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Hearing Loss Increases a Person's Risk for Accidental Injury

When someone takes a tumble down the stairs or a spill off their bike, we don’t necessarily get too concerned beyond the normal, “Holy cow, are you ok?”. Medical personnel who see patients either at the scene or at a hospital are trained to ask a question and determine if there are any unusual circumstances such as someone in their life who may be harming them, or if they felt they were targeted.
They are also trained to look for underlying issues such as dizziness or a fainting spell that might have contributed to the accident. One thing that is often not considered is whether or not the person has any hearing loss. Young or old, hearing loss affects people around the world, and for many, it’s surprising what kind of things it impacts.
According to a study by Johns Hopkins Medicine that was completed in 2012, untreated hearing loss has been linked to a greater risk of falling. Thanks to information collected from multiple national health surveys, it was determined that individuals with even a mild loss of hearing were almost three times more likely to suffer from repeat falls.
Injuries, in general, are at higher risk levels for this demographic group, not just falls. Leisure time activities are ranked as the top category for injuries involving people with hearing loss. At a time when you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not necessarily paying attention to what’s going on around you.
A fly away ball at a baseball game or even one from the yard next door can do a lot of damage if you don’t hear the warnings in time to move. When riding a bike, it’s easy to miss the honking of a car horn or the shout of a passerby to alert you to potential danger. Even a bee buzzing nearby can be cause for someone to startle and potentially slip or take a tumble if they couldn’t hear it approach.
Studies show that outdoor activities are more likely to end in injury than indoor pastimes. Because there is usually more sound outside such as the birds chirping, cars on the roadway, even the wind howling, our brains work harder to comprehend all these sounds. The more there are, the harder it works.
Due to this fact, the brain compensates for the decrease in sounds and other senses become less active.  Fatigue can be a major factor in this case as well. For someone who has been actively listening for a long stretch of time, the brain can begin to suffer from listening fatigue. This makes reaction times slower and raises the risk of injury.
The inability to hear the honking of a horn, while likely would be more noticeable to someone fresh and alert, but someone suffering from listening fatigue may be dealing with a headache, sensory overload, maybe a bit of brain fog. It’s more likely they’re stumbling along just searching for their destination and are more likely to stumble right into the path of the vehicle.
After a long day at work, maybe on your way to a late meeting, you need to use the GPS to direct you to your destination. You might be struggling to hear the directions, have a little trouble making sense of the disembodied voice. While paying attention to that, you could be putting yourself in danger of missing a stop sign, an emergency vehicle, or even a small child running into the road. All because your senses are all exhausted, simply from trying all day to hear what’s going on around you.
You aren’t just putting yourself at risk at this point, but anyone riding in the vehicle with you, anyone on the route you take. There’s even the possibility of having your driver’s license taken away because you didn’t follow the rules when approached by an emergency vehicle. This could lead to huge ramifications such as having to find a ride for appointments, the grocery store, and to work, or worse, even losing your job.
For those who are often home alone, there’s no guarantee that your safe from injuries, even in your own home. You may rush to answer the door when you finally hear someone knocking, which opens up the opportunity to trip or slip. The smoke alarm going off is a big concern for many when they finally realize they do indeed have trouble hearing.
Obviously the worse the hearing loss, the more opportunity for injury or putting oneself in harm’s way. By having a yearly checkup and taking notice of how those around you are acting, you can catch it before it becomes a serious problem or even causes an accident.
Does your spouse keep telling you to turn the television down? Maybe you have to ask those around you to repeat themselves, or constantly think your companion is mumbling. Is it difficult to hear your dinner date speaking at a crowded restaurant? Are phone conversations difficult because you can’t quite make out what the other person is saying?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to make an appointment with your hearing health professional. With a few simple tests, they can help determine any hearing loss and make recommendations for solutions. Investing just a small effort could have big rewards, in both your quality of hearing and keeping your body healthy and safe from injury.

