Celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month with a Hearing Test!

September is celebrated globally as World Alzheimer’s Month. How does that concern our hearing practice? Alzheimer’s disease is one of the strongest-associated conditions with untreated hearing loss. Recently, The Lancet published a report on the global state of Alzheimer’s, acknowledging that 40% of cases are brought about by a combination of 12 modifiable risk factors. For reference, these are:

    • Excessive alcohol consumption
    • Traumatic brain injury
    • Air pollution
    • Inadequate education up to age 20
    • Hypertension
    • Smoking
    • Obesity
    • Depression
    • Lack of exercise
    • Diabetes
    • Social isolation
    • Hearing loss

Obviously, while some of these risk factors are within the power of an individual to control, others will require concerted group efforts put forward by governmental organizations around the world. And while hearing loss is itself on this list, many of the other factors are also risk factors for hearing loss.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. Dementia is a progressive brain disorder characterized by memory troubles, cognitive problems, behavioral issues and abnormal mood shifts. While there are other forms of dementia, somewhere between 60-80% of cases fall under the Alzheimer’s disease umbrella. 

Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging but a disorder that is caused by the buildup of plaque and protein “tangles” in parts of the brain. Usually diagnosed consequent of obvious memory trouble, Alzheimer’s patients generally live about 4-8 years after diagnosis, though sometimes live up to 20 years. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th most common cause of death in the United States.

The Link Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Loss

While the link between dementia and hearing loss has been statistically established beyond a doubt by multiple studies in different corners of the globe, it’s not yet known exactly why this link exists. One thing that is clear is that hearing aids help slow or prevent the onset of dementia – and Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of the condition. 

There are two main theories as to why hearing loss might lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Hearing Loss, Social Isolation and Alzheimer’s Disease

The first has to do with social isolation. As hearing loss progresses, it becomes more and more difficult to participate in conversations. It’s fatiguing to try to keep up with what’s being said when we need to piece sentences together from partial understanding and context clues. Social events become a chore, and our time with friends and family becomes exhausting.

The link between hearing loss and social isolation, loneliness and depression is well-established, and this is how it begins. Once we begin to withdraw from social life, the unfortunate trajectory is laid out for us: social isolation is a definite risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Hearing Loss, Brain Atrophy and Alzheimer’s Disease

A second theory about how hearing loss is connected to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease has to do with the atrophy of the auditory cortex. This phenomenon is seen in many patients whose hearing loss has gone untreated for a long time.

As hearing loss progresses and the brain sees less information coming to it from the ears, the auditory cortex literally begins to shrink. The brain cells do not die, but the grey matter supporting the neural network shrinks in size.

The effects of this process are seen when a person who has been living with hearing loss for a long time finally gets hearing aids: they’ve lost the ability to understand speech! Luckily, with some effort and frequent use of their hearing aids, they can retrain their brains to comprehend speech. Many audiologists offer training courses to help those who are new to hearing aids to get comfortable listening to speech again.

If hearing aids never enter the picture, it’s possible that this atrophy of the auditory cortex proceeds to earlier onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Better Diet and Exercise

While hearing aids are a big part of the picture in terms of staving off Alzheimer’s disease, research strongly indicates that an anti-inflammatory diet such as the Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED) or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) can both help slow the progress of age-related hearing loss as well as Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, a healthy diet is also an important measure toward preventing other problems throughout the body such as cardiovascular disease. Exercise in mid-life is also strongly recommended to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit organization, recommends getting a hearing test once every decade until age 50, and once every three years after that. If you’re due for a hearing test, contact us today and keep up with your hearing health, brain health, and general sense of well-being.

5 Facts & Fictions about Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a much more common health issue than you may think. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 1 in 8 people (ages 12 and older) have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. This means that over 40 million people navigate daily life with impaired hearing. 

Though hearing loss is a pervasive condition, there are numerous misconceptions that prevent people from being proactive about their hearing health. Additionally, because it often happens gradually, it can be easily overlooked or ignored for quite some time. Untreated hearing loss can not only worsen the impairment, but contribute to the development of other chronic medical conditions such as cognitive decline (leading to dementia). 

To expand your understanding of hearing loss, let’s explore a few common misconceptions! 

 

Fiction: Hearing loss only impacts older adults

Fact: Hearing loss can and is experienced by people of all ages.

