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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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Coping With Tinnitus In The Workplace

For millions of people around the world, work is a place of accomplishment, social interaction, and even self-identity. Our jobs contribute to who we are as people and affect our day to day lives, hopefully for the better. But for 32% of Americans struggling with varying degrees of tinnitus, their time in the workplace can be negatively affected by this common condition. According to a 2018 Tinnitus Hub survey, tinnitus is affecting more employees and their jobs than ever, drawing attention to an often overlooked problem and the massive economic impact tinnitus can have on your paycheck and health.

38% Of Respondents Are Struggling

Analyzing the data received from 1,800 respondents, the Tinnitus Hub survey had found that 38% of those who answered reported tinnitus has negatively affected their work prospects. Over 17% had reported that their tinnitus has stopped them from pursuing career progression, while 11% reported that they are struggling and thinking about giving up employment altogether. Most alarming, over 9% had said they have stopped working due to their tinnitus. Unfortunately, these numbers highlight the physical and mental barriers that many face in the workplace, making it harder to be productive or pursue new opportunities. Regrettably, these numbers are not surprising. Research has linked tinnitus to depression, anxiety, and mental health complications, with over 33% reporting severe depression associated with their tinnitus in some studies.

How Tinnitus Can Affect You At Work

There are multiple complications stemming from tinnitus that many of us face, including fatigue, depression, and anxiety. However, according to the Tinnitus Hub survey, respondents reported that difficulties with concentration were the biggest problems affecting them in the workplace. Survey participants reported that tinnitus negatively impacted their concentration mildly (41%), moderately (33%), and even severely (20%), with only a small minority reporting no concentration issues. Though tinnitus can cause fatigue, this trouble in concentration differs from listening fatigue that those with hearing loss experience. The constant ringing from tinnitus requires the brain to force the bothersome buzzing into the background, allowing other sounds and actions to be focused on instead. When one has to consistently block out sounds to concentrate on simple tasks, it can be difficult to focus on duties or be hopeful about future job prospects.

Work Environments May Contribute To The Problem

For some, their work environment may actually contribute to their tinnitus symptoms. Certain professions expose workers to dangerous volumes that may exacerbate or even cause tinnitus. Construction, manufacturing, and military service can expose workers to volumes exceeding 85 decibels, which can be harmful to your hearing health, but even environments with lower volumes can be detrimental. Those suffering from tinnitus often struggle with hyperacusis, a debilitating condition that makes patients hypersensitive to even typical levels of sound, like an office environment or phone calls. This can cause ear pain or spikes in tinnitus, making it difficult to perform or concentrate in common work environments.
If you are struggling with tinnitus in the workplace, seek out medical advice from a hearing health professional about treatment options and tips on how to cope. Sometimes, your tinnitus symptoms can be eased by changing medications or with assistive listening devices. Don’t lose hope when it comes to achieving your professional goals.

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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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Disclosing Your Hearing Loss To Your Employer

Hearing loss is a concern in the workplace. Estimates suggest that 60% of workers in the U.S. have some degree of hearing loss, and there is a tremendous need for education and services to address this growing problem. If you have a hearing loss, the first step you can take is to inform your employer about your hearing loss.

When to Discuss Your Hearing Loss

All employers in the U.S. must provide accommodations for workers with hearing loss per the law. Even so, hearing loss remains a barrier for applicants and workers who have difficulty with communication. A recent survey is considering when is the best time for an employee to discuss their hearing loss with their employer. The responses vary:

  • 11% say during the job application process
  • 33% think disclosure during the job interview is best
  • 14% of the respondents feel like it is appropriate upon receipt of the job offer
  • Only 3% believe the first day of the job is appropriate
  • In the first few months of the job say 12%
  • 5% think you should never reveal the hearing loss

22% of the people responding indicate that hearing loss disclosure is appropriate if it interferes with their job duties.

Disclosing Your Hearing Loss

Managing a hearing loss at work is challenging. Research shows that it is best to inform others of your hearing loss. When the subject of hearing loss arises, those with hearing loss tend to respond in different ways. Some people are forthright about their hearing loss and have no problem discussing it in detail. Some employees prefer not to talk about their hearing loss and continuously ask others to repeat themselves or speak up. Finally, some workers are willing to disclose their hearing loss and propose a communication strategy before beginning a conversation.
There are multiple ways for employees with hearing loss to handle it at work. Most researchers suggest a multi-disclosure approach that involves letting others know of your hearing loss. The co-workers will respond by speaking clearly and slowly, and it lets others know that your hearing loss does not define you.

