Here are 15 Ways We Think Getting Hearing Aids Should Make You Richer and Happier

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Hearing aids are certainly on the market to improve the quality of your life, but how? You probably will hear better, sure, but does better hearing mean a better life? Does having hearing aids also mean more money in the bank? If you are one of the many people out there struggling daily to hear daily you might wonder if a hearing aid can save money and make your life better. Here are 15 ways having hearing aids will make you richer and happier.

1. What Have You Been Missing in the Grocery Line?

When you don’t hear well, your eyes do twice the work. That’s a big problem when you are trying to keep your local grocery store from over charging you, especially if the cashier is talking in the background. Hearing aids mean you can watch the scanner and know exactly how much each item costs without being rude.

2. Getting Your Money’s Worth in Class

You’re paying to attend that class, don’t you want to hear what is being said. Even if the teacher has a microphone and you miss out on discussions with other students. Now, is that money well spent?

3. The Confidence Factor

Is a positive self-esteem the secret to happiness? At least one study conducted by the National Institute on Aging says it is a contributing factor. Self-esteem is really the basis for happiness because it means you like yourself. That’s not easy when you always feel like you are missing something important in the conversations with friends and family, verbal instructions and even the right lyrics for your favorite song. Feeling confident relies on your ability to hear in many ways.

4. That Lack of Confidence Will Cost You

Of course, without good self-esteem, you will let opportunities pass you by like the chance to get a better paying job with more responsibility.

5. What About Your Job

Is your poor hearing holding you back at work? Maybe you have trouble following oral instructions or are unable to listen to customers. Coworkers might even get annoyed with you because you ask them to repeat themselves. A 2011 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute discovered that not getting hearing aids can cost you as much as 30,000 dollars in income each year.

6. Hearing Aids Improve Relationships

Clinical research shows that almost 70 percent of people claim that having hearing aids improve their personal relationships. Another 81 percent stated they were pleased when a partner finally got a hearing aid.

7. Hearing Aids Enhance Friendships

Let’s face it; no one really likes to have to repeat themselves. It’s as frustrating for your friends and family as it is for you to be left out of the conversation all the time.

8. Music Means Happiness

The opposite is true, as well. When you can enjoy the music you love, you develop a feeling of loss. Listening to music isn’t just fun, either, it triggers a neurological response that makes you feel better.

9. The Joy of Live Theater

You won’t find closed captioning in a live theater show, but with hearing aids, you won’t need it. Whether you are headed out to a Broadway musically or just want to you see your grandchild star in the latest school production, you’ll a better audience member if you can hear the show.

10. The Beautiful Sounds of Nature

People tend to take things like the chirping of birds and the wind blowing for granted – that’s until you no longer hear them. Hearing aids bring those beautiful sounds back into your life.

11. That Sense of Unease

What about that icky sensation that comes with not being able to hear what is going on around you? It’s a combination of uneasiness and dread. Your senses give you a feeling of security when you are moving around a room, and without your hearing, you lose that clarity.

12. You Never Played Better

Whether you are on the company bowling league or just love to spend an afternoon at the local golf course, your game will improve with the right hearing aids on the team. Better gameplay means more enjoyment and confidence.

13. The Things You Don’t Even Realize Your Missing

One problem with hearing loss is you tend to get complacent. You forget the things you are missing out on, but hearing aids change all that for you. You’ll spend the first couple days in awe hearing all the things you’ve been missing.

14. A Sense of Wellbeing

Avoiding things you know you need creates anxiety. If you are putting off getting hearing aids, it is sitting there in the back of your mind causing stress. Giving in to that need means you are doing something good for yourself and that feels good.

15. Hearing Aids Improve Cognation

The struggle to hear take a toll on your brain and is a factor in Alzheimer’s disease. Getting hearing aids will lower your risk.

Things You Need to Hear About Hearing Loss While It’s Still Possible

Side view of an ear with waves emanating.

Sound is so deep incorporated into people’s lives that it’s hard not to take it for granted. Still, each year 20 percent of Americans lose their ability to hear. In fact, for those over 65 years of age, one in three of them suffer from some level of hearing loss, explains the Hearing Loss Association of American.

You may think that losing your hearing is just a part of getting older, but there is more to it. The things you do now to protect your ears can slow the process and maybe prevent it entirely. The main factor is education. The more you understand about hearing loss, the better. Let’s discuss few facts about hearing loss that you need to understand before it’s too late.

