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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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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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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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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.

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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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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!

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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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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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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.