Finding That Proper Hearing Protection for You

Man trying to research hearing protection online and having questions.

One in every 10 Americans will lose some of their hearing due to exposure to excessive noise. Most of the time, the damage is gradual, not just one loud bang like an explosion but the sounds you hear daily at work or home. Each day, you are exposed to noise pollution that you probably don’t even think about like the headphones you wear to listen to music or even work hazards like equipment running. Protecting your ears from noise-related damage is one of the smartest health decisions you can make, but how do you know what kind of ear protection to get?

Doing an Assessment

It is tricky to wade through the various options available for hearing protection and find the style works for you. There are a couple of things to consider such as:

  • Why you need hearing protection? Is it for work or perhaps you need them for a sport like hunting?
  • The cost of the product? The pricing goes from insanely cheap to seriously expensive, so budget is a consideration for most.
  • How wearable is it? If you are purchasing hearing protection that you will wear all day long, then comfort is important.

There are also some safety concerns to keep in mind. Avoid hearing protection that gets in the way of movement or introduces blind spots. If you are looking to save your ears from work-related sounds, then have a conversation with your employer before paying for anything out of pocket. Many companies offer hearing protection as part of your benefits or at least can guide you on what right type to buy and the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) you need.

What is the NRR?

The NRR rating listed on hearing protection devices offers a critical piece of information to you. The Noise Reduction Rating determines how well the device blocks out a sound. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires manufacturers to do tests and provide rating information based on their findings. The NRR measurement is in decibels and states the maximum amount of sound that device is able to block. A hearing protection product with an NRR of 26 will block a maximum of 26 decibels.

For most job-related hearing protection products, you should look for a device that blocks twice the amount of sounds you experience daily at work. You might purchase something with an NRR of 200 if your regular noise exposure is around 100 decibels, for example. Just so you know, 100 dB is about the level of a tractor and similar equipment.

What Types of Hearing Protection Devices are Available?

When it comes to protecting your ears, the most common products are:

  • Earplugs
  • Canal caps
  • Earmuffs

There may be different styles within each category and even some hybrid products out there.


Earplugs offer moldable foam products that you throw away or a pre-molded one-size-fits-all reusable style. There are pros and cons for both kinds of earplugs, so it really comes It comes down which one you like best. The disposable foam plugs usually have a higher NRR rating and will fit tightly in your ears, but they can be costly. They are like disposable contact lenses; you have to keep buying fresh ones.

The pre-molded style is more economical but can lead to infections if not cleaned right. They also do not fit as well as the moldable ones, so they are hard to keep in place.

Canal Caps

Canal caps work like earplugs but come with a flexible band. Also like earplug products, they have either moldable or pre-molded end pieces that go into the ear. The band that attaches the two earplugs together lets you can take them out quickly and let them hang around your neck. They work better than earplugs if you anticipate wearing them on and off throughout the day.


Earmuffs are more like headphones, and some even come with mics that allow you to talk to other people through a Bluetooth connection. They are comfortable to wear and easy to use, although, they can get heavy and make your ears sweat. You will pay more for quality earmuffs, but they have a longer shelf life and will likely save you money over time.

Choosing the Right Ear Protection

After deciding the proper NRR rating, the next step is to pick a style for your protection device based on your personal needs. If you want something that is not too confining, earplugs or canal caps might be the right choice for you. Look to get different types of ear protection products based on the seasons, too. For example, canal caps will be less cumbersome in warm weather, but the earmuff design will keep your ears warm in the cold.

The trick is to try the different forms of hearing protection devices and see what works best for you. A person who needs something for work has different needs than a person who wants to protect their ears while they hunt or on the shooting range.

How to Stay Safe Even With Hearing Loss

Man wearing security jacket is meant to represent practices that can keep you safe when you have hearing loss.

Sound is what tethers you safely to the world even though you may not realize it. For instance, it is the sound of an alarm that tells you there is smoke in the house and a potential fire. This type of security is critical for those who do have hearing loss, especially when there is a gradual decline. How do people who can’t hear well anymore know the alarm is going off in time to get out of the house?

With about 20 percent of the people in the U.S. diagnosed with some form off hearing loss, clearly, this question has come up before. Consider some of the security issues those with hearing loss face daily and how they are handled.