There are Different Kinds of Hearing Loss

Understanding what type hearing loss you have helps to find solutions. There are three to consider:

  • Conductive – This is what you might link with aging. This form of hearing loss means there is a change in the mechanisms of hearing, so sound waves can’t reach the inner ear. What’s important to remember about conductive hearing loss is it might be reversible. Something is simple as a buildup of ear wax can cause it.
  • Sensorineural –Trauma from an accident or a disease to the ear prevents the nerves from translating sound to the brain. The sensorineural hearing loss not fixable.
  • Mixed –This means you have both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Once you understand why hearing changed, you can figure out ways to enhance your quality of life with things like hearing aids.

Aging Thing Isn’t Always Why

Advanced age does put a person at risk for conductive hearing loss, but it’s not the only factor. The ears are very delicate, so environmental stressors take their toll, as well. This may be part of the reason why elderly folks tend to lose some of their hearing. By paying focusing now to the things that will cost you later, you can keep your ears safe. Other dangerous scenarios to consider include:

Loud noise – Studies indicate that at least 48 percent of plumbing professionals suffer hearing loss. Why – because they are exposed frequently to loud noises on the job. Even small things like listening to music with the volume up, spending evenings watching your favorite local band perform or riding in the car with the windows down can be a problem. Loud sounds create potentially dangerous waves that will eventually damage the sensitive elements that allow you to hear.

Medication – Some forms of medication are ototoxic, meaning they cause damage to the inner ear. There are currently around 200 different medications capable of triggering hearing or balance problems including over the counter aspirin.

Trauma or Illness – An injury to the ears or certain illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic ear infections

Hearing Loss Starts Small and Grows

It’s best to be proactive because hearing loss begins slowly and increases over time. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Mumbling when people talk
  • Complaints of people needing to repeat themselves
  • You need the volume up high on the TV
  • Certain sounds become difficult to understand, specifically words with the letter S or F and high pitched voices
  • You have trouble following conversations
  • You respond inappropriately to questions

If you feel like you are having difficulties in any of these areas, schedule a hearing test. The earlier your hearing loss is diagnosed, the better the prognosis in most cases. Prompt medical care for your hearing defect will increase your chance of recovery.

The good news is there is life after hearing loss if it does happen to you. There are personal listening devices like hearing aids that help your tune out background noise and enhance dialect, for example. The more you understand about your hearing loss, the better able you are to find ways to manage it.

4 Ways a Hearing Test Could Just Save Your Life

Doctor talking with a patient

Perhaps you think a hearing test is only necessary if there is a problem with your ears. Perhaps your family complains you turn the sound up too high on the television when you watch your favorite show or you’ve noticed that conversations seem garbled more and more. Those are both practical reasons to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states about 15 percent of the adult population living in the United States has similar problems, more so as they grow older. In fact, it’s possible that you have some hearing loss and getting the test done will provide an answer. What you might not understand, though, is getting screened for hearing loss is a lifesaver because that change in your hearing might indicate something much bigger is affecting your health. Consider four ways getting a hearing test could save your life.

What is the Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

This is a link that medical researchers have made just recently, but a real breakthrough for millions of individuals. The World Health Association reports that by 2050, there may be over 100 million individuals globally suffering from some form of dementia. At the root of this increase is the age-related hearing loss. Research offered by scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions discovered that people with mild hearing loss, around a 25 decimal decline, increase their risk of developing Alzheimer’s. For every 10 decibels that your hearing drops, the risk increases by 20 percent. The reasoning is complex, but, essentially, the struggle to hear constantly takes a toll on the brain. A hearing test can predict your risk level and help create a solution like a hearing aid to reduce the stress and lower your risk.

The Link Between Heart Disease and Hearing Loss

Getting a comprehensive hearing exam might save you from a heart attack or even death. Hearing loss is often a symptom of heart disease. The inner ear has a very sensitive network of blood vessels. Even the tiniest change in blood flow, like a poorly functioning major artery, can show up first as hearing loss. If the hearing test indicates a slight decrease, but there doesn’t appear to be any problem with the mechanisms of your ears, the next place to look at blood flow.

Hearing Loss and Skin Cancer Finds

A hearing test is an assessment that goes beyond just the audiometer screening. A medical professional will do a physical exam of your ears, too. This location is a difficult to see and where a suspect mole can be easily missed. During the exam of your ears, the physician will look at the skin for signs of lesions or potential cancer growth.

