Are Portable Music Players Putting Your Ears at Risk?

Turn the Music Up, Dude — But Not Past 85 Decibels

You probably use your tablet or smartphone often to stream music, TV shows, or movies. In fact, many websites these days auto-play videos regardless of whether you want them to.

Smartphones, tablets, and other types of portable music players (PMPs) are now commonplace, as are earbuds and headphones. But if your PMP is turned up too loud while wearing earbuds or headphones, you can damage your hearing quickly. Let’s look at why.

NIHL

This isn’t some new sports league — NIHL stands for noise-induced hearing loss, and it’s the second-largest cause of hearing loss worldwide.

You’re able to hear because of hair cells in your inner ear. These cells convert sound signals to electrical signals and send them to your brain, where they’re interpreted as sounds. But loud sounds can actually damage or destroy your hair cells.

Every time a hair cell gets damaged, you lose a little bit of your ability to hear, and that damage can’t be repaired. The result is NIHL.

How Headphones Hurt Your Hearing

Navigating noise is all about the decibels (a measure of sound pressure). You’re safe if the sound in question stays below 85 decibels (dB); above that, you’re in the action zone — protect your ears or risk hearing damage.

For comparison:

  • A clothes dryer = 60 dB
    No need for hearing protection
  • A gas lawn mower = 91 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in 2 hours
  • A tractor =100 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in 15 minutes
  • A chain saw = 112 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in less than 1 minute

Some PMPs can generate 112 dB — in other words, if you like to listen to your PMP at full volume, you’re likely pumping a chain saw’s worth of noise at your ears from centimeters away.

Why Protecting Your Hearing Matters

Hearing loss is connected to overall health in surprising ways. It’s been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, dementia, and other health concerns.

But it’s not just a concern for later in life: One study found that any degree of hearing loss early in life increases a child’s risk for language and learning problems.

Considering that one study of PMP use in 9-to 11-year-olds reported that 9 in 10 children and teens use some form of audio-streaming device for education or recreation, PMPs pose a considerable hearing health risk at all ages.

Indeed, that same study found that 14 percent of the children had measurable hearing loss. In addition, if a child listened to their PMP only once or twice a week, it doubled their chances of hearing loss compared to children who didn’t use a PMP.

What You Can Do

  • Enforce the 60/60 rule. Don’t turn the volume of your PMPs up past 60 percent of full volume, and turn the device off completely after listening for 60 minutes so your ears can have a break.
  • Use headphones instead of earbuds. With earbuds, you pick up background noise, which often leads to turning up the volume on the PMP to hear the audio better. Headphones that surround the ear keep the background noise to a minimum, allowing you to leave the volume at or below 60 percent. Even better, invest in noise-canceling headphones.
  • If you must use earbuds, make them in-ear earbuds. With these earbuds, the earpiece sits inside the ear canal, rather than just outside it. The sleeve around the speaker blocks out background noise and keeps your audio from escaping the ear canal.
  • Use the sound limiter built into the PMP. Many devices allow you to limit how loud the volume goes, or the device has a built-in alert telling you you’re risking hearing damage by pushing the volume higher.
  • For kids, get volume-limiting headphones. Though there are many child-friendly options for headphones that will keep the volume from going over 85, it’s best to read up on whichever pair you choose to buy. Research by Wirecutter found that, of more than 30 brands tested, almost half were not effective at keeping the volume below 85 dB.

Is Weight Connected to Hearing Loss? Studies Say There’s a Connection

Is Weight Connected to Hearing Loss?

Studies about weight often concern its relation to overall health. Common connections include weight and the risk for or prevalence of heart disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea, to name a few. One topic that doesn’t get as much attention is the connection between weight and risk for hearing loss. But is there a connection?

To understand how weight affects hearing, you need to know about something tiny but important in your inner ear: the hair cell.

The Hair Cell

Your brain doesn’t understand sound waves. Tiny, hair-like structures in your inner ear, called hair cells, translate sound waves into a language — electrical signals — your brain understands. It sends those signals to your brain through the auditory nerve, and your brain interprets the signals as sound information.

Care and Feeding of Your Hair Cells

Hair cells need plenty of oxygen, which they get from strong, rich blood flow. If you have poor circulation, your hair cells don’t get sufficient nourishment. This leads to cell damage or death. Your body can’t repair hair cells — the damage is done, leaving fewer opportunities for sound information to reach your brain. Hearing loss due to damaged or destroyed hair cells is permanent.

