar venues.
But, let’s NOT let that put a damper on the holiday season! I hope these tips will help you approach the holiday season with more joy and less fear. Please let me know your suggestions in the comments.
Living With Hearing Loss’s Tips to Survive and Thrive at Holiday Gatherings
Position yourself in a good spot: For me, it is very helpful if I have a wall behind me to block the background noise. If it is a seated meal, I try to sit near the middle of the table, which gives me a better shot at hearing more conversation. If it is a cocktail party, I scope out a quieter area of the room away from the music and high traffic areas like the buffet or bar area and try to spend time there. If the party is in multiple rooms, I head to the quieter room. You can invite some friends to come with you. I bet they will enjoy the lower volume too.
* Avoid background noise when possible: If I am hosting, I always keep background music to a minimum. Other hosts may like to play music more loudly. Try asking your host to lower the volume a bit or to adjust the volume in different parts of the room or venue. I always ask restaurants to turn down the volume of the music too!
* Converse with those next to you: At a seated dinner, don’t try to participate in conversations across large distances. If you would like to talk with someone, move closer to him, or ask that you continue the conversation when you have a chance to be closer together. If it is a party with multiple rooms, you can ask someone to join you in a quieter spot.
* Wear your hearing aids: Many of us hate to wear our hearing aids, but they really can help. Experiment with a couple of different settings to find what is optimal. You can even practice at home if you don’t want to spend time experimenting at the event. It may take some time getting used to the new setting, but the investment of that time will be worth it.
* Try other technologies: There are many new technologies now available that can help you hear in a group setting including personal FM systems or other one to one communication devices. Some of my friends swear by these.
* Have reasonable expectations: You probably won’t hear everything that everyone says, but that is ok. Enjoy talking to the people near you, then seek out others to talk with during other parts of the party.
* Take a break: Don’t be shy about taking a break from the action for a few minutes to give your ears and brain a rest. Head to the restroom, or find a quiet spot in another room. Or go stand outside for a few minutes. It really helps me to clear my head and build up some energy for another round of socializing.
* Don’t fake it: It is very tempting to just nod along and pretend that you hear what others are saying or laugh just because others are laughing. But it can be dangerous, particularly if someone is asking you a question. Be brave and be honest with others if you are having trouble hearing. It will make your interactions more memorable on both sides.
* Give visual clues to indicate if you are having trouble hearing: If you are having trouble hearing, you can cup your ear with your hand to indicate to the speaker to speak louder without interrupting the flow of the conversation. I have seen this in action and it is very effective.
* Bring your sense of humor: It can be hard to keep it all in perspective during the holidays when you feel like you are missing out on the fun, but try to laugh a little and be grateful for the wonderful friends and family around you. You may not hear every word they say, but you can partake in all of the good feelings nonetheless. Try to enjoy the moment.
I Can’t Hear in the Dark
We were having some lighting work done on the outside of our home this summer, and one night the lighting company came to do a demonstration. The sky was dark and the landscape lighting was on, but not too brightly. The project manager was walking us around the house discussing the lights and asking us if we wanted them brighter or dimmer or angled in different directions. I couldn’t hear a word. My husband was answering the questions and I kept nudging him with my elbow trying to get him to repeat things, but it wasn’t working. I hadn’t realized I was so dependent on visual clues to hear! Finally I just came clean, and announced that I couldn’t hear since it was dark out and they would all need to speak louder and face me when they were talking. That made things a bit better for a little while, but it is hard for people to remember to adjust their speaking patterns for extended periods of time.
Maybe this is obvious to most people with hearing loss, but for some reason I had never been in this situation before. At night in bed, there is not much to hear, so maybe I never noticed. And I usually do keep the lights on until I am ready to sleep. I was scared by this new realization. What if there was an emergency in the middle of the night and I needed to hear instructions? What if the power went out? What if my children were calling to me in the dark and I didn’t hear them? What if I just wanted to take a nice moonlit walk with friends? I decided I better figure out a strategy.
Today, I am much more aware of the lighting in any given situation and try to use it to my advantage. For example, I try to sit so that others are well-lit and visible. If it is dark, I ask people if I can turn on a light. I sit closer to people if it is darker. I also turn up the volume on my hearing aids. And I made sure that outdoor lighting on our house was turned up very bright!
How to Tackle Thanksgiving Dinner When You Have Hearing Loss
I always go to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, which is a lot of fun. It is a big group event, with lots of cousins, grown children and seniors. We can sometimes have up to 20 at any given Thanksgiving family meal. There is a lot of energy, but also a lot of noise, with people all talking at once and kids laughing and joking in the background. This is a great recipe for family fun, unless you have a hearing loss. The general noise level makes it hard to hear, and the multiple conversations going at once, makes it hard to follow any of them. Older men often speak very quietly (at least it seems that way to me!) Plus, children can be notoriously difficult to hear, and rarely remember to look at you when they are talking.
But let’s NOT let this be a recipe for disaster! I have been thinking about how to make the most of the holiday and these are my tips. I hope they help. Please let me know your suggestions in the comments.
Living With Hearing Loss’s Tips to Survive and Thrive at Thanksgiving Dinner
1. Sit in a good spot: For me, it is very helpful if I have a wall behind me and am seated more in the middle of the table. This gives me a better shot at hearing more conversation and not being distracted by background noise behind me. Maybe you have a spot you like better. Don’t be shy about talking to the host so that your seat is in an opportune spot for you.
2. Keep background noise down if possible: I try to keep any background music to a minimum. While your host, may like to play music a little more loudly, perhaps you can ask him or her to keep the volume low during dinner.
3. Converse with those next to you: Don’t try to participate in conversations across large distances. If you would like to talk with someone, move closer to him, or ask that you continue the conversation when you have a chance to be closer together.
4. Wear your hearing aids: Many of us hate to wear our hearing aids, but they really can help. Experiment with a couple of different settings to find what is optimal. You can even practice at home if you don’t want to spend time experimenting at the event.
