HEARING RESOLUTIONS FOR 2019

With a new year comes a time to reflect on our old patterns and how to update our habits and improve ourselves. Do you typically make New Year’s Resolutions, and what is your track record at sticking to them?

Personally, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I educate myself throughout the year and when I see changes that need to be made, I don’t wait for a new year to make them. Even so, I have been reflective on my habits and patterns this new year, thinking about things that I might like to change.

We all value our hearing. From conversing with friends and family to watching TV or listening to music, we use hearing almost continuously. Hearing health is something we take for granted, but when we begin to experience hearing loss we realize what a gift our hearing health has always been.

Fortunately, there are ways we can protect our hearing. Here are a few easy things you can do right now to ensure your hearing health lasts as long as possible.

1.    Yearly hearing screenings are key. One of the easiest things you can do to protect your hearing is to get annual hearing evaluations at your audiologist. Since hearing damage is irreversible, it’s important to catch it early: even before you notice it. Hearing screenings are quick, easy, and often covered by insurance.

2.    Wear protective gear. Since the most common type of hearing damage is noise-induced hearing loss, it is important to protect your ears whenever you are in a noisy environment. Whether you are at work in a factory, at a firework show, or at a concert, be sure to protect your ears from loud noises. It’s a good idea to always carry earplugs. You never know when you will be in a noisy environment, so it’s good to be prepared.

3.    Keep the volume low. When we listen to music or watch TV on mobile devices using ear buds, it’s easy to have the volume at a level above 80 decibels, which is the threshold for hearing damage. It’s best to keep the volume at less than 60% of the maximum, and if you can use over-the-ear earphones with noise-canceling technology, that can prevent you from needing to turn the volume up as loud to hear your device.  

4.    Get custom-made. If you listen to a lot of music or if music is your business, it’s a good idea to get custom-made earplugs or earphone molds. They are relatively inexpensive and a great way to protect your hearing from noise-induced hearing loss. They are customized to fit your ear canal exactly. Not only do they deliver superior sound, they allow for better quality listening, so you can listen at a lower volume and prevent hearing damage.

The first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.

NOISE POLLUTION AND HEARING HEALTH

There is noise pollution everywhere we go: there are even “noise-cancelling” features in our earbuds and headphones that filter out background noises for us. If we are exposed to unwanted noises for too long, it can be very irritating. No matter what the noise pollution: airplanes overhead or traffic from a nearby road, a dog barking or a lawnmower in a neighbor’s yard– noise pollution is ubiquitous.

Filtering Noise Pollution

With all of the noise surrounding us, it’s no wonder we have different ways to filter it. Our “noise filters” help us block unwanted noise and hear the sounds we do want to hear. Noise pollution is all of the unwanted sound.

Noise pollution can be made up of every-day sounds, and even some of the sounds we want to hear can pose a risk to hearing health. Stereo systems at concerts, movie theaters, sporting events, or even home speakers or ear buds can expose your ears to sounds so loud they can damage your hearing. We like to attend social gatherings and places like bars, concerts, or fireworks shows, but they can increase risk of hearing damage the most.

Hearing Damage

Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by exposure to noises over 80 decibels. This hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Loud, short bursts of noises, like a gunshot or an airplane overhead, can hurt our ears and can cause hearing damage right away.

Even everyday noises we don’t think much about can affect our hearing health. Examples of these noises are lawnmowers (about 90 decibels) and vacuum cleaners (about 70 decibels) By comparison, a normal conversation may be about 60 decibels.

Noise pollution can actually affect our entire bodies. A loud noise such as a bang can disturb digestion, alter your heartbeat and disrupt breathing patterns. Constant exposure to a loud noise can cause crankiness and make it difficult to sleep. Noise can even impact your blood pressure.

After attending a very noisy event like a fireworks show, you may experience a ringing sound in your ears. This ringing is tinnitus, and it can last just a few minutes or even a few days. Permanent hearing loss can result if there are several episodes of tinnitus. Age related hearing loss is due in part to this cumulative effect of hearing damage over a lifetime.