While age-related hearing loss (known as presbycusis) does significantly impact older adults: 

  • 25% of adults ages 65-74 have some degree of hearing loss 
  • 50% of adults 75 and older have disabling hearing loss 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that 20% of adults in their 20s also experience hearing loss. Additionally, millions of younger adults are at risk of developing noise induced hearing loss. As electronic devices have become integral to how we live in an increasingly digital world, we are constantly listening to music, podcasts, streaming a show etc. Headphones and earbuds are common accessories that we regularly utilize. This increases the risk of absorbing potentially harmful sounds that contribute to hearing loss. 

 

Fiction: It isn’t a serious health condition

Fact: Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition that adults experience. It is also a permanent condition that cannot be cured and if untreated, it can lead to significant health issues. 

A common misconception is that hearing loss is not as serious of a condition because it is not life-threatening or fatal. But the first crucial thing to know is that hearing loss is a permanent condition meaning that it is not curable. Additionally, impaired hearing can impact all aspects of life as it strains communication – integral to the foundation for how we live our lives. Strained communication affects relationships, job performance, social engagement, and overall health. Lastly, untreated hearing loss can contribute to the development of cognitive decline, personal injuries, and unemployment.  

 

Fiction: Speaking louder solves the problem 

Fact: impaired hearing cannot be cured but effectively managed. Speaking loudly is not particularly useful and can actually make things worse. 

It is often assumed that if speaking loudly (shouting even) fixes the issue. However, increased volume can actually further distort the sound of speech, making it even more difficult to hear and process. This also is not a sustainable practice for effective communication. 

 

Fiction: Loud noise can’t cause permanent damage

Fact: absorbing loud noise is one of the causes of a type of hearing loss known as noise induced hearing loss. 

According to the CDC, “17% of adults aged 20–69 years (approximately 26 million) have suffered permanent damage to their hearing from excessive exposure to noise”. Sound is measured in decibels and noise above 85 decibels is potentially dangerous for our hearing health. We can be exposed to increased volumes of noise at concerts, sporting events, work, construction sites etc. Exposure to loud noise strains the hair cells in the inner ear which help translate soundwaves into electrical signals for the brain to process. The inner ear is filled with thousands of these hair cells that are sensitive and do not regenerate (unlike other types of cells). This means that when they lose sensitivity, this damage is permanent and prevents them from carrying out their critical function. This results in noise induced hearing loss. 

 

Fiction: Hearing aids cure hearing loss 

Fact: hearing aids effectively treat, but do not cure, hearing loss. 

Hearing aids are the most common way that hearing loss is treated. These small electronic devices are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound which significantly increases one’s ability to hear. It takes time to retrain your auditory system and integrate this piece of technology into daily life. But the various features and technologies hearing aids utilize, hearing health can be drastically improved! 

Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

Things People with Hearing Loss Wish You Knew

Hearing loss is an increasingly common health condition that millions of people navigate on a daily basis. Though nearly 1 in 8 people have some degree of hearing loss, there are numerous misconceptions about the condition. This perpetuates the stigma associated with impaired hearing which prevents people from learning more about it. 

Because hearing loss is not a visible health issue, there are people you may know or interact with that experience it without you being necessarily aware.  Hearing loss can significantly strain communication, making conversations challenging. 

There are numerous useful pieces of information that people with hearing loss wish you knew which can help facilitate more effective communication.  

 

Hearing takes work 

Hearing loss demands more energy to hear and follow conversations. People with hearing loss have difficulty absorbing and processing sound as easily as people without hearing loss. This results in expending more energy and using more brain power to hear as much as possible. People with hearing loss may also be using other communication cues (reading mouths, nonverbal communication, facial expressions etc.) to follow the conversation. This additional effort can often be exhausting and leave people feeling drained.  

 

Louder isn’t the best strategy

One common misconception about hearing loss is that people can simply speak louder (even shout) so that others can hear “better”. Increasing volume can actually further distort the sound and make it even harder to understand. So, talking loudly does not automatically mean that the speech is clearer! 

 

Do not assume they’re not listening

It can appear that someone with hearing loss seems distant or distracted during a conversation. They may not pick up on or react to things said in whispers, discreet jokes, or an “excuse me,” but this does not mean that they are not listening. In fact, they are overworking themselves in trying to hear, reading both verbal and nonverbal communication to fully grasp what is being said. 

 

Hearing aids take time

Hearing aids do not work in the same way that glasses do. Glasses immediately enhance vision as soon as they are worn. Hearing aids however, take time to adjust to. They are complex pieces of technology that need to be properly programmed to meet one’s hearing needs in the various environments they navigate. Establishing comfortability and the best settings takes time and practice. Additionally, the brain needs to get used to processing sound with the help of this device. 