Accommodations

When you disclose your hearing loss, there are accommodations you can request to make your work environment more accommodating.

  • Work area. When discussing hearing loss with your employer, make it clear that you wish to be as productive as possible.
  • Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are an option. Determine which system works best for you, check the price, and have your employer purchase one.
  • Telephones. You are permitted to have a hearing aid compatible (HAC) telephone at your place of work. You are also entitled to a captioned telephone service.
  • Emergency notification systems. Lights on fire alarms, vibrating pagers, and other emergency assistive devices should be put into place when you accept your new job.

If you are having challenges with your hearing, take the necessary steps to have the proper accommodations put into place. Everyone should get a hearing evaluation from a hearing healthcare professional regularly to diagnose a possible hearing loss and receive treatment.

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Why More People Should Be Wearing Hearing Aids (And Why They Choose Not To)

Hearing aid technology has seen miraculous advancements since their bulky predecessors of the 1970s, with new devices performing more like supercomputers than listening devices. Utilizing artificial intelligence, smartphone capability, and even reading your brain activity, some hearing aids are truly out of this world, helping millions across the globe bring sound back into their lives. Though the technology is impressive, studies continue to show that many choose to forgo hearing aids altogether, even when they can directly benefit. Whether you have obvious hearing loss or still aren’t sure, health experts are indicating that more Americans should be wearing hearing aids.

Hearing Loss is Extremely Common

Whether it is profound or mild, many Americans have hearing loss; 48 million in fact! Hearing loss is not an adult-only problem either, as every 2 to 3 children out of 1000 are born with a detectable level of hearing loss. Unfortunately, the estimates continue to grow. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 900 million people may suffer from hearing loss by 2050 across the globe. This is an alarming statistic, as hearing loss comes with many challenges, risks, and quality of life issues for those affected. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to increased risk of dementia, accidental falls, depression, and hospitalizations, making this common impairment a public health concern.

Why Some Decide Against Hearing Aids

Though technology and treatment options have become more advanced, a big percentage of hearing loss cases still go untreated. Various surveys have found that many struggling with hearing loss will wait years before purchasing hearing aids even though their hearing loss is known, some as long as 15 years! Why is this? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer.
Research indicates that stigma plays a large role in the decision-making process of whether to wear hearing aids. A 2009 study published by Dr. Margaret Wallhagen of the University of California San Francisco found that many patients associated hearing loss with aging or being handicapped. “Some people feared that wearing a hearing aid would make them appear unattractive.” explains Dr. Wallhagen, “They worried about the technology drawing attention to their ears and emphasizing their hearing loss.”
Cost is another worry for many. Though most indicate satisfaction with their device after purchasing, many patients believe they may not be worth the price before making the commitment.

What Experts Are Saying

Using hearing aids has been proven to minimize the risks involved with hearing loss and can truly improve the lives of patients. “Instead of worrying about ‘looking old,’ realize that hearing aids are a gift for you, your family, your friends, and everyone else you interact with,” says Dr. Steven Rauch, an otologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear, “They make everyone’s lives better.”
If you are struggling with hearing loss and have concerns, speak to a hearing health professional to learn about affordable and effective treatment options. Hearing aids will not only protect your health in the long term but will allow you to hear the things that matter to you today.

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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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Holistic Methods That May Help Ease Your Tinnitus

With around 50 million Americans reporting some form of tinnitus and 1 in 5 saying their condition is disabling, it’s clear that tinnitus is a serious problem that affects the day to day lives of many. Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus, but there are ways to ease or treat your symptoms depending on the root cause. For some, an underlying ailment such as a blood vessel condition or impacted earwax may be the cause of the bothersome buzzing, while others may choose to use medication such as antidepressants to reduce symptoms. Though medication may be a treatment option, certain medications are ototoxic and may actually worsen your tinnitus symptoms, leading some patients to prefer more holistic methods to avoid being introduced to new prescriptions. These certain adjustments to your daily life may reduce your tinnitus symptoms and increase your quality of life.

Lifestyle Changes

There are a number of changes you can make that may reduce your tinnitus symptoms that do not require supplements or medication.