Be Proactive

Fortunately, we can be pro-active to prevent hearing damage by protecting ourselves from noise pollution. This will help to make sure we maintain good hearing even into our older years. Limiting exposure to loud noises is of course one of the best ways to prevent hearing loss. There are a lot of noises we control, like our own stereo systems when we watch movies or listen to music at home. When you are on the go, you can still listen to music but make a switch to over-the-ear headphones instead of earbuds, which are more likely to damage hearing.

When we have plans to attend a very loud event, do your best to avoid the noisiest spots, or even bring ear plugs. If there are loud noises outside such as construction work or a lawnmower, close the windows until the noise subsides.

Noise-canceling headphones allow us to enjoy music at lower volumes, without having to compete with the noises outside of the headphones. That can help to protect hearing for the future as well.

By taking small, easy steps to protect your hearing on a daily basis, you can work to prevent hearing damage as you get older.

If you suspect hearing loss, whatever the cause, visit your audiologist to take action. You may find a resolution that can inhibit or stop the development of hearing damage.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

COULD DRINKING ALCOHOL AFFECT YOUR HEARING?

Now that the holiday season is in full swing, there is no shortage of holiday parties and gatherings, and the alcohol often flows freely at such events. We use alcohol for lots of special occasions: we ring in the new year with champagne, on vacation we may appreciate a glass of wine with dinner. We may even have a cocktail to unwind. Studies have shown that there can be benefits to alcohol in moderation, though drinking too much can also result in serious health implications.

Drinking Too Much

We hear often to never drink and drive, and that a lot of drinking can eventually cause liver problems. Regular alcohol consumption can also impact cognitive function, even weakening basic functions such as driving.

We also hear from our doctors that high blood pressure, strokes and heart disease can result from heavy drinking on a regular basis. One thing you may not have heard is that excessive alcohol consumption could also increase the likelihood of hearing damage.

Our Brains on Alcohol

The auditory cortex of the brain, which translates noises from our ears into meaningful sound, can be harmed by drinking too much. When there is damage to the auditory cortex, our brains can “forget” how to translate the sound from the world so we can understand it. Even when you hear the sounds around you, you could have difficulty understanding those sounds.

When speech is spoken rapidly, you may begin to have trouble understanding what is being said. Distinguishing between varying sounds and voices and sounds can become a problem, as well as filtering out background noise.

Our Ears on Alcohol

Deep inside of our ears we have delicate, tiny hair cells that gather sounds and interpret them into electrical pulses to the brain. These little hair cells can be damaged by alcohol use, and they cannot regrow or repair themselves.  

A phenomenon called “cocktail deafness” was discovered by a study in the UK that followed young adults who became drunk and found that they sometimes experienced temporary hearing damage. Though hearing typically returned for these young people after a few hours, recurrent bouts of cocktail deafness can result in permanent hearing loss in the long run.

Alcohol and Dizziness

If you have ever spent a night of heavy drinking out, you may have found that you experienced a feeling of dizziness or imbalance while you were inebriated.

This feeling of imbalance is the result of a change in your inner ear fluid, which controls your feelings of balance. Drinking too much can cause this change in the inner ear. This is why motor functions like walking and driving are affected when we are drunk: we feel unbalanced and have difficulty with perception.

Alcohol is absorbed into the inner ear fluid, remaining there longer than it does in the bloodstream. If this happens too often, episodes of vertigo or dizziness may result. You may feel disoriented, like the room is spinning, and have difficulty with ordinary spatial function.

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears can be another side effect of excessive alcohol consumption—it usually disappears in just a few hours, but some episodes can last longer.

Alcohol and Hearing Loss

There are many reasons to abstain from heavy drinking: hearing health is just one more. There are many resources to help you quit drinking, but the most important thing is your determination to change.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

HOLIDAY PARTIES FOR THE HEARING IMPAIRED

During the holidays, family gatherings and parties abound. For those with hearing loss these festivities may be a source of stress and insecurity. The constant concentration required to focus on conversation with a lot of background noise can be exhausting and overwhelming. Because of this, many people with hearing loss may avoid parties and holiday gatherings altogether.