About Those Smoke Alarms

So, what do they do about smoke alarms? The key is to make use of the other senses. The common high-frequency smoke alarm won’t work effectively for someone with hearing loss, especially during the night when their hearing aids are put away somewhere.

A 2009 study published in Ear and Hearing states that alarms to detect smoke and heat in a home that comes with low-frequency tones work better for those who are struggling to hear like the elderly, even more so than flashing lights which were effective only about 27 percent of the time. Bed or pillow shakers were a practical choice, as well. The study found between 80 to 84 percent of participants awoke when shaken during the night.

Access to 911

The 911 system is a lifeline to communicate with the police and EMS but how does that work if you can’t hear? There are a couple of ways to solve this problem. First, make sure your mobile phone has a GPS system. This allows an EMS operator to locate you from anywhere if you do call for help even if you can’t hear them. They can send someone to you based on your phone coordinates. You can also look into hearing aids that connect to your phone through Bluetooth technology. The right hearing aid eliminates the communication problem.

Installing landlines at home makes sense, too, and make sure to put one next to the bed for emergencies in the night. With a landline, you can dial 911 and the operator will send out a patrol to check on you whether speak or not. Contact your service provider before installing a landline, though, so you know they are 911 compliant. Some VoIP systems will not automatically transmit your address to the 911 operator.

You can take advantage of the high-tech hearing assistive devices such as a video relay system or a captioned phone. If you do opt to carry just a smartphone, buddy up with friends and family to get help if you need it. Establishing an emergency contact group means you can send a text out to them and they can call 911 for you. The more people on your buddy list, in fact, the better.

Protecting Your Home

Home alarm systems offer some of the same obstacles as smoke alarms. Many emit a high-frequency sound that is difficult for someone who is hearing challenged to pick up. It is essential to have this kind of safety equipment, though, because you are also not likely to hear an intruder breaking into your home.

Look for alarms systems made just for the hearing impaired. They will have bed shakers and flashing lights that warn you of a breach in your system. Pick an alarm system with a remote panic button that you can keep close to your bed, too, for added safety. Make sure the alarm company knows you are hearing impaired when you sign up for your service. They can work with you to figure out the best way to communicate.

Take Advantage of Hearing Technology

For many, the best option is hearing aids. Talk to your doctor to determine if hearing aids are a workable choice for you. If so, go to a certified retailer so you know you purchase quality products designed to keep you safe and improve your life.

Bluetooth compatibility is just one common feature in modern hearing aids. Directional microphones cut back on interference, so you can concentrate on what is going on around you.

Finally, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Your friends, neighbors, and family are some of the most powerful safety assets you have, so just be honest and tell them about hearing challenges. If you are worried about your security, sit down with them and discuss ways to keep you safe, so you feel better about your security options.

5 Reasons Why Living with Tinnitus Can Be Difficult

Woman with tinnitus trying to muffle the ringing in her ears with a pillow to overcome challenge.

You hear a lot of talk nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes, but what about tinnitus? It is a chronic illness that has a strong emotional component because it affects so many areas of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as ghost noises in both ears. Most people describe the sound as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or clicking that nobody else can hear.

Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an underlying medical problem like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on regular basis. The phantom sound tends to begin at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV series, attempting to read a book or listening to a friend tell a terrific tale. Tinnitus can worsen even when you attempt to go to sleep.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many folks suffer with tinnitus or how it happens. The current theory is that the mind creates this sound to counteract the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing condition. Consider five ways that tinnitus is such a problem.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that people who experience tinnitus also have increased activity in their limbic system of their mind. This system is the part of the brain responsible for emotions. Until this discovery, most specialists thought that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that is why they were always so sensitive. This new study indicates there’s much more to it than simple stress. There’s an organic component that makes those with tinnitus testy and emotionally fragile.

2. Tinnitus is Hard to Discuss

How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy once you say it. The incapability to tell others about tinnitus causes a disconnect. Even if you can tell someone else, it’s not something they truly get unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have exactly the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups are usually available, but that means speaking to a bunch of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an appealing choice to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can not escape. It is a diversion that many find crippling if they are at work or just doing things around the house. The noise changes your focus which makes it hard to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, making you feel lethargic and useless.

4. Tinnitus Interferes With Sleep

This is one of the most crucial side effects of tinnitus. The sound will get worse when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It’s not understood why it worsens at night, but the most plausible reason is that the absence of other noises around you makes it worse. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn off everything when it is time to sleep.