  • Manage Stress. Studies have linked the onset of tinnitus to stressful events in patient’s lives, and there is a clear correlation between the severity of tinnitus symptoms and stress levels. Reducing stress may reduce the chance of experiencing tinnitus, or make your symptoms easier to cope with.
  • Avoid Possible Irritation. Some medications, stimulants, and environments are known to worsen tinnitus symptoms. Avoiding aspirin, nicotine, caffeine, and exposure to loud noises may stop the ringing from becoming more severe.
  • Drink Less, Hear More. Alcohol consumption is known to increase the severity of your tinnitus due to alcohol’s ability to dilate the blood vessels causing more blood to flow within the inner ear. This increased blood flow may change the composition of fluid in the inner ear and can have accompanying vertigo as well.

Alternative Medicine

Though there is little evidence to support alternative medicine’s treatment of tinnitus, some alternative therapies have been used to help patients with their symptoms.

  • Zinc Supplements. Research has found that some patients with tinnitus may have low blood zinc levels. A 2003 study by the Ankara Numune Research and Education Hospital in Turkey found that patients who took 50mg of Zinc daily for 2 months reported a 10 dB decrease in the volume of their tinnitus, though these results are inconclusive.
  • Vitamin B. Like Zinc, Vitamin B deficiency is more common in people with tinnitus. Though some studies have found an improvement in symptom severity following Vitamin B12 therapy, the results are not overwhelmingly significant.
  • Tinnitus has often been linked to trouble sleeping, with exhaustion leading to higher levels of stress, anxiety, and severity of symptoms. Melatonin is a hormone used to regulate sleep cycles, which may make falling and staying asleep much easier.

Seek The Advice of a Hearing Health Professional

Starting a supplement regimen or new medication without the approval of a health care provider may result in worsening symptoms. Before starting any treatment options, it is best to consult a hearing health professional who knows your unique health needs and can give you the most up to date medical advice.

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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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How to Better Include Children with Hearing Loss in Team Sports

Are you aware of any professional athletes with hearing loss? You may have heard of Derrick Coleman, who was the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. Or perhaps you watched a baseball game played by Curtis Pride, who, in 1993, was the first legally deaf player in the MLB in over 50 years.
While these athletes and others are inspiring in how they have overcome obstacles in order to succeed, the number of well-known athletes with hearing loss is sadly few. This is due at least in part to the difficulties players with hearing loss often encounter while participating in sports.
Imagine for a moment the challenges you might encounter in team sports if you are deaf or hard of hearing. You may not be able to hear the referee’s whistle to indicate that play should start or stop. You may also miss other important signals, such as the start of a race. You may not be able to understand what your coach tells you in a huddle or from the sidelines. You may not be able to effectively communicate with your teammates.
Due to these difficulties and others, children with hearing loss are often left out of team sports, or they may eventually give up and withdraw because of the challenges these sports present. This can be damaging to the child’s self-confidence, friendships, social activity, physical health, and overall development.
If you have a child with hearing loss or if you coach a team sport, it is important to know how children with hearing loss can be better included. Here are a few tips to help you include your child with hearing loss in team sports:
If you have a child with hearing loss:

  • Communicate with your child’s coach about your child’s needs and what might be most helpful to your child.
  • Ask whether trained support staff for children with sensory challenges are available. While support staff may not be available for the entire league, there may be sufficient resources to provide support staff for one or two teams.
  • Show your child’s coach or the team’s support staff how your child’s hearing device works.
  • Consider becoming a coach for your child’s team. Become involved in your child’s school sports by attending athletic department meetings and encouraging the coaches to become better educated on how to assist players with differing needs.

If you are coaching a team that includes one or more children with hearing loss:

  • Reach out to parents and ask how you can best support their child. Express a willingness to learn.
  • Understand that each situation is different. A solution that works for one child with hearing loss may not work for another. Keep in mind that other needs may be present on the team as well, such as children with attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and more.
  • Encourage team members to ask questions to learn how to better support the player with hearing loss. Promote respectful conversations about their challenges and solutions.
  • Face the players when you speak to them.
  • If you show a video, especially one with poor audio, provide a transcript.
  • When you discuss plays on the drawing board, add clear text labels.
  • After reviewing a game or discussing other important information, provide a written note detailing what you discussed

These simple tips can play a big role in making team sports an easier and more enjoyable experience for all children.
To learn more about how to accommodate and advocate for children with hearing loss, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to assist you!

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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.