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Can You Hear What Your Food Is Telling You?

As a new year rolls around, many people make resolutions to exercise, lose weight, eat better. With these goals in mind, they have great hopes to lessen the risk of stroke, heart disease, better control diabetes, and many other positive life changes.
One thing that most people aren’t aware of is the fact that eating a healthier diet can lower the risk of hearing loss. A new study undertaken by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital observed how the long-term diet of a test group of women was associated with a decline in the sensitivity of hearing frequencies which are vital to understanding speech.
Utilizing the information of dietary intake collected over 20 years from the Nurses’ Health Study II Conservation of Hearing Study (CHEARS), found that women who followed a long-term healthy eating plan were 30 percent less likely to experience a decline in the ability to discern mid-frequency sounds. At higher frequencies, they experienced a decrease of around 25 percent.
This is good news for those who tend to eat a healthier, more colorful diet. By offering a larger variety of fresh, colorful food, you can be sure that you’re taking in a fuller dose of vitamins and minerals that the body needs to function.
According to an article in the Hearing Health Journal, the study’s lead author Sharon Curhan, MD, who is a physician and an epidemiologist in the Brigham’s Channing Division of Network Medicine reported, “The association between diet and hearing sensitivity decline encompassed frequencies that are critical for speech understanding. We were surprised that so many women demonstrated hearing decline over such a relatively short period of time,” she said.
“The mean age of the women in our study was 59 years; most of our participants were in their 50s and early 60s. This is a younger age than when many people think about having their hearing checked. After only three years, 19 percent had hearing loss in the low frequencies, 38 percent had hearing loss in the mid-frequencies, and almost half had hearing loss in the higher frequencies. Despite this considerable worsening in their hearing sensitivities, hearing loss among many of these participants would not typically be detected or addressed,” Curhan stated.
Keeping the size of your waistband down is just one of the many benefits of eating healthy. The sugary junk food that is available at every checkout counter and vending machine is fast and easy, but it’s not the best thing for you.
Instead of carb loading on pasta, have some veggie noodles. They’re excellent with different sauces. Recipes that contain foods such as zucchini noodles pair nicely with an alfredo sauce. Spaghetti squash is a close second to actual spaghetti noodles and goes great baked with a meat sauce. If you can buy fresh veggies for it, even better!
Eating organic is extremely healthy when possible. Some areas find it difficult to locate a good source of organic food, while others simply grow their favorite produce in their own garden. With the boom of technology, almost anything can be shipped right to your door.
By packing your diet with folate, foods such as asparagus, broccoli, chickpeas, or liver offer an excellent source of vitamin B9. Folate is good for minimizing the likelihood of age-related hearing loss. Leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, and snacks like sunflower seeds are well known for their folic acid content. In the event you can’t find these options, consider taking them as a vitamin supplement in pill form.
Magnesium is another requirement for healthy hearing. If you spend time in a noisy environment, this can help to protect hearing by shielding the tiny hairs that are inside the inner ear. These sensitive hairs can be damaged by long-term exposure to loud noise which then leads to the loss of hearing.
By eating a variety of artichokes, avocados, beans, spinach, tomatoes, or whole grains, you can help strengthen these tiny hairs that aid in hearing. Many of these ingredients go well in a stir fry or grilled dishes and there are so many things that can be added to them. Meats or other vegetables are easy to add and offer additional nutrients to increase the possibility of hearing well for years to come.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important to people over 50 who have a higher likelihood of decreased hearing. These little beauties can help delay age-related hearing loss or in some cases even prevent it. Some of the best sources of omega-3’s are fresh fish.
Anchovies, herring, mackerel, oysters, and salmon are excellent options and can be prepared in many different ways. From salmon patties to oyster in the half shell, baked, smoked, or grilled, there are multiple ways to fit them into a healthy diet. If you’re not into eating fish, using a cod liver oil supplement can provide you with the right amount omega-3’s in addition to vitamins A and D.
Potassium and Zinc are also big players in decreased hearing. With decreased potassium, the body isn’t able to properly regulate the fluid we need to have throughout it, leaving the ears with a lowered level of fluids. This means that the electrical impulses transmitted to the brain are not able to function at peak performance and we lose the ability to comprehend the sounds we hear. Apricots, bananas, milk, potatoes, and raisins are just some of the foods that will increase these needed potassium levels.
Zinc helps protect against tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Low levels of zinc leave the body ripe for the development of this annoying condition. By eating a diet rich in seeds, legumes, vegetables, as well as meats such as pork, beef, or dark meat chicken, you can keep these levels elevated where they need to be.
By sharing your love for a diet rich in color and variety, you can also teach kids how to eat healthy and protect their hearing for a healthy life full of sound. Help yourself by making the needed adjustments so you can enjoy hearing long into your golden years.

