Getting to Know Your Hearing Aids

If you have recently purchased new hearing aids, congratulations on taking such an important step to improve your health! Hearing aids are an important investment that impacts how you navigate your daily life. 

Similar to most electronics today, hearing aids have experienced significant innovation over the years. Smaller than ever, these devices have such a range of options that have various features and technologies designed to easily integrate with your life. Hearing aids have more capacity, helping to maximize your hearing in different environments and while engaging in an array of activities. It is important to take the time to get familiar with your hearing aids – all components and settings so you can get the best use out of them. 

Let’s explore the most common types of hearing aids, their parts, and the functions you can expect!

 

Understanding How Hearing Aids Work

Hearing aids consist of different components that work together to absorb and process sound. All hearing aids have four basic parts:  

  • Microphone: collects all of the sound in the environment you are in and converts those soundwaves into electrical signals. 
  • Amplifier: strengthens (amplifies) those signals and in hearing aids that are more advanced, the amplifier can manipulate these signals to a person’s hearing preferences. 
  • Receiver: also referred to as the speaker, converts the electrical signals back into sound and sends it to the inner ear. 

The fourth component is the power supply (i.e. rechargeable batteries). All hearing aid types and sizes are composed of these basic mechanics. 

 

Hearing Aid Types 

There are numerous brands, styles, and models of hearing aids and it can be difficult to sift through and understand. The key thing to know here is that there are two major types of hearing aids: 

  • In the Ear (ITE): worn in the ear and usually involves taking a custom mold of your ear so that the device fits. 
  • Behind the Ear (BTE): worn behind or on top of the outer ear. These devices are connected (through a small, clear tube) to an ear piece that sits in the ear canal. 

These types of hearing aids also have common styles 

  • ITE
  • Invisible in the canal (IIC) & Completely in the canal (CIC) – are the smallest and least visible hearing aids that are available. They are made using an earmold to fit perfectly in the ear canal. IIC hearing aids are made to be further in the ear than CIC types.  
  • In the ear canal (ITC): these types of hearing aids are placed in the bowl of the lower portion of the outer ear. This means that they are larger and also more visible than other types of hearing aids. 
  • BTE
  • Receiver in the ear (RITE): this style involves the speaker sitting in the ear canal. A wire connects the speaker to the microphone and processor which rest behind the ear. 

There are types of hearing aids that may be better suited for your individual hearing needs. Some of these styles work better for people experiencing specific types of hearing loss – high vs. low frequency hearing loss for example. Our team is equipped with the knowledge to discuss which types of hearing aids would better meet your hearing needs. 

 

Digital Hearing Aids

Innovations in digital processing drastically changed the hearing aid industry. Digital hearing aids have the capacity to manipulate the sound you absorb and make changes that are more aligned with your specific hearing needs. There are settings that can be programmed which tune the incoming sound to best suit your hearing. So, if you struggle with specific sounds and/or frequencies, your hearing aids can be adjusted to account for it. Other benefits include: 

  • Reducing background noise and feedback, which sharpens sound quality 
  • Analyze your environment and switch to a different setting that is more optimal 
  • Enhanced voice recognition so your voice sounds more natural and less distorted 

Additionally, digital hearing aids can have features like wireless connectivity which uses Bluetooth technology. This allows your hearing aids to wirelessly connect with other electronic devices (smartphone, speaker, laptop etc.) and stream the audio directly to your device; enhancing the quality of sound.  

Whether you are in the market for new hearing aids or if you need assistance with your current pair, we are here to help! Contact us today.

Hearing Aid Compatible Assistive Listening Devices

The innovation of hearing aid technology in recent years has significantly enhanced user experience. There is such a wide range of features and options that allow hearing aids to easily integrate into your daily life and maximize your hearing in all of the environments you navigate. 

In addition to hearing aids, there are numerous types of assistive listening devices that support hearing. Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are devices that are also designed to help hearing in specific settings. There are ALDs that are compatible with hearing aids which strengthen sound quality, making it easier to hear in more challenging contexts. ALDs can help you hear more effectively in public venues, while watching television, and on the phone. 

