Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

Is There a Connection Between Harsh Sounds and Brain Disturbance?

Do the screams of a siren or the shrill cry of a peacock send you into flight or fight mode? Does the sudden honk of a vehicle make you jump? If so, you are not alone. The effects of harsh sounds can seem intolerable to some people. In fact, this is the reason most alarms are so annoying.
Alarm manufacturers intentionally use tones with fast-paced, repetitious sounds that have the effect of putting us on alert. Neuroscientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) as well as Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) in Switzerland have spent time researching the reactions that people have to a varied range of sounds.
With a goal of identifying the point that test subjects determined these frequencies to be objectionable, scientists explored the areas of the brain that reacted to different frequencies. By having them listen to sounds repeatedly from 0 to 250 Hz at intervals closer together each time, researchers at UNIGE asked participants to determine the point where the sounds went from several intermittent sounds to a solid, continuous one.
With the responses they got, the scientists found that at around 130 Hz participants heard only one continuous sound. This prompted the question of why the brain determines harsh sounds as obnoxious. Keeping that in mind, they requested that the test participants listen to different frequencies. They were instructed to categorize them from 1 to 5, with 1 being tolerable and 5 being obnoxious.
According to Luc Arnal, who is a researcher at the Department of Basic Neurosciences at UNIGE’s Faculty of Medicine, “The sounds considered intolerable were mainly between 40 and 80 Hz, i.e. in the range of frequencies used by alarms and human screams, including those of a baby. That’s why alarms use these rapid repetitive frequencies to maximize the chances that they are detected and gain our attention.”
Armed with this knowledge, neuroscientists worked to figure out why the brain reacts to these as sounds as intolerable. Pierre Mégevand, a neurologist and researcher in the Department of Basic Neurosciences in the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and at HUG reported, “We used an intracranial EEG, which records brain activity inside the brain itself in response to sounds.”
For sounds that are detected as one long continual sound, the intracranial EEG showed that there was activity in the auditory cortex, which is located in the upper temporal lobe. Mégevand stated, “This is the conventional circuit for hearing.”
The sounds that participants determined were intolerable (such as the ones they reported between 40 Hz and 80 Hz) resulted in a constant reaction that also involved a number of cortical and subcortical areas that are not normally involved in the traditional auditory system.
To this, Arnal responded, “These sounds solicit the amygdala, hippocampus, and insula in particular, all areas related to salience, aversion, and pain. This explains why participants experienced them as being unbearable.” He was reportedly surprised about the fact that these regions had something to do with sound processing.
Researchers were unable to find previous data that supported their findings that sounds between 40 Hz and 80 Hz had ever been determined to drive these same neural networks, though for many years these same frequencies have been used in various alarm systems.
According to Arnal, “We now understand at last why the brain can’t ignore these sounds,” says Arnal. “Something in particular happens at these frequencies, and there are also many illnesses that show atypical brain responses to sounds at 40 Hz. These include Alzheimer’s, autism and schizophrenia.”
Neuroscientists anticipate that further research into the topic will show why these areas are motivated by this specific range of frequencies. They hope to learn if early detection is possible for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, autism, and schizophrenia.
According to a study listed online at PMC US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health loud noises can bring about certain neuropsychiatric responses like the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Emotional stress
  • Psychiatric disorders

These can be responsible for changes to the hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA) which is associated with how the body reacts to stress. Sudden, loud, harsh noises can create stress, which our body responds to almost instantaneously in the sympathetic nervous system. It begins the process of secreting epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are responsible for the changes you would normally experience when frightened or stressed such as an increase in heart rate and excess perspiration.
Within seconds the HPA axis is alerted and the hypothalamus reacts to signals such as raised norepinephrine levels. It then begins the secretion of corticotropin, a hormone released during the stress response. The pituitary gland responds by secreting adrenocorticotropic hormones which in turn triggers the release of cortisol.
Cortisol is known to increase the blood pressure as well as the cardiac output which provides more blood to your muscles in the event the stressor needs to result in physical exertion, such as running for your life.
When considering that the sound of sirens on emergency vehicles, tornado sirens, or even alarm clocks are designed to alert and potentially raise attention, it’s easier to understand why. When armed with this information, people can gain a better understanding of the reasons behind the discomfort and even fear that surrounds these loud and intolerable sounds.

Posted on Leave a comment

Protect Your Hearing Aids This Winter

Temperatures are dropping, and storms are becoming more frequent in many parts of the country as we dig deeper into fall on the way to Winter’s freeze. For many, these changes bring to mind snow tires and scarves, hot chocolate and cozy socks to combat the cold days. If you use hearing aids, you’ll also want to take steps to protect them from the colder temperatures and changes in weather.
Protect your hearing health investment
If you have hearing aids, you’ve made a smart investment in your hearing health. Chances are you got started with a hearing evaluation then worked with your hearing healthcare provider to select the best hearing aids for your needs.
From there, you probably went through fittings and one or more adjustments to get them working just right for your unique hearing loss. Finally, you learned how to clean and maintain them. You have probably spent time each day removing and drying them, replacing batteries and cleaning them to prevent wear and tear and lengthen their life, even taking them in for professional cleanings once or twice a year. All of this to protect your investment.
During the year, however, you’ll want to take extra steps to keep your hearing aids humming along in top shape. That includes during these colder winter months when the elements can take a toll.
Winter considerations for hearing aids
During colder fall and winter months, keep these things in mind when it comes to your hearing aids:

  • Keep the stormy weather out – Moisture from the elements is a big concern this time of year. It can damage the inner workings of the hearing aid reducing its effectiveness. Moisture from rain and snow can also affect the battery and reduce its life. Carry umbrellas, wear rain and snow jackets with hoods or a protective hat and use similar protection from the elements.
  • Be aware of condensation – Going from the cold of the outdoors to the warmth of inside can create condensation inside your hearing aids that leads to damaged connections and hearing aid batteries. This is especially true when you are moving between the temperature extremes repeatedly during the day.
  • Protect against sweat – shoveling snow, covering ears with a hat or earmuffs, and even winter sports can leave you a little sweaty even in sub-freezing temperatures. When this sweat seeps into hearing aids, it can be just as damaging as the snow and rain. Consider wearing a hearing aid “sweatband” or even removing hearing aids during strenuous activity.

Winter hearing aid worries often revolve around moisture and its damaging effects on the devices and their batteries. To help minimize damage and protect hearing aids, remove and open them whenever they’re not in use to allow extra moisture to escape. When you are away from home, do carry a small cleaning toolkit and extra hearing aid batteries if your batteries do become a victim of the elements.
Are you looking for more information on how to protect hearing aids during the winter months? Contact our office for tips and advice.