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.

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.

SUMMER TRAVEL TIPS FOR HEARING AIDS

Summer travel is a great and see new places and take a break from work or everyday life. Traveling may seem a bit more complicated if you have hearing loss, however, so here are some tips to make traveling the relaxing venture it was meant to be.

Hearing Loss and Traveling

When you have hearing loss, problems can arise while traveling. When you are in an unfamiliar environment, you may not recognize sounds such as warnings like smoke alarms, you may miss announcements at the airport or other locations, or hotel room telephones.

You may not have access to other usual conveniences such as accommodation for hearing dogs or sign language interpreters.

Planning Your Travel

Many of these issues can be sidestepped with proper planning, and you can relax and enjoy your vacation.

Here are some tips to simplify your travel:

  • If you are arranging your travel with a travel agent, see if it’s possible to plan your your trip in person to guarantee thorough communication and adequate planning for your whole trip. Most agents will be happy to contact airlines, hotels and other destinations to make reservations and accommodations.
  • Try to make as many travel arrangements in advance as possible and be sure to get a hard copy of the confirmation so you can check that everything is accurate. Also let someone at each destination know that you have a hearing issue, so they can make accommodations before your arrival.
  • We can access most of the resources we need on the internet: maps, confirmation numbers, reservations, and itineraries as well as other information to make sure your trip goes according to plan.
  • Always arrive early to the train station, airport, or bus terminal. Let a representative know you about your limitations so they can alert you to boarding calls and other relevant announcement.
  • Before boarding, always confirm your destination and flight number. Pay attention to the display board so you don’t miss changes in status or other information.
  • On airplanes, aisle seats may help you to more easily communicate with flight staff. Let them know you are hearing impaired when you board so they can communicate important messages.
  • Your fellow travelers can also be very helpful—all you have to do is ask– you may even make a new friend!

Traveling with Hearing Aids

If you use a hearing device, a little extra preparation will go a long way to make sure you don’t have unexpected issues during your travels.

  • You may want to bring a dehumidifier if you have one to prevent unanticipated moisture in other cliamtes.
  • While en route, try to carry your hearing aid equipment so you aren’t stuck without it if your luggage is lost temporarily.
  • Having extra tubing and batteries for your hearing aids can be a lifesaver if you need them and don’t have a place to buy them at your destination.

With foresight and preparation, you can have a great vacation!

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

YOUR HEARING: WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

We often take our hearing, and the sounds in our everyday world, for granted.

Stop for a moment and just listen. Hear the wind chimes from the neighbor or the humming of an air conditioner. The traffic a mile away or a dog barking.

From the time we are born, our hearing is mostly an automatic function. Our ears bring in the sound and our brains interpret it, as easily as breathing. In reality, even basic hearing is a complex and fascinating process. Here are a few things you may not know about how we hear.

Your Brain is in Control

Our ears bring sound in, but what happens after that? Just like our brains are vital to processing images that our eyes see, our brains are necessary for making sense of what sounds our ears hear. The outer ear funnels sound into the inner ear, which then translates the sound into electrical impulses along the auditory nerve. The brain receives these electrical impulses and interprets them to give them meaning to us.

One Ear is More Emotional than the Other One

If you have hearing loss, you may have noticed that one ear is worse than the other. In our bodies there is often a slight imbalance: one eye sees better than the other, one foot is slightly larger than the other. Did you know that your two ears also prefer different sounds?

Research has uncovered that the right and left ears don’t process sound in the same way. The left ear is typically more attuned to hearing music and emotion, while the right ear is more responsive to logic and speech. It is believed that this is the case because the right hemisphere of the brain processes music and other creative functions, while the left hemisphere of the brain processes speech.

This could also be the key to why people with hearing loss that is worse in the left ear sometimes have trouble understanding emotional issues expressed by their loved ones, and people who lose hearing more in their right ear begin to have difficulty with organization.

Your Listening Comprehension Depends on…Hair?

Did you know that your inner ear contains tiny hair cells that are vital to proper hearing and understanding the world around you?

The hair cells in the inner ear, known as stereocilia, accept sound vibrations that your ears collect and they transform those vibrations into electrical impulses that can be interpreted by the brain. You have about 16,000 of these tiny hair cells rolled up like a rug inside of your inner ear, and without them you can’t hear or understand the world around you. These hair cells don’t grow back once they die, and they can be damaged by loud noises and decreased blood flow when you are in poor health. So protect your hearing and your tiny ear hair cells by turning the music down and staying healthy!

