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When Should You Disclose Your Hearing Loss?

Whether you suffer from tinnitus or a mild form of hearing loss, it’s often difficult for others to tell. Some may think you’re just not interested in what they’re saying, and many feel its rude to be ignored. Bosses may decide you’re simply not capable of learning a task. A select few people may have a hint that you’ve got issues hearing, but most won’t be willing to ask, because, well, that’s considered rude too.
So when is a good time to disclose your hearing loss? This is a question that plagues many, and the answers aren’t always cut and dried. Given that a variety of situations can arise, there are many different possible answers.
Of the approximately 48 million people across the U.S. that have hearing loss, many of them feel that sharing this detail with others shows they have a weakness. They worry about stereotyping, discrimination, job security, their relationships with others. And all of these are valid points.
But just consider, if you did share this side of your life, what doors may open. You might be privy to better seating for get-togethers or meetings so that you could better hear your companions. Additional services such as enhanced phone systems or listening devices could be utilized to ensure you either hear the conversation better or are able to record it to playback at your leisure. The requests to repeat themselves wouldn’t be met with sighs of frustration.
Even though there may be awkwardness in the conversation, there is a multitude of reasons to consider telling others about your difficulty hearing. First and foremost is for others to help ensure your safety. Other reasons include workplace issues such as not being excluded from a job because the employer thought you weren’t able to comprehend or felt you were ignoring their wishes.
Even personal relationships can benefit from sharing this information. Friends and family who you don’t see as regularly might not be up on the details of your life, but by sharing this information with them you could pave the way for better communication. They may have similar problems or have suggestions on coping or devices that you hadn’t known about.

Safety Reasons

The first thought in many people’s minds is for the safety of those with some form of disability. People with hearing loss are no exception. Even a minor case may be subject to serious accidents. For instance, the inability to hear a horn honking or emergency vehicles nearby. Tornado sirens or fire alarms are further examples. Even someone walking too close to you could present a safety issue such as getting knocked down or potentially robbed.
The more people who know about your difficulties, the more people who can take that critical moment to inform you if there is a danger present. Whether at work or at home, it’s nice to know someone is out there that can help. Even if it’s the neighbor coming over to let you know that the weather service just called out a potential weather threat.

Workplace Transparency

Opinions about workplace transparency differ greatly. According to a poll of email subscribers taken in January of 2020 in which the Hearing Health Foundation sought the opinions of their subscribers on whether or not to share details of hearing loss in the workplace.
Of the initial 100 responses, they learned of the following variations in thought on the subject:

  • In the job application: 11 percent
  • During the job interview: 33 percent
  • Upon receipt of a job offer: 14 percent
  • On the first day of the job: 3 percent
  • Within the first few months of the job: 12 percent
  • Never: 5 percent
  • Other: 22 percent

From the 22 percent who thought ‘other’, they learned that it would be based on the specific circumstances or situation of the individual. From those with firsthand experiences the poll was met with opinions such as:
“When you know it’s presenting a problem and you cannot hear your co-workers,” wrote one participant who selected “other.”
“With my cochlear implants, I did so well that I didn’t need to tell (anyone at work),” wrote another respondent, who also said that they would only disclose the hearing loss if their devices weren’t sufficient for communication in the workplace.
While it’s common practice not to add details about your hearing loss while writing out your resume, it’s deemed as ok to share as early as a job interview, especially if there is any chance it will be noticeable. By not adding it to your resume, you level the playing field with other applicants. Much like you wouldn’t share details about marital status or religion at this stage.
It’s difficult to judge when to mention something that is sensitive to you. By opening up the doors of communication, you can encourage others to ask about any stumbling blocks you encounter and how they can make the workplace a little friendlier for you. It also enables you to make requests for accommodations such as being seated to face the speakers in a meeting, away from a noisy doorway, or towards the front at a conference.

Personal Relationships

If you were out with friends and didn’t tell them you were having trouble hearing, yet you were shy or grumpy about asking them to repeat themselves, it could cause tension if they thought you were ignoring them. This could lead to fewer invitations to go out.
By sharing a bit about your struggle with hearing loss you might unknowingly help yourself. Others are often great at offering to accommodate such as choosing a quieter location for get-togethers or remembering to look directly at you when speaking.
Some are even knowledgeable about the problem and can offer good advice. They might be friends with a good audiologist or have a family member who also deals with the issue. Friends and relatives are often happy to make recommendations of tips and tricks they’ve learned, places that are HL friendly, or upcoming events that might offer additional information on your situation.
Be sure to give it some serious thought before making your decision. While it might not be the right place or time to do it, if you’re willing, you can find a way to bring up the subject and answer any questions knowledgeably. Consider making a list of possible questions others might ask as well as your answers. This will help you feel more prepared when the situation presents itself.
If you struggle with how to explain it, talk to your hearing health provider about your concerns. They can offer better insight into your hearing loss as well as point you towards resources that will help you gain a better understanding of appropriate ways to share the information with others.

