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

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

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

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

How Can Children Have Hearing Loss?

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

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

Congenital Hearing Impairment

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

Non-genetic factors may include:

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

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

Genetic Hearing Loss Factors May Include:

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

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

Acquired Hearing Impairment

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

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

Temporary Hearing Damage

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

How Can Hearing Loss Affect Your Energy?

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

Does Hearing Loss Make You Tired?

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

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

Why Hearing Loss is Tiring

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

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

Hearing Aids to the Rescue

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

Tips to Reduce Listening Fatigue

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

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

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

Could There be a Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia?

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

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

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

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

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

Pool Time! Avoid Swimmer’s Ear with These Tips

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

Keep it Dry

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

Plug them Up

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

Ear Drops to the Rescue

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

Ear Wax basics

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

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

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

Keep Your Skin Healthy

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

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

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

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

Gene Therapy May be the Answer to Hearing Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple Steps to Protect and Preserve Your Hearing

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

Keep the Volume Low

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

Protect Your Ears When Loud Noises are Unavoidable

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

Recovery Time is Important

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

Kick the Cotton Swabs to the Curb

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

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

Dry Ears are Happy Ears

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

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

Exercise Can Improve Hearing Health

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

Don’t Stress Out

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

Step Away From the Medicine

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

Have Your Ears Checked Regularly

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

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

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

Undiagnosed Hearing Loss Associated with Social Isolation in Seniors

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

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

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

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

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

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

All ages welcome – No appointment necessary.

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