Have You Noticed Hearing Loss Makes You Tired? You Are Not Alone

Since hearing has been an involuntary process for most of our lives, when our hearing becomes more difficult it also becomes more physically and emotionally draining. You are forced to concentrate harder to understand the world around you, so by the end of the day you may be exhausted.

The good news is that this can be remedied with today’s hearing aids. They assist your ears and your brain by helping you hear and understand your environment more clearly, so you don’t have to get so tired trying to hear things around you.

If you think that hearing loss may be influencing you and making you feel fatigued, come in for a hearing screening today and see how hearing devices may alleviate this burden.

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

PROTECT YOUR HEARING AND STILL ENJOY CONCERTS!

With summertime comes fun in the sun and outdoors at concerts and picnics.  It’s the time for beach visits and laying out by the pool, park outings, and outdoor concerts when the day cools into evening. Festivals and concerts are a great change meet new friends, hear great music and hang out outside.

One thing that all concerts are is loud, however: often the noise levels are in more than 100 decibels! We know that hearing loss can happen at noise levels that are higher than 80 dB, it’s vital that we take precautions to guard our hearing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy summer festivities!

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and Youth

An estimated 1.1 billion youth world-wide have been affected by noise-induced hearing damage. Energetic and adventurous, young people often gather in loud environments such as night clubs, sporting events and concerts, which often have very loud music or noise from crowds.

Even a short period of exposure to loud music can cause hearing damage, so it is important to find ways to protect your ears before going to these venues.

In one Amsterdam study in 2015, the effects on hearing of wearing earplugs or not wearing them was measured for outdoor concert-goers. 25 people wore earplugs to the concert and 26 people went without them. Of those, In the 4.5-hours concert, temporary hearing loss was measured in 22 of the 26 unprotected participants.

In contrast, only 4 people of the 25 wearing earplugs showed any hearing damage at all. Since repeated occurrences of temporary hearing loss can lead to permanent hearing loss, preventing even temporary hearing damage is crucial to long-term hearing health.

What Should I Do?

When worn during exposure to loud noises, earplugs can help to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. So next time you attend a sporting event, concert, or night club consider grabbing a pair of earplugs first.

Though this type of hearing loss is often temporary, remember that repeated exposure can have long-term effects and eventually become permanent damage. Sounds being muffled or difficulty hearing quiet sounds are some symptoms of hearing loss. If you experience any of these symptoms, please see your audiologist for a hearing screening to check on the level of damage and if anything can be done to prevent further hearing loss.

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 THE SEVERITY OF TINNITUS ORIGINATE IN THE BRAIN?

Ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus, can be a debilitating problem for the millions of people who suffer in the U.S. Some who are affected by tinnitus, however, do not suffer any major symptoms. Recent studies show that a person’s experience with tinnitus originates with the brain, not the ears.

One study from the University of Illinois found that sounds are processed differently in the brains of those with tinnitus than those without it. Even among people who have tinnitus, however, there are differences between how sound is processed in the brain.

Tinnitus is more a symptom than a disease in and of itself. Another trauma or condition may be the source of the symptom, which could stem from ototoxic medications or exposure to loud noise. It is important to understand more about the causes of tinnitus, because across America it is estimated that 25 million people are affected by it. Since there is no cure but only treatments that manage symptoms, understanding how to avoid or lessen its effects will prove useful for sufferers of tinnitus.

How Emotional Sounds Affect Tinnitus

Researchers have pinpointed changes in blood oxygen levels in the brain when exposed to different types of sounds. First they looked at the differences in sound processing between people with tinnitus compared to those without it. Sounds were introduced that were considered “pleasant” (children giggling), “unpleasant” (a baby crying) or “neutral” (a bottle being opened).

Areas of the Brain and Emotions

The study found brain engagement in different areas of the brain for emotion-triggering sounds for people with tinnitus than those without. They then took the study a step further and found that people who experience worse symptoms of tinnitus processed emotional sounds in different parts of the brain than those that described their symptoms as less severe.

This helps explain why some sufferers of tinnitus describe their symptoms as very severe and others say it doesn’t bother them at all. It shows that the severity of tinnitus can vary greatly from one person to the next because the level of distress caused by the symptoms varies.

Some people say tinnitus doesn’t affect their lives, and others report consequences such as irritability, mood swings, insomnia, anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts. The study showed that people who report less severe symptoms processed emotions primarily through the frontal lobe of the brain, while others processed emotions primarily in the amygdala portion of the brain.

Creating Treatment Options for Tinnitus

This research can help us to better understand why tinnitus causes more distress in some people than in others, and may lead to more effective treatment and therapy that can target the source of the distress.