 

Stay engaged 

Having a conversation with someone navigating hearing loss can be difficult at first. It requires more attentiveness and patience to ensure that what you are communicating is being received. This can cause conversations to be slower or for you to have to repeat things you’ve said. It is important to not give up and stay engaged in the conversation. With time and by implementing useful strategies, communication can flow smoothly. 

 

Tips for Effective Communication

Conversations require all people involved to engage in ways that enhance communication. There are helpful tips that you can practice to facilitate effective communication including the following: 

  • Rather than repeating exactly what you’ve said, try rephrasing. There are specific types of sound that may be harder for some to process so using different words can be helpful. 
  • Do what you can to reduce background noise. Environments with louder noise can make it more challenging to hear. When applicable, turn down any music, television, refrain from speaking over appliances etc. 
  • Before speaking, make sure to grab the person’s attention so that they are prepared for the conversation. 
  • Avoid doing things that could distract from the conversation: eating, drinking, texting etc. This allows people to read body language which helps communication. 
  • Avoid speaking for the person. You may find yourself wanting to order for them or intervene if you see them struggling but it is important to remember that they can express their own needs and opinions. Rather, you can ask if anything can be clarified. 

Being aware of a person’s hearing needs and ways that you can best meet those needs is an incredibly useful way to be helpful and supportive. This creates the conditions for seamless conversation that helps relationships thrive! 

Investing in Your Health: Treating Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition that older adults experience. Projected to continue to increase, impaired hearing is a growing public health epidemic. Hearing loss is the reduced ability to hear which can significantly impact the ways a person navigates their daily life. 

If left untreated, the impairment can worsen, lead to the development of other medical conditions, and increase one’s risk of personal injury in addition to: unemployment, underemployment, and cognitive decline. 

Fortunately, there are useful ways that hearing loss is treated. Addressing hearing loss is critical to protecting your health and well-being. Treatment can significantly improve communication, relationships, and quality of life!

 

Understanding Hearing Loss 

Hearing loss is much more common than you may initially think. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:

  • 1 in 8 people have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears 
  •  Nearly 25% of adults ages 65-74 have hearing loss 
  • This increase to 50% for adults 75 and older

There are various factors that can contribute to hearing loss including

  • Existing medical conditions: such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity can contribute to the development of impaired hearing.
  • Genetic history: one’s genetic history can impact hearing, it is possible to inherit mutated genes that affect the auditory system. 
  • Environmental exposure to loud noise: consistently absorbing loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear which help the brain process sound. 

Hearing loss can be experienced mildly to severely and often makes communication difficult. 

 

Impact of Hearing Loss 

The sense of hearing is a major way we receive and process information, allowing us to make sense of the world. When this sense is impaired, engaging in daily activities and managing responsibilities becomes challenging. This can impact all aspect of one’s life in numerous ways including the following: 

  • Straining Communication: hearing loss results in many barriers preventing effective hearing. People often experience tinnitus – a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears, sounds are muffled, difficulty distinguishing words, missing parts of a sentence etc. This makes hearing clearly and thoroughly a challenge. It can lead to miscommunication and missing critical details. People may also feel like you are not present and engaged in the conversation. But what they may perceive as being distracted, is actually you trying to hear as best you can.  
  • Social Withdrawal: in addition to stretching yourself in trying to hear, you may frequently ask others to repeat themselves, speak loudly and/or slowly, need to move to a quieter area to have a conversation etc. The culmination of all of these effects makes having conversations a lot of work. One can experience serious fatigue and desire to avoid social interaction altogether. This includes avoiding gatherings, social activities, parties, events etc. Isolating oneself in this way means spending less time with family and friends, missing out on important moments, and nurturing connections. This creates distance and tension in relationships and can really affect one’s sense of community and belonging.
  • Overall Health Decline: strained communication and social withdrawal can take a toll on one’s mental and emotional health. It can contribute to loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, hearing loss increases the risk of developing other medical conditions such as cognitive decline and personal injuries. 

If left untreated, these symptoms can deepen and become overwhelming. It is important to intervene as soon as you can to improve your health and wellness!

 

Benefits of Treatment 

The great news is that there are effective ways to treat hearing loss! The first step is to schedule an appointment with a hearing healthcare specialist to have your hearing assessed. 