Hearing Loss and Depression

The old saying you don’t miss something until it’s gone if very true when it comes to hearing. Even minor hearing loss can bring with it stress and depression. You may not know why you’re struggling to keep up or perhaps you think bad hearing is just part of getting older. You may be afraid of what a hearing test will tell you, too. What if you are going deaf and there is nothing you can do about it? That fear is unwarranted for most. Hearing loss is usually treatable medically or by using a hearing assistance device. Either way, you have more to lose than gain by avoiding this simple test. You are making a choice when you decide to live with your hearing loss instead of getting tested and treated. Now you know it’s a decision that can really cost you.

Are There Sounds Folks with Hearing Loss Miss

A man with his hand next to his ear trying to hear

The hearing loss problem in this country affects around 14 percent of the adult population – this includes 25 percent of people over the age of 55. Tack on another 14.9 percent of kids who have some degree of hearing loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the extent of this problem becomes clear. What do you think these individuals can’t hear, though?

Some Facts Regarding Hearing Loss

The sounds that each person hears vary depending on a number of factors such as why they have hearing loss. There are four defined classifications of hearing loss:

Conductive – The one you might associate aging, conductive hearing loss implies sounds cannot get through to the inner ear to be interpreted by the brain.

Sensorineural – Sensorineural means a damage or defect to the inner ear or hearing nerve. It might be due to a congenital disorder, disease or maybe trauma.

Mixed Hearing Loss – This refers to a combination of both conductive and sensorineural problems.

Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder – Hearing loss that happens when the brain cannot interpret the sound due to damage to the inner ear.

Each type brings with it different symptoms. There are some common complaints between them, though: including the affected person may or may not hear. Consider five sounds a person with hearing loss might be missing.

Frequencies in the High Range

For some people, this loss is limited to high frequencies – in other words, this person fails to interpret anything above 2,000 Hertz. This form of hearing loss makes it difficult to understand words. When this person watches TV or has a conversation, certain words will sound muttered or unclear for this person. The words affected contain the consonants S, H, and F, which usually fall between 1,500 to 6,000 Hertz.

Frequencies That are Low

Sometimes, hearing loss occurs at the opposite end of the scale. The low-frequency hearing loss implies sensorineural damage and impacts sound produced at less than 2,000 Hertz. Generally, this low-frequency hearing loss is a genetic or congenital defect such as cochlear malformation.

Soft Tones

When a person has conductive hearing loss, they will hear most sounds if they are loud enough, but not at normal volumes. This explains why amplifying the sound with hearing aids is a solution for them and why they are always turning up the TV or need headphones to hear their music. The ears work if the sound is loud enough to get through. When someone speaks in a normal voice, they may hear something but it sounds garbled and unclear.

Conversation in a Noisy Room

Often times, it’s what you can hear that screws things up. People with a significant hearing challenge will experience something call recruitment noise. In other words, the background sounds overwhelm everything else. A sound like the air conditioner turning on masks all other noise.

This background noise is loud enough to cause physical distress, at times. The phenomenon occurs when an individual has both normal and damaged hair cells in the inner ear. The normal cells take over for damaged ones close by causing the sound to be excessively loud.

Speech of Any Kind

Profound hearing loss means a person hears no speech. Medical professionals use a classification system to measure hearing loss in decibels – a person with normal hearing measures anywhere from -10 to 15 dB HL (decibels of hearing loss) during a hearing test. To be diagnosed with profound hearing loss, the classification is 91 or more dB HL.

No two people hear or don’t hear the same thing regardless of their hearing challenges. It all depends on why your hearing is diminished and how severely.

* How hearing works

* hearing loss

* conductive hearing loss

* sensorineural

* Studies

* Mechanisms

Memory Can Be Improved With The Treatment of Hearing Loss

A woman looking confused, scratching her head with questions marks in the background

When we think about growing older, one of the most important aspects of aging seems to be staying mentally sharp. Because this is on the minds of so many, brain training games have become very popular in recent years. These types of games promise to preserve our mental ability and also help to sustain our memories.

The effectiveness of these games have been under the gun recently, and it is suffice to say that the latest research isn’t promising for the brain training games. When the results of these games were examined, they actually failed a big scientific test.

Where can you turn now that brain training games are not as successful? Research has consistently shown us the importance of healthy hearing to a healthy memory. In fact, it turns out that the connection between memory and hearing is stronger than anyone initially thought.

In order to improve and sustain your ability to remember, it is necessary to understand how memory works in the first place. We will review how human memory is processed and retained.

How human memory works

Human memory is so complex and widespread across the brain that it has yet to be fully understood. There is no single area of the brain that we can designate as the one location where memories are stored.

Memories are stored across the brain with the help of electrical and chemical signals. These signals involve billions of neurons and trillions of connections between them. Because of the complexity of the brain and the abundance of information that is still unknown, memory is not fully understood.

