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Risk Factors For Hearing Loss That May Shock You

Forty-eight million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Not surprisingly, hearing loss has many possible causes. Topping the list of culprits is frequent exposure to loud noise, aging, injury, infection, ototoxic drugs, and shingles. However, there are risk factors for hearing loss that may come as a surprise. Knowing these hidden risks can help you protect your hearing.

Sleep Apnea

People with sleep apnea are more at risk for hearing loss than others who do not have sleep apnea. The reason is a mystery. However, medical professionals think it is related to the reduction in blood supply to the inner ear, which is part of the condition. Of course, years of loud snoring can also damage hearing.

Excess Weight

As your body mass index (BMI) rises, so does the risk of hearing loss. A report on a study involving more than 64,000 women with a BMI between 30 and 34 shows a 17 percent higher risk of hearing loss. The good news is that women who walked more than two hours per week were 15 percent less likely to have hearing problems.

Alcohol

If you habitually drink excessive amounts of alcohol, you may need to worry about your hearing. Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages damages the central auditory cortex, which increases the amount of time it takes for your brain to process sound. Alcohol can cause balance problems due to alcohol absorption into the fluid of the inner ear.

Stress

Chronic stress can cause numerous health problems. Stress causes circulation problems which affect hearing. Acute stress forces oxygen to muscles so the body can move swiftly. This shunting of blood ultimately ends in hearing loss as the blood flow to the inner ear is limited.

Vaping

Nicotine, an addictive chemical that restricts blood flow to all parts of your body, is bad for your health. The chemical is also harmful to your hearing health because it restricts blood flow to your ears. Vaping with nicotine affects your hearing just like regular cigarettes. Leaving the nicotine out is not much better. Flavorings, colorings, and other additives added for flavor contain propylene glycol which may harm the ears.

Mumps

Mumps causes swelling of the salivary glands. In extreme cases, mumps can also lead to hearing loss. The common belief by the medical community is that mumps damages the cochlea. The cochlea contains stereocilia and the stria vacularis, which are both critical for proper hearing.

Iron Deficiency

A study suggests a relationship between iron deficiency and hearing loss. People with iron deficiency are twice as likely to have hearing loss than those without an iron deficiency. The mineral plays a vital role in keeping blood flowing to the cells of the inner ear, which process sound.
Your hearing health depends on being aware of the hazards in the home, at work, and in the environment. Being aware of these dangers, including the lesser-known risks, will help you protect your hearing. If you have any questions about hearing aids, smart hearing aids or about your personal experience with hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Autumn Oak Speech, Voice & Hearing. We are happy to help!

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Depression: Greater Hearing Loss Shown to Increase Risk

In recent decades, experts have concluded that hearing loss is a much more complex health concern than we ever realized before. Sure, it affects communication, may require a little more planning for social outings and introduces us to hearing healthcare providers and all they can do, but it’s also linked to more pressing concerns. One of those connections is depression.
What is depression?
Depression is so much more than just feeling a little sad. It affects every aspect of your life, making it difficult to do even the most basic tasks from working to just getting out of bed. It is generally defined as “a mood disorder that causes distressing symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.” Symptoms are present almost every day for at least two weeks.
There are several types of depression, but the two main types are:

  • Major Depression – this lasts at least two weeks; maybe a one-time event but generally happens more than once during the person’s lifetime.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder – this lasts for at least two years; there may be episodes of major depressions along with periods of less severe symptoms.

While you do not have to have hearing loss to develop depressive symptoms, researchers are finding that hearing loss puts you at a higher risk of developing depression.
The hearing loss depression connection
Several studies over recent years have confirmed a link between untreated hearing loss and depression. The most recent went one step further, finding that the greater the hearing loss, the higher the risk of having depressive symptoms.
The study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, analyzed health data from 5,239 individuals over age 50. Each person had both a hearing evaluation and depression screening.
The team found that those with mild hearing loss were nearly twice as likely to have symptoms of depression than those with normal hearing. Those with severe hearing loss were over four times as likely to have symptoms.
While the researchers confirmed that additional studies are needed to prove the link definitively, it is hard to deny that there does seem to be a connection.
How to prevent depression
Findings like these underline just how important it is to get regular hearing evaluations and treatment for hearing loss. Hearing aids may do more than just help you hear the world around you; they could help prevent depression.
If you’re treating your hearing loss but would like to do more to prevent developing depressive symptoms, tips like these can help:

  • Eat a nutritious and balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • Reduce stress
  • Include exercise in your daily routine
  • Follow good sleep hygiene practices for better sleep
  • Maintain relationships with friends and family

If you believe you may be experiencing signs of depression, contact your physician or trusted health professional to get help. If you have any questions about hearing aids, smart hearing aids or about your personal experience with hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Autumn Oak Speech, Voice & Hearing. We are happy to help!

