How Can Hearing Loss Affect Your Energy?

You may know people who have boundless energy morning to night, even accomplishing many more tasks in a day than the average person. You yourself may feel that it is difficult to endure a night out with friends or a long meeting at work without feeling physically exhausted afterwards. If you have hearing loss, the reason for this is called “listening fatigue.”

Does Hearing Loss Make You Tired?

When suffering from hearing loss, it is much more difficult to listen and interpret language for long periods of time. People without hearing loss may never realize how much effort and energy just listening to others can expend. If you feel mentally and physically exhausted after interacting with others for long periods of time, you may be suffering from listening fatigue. And this fatigue doesn’t only affect you personally: it was estimated by the Better Hearing Institute that hearing loss and hearing fatigue may be responsible for more than $56 billion wasted annually due to lost productivity at work caused by hearing fatigue.

Many people who suffer from hearing fatigue become frustrated with their work situations and may even quit their jobs as a result. And even if they continue working, listening fatigue can affect them so they have little energy to pursue any fun or relaxing activities outside of work.

Why Hearing Loss is Tiring

When suffering from hearing loss, it becomes important to be on constant alert, straining to listen for sounds that would otherwise be effortless to hear, as well as engaging the mind in lip reading and other visual cues. It becomes mentally draining.

Three areas of the brain deal with interpersonal communication and listening throughout the day: the area for speech production, for speech comprehension, and to manage hearing. Without hearing loss, these areas of the brain work together for almost effortless hearing and comprehension, but with hearing loss it becomes more difficult and thus more tiring.

Hearing Aids to the Rescue

If you are suffering from hearing loss and hearing fatigue as a result, hearing aids can assist you by restoring the sounds that are missed by your ears, thus giving your brain a rest and making communication and understanding less difficult.

Tips to Reduce Listening Fatigue

If you find yourself exhausted from normal interactions during the day and suspect hearing fatigue, be sure to get a hearing test to see if hearing aids can bring you some relief. Other things you can do to minimize fatigue is to give yourself a break: go somewhere quiet for a few minutes to just relax and breathe. Go outside or just close your eyes and allow yourself to shut out the world for a few minutes. Also try to minimize interruptions and background noises during certain times of the day if possible. Take a quick nap or read a little bit to give your ears a break from their work during the day.

At California Hearing Center we want to help you to be your best self. Give us a call to schedule a hearing screening today. 

88 N San Mateo Dr. San Mateo, CA 94401  (650) 342-9449

Could There be a Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia?

As we age, most of us expect to experience some hearing loss. It is considered a normal part of aging, and other than hindered communication and minor annoyance, is not seen as a major health issue. More and more studies, however, are linking hearing loss with mental decline and dementia, which is increasing concern over this “minor” consequence of aging.

One study that involved more than 2000 people found that people with hearing loss had a decline in cognitive abilities 30-40% faster than those who didn’t. Another study involving 600 people showed that people with hearing loss were more likely to develop dementia than those without it. Further, people who had severe hearing loss were more likely to develop dementia than those with only mild or moderate hearing loss.  Testing and further studies have also found increased and quicker rates of brain atrophy in people with impaired hearing in comparison with people without impairment. In participants over 60 years of age, the risk of dementia was increased by 36% when hearing loss was a factor.

Hearing loss is not only a risk factor for dementia, but also seems to worsen the symptoms, including diminished memory, failure to learn new tasks, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, reduced awareness and depression, in addition to diminished overall health. In light of these findings, studies are currently underway to determine the effectiveness of hearing aids and other devices to halt or slow this mental decline.

Because hearing loss can progress slowly, annual hearing screenings are crucial. We may not notice these gradual changes in hearing ability on our own until damage is done.

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

Pool Time! Avoid Swimmer’s Ear with These Tips

It’s summer time, and for most of us, that means we will spend some hot days in the pool. Pool time is a lot of fun, but it also comes with the risk of swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear is a type of ear infection, caused by bacteria that breeds in the ear canal when moisture is trapped there. Here are some ways to make sure you prevent this painful infection.