Hearing tests are noninvasive, and a relatively simple way to determine your hearing ability in both ears as well as measure the degree (and specific type) of hearing loss you may be experiencing. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are small, electronic devices that are designed to absorb, amplify, and process sound; significantly increasing one’s ability to hear. This can profoundly improve your quality of life by: 

  • Strengthening communication
  • Increasing confidence and independence 
  • Protecting your health 

Treating hearing loss  allows you to navigate your life with greater ease and presence! Contact us today to schedule an appointment. 

Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

Are you grappling with untreated hearing loss? You might find it difficult to follow conversations, or get lost in group conversations. 

If this sounds like you, you might be anxious about revealing your hearing loss, and wondering if others have already noticed. If you’re wondering if you should reveal your hearing loss, the answer is undoubted, yes, but let’s look at what is holding you back from doing so. 

 

The stigma of hearing loss

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of shame surrounding hearing loss in our culture today. Those who find it hardest to admit their hearing loss to others may be doing so because the failure of our hearing represents a break – suddenly the individual fears they are becoming more dependent on others, after having lived a life of independence. Due to these complex and unnerving thoughts, many people choose to ignore the problem and conceal that they have trouble hearing.

Similarly, culture also correlates hearing loss with getting older. Thus, many may feel that using hearing aids to enhance their hearing makes them appear “old.” Similarly, people often believe treating their hearing loss with hearing aids makes them look less attractive.

So, how can we banish the hearing loss stigma once and for all? It won’t be easy, but we can start by promoting an atmosphere of empathy and inclusiveness for those with hearing loss by encouraging the general public to be more accepting. 

Another thing we can do is to encourage those who have untreated hearing loss to be more open. This has a more significant effect on hearing loss outcomes than you would think – that’s according to a 2015 study conducted by Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers, most people use one of three disclosure methods to communicate about their hearing loss. 

Here are the three methods, and the effects they have on the individual dealing with hearing loss. 

 

Method #1: Non-disclosure

Non-disclosure refers to the method of not disclosing a hearing loss. Often, the condition is disguised by placing the responsibility for communication on the other person.

For example: “I can’t hear what you’re saying. Please speak up. “This approach keeps the condition hidden from others while helping the individual postpone treatment of their hearing loss further.

 

Method #2: Basic Disclosure

Basic disclosure is a method used by those reports that they have hearing loss and may offer explanations about their condition. For example, a person may say, “I served in Afghanistan and came back with hearing loss.”

While this method is better than a non-disclosure, it doesn’t offer a solution for facilitating better communication. 

 

Method #3: Multipurpose disclosure

Multipurpose disclosure is used to identify those who reveal their hearing loss and explain the best way to improve communication flow. 

For example, a person may say: “it’s tough to hear anything here with this noise. Can we talk outside?”.

 

For a better experience with hearing loss, use the multipurpose approach.

The researchers were under no illusions about which method yielded the best results for the person with hearing loss. 

“We think patients should be encouraged to realize that these approaches, particularly the multipurpose disclosure approach, are accessible to them,” According to the lead author Dr. Stankovic. “Hearing loss is an invisible disability; however, it may improve communication by asking people to slow down or face someone with hearing loss while speaking.”

The researchers suggest educating people with hearing loss about using the multipurpose disclosure with those they interact with regularly.

 

Don’t forget your employer

About 60 percent of working Americans have some hearing loss. It’s crucial to disclose your hearing loss to your employer because it may help you get accommodations on the job, which will keep you performing. This is because employers are required by law to provide reasonable accommodations for workers with hearing loss.

Maintaining your performance with hearing loss at work may require some subtle adjustments, such as a new phone headset, maybe a change in your schedule or shift in duties to work in a quieter environment, or subtly shifting your desk to relieve a noise problem. 

There are also technological advancements that will allow you to keep being a valuable team member. Don’t forget you can also ask for vital information to be sent in an email!

 

Treating Hearing Loss

Once you have used the multipurpose disclosure method to those you interact with regularly, it’s time to get a hearing aid if you haven’t already done so. This will help improve your ability to hear in all situations. 

To make an appointment for a hearing test and consultation, please take the opportunity to contact our team today. 

All About Tinnitus

Have you ever heard a ringing in your ears after attending a noisy concert? That sound is what we call tinnitus. 

Tinnitus is often defined as a ringing sound in the ears, but it is possible to find other types. For example, it can seem to come from one ear, both ears or in the head. It may sound like a variety of different sounds, not just ringing. 

That noise in quiet times is something that nobody else can detect. Tinnitus can last for just one night and then disappear, but it may never completely go away for some. It may happen at any age, but it is more common for people over the age of 65 and may develop suddenly or progress slowly over time.