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Could Anemia Cause Hearing Loss?

Chances are you’ve heard of iron deficiency anemia or low iron levels. You may know that it can cause extreme fatigue along with other troubling symptoms and that it can have a significant impact on your overall health. You may also be wondering what low iron levels have to do with hearing health. According to experts, it could be a hidden cause of hearing loss.
What is iron-deficiency anemia?
It is estimated that 10 million people are iron deficient in the United States, including 5 million who have iron deficiency anemia. In many cases, it is preventable and curable. Iron deficiency anemia is “a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells.” It is these red blood cells that carry vital oxygen throughout the body. This type of anemia can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cold extremities
  • Unusual cravings or low appetite

These are just some of the symptoms you can experience with this form of anemia. According to researchers, low iron levels could also lead to hearing loss.
Low iron and hearing loss
Over recent years, researchers have begun to explore the potential link between iron deficiency anemia and various types of hearing loss. While the research has been limited, a link is hard to deny.

  • In a study in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 300,000 adults aged 21 to 90 in Pennsylvania. Using the records, the team identified those who had both iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss. Those with iron deficiency anemia were 2.4 times more likely to have combined hearing loss and 1.8 times more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) than those who did not have anemia.
  • A systematic review and meta-analysis that included the previous study and three others noted similar links between low iron levels and hearing loss. The four studies reviewed included 344,080 adults and children. The researchers determined that individuals with iron deficiency anemia were 55% more likely to develop SNHL than those without.

While many theorize that hearing loss develops due to blood vessel damage in the ears, which can be a side effect of anemia, the exact cause is yet to be determined.
Ultimately, the researchers in each study concluded that more research was needed but that there were steps that could be taken now by physicians and hearing health care providers. Specifically, hearing evaluations for those diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia are considered a smart step to help identify and treat hearing loss early in millions of Americans.
If you’ve been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, your doctor may run tests to determine the underlying cause and recommend treatments such as supplements. Whether or not they recommend it, a hearing evaluation is a great next step to get a baseline of your hearing and identify any changes in hearing.
Contact our office to discuss your hearing health and how to manage it (including hearing aid options) and to schedule a hearing evaluation.

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Hearing Aids vs. Hearing Amplification – What Are My Options?

Are you the type who sits in a restaurant or an events center and wishes to be able to boost the sound around you just a bit more? Maybe you’d like to be able to hear if the baby is crying from across the house or possibly, you’re a hunter hoping to enhance the sounds of a deer walking through the woods?
Or are you the one with the TV turned up really loud and are always asking your friends and family to repeat what they said? Do you find yourself avoiding busy, loud, or crowded places because it’s simply too difficult to converse?
Depending on where you fall in this spectrum, you might be interested in a personal sound amplifying product (PSAP) or you might need a hearing aid. There are vast differences between the two, and while they both are designed to help increase sounds, they are not interchangeable. Each device has a specific and important job.

Personal Sound Amplifying Products

PSAP’s are designed to enhance the environmental sounds for people who don’t have any type of hearing loss. They are typically used by outdoor enthusiasts such as hunters or bird watchers, busy parents who have duties in another room but still want to be aware of what babies or small children are up to and are even enjoyed by those who visit the theater.
They are designed to be used occasionally and only for short spans of time. They are not intended for long term daily use. Many people think that PSAP’s are a lower cost option to buying an actual hearing aid, but this is not the case. While not dangerous when used according to the manufacturer’s directions for short term use, these amplifying devices can in fact cause more damage to the hearing of wearers who actually have hearing loss.
For those shopping around, you might find these amplification devices called some combination of the following:

  • Amplifier
  • Digital sound amplifier
  • Hearing aid amplifier
  • Sound amplifier
  • Voice amplifier

While they are meant to be used within the ear, they are not a substitute for hearing aids. The term “amplifier” is a good clue that they are not a hearing aid. Though different designs are very similar to actual hearing aids, these devices can be purchased over the counter without a prescription or an evaluation of the individual’s hearing.
Unlike hearing aids, amplifiers cannot be customized to the individual’s specific pattern of hearing loss. Many who buy them as an inexpensive substitute for hearing aids are disappointed that they do not meet their expectations. Some are even more put off the idea of buying real hearing aids due to their lack of satisfaction with the amplifiers.