Keep it Dry

Keeping your ears dry and clean, especially after swimming, is a sure-fire way to prevent swimmer’s ear, because the bacteria need moisture to thrive. Thoroughly dry your ears out after swimming. You can use a hair dryer on the cool setting if you think tilting your head and using a towel isn’t cutting it. While some people use rubbing alcohol to help speed up the process, doing this too often can actually cause more infection in the long run.

Plug them Up

Wearing ear plugs while swimming can prevent moisture from getting trapped in your ears in the first place. You can find swimming ear plugs at some stores or at your audiologist’s office. Be sure to get well-fitting ear plugs designed for swimming.

Ear Drops to the Rescue

Ear drops can also be used after swimming to facilitate drying out the ear canal. Some favorite liquids to use are rubbing alcohol, olive oil, hydrogen peroxide and white vinegar. Rubbing alcohol can cause excessive dryness with repeated use and hydrogen peroxide can also kill beneficial bacteria in your ear, so use those two sparingly. If your ears are clogged with excessive earwax, ear drops will not be effective. Also, never use ear drops if you have a synthetic ear tubes or a ruptured ear drum.

Ear Wax basics

Too much or too little ear wax can also cause a problem because ear wax is important for maintaining ear health and preventing infections.

Read more about how to clean and maintain ear wax here:

https://www.verywell.com/all-about-ear-wax-blockage-1192040

Keep Your Skin Healthy

Healthy skin in and around your ears contributes to ear health and prevents infection. If the skin in your ears is too try or cracked, the environment can promote infection. If you have dry, flaky skin in or around your ears, try these tips:

  • Keep your ears dry
  • Don’t scratch or cut your ears in any way
  • Don’t use Q-tips or other objects inserted in the ear. These can damage the skin.
  • Don’t clean your ears forcefully. Be gentle with any cleaning, and if you have excessive ear wax, see a doctor for cleaning.

If you keep in mind all of these preventative tips, your risk of any infection, including swimmer’s ear, is reduced. As always, regular check-ups with your audiologist is key to maintaining ear health.

Drop by at 88 N San Mateo Dr. San Mateo, CA 94401  (650) 342-9449

Gene Therapy May be the Answer to Hearing Loss

One billion people throughout the world are at risk of experiencing hearing loss at some point in their lives. Scientists have therefore been working to find solutions to this growing problem. Hearing aids and cochlear implants have seen rapid improvements and advances in technology, but they still merely mimic the hearing process, and don’t cure it. Complaints such as tinny or robotic-sounding voices and diminished enjoyment of music are urging another way to restore hearing.

Progressive hearing loss is most often caused by the loss of hair cells in the inner ear that allow us to detect sound. Some bird and fish species are able to re-grow these cells, but humans cannot. It then follows that if humans could regrow these hair cells, hearing could be restored naturally.

Novartis, a Swedish pharmaceutical company, recently sponsored a set of clinical trials to test an inner-ear hair cell regrowth technique on human subjects. When conducting preliminary trials on mice, researchers were successful in restoring partial hearing. The trials are still ongoing, but the eight participants have already begun noticing improvement in their hearing abilities.

Atoh1 is the gene that triggers hair cell growth in the inner ear. Scientists have focused on this gene, which is “turned off” after the cells finish growing, even before birth. Scientists hope to use gene manipulation to “turn back on” these genes and promote this hair cell growth once again. They implant the gene into a cold virus and implant it into the eardrum using a laser and syringe.

Though participants have seen some improvement in hearing, total restoration has proven elusive. Scientists hope that this method may provide enough improvement that patients can then use hearing aids to further improve speech comprehension and other hearing abilities.