 

What kinds of tinnitus exist?

Two principal types of tinnitus exist. 

The first, subjective tinnitus, is a sound that can only be heard by the individual it experiences. It tends to be caused by a problem, also known as the auditory nervous system, along the pathway between the ear and brain. 

The second type, objective tinnitus, is quite rare. This form is triggered by a sound inside the body that a doctor with the right equipment can hear. 

Let’s take a moment to consider the causes and treatments available for tinnitus.

 

Causes of tinnitus

Most tinnitus occurs when the inner ear’s tiny hair-like cells are damaged. When these hair cells function as intended, they send electrical impulses to the brain, which differ depending on the type of sound they have detected. With a remarkable degree of precision, these fragile cells can detect subtle differences in tone. However, if bent or split, these hair-like cells can sometimes send along an electrical disturbance that registers as sound. 

There are many reasons why these cells could be bent or broken. Age-related hearing loss and loud noise exposure are the most common causes of this type of damage leading to tinnitus. 

Although your mind may immediately go to the loud sounds associated with an explosion, car crash, or industrial machines, you may be surprised at some of the other tinnitus-causing sounds. The volume of noise from your earbuds or headphones can be enough to cause that hearing damage. Even though exposure to loud noise from a concert, sporting event, or dance club typically only causes acute ringing in the ears, permanent damage may also occur. 

As well as the common causes of tinnitus, more rare causes of tinnitus can result from an earwax buildup, Meniere ‘s disease, TMJ, injuries, muscle spasms, and even changes in bone structure.

 

Preventing tinnitus

As mentioned, tinnitus often comes from exposure to loud sounds. That’s why it is crucial to wear hearing protection whenever exposed to loud noises to avoid this type of tinnitus. 

Those whose workplaces expose them to noise should consult their management about what can be done to limit exposure, but they should also be sure to wear the hearing protection that is provided and required by law. 

Another crucial preventive measure is to limit headphone use and volume, including earbuds. Through using these devices loud volumes, even very young people can damage their ears, so make sure they keep the time with headphones to a limited time each day.

 

Treatments for tinnitus

At the moment, there is no way to cure tinnitus medically. But many treatment options can make the noises less noticeable.

Sound Therapy: Many people find noise machines very calming, particularly when getting to sleep. There are even different smartphone apps or online videos that play specific “tinnitus masking music,” making tinnitus entirely unnoticeable.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy ( CBT): Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a kind of talk therapy that is very useful to help people cope better with their tinnitus. It equips patients with mental tools to handle the ringing in their ears and prevent it from interfering with their everyday lives.

Hearing aids for tinnitus: Many hearing aids increase the user’s overall ‘sound level’ experience, which could help them ignore their tinnitus sounds better. Modern hearing aids may help to alleviate tinnitus by producing a sound that hides the tinnitus in question.

Although hearing aids are usually not recommended in cases involving tinnitus with no hearing loss, considering that the two conditions are often related, it is advisable to check your hearing if you experience tinnitus. The test is painless and straightforward, and it is best to learn early on that you have a degree of hearing loss, so you can make lifestyle changes and schedule routine additional hearing tests to keep track of your hearing.

If you have a life-altering degree of hearing loss, wearing hearing aids should begin as soon as possible. The adverse effects of untreated hearing loss are numerous and profound. Schedule an appointment with us today to set up a hearing test.

Veterans and Hearing Loss

Veterans – particularly those who served in war zones – have levels of hearing loss considerably higher than the general population. Seeing that 20 percent of the U.S. population has some degree of hearing loss, veteran rates are disturbingly high. 

Hearing loss and tinnitus are among the most extensive injuries among soldiers who have served overseas. A Department of Veterans Affairs official overview, 2017 Benefits Survey, confirms this. Sadly, due to the highly noisy environments and equipment that troops encounter and operate regularly, such numbers are still growing.

 

The importance of ear protection

In the military, there is so much hearing loss because, in general, the armed forces feature some of the noisiest working environments of all occupations. 

Many sailors work below decks in high-noise environments, packed with continuous engine noises and metal-on-metal noise. 

Similarly, soldiers spend much of their day in or around heavy vehicles like tanks or transportation carriers in the army or marines. Add to this the sporadic sounds of gunshots and explosions, and you have a recipe for tinnitus and hearing loss. 

With this in mind, it’s no wonder that the military works to produce standard-issue protective devices for workers. 