Hearing Aids

For people who have difficulty hearing, the first step is to visit your hearing health professional and have an examination. They will perform some simple tests that will help determine if you do indeed have decreased hearing.
These professionals are trained to diagnose hearing loss, and in many cases can identify the cause of the issue. They can offer ways to improve hearing whether through surgery or the assistance of a hearing device. With their vast knowledge and the benefits of modern technology, there will be a solution to help each patient individually.
For people who are in need of hearing aids, they can be customized to the patient’s particular hearing loss needs. Though they usually come with a higher price tag, they often have the added benefit of being warrantied. Your audiologist or other hearing health professional would be happy to assist you in adjusting for fit, learning to clean the device and change the batteries.
Some models can be operated by an app on a smartphone. The professionals you purchase your device from will be able to help you with learning how to program and make necessary adjustments to have your hearing aids operate at maximum efficiency for your specific needs.
Dr. Melissa Danchak, AuD, says over the counter amplification devices are like drugstore reading glasses, they are more of a one size fits all type of device. For people with vision problems, they tend to outgrow the drugstore readers eventually and must visit an eye doctor in order to get the lenses needed to correct their vision.
Hearing devices are much the same, if you do go with the cheaper, over the counter option, they likely won’t work well or for long, and people with different hearing impairments will experience different levels of success with the device. Eventually, they’ll need to visit a hearing health professional in order to get a device that will actually improve their hearing.
“People have different degrees of hearing loss at different frequencies, or pitches, so the sound really needs to be shaped and fine-tuned for their loss,” Dr. Danchak explained. “Ears can also be very sensitive to loud sounds while not hearing soft sounds so simply making everything louder doesn’t work well for most people. Making everything louder just makes everything louder—all the things you do and do not want to hear.”
By seeking out a highly customizable hearing aid, users can increase their quality of life tremendously. With the support of qualified professionals, they will have a better experience and therefore outcome to regain a more normal level of hearing.

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The Mental Distress of Tinnitus

Chances are you’ve heard of tinnitus. You may have even been diagnosed with tinnitus yourself or have a sneaking suspicion that you could be thanks to that constant buzzing, ringing or whooshing in the ears you’ve started to notice.
Tinnitus is so much more complicated than it may at first seem, though. It’s not just the ringing in the ears. It’s the emotional and mental distress that this diagnosis can have.
What is tinnitus?
One of the most common health conditions in the United States, tinnitus, is believed to affect roughly 15% of people. In other words, tens of millions of people just like you and me. Tinnitus is often related to or a symptom of other health conditions. It can be caused by:

  • Noise exposure
  • Hearing loss
  • Associated medical conditions like high blood pressure
  • Head injuries

There is no known cure for tinnitus. Hearing health professionals and researchers have made finding solutions for managing and curing it a top priority as we learn more about the startling mental and emotional effects of tinnitus.
The reality of tinnitus
For those living with tinnitus, the constant sensation of noise can have significant effects on health. It has been linked to anxiety and depression, and a recent article highlighted that it could even be linked to thoughts of self-harm. With this in mind, many experts are stressing the importance of a more thorough and human approach to treating those with tinnitus. One that considers not just the diagnosis but also the person living with that diagnosis.
“Audiologists should be aware that patients with tinnitus are potentially fragile emotionally, especially during the early months following onset of tinnitus,” advised Caroline J. Schmidt, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Yale Medicine in New Haven, CT. “The impact of tinnitus differs among people. Some people have no emotional response to it at all. Other people find it to be very distressing.”
It’s this understanding that has led many hearing health professionals to use a treatment approach that includes not only strategies for managing and minimizing the sound of tinnitus but also mental health strategies that help them cope with the diagnosis.
Managing tinnitus and its effects
While there is no cure, there are options for treating tinnitus such as:

  • Hearing aids
  • Mindfulness
  • Sound therapy
  • Relaxation Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Acupuncture and Alternative Therapies
  • Medication (in some cases this may be effective)

To support these treatment strategies, many experts now also coach individuals on mental health strategies such as these:

  • Acceptance – Education and understanding that the tinnitus is really just a sound that happens to tap into our emotions can be an essential first step to managing the diagnosis.
  • Shifting to the positive – It’s easy to fall into negative thoughts. Still, experts have found that changing the negative to more neutral (reality-based) or even positive thoughts can give patients power over their situation.
  • Focus on sleep hygiene – Most people these days could benefit from sleep hygiene, but especially those with tinnitus. Avoiding electronics, alcohol, and caffeine before bed, following a relaxing bedtime routine including relaxation exercises or meditation, and even using white noise machines can all help with better sleep for a better next day.
  • Keep doing what you love – Whether it’s music with friends, a favorite hobby, or volunteering in the community, don’t let tinnitus keep you from what you love. As with hearing loss, it’s common for those with tinnitus to seek solace in social isolation, but this can lead to anxiety and depression. Experts recommend staying in the game for mental and emotional benefits.