Scientists are also working to identify other genes that also play a role in this cell growth progression, and hope that eventually they may develop more advanced techniques for hearing restoration. Whereas this procedure is aimed at hearing loss caused by very loud sounds or drug toxicity, there is more research underway to find treatments for genetic hearing loss as well.

The approach is to introduce a DNA sequence that will help a “broken” gene to work again. Malfunctioning sensory cells are responsible for the hearing loss, and it is hoped that those cells can be made functional again.

This exciting new field of research may soon be able to reverse hearing damage and loss, but until then, prevention is key. Come in for a hearing test today and learn the best ways to protect your hearing health.

Simple Steps to Protect and Preserve Your Hearing

The key to preserving hearing is prevention. Once hearing function has been diminished or lost, there is no way to reverse it. Unfortunately many do not realize all of the easy things we can do to protect our hearing while we still have it. Here are a few simple steps to prevent hearing loss and protect your hearing health now, before it’s too late.

Keep the Volume Low

Many people, especially teenagers and young adults, love to listen to music using headphones. The sound quality is great and you can take your music wherever you go! Using these devices, however, make it easy to keep the volume at unsafe levels. This puts 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization.

Protect Your Ears When Loud Noises are Unavoidable

When it’s within your control, adjusting the volume is easy. Sometimes, however, you are in a position that you can’t turn the volume down and a loud noise is unavoidable. Make it a habit of carrying earplugs with you for this inevitable circumstance. Whether you’re at a loud concert, mowing the lawn or are bothered by loud construction work outside your window, ear protection can be the difference in extending your hearing health as long as possible.

Recovery Time is Important

If your ears are exposed to loud noise, especially without protection, give them quiet time to recover. If possible, step outside or away from the noise periodically for 5 minute stretches to give your ears time to rest. Research has found that after one loud night out, our ears need about 16 hours of quiet to recover.

Kick the Cotton Swabs to the Curb

Cotton swabs are a common way for people to clean the wax out of their ears, but doctors do not recommend it. A little bit of wax build-up in your ears serves an important function: wax helps to protect your ears and keep them clean by trapping dust and other particles, preventing them from entering the ear canal. Inserting a cotton swab too deep in the ear canal also risks damaging the ear drum.

Some people do have excess wax, however. If that’s you, a damp towel can gently and effectively clean out the ear canal. Wax removal solution can also be used for severe cases: it softens the wax over a period of a couple of nights, allowing the wax to flow out on its own.

Dry Ears are Happy Ears

When excess moisture is trapped in the ear canal, this can breed bacteria that may cause swimmer’s ear or ear infections. Be sure to towel-dry your ears after bathing or swimming, and if you feel water trapped in your ear, tilt your head to the side and pull on your earlobe to allow the water to flow out. If that doesn’t work, lay down on the offending side for a few minutes. The relaxation and gravity should coax the water out.

If it is an ongoing problem, custom-fit swimmers’ earplugs are also a great option, and are available for both adults and children. Make an appointment to get fitted for a pair today!

Exercise Can Improve Hearing Health

You knew that moving was good for your heart and your waistline, but who knew it was also good for your ears? Cardiovascular exercise such as walking, biking and running increases circulation to all parts of your body, including your ears. And circulation is great for your ears: it keeps them healthy and performing at top levels!

Don’t Stress Out

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) has been linked to high stress and anxiety, which fill your body with adrenaline. When this happens, your body heat, circulation and nerves take a hit, and this pressure can migrate to your inner ear, causing tinnitus symptoms.

Step Away From the Medicine

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprophen, naproxen and aspirin have been linked to hearing loss in recent studies. Many people think they are safe because they can be bought without a prescription, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have dangers. Use these medications sparingly, especially if you’ve noticed any decrease in hearing ability when using them.

Have Your Ears Checked Regularly

Regular hearing screenings can make a big difference in catching hearing loss early, and preventing further damage. Hearing loss develops slowly, so yearly check-ups with a hearing professional can let you know as soon as there is an issue.