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6 Impressive Features of Modern Hearing Aids

When you picture a hearing aid in your mind, what does it look like? Unless you have recently seen the newest modern hearing aids, you probably think of a hearing aid that is rather big and bulky, beige in color, and fairly noticeable when worn. Fortunately, that is no longer the reality of using hearing aids. Modern hearing aids have come a long way from the bulky, uncomfortable devices of the mid-20th century.
In fact, modern hearing aids come with plenty of impressive features that make them more effective, more useful, more comfortable, and more discreet than ever before. No longer is wearing hearing aids an obvious, uncomfortable, or embarrassing experience. Wearing hearing aids can greatly enhance your ability to hear and communicate, as well as improve your quality of life. With the latest design options available, wearing hearing aids can even be stylish!
Here are some of the exciting, advanced new features you can look for in today’s hearing aids:

  1. Wireless Bluetooth Streaming

With Bluetooth technology widely available, it is no shock that hearing aids can also be equipped with Bluetooth. Bluetooth connectivity is available in both in-the-ear (ITE) and behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids. Some models allow you to stream audio directly from your smartphone, tablet, or music device.
While most hearing aids with Bluetooth technology use a wireless connection, some small in-the-ear devices require the use of a streamer that is worn around the neck or placed in a pocket.

  1. Smartphone Connectivity

Almost everyone has a smartphone nowadays, and it seems that smartphones get “smarter” every year. Now, you can connect to and control your hearing aids using your smartphone.
Rather than visiting a hearing aid specialist or fiddling around with a complicated device, you can make adjustments to your hearing aid using your smartphone. This allows you to adjust settings like volume, bass, and treble.

  1. Smaller, More Discreet Designs

Forget the bulky, beige hearing aids of 30 years ago. Nowadays, hearing aids are much smaller and sleeker and are available in a wide variety of colors to fit your preferences. Thanks to the small and sleek design, these devices are almost invisible when worn.

  1. Language Translation

Some hearing aids with smartphone connectivity can provide language translation in the smartphone app. The app translates speech from different languages and sends the translation to your hearing aids in the language you choose.

  1. Fall Detection

Because people with hearing loss are more likely to experience falls, fall detection can be an important feature. Hearing aids with fall detection have sensors that can track how many times you fall.
This can help you be more aware of any balance issues that may be connected to hearing loss, which you can also further discuss with your hearing care professional.

  1. Rechargeable

Older hearing aids required you to frequently change the batteries. If your batteries died while you were away from the house, you could only hope that you had an extra set of batteries with you.
Now, you can enjoy a full day of hearing without the need to change batteries thanks to rechargeable hearing aids. In many new models, a single charge lasts a full day.
These incredible features make modern hearing aids better than ever. If you would like to learn more about the new features available and how hearing aids can enhance your life, we encourage you to contact our hearing professional today.

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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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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!

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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.

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Should You Really Get Your Hearing Tested Annually?

As our day to day lives get busier and busier, it’s understandable that your health can sometimes take a back seat. Annual checkups are often last on our very long to-do lists but are more important than you may think. Incorporating annual checkups in your health regimen not only gives you control over your healthcare but can give you peace of mind when you receive a clean bill of health. Annual hearing tests are no different, and in fact, are equally as important to get checked on an annual basis. As studies show untreated hearing loss can result in irreversible damage to your hearing or health, getting an annual check-up is a perfect way to ensure you have done everything to prevent or spot indicators of hearing loss.