5. Try other technologies: There are many new technologies now available that can help you hear in a group setting including personal FM systems or other one to one communication devices. Some of my friends swear by these.
6. Have reasonable expectations: You probably won’t hear everything that everyone says, but that is ok. Enjoy talking to the people near you, then seek out others to talk with during other parts of the party. You might even suggest to the host that people rotate seats for desert.
7. Bring your sense of humor: It can be hard to keep it all in perspective during the holidays when you feel like you are missing out on the fun, but try to laugh a little and be grateful for the wonderful friends and family around you. You may not hear every word they say, but you can partake in all of the good feelings around the table. Try to enjoy the moment.
Readers, do you have any tips for tackling Thanksgiving dinner when you have a hearing loss?
Making the most of the holidays virtually
If you are an employee with a Flexible Spending Account, you might want to double check your balance. Now may be a smart time to take care of your hearing healthcare needs, especially if you are one of the 48 million Americans1 with hearing loss. HearingLife has more than 600 locations open most days in December. For most locations, we now offer convenient online booking.
What is a Flexible Spending Account and why are FSAs important?
Many employers offer a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)2 as part of their benefits package. Sometimes referred to as a Health Flexible Spending Arrangement, an FSA is an account in which you place pre-tax dollars to cover certain medical expenses. FSAs save you money by allowing you to withhold pre-tax money from your pay, up to $2,700 per year.
Who can you use FSA for, and what does it cover?
These funds can be used for yourself, your spouse and your dependents throughout the calendar year. They can be used for:
Health-related spending, including hearing aids
Medical and dental costs
Why the urgency? Because FSA is “use it or lose it!”
Although you can spend the money on a wide array of medical services, prescriptions and medical expenses, unfortunately, it is “use it or lose it” money. You must spend the money within the calendar year. Although some programs have a grace period, others require you to spend all funds by December 31st.
Can I use my FSA spending on my parents’ hearing aids?
Maybe, but only if you claim them as dependents on your tax return. Even if your parents live with you, they may not be your dependents, and therefore you cannot use FSA monies toward their healthcare. The same applies for your children. If you claim them on your taxes, you can cover certain medical expenses using FSA funds.
Don’t have a flexible spending program? We have financing and other options, too
Even if you don’t have this option, HearingLife sometimes has special offers and other ways to keep hearing aids affordable. CareCredit® is a financing program for health-related costs that may help you pay over time. Check out if you have hearing aid insurance coverage. Find out if Medicare covers hearing aids?
Welcome to Living With Hearing Loss
When you have hearing loss, it impacts your life almost every minute of every day. Whether it is trying to hear schedule announcements at the train station, watching TV, hearing the waiter discuss the specials at a restaurant, or talking with your children, having hearing loss makes everyday tasks more challenging. Socializing becomes less fun, particularly in settings with significant background noise. Movies and plays are harder to enjoy. Communication in general takes more effort and concentration than it does for those without hearing loss, and can sometimes be exhausting. Supportive family and friends are key, as is advocating for yourself. I have now begun to request quiet tables at restaurants and to remind friends to face me when they speak to me.
Being vocal about your hearing loss can make a big difference in enhancing communication and improving the quality of your life. I don’t want my hearing loss to define me, but I find that being open about it can help relieve the pressure of always having to hear everything perfectly. I hope this blog will serve as an outlet for my experiences as well as a community for those dealing with similar issues.
Readers, how are you living with your hearing loss?
50 is not too young to have my hearing checked
Knowing the signs of hearing loss
As I work for one of the country’s largest hearing care companies, and I write a lot about hearing loss, I know that struggling to hear the TV and tinnitus are both signs of hearing loss. So, since I’ve worked for the company for nearly four years and never had my hearing checked, I thought it was a good idea to have a hearing assessment.* If you wonder whether you have hearing loss, you can take our online hearing test or find out if you need to have your hearing checked.
What to expect at your hearing assessment
When I arrived at my appointment at HearingLife in Westfield, New Jersey, I met my audiologist, Dr. Kristen Handal. She asked me a little about my symptoms, and I explained that I had tinnitus and felt that I was putting the TV on higher than before and that I often use closed captioning when watching shows so I can follow the dialogue. Because Westfield is one of HearingLife’s newly redesigned offices, there is no traditional “booth.” The testing room is soundproofed specifically for hearing examinations. Otherwise, it was just like my last hearing assessment (when I was in elementary school many decades ago). My audiologist asked me to listen for tones and push a button as soon as I heard one. Then I was asked to repeat words that Dr. Handal said. Although some sounds were very faint, it was quick and easy.
Checking for hidden hearing loss
I thought I was done, but there was one more assessment. It checks my ability to decipher the most important speech in a complex sound environment. This wasn’t a test I had done before, but I remembered something similar from years ago when my son was tested for auditory processing disorder. (Auditory processing disorder often impacts people with attention deficit disorder [ADD] and is thought to be an issue related to the central nervous system.) Dr. Handal asked me to listen to more than one person speaking at the same time. Then, I had to repeat what I heard. As a parent of two kids, I’m used to hearing multiple people speaking at the same time and trying to understand who was saying what. This test had both a person speaking to you and newscasts playing in the background. It became more and more challenging to pick out any words, but I found it fun to try. Afterwards, Dr. Handal explained that checking for hidden hearing is an important check for people who have symptoms of hearing loss but have a normal audiogram.
Caregivers need care, too!
My story is pretty common. Until recently, I was part of the “sandwich generation.” For several years, I balanced taking care of an aging parent while raising my own children. As with many other caregivers, I often put my own needs on the back burner. But it is important for people who take care of others to not ignore their own healthcare. In fact, when I went with my father for his hearing test a few years ago, it would have been easy to have my own hearing checked at the same time. (If you are a caregiver for someone with hearing loss, we have tips for you.)
Good news: I have normal hearing
Hearing loss can happen at any age and often happens gradually over time. In fact, nearly 30% of adults age 50 to 59 have hearing loss.¹ I’m very happy to hear that my hearing was normal, and that for the time being I don’t need hearing aids. Dr. Handal did recommend an app that researchers have shown helps combat tinnitus symptoms.
