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Intro – Wellness Program and the Importance of a Baseline Hearing Test

July 20, 2017

Welcome to our first blog post! We are thrilled you’ve taken the time to check out what we have been up to and learn some interesting or useful things in the process.

This first post is an introduction to something we hold near and dear to our hearts: our Wellness Program. We started this program back in June of 2014 with the goal of screening 10,000 ears within 5 years, or simply 1,000 screening each year.

A baseline hearing screening is a very important piece of documentation to have. Just like getting an annual physical or having your eyes tested regularly, you should also have an annual baseline hearing screening, if not a full evaluation. The difference between an evaluation and a screening is fairly simple: an evaluation is a comprehensive test that involves several different parts of the hearing system while a screening is a basic pass/refer test.
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How can I troubleshoot my hearing aids?

Ear Wax

The number one cause of hearing aid failure is ear wax debris in the speaker opening of the hearing aid, the small hole in the hearing aid that goes into your ear. If your hearing aid stops working, first check this part of the hearing aid to be sure that it is free of any ear wax or other debris. Use the brush or the pick that came with your hearing aid to carefully remove the blockage. Hearing aids should be inspected and cleaned daily to prevent problems. If you have a chronic problem with wax build-up, your audiologist may offer other solutions.

Weak or Dead Battery

The second most common cause of hearing aid failure is a depleted or weak battery. Test your battery or replace it with a fresh battery.

If you have cleaned the hearing aid and replaced the battery and your hearing and continues to malfunction, contact your audiologist. If you do not have an audiologist, please contact us. We’ll be happy to help!

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Epilepsy drug may help reduce tinnitus

An auditory research group at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently discovered that a drug used in the treatment of epilepsy known as retigabine may aid in the prevention of tinnitus.

How does retigabine help to prevent tinnitus? What researchers discovered is that retigabine works to proactively reduce the hyperactivity of those cells in the ear that cause you to think you are hearing sounds that actually aren’t there. The mice that were treated with retigabine immediately after exposure to loud stimulus did not develop tinnitus.

This study serves as a stepping stone for further research into the realm of tinnitus prevention. Researchers are now focusing on the development of a drug that will isolate specific mechanisms involved in the manifestation of tinnitus with the aim of minimizing potential side-effects.

  • If your results indicate a need for a hearing instrument, we will most likely begin the fitting process for making molds of your ears. The doctor will then consult with you about the different choices available for hearing instruments. These items will be considered:
    1. Conditions at birth or during adolescence that may have an impact on hearing.
    2. Exposure to workplace, military, or recreational noise.
    3. Medications prescribed for medical conditions.
    4. Past surgeries.
    5. Family traits and hereditary anomalies that may be associated with hearing loss.
  • What to bring: Please bring a list of all medications (prescription, over-the-counter, herbal, supplements) you are taking, your photo ID and insurance card(s) with you. You may print out and complete the necessary forms (located to the right of page) and bring them with you to your appointment. Please check in 15 minutes prior to your appointment time.
  • Who to bring: your main conversation partner: Communicating with your friends and family is often the most important reason you are going forward with a hearing solution. You can benefit from having a friend or family member join you in the consultation and fitting process. That way, instructions and decisions can be shared and others will have a better understanding of the process.
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How is tinnitus treated?

A number of different treatment options are available to individuals of all ages who suffer from tinnitus. If your tinnitus does not go away on its own, or if it seems to be getting worse, your audiologist can help you manage the symptoms and reduce their impact on your daily life. Here are a few examples of treatment options available to those who struggle with tinnitus:

Acoustic neural stimulation is an excellent treatment approach for individuals with very loud tinnitus. A broadband acoustic signal, masked by music, is delivered through headphones and aims to change the neural circuits in the brain. This device effectively reduces (and in some cases eliminates) tinnitus through the process of desensitization.

Sound generators come in the form of both tabletop/handheld sound generators and wearable sound generators that fit into the ear. They are designed to mask the tinnitus with soft, pleasant sounds such as music, the sound of falling water, or white noise. Sound generators work best for individuals with mild tinnitus.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants are ideal for individuals who suffer from hearing loss compounded by tinnitus. They help to reduce the effects of tinnitus because they allow the user to control the volumes of the outside world. For those with hearing loss, channeling outside sounds can be helpful in terms of masking tinnitus.

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Simplest treatment involves earwax removal

Tinnitus can be permanent or temporary, depending on the circumstances. There are a number of treatments for hearing loss and tinnitus available that we have previously covered on our blog. One of the simplest causes of tinnitus can be a buildup of wax in the ear that causes a blockage.