Many men and women use a sound machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of background noise is enough to get your mind to lower the volume on the tinnitus and permit you to fall asleep.

5. There is No Cure For Tinnitus

Just the idea that tinnitus is something that you have to live with is hard to come to terms with. Though no cure will stop that ringing permanently, a few things can be done to assist you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s essential to get a proper diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the noise is not tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem like TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness that the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and coping with that issue relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the amount of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create some sound to fill up the silence. Hearing loss can also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying problem, the tinnitus dulls.

In extreme cases, your specialist may try to reduce the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help reduce the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes that should ease the symptoms and make life with tinnitus more tolerable, such as using a noise machine and finding ways to manage stress.

Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there’s hope. Science is learning more every year about how the brain functions and strategies to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.

The Right Way to Travel With Hearing Aids

Couple planning to take a trip and enjoy freedom despite needing hearing aids.

Is your motto have hearing aid will travel? If so, you probably already have a game plan in mind each time you take a vacation. If this is your first time hitting the road with a hearing aid, though, try to remember that planning ahead is the best way to protect and maintain the device while you travel. Consider some travel tips that will ensure you and your hearing aid stay safe and have a great time on your next vacation.

Travel is Chaotic

No matter how well you organize your trip or even how you get from place to place, travel is chaotic. That is true whether you are on a road trip, take a plane with your family or are riding the rails. Chaos breeds stress, and, when you are stressed, it’s easy to miss important details like how to care for your hearing aid.

Before you leave, develop a list of all the stuff you need to take with you and make sure extra batteries for your hearing aid is on the top of it. If your hearing aid comes with rechargeable batteries then bring along an extra charging station in case yours gets lost along the way. If you are traveling and are required to check your luggage carry batteries or that extra charger on you in case your bags get lost.

While you are making your list, think about what else you will need to maintain your hearing aids. How about:

  • The cleaning kit
  • A hairdryer to use in case they get wet
  • Additional domes and wax guards

Pack a few of Bluetooth accessories in your luggage, too. They are a big help if you should lose or damage your hearing aid on the road. The mic on a Bluetooth device can help you talk to people in a pinch.

Heading for the Airport

If flying is your chosen mode of transportation, plan to wear your hearing aids on the plane. Make sure to carry the case for them, batteries and cleaning supplies in your carry on, so they are handy. When going through security, don’t put your hearing aids on the belt for scanning. When it comes time to go through the body scanner, let them know you have a hearing aid in, so they don’t think you are hiding anything. They may ask you to take it out for examination or let you go through with it in place.

While flying, you might find hearing is more difficult even while wearing with your hearing aid. The noise can overwhelm the device, so use other tricks to understand what is going on like visual cues. Try putting a Bluetooth device in one ear if you are struggling, too. The remote mic will pick up conversation better while you are in the air than your hearing aid.

Some Common Sense Advice

Your hearing aids are critical for vacation enjoyment, but you need to think ahead just in case they go missing or break during your trip. You need to find other ways to accommodate your hearing loss when are not wearing them, too, like at night. If you are staying at a hotel, ask about adaptive equipment designed for the hearing impaired. Some offer rooms that include lights that flash when the phone rings or in case the fire alarm goes off.

Keep detailed information with you at all times like your itinerary and emergency contacts. A written itinerary makes checking in to your hotel easier because you’ll probably be tired and understanding the clerk will be a struggle even with your hearing aid.

Do your homework before you leave to learn more about the areas you visit, and, especially if there is a certified hearing aid retailer nearby. This way if something does happen and you need to get your hearing aid repaired or even replaced, you already know where to go for help.

Have hearing aid will travel? Absolutely! Don’t let your hearing issues change the way you live on the road. There is no reason you can’t go out and enjoy your vacation just like anyone. Go ahead and plan that dream adventure just think ahead, so you hear every minute of the fun.

The Unknown Antidepressant in Your Ear

Man suffering from hearing loss covering his ears with his hands while noises are all around him.

Man suffering from hearing loss covering his ears with his hands while noises are all around him.

There is a complex link between hearing and mental health that often goes unnoticed. A 2014 study conducted by researchers at The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) found a strong correlation between hearing loss and depression with both conditions often going untreated.