Even though I didn’t need hearing aids, I’m glad that I had my hearing checked. I now have a baseline to compare against over time. And I had a great experience with Dr. Handal. I'll go back in a few years. In the meantime, I'll do what I can to prevent hearing loss, such as keep the volume down when listening to music, wear protective earmuffs when I mow the lawn and use earplugs when I go to a concert.
Booking a complimentary hearing assessment is easier than ever before
I booked the appointment on HearingLife’s new online booking feature, and it only took a few minutes. I got an email confirming my request, and later received both text reminders and a phone call from the Patient Care Coordinator. She explained where I could park and how to get to the office. It was an easy process.
Focus on hearing wellness in 2021
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 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, gunshots, fireworks, airplanes and machinery are loud enough to cause damage; however, there are unlikely culprits.
* 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 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 to 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.
Do what you can to prevent dementia: This year, the Lancet published new research that stated that addressing hearing loss can help lower the risk for developing dementia.
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 HearingLife in early 2021.
More resolutions for better living and better hearing in 2020
For more ideas to focus on your hearing, check out HearingLife's blog or our e-newsletter, Connected Living. With interesting tips and ideas on healthy living, activities, armchair travel, re-creating fine dining at home and more, we have plenty of tips to add a little adventure to your life. From learning how how to create culinary masterpieces in your kitchen, to trying a life-changing hobby, you are sure to find something to inspire you in the coming year.
Book now online and start hearing with confidence
HearingLife made booking your annual hearing assessment much easier with online booking. Simply find your local provider and answer a few questions. You will receive a confirmation email as well as text message reminders.
The consequences of untreated hearing loss
When you can’t hear what’s going on around you, your mental sharpness suffers. This is because the reduction in aural stimulation over time can impair the brain’s ability to process sound and recognize speech. The brain doesn’t get the practice that it needs.
Research consistently demonstrates the considerable effects that hearing loss has on social, psychological and cognitive performance. It can lead to cognitive decline and dementia.
Because conversations take so much more mental energy when you struggle to hear, an untreated hearing loss often causes people to withdraw from socializing. This can lead to isolation and depression if you leave it untreated.
Do you or a loved one experience these effects?
Feeling insecure when you are outside because you don’t know where sounds are coming from
* Feeling depressed and alone
* Becoming more tired and needing to rest after work or social functions
* Having problems remembering what people have said
* Experiencing problems picking out conversations, especially in gatherings with several other people
* A decreased quality of life due to hearing loss
* Hearing loss affecting not only the sufferer but also the sufferer’s family
It is important to seek help if you notice signs of hearing loss in yourself or in a loved one.
Hearing care experts stand ready to advise you
If you couldn’t see well, you would go to the optician. If you had a tooth problem, you would go to the dentist. But for many reasons such as misplaced pride or embarrassment, many people avoid going to a hearing care expert. At HearingLife we are ready to help you.
Why do we have earwax
Earwax is a natural lubricant that protects the sensitive skin in the ear canal. It also acts as a barrier that stops dirt and foreign objects from reaching the eardrum.
What’s more, earwax is part of the ear’s self-cleaning mechanism. The skin inside the ear canal grows outwards, carrying earwax with it. And because the earwax captures dirt and dead skin, this all naturally comes out of the ear together with the earwax.
Chewing and yawning also help to move the wax outwards along your ear canal.
So how do I clean my ears?
In fact, you shouldn’t stick anything in your ear canal.
Q-tips are definitely a bad idea. They may look soft, but they are made from artificial fibres that can scratch and inflame the sensitive skin inside the ear canal, leaving it open to infections.
If you think you have a blockage in your ear canal or think you are experiencing excessive earwax, then you need to consult a hearing care expert for specialist cleaning.
Earwax can create a blockage
It is possible. Ironically, it is often when people try to clean their ears by sticking things in them that they can push earwax inwards and create a blockage. Pushing earwax too far in can make it go in beyond where the skin grows outwards, so it gets stuck. Over time, wax can become compacted, leading to hearing loss.
In general, our ears produce the amount of earwax they need. However, some people do experience excessive earwax. This can be caused by too much cleaning, where the ear produces more earwax in an effort to re-establish an appropriate amount. It can also be caused by some medical conditions.
In some cases, hearing aids can contribute to the perception that people have more earwax, because they sit in the ear canal and prevent it coming out naturally. Hearing aids are fitted with wax filters for this purpose, which need to be changed regularly.
How should I clean my children’s ears?
The same way you clean your own ears: minimally and without sticking anything into the ear. Some people use cotton swabs are available in shapes that are designed to prevent you putting them too far into the ear canal. However, these are still abrasive, so we don’t recommend these.
We recommend you use a wet cloth to wipe out earwax only from the outer part of the ear.
What do you know about tinnitus?
What these sounds all have in common is that they are only audible to the person who is suffering from tinnitus.
This is because tinnitus is a symptom of damage or dysfunction inside the hearing system. There are many possible causes, one of which is exposure to loud noise.
Tinnitus often comes together with hearing loss
More than 80% of people with tinnitus also experience some degree of hearing loss. However, many tinnitus sufferers are not aware that they have hearing loss. Fortunately, experts are able to treat both conditions using hearing aids, because hearing aids are now available that can play soothing relief sounds.
Why do we ‘invent’ noises that aren’t there?
Experts don’t know exactly what causes us to hear sound that isn’t there. Many suspect that it happens when the auditory system reacts to damage by trying to compensate for missing signals.
However, some people who experience tinnitus don’t have hearing loss. This means that there are other causes of tinnitus, in addition to it being a symptom of hearing loss.
Factors affecting tinnitus include …
Ensure auditory stimulation – Make sure you can hear well by adopting hearing aids if necessary. This can help to minimize the appearance of your tinnitus symptoms.
Get quality sleep – If you don’t get enough sleep, your blood circulation can be reduced, which affects both hearing loss and tinnitus. In addition, using an extra pillow to keep your head raised can reduce congestion, which can also aid your tinnitus.