If you believe you have tinnitus, contact us to schedule a hearing evaluation. Strategies like these can help you manage your condition without sacrificing your emotional or mental health.

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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.

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The Ins and Outs of Hearing Aids

The evolution of technology has done amazing things with hearing aids over the years. Many of the devices manufactured today are incredibly advanced, hooking seamlessly to Bluetooth technology, streaming GPS from your phone, or even linking to a hearing loop at a theater or events center.
No matter what model hearing device you have, it’s a good idea to spend some time learning about the various features and parts that are involved in case you encounter a problem. There are two common types of hearing aids on the market. In-the-ear (ITE) and Behind-the-ear (BTE), both of which are broken down into various styles.
Common parts are shared amongst most of the styles, with all models having:

  • Microphone (collects sound waves and relays them to the amplifier)
  • Amplifier (transforms sounds into electrical signals then sends them to the receiver/speaker)
  • Wire (transmits power and signal from the body of device to the speaker)
  • Power source (battery maybe disposable or rechargeable)
  • Receiver/speaker (typically located within a dome or earmold inside the ear canal)
  • Switch/button (depending on size and style, this might change programs, settings, or volume)

In-the-Ear

Described appropriately, this type of hearing aid is worn inside the ear canal. More customizable to the individual patient, your hearing professional will take an impression, likely during the initial consultation. Different styles of ITE hearing aids fit deeper inside the ear canal, though there are some that sit closer to the outer ear and are available in assorted skin tone colors.
Invisible in the canal (IIC) and Completely in the canal (CIC) devices are pretty much invisible to those around you. Even upon close inspection they are often unable to be detected. Placed deep within the ear canal, these tiny instruments can be removed by gently pulling on a small string that is attached to it.
Initially many are unsure about this, but after a short period of becoming acclimated they are pleased with the ease of use and the anonymity of use. Advantages are:

  • Sound quality due to fit within the ear
  • Very discreetly hidden

Some disadvantages are:

  • Due to the small size, they can be difficult for people with dexterity issues
  • The small size can also hinder wireless connectivity, for example with cell phones
  • They are more prone to damage due to moisture and ear wax buildup

In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids utilize more of the outer, lower portion of the ear canal. This sets them out a bit farther and allow more usability for people who experience problems operating smaller instruments. Since they are slightly larger than their IIC and CIC counterparts, they are known to have a longer battery life and can work for a broader variety of hearing difficulties.
Still discreet, they offer an extended range of features as well, such as manual controls for volume adjustment and directional microphones. These allow for better reception in loud environments like sporting events, restaurants, or at concerts. Advantages include:

  • Additional features and a longer battery life than IIC and CIC models
  • Discreet

Though slightly different than IIC and CIC models, they share similar disadvantages such as:

  • The small size can also hinder wireless connectivity, for example with cell phones
  • They are more prone to damage due to moisture and ear wax buildup
  • Due to more of the ear being occupied, the wearer may experience a more plugged feeling

Low profile hearing aids fall within the ITC style though they vary from full-shell designs that fill most of the outer ear bowl area to half-shell which fills a portion of the ear bowl. These models are designed a bit larger and allow for features such as manual controls for volume as well as the ability to change programs with the push of a button in addition to directional microphones.
Some advantages of this model:

  • Allows for more features
  • Additional user controls
  • Larger size makes insertion and removal easier
  • Better connectivity with wireless devices

Disadvantages are:

  • Larger size makes it less discreet
  • Due to more of the ear being occupied, the wearer may experience a more plugged feeling

Behind-the-Ear

Normally referred to as receiver in the ear (RITE), receiver-in-ear (RIE), or receiver in canal (RIC) this type of hearing device has an open-fitting design with the speaker made to be inserted into the canal via an ear dome, rather than the main part of the hearing aid.
With the speaker inserted into the ear canal, the main brains of the device sit behind the hear in a very small box that houses the microphone, amplifier, a power source, and potentially a telecoil. The telecoil has become quite common on most hearing aids within the past 50 years. The small copper coils work in combination with a hearing loop to offer the wearer a significantly greater experience in areas where available such as event centers, airports, courtrooms, and medical offices as well as many other public areas.
The speaker located within the ear canal is connected to the transmitter with a small, thin wire. This type of technology offers a quality of sound that is more advanced and is available from most major manufacturers of hearing aids.
As with all these options, no one type, or style is right for everyone. Seek the assistance and advice of a hearing health professional if you’re considering purchasing hearing aids. Have them run through all the benefits and features of each part so you’re aware of the pros and cons and can make an educated decision.
If you already wear hearing aids, do yourself a favor and become familiar with the different parts that make them work. You’ll be better able to troubleshoot any problems you encounter, or you’ll be in a better position to explain to your hearing aid specialist if you’re having issues.