What causes ear wax? Ear wax is caused by glands in the ear canal. Wax catches dust and small debris, preventing it from causing an infection or damaging the ear drum. Often wax drains out on its own or falls out. Some people have smaller ear canals or their body produces more wax, so they are more likely to have an excess or have blockages. A buildup occurs when wax isn’t cleaned or it becomes packed in by improper cleaning. Using Q-tips can pack in wax further rather than removing it.

What happens when ear wax builds up? The buildup of ear wax can cause hearing loss, dizziness, ear pain, itching from drainage in the ear canal, and a sensation of feeling “plugged up.”

How do you prevent ear wax build up? Doctors do not recommend using Q-tips. Studies have also shown ear candles to be ineffective.

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Five ways to prevent and treat tinnitus

Fortunately, tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease, so there are many ways to prevent and treat it.

1. Prepare and plan ahead
If you know in advance that you’ll be exposed to loud sounds, plan ahead. Make sure to bring ear protection. Or, plan to position yourself as far away from the noise source as possible. Even taking 15 – 20 minute breaks from noise exposure can help protect you from ear damage.

2. Protect your ears
Make sure to wear ear protection before exposure to noise and keep it on until the nose has stopped or you have left the noisy environment. Sometimes tinnitus begins immediately after the first loud sound, so every second counts. When using power tools or guns, you can double up by wearing earplugs and earmuffs. Just one gunshot near ear level can produce tinnitus.

3. After noise exposure, act quickly and let your ears heal
The two things that intensify tinnitus the most are stress and fatigue. So make sure to rest and stay hydrated.

4. Plan for next time
Use prior experience to help prepare more effectively for your next loud exposure. Do you need custom earplugs? Do you need to preprogram your iPod at a lower volume? Or buy concert tickets a couple rows back?

5. Minimize noise exposure
Carry earplugs with you and use them. There are even earplugs that allow you to enjoy the full range of frequencies, while still protecting your ears. Make sure to limit time in noisy environments and choose a more quiet setting for social outings.

Remember, almost all tinnitus cases are caused from noise and can be prevented. So be proactive and take care of your ears.

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What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is commonly described as a hissing sound, roaring or chirping sound. Treatment is dependent on the cause and may include the following: sound therapy, drug therapy, counseling, biofeedback, dental treatment or electrical stimulation. Tinnitus, commonly called “ringing in the ears,” is any sound you hear that’s not from an external source. It can sound like a buzz, a high-pitched tone, pulsing or chirping. Some people even perceive singing or music. It can come on gradually over months or years, or happen instantly.

The most common cause of tinnitus is inner ear damage. What causes inner ear damage? Noise. Nearly a third of all tinnitus cases can be traced back to noise damage. And it’s more common than you think. About 21 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds experience tinnitus.

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When to wear ear plugs

Decibels are units used to measure sound. On the decibel scale, an increase of 10 means that a sound is 10 times more intense. This means that a small increase in decibels can have a significant impact on our ears. A normal conversation is about 60 decibels. Long and or repeated exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.

The higher the decibel level, the shorter the time it takes for hearing loss to occur. It is recommended that for those sounds above 85 decibels, ear plugs should be worn. This will significantly reduce hearing loss from damaging levels sound.

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Five simple steps for better hearing

Did you know small changes can go a long way in maintaining better hearing? Here are five simple tips to keep your hearing in tip-top shape.

1. Protect yourself by wearing earplugs or earmuffs when engaging in loud activities, such as concerts, operating machinery, etc.

2. Turn down the volume when watching TV, listening to the radio or wearing headphones. If the person next to you can hear music coming from your headphones, they’re too loud for your ears.

3. Give your ears a break. If you work in a noisy setting, make sure you take time each day to find a quiet place. It’s not always the volume that damages hearing – it can be the duration of exposure, too.

4. Avoid cotton swabs or like objects. Sticking these small items into your ears can cause wax to build up in the ear canal and actually block sound. Not to mention, you run the risk of accidentally injuring your ear drum by going too deep into the canal.

5. Get your hearing checked. An annual check-up can help identify hearing loss early so you can take steps to protect yourself against further loss.

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Preventing hearing loss is easier than you think

Although some forms of hearing loss are completely inevitable as you age, many options are available to prevent unnecessary hearing loss. While you’re at your day job or listening to music at the gym, it’s important to be aware of both the signs of hearing loss and the measures you can take to prevent it. They include:

1. People enjoy performing activities around their home to keep the house looking pristine. It’s important to maintain your home, and activities such as leaf blowing, lawn mowing, and general woodwork are necessary for keeping it up-to-date. Unfortunately, these activities can cause an immense amount of hearing loss. It is important to wear earplugs whenever you are performing these activities.

