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The Challenges of Having Hearing Loss During a Pandemic

It’s an understatement to say that things look a bit different as we begin 2021 than they did in 2020. Many people’s lives have changed in a big way as a result of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, and even if your life hasn’t undergone a significant change, you can probably see a difference in your day-to-day activities. You may be working or attending school online instead of in person. You may not be seeing your friends and family as regularly as you once did. You might be getting food and grocery delivery more frequently. And when you go into a public space, you are likely wearing a face mask.

All of these parts of our lives have changed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. While they are important steps for protecting the health of both yourself and others, they are not without their own challenges. If you have hearing loss, wearing a face mask can present frustrations you have not experienced before. Here are a few tips for navigating hearing loss during the pandemic:

You May Have Hearing Loss

  • Since the public began wearing cloth face coverings, have you experienced more difficulty understanding speech?
  • Do you often need to ask people to repeat themselves, especially if they are wearing a face mask?
  • Do you need to turn up the volume on the TV or radio?

If so, you may have hearing loss. Speaking with people who are wearing face masks has highlighted this for many people who did not previously realize they had hearing loss. This is because wearing a face mask can affect the volume and clarity of speech. In addition, you can no longer rely on lip-reading or facial expressions to help you understand what is said.

If you believe you might have hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our hearing health professional today. We can provide you with a hearing test and help you find the solutions you need.

When You Have Hearing Loss

If you already know that you have hearing loss, you may still be experiencing new challenges during the pandemic. One new frustration may be wearing a face mask while also wearing hearing aids. The ear loops on the face mask might catch on your hearing aids, which can pull on your hearing aids. This might be even more challenging if you wear eyeglasses as well. Here are a few tips to make it easier:

  • Slowly and carefully remove your face mask. This can help prevent it from yanking out your hearing aids.
  • Consider using a face mask with fabric ties instead of elastic ear loops.
  • If you do wear a face covering with ear loops, try using a mask holder or one of these other solutions to prevent the loops from interfering with your hearing aids.

If you wear hearing aids and have found yourself having difficulty understanding people when they speak while wearing a face mask, talk to your hearing aid professional. Your hearing aids might need to be adjusted to accommodate for the muffling effects of the face covering.

To learn more about how to manage hearing loss during the coronavirus pandemic, we invite you to contact our hearing healthcare office today. We look forward to caring for you.

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It’s Time To Be Proactive About Hearing Loss!

It’s no secret that 2020 was a difficult year for many people. You may be bidding 2020 not only good-bye but good riddance! So, with hopes for a better year in 2021, you may have set some New Year’s resolutions—or maybe you simply defined a few priorities in your life to focus on this year. Is your health one of them?

Your health might seem like an obvious priority (especially during a pandemic!). But while you resolve to take steps to protect yourself from COVID-19, get a regular annual checkup, eat healthier, or maintain a healthy weight, you shouldn’t neglect your hearing health.

Be honest: When was the last time you had your hearing checked? A Consumer Reports survey of more than 120,000 people found that nearly 30 percent of those surveyed had either gone more than a decade without having their hearing tested or had never had it tested. How often should you have your hearing tested? That depends on your age. Experts recommend that until the age of 50, you have your hearing checked once a decade. After the age of 50, you should have your hearing tested once every three years.

Your hearing health is too important to neglect (especially when hearing tests are painless and usually only take about 30 minutes!). Being proactive about your hearing health can pay off in big ways, both now and in the future. Good hearing health can:

  • Improve your relationships with your spouse, family members, and friends as you are able to better hear and understand them
  • Keep you safe as you will be able to hear fire alarms, sirens, safety warnings, and hazards like oncoming traffic
  • Enable you to hear the sounds you love, such as music and nature sounds
  • Give you increased confidence to interact with others and attend social events, even in noisy atmospheres
  • Remove the uncertainty of wondering whether you have hearing loss and how it can be treated

Hearing evaluations are excellent resources. While the tests are quick and painless, they can provide immeasurable value. Your hearing healthcare provider will administer the test and then review the results with you. If you have hearing loss, they will also discuss options with you for treating your hearing loss, such as hearing aids. This ensures that you receive the care and solutions you need. In some cases, hearing loss is a symptom of another health condition that can then be diagnosed and treated, such as infection, impacted earwax, kidney disease, heart disease, or diabetes.