If you have a loved one who suffers from hearing loss, making a few simple changes can help them to be more comfortable at your party and make them happy to attend your gathering.

Turn down the music; turn up the lights.

Parties can be dark and noisy with loud music. If your interior is bright and the music is not too loud, it can keep the noise levels down and help people to see and understand their conversation partners better.

Break it up.

Set aside areas for different activities and space them out: a space for mingling, a space for eating, another for dancing, and another to watch sporting events. This can break up background noise and make the party easier to navigate.

Watch out for wallflowers.

When people are exhausted from the efforts of communication and want to escape, they may retreat to a quiet room or corner. If you see someone doing this, engage them in a one-on-one conversation in a quiet area so they don’t feel left out. And don’t push them to return to the festivities until they are ready.

Be mindful of the needs of guests.

We often think to ask in advance about dietary restrictions, but we can also ask about other issues guests may have, and if they have a seating preference at the dinner table as a result. If you can seat someone with hearing issues in the middle of the table instead of the end, it could help them to hear what is going on better and feel more involved in the evening.

Breaks can be good.

If you see a loved one “taking a break” from the party, allow some time for them to regroup. They may just need five or ten minutes of peace and then be ready to get back to the party.

If you plan your party with your hearing-impaired loved ones in mind, it’s much more likely that they will be comfortable enough to attend and have a great time at your gathering.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

DISCREET HEARING AID TECHNOLOGY COULD GIVE YOU YOUR LIFE BACK!

Anyone with substantial hearing loss knows that it can lead to a considerable decrease in quality of life, especially while in the presence of others. Hearing is a critical part of participating in public activities. Luckily, hearing aids can help people to live a normal life even with hearing loss.

Technology You Don’t Notice

The hearing aid technology of today offers the most seamless hearing experience ever. Even if your hearing loss is severe, hearing aids can help you to communicate and understand the world around you normally. The newest wireless technology allows users to control all of the settings via smart phone or other device, acting as a kind of remote control. Hearing devices are now smaller than ever–so discreet that people you encounter may not know you are wearing them!

The functional technology of modern hearing aids like feedback cancellation, background noise reduction and speech recognition can make the use of hearing devices easier than ever. Hearing aids are now “smart” and can learn your needs and automatically adjust to your preferences.

In addition to their basic functions of restoring your hearing, today’s hearing aids can also allow you to stream sound from telephones, TVs and other devices—like having earbuds available whenever you wear them.  Without any additional devices you can listen to TV, movies or music wirelessly.

New Capability for New Technology

In the past, hearing aids were merely amplifiers of sound, doing nothing to assist the brain in processing sound. We now realize that hearing loss is much more than not hearing sounds—it can involve the inability of the brain to interpret the sound coming in. it therefore becomes necessary to find a way to assist that communication between the brain and the ears.

Hearing aids today are truly smart devices, complete with computer chips that can predict your hearing needs and provide a solution. They have learning capabilities, for example, that can help you control background noise and volume—almost as well as your natural ears!

The Tech is Available. Why Not Use it?

With the technology available and the wide variety of devices for every need, there is no reason not to use hearing aids. Check with your audiologist for a recommendation of hearing aids that can best fit your style and comfort preferences, as well as your budget.  Schedule an appointment today and find out the options that are available to you. Don’t let hearing loss steal your quality of life!

If you think you could have hearing loss, no matter what the cause, be sure to visit your audiologist immediately to take action. You may find a resolution that can inhibit or stop the development of hearing damage.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

VERTIGO, BALANCE DISORDERS AND DIZZINESS

There is exciting new research into balance issues such as vertigo and chronic dizziness. If you suffer from any kind of balance disorder, you probably already know that these issues can stem from fluid levels in your inner ear. This new research is exploring the possibility that balance disorders could be spotted and maybe even alleviated with MRI magnets!