With all of the options available today, it can be overwhelming to identify what could work best for you. To better understand the terrain of ALDs, they can be divided into the following categories:  

Wireless Technology 

Using Bluetooth technology, hearing aids can wirelessly connect to other electronic devices such as smartphone, speaker, laptop etc. Connecting wirelessly allows the audio to be streamed directly into your hearing aids. This sharpens sound quality and improves listening experiences while watching television, listening to a podcast, having a conversation on your phone etc. This is a really useful way to integrate your devices and easily shift between them. This option is incredibly beneficial because it works for multiple devices. Wireless technology is convenient and allows people with hearing loss to hear much more clearly. 

 

Hearing Loops

Also referred to audio induction loops is hearing aid technology that amplifies sound in public settings. Hearing loops are specifically useful for navigating public venues (conferences, talks, readings, meetings etc.), airports, stadiums, theaters, classrooms, check out counters etc. A small telecoil is embedded in hearing aid devices that pick-up signals from the audio in a public space. It is then converted into a sound that is set to the user’s specific preferences.  Hearing loops are easy to use – you simply turn the Telecoil option on (on your hearing device) and can be used in a plethora of settings. They provide greater accessibility for people with hearing loss in environments that may be more challenging to hear in. 

 

Amplified Telephones

This is useful if you use a landline. Amplified telephones are designed for people with hearing loss and allow you to increase the volume to meet your hearing needs. They reduce feedback and other noises that make it challenging to hear, especially with hearing aids. Amplified phones work in the same way that hearing loops work. The telecoil option on your hearing aids picks up sound from the phone and converts it to meet your specific hearing needs.

 

FM Systems

Use radio waves to send amplified sounds to hearing aids. FM systems involve a microphone which emits soundwaves and a receiver. The receiver can be built-in to hearing aids or be separate (headphones or neck loop). A person speaks into a microphone and the listener’s receiver picks-up the audio through radio signals. You may already be familiar with this technology if you have used headsets in a guided tour!

 

Personal Amplifiers 

This option is better in smaller settings and may not be necessary if you use previously mentioned devices. Personal amplifiers are small (hand held) devices that have a microphone which amplifies the sound you are trying to hear and reduces background noise. The sound is absorbed by a receiver that the listener is wearing (hearing aids, headphones, earbuds). 

In addition to these types of ALDs, there is an array of technologies that assist with hearing. ALDs encompass any type of device and/or technology that supports hearing. Additional ALDs that could be useful to you are: 

  • Captioning services 
  • Voice recognition software
  • Alerting and/or notification systems 

If you are interested in assistive listening devices, we recommend that you consult with our team of hearing healthcare specialists who can guide you through your options. It is important to identify your hearing needs and discuss what could work best for you and your lifestyle! ALDs are designed to support and maximize your hearing and ability to navigate daily life with ease! 

Why You Should Treat Your Hearing with an Audiologist

Hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions people experience today. Nearly 1 in 8 people have some degree of impaired hearing, impacting over 40 million people in the U.S. alone. Though hearing loss is a pervasive medical condition that affects overall health, it is often under diagnosed. Impaired hearing typically happens gradually so people may not be completely aware that it is happening. Additionally, one of the most common misconceptions about it is that it is not a serious health issue. These factors often contribute to the overlooking or delay in addressing hearing loss. It is important to be aware of early warning signs and to treat hearing loss with an audiologist.

 

Hearing Loss Symptoms

Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors including genetic history, aging, environmental exposure to loud noise, and existing medical conditions (hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease etc.). There are numerous symptoms that indicate impaired hearing including:

  • Tinnitus which is a buzzing or ringing noise in one or both ears
  • Increasing the volume on electronic devices (TV, speaker, smartphone)
  • Sound is muffled or slurred
  • Difficulty following entire conversations, especially with background noise
  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder and/or slower
  • Moving to quieter area to have conversation
  • Ability to hear better in one ear over the other
  • Reading mouths to identify words

These symptoms can be experienced from mildly to profoundly and can significantly impact a person’s ability to manage professional and personal responsibilities. It is critical to address these symptoms by scheduling an appointment with an audiologist.