It’s important to know if you are experiencing a decline in hearing ability, and take steps to prevent further decline, because hearing loss is linked to more serious issues such as dementia, depression and heart disease.

Do your health a favor, and make an appointment at California Hearing Center to check your hearing today!

Undiagnosed Hearing Loss Associated with Social Isolation in Seniors

Are you a socialite? If so, there may be another good reason to have your hearing (or the hearing of a loved one) tested.

A recent study at the University of British Columbia found that seniors who experience hearing loss are more likely to suffer from both social isolation and cognitive impairment. The study at UBC Okanagan looked at seniors between the ages of 60 and 69, and found that for each 10 decibel decrease in hearing ability, social isolation could increase by as much as 52%! This same decrease in hearing ability was also associated with an equivalent of 4 years of aging.

Because social isolation has already been shown to affect mortality rates similarly to consuming alcohol and smoking, hearing impairment can now be seen as a public health issue, and can be taken much more serious than before.

Fortunately, for the entire month of May, California Hearing Center is hosting a FREE Hearing Screening event for May is Better Hearing Month!

In support of May is Better Hearing Month, California Hearing Center invites you to come in for your Free Hearing Screening. When it comes to your hearing health, prevention is still the best medicine! No-obligation.

Every Friday during the month of May
May 5, 12, 19 & 26
9:00 am – 2:30 pm

All ages welcome – No appointment necessary.

Drop by at 88 N San Mateo Dr. San Mateo, CA 94401  (650) 342-9449

Welcome to May: Better Hearing Month!

With aging comes normal changes in hearing, as well as language and speech.

There are ways to maintain good hearing and speech, however. Here are a few ways to keep your hearing in tip-top shape:

Protection Can Prevent Hearing Loss. When participating in loud activities, such as going to a concert, mowing the lawn or spending time building in the shop, those loud noises can damage hearing. Exposing your ears unprotected to 105 decibels for one hour can damage hearing. Always use noise protection, such as earplugs.

How do you know if you are experiencing hearing loss? Do you keep your TV or radio at a level that others say is too loud? Do you often need to turn toward a sound to hear it better? Do you often ask others to repeat what they are saying? Do you have pain or ringing in your ears, or an ear infection?

If any of these is “Yes,” it is a very good idea to have a hearing test with an audiologist to prevent further damage. It is possible to treat hearing loss and stop it in its tracks, so don’t let it impact your daily life.

Speak normally. When in a loud environment, try not to strain your voice by yelling over the noise, because it can cause vocal damage or hearing impairment. Whispering and throat-clearing can also be hard on your vocal cords. If your throat feels dry, drink plenty of fluids.

Over-use of vocal cords can result in trauma and damage, affecting your voice. Polyps, cysts and vocal nodules are all issues related to over-use of the vocal cords in adults. Allergies and acid reflux can also contribute to throat and voice problems. Resting and treating these issues can help to preserve your voice.

Most hearing, speech and language problems can be avoided, especially if issues are identified and treated early.

Fortunately, it is May, and May is Better Hearing Month!

FREE Hearing Screening throughout May at California Hearing Center!

In support May is Better Hearing Month, California Hearing Center invites you to come in for your Free Hearing Screening. When it comes to your hearing health, prevention is still the best medicine! No-obligation.

Every Friday during the month of May
May 5, 12, 19 & 26
9:00 am – 2:30 pm
All ages welcome – No appointment necessary.

Drop by at 88 N San Mateo Dr. San Mateo, CA 94401  (650) 342-9449

Improve Listening Skills by Training Your Brain

Did you know that most of the work of hearing is done not by your ears but by your brain? It’s true that sounds are taken in by our ears, and they must function properly for us to hear, but processing the sounds into meaning is solely a function of our brains. What is the difference between hearing and listening? We hear a lot, but we only process what we listen to, and that takes brain power. Thus training our brains to listen becomes essential if we are to engage with the world around us.