What this means for people suffering from hearing loss, whether they know it or not, is that the change in their hearing may be affecting their mood. With that in mind, it’s safe to conclude that improving hearing with the help of hearing aids is just the antidepressant they need.

The Study

The scientists working with The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders looked at data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to find a connection between certain mood disorders and hearing loss for those participants over the age of 18. This lead to some interesting facts:

  • Moderate to severe depression rates were around 4.9 percent for those with good hearing.
  • Moderate to severe depression rates were around 11.4 percent for those with some hearing loss.
  • The rate of depression increased as hearing declined but did not change for those already deaf.
  • Women over the age of 70 found to have reduced hearing through professional hearing exams did experience depression.
  • Men over the age of 70 did not experience depression despite their hearing loss.

This study allowed researchers to conclude that a loss in hearing for those over the age of 70 didn’t really factor into depression for the male population but did seem to impact the women. The young adults who reported some level of hearing loss were also more prone to depression regardless of gender.

Why Hearing Loss Can Lead to Depression

There are a number of theories out there to answer this question but the most likely one is more common sense than science. Simply put, finding yourself with hearing loss can trigger mood swings and depression because:

  • Most forms of hearing loss are permanent. Once a person loses their hearing due to trauma, disease or just aging, that damage is done. The components that let you hear are very delicate and there is no proven way to fix most of them. Hearing aids provide a workable solution, but it is not a permanent one.
  • Hearing loss leads to isolation. People tend to bow out of social situations once hearing loss begins. Maybe they think they are too dumb to follow the conversations or they are just not ready to deal with their hearing problem. Studies show that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia, as well, as depression.
  • Hearing loss causes stress. A person experiencing hearing loss might be unable to enjoy things the same way they used to like listening to music or playing the piano. Turning the volume up just irritates everyone around them, too. At the same time, they are struggling to interpret words. Sounds start to drop out, so some words are hard to distinguish adding to their anxiety. That stress can quickly turn to sadness and, eventually, depression.

Why Hearing Aids Help

The NIDCD suggests that most people over the age of 70 can find benefit in wearing hearing aids just to reduce the effects of age-related hearing loss. According to the institute, just 1 in 3 people that need hearing assistance have a diagnosis of hearing loss and access to hearing aids. People’s reasons for not getting the hearing aids vary but some common ones are cost and not wanting to admit there is a problem. Instead, they struggle to get through life and that leads to depression.

A study for the National Council on Aging reports those with hearing loss that do see doctor to get a professional hearing test and then wear hearing aids are 50 percent less likely to become depressed.

Getting hearing aids improve the quality of life in many ways. If you know you have hearing loss then schedule an appointment to see your doctor and get a hearing test. You’ll be surprised how much better you will feel once you start hearing again.

Living Right: Does It Benefit Your Hearing?

Woman is protecting herself from hearing loss by being healthy outdoors.

You workout regularly and watch your diet just to stay healthy but shouldn’t that apply to your hearing too? Many people see a loss of hearing as a something that happens naturally due to aging but fail to take it into account how bad habits affect it. The hearing sense is one the most important you have and what you do now does matter if you want to keep it. Everything from eating fast food to refusing to give up the cigarettes to hitting the couch for hours at a time contributes to changes in the hearing related to aging. It’s time to make some positive choices by considering preventative measures that benefit your heart and hearing at the same time.

Regular Workouts

Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your entire body including your ears. A 2009 study conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) determined there is a connection between heart health and the gradual hearing loss associated with aging. They found that heart disease was a factor in hearing loss very late in life and failure to exercise leads to cardiovascular disease.

A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine looked at how body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and physical activity factored into the hearing equation. They were able to conclude that the better fit you are, the better your chance of keeping your hearing. Even the American Journal of Audiology identified a direct link between cardiovascular health and hearing function. With that much proof on hand, it’s clear that sitting on the couch day after day will cost you in many ways, so start a regular workout schedule or, at least, find time to take a walk most days of the week.

Balanced Diet

There is a reason mom said you are what you eat. There is a certain nutritional aspect to maintaining ear health. Omega 3 fatty acids, for instance, are deemed healthy foods good for the heart but studies show they also help protect you against age-related hearing loss. Look to get some omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon.

While you are out shopping for fish, make sure to get pick up some greens, too. Spinach, kale and asparagus are all rich in folic acid, an antioxidant that helps to reduce nerve damage including the type that keeps the ears from talking to the brain. Add some magnesium found in bananas and artichokes to your plate and you are eating your way to better ear health.