 

What do Audiologists Do?

Audiologists are health care experts who specialize in the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders.  Audiologists provide individualized care that focuses on improving hearing health by providing a range of services including the following:

  • Tinnitus Therapy: which is a common symptom of hearing loss. Audiologists can help manage tinnitus through therapeutic strategies.
  • Evaluating Balance Disorders: audiologists evaluate balance related issues – dizziness, vertigo, unsteadiness which is commonly associated with inner ear damage.
  • Hearing Tests: audiologists conduct hearing tests which measure hearing ability in both ears. Hearing tests identify any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss a person may be experiencing. This informs effective treatment options.
  • Hearing Aids: which is the most common treatment for hearing loss, audiologists offer expert analysis and suggestions on which would work best for you. They can also establish the settings which maximize your hearing.

These important services identify a person’s specific hearing needs and ways to meet those hearing needs effectively. Audiologists are equipped with the resources and expertise needed to improve one’s hearing health.

 

Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

Addressing your hearing loss has numerous benefits that can improve your daily life and ability to navigate with greater ease. The benefits of treating hearing loss include the following:

  • Strengthens Communication: treating hearing loss alleviates the range of symptoms that strain communication. Hearing loss reduces the ability to absorb and process sound which results in people using various strategies to hear. These strategies – reading mouths, speaking louder, ignoring the issue – are not effective and make conversations difficult. Hearing aids are designed to amplify and process sound which significantly improves hearing ability.
  • Improves Well Being: social withdrawal is another common effect of hearing loss. Because conversations become challenging, people can avoid social engagements and interactions altogether. This means less time with family and friends; this isolation can contribute to feelings of depression and stress which impacts mental health. Treating hearing loss alleviates this as well as supports people fully participating in daily life.
  • Protects Overall Health: treating hearing loss reduces the risk of developing other medical conditions including dementia. In addition to accidental injuries, unemployment, and underemployment.

Treating hearing loss alleviates symptoms, strengthens communication, and social wellness. This improves quality and longevity of life and the first step is simple! You can be proactive about your hearing health by scheduling an appointment for a hearing test with our team. Our audiologists can best guide you through effective ways to improve your hearing, communication, and health!

Working with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a public health epidemic that nearly 1 in 8 people live with in the U.S. A permanent medical condition, hearing loss has multifaceted effects that impact a person’s ability to manage professional and personal responsibilities with ease. Impaired hearing reduces one’s capacity to absorb and process sound which strains communication, impacts relationships, social engagement, and overall health. This can make it particularly difficult to navigate work environments and maximize job performance. Addressing hearing loss and practicing a few useful tips can help you effectively manage hearing loss in the workplace and tend to your hearing health! 

 

Treating Hearing Loss 

The first and most critical step is to treat hearing loss. It is critical to be aware of the symptoms and seek treatment as soon as possible. Early intervention can prevent the impairment from worsening and help you transition to better hearing health sooner! It can also alleviate the range of symptoms that make it difficult to engage in communication: 

  • Tinnitus (buzzing or ringing noise in one or both ears)
  • Sound is slurred or muffled 
  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves and/or speak slowly 
  • Unable to follow entire conversation 
  • Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise 

In addition to alleviating these symptoms and enhancing communication, treating hearing loss allows people to participate fully in all aspects of their life. 

Fortunately, there are effective ways to treat hearing loss that increase one’s ability to hear. Treatment begins with having your hearing assessed by a hearing healthcare specialist. Hearing tests involve a noninvasive and painless process that measures your hearing in both ears. This establishes any impairment and the degree of hearing loss you may be experiencing. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are small, electronic devices designed to help absorb, amplify, and process sound. Hearing aids can significantly improve hearing, allowing people to easily navigate daily life!