At Johns Hopkins in 2011, researchers discovered something: inner ear fluid is influenced by the magnetic field of an MRI. Since we have already known for a while that vertigo and other balance disorders can be caused by buildup of fluid in the inner ear, they looked at MRI magnets as a way to potentially treat those conditions.  

MRI magnets can exert a pulling force on the inner ear fluid, and researchers hope that they may be able to manipulate inner ear fluids to relieve the problems caused by inner ear issues.

As it stands, uncomfortable and invasive testing protocols are necessary to diagnose and treat imbalance and dizziness conditions such as vertigo. This makes the painless MRI procedure a welcome development for future diagnosis and care.

The Inner Ear and Balance

Approximately 40% of adults experience episodes of imbalance and dizziness at least once during a lifetime. Sufferers may complain of feelings of vertigo and spinning or dizziness. These episodes may also cause people to feel faint or lightheaded and they may become disoriented, confused, or have blurred vision.

  • If you become dizzy feel unbalanced on repeated occasions, first check with your doctor, who may then refer you to a specialist or audiologist for testing.
  • These symptoms can have different causes. Aside from inner ear fluid disturbance, some medications or even an injury to the head can result in feelings of vertigo or dizziness as well.

When you see an audiologist or specialist, testing may include:

  • An MRI or CT scan
  • Computerized Dynamic Posturography (CDP): a test of balance function and motor control in changing conditions.
  • Electronystagmography (ENT): this test monitors spontaneous eye movements, and includes eye evaluations.
  • Vestibular Evoked Myogenic Potential (VEMP) is a test that observes the inner ear’s sensory cells and vestibular nerve to evaluate if they are functioning correctly.

A hearing test may also be part of the visit to your audiologist, to make sure there is no hearing impairment that accompanies the dizziness.

If you have had several dizzy spells or have felt unbalanced, see your general practitioner or audiologist pinpoint the cause.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

TWO LOCATIONS TO SERVE YOU BETTER

San Mateo

88 N. San Mateo Drive
San Mateo, California, 94401

Phone: (650) 342-9449
Fax: (650) 342-4435
Email: info@calhearing.com

San Carlos

1008 Laurel Street
San Carlos, California, 94070

Phone: (650) 342-9449
Fax: (650) 342-4435
Email: info@calhearing.com

THE STIGMA OF HEARING LOSS

As we age, we may begin to feel left behind and even devalued, especially after retirement. We may get the idea that we are no longer contributing to society. Negative stigma may be perceived from other sources as well: our health may begin to fail, and we may feel that we are on a downward path. Hearing is one ability that commonly begins to fail as we age.

There is a stigma against hearing loss, which is both internal and external. With hearing loss comes more difficulty communicating with people around us, and it may be tempting to try to deny there is a problem. This can result in a person with hearing loss in the early stages not seeking treatment.

There is a Problem

Hearing aids are expensive and are usually not covered by insurance. On top of this significant cost, the negative stigma towards the need for hearing devices can be a deterrent. People generally don’t want to admit that they are getting older and that their bodies are failing. The first step to fixing the situation and possibly even halting the progression of healing loss is to admit that it is present.

Even well-meaning friends and family can create a negative stigma against hearing loss, because they may not understand the issue. Seeing advertising of hearing aids boasting of their invisibility can sometimes exacerbate this further, creating the notion that hearing aids should be hidden because they are something to be ashamed of.

The negative stigmas surrounding hearing loss can result in people postponing a visit to the audiologist to deal with the issue. And the longer the issue is delayed, the more hearing can deteriorate. Education about how hearing loss works is crucial to helping people overcome this stigma and seek help while the hearing loss is still in its early stages. This may help them to stop the progression of hearing loss, which is irreversible.

Getting Rid of the Stigma

If hearing and communicating effectively has become a problem for you, your first step is to visit an audiologist to assess the situation and evaluate your options. Technology is available to help us with this, so why not use it? Hearing aid technology allows us to seamlessly and discreetly hear and understand our environment. Which is more embarrassing: the need for help, or constantly having to deal with miscommunication?