Communicating Effectively

Communication is important: everywhere we go, we need to be able to communicate with people around us. Even the best hearing aids can only enhance your ability to hear; they can never replace or improve listening skills. To truly listen, it is important to block out distracting background noises so we can listen to spoken words in busy environments.

When we actively communicate with others, we are training our brains to listen. If we don’t practice active listening, even if it is as a result of a hearing issue or older age, we can lose some of our listening skills. Practicing active listening on a daily basis can actually help to improve hearing and communication over time.

The Difference Between Hearing and Listening

Hearing is the act of recognizing sound. Being startled by a bang or turning your head at an unexpected noise both indicate hearing ability. This is called signal-based processing. Listening, however, requires both knowledge and hearing.

Listening is only accomplished through hearing and understanding a message or sound. Recognizing a message in spoken words is listening; hearing problems can affect listening skills, but they are not the same thing.

Strategies for Communication

The differences between listening and hearing become more evident as we age. Older people may express that they can hear spoken words, but they do not understand what is being said. Listening skills can be improved with information, tools, and training. Training exercises your brain so it can listen and hear at a suitable level. Listening skills can always be improved, whether you use a hearing device or not. To improve learning communication, some strategies are:

  • Telling others around you how to speak more clearly
  • Understanding realistically what your hearing aid can do
  • Using other technologies that can help with hearing and sound cancelling
  • Joining a class or group that can teach you how to listen more effectively
  • Using subtitles or closed captioning on the TV and with movies

Learn about new technology and therapy that can bolster your listening skills and prevent decline. Hearing aids are certainly a great starting point, and some people need them. Auditory and cognitive training is another important way to engage the brain and improve listening abilities.

It is important to educate yourself how the brain is related to hearing and listening skills. Listening exercises can help you to practice various communication strategies that help you to train your brain to listen.

Try these 3 listening exercises to train your hearing abilities and listening skills:

  • Watch and record a television show without closed captioning, playing it back with closed caption to evaluate how well you heard and understood everything that was happening.
  • Read a book while simultaneously listening to the audio-book version
  • Have a friend read a newspaper aloud, then do it again, reading along with them as they talk

Try each exercise in gradually louder surroundings to build your listening skills.

Summary

Just having the ability to hear does not automatically grant effective communication or listening skills. Hearing devices can be a great help, but listening skills involve actual hearing as well as the ability to understand. Learn communication strategies and practice hearing exercises that train your brain to promote listening abilities.

Could Hearing Loss be Related to Snoring?

If you sleep in the same room with a snorer, you know it can be an annoyance, and make you lose sleep. Recent research is also finding, however, that pesky noise can do even more damage than that. If you sleep beside someone who snores, you may be at a higher risk for hearing loss than someone who does not.

Researchers performed hearing tests on healthy middle-aged adults who regularly slept next to snoring partners. The analysis showed that each of the four subjects had high-frequency hearing loss in the ear closest to the snoring partner. This finding suggests that snoring can actually cause hearing damage. Snores as loud as 100 decibels have been recorded during sleep, and sounds of over 85 decibels have the potential to damage hearing.

It turns out the snorers themselves can also be in danger of hearing damage, but for a different reason. People who snore sometimes suffer from sleep apnea, a condition in which they stop breathing for a few seconds at a time. In affected individuals, they may experience these “breathing pauses” as often as 30 to 40 times in one night. Although it is unclear why, sleep apnea is associated with a higher incidence of high- and low-frequency hearing loss in addition to other health concerns. Evidence suggests that sleep apnea may injure a structure in the inner ear called the cochlea, which houses tiny hairs that transmit sound to the brain.

If you or your bed partner snore, it is important to see a doctor to evaluate the possibility of sleep apnea. If you share a bed with a snoring partner, ear plugs can block the sounds of snoring and protect your hearing. Be sure to have your hearing tested regularly as well.