Eat and drink healthily – Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and artificial sweeteners (aspertane) may all negatively contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus.
Although there is no cure for tinnitus, it pays to be aware of these factors and try to notice if they affect your tinnitus.
Importantly, how you feel has a big effect on how annoying you find tinnitus. Reducing the impact is therefore often about reducing how much you notice it.
Get effective tinnitus treatment
Beyond paying attention to the factors that affect your tinnitus, there are many treatment options too.
Some people use white noise players that sit next to their bed and play sound that has no discernible features. This background noise helps to mask the tinnitus sounds inside their head, helping distract them while they fall asleep.
Increasingly, hearing aids are incorporating such technologies. These are programmed by a hearing care expert to match your tinnitus symptoms, giving you a range of relief sounds to choose from whenever you need them.
How can I explain my tinnitus to an expert?
We know, it’s not easy to describe! But before your first visit to an expert, it might help you to think about the sounds.
* When did you start experiencing tinnitus? Did you also find hearing problems around then?
* Is the sound high- or low-pitched? Is it loud or soft?
* Does the sound change throughout the day?
* How does it vary and when?
* Does it get worse in some situations?
* Does it worsen after drinking coffee or being in a noisy environment?
* Is it in both ears?
The causes of tinnitus
The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the sensory cells in the cochlea. This is the snail shell-like organ in the inner ear where sounds are converted into electrical signals. Damage to the hair cells here causes tinnitus and hearing loss.
However, tinnitus can also be caused by a middle ear infection, earwax build-up, inflamed blood vessels around the ear, medications and other drugs, and anxiety and stress.
Recent research suggests that the condition of having tinnitus in both ears may also have a genetic basis, especially in men.
As with hearing loss, the best way to prevent tinnitus is by wearing hearing protection whenever you are in a situation where noise could be dangerous. In addition, it’s important to move away from the noise as often as you can or for as long as you can.
You can get more information about tinnitus here.
What challenges does summer bring for hearing?
Beware of sunscreen and lotions
When you slap on the cream to protect your skin, watch out for your hearing aids! The plastic they are made from can be affected by the chemicals in various cosmetics. You should remove your hearing aids while you apply suncream, and put them back on after you have rubbed it in and cleaned your hands.
Festivals and music concerts
Are you heading to an open-air concert? Or perhaps your children or grandchildren are? If it will be loud, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of hearing damage. In open-air settings where the atmosphere is more open than an indoor environment, people often forget to be aware of the dangers of loud noise.
Remember this: If you have to shout to make yourself heard, your hearing is under strain. Consider wearing hearing protection such as disposable earplugs, and take regular breaks from the loud environment.
Keep hearing equipment cool, and beware the dangers of heat
Hearing aids and their accessories can be negatively affected by the heat, so you need to keep them cool. Avoid leaving them in your car for any length of time, and always keep them out of direct sunlight.
Flying off on holiday
When we fly (or dive underwater), we often feel discomfort caused by a sense of pressure in the ears and nose. This is caused by a difference in air pressure between the outside and inside of your ear, nose, or sinuses.
If the air can flow relatively easily, the higher pressure air will quickly flow to the lower pressure air, and the pressure difference will disappear.
However, if the air can’t flow freely due to a blockage, we can experience discomfort as the air presses on the blockage. Blockages can be caused by earwax, inflammation, or a common cold.
When flying with hearing aids, you can keep your devices on as you go through security, and onto the plane. So keep them switched on as you travel – they’ll help you hear any important announcements.
At the beach and by the pool
Few hearing aids can tolerate much water – even if they are water-resistant. So make sure to take them off before getting stuck into that waterfight!
Equally, it’s important to have a dry place to store them while you are swimming, and afterwards when you reach for your towel.
Some people get a small ‘dry box’, which are inexpensive, waterproof containers. These are especially important if you go canoeing, sailing, or take part in other wet activities where you need to take your hearing aids with you.
Finally - dry your hair before putting your hearing aids back on.
Clean hearing aids regularly
With the heat of summer, we all sweat a little more. This makes a perfect environment for fungal microbes to develop in your hearing aids.
To avoid fungi, keep disinfectant cleaning wipes handy so you can clean your devices regularly. You may also benefit from changing filters and domes more often.
It is also important to ensure good air circulation through your hearing aids. Open the battery drawer at night so fresh air can get inside and the old, moist air can get out.
If you find significant moisture building up, it may be wise to invest in a hearing aid dryer.
Take spares on holiday
You will enjoy your precious weeks away in the sun more if you can hear well, so make sure you have everything you need for your hearing aids.
Extra batteries, tubes and filters are just some of the accessories you might get through, but it depends on the type of hearing aid you have. What else do you periodically need to replace?
You can read more about the different types of hearing aids here.
Preparing for your visit to HearingLife
To help you the best they can, the hearing care expert needs to know all about your unique hearing. So please think about the following:
* Think about what situations you find especially difficult
* Review the ten warning signs of hearing loss – it’s in our guide
* Bring someone with you to help contribute information that only a third person can
Once you arrive for your visit, your hearing care expert will discuss your hearing history to understand what factors have influenced your hearing. They’ll want to get more information about your personal hearing needs.
The hearing care expert will also inspect your ears for blockages or any other visible problems.
Your visit may also include a listening experience with hearing devices, to see what kinds of sounds you can hear. Your hearing care expert will explain the results to you clearly. It will then be time to develop a plan for the next steps.
If you have a hearing loss, they may recommend hearing aids. If you are fitted with new hearing aids, don’t be afraid to go back for additional follow-up visits. You might walk out after the first visit completely pleased with your purchase. For other people, getting used to wearing new hearing aids can be tough. Especially if this is your first pair of hearing aids, it can take several weeks or even months to get used to them.
About hearing loss
There are different types of hearing loss, and different levels of severity. Without going into the details too much here, it is caused either because sound cannot get to the inner ear (conductive hearing loss), or because sound is not properly sent from the inner ear to the brain (sensorineural hearing loss).
Hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe or profound. What we call deafness is sometimes in fact ‘profound hearing loss’ – when the person suffering from it can hear very loud noises.
Hearing loss figures
* About 1 in 6 people are currently hearing impaired (about 1.1 billion people)
* At the age of 65, one 1 in 3 people has a hearing loss
* Hearing loss is the 3rd most common health condition among adults
* On average, people with hearing loss wait 8 years before getting treatment
Tinnitus (ringing or whooshing sounds in the ears) is related to hearing loss, and often accompanies it.
Because it takes so much more effort to listen, hearing loss can be very socially isolating. It can lead to depression and can hasten the onset of dementia. With more severe hearing loss, the risk of dementia is considerably higher. Not only does it disconnect sufferers from other people, it also cuts them off from current affairs and broader cultural participation via TV, radio, theatre and so on.
So how can people with hearing loss reconnect?
The level of hearing loss a person has affects the type of hearing aid they need. Typically, more mild types of hearing loss can be treated with smaller devices. However, the choice of hearing aid also depends on the size and shape of people’s ears – especially where ‘invisible’ hearing aids are concerned.
Hearing loss can affect only one ear. However, it often occurs in both. Some people choose to treat it only in one ear to save on buying one hearing aid. We don’t recommend this, because with only one working ear we lose many of our capabilities, such as the ability to determine where a sound is coming from.
Whether people need one or two hearing aids, each person’s hearing is unique – because hearing is, in fact, thinking.
We hear with our brains
Our ears are the organs we use to gather the sounds around us, but we actually hear with our brains. So if your ears are not properly picking up sounds and delivering them to your brain, your brain can have a hard time. Because the brain has to work harder to make sense of what’s going on – especially during conversations – hearing loss makes people more tired. The extra effort it takes to listen makes it measurably harder to remember things too.
Put simply: hearing is thinking.
Just as we all think in different ways, people hear in very different ways too. Your hearing is unique! So hearing aids must be tailored (fitted) to your ears.
Most hearing aids have different settings for different environments. If you are fitted with hearing aids, you will need to switch between programmes when you are in a noisy restaurant, listening to music, or having a conversation on a telephone. These programmes all need to be set by your hearing care expert.
If you are fitted with new hearing aids, don’t be afraid to go back for additional follow-up visits. You might walk out after the first visit completely pleased with your purchase. For other people, getting used to wearing new hearing aids can be tough. Especially if this is your first pair of hearing aids, it can take several weeks or even months to get used to them.
Living with someone who has hearing loss
It is one of the most common health conditions. Among the billions of people of the world, one in six has a hearing loss. Among the people aged 65 and over in the world, one in three people has a hearing loss.
Despite this, many people live with untreated hearing loss.
Although hearing loss can suddenly occur, it is often a gradual process. Without a marked change from one day to the next, it can be difficult to notice that your hearing has become worse.
In fact, it is often the friends and family of someone with hearing impairment who notice how much it affects life – long before they do.
Spotting the effects
You may notice that someone turns the volume up very loud on devices such as the TV, music player and radio. Perhaps it is difficult for them to follow conversations when you’re together in a restaurant or café. Maybe they struggle to hear what young children are saying.
Other people notice problems when they are on a busy street – they find it hard to understand sounds among the traffic and other diverse noises.
If someone you know is suffering from untreated hearing loss, you will probably find their social behavior has changed. They may have withdrawn from social activities and feel shame, guilt or anger. They may also become more self-critical, frustrated or depressed. All these types of behaviour can also have a negative effect on anyone who is near and dear.
Depending on the ears of others
If you spend a lot of time with someone who suffers from untreated hearing loss, you may find you regularly have to repeat what you say. They may ask you to explain things more often, and may depend on you to amplify what other people have said, whenever they feel the need.
In a way, you can easily become a supplement to the person’s ears. However, while they may cope with this situation, you probably feel exhausted by the end of the day – though it can continue into the night.
Breaking unhelpful habits
On average, it takes eight years for someone with hearing loss to get treatment. Those are eight years when they are missing out on sounds that make life rich: the laughter of children, the tweeting of songbirds, the crashing of waves on the beach.
Becoming aware of the numerous efforts you make to 'translate' could be an important first step towards their treatment. Realizing the extent of the support they need may empower you to take action, on behalf of you both.
When confronted, some people simply deny it. In these cases, it may take courage, patience, and persistence to get a loved one to accept they have hearing loss. It is usually best to approach it calmly and gently. And gradually. If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t push it – just try again another time.
Accepting you have a hearing loss is a big event in a person’s life. It takes everyone time to come to terms with hearing loss. The good news is that everyone can, and most can benefit from hearing aids.
Be Proactive with your Hearing Safety
It seems obvious – but it’s worth a reminder: the louder the noise and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk of damage to your ears. Even some sounds that don’t seem loud or give you noticeable discomfort can damage your hearing. Loud sounds, of course, can cause damage much more quickly. Always remember that safety counts.
Measuring noise and understanding decibels (dB)
The decibel scale is matched to human hearing, so 0 dB is the very quietest sound that a human can hear without hearing loss. A “typical” spoken conversation is generally estimated to be 60 dB. Although this is not enough to hurt you, many every-day sounds are in the near-harmful range and can impact your hearing long term – so think safety first. A lawnmower, for example, averages in the 90 dB level, so it can cause damage. That’s why it is important to wear protection whether you are mowing the lawn or around loud engines. Even a car travelling at 65 miles per hour or a vacuum cleaner can irritate your ears.
Most experts – including the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health – agree that continued exposure to sounds over 85 dB risks damage to hearing. Therefore, workplace safety regulations usually require employers to provide protection for employees exposed to noisy environments. In the US, the Department of Labor regulates occupational noise exposure and has set a “permissible exposure limit” (PEL) of 90 dB for an 8 hour long day.
The biggest sources of dangerous noise
More dangerous – with immediate impact – are sounds in the 140 dB range. These include jet engines and gun shots. Even louder, is 180 dB of a rocket launch. These sounds can lead to permanent hearing damage. According to Purdue University, your eardrum can rupture if you are 25 meters or less from a jet as it is taking off.