Weight and Blood Flow

The more fat tissue in the body, the harder the heart has to work to get blood where it needs to go. Despite the extra work and increased blood pressure, the blood doesn’t actually move through the body as easily. It’s harder for the blood to reach areas farther away from the heart, such as the tiny blood vessels in your inner ear. Again, the poorer the blood flow, the less nourishment for your hair cells.

Is the Belly the Culprit?

Results from a John Hopkins School of Medicine study reported that improvement in blood flow is directly related to a reduction in excess belly fat. How? As belly fat is lost, the arteries regain their ability to expand, allowing blood to flow freely. The greater the reduction of belly fat, the stronger the recovery of healthy blood flow.

So it stands to reason that reducing belly fat would lead to better hearing. And results from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study support that reasoning: They found a direct correlation between amount of belly fat and risk of hearing loss. They also found that exercise protected against hearing loss.


If you suspect you might have hearing loss, contact us today to schedule an appointment!

New Study Says Hearing Aid Use May Reduce ER Visits & Medical Costs

A new study conducted by the University of Michigan indicates that seniors who use hearing aids may see a reduction in Medicare spending and ER visits.

Putting Off That Hearing Test? Here’s Another Reason to Hear Your Best!

It’s no surprise that getting hearing help can make communicating and connecting with the world around you so much easier, but did you know that using hearing aids might also have a hand in cutting down emergency-room visits and hospital stays?

In a study published earlier this year in the medical journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, University of Michigan researchers investigating connections among hearing technology, health care consumption, and spending linked seniors’ self-reported use of hearing aids to changes such as the following:

  • Reduced ER visits and hospitalizations — each by 2 percentage points
  • Decreases in overnight hospital stays by about 0.46 nights
  • A reduction in Medicare spending — by approximately $71

So … less hospital food? Add that to the ever-growing list of better-hearing benefits. (Just kidding; some hospitals bring their A-game to patient meals!)

An estimated 466 million children and adults around the globe live with disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization, with about a third of older adults affected. It’s one of the top chronic public-health challenges — potentially curbing the ability to thrive physically, socially, mentally, and financially.

Most hearing problems can be effectively treated with today’s advanced hearing technology. Even so, only a fraction of those who could benefit from hearing aids actually use them, making awareness, access, and encouragement an important part of boosting treatment rates.

With past research already connecting hearing loss to a greater chance of hospitalizations, extended illnesses, or injuries among hearing-impaired adults, the above-mentioned study, “Association Between Hearing Aid Use and Health Care Use and Cost Among Older Adults With Hearing Loss,” points to another crucial difference life-changing hearing devices can make.

Hearing better keeps you in touch with the people, places, and experiences that matter most in your life. It might also help keep you out of the ER. If you’ve noticed a change in your listening ability, or it’s been a while since your last hearing checkup, contact our caring team to schedule a consultation today!

How Are Smoking and Hearing Loss Related?

Smoking can damage your hearing. If you’re one of the 40 million U.S. adults who smokes cigarettes find out why it may be time to get a hearing test.

The connection between smoking and heart disease, cancer, and respiratory problems gets all the attention, but the effects of smoking on hearing have long been known. If you’re one of the 40 million U.S. adults who smokes cigarettes — or someone who lives with a smoker — read on to find out how smoking is linked to hearing loss.

Some Facts

How does smoking affect hearing?

  • Compared to nonsmokers, smokers have a 70% greater chance of developing hearing loss.
  • Nonsmokers are twice as likely to develop hearing loss if they live with a smoker.
  • The greater your daily average of cigarettes, the greater your risk of developing hearing loss.
  • Mothers who smoke during pregnancy increase their child’s risk for developing speech-language problems.
  • If you work around high levels of occupational noise, smoking increases your risk of noise-induced hearing loss.
  • Adolescents exposed to secondhand smoke are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop hearing loss — and they usually aren’t even aware of it.

Some Culprits

Different studies have reported different suggestions for how smoking damages hearing. Here are some common culprits.

Eustachian tube

Your eustachian tube runs from your middle ear to the back of your throat. It equalizes the pressure in your ears, and it drains the mucous created by the lining of your middle ear. Smoking leads to problems — and even blockages — in the eustachian tube, causing pressure buildup and hearing loss.

Blood Pressure

Smoking impacts your blood pressure. What does that have to do with your hearing? The structures in your inner ear depend on good, sturdy blood flow. When your blood pressure changes, your inner ear has difficulty processing sound. In pregnant women, smoking restricts blood flow — and, therefore, the oxygen supply — to the fetus. The developing inner ear doesn’t get enough oxygen, so it develops more slowly and could lead to speech-language problems later.