Start Eating to Prevent Chronic Disease

When it comes to what you eat, the rest of the body matters just as much as your ears. Preventing chronic illnesses like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes also protects your hearing. It might surprise you to know the kinds of foods can help fight disease like:

  • Wine – Red wine is good for the body, especially the heart, in moderation. Just be sure to keep it to one glass a day and check with your doctor before you start.
  • Cocoa – You know that good stuff chocolate is made from, a little each day will improve your brain health without blowing your diet. When you shop, look for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao.
  • Almonds – They make an effective and efficient high-protein snack with lots of crunch to help lower cholesterol levels for better heart and brain health. Stick to just a few each day, though. They add a lot of calories to your diet.

While meal planning, find ways to cut the salt. Excess salt leads to water retention and higher blood pressure.

Sound Hygiene

Of course, don’t ignore the things that you do just for your ears when considering smart health choices. Sound hygiene refers to protecting your ears from the noise that leads to damage. Don’t wear headphones or earbuds to listen to music or talk on the phone. They introduce loud noise directly into the ear canal. By the time it reaches the sensitive mechanisms of the inner ear, it is strong enough to cause problems. If you are going out for the night to a club or to hear a band, wear ear protection to prevent the sound vibrations from causing ear trauma.

Get Quality Sleep

If you need eight hours a night, then get eight hours a night. Make an appointment with your doctor if you think you might suffer from sleep apnea, as well. Sleep apnea tends to point to underlying problems that affect the ears like poor circulation or inflammation. Research suggests that those with untreated sleep apnea develop hearing problems, especially with low and high-frequency sounds.

Learn to live right and your ears will thank you. If you already think you have a problem with your hearing, now is the time to see your doctor for a professional hearing exam and test.

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Is It True That My Tinnitus Gets Worse When I am Trying to Sleep?

Woman can't sleep because ringing in her ears. Her tinnitus is keeping her up at night.

If you are one of the 25 million people in the U.S. with a medical condition called tinnitus, usually ringing in the ears, then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to fall asleep, but why? The ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this ringing, buzzing or swishing noise more often at night.

The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this very common medical problem.

What is Tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a noise no one else can hear and does not happen of a real sound close to your ear. The individual lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even if it sounds like a tornado to you.

Tinnitus alone is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is typically associated with significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they do not notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom noise works like a flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical sciences biggest conundrums. Doctors do not have a clear understanding of why it happens, only what it usually means. It is a symptom of a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. These electrical messages is how the brain translates sound into something you can clearly comprehend like a car horn or person talking.

The current theory about tinnitus has to do with the silence or a lack of sound. The brain works hard to interpret sound through these messages, but when they don’t come, it is confusing. To compensate, your brain fills that that lack of sound with the ringing or buzzing noise of tinnitus.

The need for feedback from the ears does explain a few things related to tinnitus. For one, it tells you why that sound is a symptom of such a variety of illnesses that affect hearing from a mild ear infection to age-related hearing loss. It also explains why the volume goes up at night for some people.

Why Does Tinnitus Get Worse at Night?

Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up certain sounds all day long even if you do not realize it. The ears hear faint noises like music playing or the TV humming even if there is no comprehension of the sound. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but at night, it all stops.

At bedtime, the world goes silent and that lack of noise creates confusion in the brain in response to it. The brain only knows one thing to do when that happens – create noise even if it’s not real.

In other words, tinnitus gets worse at night because it’s too quiet. Creating sound is the solution for those who can’t sleep because their ears are ringing.

How to Create Noise at Night

If you can believe that ear ringing does get worse at night because there is not enough noise to keep the brain busy, the answer to the problem is clear – make some. For people suffering from tinnitus, all they need do is run a fan in the room. Just the noise of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.

There is also a device made to help those with tinnitus get to sleep. White noise machines simulate environmental sounds like rain or ocean waves. The soft noise soothes the tinnitus but isn’t distracting enough to keep you awake like leaving the TV on might do.

Can Anything Else Increase Tinnitus?

It’s important to keep in mind that the lack of sound is only one thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. It tends to get worse when you are under stress and certain medical problems can lead to a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to see the doctor.

Contact us if you need relief from your Tinnitus?