 

Why ear protection today is better than you think

There is a common misconception among some service members that ear protection can impair communications during combat missions and impede efficient performance on the battlefield. That may have been true in the past, but technical developments have allowed hearing safety and communications to exist side-by-side. 

Standard earplugs can indeed interfere with communication requirements, effectively blocking too much noise. However, the latest technology earplugs use a filter that enables you to hear soft sounds still but eliminate high-frequency or impulse noise, such as noise from a gunshot or an explosion.

In this way, current service members do get the best of both worlds. 

 

Beware of low-quality hearing protection.

However, it is possible that an ineffective product or defective design could slip through the quality control process when buying safety equipment in bulk. In some instances, manufacturers may be marketing a commodity that is not working correctly.

There have been a few recent controversies surrounding hearing protection companies. For example, a case came to court in 2016, claiming that a hearing protection product sold to the military didn’t provide adequate hearing protection to troops using earplugs. 

These earplugs were too small to fit into the ear correctly. That meant that the personnel using the earplugs believed they were doing their hearing the right thing, but they were wearing inadequate protection. This false sense of security undermined their hearing safety and led to significant damage to the fragile cells in their inner ears.

As more veterans realize the error of the hearing protection company in question, they ‘re coming forward and filing complaints against the government. 

An army Sgt. from Texas, Scott Rowe, is demanding damages and restitution on Iraq’s front lines for the hearing loss he suffered. After relying on government-issued hearing protection, he lives with hearing loss and tinnitus, and he also struggles with vertigo and balance problems. 

 

It’s essential to check your hearing.

There are a host of reasons why reintegrating into civilian society can be difficult for a military veteran, but the hearing loss doesn’t have to be one of them. 

After the 3M issue, troops are considerably better shielded from duty noise. However, hearing loss is likely to remain a prevalent affliction among veterans so long as the armed conflict continues to involve gunshots, bombs, and heavy machinery. 

Prevention is the best medicine, but those suspecting hearing loss should get a hearing test and see what remedies are available for their particular situation. For example, many modern hearing aids have unique features that help relieve tinnitus and help improve hearing in noisy situations. 

Members of the service and members of the non-service will undergo daily hearing tests. Sometimes we have the nagging feeling our hearing is deteriorating, but we do nothing. Today’s hearing aids are discreet and technologically advanced, so there is no reason to delay treatment. To learn more and book a hearing test, contact us today.

Occupational Hearing Hazards

It’s essential to realize when a loud sound is too loud and learn how to protect yourself from irreversible hearing loss. This is particularly important when it comes to working. 

Unfortunately, occupational hearing loss is widespread, despite OSHA’s safety standards for hearing protection for workers. Loud working environments practically guarantee that you will be exposed to sound levels daily, leaving a permanent mark if you are not vigilant.

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to noise and your working environment.

Noise-induced hearing loss

The ear is still not equipped to tolerate the noises of modern industrialization, such as combustion engines, pneumatic pumps, and repetitive loud machine noise.

While age-related hearing loss is often due to a lifetime of wear and tear on your auditory system, noise-induced hearing loss (also known as NIHL) is almost entirely preventable.

The effects of noise are often underestimated as the damage progressively occurs. As a result, people traditionally haven’t recognized the impact on their daily lives until they are frustrated with a persistent communication issue or experience ringing in their ears.

Our ears have their limits.

Deafening sounds can damage the inner ear, reducing hearing ability in specific ranges. Sounds louder than 80 decibels ( dB) may cause hearing loss. When sounds above that level persist for even a short period, you can suffer damage.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has mandated that a worker only have an average exposure of 90 dB during an 8-hour workday. Additionally, a 5 dB increase over 90 dB must last for a shorter amount of time. For example, 95 dB of sound can be maintained for only 4 hours, and 100 dB can be tolerated for only 2 hours. These employers are also required to provide regular hearing tests, sound surveillance, protection, and training to workers.

What are some of the loudest jobs?

Many jobs can be dangerous to the health of our hearing, and some may even surprise you. Below are a few of the occupations most damaging to your ears.

  • Teacher at nursery school-85 dB: Schools are noisy environments, and studies have measured noise levels to fall between 40 and 105 dB during an average school day. 
  • Manufacturing/construction – 90 dB: A bulldozer that is idling at 85 dB is loud enough to cause permanent damage after just one working day. The machinery in warehouses manufacturing averages at 90 dB; combined with the open floor plan and concrete floor and structure, long hours of work may result in hearing loss.
  • Bartender – 98dB: According to a new Irish study, nightclub bartenders’ average daily noise exposure was 92 decibels, which could increase to 98dB as the night progresses. Worryingly, none of the clubs interviewed gave hearing tests to their employees or educated their workers about noise exposure risks.
  • Agricultural worker – 107-112 dB: Farmers are regularly exposed to machine sounds, and studies have shown that 25 percent of male farmers experience hearing loss at age 30.