2. Listening to music is a common daily pastime. From work to the gym, people often listen to music through their headphones to help pass the time. Unfortunately, most Americans listen to their headphones much more loudly than they should. If you can, use noise-cancelling or noise-reduction headphones so you can lower the volume. They’re worth the cost.

3. Some medicines can produce toxins that are damaging to your hearing. Be sure to ask your medical provider if your prescriptions have the possibility of being ototoxic.

4. As you get older, your likelihood of having hearing loss increases. If you are over the age of 55, you may want to schedule an annual hearing test.

According to the National Institutes of Health, one-third of people in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 75 and close to one-half of those older than 75 have some degree of hearing loss. Unfortunately, it is impossible to reverse hearing loss, but you can take the necessary measures to prevent it.

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National Men’s Health Week

National Men’s Health Week is in June. This is the best time to alert the men in your life of the benefits of modern hearing aid technologies. Many people don’t quite know just how much advancement has been made in hearing aids in recent years. It’s important to keep in mind that addressing and preventing hearing loss can have huge payoffs on and off the job and in relationships, all while increasing one’s quality of life.

In support of National Men’s Health Week, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) and Audiology Professionals want to make men aware of how hearing loss can affect their lives, and the steps they can take to prevent and treat their condition. In order to help men get started on their path to better hearing, BHI is offering free, quick, and confidential online hearing checks at www.hearingcheck.org.

You might be asking yourself, “How does addressing hearing loss affect one’s quality of life?” Studies have shown that those who do address their hearing loss, through the use of hearing aids or other appropriate treatments, improve their quality of life because they live a more engaged, active, and social lifestyle at both work and at home.

Recently, a large sum of information has emerged on the connection between hearing loss and many common diseases affecting men. These include heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, and kidney disease. Though more information is needed to clearly define the link between hearing loss and these diseases, now is best time to start preventative treatments.

Audiology Professionals wants men to remember there are some simple practices they can do to help protect their ears. Two easy things to implement include listening to music players only at a low volume and wearing earplugs in loud environments such as sporting events, concerts, or when using power tools and working on loud machines.

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Music

Don’t think you’re hurting your ears when listening to music? Think again!

Most music players such as iPods easily produce up to 120 decibels (dB) of sound – this is equivalent to that of a rock concert! What’s worse is that many individuals listen to music at harmful noise levels of 85 dB or more. Exposure to such noise levels for extended periods of time causes what is called noise induced hearing loss.

Be kind to your ears!

It can be tempting to turn up the volume on your iPod, especially in an effort to drown out the noise around you. When choosing how loudly to play your music, consider that the noise level of normal conversation is 60 dB. The noise level at which many people listen to their music is louder than that of a garbage disposal (88 dB) and a blow dryer (85 dB). But most people don’t realize that listening to music at such high levels for extended periods of time can be detrimental to their hearing in the long run! In order to protect your hearing from deteriorating, do not expose your ears to music that is louder than 85 dB for longer than an hour or two.

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What causes hearing loss

Hearing loss can result from a variety of different things. Examples of these include:

  • Exposure to loud or constant noise
  • Family history
  • The natural aging process
  • Traumatic injury
  • Ototoxic medications
  • Tumors

Because hearing loss develops gradually, it is often difficult for individuals to notice. The slow deterioration of hearing can be very small from year to year, but if untreated over a prolonged period of time, hearing loss can be significant. And, as your hearing loss increases, your connection to family and friends decreases. You may notice you begin to miss things that are being said, you may start missing subtleties in how things are said, causing confusion or misunderstanding. You may even withdraw so no one notices your hearing loss. Because of this, it is important to get your hearing checked annually.

Having your hearing checked is of particular importance for individuals over 50, diabetics and individuals who have a family history of hearing loss, because these groups are the most at risk for hearing loss. Do you or a loved one fall into one of the at-risk categories? If so, contact us to schedule your annual hearing consultation today.

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Headphone damage

When the iPod first came on to the market, it was an instant hit. Now, they are extremely common and can be found in most homes in the U.S. Unfortunately, hearing damage caused by using headphones like these to listen to loud music is also becoming very common. Research shows that portable music players and other items including cell phone headsets that attach directly to the ears makes hearing damage worse. Researchers have found a disturbing growth rate in the number of noise-induced hearing loss in recent years. Noise-induced hearing loss means that a person’s ability to hear high frequencies and hearing in noisy situations is lost.

The difficult part about hearing loss caused by these devices is that it is hard to detect in a timely manner. Signs of damage can take years to occur. Young people (ages 18-24) are much more likely to listen to their headphones at damaging volumes. This is why knowing the potential damage of headphones is so important early on.

As these devices become more and more common in our society, it is important to understand the consequences that can come from using them. To prevent damage to your hearing, limit headphone use and listen at lower volumes when you do.

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Audiology Professionals

Audiology Professionals