The Unique Complications of Unilateral Hearing Loss

Man suffering from single-sided hearing loss is only experiencing one half of the world because he can't hear the other.

As a result, the average person sees hearing loss as being binary — either someone has typical hearing in both ears or reduced hearing on both sides, but that dismisses one particular form of hearing loss completely.

A 1998 study estimated approximately 400,000 children had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease in the moment. It’s safe to say that number has gone up in that last two decades. The truth is single-sided hearing loss does happen and it brings with it complications.

What is Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Causes It?

As the name suggests, single-sided hearing loss indicates a reduction in hearing just in one ear.In intense instances, profound deafness is possible.

Reasons for premature hearing loss differ. It can be the result of injury, for example, a person standing beside a gunfire on the left may get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disease can lead to this problem, too, such as:

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Measles
  • Microtia
  • Meningitis
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Mumps
  • Mastoiditis

No matter the origin, an individual who has unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different way of processing audio.

Management of the Sound

The mind uses the ears almost like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on what ear registers it first and in the highest volume. When a person speaks to you while standing on the left, the brain sends a signal to flip in that direction.

Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the noise will only come in one ear regardless of what direction it comes from. In case you have hearing in the left ear, your mind will turn left to look for the sound even if the person speaking is on the right.

Think for a second what that would be like. The audio would enter one side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you know where a person talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound direction is tricky.

Honing in on Sound

The brain also uses the ears to filter out background noise. It tells one ear, the one closest to the sound you wish to focus on, to listen to a voice. Your other ear manages the background noises. That is why in a noisy restaurant, so you can still focus on the conversation at the table.

When you don’t have that tool, the mind becomes confused. It is not able to filter out background sounds like a fan blowing, so that’s all you hear.

The Ability to Multitask

The mind has a lot happening at any given time but having two ears enables it to multitask. That is why you’re able to sit and examine your social media account whilst watching TV or talking with family. With only one working ear, the brain loses that ability to do one thing when listening. It must prioritize between what you hear and what you see, so you tend to miss out on the conversation taking place without you while you navigate your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Effect

The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are unavailable to an individual having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap around the head and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not endure the trek.

If you are standing beside a person with a high pitched voice, you may not understand what they say unless you flip so the good ear is facing them. On the flip side, you might hear someone having a deep voice just fine no matter what side they are on because they produce longer sound waves which make it to either ear.

Individuals with only minor hearing loss in only one ear have a tendency to accommodate. They learn quickly to turn their head a certain way to hear a buddy talk, for example. For those who battle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work round that yields their lateral hearing.

Will I Know if I Have Hearing Loss?

A man is unable to hear or see and is surrounded by question marks.

You may assume it would be obvious, but hearing loss will be gradual, so how does someone know they have it? There is no shooting pain to serve as a warning sign. You do not collapse or make unnecessary trips to the toilet when it occurs, either. It is safe to say the symptoms of hearing loss are somewhat more subtle than other age-related illnesses like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Even so, there are indications should you know what you’re looking for. It’s a matter of paying attention to how you hear and the impact any change could be having on your life. Consider the ways you can identify hearing loss for you or someone you care about.

Conversation Fails

The impact on socializing offers a number of the most telling signs. For instance, if the first word from your mouth through most conversations is “what?” That shows you aren’t comprehending words well. Asking the people that you speak to repeat what they said is something they’re likely to detect before you do, too, so pay attention to the way folks react to having a chat with you.

When talking in a group of a couple of individuals, you may have difficulty keeping track of things. You are missing bits of what everyone says, so you aren’t connecting the dots anymore. You can not ask everyone speaking to echo themselves, either, so you only get lost. As time passes, you dodge group conversations or stand there not understanding what’s said, since it is just too confusing once you do.

The Little Everyday Sounds Takes Over

If all you hear nowadays is background sound, then it is time for a hearing exam. This is a common symptom of hearing loss because you’re no longer able to filter out sounds like a fan blowing or an air conditioner running. It gets to the point where you can’t hear what people are saying to you because it becomes lost in the background sound.

The TV Volume Goes Up and Up

It is easy to blame the need to turn the TV volume up on that dying set because of a noisy room, but when it occurs all the time, it is most likely a indication of gradual hearing loss. When everyone else starts telling you that you have the TV or computer volume up too high, you should wonder why this really is, and, likely, conclude that your hearing isn’t as good as it was once.