Despite the great amount of unanswered questions in regard to memory, we are aware that the creation of memories occurs in three stages: encoding, storage, and retrieval.

When you take in information from the environment, the first stage of encoding is occurring. Encoding makes filtering out unimportant information possible. After the information is filtered out, you can then focus on what’s important. If this did not occur, your brain would inevitably try to store every stimulus you were exposed to. This overabundance of information in storage would cause your memory to quickly fill to capacity.

Memory storage follows encoding. Your short-term or working memory can hold about seven pieces of information for 20-30 seconds. The expansion of this capacity is possibly though, through several techniques, such as chunking (breaking long strings of numbers into groups, for example) or by using mnemonic devices.

When you store information in short-term memory, it either fades away and is lost completely, or it is transferred into long-term memory. In order to achieve the storage of information in long-term memory, there are three necessary actions you must take. The keys to moving information from short-term to long-term memory are attention, repetition, and association. These help you store memory of any piece of information more successfully because you become:

  1. less distracted and more focused on the information you want to store.
  2. exposed to the information more frequently and for longer periods of time.
  3. able to associate the new information with information you already have.

When you are able to recall, at will, information stored in long-term memory, you are practicing the retrieval stage. The better the information is encoded and stored, the easier the stage of retrieval will be.

How growing older affects memory

The brain can change its structure in response to new stimuli, a characteristic referred to as plasticity. This kind of change in the brain can be both good and bad.

As we age, our brain changes in many ways. It loses cells, loses connections between cells, and even has the ability to shrink in size. These structural and chemical changes can have negative effects such as impairing our memory and worsening our general cognitive function as we grow older.

The plasticity of our brains, however, also means that we can build new connections when we grow older. These connections can help us learn new things and simultaneously strengthen our memories. In fact, studies have shown that exercise and mental stimulation can help our brains stay sharp as we enter our older years.

Simply put, lack of use is actually the main culprit for memory loss. This is why keeping our minds active and learning new things is an essential part of healthy aging.
How hearing loss affects memory

What about hearing loss? Can hearing loss actually affect our memory?

It is easy to see why hearing loss affects your memory, and there have been many studies to support that claim. We’ve already seen that your ability to store information in long-term memory is largely related to your ability to hear.

So let’s say you’re having a conversation with someone. Two things are occurring when you are communicating and experiencing hearing loss. One, you’re not able to hear part of what is being said, so this means that your brain is never able to successfully encode the information in the first place. Later, when trying to recall the information that you attempted to store, you are unable to.

Second, you have to devote mental resources to trying to figure out meaning through context because you are only able to process part of what is being said. This leads to most of the information being lost or distorted in the struggle to understand meaning.

On top of it all, the brain has been shown to reorganize itself in those with hearing loss. With reduced sound stimulation, the part of the brain responsible for sound processing becomes weaker and the brain then recruits this area for other tasks.

Improve your memory, schedule a hearing test

From what has been discussed above, the solution to improving our memories as we age has clearly been shown. First, we need to maintain an active and sharp mind. This means we must challenge ourselves and learn new things on a daily basis.

In addition, we must take the proper steps to maintaining our hearing. Enhancing sound stimulation with hearing aids can help us to better encode and remember information, especially during conversations. And, the enhanced sound stimulation to the parts of the brain responsible for sound processing ensures that these areas stay strong.

So forget the brain games—learn something new that you have an interest in and schedule your hearing test to ensure that your hearing is the best it can be.

6 Barely Known Problems That Affect Hearing and Balance

Diagram of the anatomy of the human ear

Hearing loss is a very common concern in this country, one that affects 48 million people in the U.S., in other words, approximately 20 percent of the entire population. The chances you know someone who has hearing loss are around 1 in 5.

For the most part, hearing loss is due to chronic exposure to loud sounds or simply the consequences of aging. For some individuals, though, hearing loss is a symptom of a less common condition.

Consider six little-known hearing disorders you should know more about.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)

BPPV is dizziness caused by a collection of calcium carbonates crystals, called “ear rocks,” that form inside the inner ear. The medical name for these crystals is otoconia.

The calcium crystals typically occur due to a head injury, an infection, or similar disorders. Symptoms of BVVP include dizziness, poor balance, lightheadedness, and nausea. They may worsen with changes in head position.

BPPV can resolve itself, but there are treatment options available including head exercises designed to move the crystals out of the inner ear structures. Drug therapy is also sometimes used and, occasionally, surgery.

Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis occurs due to inflammation of the inner ear and hearing nerves usually related to a viral, or less commonly, a bacterial, infection. This swelling interrupts the transmission of sensory information to the brain, causing difficulties with balance, hearing, and even vision.

Treatment options include antiviral or antibacterial drugs and therapies used to control the symptoms of dizziness or nausea. If quickly diagnosed and treated, labyrinthitis usually causes no permanent damage. However, if left alone, permanent hearing loss can result.  

Ménière’s disease

Ménière’s disease is an inner ear condition that defined by vertigo, progressive hearing loss, ringing in the ears, and a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.

The cause of Ménière’s disease is not well understood but it may be a combination of several factors, including poor fluid drainage of the inner ear, unusual immune response, viral infection, genetic predisposition, and head injury.

Treatment options include medications for vertigo, hearing aids for hearing loss and tinnitus relief, antibiotics to treat infections, and surgery for severe cases.

Acoustic neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is an uncommon tumor of the hearing and balance nerves that disrupts the transmission of hearing and balance data to the brain. Although this benign tumor does not spread to other organs, it can become large enough to cause hearing loss and balance problems.

There are over 5,000 cases of acoustic neuroma annually in the US. Treatment generally includes surgical removal of the tumor or radiation. Without treatment, the acoustic neuroma can push into the brain, threatening neurological function and even life.  

Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED)

AIED is a rare-seen but progressive condition directly related to immune cells attacking the inner ear. Like most autoimmune disorders, the cause is not well understood.  

Symptoms can include hearing loss, balance problems, and tinnitus. Diagnosis includes hearing tests and also blood tests to check for general autoimmune disease.

Treatment options are limited but growing, currently; they include some combination of steroids, other medications, plasmapheresis, and hearing aids or cochlear implants for hearing loss.

Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is a condition that involves the hardening of bones in the inner ear bones. These bones are critical elements in the transmission of sound vibrations to the inner ear and then to the brain. The hardening of these bones interferes will eventually lead to slowly progressing hearing loss.

Otosclerosis tends to run in families. If one parent has the disorder, there is a 25 percent chance of the child developing it, as well; two parents have the condition that likelihood increases to 50 percent.

Treatment options for mild forms of the disease include long-term observation or hearing aids. Sodium fluoride is sometimes offered to slow the progression of the disorder. In certain situations, a surgical procedure called stapedectomy is done to remove the hardened bones and replaced them with a prosthetic device.

 

It’s important not to ignore symptoms of hearing loss or changes in balance. Although these conditions are not common, they are all best treated early.

 

 

A Complete Look Into Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

A tablet computer with the words tinnitus on the screen.

 

Tinnitus can be frustrating for a litany of reasons. First, the condition is very subjective, so you can’t exactly display to anyone what the ringing sounds like, how loud it the ringing may be at a given time, or how aggravating it can be at any particular moment.

Second, there’s no true method to measure tinnitus. You can’t, for example, go into the doctor’s office, get some blood taken, and get diagnosed with tinnitus.

Third, to this day we still don’t have a complete understanding of how exactly tinnitus works. As such, our understanding of the root causes and eventual treatment options remain less than ideal.

This can all be very frustrating, of course. However, those who are affected by it should not feel hopeless. Encouragingly, despite the possible frustrations, many people end up displaying a large amount of improvements in their symptoms when paired with the right treatment plan.

Throughout this article, we’ll be discussing one treatment option in particular, known as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). To understand how it works, first you first have to have a grasp of the two parts of tinnitus.

The Two Parts of Tinnitus  

Tinnitus can be defined as the perception of sound when no external sound source is present. Therefore, we can break tinnitus down into two main parts:

  1. The actual sound – usually perceived as a ringing sound, but can also be perceived as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking sound.
  1. The emotional reaction – the perception of the loudness and character of the sound and its disruption to everyday life.

In order to be most effective, treatment of tinnitus requires addressing both parts. By doing so, this is the underlying rationale of Tinnitus Retraining Therapy.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy

Continuing on what we just went over, let us break TRT down into two parts. Of course, the first part will be speaking to the actual sound tinnitus produces, and the other will be dealing with the emotional and behavioral repercussions those affected may encounter.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy makes use of external sound to “mask” the internal sound of tinnitus. This mitigates tinnitus on a number of levels, and has proven to be an exciting and effective method to treat the condition.

First and foremost, the external sound can partially or completely cover the tinnitus sounds, and in the process, can divert the patient’s attention away from the ringing of tinnitus. This can provide an immediate sense of relief for the patient.

Second, sound therapy can result in what is called “habituation,” where the brain is trained over time to reclassify the tinnitus as an unimportant sound that should be ignored. This is the end goal of sound therapy.