Start Now

Regular hearing screenings are an easy and effective way to ensure that hearing loss is spotted and treated early on, which could prevent further decline. Since hearing loss is gradual, we may not notice it until the damage is already done, so hearing evaluations can detect it before any noticeable hearing damage occurs.

The first step to halting hearing loss and preventing further damage is to recognize your situation. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

IS TWO ALWAYS BETTER THAN ONE?

When you were diagnosed with hearing loss, was one ear affected more than the other? This can often be the case, and because hearing aids can be expensive, it can be tempting to use just one hearing aid instead of two. But is that a good idea?

The Ears Work Together

Because they are all we can see, we may think that our hearing is done mainly by our two ears, but that isn’t true. Our brains are even more important to hearing and understanding the world around us, and our brains are connected to our ears through auditory nerves. Our brains are the heavyweights, translating noises we hear into sound that means something. Who knew our hearing was so complex? Or that a problem with any one component in the auditory system can cause hearing as a whole to break down.

Even if they are not equally damaged, hearing loss in one ear is quite often accompanied by damage in the other ear as well. Wearing a hearing device on only one side can backfire, because it will support one ear and not the other. The ear that is being helped will probably not decline any further, but the unassisted one might.

Hearing Exercises

Our bodies need regular exercise—without it, our muscles will atrophy and wither away. Regular exercise is important—and this is also true for our brains and our ears. With the progression of hearing loss, sounds can sometimes be heard but not understood. This can be very frustrating and may be the result of a “bad connection” along the auditory nerve between the ears and the brain. Doing “hearing exercises” can slow this progression and help your brain to “re-learn” how to interpret sounds meaningfully.

Your audiologist can give you exercises and other options that could help.

Hearing Well

One way to support good listening comprehension is to make sure your ears are hearing equally. Auditory stimulation is increased, and your brain can work less to understand the noises your ears bring in. Therefore, for any hearing damage and you want the most seamless, effortless listening experience possible, you should wear two hearing aids instead of just one.

Wearing two hearing aids can also save on battery life over wearing just one, on top of being more effective overall. It may also give you the opportunity to wear more discreet (smaller) hearing devices because of the lower power requirements of each hearing aid.

Triangulation

Our ears are fine-tuned to help us not only hear and understand the world around us, but to determine from which direction sound is coming. This can come in handy when we are in danger: we don’t want to run towards something that will hurt us, so we need to know where it is coming from! When both ears hear equally, you can better pinpoint the source of the noise around you. This ability, called “localization” is practical in everyday life, and also necessary for protection. Lopsided hearing makes localization much more difficult.

Wearing hearing aids instead of one are generally happier and more content with their hearing experience, because two hearing aids can reestablish hearing much more efficiently than one. Hearing, listening and understanding depend on more than just our ears, so the more help they have the better.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

FIVE SHOCKING LINKS TO HEARING DAMAGE

Most of us understand the most commonly-known causes of hearing loss: loud noises, excessive ear wax, aging… but there are some other causes of hearing loss you may not have known about. Here are five links to hearing loss that you may not have expected.

Medical Drugs: Antibiotics and Over-the-Counter

Ototoxic drugs, such as NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin) as well as some antibiotics, have been known to cause damage to the inner ear cells for quite some time. This damage can be temporary or permanent, and other symptoms of ototoxic medications are vertigo, dizziness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Doctors first noticed the phenomenon of ototoxicity with the development of the antibiotic streptomycin, used to treat tuberculosis. While it often cured patients of the disease, they were left with irreversible hearing loss as a result. Since then, hearing loss has been a common side effect of the aminoglycoside class of antibiotics.

Stress

Everyone knows that chronic stress can cause health problems, and now we know that stress can even affect hearing! Since hearing loss can be caused by various health issues, many of which can be caused by stress (high blood pressure, heart disease, etc), it follows that stress can be a cause of hearing loss as well. It becomes a vicious cycle: stress leads to sickness, which leads to more stress, more sickness hearing loss, more stress….