 

Tips for Working with Hearing Loss

In addition to recognizing and treating hearing loss there are several ways you can create an accessible and supportive work environment that meets your hearing needs. A few helpful ways include: 

  • Disclose Hearing Loss: it is normal to be uncertain about sharing your hearing loss with colleagues and supervisors. Though you may feel nervous or anxious about it, disclosing your hearing loss is incredibly beneficial! It allows your employer and the people you work with to participate in creating a work environment that supports your hearing needs. It also facilitates having conversations about effective communication strategies and best ways to engage in conversation. 
  • Workplace Accommodations: disclosing your hearing loss also opens the conversation with your employer about the workplace accommodations that you are entitled to. In addition to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, the American Disabilities Act (ADA), requires employers to provide accommodations that support maximum job performance.  There are various types of accommodations that could be really useful for you including: physical changes to your work area, investment in hearing technologies, captioning services etc. Taking the time to research the range of workplace accommodations available to know what would best meet your needs would be helpful!
  • Share Communication Strategies: taking the time to think and practice different ways that enhance your hearing is a critical way to develop effective communication skills. There are numerous strategies that support hearing and easeful conversations including: making eye contact, facing the speaker, maintaining a comfortable distance, reducing background noise, avoiding distractions and multitasking etc. Identifying what best works for you and sharing this information is incredibly helpful. This allows other people to actively participate in having an effective exchange. 
  • Plan for Hearing Needs & Protect Hearing Health: thinking about and planning for your hearing needs in different work situations is helpful. This could look like asking for a meeting agenda and/or minutes prior to a meeting, changing room configurations, requesting captioned services etc. 

Additionally, if you work in a noisier work environment, you should wear protective gear (earmuffs, earplugs, headphones) that reduce the amount of noise you absorb. You can also use noise cancelling headphones which reduce background noise and prevent you from increasing the volume on personal devices. Taking a few extra measures can significantly protect your hearing health! 

Avoiding Hearing Tests Could Make the Problem Much Worse

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition that older adults experience. Nearly 1 in 8 people have some degree of hearing loss which impacts over 40 million people in the U.S. Though impaired hearing is a prevalent medical condition, it is often undertreated. It often happens gradually so people can overlook this progressive decline for quite some time. 

Additionally, people may think that it is not a serious health concern and can simply be dealt with by masking the issue. But avoiding seeking treatment and taking a hearing test will likely worsen impairment which can impact overall health. Addressing symptoms early and prioritizing your hearing health can drastically improve your quality of life.  

 

Hearing Loss Symptoms

Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors including existing medical conditions (hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease), exposure to loud noise, aging, and genetic history. These factors can damage integral parts of the auditory system and reduce one’s ability to hear, producing a range of symptoms including: 

  • Tinnitus: a buzzing or ringing noise in one or both ears 
  • Sounds are slurred or muffled 
  • Difficulty identifying individual words and following a conversation
  • Frequently increasing the volume on electronic devices 
  • Needing others to repeat themselves, speak loudly and/or slowly
  • Moving to quieter area to have conversation
  • Hearing better in one ear over the other 
  • Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise and/or during conversations with multiple people 

These symptoms can be mild to severe and significantly impact a person’s ability to manage professional and personal responsibilities. 

 

Impact of Hearing Loss 

Communication is a major way we navigate and make sense of the world. The profound effect hearing loss can have on communication has multifaceted effects on all aspects of a person’s life. Including: 

 

  • Strained Communication: hearing loss symptoms make it challenging to participate in and follow conversations. People can feel lost during conversations, miss important information, have difficulty responding. This can be frustrating for everyone involved in the conversation and can also impact job performance in addition to social life. 
  • Social Withdrawal: conversations often require extra effort and energy for people with hearing loss and this can be exhausting. Engaging with others can feel like more work than pleasure and people can avoid them altogether. Avoiding social settings, gatherings, and conversations means spending less time with family and friends. This kind of isolation can also lead to withdrawal from hobbies and activities that provide joy and exercise. 
  • Overall Health Decline: strained communication and social withdrawal can take a toll on physical and mental health which impacts general well-being and happiness on a daily basis. Also, untreated hearing loss can contribute to the development of other medical conditions. 

 

Untreated hearing loss can worsen symptoms and impairment. It can also lead to increased accidental injuries and the development of cognitive decline. Seeking treatment is critical for your overall health and wellness! 

