Archive | Hearing Loss


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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Unexpected causes of hearing loss

Most of us assume hearing loss is just a normal part of growing older. But did you know hearing loss can occur at any point in life regardless if you’re young or old? It’s true. A variety of factors can come into play causing progressive or sudden hearing loss in one or both ears. Below are a few of those causes you might not have expected.

We’ve all heard how bad smoking is for your health, especially the esophagus and lungs. But did you know it can also affect your hearing? Researchers have found that nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict and shrink, including the blood vessels that bring blood and oxygen to the inner ear. Without adequate blood flow, the cochlea can quite literally “suffocate,” resulting in hearing loss.

Pain killers
When in pain, we look for relief, but we bet you didn’t realize that taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen two or more days per week could actually result in an increased risk of hearing loss. Researchers suspect that these drugs actually reduce blood flow to the cochlea, thereby impairing its function. Other drugs that have been linked to hearing loss include antibiotics, oxycodone and certain types of chemotherapy. Read more in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Stress and Anxiety
Get ready for a Catch-22. We’ve talked about how hearing loss can make a person feel stressed and anxious, but did you know that stress and anxiety are also risk factors for developing hearing disorders? Studies have shown a correlation between stress levels and hearing ability. Because researchers have established a connection between stress and illness, it’s a chain reaction whereby stressed individuals may have a higher incidence of illness and infection, which in turn may lead to hearing impairment.

Seasonal allergies can get the best of us, especially in the Willamette Valley. But did you know sniffing and sneezing aren’t the only effects of seasonal allergies. Experts say that people with allergies are also susceptible to hearing loss. It is believed that high pollen levels can cause an allergic reaction in the inner ear, which causes swelling and an increase in fluid and wax accumulation. Luckily, many people find that as their allergies subside, so do their hearing problems.

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Firearms and hearing loss: making the connection

In America, we own more firearms than do citizens of any other country in the world. In fact, according to a 2007 issue of Small Arms Survey, an estimated 70 million Americans own more than 270 million firearms. Whether for recreational or professional use, firearms are a significant part of our daily fabric.

So what’s the connection with hearing loss? If shooters fail to wear proper hearing protection, firearms can cause notable hearing loss, as well as tinnitus. Despite the fact that shooters know they’re supposed to wear hearing protection, the reality is that a good number fail to do so. Central Michigan University conducted several studies on the matter and found that 80 percent of participants reported never using hearing protection while hunting, and 40-50 percent reported inconsistent use during target practice.

This is hugely important to note and correct because the damage caused to your hearing from firearms can be quite severe. High-level impulse noise, which is emitted when a firearm is discharged, can lead to sudden hearing loss, the result of immediate physical damage to several inner-ear structures. But not all firearms have the same intensity of impulse noise.

Here’s a rule of thumb: The bigger the bore (large calibers), the bigger the cartridge (more gunpowder), the bigger the boom. Also important to note is that indoor or enclosed shooting ranges create increased duration for the impulse noise vs. shooting out in an open field, which exacerbates the problem. And, since in some states children as young as 10 may purchase firearms, there is added risk for them as they tend to use shorter firearms which place the muzzle closer to the ear.

FACT: When a user shoots rapid-fire (semi-automatic) guns, the ear has less time to recover between shots.

Tips for Shooters to Reduce Hearing Loss Risks

  • Keep disposable hearing protective devices on hand.
  • Double-protect when using large-caliber guns or when many shots will be fired.
  • Consider smaller calibers (for example, a 7mm-08 rifle instead of a .30-.06, or a 20-gauge shotgun rather than 12-guage).
  • Choose a single-shot or bolt-action over a semi-automatic weapon.
  • Avoid shooting in groups, especially at indoor or enclosed firing ranges.
  • Choose firearms with longer barrels (farther from the ear).
  • Consider using low-recoil (low-noise) ammo.
  • When hunting in a blind, make sure the muzzle is outside the blind before pulling the trigger.

Use nonlinear or appropriate electronic ear protection for hunting.

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Ten ways to recognize hearing loss

Do you know the early signs of hearing loss? According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), you have 10 ways to recognize hearing loss:

  1. Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone?
  2. Do you have trouble following the conversation when two or more people are talking at the same time?
  3. Do people complain that you turn the TV volume up too high?
  4. Do you have to strain to understand conversations?
  5. Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?
  6. Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?
  7. Do many people you talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)?
  8. Do you misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?
  9. Do you have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?
  10. Do people get annoyed because you misunderstand what they say?

If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, you may want to see an audiologist for a hearing evaluation.

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Types of hearing loss

Hearing loss affects about one out of every 10 Americans. For those over 65 years of age, the ratio is nearly one in three. Hearing loss has different types and varying degrees. Some hearing loss can be treated medically, while others may be permanent. Hearing loss is classified according to which part of the auditory system is affected. Generally hearing loss has three types: conductive, sensorineural and mixed.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is the result of disorders in either the outer or middle ear, which prevent sound from getting to the inner ear. Voices and sounds may sound faint, distorted or both. Most conductive hearing loss can be helped medically or surgically if treated promptly.

Common causes:
• Infection of the ear canal or middle ear
• Fluid in the middle ear
• Perforation or scarring of the eardrum
• Wax build-up
• Dislocation of the ossicles (three middle-ear bones)
• Foreign objects in the ear canal
• Otosclerosis
• Unusual growths, tumors

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when inner ear nerves become damaged and do not properly transmit their signals to the brain. Patients may complain that people seem to mumble or that they hear, but do not understand what is being said. The aging process is the most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss because as we get older, the inner ear nerves and sensory cells gradually die.

In addition to advancing age, sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by:
• Injury
• Excessive noise exposure
• Viral infections (such as measles or mumps)
• Ototoxic drugs (medications that damage hearing)
• Meningitis
• Diabetes
• Stroke
• High fever
• Ménière’s disease
• Acoustic tumors
• Heredity
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss among adults (occurs in 80 percent of adult cases). It is not often medically or surgically treatable. Most sensorineural hearing loss can be successfully treated with hearing aids.

Mixed Hearing Loss

If a hearing loss is the result of both conductive and sensorineural components, it is known as a mixed hearing loss.

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Are you afraid of hearing loss?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), there are approximately 28 million people in the United States who are deaf or hard of hearing and close to 27 million of them could benefit from hearing aids. Only six million people of the 27 million are currently using hearing aids as a tool for better hearing.

The question you’re probably asking yourself is why don’t these people that need hearing-aids use them? There are many reasons why:

1. The self-consciousness associated with wearing hearing aids can make people feel embarrassed to wear hearing aids and they may choose not to because of the negative connotation they have.

2. Not realizing a problem exists in the first place. Most hearing loss happens progressively. Being habituated to a reduced level of hearing ability and time progresses makes it difficult to ascertain if a problem exists at all.

3. Denial of a problem. People tend to deny that a problem exists themselves because of the emotional desire to be independent.

If you or anyone you know may suffer from hearing loss but are afraid to get your hearing tested, know that there are important reasons why you should. You can prevent further damage, increase motor coordination and help your self-confidence with conversation. It is increasingly affordable to get your hearing checked and treated for it as well.

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Audiology Professionals

Audiology Professionals