Knowing the danger signs and preventing damage to your hearing
Unfortunately, it is rarely immediately obvious when we damage our hearing – normally we notice it afterwards. However, with awareness, we can help protect our hearing. If you have to shout over background noise to make yourself heard, you may be in the danger zone where prolonged exposure could lead to damage.
Heed your ears’ warning
If you notice ringing in your ears or experience pain, these are signs that your noise exposure is too high. This often appears after a noisy event such as a music concert. If you find it difficult to hear for several hours after exposure to loud sounds, or hear ringing in your ears or other unusual effects, then you probably have been around harmful levels.
Safety first: tips for protecting your hearing
Avoid loud noises. If you are attending a loud event, avoid sitting near the amplifiers or take breaks outside the main venue.
Invest in earplugs. Whether you want to spring for higher-end ear plugs that are moulded to your ears or use noise-cancelling headphones
Take sound breaks. If you are near loud noise, escape for a break every hour.
Lower the volume. Turn the sound down on your earphones or earbuds.
Earphones and hearing loss
Many people regularly use earphones or earbuds – on the way to school or work, while out running, or just while relaxing at home without considering the excess levels of noise exposure.
Earphones generally produce up to 100 dB, while some can produce even more. At this level, you risk damage to your hearing after a mere 15 minutes. Some smartphones have a feature that warns uses when the volume is at a dangerous level. Heed this warning and limit music at excessive volumes piped directly into your ears.
City life’s impact on your ears
According to a recent study, just living in an urban area can increase your risk of hearing damage – by 64%. Traffic, construction, loud music, sirens and other environmental sounds of the city provide continuous exposure to noise can cause hearing damage.
At HearingLife we strive to educate and advise. If you want to learn if exposure to music, explosions or other noise has damaged your hearing, contact HearingLife for a complimentary hearing assessment*.
How we use our brains to hear
Of course, we need our ears to capture sounds, but we only understand these sounds once they arrive in our brains. So hearing – and especially speech understanding – is a cognitive process, not a mechanical one.
In other words: hearing is thinking.
Our ears deliver all sounds to our brains. They do not choose what to send; in fact, they never rest. Even when we are asleep, our ears are sending sound information to our brains.
Our brain then does all the hard work. The brain filters out irrelevant sounds, like other people talking in a restaurant, and like traffic in the background. Without us realising it, our brains are constantly at work selecting what we hear, and deciding how much attention to give each sound.
But before any decisions can be made, our brains must first extract meaning from the mass of overlapping sound waves that fill the air. By taking the sound signals from both of our ears and comparing them, our brains locate the source of different sounds.
We use location information to determine which parts of this mass of sound are coming from certain objects or people. Or animals – these skills evolved during our primitive past, when effectively locating threats and food were critical to our survival.
The brain transforms sound into meaning
Once our brains have singled out a sound source, it compares these sounds to our memory. By doing this, it can determine if the sound is something we have heard before, and therefore something we know already. Equally, our brains sometimes find no reference in their memory bank. Then, it can add a new one, ready for comparison next time. In the meantime, we are alerted to danger by a sound of the unknown.
Once your brain has taken raw sound data from your ears and transformed it into meaning, it can extract more information about your surroundings. From the length of time it takes a sound to echo, and the amount of echo it creates, our brains give us a feeling for how big a space is. We also infer the type of surfaces there are in a room from the way they change the sound, as it bounces off them on its way to our ears.
All of these calculations happen simultaneously, in the brain. Since it is the brain that transforms sounds into meaning, good hearing isn’t simply a question of making sounds loud enough. Good hearing requires that we ensure the brain gets all the sound information it needs. It must not miss out on some frequencies, or some sounds from particular directions.
If your brain is not getting the right sounds to work with, it takes intense effort to extract meaning from the partial sound. Whenever there are missing sounds, the brain tries to fill the gap – an often difficult and exhausting process.
Hearing aids can support the brain
Instead of turning up the volume and overloading your brain, we need to support your brain by giving it the conditions it needs. To properly extract meaning, the brain needs access to the full soundscape, so it can naturally focus on the most relevant sound sources.
Modern hearing aids can provide this. With more powerful processors than ever before, they no longer need to narrow down the soundfield when you are in noisy environments. And when a skilled hearing care expert fits hearing aids, they can compensate for the missing parts of the soundfield, to restore the conditions in which your brain is designed to work.
Tinnitus: What you Need to Know
Tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss
More than 80% of people with tinnitus also experience some degree of hearing loss. However, many sufferers are often unaware that they likely have issues with their hearing, even if they notice symptoms such as buzzing. Fortunately, experts can treat both conditions.
Why do our brains ‘invent’ noises that aren’t there?
Experts don’t know exactly what causes us to hear sound these phantom sounds. Many suspect that it happens when the auditory system reacts to damage by trying to compensate for missing signals. However, some people who experience tinnitus don’t have hearing loss indicating additional causes of tinnitus.
Although there is no known cure for tinnitus, these tips can bring relief:
Ensure auditory stimulation—Make sure you can hear well by adopting hearing aids if necessary. This can help to minimize the appearance of your tinnitus symptoms.
Get quality sleep—If you don’t get enough sleep, your blood circulation can be reduced, which affects both hearing loss and tinnitus. In addition, using an extra pillow to keep your head raised can reduce congestion, which can help.
Eat and drink healthily—Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) may all negatively contribute to hearing loss.
Importantly, how you feel has a big effect on how annoying you find tinnitus. Reducing the impact is therefore often about reducing how much you notice it.
The best first step you can take is to visit a hearing care expert.
Get effective tinnitus treatment
There are several ways to reduce your symptoms, although there is no actual cure. Some people play white noise (sound that has no discernible features) as a first step toward relief. This background noise helps to mask the phantom sounds, helping distract the brain while they fall asleep.
Increasingly, hearing aids are incorporating such technologies. Hearing care experts can program newer models to match your tinnitus symptoms, giving you a range of relief sounds to choose from whenever you need them.