Lastly, the use of specialized sound minimizes hyperactivity in the brain which is thought to be the underlying mechanism of tinnitus. This is called “neuromodulation”, and can be achieved with continued implementation of sound therapy.

Sound therapy has both short-term and long-term benefits, and works across multiple levels to mitigate the severity of the symptoms of tinnitus. Sound therapy can be delivered through special sound masking devices, headphones, and even hearing aids for the patient.

In theory, any sound or noise can provide a masking effect, however, specialized medical-grade devices deliver customized sounds or music programmed to match the characteristics of the patient’s tinnitus. Your hearing care professional can help you select the right device and sound.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

In addition to sound therapy, TRT also employs behavioral therapies that address the second, emotional component of tinnitus. In many ways, this is the more critical component, as tinnitus can trigger strong emotional reactions like anxiety, depression, and anger. The effects on the individual can be far-reaching, and have a much larger impact than the tinnitus itself.

Research in this area has led to some surprising conclusions. For example, studies have found no correlation between the loudness/pitch of tinnitus and patient-reported distress.

This is good news because it means that you can learn various techniques to reduce the anxiety caused by tinnitus (which itself can make the tinnitus worse). Behavioral therapy has also been extremely effective. A 2010 meta-analysis of eight research studies showed large-scale improvement in depression and quality of life for patients that participated in the therapy.

Behavioral therapy can be delivered in a variety of methods, most commonly through one-on-one meetings, in groups, at a clinic, over the phone, over the internet, or directly from the patient’s home. Therapy includes education, identifying tinnitus triggers, instituting healthy lifestyle choices to mitigate symptoms, and mindfulness of stress reduction.

Take Action and Silence Your Tinnitus

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy is so exciting because it leads to habituation on both fronts, both in terms of the actual sound and in terms of the emotional and behavioral responses.

While there is no known cure for tinnitus, you can help to control the symptoms with the right plan and some perseverance. As your tinnitus is “covered up” and the brain is trained to ignore it (habituation), you’ll be able to better cope with the sounds and improve your quality of life.  

 

How Do I Get Used to My New Hearing Aids?

The word unprepared with the “un” crossed out

Don’t let anyone tell you there’s a one-size-fits-all hearing aid. You’ll need to work through the process with a qualified hearing care professional to get the right set of hearing aids for your individual needs and to get the best hearing experience possible.
Follow these steps to get the most out of your new hearing aids:

Before your appointment

During your hearing test, your hearing care professional will evaluate your hearing in-depth, look through the results, and help you decide if hearing aids are right for you. Before your testing appointment, make sure to compile a list of questions to review with your hearing care professional.
These are some basic questions you’ll need to ask; add more of your own so you get all the answers you need:
What level of hearing loss do I have: mild, moderate, severe, or profound?
Can hearing aids help? Do I need them in both ears?
Which hearing aid is best for my needs? How can I balance features with cost?
What are my financing options for hearing aids? (Private insurance, credit arrangements, state programs, etc.)

During your appointment

If the results of your hearing test come back normal, hearing aids may not be required, but you’ll have a baseline test to compare future hearing tests.
If the results indicate hearing loss, and that you could benefit from hearing aids, your hearing care professional will review all of the possible options with you.
In selecting a hearing aid, there are several variables to consider. Make sure you cover these areas:
Programmability – most hearing aids are digital and programmable so that they can be programmed to address the specific needs of your hearing loss. Do not skip this step; if someone tries to sell you a hearing instrument right out of the box without any adjustments to fit you, it most likely won’t work the way you need it to.
Style – There are many different styles and models of hearing aids today, from models that sit behind the ear to models that fit entirely inside the ear canal. You’ll want to balance price, ease-of-use, functionality, and aesthetics in making your decision.
Wireless connectivity – several hearing aid models connect wirelessly to compatible smartphones. With these features, you can discreetly adjust volume and settings, send phone calls directly to your hearing aids, and even stream music all without any wires or the need for a separate hearing aid remote control.
Advanced features – some hearing aids come equipped with additional advanced features, like directional microphones to enhance speech, background noise reduction, environmental settings, and telecoils for clearer phone calls. Discuss and consider what features you need and what you might be able to forgo to stay within your budget.
This may all seem confusing, but your hearing care professional is trained to help guide you through the decision-making process. Of course, if someone tries to rush or steer you to a decision without addressing your questions, that should be a red flag.