Neurotransmitters

Neurotransmitters are messengers that carry information between the cells in your body. Nicotine interferes with how your body regulates a key neurotransmitter — one that is crucial for transporting sound information from your inner ear to your brain. This means your brain isn’t getting enough sound input, so it has a harder time making sense of the sounds you hear.

Central nervous system

The parts of your central nervous system that create your ability to hear are still developing in late adolescence. This system is easily damaged by toxins — such as nicotine — during its development, which could explain the prevalence among adolescents of hearing loss due to secondhand smoke.


Though hearing loss caused by smoking can’t be reversed, it’s never too late to quit smoking to avoid further damage to your hearing. Contact us to schedule an appointment to get your hearing tested!
 
 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking & Tobacco Use: Data and Statistics. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/index.htm. Accessed July 31, 2018. Cruickshanks KJ, et al. Cigarette Smoking and Hearing Loss: The Epidemiology of Hearing Loss Study. JAMA. 1998;279(21):1715–1719. Katbamna B. Effects of Smoking on the Auditory System. Audiology Online. October 2008, article 899. https://www.audiologyonline.com/articles/effects-smoking-on-auditory-system-899. Tao L, et al. Effect of Cigarette Smoking on Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Workers Exposed to Occupational Noise in China. Noise Health. 2013;15(62):67–72. Pezzoli M, et al. Effects of Smoking on Eustachian Tube and Hearing. Int Tinnitus J. 2017;21(2):98–103.

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Hitting the Water? Don’t Forget Your Swimmers’ Earplugs for Ear Protection!

You’ve packed the swimsuits, floats, safety vests, caps, goggles, kids, and snacks for a summer afternoon at the lake or neighborhood pool, but what about the earplugs?

These small accessories can make a big difference in keeping the good times going during family fun in the water. Before you go, here are four things to know about swimmers’ earplugs:

1. They Help Protect Against Ear Infection

Ears and moisture don’t always mix. Otitis externa, an outer-ear infection also known as ìswimmer’s ear,î is typically caused by bacterial or fungal growth when the skin in the ear canal potentially becomes irritated from activities such as swimming. Though treatable, the condition can lead to temporary hearing loss and other problems, so prevention matters. Using quality, properly inserted earplugs helps keep the water ó and the threat of infection ó out of your ears.

2. They Can Be Off the Shelf or Customized

It’s always nice to have options, and swimmers’ earplugs are no exception. They come in disposable, reusable, and custom-fit varieties and can be made from silicone or putty. Off-the-shelf earplugs are often readily available at local drugstores, but your local audiologist can create a better-fitting, washable set tailored to your unique ears. Take heed: Swimmers’ earplugs are not the same as hearing-protection earplugs and should be used only for water protection.

3. They’re Not Just for Swimmers

Earplugs can be your best friend when it comes to protecting your ears in water, but did you know they’re not just for swimming? That’s right! Folks who work outside in the heat all day, for example, can also use earplugs to keep the sweat away, so it’s good to have a couple extra pairs at home, the job site, or other convenient storage spots. Remember: If your ears have a chance of getting wet, protective earplugs are one of your best bets.

4. They’re a Solution for Adults and Children

You might think swimmers’ earplugs are just for grown-ups. Not so fast! Water in the ears can also pose a problem for kids, who are typically more vulnerable to ear infections than adults. Inserting earplugs before a swimming session or at bath time, keeping your child’s ear canals clean, and drying the ears after any amount of time in the water or other moist environment can help curb the risk of infection. And remember: Always use clean hands when inserting earplugs into your or your child’s ears.


Are you concerned about protecting your or your loved ones’ ears? Contact our caring team to schedule a complimentary hearing-protection consultation today. We’re happy to help with solutions for the whole family!

Are Balance Problems Related to Hearing Loss? The Inner Ear: A Tale of Two Systems

It’s common for people with hearing loss to have balance issues, and vice versa. This phenomenon might even affect you or a loved one. Do they occur together as a coincidence, or are hearing and balance actually related?

It turns out the answer is, “It depends.”

Let’s look at some basics first.

The Inner Ear
The inner ear is also known as the bony labyrinth, and it consists of both the cochlea and the vestibular system.

The cochlea (hearing)
The cochlea is where sound signals are captured, converted to electrical signals, and sent to the brain to be interpreted as sound.