 

Seeking Treatment 

It is incredibly important to intervene and prioritize your hearing health. Early intervention can drastically improve health outcomes and help you transition to better hearing with greater ease. Seeking treatment is actually relatively simple! 

The first step is to schedule an appointment to have your hearing assessed. Hearing tests are a noninvasive and easy way to measure your hearing ability in both ears. Conducted by one of our hearing health providers, hearing tests determine any impairment as well as the degree and specific type of hearing loss you may be experiencing. This establishes your hearing needs and allows you to work with an audiologist to meet your specific hearing needs. 

Fortunately, there are effective ways to treat hearing loss! The most common treatment is hearing aids which are electronic devices that absorb, amplify, and process sound. This increase’s one’s ability to hear and communicate in all types of environments. 

With the advanced technology of today, hearing aids are more innovative (and smaller) than ever. There is a wide range of features and technologies that are designed to facilitate seamless listening experiences and effective communication. A hearing health specialist will discuss these possibilities and what could work best for you. Treating hearing loss strengthens communication and allows you to participate fully in all areas of life! 

How Treating Hearing Loss Improves Your Relationships

We once thought of mild-to-moderate hearing loss as an unfortunate condition that might make conversation a little more difficult, but that would ultimately have little consequences outside of mild frustration. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown the situation to be more complicated, with hearing loss being tied to a host of negative social and health outcomes.

Not Enough People Treat Their Hearing Loss

About 48 million Americans suffer from some type of hearing loss, but only about 16% of those people wear hearing aids. On average, it takes a person seven years from the time they notice hearing loss to when they seek treatment for it. Most people undertake a balance of frustration and adjustment as hearing loss progresses, until it reaches a point when hearing aids seem like the only option.

Unfortunately, this lack of treatment allows changes to occur in the brain that makes treating hearing loss much more of an adjustment, requiring retraining in speech comprehension. Furthermore, the years of frustration can be avoided with earlier adoption of hearing aids.

Better Hearing Makes for Better Relationships

The trend we see amongst those with untreated hearing loss is a general pulling away from social functions, which makes friendships suffer. At home with partners or loved ones, hearing loss makes communication more difficult as well. Couples in which one partner suffers from hearing loss tend to communicate less as it becomes more difficult, and this strains the relationship as the thousands of ways we communicate throughout the day seem to slowly disappear.

You see, it’s not just that it becomes harder to make plans or discuss big, important events. Intimacy requires being “in tune” with one another. Think back on your relationship, and you’ll remember general impressions like the look on your partner’s face and the moods you might see them cycle through. All of these impressions were built on tiny moments of communication that happened so effortlessly that most of them go unnoticed. When we can’t communicate clearly with our partners and loved ones, there’s a disconnect that can widen over time.

By treating hearing loss with hearing aids, we can stay in the conversation and keep the banter going through the years. This is not just a theoretical possibility, but has been confirmed by countless people who have gotten hearing aids. Both parties to a couple, the partner with normal hearing and the partner with hearing loss, over and over again say that hearing aids greatly improved their relationship.

Both Partners Suffer When One Has Untreated Hearing Loss

Even with a very understanding partner, those with untreated hearing loss report feeling disconnected in the sense that their partner may not realize how difficult background noise can make it to understand speech, or how exhausting it is to carry on a conversation when you can’t hear the other person clearly. It’s like having a bad phone connection all the time!

And the partners with normal hearing mention how it’s frustrating not to be able to visit favorite places because of background noise, or how frustrating it can be to need to repeat much of what they say.

Hearing Aids Can Help

A good set of hearing aids can restore hearing to near-normal, meaning that you can participate in conversation as easily as you did before hearing loss became an issue. Some models are even able to make listening to music as lifelike as it is for the unaided ear.

Hearing aids are smaller and smarter than ever, with computer DSP (digital signal processing) that can reduce background noise and improve directionality. Models that perform these functions can actually improve speech intelligibility to better than normal. If you also suffer from tinnitus, as many of us with hearing loss do, today’s hearing aids can provide masking tones in inaudible frequency bands, so the tinnitus is relieved without adding additional noise.

