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

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

WHAT IS VERTIGO AND WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

Though there are different types of Vertigo, they are all caused by issues with the inner ear.

One type is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, which can be caused by a build-up of small particles of calcium in the inner ear. Another cause can be Vestibular neuritis, which is an infection in the nerves of the inner ear. Meniere’s disease can also be the culprit, causing fluid retention in the inner ear. Vertigo is marked by a dizziness that will not abate. You may feel off-balance or like you are spinning, or even that everything else is moving. This can give you the feeling of being pulled in one direction and can make it difficult to keep your balance.

Dizziness is the most common symptom of Vertigo, but did you know there are other symptoms as well?

Symptoms and Side Effects of Vertigo

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is another common symptom that can accompany Vertigo. At first the ringing or buzzing sounds may only be in conjunction with episodes of Vertigo, but some people experience an escalation as the noise becomes more intense and continual.

Migraines can be a symptom of Vertigo, and they can be caused by fluid or calcium particle build-up in the inner ear.

Nausea can also accompany Vertigo (as well as migraines), as you feel off-balance or as if you are spinning. In severe cases, vomiting can result.

Eye twitching, also called nystagmus, can be a symptom of Vertigo. Stress and fatigue can cause the eyelid muscles to spasm for hours or even days. Rest will most often relieve this symptom.

Hearing loss may follow episodes of Vertigo, especially if it is caused by Meniere’s disease. Low-frequency, progressive hearing loss in a single ear is commonly experienced in these cases. Additionally you may find your hearing loses quality: becoming tinny or even experiencing pain with loud noises. Ultimately if progression continues, deafness in one ear can result.

Panic Attacks can occur as a result of anxiety from not knowing when the next episode of Vertigo will occur.

Sweating is a common side effect of Vertigo as well. Vertigo attacks can cause sweating because they often cause panic, which results in sweating, as well as chills.

Fatigue can also be a result of Vertigo, because the state of feeling constantly unbalanced can be physically exhausting. The uncertainty of when an episode may occur can also cause worry and mental stress that can make a person tired.

Ear pressure, or a feeling of “fullness” inside of the ear, also called Aural Fullness, can be caused by barometric shifts and be an accompanying sign of Vertigo. This can sometimes be triggered by pressure changes, such as when ascending or descending in an airplane.

Vertigo is often temporary, but if there is an underlying condition that is causing it, that should be addressed to resolve or alleviate the issue. Seeing your doctor to determine the cause is necessary to know what treatment is needed. A visit to your audiologist for a hearing screening is also important to ensure your hearing is not affected.

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.

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.

EAR BUDS MAY LEAD TO HEARING LOSS But it Can Be Avoided!

Ear buds and headphones are a great way to have your own personalized entertainment experience wherever you go. Whether you like to listen to music or watch your favorite video content on your phone, ear buds are necessary to listen to audio in a public setting.

Since ear buds are speakers inside of your ear canal, however, they can cause hearing damage, even without us realizing it. Irreversible hearing loss can result from loud noises, and if the volume goes too high for too long, you could be at risk for hearing damage. Studies have shown that as many as 1 in 5 young people may already suffer from hearing damage, because of the ubiquitous and constant use of ear buds.

Noise-induced hearing loss can occur in one of two ways: from a sudden, loud noise such as an explosion, or from ongoing exposure, such as working in a factory setting or constantly listening to loud music.

When ear buds rest in your ear canal, the sound effect can be boosted by up to 9 decibels. Since 85 decibels is the threshold for hearing damage, this extra 9 decibels may just push the sound over that limit and begin to damage your hearing.

None of this is to say that you should never wear ear buds or head phones. Here are a few suggestions to minimize damage and prevent noise-induced hearing loss from your ear buds:

  • Custom ear buds can be made that fit your ear canal perfectly. This serves to effectively block out outside noise, so you don’t feel the need to increase the volume in noisy environments.
  • Earbuds that fit tightly into your ear canal can serve the same purpose as custom earbuds by sealing into your ear and blocking background noise.
  • Use the 60/60 rule: always keep the volume under 60% and try not to use them for more than 60 minutes per day.
  • Wear “ear-muff” style headphones instead of ear buds.
  • Alert young people in your life of this information; since hearing damage is irreversible, education is important.

With just a little bit of effort, you can preserve your hearing and still enjoy personal entertainment wherever you go.

Since 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.

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.

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.