HOW MINERALS CAN PROTECT YOUR HEARING

You’ve heard it before: be sure to get all your vitamins and minerals! Some people swear by a multi-vitamin supplement and some like to get all the needed nutrients from food. Either way, most people understand that getting enough vitamins and minerals is important for optimal health. It’s common knowledge that Vitamin C and zinc can boost immunity and calcium can benefit bones and teeth. But did you know that there are minerals that are important to maintain healthy hearing as well?

Why do we need minerals?

Minerals are inorganic elements that are found in rock and soil; they are essential, meaning the body needs them and does not manufacture them on its own. We get minerals by eating vegetables that absorb them from the soil in which they are grown, as well as from the meat of animals that have grazed on vegetation.

A few important minerals for hearing health are potassium, folate, magnesium and zinc.

Potassium helps to regulate the fluids in our blood and tissues. Our inner ears contain fluid that is crucial to helping our bodies translate noise into understandable sounds. Thus our brains are dependent on this fluid, and a rich supply of potassium, to hear and understand the world around us.

Fortunately, potassium is easily found in common foods such as tomatoes, bananas, yogurt, spinach, potatoes, raisins, lima beans, melons, milk and oranges. Getting a healthy variety of fresh, whole foods in your diet and “eating the rainbow” can assure you get plenty of potassium.

Folate is an important nutrient for new cell growth in the body. Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, is also available in supplement form, though it is best to try to get folate from food such as spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and organ meats.

Magnesium is another important mineral that has been shown in studies to protect against hearing loss. Magnesium can help to combat free radicals that are produced when exposed to very loud noises, protecting the hair cells of the inner ear. Magnesium also contributes to healthy blood vessels, which deliver valuable oxygen to the ear, crucial to hearing health.

Magnesium can be found in a variety of delicious foods, including artichokes, bananas, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes and broccoli.

Zinc is an immune-booster for the body, as you may know from some supplements on the market that contain zinc and claim to ward off cold and flu viruses. Zinc also assists with cell growth and wound healing. Some studies have found zinc effective in treating tinnitus and ear infections as well, though it can sometimes interact with pharmaceutical antibiotics and diuretics.

Zinc is found in foods such as pork, dark-meat chicken and pork, cashews, almonds, lentils, split peas, beans, peanuts, oysters and dark chocolate. Good news for nutty dark chocolate lovers!

The great news is that as long as you’re getting a balanced diet of fresh, whole foods, you are probably getting a good balance of these minerals and other nutrients that contribute to 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.

WHAT IS HIGH FREQUENCY HEARING LOSS AND WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

Have you ever had a misunderstanding when communicating with someone else? Everyone has; misunderstandings in communication are a common occurrence. You may misunderstand what someone else is saying for a variety of reasons, from background noise to just not paying attention.

People with high-frequency hearing loss, however, have greater difficulty hearing or understanding anything within the 2,000 to 8,000 Hertz range. Female voices often fall in this range, so sometimes it becomes more difficult for people with high-frequency hearing loss to understand female communication. They may also have trouble hearing high-pitched noises like beeping machinery or birds singing.

High-frequency hearing loss is the result of damage of the sensory hearing cells in the inner ear or cochlea. Tiny hair cells in the cochlea serve to render sound from the outside world into electrical impulses that our brains can then recognize as understandable sounds. When a person suffers from hearing loss, they typically have trouble with higher frequencies before lower frequencies.

What Causes High-Frequency Hearing Loss?

Many things can cause high-frequency hearing loss, and people of all ages can be affected. When children suffer from high-frequency hearing loss, it can disturb learning by hindering communication and speech development, and hamper learning in school.

  • Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is when a person is exposed to dangerous levels of noise every day. It can also be the result of exposure to a very loud noise, such as a gunshot or explosion, one time. Noise levels over 85 decibels on an ongoing basis can also result in NIHL. It is estimated that more than 10 million Americans have suffered irreversible hearing damage due to NIHL.
  • As we age, hearing loss called presbycusis can occur. This damage occurs slowly and affects both ears equally, so it can be hard to notice until it has progressed to a serious level. Signs of presbycusis begin with an inability to understand communication in loud environments.
  • Certain diseases, such as Meniere’s disease can affect the inner ear and may result in fluctuating hearing loss or vertigo. Chronic ear infections in children, if left untreated, can also result in permanent hearing damage.
  • High frequency hearing loss can also be passed down through genes, so if you have family members who have suffered, it is possible you are genetically predisposed to this problem.
  • Some over-the-counter drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, are ototoxic, which means they can damage hearing. Drugs used in chemotherapies and aminoglycoside antibiotics can also be harmful.

Is high-frequency hearing loss curable?

High-frequency hearing loss is permanent, but it is often preventable. It is critical to protect your ears when there is exposure to dangerous levels of noise—especially if it is louder than 85 decibels. Live concerts, working around machinery, riding loud motorcycles or snowmobiles, or going to the shooting range can expose you to noise louder than 85 decibels.. Even listening to music too loud can eventually result in high frequency hearing loss! Noise-cancelling headphones as well as ear plugs can be helpful in mitigating this noise and damage to your hearing.

What are my treatment options?

Though high-frequency hearing loss is not reversible, it can be corrected in many cases with hearing aids. If you think you may have some level of hearing loss, schedule a hearing screening with an audiologist right away to prevent further 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

HEARING DAMAGE AND CHILDREN’S DEVELOPMENT: EARLY DETECTION IS KEY

As children grow, hearing ability is vital to developing speech and language skills. Traditionally it has been difficult to discern a hearing difficulty with children under two years of age, until it became apparent that speech abilities were delayed.

It has been shown, however, that if early detection of a hearing issue can be diagnosed prior to six months of age, speech impairment and delays can be drastically reduced. For this reason, infant hearing screening is now common in US hospitals and children with hearing loss can be identified and treated in infancy.

Research studies have indicated that between 5 children in 1,000 may suffer from hearing loss, most diagnosed between the ages of three and 17 years old, and there may be as many as 1.4 in 1,000 newborns with hearing impairment at birth.

How Can Children Have Hearing Loss?

Childhood hearing loss has become much more prevalent in recent years due to environmental noise. A 2013 CDC study estimated that at least 12.5% of children and teens ages six to 19 have permanent hearing damage because of noise exposure.

Parents, guardians, teachers and doctors need to be aware of the signs of hearing loss in children, because early diagnosis and treatment is key to arresting hearing loss and preventing lifelong damage to hearing. Undiagnosed hearing loss in young children can cause developmental delays and substantial emotional issues for children that can be difficult to overcome even into adulthood.  

Congenital Hearing Impairment

Some hearing damage is already present at birth: this is called congenital hearing loss. There are many causes of congenital hearing loss, with both genetic and non-genetic factors.

Non-genetic factors may include:

  • Premature birth with a birth weight of less than 3 pounds or the necessity of respiratory drugs.
  • Maternal diabetes.
  • Maternal alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Birth complications, including the presence of diseases such as rubella, herpes or another infection.
  • Lack of oxygen at birth or need for a blood transfusion at birth.
  • A brain disorder or nervous system issue.
  • Use of ototoxic medication by the mother during pregnancy—such as antibiotics or over-the-counter medications like NSAIDS (ibuprofen or acetaminophen).

Non-genetic factors account for about 25% of congenital hearing loss, and genetic factors caused by heredity cause over 50% of hearing loss in children. Sometimes this hearing loss is evident at birth, and sometimes it is revealed later in life.