Since hearing loss and tinnitus are often connected, visiting your audiologist when you begin to experience tinnitus symptoms may also help you to delay or prevent hearing damage. Sufferers of both tinnitus and hearing loss often find that hearing aids can also alleviate both issues. 

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

ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR HEARING AIDS

The holidays are a time of friends, family, laughter and warmth for many people, but all of this festivity takes preparation and planning. This is no less true when it comes to enjoying the season with hearing aids. Holiday parties can be noisy endeavors with a lot of entertainment and background noise. Now is a great time to learn how to take advantage of all of the benefits hearing aids have to offer!

If you can, visit your audiologist before the holiday parties and get a tune-up for your hearing aids. While you are there, ask your audiology a few questions.

Maintaining hearing aids: make sure the microphones are clean and the software for the noise-reduction components are working correctly. If you’ll be traveling or away from your home for an extended period, it’s also a good idea to have some spare tubing and batteries.

Be aware of your listening environment. Family functions can become loud with background noise, music and conversation. Find out what noise-canceling features your hearing aids have and learn how to use them for optimal function before you go to these events. If you plan to do any skiing or being outside during the winter, ensure you have the proper accessories to protect your hearing aids against moisture and wind, and hold them in place during activities.

When you go to holiday parties, know your hearing aid’s capabilities to block background noise and assist you in conversation. Let your hosts know your limitations with hearing loss so they can help make sure you are seated away from the noisier parts of the house, such as the television or kitchen, to make sure you have the best chance possible to enjoy the conversation without difficulty. When eating at a restaurant, try to avoid peak times by going earlier or dining on a weeknight so the background noise will be at a minimum.

If you go to a holiday performance, check to see if they offer listening devices that can help you isolate the performance sounds and minimize background noise and echoes. Sitting at the front can also help you to hear more clearly. Carrying an extra set of batteries for your hearing aid wherever you go can definitely help as well, just in case.

We hope you have a warm, festive holiday season!

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

Smart Hearing Devices: Take Your Hearing Into the Future!

Our world is full of smart devices: from phones and cameras to TVs and even our electricity meters—our technology is smarter than ever! What does “smart” mean, exactly? It means our devices can communicate with each other, whether it be via apps on our phones or a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. These smart devices make our lives easier by simplifying things we do every day.

Not to be left behind, hearing devices are now also smart! Not only can modern hearing devices communicate with other devices around us like our televisions and smart phones, they can even learn our preferences and adjust accordingly to deliver better sound quality and performance.

They Adjust To Your Environment

Hearing devices can gather auditory information from your environment and determine your listening needs from the situation. Because the environment in an outdoor park is very different from that of a baseball game, your listening needs will vary based on that environment. As you move from one place to the next, the hearing device can automatically adjust to optimize performance in that environment.

Make Manual Adjustments With Your Phone

Another advantage of smart hearing devices is the ability of a smart-phone to make adjustments that used to be manual. Taking out a hearing aid to adjust it is inconvenient and makes wearing them less discreet. With smart devices, these adjustments can now be made with the touch of a button on your smartphone.

They Learn Your Preferences

Smart hearing devices can also learn from the adjustments you make, and automatically adjust for you in future similar situations. So you will have to make less manual adjustments over time, and your hearing device will keep everything sounding seamless and clear.

They Connect To Each Other

Smart hearing devices are also wirelessly connected to each other, so an adjustment made to one affects both devices equally, and will require less hassle. This helps both ears to hear equally and accurately, and work together to help the brain process sounds.

They’re Interactive

Smart hearing aids can also help you to do things people without hearing aids can’t do: like stream music, a phone call or a television show straight to your ears and adjust the volume to your personal preference. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology effectively transform your hearing devices into HD stereo ear sets. You can even answer a call without touching your phone and adjust the volume on your TV without a remote!

Smart-phone apps for you hearing device help you to control your hearing aids discreetly, from adjusting the volume or treble to changing the direction of microphones. This makes adjusting your hearing device much easier than having to remove it and adjust it manually.

They Reduce Background Noise

These smart hearing devices are better than ever at blocking out disruptive background noise and helping your brain to pinpoint the sound you are trying to hear, whether you’re at a busy restaurant, a sporting event, or even blocking the sound of wind on a blustery day!

Smart hearing devices can help make your life easier every day, from work to play and back home. Come in and check out some of the latest hearing technology we have to offer, and you’ll see how these devices can make wearing hearing aids more convenient and effortless than ever!

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