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Risk Factors For Hearing Loss That May Shock You

Forty-eight million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Not surprisingly, hearing loss has many possible causes. Topping the list of culprits is frequent exposure to loud noise, aging, injury, infection, ototoxic drugs, and shingles. However, there are risk factors for hearing loss that may come as a surprise. Knowing these hidden risks can help you protect your hearing.

Sleep Apnea

People with sleep apnea are more at risk for hearing loss than others who do not have sleep apnea. The reason is a mystery. However, medical professionals think it is related to the reduction in blood supply to the inner ear, which is part of the condition. Of course, years of loud snoring can also damage hearing.

Excess Weight

As your body mass index (BMI) rises, so does the risk of hearing loss. A report on a study involving more than 64,000 women with a BMI between 30 and 34 shows a 17 percent higher risk of hearing loss. The good news is that women who walked more than two hours per week were 15 percent less likely to have hearing problems.

Alcohol

If you habitually drink excessive amounts of alcohol, you may need to worry about your hearing. Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages damages the central auditory cortex, which increases the amount of time it takes for your brain to process sound. Alcohol can cause balance problems due to alcohol absorption into the fluid of the inner ear.

Stress

Chronic stress can cause numerous health problems. Stress causes circulation problems which affect hearing. Acute stress forces oxygen to muscles so the body can move swiftly. This shunting of blood ultimately ends in hearing loss as the blood flow to the inner ear is limited.

Vaping

Nicotine, an addictive chemical that restricts blood flow to all parts of your body, is bad for your health. The chemical is also harmful to your hearing health because it restricts blood flow to your ears. Vaping with nicotine affects your hearing just like regular cigarettes. Leaving the nicotine out is not much better. Flavorings, colorings, and other additives added for flavor contain propylene glycol which may harm the ears.

Mumps

Mumps causes swelling of the salivary glands. In extreme cases, mumps can also lead to hearing loss. The common belief by the medical community is that mumps damages the cochlea. The cochlea contains stereocilia and the stria vacularis, which are both critical for proper hearing.

Iron Deficiency

A study suggests a relationship between iron deficiency and hearing loss. People with iron deficiency are twice as likely to have hearing loss than those without an iron deficiency. The mineral plays a vital role in keeping blood flowing to the cells of the inner ear, which process sound.
Your hearing health depends on being aware of the hazards in the home, at work, and in the environment. Being aware of these dangers, including the lesser-known risks, will help you protect your hearing. If you have any questions about hearing aids, smart hearing aids or about your personal experience with hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Autumn Oak Speech, Voice & Hearing. We are happy to help!

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Depression: Greater Hearing Loss Shown to Increase Risk

In recent decades, experts have concluded that hearing loss is a much more complex health concern than we ever realized before. Sure, it affects communication, may require a little more planning for social outings and introduces us to hearing healthcare providers and all they can do, but it’s also linked to more pressing concerns. One of those connections is depression.
What is depression?
Depression is so much more than just feeling a little sad. It affects every aspect of your life, making it difficult to do even the most basic tasks from working to just getting out of bed. It is generally defined as “a mood disorder that causes distressing symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.” Symptoms are present almost every day for at least two weeks.
There are several types of depression, but the two main types are:

  • Major Depression – this lasts at least two weeks; maybe a one-time event but generally happens more than once during the person’s lifetime.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder – this lasts for at least two years; there may be episodes of major depressions along with periods of less severe symptoms.