Genetic Hearing Loss Factors May Include:

  • Autosomal Dominant Hearing Loss, which accounts for approximately 15% of genetic hearing damage, is acquired because one parent carries a dominant gene for hearing loss and passes it to the child. The parent may or may not manifest hearing loss.
  • Genetic syndromes such as Waardenburg Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Usher Syndrome, Teacher Collins Syndrome Crouzon Syndrome or Alport Syndrome may cause hearing damage at birth.
  • Autosomal Recessive Hearing Loss is the most common genetic congenital hearing damage cause, accounting for about 70% of genetic hearing impairment. In this case, neither parent has hearing loss, but both parents carry a recessive gene for hearing loss that are passed to the child. Most parents are not aware they carry this recessive gene and are thus astonished when the child displays hearing damage for this reason.

In some cases, the reasons for infant hearing loss are unknown, making up the balance of the hearing loss cases at birth.

Acquired Hearing Impairment

Many children are not born with hearing damage but attain it during childhood. Reasons for acquired hearing loss can be:

  • Taking ototoxic medications
  • Serious head injury
  • A perforated eardrum
  • Infections such as measles, mumps, whooping cough or meningitis
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Untreated or frequent ear infections
  • Exposure to loud noises (which cause noise-induced hearing loss)
  • Otosclerosis or Meniere’s diseases (progressive)

Temporary Hearing Damage

Fluctuating or transient hearing impairment in childhood can also impair language development and speech. Temporary hearing loss can be caused by ear infections, and at least 75% of children have had this type of ear infection by the time they reach 3 years of age.

Transient hearing loss caused by an ear infection happens when fluid blocks the vibrations of the middle ear bones and muffle sound. Because it is usually temporary, this type of hearing loss often resolves itself with the healing of the ear infection, though if ear infections are frequent or untreated, permanent damage can occur.

If you are concerned a child in your life may have hearing damage, it is crucial to make an appointment for a hearing screening to determine the best course of action. Hearing damage is treatable, especially if caught early, but is not reversible.

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

EXERCISE MAY BE GOOD FOR YOUR EARS, TOO!

How much exercise do you get in a typical week? Whether it’s a run around the block, a long walk around the mall or a trip to the gym, we all know that movement is good for our bodies, but did you know it may be good for your hearing as well?

Studies now show that as many as 20% of Americans, and 33% of Americans over the age of 65, suffer from hearing loss. We have also learned that hearing loss can affect much more than just hearing: studies have shown increased risk of depression, dementia and social isolation when hearing loss is a factor. Hearing loss can also make it more difficult to work, which results in income loss for hearing loss sufferers. And since hearing loss is not reversible, anything we can do to prevent or slow hearing loss will be a positive.

The various structures of the ear breaking down as we age contribute to different types of hearing loss. It was found, however, that mice who exercised experienced an average of 5% hearing loss as they aged, while sedentary mice experienced 20% hearing loss.

Exercise increases circulation, which preserves necessary capillaries that deliver blood and oxygen to the ear to preserve the cochlea and other surrounding structures. Elevating your heart rate at least a few times a week is ideal, though taking a daily walk around the neighborhood is also beneficial.

The CDC (U.S. Center for Disease Control), 20% of Americans do not get adequate amounts of exercise. Exercise has so many proven health benefits that hearing loss prevention is just one more added onto a long list of positive things resulting from a less sedentary lifestyle.

Aerobic activity slows the aging process by increasing energy and oxygen to every cell of your body, contributes to faster recovery from chronic illness, improves your skin by increasing circulation, improves your mood by inducing a natural calm state, boosts brain health by reducing age-related loss of brain tissue, and gives you more energy throughout the day to do other activities and chores.

Exercising for only 16 minutes three times per week has been shown to improve health and contribute to all of these benefits. And of course, exercising also contributes to a healthy body weight and positive overall body image. In fact, many have found better results by short bursts of exercise rather than long, drawn out cardiovascular sessions. Staying in motion as much as possible during the day is an easy way to get the most benefit possible. Many people set 10,000 steps per day as a goal to motivate them to stay moving, utilizing tools such as fitness trackers and even health apps on smartphones.

Other ways to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss are a healthy diet (avoid processed foods whenever possible and eat whole foods to maximize nutrient absorption), avoid loud noises and practice listening skills to train your brain to distinguish sound more effectively.

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.

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.