The vestibular system (balance)
This comprises three bony canals and two pouches. These work together to tell your brain where your head is in space, as well as when and how it’s moving.

Hearing and Balance Problems 
Both hearing and balance depend heavily on the status of your inner ear, so it makes sense that what affects one may affect the other. But let’s look at some examples to see how parts of the inner ear can be affected to cause different conditions.

Noise-induced hearing loss
Noise-induced hearing loss is an example of hearing loss with no inherent balance problem. It is caused when the hair-like hearing cells in your cochlea are damaged. This damage means less (or distorted) sound input is sent to your brain. Because it’s only in your cochlea, this damage usually doesn’t affect your balance.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo
Usually abbreviated BPPV, this is an example of a balance problem with no hearing loss. It causes sudden, brief spells of vertigo (a false feeling of spinning) and may be triggered by certain head movements.
What causes BPPV? The two pouches in your vestibular system hold a gel filled with crystals. These crystals react to gravity and help you understand when you’re speeding up and slowing down. But sometimes a crystal gets loose and floats into one of the three bony canals. When enough of these crystals end up in a canal, the fluid in that canal doesn’t flow as it should, and incorrect balance signals get sent to your brain. Because this doesn’t involve your cochlea, it doesn’t affect your hearing.

Ménière’s disease
Ménière’s disease is an example of hearing loss and balance problems that are often related. In fact, those are the chief symptoms — hearing issues in conjunction with balance problems.
This condition results from a buildup of endolymph, a fluid that fills the chambers and tubes of your inner ear. The increased pressure from the buildup confuses the hearing and balance receptors throughout, resulting in incorrect signals getting sent to the brain.

It’s Not a Slam Dunk
Many things lead to hearing loss. Many things lead to balance issues. As specialists in all things inner ear, an audiologist is uniquely suited to consider all your symptoms and determine which parts of your inner ear are causing you trouble. If you’re worried about a balance problem — yours or a loved one’s — contact us today to schedule a consultation.

How High Humidity Can Affect Hearing Aids and What You Can Do About It

Humidity means moisture, which can effect your hearing aids. Find out the signs of moisture damage and steps you can take to prevent it from happening.

One of the great things about starting your better-hearing journey is that your world is more enjoyable when you can hear all those sounds you’ve been missing.

That might also mean you’re getting outside more, possibly exposing your hearing devices to humidity. Your hearing aids are tiny computers, and just like with laptops and tablets, moisture can present a challenge.

Humidity

Let’s discuss humidity first. Simply put, humidity is a measurement of the amount of water vapor in the air.

Hot air can hold a lot of water vapor, but cold air cannot. When hot air meets cold air, the drop in temperature means a drop in how much water vapor the air can hold.

Let’s consider a can of soda pop: When humid air makes contact with a cold can of soda pop, the air temperature around the can drops quickly. Any water vapor from the humid air that can’t fit in the cold air around the pop can has to go somewhere. That’s when condensation happens, creating the water droplets on the side of the can.

Humidity and Hearing Devices

The why

Humidity affects hearing aids in a couple of ways.

First, just like with condensation on that can of soda pop, moisture results when warm, humid air meets the cooler metal components of your hearing devices. This includes the components inside your devices.

Second, humidity makes you sweat — but humidity also makes it harder for the sweat to evaporate. Plenty of that ends up in or on your devices.

The how

How does all this condensation and perspiration cause trouble?

Moisture clogs ports and openings. It also builds up in tubing, which can affect the frequency response of your hearing technology. It can also corrode components and battery contact points or short-circuit the microphones and receivers.

In short, moisture is like kryptonite to your hearing aids. A little exposure won’t matter all that much, but prolonged exposure will do a lot of damage and affect the performance of your devices.

The what

Common signs of moisture damage include:

  • Sound is full of static or crackling
  • Sound is distorted
  • Sound cuts out during loud noises
  • Sound fades in and out
  • Device works intermittently
The fix

If you suspect you have moisture damage, do a general check first to make sure it’s not something easily solvable. Is the device turned on? Are the batteries in correctly or near the end of their life? Do the battery contacts need to be cleaned or dried? Is the tubing intact? How are the filters and ports?

If all else checks out, it could be a moisture problem. If you have in-the-ear technology, get them in your drying device ASAP, with the battery door open.

If you have behind-the-ear technology, check the earmold tubing for moisture. If at all possible, use an earmold puffer to remove the moisture. Then put your technology in your drying device ASAP, with the battery door open.

In either case, leave the devices in the dryer for a few hours, even if they look dry.