While you do not have to have hearing loss to develop depressive symptoms, researchers are finding that hearing loss puts you at a higher risk of developing depression.
The hearing loss depression connection
Several studies over recent years have confirmed a link between untreated hearing loss and depression. The most recent went one step further, finding that the greater the hearing loss, the higher the risk of having depressive symptoms.
The study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, analyzed health data from 5,239 individuals over age 50. Each person had both a hearing evaluation and depression screening.
The team found that those with mild hearing loss were nearly twice as likely to have symptoms of depression than those with normal hearing. Those with severe hearing loss were over four times as likely to have symptoms.
While the researchers confirmed that additional studies are needed to prove the link definitively, it is hard to deny that there does seem to be a connection.
How to prevent depression
Findings like these underline just how important it is to get regular hearing evaluations and treatment for hearing loss. Hearing aids may do more than just help you hear the world around you; they could help prevent depression.
If you’re treating your hearing loss but would like to do more to prevent developing depressive symptoms, tips like these can help:

  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • Reduce stress
  • Include exercise in your daily routine
  • Follow good sleep hygiene practices for better sleep
  • Maintain relationships with friends and family

If you believe you may be experiencing signs of depression, contact your physician or trusted health professional to get help. If you have any questions about hearing aids, smart hearing aids or about your personal experience with hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Autumn Oak Speech, Voice & Hearing. We are happy to help!

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Independent Living for Those with Hearing Loss

For someone who lives with the day-to-day struggles of hearing loss, retaining or regaining some semblance of independence is very important and but can seem a bit intimidating. Whether you’ve lived with a reduced hearing most of your life or are newly diagnosed, there are options that could help you to be more self-sufficient and safer.
Thanks to the amazing advancements in technology today, the markets are booming with apps and devices that can help you live your daily life with much more ease. From waking up each morning to responding to danger there are now options that could fit into your search for independence seamlessly.

In Case of Emergencies

Should the unfortunate happen, and an emergency occurs, you could have just minutes to react. Without the proper equipment, there could be dire consequences. There are options available to notify you right in your own home of these situations. With the aid of hearing aids, assistive listening devices, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or FM systems there is no reason to go without this essential protection.
In the event of a fire, smoke, or carbon monoxide danger, there are devices that will emit a powerful photoelectric light strobe to catch your attention as it alarms. There are also several models that have a shaker pad that can be placed under the cushions of your favorite chair or bed mattress to alert you while you sleep.
In addition, the shaker devices can alert you with a digital readout on the programming display that states “FIRE”. While most should be installed by a licensed fire alarm company, they are well worth the expense of knowing you will be alerted at the first sign of smoke.
These devices may be sold as separate units or be combined in one. Some models are designed to discern the higher pitch of an existing device and go off with its own tone, much lower and louder pitched that is more apt to wake someone with hearing loss.
Weather alerts are another tricky road to navigate for the hearing impaired. The threat of dangerous storms such as tornados, hurricanes, or thunderstorms can make independent living an unnerving experience. But missing the emergency weather alerts is a needless worry these days with all the amazing things available.
For those who don’t watch TV or keep the radio on, weather alerts can go unnoticed. The rumble of thunder and crack of lightning can too. Radios designed for special weather alerting can work with bed shaking devices or strobe lights if these devices fit into your lifestyle. They can alert someone who is alone in the home or even asleep of the need to seek shelter or evacuate.
Some models have both a light and a display. While a warning light appears, it’s then followed by a readout on the display that says what the emergency is like “Tornado”.

Communication

Communication is another area that might cause some distress for those with reduced hearing or deafness working to achieve an independent lifestyle. Questions abound for people in this situation

  • How will I know when it’s time to wake up?
  • How will I know if I have a visitor?
  • How will I contact help in an emergency?
  • Will I know if the phone is ringing
  • Will I hear the baby cry?