In addition to restoring your ability to hear and understand your loved ones, diagnosing and treating hearing loss can also have a tremendous impact on your overall health. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to a greater risk for depression, anxiety, dementia, social isolation, and falls. You can reduce your risk for all of these serious conditions by simply having your hearing tested and treating any hearing loss.

To learn more about the importance of being proactive about hearing loss, we invite you to contact our hearing health professional today.

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The Use Of Biomarkers To Detect Hidden Hearing Loss

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A new study may help to explain why people with normal hearing struggle to follow conversations in noisy environments. Researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear are determining that a pair of biomarkers of brain function may hold the answer. The two biomarkers, one for listening effort and the other which measures the ability to process rapid changes in frequencies, can explain why a person with normal hearing may have trouble following conversations in loud places. These conclusions might pave the way for the design of next-generation clinical testing for hidden hearing loss.  

Hearing Loss 

Noise, aging, and other factors cause hearing loss, which affects 48 million Americans. Hearing loss arises from damage to the sensory cells of the inner ear, the cochlea. The cochlea converts sounds into electrical signals for the brain. A diagnosis of hearing loss is by elevation in the faintest sound level required to hear a brief tone. The level appears on an audiogram, which is the gold standard of hearing testing.  

Hidden Hearing Loss 

Hidden hearing loss is a loss of hearing that standard hearing tests can’t calculate. Typically, the first step in measuring hearing loss is using an audiogram. Unfortunately, for people with hidden hearing loss, the audiogram reads just like someone with normal hearing. Hidden hearing loss arises from abnormal connectivity and communication of nerve cells in the brain and ear, not in the sensory cells that convert sound waves into electrochemical signals.  

The Study 

The study developed from a desire to create new methods of hearing testing. The world we live in is getting noisier all of the time, and people are reporting hearing problems earlier in life. People are having particular difficulty hearing conversations in the workplace and social settings. The current testing available can’t detect the problem. This lack of testing is driving the researchers to develop new ways of hearing testing.  

Biomarkers 

To address hidden hearing loss, the researchers are developing objective biomarkers that may explain the hidden hearing loss complaints. The research team developed two sets of tests. One measured electrical EEG signals from the surface of the ear canal to detect how well the early stages of sound processing in the brain were encoding fluctuations in sound waves. The other used specialized glasses to measure changes in pupil diameter when test subjects focused their attention on one speaker.  

Twenty-three subjects with clinically normal hearing underwent the tests, and their ability to follow conversations varied. By combining the measures, the investigators could identify which subjects struggled and which ones passed the test. Encouraged by the results, the researchers believe that testing must go beyond the first stages of hearing and directly measure auditory processing in the brain. 

Hearing Test 

If you are having difficulty hearing conversations in noisy places, you might be experiencing the beginning stages of hearing loss. Plan a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional who can diagnose and treat your hearing loss in its early stages.

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4 Unusual Causes of Hearing Loss

When we think about the causes of hearing loss, we often think of common causes like aging or noise-induced hearing loss. A variety of conditions, injuries, and occurrences can lead to hearing loss, but some are very rare. While rare, they do occur and are a reality for some people. 

 Here are four of the most unusual and uncommon causes of hearing loss: 

  • Meniere’s disease 

Meniere’s disease can lead to vertigo, fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus, and a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear. In most cases, this condition affects only one ear. While the cause of Meniere’s disease is unknown, some hearing professionals believe it is caused by an abnormal amount of fluid in the ear. 

 Also called endolymphatic hydrops, Meniere’s disease usually appears between young and middle-aged adulthood, around the ages of 20-50 years. While it is considered a chronic condition, certain treatments can ease the symptoms. Medication for motion sickness or nausea can help. Other possible treatments include the use of hearing aids, vestibular rehabilitation to improve balance, and the use of a Meniett pulse generator, which applies pulses of pressure to the ear canal through a tube. 

  • Superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome (SCDS) 

This disorder occurs when a very small hole forms in a bone of the inner ear. SCDS can cause symptoms like nausea, vertigo, and extreme sensitivity to sound. Patients even report being distracted by the sound of their own pulse.  

 To verify that SCDS is the cause of the symptoms, your medical professional will likely request a CT scan of the inner ear. If it is found that an opening in the temporal bone is present, surgery can be conducted to correct the condition. 

  • Cholesteatoma 

A cholesteatoma is a cyst-like growth that develops in the inner ear. While the growth isn’t malignant, it can lead to permanent hearing loss and other serious conditions, like meningitis, if left untreated. In addition to hearing loss, symptoms may include a smelly discharge. 