How to protect your ears

Prevention is the best course of action where NIHL is concerned. There are steps you can take to shield yourself from dangerous noises and to avoid permanent hearing damage:

Be aware of what noise can cause harm. Motorcycles, firearms, lawnmowers, chainsaws, powerboats, and personal listening devices can easily exceed the threshold of safe listening. As an easy rule to live by, if you have to yell to be heard by someone away from an arm’s length, the noise is likely within this range.

Take steps to reduce noise at the source. Ensuring that all equipment is maintained correctly, replacing a muffler, or placing a machine inside an enclosure can help shield your ears from harmful noise. 

Use ear protection. These may be useful tools for avoiding long-term hearing damage if used correctly. Be aware of your right to high-quality ear protection in the workplace, primarily if you work in the construction or manufacturing sector of noisy jobs.

Keep an eye on the volume of your listening devices, mainly when using headphones with earbuds.  Remember to take breaks from the noise and allow your ears the chance to rest. Noise-canceling headphones are an excellent option to moderate your listening level.

If you’re concerned that noise in your workplace is having a detrimental effect on your hearing, we are here to help. We can give you a detailed picture of your current hearing health, guide you to the best treatment when hearing loss is detected, and help you find the best hearing protection to keep your ears safe. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

In people who have experienced hearing loss, one of the most common types they encounter is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). According to the American Hearing Loss Foundation,NIHL is one of the most common types of hearing loss in the US, after age-related hearing loss.

NIHL is a kind of sensorineural hearing loss and occurs in 23 percent of people over the age of 65. Unlike all other forms of hearing loss, hearing loss caused by noise can be avoided altogether. Here, we look specifically at a hearing loss caused by noise, the causes, and what can be done to prevent it.

 

How the hearing system works

Our auditory system serves one of our body’s most complex and fascinating functions. To better understand the noise-induced hearing loss, a basic understanding of how good hearing works is essential.

  1. Sound waves pass through the ear canal to enter the ear.
  2. These sound waves travel to the eardrum through the ear canal. Eardrum vibrations move three tiny bones in our middle ear; these bones are called the malleus, incus, and staples, and are the smallest bones in the body.
  3. The vibrations of these tiny bones cause fluid to ripple and wave in our cochlea. The cochlea is in the inner ear and is a fluid-filled snail-like organ.
  4. Our inner ear fluid movement causes small, delicate hair-like cells to bend and sway above the liquid.
  5. These hair-like cells bend, which transmits the sound waves into electrical signals.
  6. Finally, these signals are sent to our minds for processing via our auditory nerve. 
  7. Our brain then interprets and understands these signals as sounds.

 

How loud is too loud?

Any sound that is below 85 dB (from listening position) is considered safe. The permanent hearing loss sets in at 85 dB after about 8 hours of treatment. The amount of time it takes for hearing loss to happen cuts in half for every three dB increase in volume. This means a 91 dB sound will take just 4 hours to cause damage to your hearing and only 2 hours at 97 dB.

To give you some perspective, here are some familiar sounds and their dB equivalent:

  • 70 dB: Washing machine
  • 80 dB: Alarm clock
  • 90 dB: Subway train cart
  • 100 dB: Factory machinery
  • 110 dB: Car horn
  • 120 dB: Live music concert

 

What happens when we get too much sound

Loud noise exposure can damage the inner ear, especially the cochlear hair cells. The louder the sound, the more vibration it causes the cells of the hair to move and bend. The sheer volume of the soundwaves can start to damage the hair cells physically. Such damage will cause the cells to lose sensitivity and function less effectively.

This is how most of us experience a loss of hearing over the short term. Muffling of your hearing is normal after leaving a concert or other noisy event. You might speak loudly; you may need others to speak loudly to hear them. This is mainly because the cochlea’s hair cells have been drained by all the excessive noise you received. Your hearing typically returns after a short period, because your ears have rested.

If someone is exposed to loud noise regularly, and the hair cells do not have time to rest, the effect can be severe. In contrast to other cell types, the hair cells do not regenerate. We are born with every hair cell we’ll ever have. When they are damaged, we can’t ever get that hearing back. 
 

