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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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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.

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Just Say No to Cotton Swabs

The push to minimize plastic and protect the environment is celebrating another small victory thanks to a recent move by Scotland, and it could be another step toward protecting ears and hearing health around the world.
It’s not plastic bags or straws. It’s a ban on single-use cotton swabs and the plastic they use.
Scotland’s legislation
According to reports, Scotland is now the first UK country to ban plastic cotton swabs. In a bill presented in September 2019 and put into effect in October 2019, the throw-away swabs will no longer have a home in the country. Experts believe the ban to be passed by English Parliament in April 2020. Backers estimated that almost 2 billion of the plastic cotton swabs are used in England each year.
“Single-use plastic products are not only wasteful but generate unnecessary litter than blights our beautiful beaches and green spaces while threatening our wildlife on land and at sea,” said Scotland’s environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham.
It’s a step forward for the environment, but could it also be a step forward for hearing health?
The danger of cotton swabs
It’s no secret that most of us have ear wax. For some, it’s a little; for others, it’s a lot. Either way, ear wax is an integral part of our ears.
Ear wax is a waxy substance produced in the outer ear canal to help protect the ear with its sticky consistency and antibacterial properties. As it moves through the ear canal with the help of our jaw movements, it picks up foreign particles and dead skin cells to carry them out of the ear. Without ear wax, we may be prone to itchiness in the ear canal and even increased infections.
That doesn’t stop many from trying to clean it out, though, and often that is with the dangerous help of cotton swabs. These disposable little tools can often do permanent damage to the ears and hearing whether it’s impacting ear wax, damaging the eardrum, or scratching the ear canal. Hearing healthcare professionals continue to warn against ever putting objects into ears, including cotton swabs. Many hope that as cotton swabs are banned for environmental reasons, those still using them will find safer options for ear cleaning.
How to clean the ear
While most hearing healthcare providers recommend leaving ear wax to do its job, there are times when it builds up and can cause discomfort. In these cases, cleaning the ear may become necessary. If you believe your ear wax has built up and needs to be removed, skip the swab and opt for one of these solutions:

  • A professional ear wax cleaning – Schedule an appointment with your hearing health care provider to quickly and easily remove excess earwax in their office. This may include ear irrigation or removal with a specialized tool.
  • Over the counter products at home – Discuss the best options with your hearing health care provider. They may recommend ear wax softener drops or ear irrigation. Not all at-home remedies are safe.

Take a stand for the environment and your ears by saying no to cotton swabs!