Talking with experts: How can I explain my symptoms?
* We know, it’s not easy to describe noises that only you can hear. But before you visit to your primary care physician or even an an expert in hearing care, it might help you to think about:
* How long have you experienced tinnitus? Have you noticed problems hearing, too?
* What does it sound like? High- or low-pitched? Is it loud or soft?
* Does the sound change throughout the day? Does it get worse at certain times of day or locations?
* Does it worsen after drinking coffee or alcohol, or being in a noisy environment?
* Is it in both ears?
How does this happen?
The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the sensory cells in the cochlea. This is the snail shell-like organ in the inner ear where sounds are converted into electrical signals. Damage to the hair cells here causes tinnitus and hearing loss.
However, middle ear infection, earwax build-up, inflamed blood vessels around the ear, medications and other drugs, and anxiety and stress can all cause symptoms.
Recent research suggests that there may also be a genetic basis, especially in men who have it in both ears.
Can I prevent it?
As with hearing loss, protecting your ears from noise damage is the best way to prevent tinnitus. If you are exposed to excessive noise, try to limit the length of time or move away from the source.
Untreated Hearing Loss and its Consequences
The sooner you take action on hearing loss, the sooner you begin to regain sharpness, confidence and control. Now is the time to end the negative effects of the hearing loss, such as:
Dulling of the senses—When you can’t hear what’s going on around you, you lose mental agility. Due to this reduction in aural stimulation over time, your brain’s ability to process sound and recognize speech is impaired. Therefore, the brain doesn’t get the practice that it needs.
Mental decline—Research consistently demonstrates the considerable effects that hearing loss has on social, psychological and cognitive performance. Also, it can lead to cognitive decline and dementia.
Social isolation—Because conversations are taxing when you struggle to hear, an untreated hearing loss results in a decline in socializing. This can lead to isolation and depression.
The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you feel the improvement
You don’t need to struggle with your hearing. Especially if you or a loved one is experiencing these effects:
* Insecurity because you can’t hear where sounds come from
* Loneliness and depression
* Fatigue and needing to rest after work or social functions
* Challenges remembering what people say in meetings or social gatherings
* Difficulties picking out individual conversations when at gatherings with several other people
* Decreased quality of life
Remember: Hearing loss affects not only the sufferer but also the sufferer’s family, colleagues and friends. That’s why it’s important to seek help if you notice signs of hearing loss in yourself or in a loved one.
Our hearing care experts stand ready to help
If your vision were bothering you, wouldn’t you see the optician? If you had a tooth problem, you would go to the dentist. Don’t let misunderstandings about your hearing prevent you from seeing a hearing care specialist. The team at HearingLife is happy to walk you through the process to regaining control and improving your quality of life. So make an appointment* today.
Do I Have Mixed Hearing Loss?
Examples of how this occurs
Patient One frequently attends loud concerts and subsequently develops noise-induced hearing loss. She subsequently develops an ear infection. Patient Two experiences natural, age-related hearing loss. He then experiences a trauma that perforates his eardrum. Both people exemplify this condition.
How a combination of sensorineural and conductive losses impact hearing
Impairment ranges from slight to profound. Conductive hearing loss makes it difficult to understand speech. Sufferers have trouble picking up softer sounds, especially with competing background noises. If the individual has mostly sensorineural hearing loss, speech and other sounds may seem distorted. So even if the volume is loud enough, the individual may struggle deciphering words.
Some types of conductive hearing loss need an ENT specialist to treat the conductive component first. Afterwards a hearing care specialist will address the sensorineural hearing loss. This may include fitting with hearing aids.
What Should I Do If I Suspect Mixed Hearing Loss?
If you or someone you love is experiencing hearing loss or other hearing-related symptoms, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a licensed specialist who can properly assess* your needs. We welcome you to make an appointment today.
Hearing Loss Linked to Depression
About the research
The 2014 study, authored by Chuan-Ming Li, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher at the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, was published in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery. The study found a significant association between hearing loss and moderate to severe depression. Researchers showed that 5% of individuals without hearing loss had symptoms of depression, compared to 11% of individuals with hearing loss who also exhibited signs.
Who is most at risk of developing depression?
More than 18,000 adults responded to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It required filling out a questionnaire with questions the researchers designed to reveal symptoms of melancholy. The research demonstrated the strongest connection between hearing deficits and depression in women age 18 and 69 years. The research did not show a correlation in men over age 70, only in women. This may be due to the fact that women, after the age of 65, begin losing the ability to hear higher frequencies. The brain needs these higher pitched sounds to comprehend speech in loud environments. A decrease in communication leads to loneliness and feeling left out.
Why are individuals with hearing loss more likely to experience depression?
People with hearing loss often express difficulty in communicating with family members, colleagues and friends. There are also links between hearing loss and dementia. This can lead to the individual with hearing loss retreating from social life and isolating him- or herself. But treatment is effective in restoring relationships. If you have symptoms of hearing loss and sadness, contact your health care provider. If you are concerned about hearing loss, make an appointment for a free hearing assessment*.
Research Links Stroke to Sudden Hearing Loss
Vascular occlusion and hearing
While medical practitioners can’t say definitively what provokes an episode of SSNHL, sometimes the vascular system seems to play a role. Besides vascular occlusion, other causes may include:
* Viral and bacterial infections
* Ruptured inner ear membranes
* Autoimmune diseases
Researchers have focused on understanding the role that the vascular system plays in sudden hearing loss, including strokes. A stroke is brain damage that results from an obstruction in its blood supply. A stroke that occurs in the outer part of the brain stem can impact hearing.
Risk of Stroke Development among SSNHL Patients
Published in 2008 in Stroke, a study based in Taiwan sought to determine whether there was a link between SSNHL episodes and an increased risk of stroke. The study, conducted by Herng-Ching Lin, Pin-Zhir Chao and Hsin-Chien Lee, evaluated 7,115 patients over the course of five years after hospitalization. Of these 7,115 patients, 1,423 of them were hospitalized right after sudden hearing loss. The researchers used the remaining 5,692 appendectomy patients as a control group.