How to prevent noise-related hearing loss

We can do several things to reduce the level of sound that reaches our ears. 

Increase your distance. The best is to step away from the origins of loud noises physically. Your exposure falls by six dBA for every doubling of the distance between you and the source of the sound. 

Reduce the length of exposure. Likewise, we can restrict our exposure. Although dangerously loud sounds should never be experienced without hearing protection, many other sounds cause NIHL only after prolonged exposure.

Use hearing protection. We should use hearing protection if we have to (or choose to) be exposed to noisy noises for longer than is necessary. It’s a good idea to carry general-purpose earplugs wherever you go if you find any sound that you want to block.

Monitor sound levels around you. Cell phone apps are now available for download, which can measure dB levels. When you’re unsure of the noise level of an environment, you can use the app to determine if it is time to get the earplugs out.
 

Treating hearing loss induced by noise

When you already suffer from NIHL, the damage is permanent. Nevertheless, hearing aids have been repeatedly proven to help treat this condition. Hearing aids amplify the sounds around you so you can hear more easily. They will not completely correct your hearing like glasses can do for your eyes, but they have helped millions worldwide improve their hearing. 

If you believe that you’re struggling with noise-induced hearing loss, please contact us today to set up a hearing test and get back to hearing again. 

Tips for Driving with Hearing Aids

Safety is a concern every time we get into our car and hit the road. Car accidents in the U.S. reach more than 6 million per year, and the average number of motor vehicle crash deaths is 10 per 100,000 persons per year. Careful driving requires sharp visual and auditory senses to make prompt and informed choices.

Although all drivers should note these traffic safety figures, they should be taken especially seriously for those with hearing loss. Among those with hearing loss, the ability to hear critical safety signals such as honking horns, blaring sirens, and vehicle acceleration are diminished, meaning the risk of an accident increases significantly. 

Among those with hearing loss, driving with a hearing aid comes highly recommended, as it dramatically improves your hearing ability. Those with untreated loss should seek out professional treatment for hearing health before continuing to drive. 

Once you have your hearing aids, here are some other things you can do to ensure a safe experience while on the road. 

 

1. Test your eyes as well as your ears

If you drive with hearing aids, it is essential to ensure that your other senses are up to speed. Vision has a crucial role in keeping you safer, as it can help you stay abreast of traffic alerts, read traffic signs and notice flashing emergency lights even if you haven’t yet heard them. 

Annually test your vision to make sure that your prescription is up to date, whether wearing glasses or contact lenses. If you noticed any sudden changes in your vision, visit your optometrist as soon as you can.
 

2. Stay vigilant of your surroundings

It is essential to keep your eyes on the road while driving. Visual indicators are critical when driving. Be more mindful of traffic signals, and use your side and rearview mirrors regularly. 

Hearing loss affects the ability to identify the relative distance of moving vehicles, so it is essential to be aware of your environment to protect yourself and other drivers.
 

3. Lower the number of distractions

Not being distracted means you can focus entirely on the drive. But driving with hearing aids means maintaining a relatively quiet vehicle is especially important. Set the radio or music level to low enough not to disturb your drive. 

If you travel with noisy passengers, you might want to ask them to keep down their voices. You will be able to carry on a conversation while driving, with hearing aids in place. But when you need to listen for other sounds, do not hesitate to postpone the discussion. 

You can also ask other passengers to keep their voices down while the vehicle is in motion, as driving with hearing aids puts even greater importance on a quiet car. 

Sometimes opening the windows at high speeds can be too much for your hearing aids, and you might want to drive on the highway with the air conditioning instead of being exposed to the noisy wind.
 

4. Keep a card visor in your car

In case you need to deal with a traffic officer or highway patrol, you may want to consider carrying a visor card clipped inside your windshield viewfinder. The card is a clear way to tell the officer you might have trouble hearing their directions.

You should put your visor down and swing it towards your window if you’re pulled over and then hold your hands onto the wheel. Having instructions in writing can help keep communication clear at a traffic stop. You can order or download visor cards online.
 

5. Perform regular maintenance

If you are driving with hearing loss, regular maintenance of your vehicle is especially important. There’s a chance you might miss the warning beep from the dashboard, or you may not hear the rattling under the hood. If you miss the small noises, if it turns into a larger sound, you’ll have a much bigger problem. Make sure you regularly service your car.
 

Treating Hearing Loss

Better hearing – which begins with treating your hearing loss – will help keep you active both mentally and physically, whether on the road or off it. Call us and schedule your annual hearing test today.