Obesity

Like stress, obesity can cause a host of health issues, many of which are connected to hearing damage in one form or another. Researchers have found a correlation between higher waist circumference and the likelihood of hearing problems. They think that extra weight can put strain on the delicate capillaries all over the body, and which the inner ear relies on for good hearing. When the delicate hair cells of the inner ear do not receive enough blood flow and oxygen, they can die, causing irreversible hearing loss.

Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association estimated that in 2012 30 million people had diabetes, and another 86 million were pre-diabetic with high blood glucose numbers. Diabetics are twice as likely as non-diabetics to have hearing loss, so this can be a cause for concern on a number of levels. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, don’t forget to have an annual hearing screening to catch any issues early on. You can also protect your hearing by staying away from very loud noises and turning down the volume on your music.

Heart Disease

Since heart disease can cause changes in blood flow to all parts of the body, the small capillaries can be most affected. The capillaries of the inner ear provide vital oxygen and blood flow to the delicate inner ear hair cells, and these cells can die if they do not get enough oxygen. These hair cells serve to communicate information from outward sounds to the brain, and once they die they do not regenerate, so this causes permanent hearing damage.

Just a few more reasons to take care of your overall health—it can affect everything—including hearing health!

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.

TWO LOCATIONS TO SERVE YOU BETTER

 San Mateo

88 N. San Mateo Drive
San Mateo, California, 94401

Phone: (650) 342-9449
Fax: (650) 342-4435
Email: info@calhearing.com 

San Carlos

1008 Laurel Street
San Carlos, California, 94070

Phone: (650) 342-9449
Fax: (650) 342-4435
Email: info@calhearing.com

LOOP SYSTEMS: AVAILABILITY AND BENEFITS

Almost any place you go, whether it’s a ballpark, an airport or a busy restaurant, may cause problems for you if you have hearing aids. Surrounding noise can restrict hearing and trying to communicate can become exasperating in public surroundings.

There is a Solution Coming to You!

Have you heard of loop systems? This technology is popping up in more and more public spaces, and it is helping wearers of hearing aids with these issues. First installation of an insulated copper wire loop around a space generates a magnetic field. Sound is then transmitted wirelessly to hearing aids or cochlear implants. This eliminates a need for earpieces or headphones.

Who can take advantage of this technology? Anyone who wears hearing aids with T-coils or cochlear implants. The location’s audio system can be wirelessly connected by the user with the push of a button.  

For those of us who use hearing aids in public spaces, this is truly life-changing technology. Hearing aids can now be seamlessly integrated into a venue’s speaker system, which will make listening much more convenient.

Advantages of Loop Systems:

  • Location freedom: users can move freely within the loop space
  • No more need for ear pieces or large headsets
  • Interference from surrounding noise is reduced and signal sound is enhanced
  • Convenience: users interact with their own hearing devices instead of an unfamiliar system
  • Ability to adjust the settings to the user’s unique needs
  • Pure, direct sound is possible with no need for other devices
  • Tablets, smartphones, radio signals, PA systems, and TVs can be accessed wirelessly
  • Users can interact in group settings discreetly and without embarassment
  • Free to users (and just the cost of set-up for the venues)

In Europe, loop technology was made available over 70 years ago, and no disadvantages have been found besides the initial cost of set-up. The reason most venues had not taken the initiative to install loop systems until this point was because hearing aid technology in the U.S. had not yet caught up to the technology of loop systems.

Now almost 70% of hearing aids and cochlear implants are compatible with loop system technology, the availability in public settings is becoming more common.

Installation of more loop systems in public places in American can also be the result of advocacy. The installation of loop systems is making a difference in both private and public locations. Movie theaters, churches, sporting arenas, and concert halls across the country are being outfitted with loop system technology, with New York and Michigan leading the way.

Keep an eye out for loop systems in the venues you visit and research how this technology operates so you can utilize it when it is available. Suggest the implementation of loop systems in the public venues you frequent to speed up the process. Older hearing devices might not be well-suited to the technology, so you may need to upgrade to hearing aids that let you use this remarkable service.

Here at California Hearing Center we are committed to your hearing health. Call us today to set up an appointment for a hearing screening.