You End up Watching Their Mouth

Lip reading is a compensation technique for missing words. Gradual hearing loss starts with the reduction of hard sounds. Words that contain specific letters will be incomplete. Your mind might automatically refocus your eyes onto the person’s lips to repair the problem. Chances are you don’t even know you do it before someone points it out or unexpectedly seems uncomfortable when talking with you.

Then There’s the Ringing

It can be a ringing, clicking or buzzing or the noise of wind in your ears — that is called tinnitus, and it’s a warning of significant hearing loss. These sounds are not real, but phantom noises that only you hear. For some folks, they are just bothersome, but for others tinnitus is painful. If you’ve got that, then you certainly have hearing loss that you will need to handle.

Hearing problems are not always obvious to the person suffering from them, but it is to others. Listen to what your loved ones are telling you about your hearing. Consider, too, other medical issues that can contribute to this problem such as high blood pressure or medication you have been prescribed that could damage your ears and find out if age-related hearing loss is a hereditary problem for you.

When you do come to that decision, visit your doctor and get a professional hearing test for confirmation. Hearing loss isn’t the end of the world, but for most, it will imply it’s time to think about hearing aids.

How Likely Is It That Seasonal Allergies Will Mean Hearing Loss?

Woman with allergies turned, so her ear is facing the viewer.

Each new year and every new season brings with it the stuffy nose and itchy eyes that means allergies, but does that also mean you’ll have hearing loss? It might surprise you to know there is a connection for many people. You don’t necessarily associate hearing with the immune system, after all. It is not that simple. Your hearing is a complex sense, one that can be affected by an allergic reaction. So, what should you do if your allergies affect your hearing?

Understanding Allergies

An allergic reaction is part of body’s internal security plan managed by the immune system. It monitors different areas to detect intruders such as an infection. When bacteria gets in, the immune system works to fight it off. It also creates a special tag, known as an antibody, that marks this invader for future reference.

Let’s say a family member exposes you to the flu virus. If you have had the same strain before, an antibody allows the immune system to recognize it and respond. It will release histamine — the ground troops that fight off invaders — and that typically means inflammation of some kind. In the case of the flu, your sinus cavities and mucous membranes might swell in an attempt to trap the virus.

The problem is the immune system is far from perfect. Sometimes harmless substances like dust or pollen get an antibody in error. Once flagged, they will always seem like a threat. That’s an allergy. For allergy sufferers, this means everytime you come in contact with this allergen — that’s the dust or pollen — there is an immune system response. By definition, an allergy means you are hypersensitive to something that is harmless to most people.

Seasonal Allergies and Hearing Loss

Each year millions of people in this U.S. seek treatment for seasonal allergies. The other symptoms like congestion might keep them suffering enough that they fail to notice a change in their hearing. The ears rely on sound waves reaching a nerve in the inner ear, so they can be translated into something the brain can understand and allergies interfere with that process.

An allergic response typically leads to swelling and congestion. They, in turn, change the fluid pressure and prevent sound from traveling to the inner ear. You might notice pressure or a sense of fullness in the ears when that happens. The body produces more earwax in response to an allergy, too, creating a buildup that blocks sound.

The Skin and Allergies

An allergic response can affect the skin with swelling and an itchy rash, too. The ear has a considerable amount of skin that is at risk when allergies hit. There is the skin that covers the outer ear, known as the pinna, for example. The ear canal is covered with skin that can swell and itch enough to close the passage and prevent sound waves from moving forward.

Allergies and the Middle Ear

The middle ear is the area most often affected by an allergic reaction, though. This sensitive region contains tubes that allow fluid to drain and control the pressure inside the ear. An allergy can close the tubes allowing fluid and pressure to build, making it hard to hear.

How to Recognize Allergy-Related Hearing Loss

If you are one of the millions of people with seasonal allergies, these symptoms will be familiar:

  • Itching inside the ear canal
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Fullness inside the ear
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

When added to already existing conductive hearing loss, you can be left unable to hear.

Any time your hearing changes suddenly, though, it is worth considering seeing a doctor, especially if you don’t usually have allergies. Your hearing loss might be the first sign of a chronic medical problem like high blood pressure or diabetes. If allergies are a way of life for you, however, then treating them is probably all it will take to get your hearing back.