You’re Never Too Young to Start

There is a high chance that you have a person in their life affected by hearing loss, whether it is a loved one or even yourself. In fact, hearing loss is the most common chronic health condition in the United States, affecting people of all ages and walks of life. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), One in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 suffer from hearing loss, while a 2005 National Health Survey found that 5 out of every 1000 children are impacted.
As hearing loss is found in widely ranging age groups, it’s clear that annual hearing tests can be a proactive tool regardless of age, but is not the only reason you should include them in your healthcare regimen. Noise-induced hearing loss is increasing among younger generations as excessive exposure to loud volumes is becoming more common. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 50% of people between the ages of 12 and 35 are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to prolonged sound. Environments that younger populations are often exposed to such as nightclubs or concerts, and listening to music through a personal device, are all contributors to this risk, making it vital that even younger populations get an annual hearing test before irreversible damage has taken place. As Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General warns “They must understand that once they lose their hearing, it won’t come back.”

There Are Links Between Untreated Hearing Loss and Dementia

Without an annual hearing test, hearing loss can go undetected until it becomes a serious problem. As many do not seek treatment for an average of 10 years after experiencing signs of hearing loss, irreversible damage and accompanying health problems are common, such as dementia and depression. Due to a lack of auditory stimulation, cognitive decline can increase the likelihood of dementia as we age, compounding the importance of early detection before hearing loss has gone untreated for longer than it should.
Despite your age or condition, don’t skip your doctor’s appointment just yet. Including an annual hearing test in your healthcare regimen can help you detect hearing loss before it becomes a serious health issue.

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Alexa, How’s My Hearing?

Technology is quickly making itself a central place in our daily lives if it hasn’t already. While smartphones and wearable tech are now more a fact of life than a convenient accessory, voice-controlled home technology systems, such as Amazon’s Alexa are becoming more and more popular.
Alexa and other similar devices are easy and convenient ways to quickly listen to music, podcasts, and the news without ever having to leave your seat or pause what you’re doing. With a simple command, Alexa can play your favorite song or update you on the day’s breaking headlines.
But what if Alexa could also help test your hearing? Thanks to a new app on the Alexa platform, this just might be possible.
The App
The independent UK-based company, Amplify Hearing’s latest venture – the Hearing Screener – is an Amazon Alexa-based app that purports to be able to test your hearing in the comfort of your own home. Through a five-minute hearing test that includes spoken phrases and frequency tones, the Hearing Screener can identify signs of hearing loss, at which point it then recommends booking an appointment with a hearing healthcare professional.
The Hearing Screener’s simplicity and ease of use is its main selling point, as it requires little, if any real effort on the part of the individual. With just a few voice commands, anyone with an Amazon Alexa intelligent virtual assistant system can identify whether or not they might have hearing loss.
Since more than 100 million new Amazon Alexa devices have been sold so far this year alone, the Hearing Screener’s potential reach is huge, making it a prime candidate to revolutionize the world of hearing healthcare. According to Amplify Hearing, the screener has a high rate of accuracy, so it might be able to identify hearing loss in people who are unsure if they should seek out help.
All of this sounds great, of course, but is the Hearing Screener really all it’s cracked up to be?
A Replacement For Hearing Test Appointments?
Although taking a hearing test from the comfort of your own couch sounds pretty luxurious, many hearing healthcare professionals are skeptical about the Hearing Screener. While many hearing healthcare professionals don’t necessarily doubt the accuracy of the at-home Alexa-based hearing test, they do worry that people will use the test as a definitive resource for their hearing healthcare, preferring to take advice from the app rather than see a trained professional.
Since the test is so convenient, many hearing health professionals fear that people will choose not to undergo a professional assessment, thus leading to higher rates of untreated hearing loss. Thus, while the Hearing Screening is poised to help millions learn more about their hearing, it’s important to remember that it’s no substitute for a hearing test that’s administered by a hearing healthcare professional.
Rather, the Hearing Screening is yet another awesome smart technology-powered tool to help people better engage with their own hearing healthcare. As the app is still in its infancy, it will be exciting to see how its technology develops and how the test results factor into individuals’ decisions to see a professional. If you’re concerned that you or a loved one might have hearing loss, a consultation with a hearing healthcare professional can help get you started on your path to a healthier and happier hearing experience