They can also integrate with Bluetooth and car audio systems to improve hearing on the go, and telecoils can drastically improve the experience at movie theaters, museums, and more. Many models can be adjusted with smartphones or key fobs so you don’t need to pull them out or have exposed knobs available to change the program for different environments.

Don’t let your loved ones, or yourself, suffer because of untreated hearing loss. Make an appointment for a hearing test today and see what hearing aids can do to improve your relationships and your life!

Addressing Hearing Loss May Improve Care of Older Adults

Hospital care for older patients can be difficult for a variety of reasons, but one thing that’s been pointed out in medical literature recently is the difficulty posed by hearing loss. Medical care relies, even more than we might guess, on dialogue between the patient, nurses and doctors. When the patient suffers from untreated hearing loss, effective medical treatment can be difficult or impossible.

In fact, a study conducted at the New York University in New York City discovered that patients with hearing loss are 32% more likely to be readmitted within one month of being discharged from the hospital. Taking into account that people with hearing loss are more likely to be admitted in the first place, this accounts for a lot of hospitalization that might be preventable with treatment for hearing loss.

Social Isolation and Hearing Loss in the Hospital

Hearing loss, especially when undiagnosed and untreated, leads to a cascade of negative health outcomes. Social isolation is a common one. Hearing loss can cause miscommunication with nursing home staff that can lead to erroneous assumptions of dementia, as well. As hearing loss progresses and the auditory cortex in the brain begins to atrophy, a patient with hearing loss who is generally socially isolated might be unable to understand speech even when they hear it clearly.

Miscommunication

The most likely reason for the inconsistent treatment of patients with hearing loss is miscommunication. Patients undergoing emergency room treatment are often disoriented by their acute medical condition or anaesthetics. The hospital environment is also likely to be noisier than the patient encounters with regularity, and miscommunications due to hearing loss are exacerbated by background noise. One way miscommunication could be avoided is placing patients who have hearing loss or are suspected of having undiagnosed hearing loss in quieter environments for consultation.

Sometimes hospital staff, when having difficulty making themselves understood to patients with hearing loss, resort to shouting. Unfortunately, this usually does not increase the likelihood that they will be understood; shouting will more often distort speech than make it clearer. It might also violate HIPAA privacy regulations.

Communicating with Patients with Hearing Loss

The best way to communicate, un-aided, to a person with hearing loss is to speak a little more slowly—not drawing out your words but adding more space between them—and a little more loudly. Make sure they can see your face. If they ask you to repeat something, rather than saying the same thing again, try saying it in different words.

Patients with age-related hearing loss, who were comfortable in hearing culture for most of their lives, rarely know sign language, so sign language interpreters who are on staff to communicate with the deaf will not get far with a patient who has age-related hearing loss.

FM Devices

Hospitals should keep FM devices at the ready. Unfortunately, this is not currently a common practice. If a patient is having trouble communicating, an FM device, which will simply make the sound of medical staff’s voices louder, could be enough to improve their outcome. Many patients will not be familiar with this technology, so hospital staff will need to explain it to them.

Most patients who arrive in the emergency room with pre-existing, undiagnosed hearing loss are from lower income brackets. It could be very significant for them to discover that their hearing loss can be treated with an FM device, though hearing aids may unfortunately be out of reach for them, financially.

Recording Previously Undiagnosed Hearing Loss

To help with the problem of diagnosing hearing loss, patients’ medical records can be tagged with a highly visible indicator that the patient has demonstrated hearing difficulty when interfacing with medical professionals in the past. This avoids the problem of having to rediscover on each visit that a patient has hearing loss.

Treating Hearing Loss with Hearing Aids

Of course, hearing aids are one of the best ways for people with hearing loss to spend as little time in the hospital as possible, and to get the most out of their treatment when they are there. Education about the importance of hearing aids to general health and well-being should be more prevalent, but in the meantime, medical staff should make the most of every encounter and encourage patients to get their hearing tested regularly.

Contact us today to learn more about our hearing health services and to schedule a hearing test!

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!