At the conclusion of the five-year study, 621 patients of the entire sample population had experienced a stroke – 180 of whom were SSNHL patients. After the researchers adjusted for gender, income, medical background and other relevant factors, the data indicated that the hazard for having a stroke was 1.64 times greater – more than a 150% increased chance – for SSNHL patients than the control group appendectomy patients. For the first time this study demonstrated that sudden hearing loss may serve as an early warning sign for a stroke.
What Should Patients who have Experienced Sudden Hearing Loss do Next?
Since approximately 40 – 65% of SSNHL cases result in spontaneous recovery, there is hope. However, anyone who has experienced sudden hearing loss should monitor their health and look for signs of impending stroke. According to the 2008 study, the average time between initial SSNHL hospitalization and the onset of stroke was 804 days. Most strokes occurred within the first two years.
After you or a loved one has experienced sudden hearing loss, it’s important to undergo a comprehensive neurological exam and schedule routine follow-ups, even years after the initial event. For more information on hearing and audiological effects of stroke, make an appointment for our free hearing assessment*.
Memory Function and Hearing Loss: What You Need to Know
About the research
Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. led the study. It tracked and analysed 639 adults over 12 years. Brain scans showed degeneration occurred at a faster rate in those with hearing loss over those without. The study concluded that:
Individuals with mild hearing loss were two times as likely to have dementia.
Those with moderate hearing loss were three times as likely to have dementia.
Individuals with severe hearing loss were five times as likely to have dementia.
Why does hearing loss contribute to mental deterioration?
We don’t know for sure. However, medical practitioners believe that social isolation may play a role. Individuals with hearing loss tend to disconnect and withdraw from their social world. As a result they miss out on conversations and everyday interactions that stimulate the brain. Without the frequent mental stimulation of socializing, the brain may begin to undergo atrophy. Therefore, an individual’s diminished hearing impacts memory.
Additionally, the brain works harder to process surrounding sounds and signals to compensate for hearing loss. This increased exertion and mental multitasking may interfere with the neural connections needed to walk and move around.
Reducing risk factors
Hearing aids help individuals process sound and follow conversations. Data shows that even though millions of Americans have hearing loss, only one in seven uses a hearing aid. And, hearing aid users wait seven years before seeking audiological assistance. Despite common misconceptions, today’s hearing aids are inconspicuous, affordable and highly effective in combating hearing loss.
If you or someone you love exhibits signs of hearing impairment, we can help. Since hearing loss can impact memory and other aspects of brain function, it is important to have a hearing assessment. Contact us today to discuss if hearing aids or other services are right for you.
Can you Test for Tinnitus?
If you or someone you love has been experiencing ringing in the ears of other sounds that no one else can hear, it might be tinnitus. The first step for answers is to make an appointment for a hearing assessment*. After discussing your medical history with a hearing care professional, your provider will check for obstructions in the ear canal and clear out any built-up earwax.
If the tinnitus is reported as being unilateral (only in one ear) you may need to speak with a physician. An Ear, Nose and Throat specialist may order an X-ray, CT scan or MRI scan to rule out larger issues. If no obstructions are present in the ear canal and no other potential causes are discovered, an audiologist or other hearing care provider will consider other causes, including hearing loss.
Professional hearing assessments
Your hearing care provider may conduct a pure tone audiogram, especially if your tinnitus is unilateral or accompanied by loss of hearing. A pure tone audiogram plays different frequencies at varying volumes. Even if you haven’t noticed reduced hearing, an audiogram may show areas of weakness that you may not have noticed before. In addition to an audiogram, your audiologist may consider performing speech audiometry, which looks at how well a patient can hear and repeat certain words.
Sound matching and other methods
Since generally tinnitus’ perceived sound cannot be heard by another person, audiologists use sound matching to determine what the patient experiences. Sound matching consists of playing a series of audio clips to identify which sound is closest to the internally perceived sound.
A hearing care provider may use minimum masking levels to determine if a patient is experiencing tinnitus. This also determines how loud a sounds seem. The audiologist or hearing care professional plays audio clips at increasing volume levels until the patient registers that the external noise entirely conceals the phantom sounds.
How is tinnitus impacting you?
You may be asked to fill out a self-assessment form or questionnaire. This will establish how your symptoms are impacting your life and emotional well-being.
Tinnitus is not an illness. If you are experiencing buzzing, ringing or other sounds you cannot identify, and want to discuss options for relief, contact our professionals so we can discuss your challenges – and provide solutions. Make an appointment for a free hearing assessment* today.
Hearing Loss: A Worker’s Nightmare
“No one in my office has hearing loss! They just don’t want to do work!”
In an EPIC Hearing Healthcare study…
40% of employees said they have had to pretend that they heard something a co-worker has stated.
42% of employees said they often experience miscommunication between others at work.
57% of employees said they frequently have to strain to hear a conversation due to background noise.
61% of employees have had to ask a co-worker to repeat themselves while in conversation.
Out of 2000 workers surveyed by EPIC Hearing Healthcare, 95% said that untreated hearing loss has a negative impact on their job.
2,000 workers were surveyed in this study and their overall finding was staggering! 95% of those workers said that untreated hearing loss has had a negative impact on their job. Whether it was their own loss or that of a co-worker, the result was detrimental to their experience on the job.
“95%! What can I do?”
Treating hearing loss means a world of a difference in all aspects of your life. But the benefits can be very rewarding while on the job. All too often, people speak over each other or mumble in office discussions which makes it hard to always hear and comprehend. For those who may even have mild hearing loss, this can be a burden that could be avoided.
Treating your hearing loss (even in the slightest) can mean better job performance, leading to an overall improvement in happiness. The results may also improve production in the work place. Who knew that getting your ears checked could make your boss smile? But new research suggests that miscommunication is one of the largest factors in profit-and-loss in the workplace. So, that smile is just one result of you taking care of you auditory health. Increase your chances of being a top performer at work by improving your communication skills!