There are two types of cholesteatoma: congenital and acquired. Congenital cholesteatoma is present at birth and typically grows behind the eardrum. Acquired cholesteatoma usually occurs during adulthood and is most common in those with recurring ear infections. 

In most cases, the cholesteatoma can be removed through surgery. If left untreated, the cholesteatoma can continue to grow and eventually cause permanent damage to the inner ear. This may result in balance problems, dizziness, or interference with facial nerves and muscles. Cholesteatoma are also often infected, and the toxicity can spread to other areas, leading to meningitis or brain abscesses in extreme cases. 

  • Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED) 

AIED is caused by antibodies or immune cells attacking the inner ear. Symptoms may include progressive hearing loss and dizziness. 

At this time, AIED is considered a chronic, incurable condition. It can cause permanent damage to hearing and balance. Fortunately, the symptoms can be managed through the use of steroids and other medications, cochlear implant surgery, or cell and gene therapy. 

If you would like to learn more about these rare causes of hearing loss, or if you suspect that you are experiencing hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our hearing professional today. 

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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 todays 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. 

 2. 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 the volume, bass, and treble. 

 3. 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. 

 4. 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. 

 5. 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. 

 6. 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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6 Common Myths About Hearing Aids

Several new advances have been made in the field of hearing aids in the last few years. Hearing aids are now smaller, more powerful, more discreet, more comfortable, and more technologically advanced than ever before. 

 Unfortunately, however, it seems that not everyone’s opinion of hearing aids has advanced at the same rate. Some stigma may still exist around hearing aids and the use of hearing devices. These beliefs may lead some people who need hearing aids to avoid using them. 

 In reality, many people with varying severity and causes of hearing loss can benefit from the use of hearing aids. Here are six of the most common myths about hearing aids, as well as the truth about using hearing devices: 

 Myth #1: Hearing aids will make your hearing ability “normal” again. 

There is no cure for hearing loss, so hearing aids will not change or improve your ability to hear. They cannot make your hearing ability “normal” again. However, hearing aids can help you better hear, understand, and talk to others. Using hearing aids in this way to improve your communication can benefit your quality of life. 

 Myth #2: Using hearing aids will damage your hearing or make it worse. 

Again, using hearing aids will not change your ability to hear. This includes making your hearing worse. If you use the right type of hearing aid that fits you and you properly care for it, your hearing device will not damage your hearing. 

 Myth #3: You need to only wear one hearing aid, not two. 

Since you normally hear with two ears, you should wear two hearing aids. You wouldn’t wear a monocle when you need glasses, would you? There are many benefits to wearing binaural, or two-ear, hearing aids. For example, wearing two hearing aids helps you with localization, or finding the source of a sound or noise. It can also help you hear better in noisy situations, help you better understand what people say, and makes sounds more natural. 

 Myth #4: The small hearing aids that are worn inside your ear are the best kind. 

There are many different types of hearing aids available. Thanks to advanced technology, some hearing aids are very small and can indeed be worn inside your ear. Other types of hearing aids, however, are also highly advanced and can be of great benefit to you. When you meet with your hearing aid professional, he or she will show you the different types of hearing aids available to you and help you determine which one would be best for your particular needs. 

 Myth #5: You can save money and time by buying hearing aids online or in a store. 

Although you can purchase hearing aids online or in a store, it may not be the best option for you. When you buy a hearing aid online or in a store, you cannot be certain that you have chosen the type of hearing aid that is best for your specific hearing needs. Additionally, a hearing aid that works for one person might not work for another. To make sure you get the hearing aids best suited to your needs and desires, it is recommended that you see a hearing aid professional. 

 Myth #6: You don’t need hearing aids if you only have mild hearing loss. 

Some people with mild hearing loss don’t need hearing aids; others with mild hearing loss can greatly benefit from the use of hearing aids. The need for hearing devices varies from person to person. If you believe that you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing losseven if it is mildwe recommend seeing a hearing professional to ensure that you get the care you need. 

 The truth is that you have no reason to be hesitant about getting hearing aids. They can improve your life! To learn more about the benefits of hearing aids, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today. 

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New Study Discovers Increased Risk for Tinnitus and Sudden Deafness Among Non-Migraine Headache Sufferers

If you experience frequent headaches, you know how annoying they can be. When they are very frequent and severe, these headaches can disrupt your day-to-day functioning. Performing your job responsibilities, cooking meals, taking care of your family, and even driving can become difficult due to headaches. 