Going home with new hearing aids

After selecting your new hearing aids and having them programmed by your hearing care professional, you can take them home. But your journey is just beginning, so don’t forget the following two important things:
First, you won’t fall in love with your hearing aids as soon as you put them in for the first time. You’ll likely be hearing sounds you haven’t heard in a while, and the overall sound will just seem “off.” This is perfectly normal and, after a few weeks, will subside.
We recommend starting small at home. Try watching a movie and paying particular attention to the dialogue, engage in one-on-one conversations in a quiet room, and try listening to music and picking out or following certain instruments.
Although it will probably be uncomfortable at first, try to wear your hearing aids for as much of the day as possible, putting them in when you wake up and taking them out before bed. This will speed up the adjustment process, and after a few weeks, you’ll be glad you put in the effort.
Also remember that your hearing aids can be adjusted, so if you continue to have difficulty hearing or adapting to the new sound, schedule a follow-up visit with your hearing care professional to fine-tune the settings.
Second, to ensure continued performance, you’ll need to properly maintain and care for your new hearing aids. This means daily cleaning, proper storage, and managing your battery supply.
You can make these tasks easier on yourself with the right tools and habits. Hearing aid cleaning kits, storage cases/sanitizers, and batteries can all be supplied, with tips, from your hearing care professional.
After a short period of adjustment, you’ll be prepared to enjoy the all the benefits of better hearing. If you have any other questions about hearing aids, or the process of acquiring them, give us a call!

The Link Between Healthy Hearing and Physical and Mental Health

Group of older people smiling in a huddle with active gear

The links between various aspects of our health are not always self evident.

Consider high blood pressure as one example. You normally can’t detect elevated blood pressure, and you wouldn’t feel any different than if it was normal. Internally, however, higher blood pressure can slowly damage and narrow your arteries.

The consequences of narrowed arteries can ultimately result in stroke, cardiovascular disease, or kidney disease, which is one of the reasons we have an annual physical—to detect the presence of abnormalities before the serious consequences develop.

The point is, we often can’t identify high blood pressure ourselves, and often can’t immediately understand the connection between high blood pressure and, as an example, kidney failure years down the road.

But what we should understand is that every part of our body and aspect of our physiology is in some way connected to everything else, and that it is our responsibility to protect and enhance all aspects of our health.

The consequences of hearing loss to total health

Similar to our blood pressure, we typically can’t perceive small increments of hearing loss as it develops. And we definitely have a harder time envisioning the possible connection between hearing loss and, say, dementia years down the road.

And although it doesn’t seem like hearing loss is immediately associated with dangerous physical disorders and cognitive decline, the science is telling us the exact opposite. Just as increases in blood pressure can damage arteries and cause problems anywhere in the body, hearing loss can diminish stimulation and cause damage to the brain.

In fact, a 2013 study by Johns Hopkins University found that those with hearing loss acquired a 30-40 percent faster decline in cognitive function compared to individuals with normal hearing. Additionally, the study also found that the rate of cognitive decline was higher as the degree of hearing loss increased.

Experts believe there are three potential explanations for the connection between hearing loss and brain decline:

  1. Hearing loss can trigger social isolation and depression, both of which are acknowledged risk factors for mental decline.
  2. Hearing loss causes the brain to shift resources away from thinking and memory to the processing of fainter sounds.
  3. Hearing loss is a symptom of a shared underlying injury to the brain that also impairs cognitive capability.

Possibly it’s a combination of all three, but what’s clear is that hearing loss is directly associated with declining cognitive function. Reduced sound stimulation to the brain changes the way the brain functions, and not for the better.

Additional studies by Johns Hopkins University and others have discovered additional connections between hearing loss and depression, memory problems, a higher risk of falls, and even dementia.

The consequences are all connected to brain function and balance, and if the experts are correct, hearing loss could likely lead to additional cognitive problems that haven’t yet been studied.

Going from hearing loss to hearing gain

To go back to the initial example, having high blood pressure can either be disastrous to your health or it can be addressed. Diet, exercise, and medication (if needed) can reduce the pressure and maintain the health and integrity of your blood vessels.

Hearing loss can similarly create problems or can be attended to. What researchers have observed is that hearing aids can minimize or reverse the effects of cognitive decline by revitalizing the brain with enhanced sound.

Enhanced hearing has been linked with elevated social, mental, and physical health, and the gains in hearing fortify relationships and improve conversations.

The bottom line is that we not only have a lot to lose with unattended hearing loss—we also have much to gain by taking the steps to enhance our hearing.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss – Causes and Treatment Options

Man holding hand to ear struggling to hear

Your chances of developing hearing loss at some point in your life are regretfully very high, even more so as you grow older. In the US, 48 million individuals report some level of hearing loss, including almost two-thirds of adults age 70 and older.