Prevention

Common, effective preventive measures include:

  • Choosing devices with nanocoating or a high IP (water resistance) rating
  • Hearing aid sweatbands that allow sound through but keep moisture out
  • Exercising during the cooler parts of the day
  • Removing your technology when exercising
  • Keeping your technology in a drying device when not in use

Contact us via email or call us now at (918) 532-6539 for a complimentary clean and check of your hearing technology.

Your Eye and Ear Health Have More in Common Than You Think!

Did you know your eye and ear health are related? We give you 4 reasons to make regular checkups for hearing & vision a regular part of your health routine.

4 Reasons to Keep Your Hearing and Vision in Check

We all know that eyes and ears play a huge role in helping people — and animals, too! — experience life’s adventures. Seeing or hearing the people, places, and moments that matter can make for wonderful, lasting memories.

But did you know that seeing and hearing have more in common than just their rock-star status? Here are four reasons to make regular checkups for hearing and vision an important part of your overall health and wellness:

  • Hearing actually enhances the sense of sight, according to a UCLA study, with both working as a team to help you perceive and participate in the world around you. In the study, which ran participants through a series of trials to correctly identify the direction in which a display of dots were moving, hearing the direction in which the dots were collectively traveling enhanced participants’ ability to see the direction of the movement.
  • Visually impaired older adults are more likely to also experience hearing loss, per a study published in the medical journal JAMA Ophthalmology. Researchers investigating links between age-related vision and hearing problems found that even after considering age, the two conditions are somehow linked and “have a cumulative effect on function and well-being, significantly affecting both physical and mental domains.”
  • Vision and hearing loss go hand in hand with cognitive decline, per research showing that either condition is somehow connected to reduced brain functioning over time. One study, according to an online news article, found that participants with the most profound vision impairment had the lowest average scores on cognition tests. And hearing-impaired seniors on average may experience significantly reduced cognitive function at least three years before their normal-hearing counterparts.
  • Healthy eyes and ears — along with your joints, muscles, and brain — help keep you steady on your feet, reducing your risk of falling. It’s probably pretty obvious how seeing your best helps you stay upright, but many people may not realize that the inner ear also plays an important role in maintaining balance. Conversely, untreated hearing loss could nearly triple your risk of a fall, per a Johns Hopkins study.
Hearing and vision work together to help you live your best, so remember to keep them both in top shape. Start with a hearing checkup by contacting us today!

What Does Hypertension Have to Do With Hearing? Plenty!

We’ve got a tip for your wellness checklist: Keeping your blood pressure down may help keep your hearing up!

Both hearing loss and hypertension, or high blood pressure, impact millions of people around the world, but few realize that these two chronic conditions might go hand in hand.

For your best health, here are three important things to know:

Hypertension and Hearing Loss Are Connected

Like hearing loss, which affects an estimated 466 million people worldwide, hypertension is a serious public-health challenge that can take a toll on your health and overall quality of life. It could also put you at greater risk of hearing impairment.

In one study of 274 men and women ages 45 to 64, researchers found a strong relationship between high blood pressure and age-related hearing loss, with hypertensive patients having a higher threshold below which they couldn’t hear — indicating hearing loss.

The study didn’t pinpoint the causal link between the two conditions, but suggested that hypertension may damage inner-ear blood vessels, accelerating age-related hearing loss.

High Blood Pressure Can Be Reined In

The bad news? Hypertension, often labeled a “silent killer,” can develop gradually, persist without any signs or symptoms, and lead to dangerous complications such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and more. It’s a big risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is also linked to hearing loss.

The good news? Detecting possible hypertension is as simple as getting blood pressure readings during regular checkups with your medical provider, and you can control the condition with lifestyle changes and medication. One high reading doesn’t necessarily indicate hypertension, so it’s important to check your blood pressure over time.

It’s also important to know the risk factors for hypertension, which can include age, race, family history, alcohol and tobacco use, stress, obesity, chronic conditions such as diabetes, and more.

Regular Hearing Checks Can Make a Difference

It’s unclear exactly how high blood pressure and hearing loss are connected in all cases, but the potential links between them offer another compelling reason to take care of your circulatory system and your hearing.

Eat a balanced diet, stay active, keep stress in check, and remember to schedule an annual hearing test. Keeping an eye on your blood pressure and catching potential hearing problems early helps ensure better health and an improved quality of life.

Do you have hypertension? Don’t delay. For a comprehensive hearing evaluation, contact our caring team at today!