With today’s advancements in technology, these questions are no longer a problem and there are devices available to answer each one. Devices to alert people come with different functions such as a visual flashing light, the vibrotactile which provides a vibration pad that can be used in sleeping or sitting areas, and auditory alerts that use a lower frequency and higher amplification.
There are alarm clocks specially designed for the hearing impaired.  These come in a multitude of different styles. From a lamp that comes on to wake you up, to strobe lights, and on to bed shakers for those that really sleep soundly.
Doorbell alerts are also available to signal that someone is at your door. These work whether there is an existing bell system or not. These can be found with a strobe light system that can connect to your phone or even to a different phone with a specific receiver for this purpose. Some models work like a security system that allows you to see who is at your door via a small visual monitoring screen.
They can also alert you when a door or window has been opened within your home so this doubles as an excellent safety alert system too. Viewing devices can be placed around the home for visual monitoring of doors or windows or even external buildings.
For home phone calls, special signalers can be attached to the side of a phone or be plugged into both the outlet and phone lines. This device directly picks up the sound which triggers the alert. Captioning devices can help by translating conversations into text on a large screen. This is also an excellent device when making calls or in an emergency situation to ensure there is no miscommunication.
For those with cell phones, there are many options or apps out there for the adaptation of these devices as well. Bracelets and smart watches can be linked to cell phones that will vibrate or flash to alert the wearer when a call is coming in. They can also flash the phone number and caller ID to let them know who the call is coming from.
For parents living with hearing loss, having small children can be challenging. Many fear they won’t know when their baby cries. Those fears can be put to rest with specifically designed transmitters and receivers that pick up on their crying and send an alert to a central system. This system then alerts the parent by audio, video, and vibration signals.
With all the devices and apps available today, there are so many options to make independent living a possibility for those with hearing loss. Be sure to talk to your audiologist about the possibilities for improving the living situation of you or someone you love. If you have any questions about hearing aids, smart hearing aids or about your personal experience with hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Autumn Oak Speech, Voice & Hearing. We are happy to help!

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How Untreated Hearing Loss Could Lead to Higher Health Care Costs

It’s that time of year again. You’ve renewed your health insurance and maybe getting ready to take it out for a spin. We all know that things like age and existing conditions can affect our insurance and medical costs, but did you know that untreated hearing loss can also lead to higher health care costs?
If you believe you have hearing loss and have been waiting for just the right time to seek treatment, this may be just the sign you’ve been looking for.
Untreated hearing loss hits harder than you think
While it’s easy to think of hearing loss as a minor annoyance, research has begun to show that it can have significant and long-term effects on our lives, especially when it is left untreated.
Untreated hearing loss has been connected to:

  • A higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia
  • Increased risk of social isolation
  • Lower-income
  • Increased risk of anxiety and depression
  • Increased risk of falls

Many believe that they don’t have hearing loss or that it’s not significant enough to seek treatment, but any level of hearing impairment can pose a risk to your health, and according to recent findings, your healthcare costs.
The findings
According to results from a study out of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, older adults with untreated hearing loss can pay “substantially higher total health care costs compared to those who don’t have hearing loss.” The study found that increased expenses averaged approximately 46 percent or $22,434 per person over a decade.
At the start of the study, the research team analyzed health care data to identify approximately 77,000 people believed to have untreated age-related hearing loss. This group was compared to those with similar demographics and healthcare use but without the hearing loss.
After ten years, the same data and markers were revisited. The link was undeniable. Those with untreated hearing loss had experienced more hospital stays and readmissions, were more likely to seek treatment in the emergency room, and even had more outpatient visits than those in the group without hearing loss.
What changes?
The question is, how can untreated hearing loss have such a significant effect? Experts have several theories as to why this may be the case:

  • Several connections have been uncovered between hearing loss and other serious health issues such as cardiovascular diseases and cognitive decline. This connection may result in additional health care costs.
  • Hearing loss can impact a person’s ability to communicate with healthcare professionals leading to incomplete information and additional health care costs.

Experts continue to research the connection between untreated hearing loss and higher health care costs, but the link is undeniable.
“Knowing that untreated hearing loss dramatically drives up health care utilization and costs will hopefully be a call to action among health systems and insurers to find ways to better serve these patients,” says Nicholas S. Reed, AuD, study lead and a member of the core faculty of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Bloomberg School.
If you believe you have hearing loss, take action now to protect your health and your wallet. Contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation today.