That’s the reason it’s crucial to understand hearing loss, so that you can recognize the signs and symptoms and take preventive actions to reduce damage to your hearing. In this article, we’re going to focus on the most widespread type of hearing loss: sensorineural hearing loss.

The three forms of hearing loss

Generally speaking, there are three types of hearing loss:

  1. Conductive hearing loss
  2. Sensorineural hearing loss
  3. Mixed hearing loss (a mix of sensorineural and conductive)

Conductive hearing loss is less common and results from some type of obstruction in the outer or middle ear. Common causes of conductive hearing loss include impacted earwax, ear infections, benign tumors, perforated eardrums, and hereditary malformations of the ear.

However, sensorineural hearing loss is far more common.

Sensorineural hearing loss

This category of hearing loss is the most prevalent and accounts for about 90 percent of all reported hearing loss. It is the result of damage to the hair cells (nerves of hearing) of the inner ear or to the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain.

With sensorineural hearing loss, sound waves enter the outer ear, hit the eardrum, and arrive at the inner ear (the cochlea and hair cells) as normal. However, as a consequence of damage to the hair cells (the very small nerve cells of hearing), the sound signal that is provided to the brain for processing is diminished.

This weakened signal is perceived as muffled or faint and usually has an effect on speech more than other types of lower-pitched sounds. Additionally, as opposed to conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent and can’t be corrected with medicine or surgery.

Causes and symptoms

Sensorineural hearing loss has multiple possible causes, including:

  • Genetic disorders
  • Family history of hearing loss
  • Meniere’s Disease or other disorders
  • Head injuries
  • Benign tumors
  • Direct exposure to loud noise
  • The aging process (presbycusis)

The last two, exposure to loud noise and aging, account for the most frequent causes of sensorineural hearing loss, which is honestly great news because it means that the majority of cases of hearing loss can be avoided (you can’t avoid aging, obviously, but you can regulate the collective exposure to sound over your lifetime).

To fully grasp the signs and symptoms of sensorineural hearing loss, you should remember that damage to the nerve cells of hearing almost always occurs very slowly. Therefore, the symptoms advance so slowly that it can be just about impossible to perceive.

A slight amount of hearing loss each year will not be very detectable to you, but after a number of years it will be very apparent to your friends and family. So although you might believe that everybody is mumbling, it may be that your hearing loss is catching up to you.

Here are some of the symptoms to watch for:

  • Difficulty understanding speech
  • Problems following conversions, particularly with more than one person
  • Turning up the television and radio volume to excessive levels
  • Continually asking other people to repeat themselves
  • Perceiving muffled sounds or ringing in the ears
  • Feeling exceedingly tired at the end of the day

If you detect any of these symptoms, or have had people inform you that you might have hearing loss, it’s best to arrange a hearing exam. Hearing tests are quick and pain-free, and the sooner you treat hearing loss the more hearing you’ll be able to retain.

Prevention and treatment

Sensorineural hearing loss is largely preventable, which is great news because it is without question the most common type of hearing loss. Millions of cases of hearing loss in the United States could be prevented by implementing some simple protective measures.

Any sound above 80 decibels (the volume of city traffic inside your car) can potentially harm your hearing with long-term exposure.

As the decibel level increases, the amount of time of safe exposure decreases. As a result, at 100 decibels (the volume of a rock concert), any exposure over 15 minutes could impair your hearing.

Here are some tips on how you can reduce the risk of hearing loss:

  • Use the 60/60 rule – when listening to a mp3 player through headphones, listen for no more than 60 minutes at no more than 60 percent of the maximum volume. Also think about investing in noise-canceling headphones, as these will require lower volumes.
  • Safeguard your ears at live shows – concerts can vary from 100-120 decibels, significantly above the ceiling of safe volume (you could damage your hearing within 15 minutes). Limit the volume with the aid of foam earplugs or with musician’s plugs that preserve the quality of the music.
  • Protect your ears at your workplace – if you work in a loud occupation, check with your employer about its hearing protection program.
  • Protect your hearing at home – a variety of household and recreational activities produce high-decibel sounds, including power saws, motorcycles, and firework displays. Always use ear protection during extended exposure.

If you already have hearing loss, all is not lost. Hearing aids, while not able to completely restore your hearing, can dramatically improve your life. Hearing aids can enhance your conversations and relationships and can forestall any further consequences of hearing loss.


If you think that you may have sensorineural hearing loss, book your quick and simple hearing test today!