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Independent Living for Those with Hearing Loss

For someone who lives with the day-to-day struggles of hearing loss, retaining or regaining some semblance of independence is very important and but can seem a bit intimidating. Whether you’ve lived with a reduced hearing most of your life or are newly diagnosed, there are options that could help you to be more self-sufficient and safer.
Thanks to the amazing advancements in technology today, the markets are booming with apps and devices that can help you live your daily life with much more ease. From waking up each morning to responding to danger there are now options that could fit into your search for independence seamlessly.

In Case of Emergencies

Should the unfortunate happen, and an emergency occurs, you could have just minutes to react. Without the proper equipment, there could be dire consequences. There are options available to notify you right in your own home of these situations. With the aid of hearing aids, assistive listening devices, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or FM systems there is no reason to go without this essential protection.
In the event of a fire, smoke, or carbon monoxide danger, there are devices that will emit a powerful photoelectric light strobe to catch your attention as it alarms. There are also several models that have a shaker pad that can be placed under the cushions of your favorite chair or bed mattress to alert you while you sleep.
In addition, the shaker devices can alert you with a digital readout on the programming display that states “FIRE”. While most should be installed by a licensed fire alarm company, they are well worth the expense of knowing you will be alerted at the first sign of smoke.
These devices may be sold as separate units or be combined in one. Some models are designed to discern the higher pitch of an existing device and go off with its own tone, much lower and louder pitched that is more apt to wake someone with hearing loss.
Weather alerts are another tricky road to navigate for the hearing impaired. The threat of dangerous storms such as tornados, hurricanes, or thunderstorms can make independent living an unnerving experience. But missing the emergency weather alerts is a needless worry these days with all the amazing things available.
For those who don’t watch TV or keep the radio on, weather alerts can go unnoticed. The rumble of thunder and crack of lightning can too. Radios designed for special weather alerting can work with bed shaking devices or strobe lights if these devices fit into your lifestyle. They can alert someone who is alone in the home or even asleep of the need to seek shelter or evacuate.
Some models have both a light and a display. While a warning light appears, it’s then followed by a readout on the display that says what the emergency is like “Tornado”.

Communication

Communication is another area that might cause some distress for those with reduced hearing or deafness working to achieve an independent lifestyle. Questions abound for people in this situation

  • How will I know when it’s time to wake up?
  • How will I know if I have a visitor?
  • How will I contact help in an emergency?
  • Will I know if the phone is ringing
  • Will I hear the baby cry?

With today’s advancements in technology, these questions are no longer a problem and there are devices available to answer each one. Devices to alert people come with different functions such as a visual flashing light, the vibrotactile which provides a vibration pad that can be used in sleeping or sitting areas, and auditory alerts that use a lower frequency and higher amplification.
There are alarm clocks specially designed for the hearing impaired.  These come in a multitude of different styles. From a lamp that comes on to wake you up, to strobe lights, and on to bed shakers for those that really sleep soundly.
Doorbell alerts are also available to signal that someone is at your door. These work whether there is an existing bell system or not. These can be found with a strobe light system that can connect to your phone or even to a different phone with a specific receiver for this purpose. Some models work like a security system that allows you to see who is at your door via a small visual monitoring screen.
They can also alert you when a door or window has been opened within your home so this doubles as an excellent safety alert system too. Viewing devices can be placed around the home for visual monitoring of doors or windows or even external buildings.
For home phone calls, special signalers can be attached to the side of a phone or be plugged into both the outlet and phone lines. This device directly picks up the sound which triggers the alert. Captioning devices can help by translating conversations into text on a large screen. This is also an excellent device when making calls or in an emergency situation to ensure there is no miscommunication.
For those with cell phones, there are many options or apps out there for the adaptation of these devices as well. Bracelets and smart watches can be linked to cell phones that will vibrate or flash to alert the wearer when a call is coming in. They can also flash the phone number and caller ID to let them know who the call is coming from.
For parents living with hearing loss, having small children can be challenging. Many fear they won’t know when their baby cries. Those fears can be put to rest with specifically designed transmitters and receivers that pick up on their crying and send an alert to a central system. This system then alerts the parent by audio, video, and vibration signals.
With all the devices and apps available today, there are so many options to make independent living a possibility for those with hearing loss. Be sure to talk to your audiologist about the possibilities for improving the living situation of you or someone you love. If you have any questions about hearing aids, smart hearing aids or about your personal experience with hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Autumn Oak Speech, Voice & Hearing. We are happy to help!