 Although migraine headaches are well known for being painful and debilitating, non-migraine headaches can be just as frustrating and difficult to deal with for those who suffer from them regularly. 

 A new study identified another risk associated with headaches: the possibility of tinnitus, sudden deafness, or sensorineural hearing impairment. This study, conducted in Taiwan, compared data gathered from non-migraine headache patients and patients without headache. The researchers found that patients who suffered from non-migraine headaches were more likely to experience tinnitus, sudden deafness, or sensorineural hearing loss than those who did not have headaches. 

 In the study, the researchers controlled for variables that may affect a persons risk for hearing disorders. With these variables taken into account, it was clear that the combined risk for tinnitus, sudden deafness, and sensorineural hearing loss was higher among those who experience non-migraine headaches. Previous research has established that patients who suffer from migraine headaches are also at risk for tinnitus, sudden deafness, and sensorineural hearing impairment. As of yet, the research does not clearly indicate why non-migraine and migraine headaches are linked to a greater risk for these hearing conditions. 

 Because of the increased risk in those with non-migraine headaches, it is essential that people who suffer from this type of headache speak with their health professionals about their headaches and any other symptoms they experience. If you experience frequent non-migraine headaches, be sure to visit your general physician on a regular basis, and seek a hearing care specialist if you notice any changes to your hearing or any symptoms of hearing difficulty or tinnitus. Based on your individual needs, your general practitioner may also refer you to a hearing care professional for additional, specialized care. 

 As with all health conditions, it is best to seek treatment early for headaches, tinnitus, hearing impairment, or sudden deafness. If you experience frequent or severe headaches (migraine or non-migraine) have not spoken with a healthcare professional about the condition, we recommend that you set up an appointment and speak with your doctor. They may be able to recommend treatment that could lessen the frequency or severity of your headaches. They will also be able to discuss with you the risk for tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, and sudden deafness. 

 If you would like to learn more about this study, or if you would like to set up an appointment with our hearing professional, we invite you to contact our office today. Our experienced team is eager to care for you and provide you with the personalized treatment you need. 

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American Girl’s 2020 Girl of the Year Has Hearing Loss

A lot has changed in the world of dolls since Barbie premiered in 1959. The classic Barbie look—blonde, blue-eyed, thin, and Caucasian—may still be available, but she is now available in much greater variety. The same is true for many doll and toy brands. Dolls are now available with various hair and eye colors, skin colors, and body shapes. 

 This trend towards greater variety—and verity—in dolls is part of a movement to create dolls and toys that look like the children who play with them. The aim is to enable children to more closely identify with the dolls and to avoid enforcing unrealistic standards of appearance. 

 American Girl has taken this one step further. The doll company, based in Wisconsin, recently announced that their 2020 Girl of the Year, Joss Kendrick, would have hearing loss as part of her story. Each Girl of the Year features a doll, accessories, and books that tell her story. Joss is a fierce athlete from Huntington Beach, California, who is born with hearing loss, as well as a passion for surfing and competitive cheer. Among her available accessories are a removable hearing aid, a surfboard, swim gear, and cheer outfits and equipment. 

 The goal of American Girl is not only to provide young girls with books and dolls, but also to share inspirational stories of girls that provide meaningful lessons to help girls learn and grow with confidence. Joss, the 2020 Girl of the Year, is the first American Girl doll to have hearing loss. For young girls with hearing loss, this is an important new step. For maybe the first time for many of these girls, they will have a doll who has a hearing aid, as they do. 

 As part of her story, Joss pushes past stereotypes, takes on new challenges, and goes all-in for her dreams. In creating Joss, American Girl consulted with a number of experts, including Jennifer Richardson, Au.D., educational audiologist and founder of Hearing Milestones Foundation, and Crystal DaSilva, Women’s Deaf Shortboard champion and winner of national and world titles. It is clear that American Girl intends to make Joss a realistic and inspiring character who will show young girls that anything is possible, even with hearing loss or other types of differing abilities. 

In addition, American Girl has partnered with the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) to donate $25,000 in honor of Joss to support the organization’s education and awareness programs. The company is also supporting HLAA’s 2020 Walk4Hearing. This event brings together families across the US to encourage hearing health and living well with hearing loss. 

 

Joss’s story is certain to be an inspiring one, and one that will give girls of all abilities hope and motivation. To learn more about the significance of American Girls’ 2020 Girl of the Year, or to schedule an appointment with our hearing professional, we invite you to contact our practice today. We look forward to caring for you!