Author: Dr. Stephanie Moore

Allergies and Hearing Loss

Allergies and Hearing Loss — What’s the Connection?

A: This is a great question! Let’s start with some allergy basics.

 

Allergies

An allergy is when your body’s defenses overreact to something that is not typically harmful. These are called allergens, and common ones include latex, pet dander, and peanuts.

When you come across an allergen, your immune system goes into defensive mode. Chemicals called histamines flood your body and where you encountered the allergen.

 

The Allergic Response

Histamines are like security guards — once released, they do what’s needed to remove the allergen. Reactions such as inflammation, itchiness, and excess mucus production result. But how does this cause hearing loss?

 

Seasonal Allergies and Hearing Loss

Because the allergic reactions leading to hearing loss so often involve seasonal allergies, that’s where we’ll focus. Other allergies, such as those triggered by mold or pets, would also work as examples.

 

The outer ear

Let’s use pollen as our allergen example. We’ll begin with the effects on the outer ear:

  • Pollen lands in or near your ear canal
  • Histamines kick into high gear and try to remove the allergen
  • Inflammation, itching, and possibly swelling begin
  • A strong enough reaction blocks sound trying to get to your eardrum
  • Hearing loss is the result

 

The middle ear

Continuing with pollen as our allergen example, let’s look at the effects on the middle ear:

  • Pollen lands in your nostril or nasal passage
  • Histamines kick into high gear and try to remove the allergen
  • Inflammation and excessive mucus production begin
  • Mucus builds up in your middle ear
  • Your Eustachian tube, which drains excess mucus from your middle ear, becomes blocked (from inflammation or mucus)
  • Discomfort, hearing loss, or an infection result

 

The inner ear

Finally, continuing with pollen, the effects of allergies on the inner ear are:

  • Pollen lands in your nostril or nasal passage
  • Histamines kick into high gear and try to remove the allergen
  • Inflammation and excessive mucus production begin
  • These have been known to worsen symptoms of other ear-related problems, such as Ménière’s disease, which includes symptoms such as hearing loss, balance issues, and tinnitus

 

As you can see, it’s simple cause and effect — and the cause is usually inflammation, mucus, or a combination of both in the tiny passageways in your ears.

 


Contact us today if you think your hearing issue could be more than the temporary effects of seasonal allergies!

Give Mom the Gift of Better Hearing This Mother’s Day

Give Mom the Gift of Better Hearing This Mother’s Day

Hearing on Her Terms Makes Moments More Special

Moms are a busy bunch.

These duty-juggling, many-hats-wearing heroes can be hard-pressed to find time for themselves. So whether they’re hitting the dance floor, perfecting their golf game, catching up with a BFF, or scaling a rock wall, they can enjoy those special moments even more with healthy hearing. And you can help!

 

Recognizing the Signs

Is your mom, or a mom you know, missing out on the sounds of her life? Potential hearing loss has many signs. She may often turn up the TV, say “Huh?” or “What?” in response to clear questions, and have trouble following phone conversations or video calls.

Withdrawal from social situations can also signify a hearing issue. Your mom might not even realize she’s pulling away from her life. And it’s not uncommon for people to put off life-changing hearing help for more than a decade even after a diagnosis of hearing loss.

Mom might need a loving nudge in the right direction.

 

Better Hearing, Better Life

The benefits of seeking hearing care can go far beyond better communication. We love seeing patients reconnect with family, friends, and favorite hobbies thanks to a whole new world of sound in their lives.

And with hearing loss linked to other conditions, including dementia, cardiovascular disease, depression, and falls, it’s encouraging that a growing body of research connects improved hearing to better cognitive health and other benefits.

 

Modern, Invisible Technology

The traditional barriers to seeking hearing care — feeling stigmatized for needing a hearing aid, for example — are things of the past. Today’s technology is not only practically invisible, but it also works seamlessly and continuously with the environment to maximize the wearer’s experience no matter where they go.

 

Some of today’s sophisticated hearing instruments can even work alone or with apps on compatible smartphones and tablets, handling activities such as:

  • Conveniently controlling hearing aid settings through the smartphone or tablet
  • Streaming TV, music, phone calls, and other audio straight to the ears
  • Tracking brain and body health to help with fitness planning
  • Communicating with people of other languages through real-time translation
  • Enjoying remote care — including professional hearing aid adjustments — in the comfort of home

 


Reuniting your mom with the sounds she loves could be just a visit away. Contact us today to schedule a hearing consultation that could change her life. We’re here to help!

Whether you’re new to growing food or it’s been your jam for ages, we can’t wait to tell you about these five superstars for healthy hearing. Gardening For Hearing!

Gardening For Hearing!

Get in the Dirt With These Five Ear-Resistible Plants

Nothing says springtime like seedlings and fresh compost for a bountiful new season in the garden. Planning your homegrown fruits and vegetables? Consider these yard-to-table superstars to help support healthy hearing.

 

Blueberries

Who can resist a batch of berries just waiting to jump into a smoothie, pie, or stack of pancakes? Songbirds love to snack on them, too. And blueberries offer vitamin C, which, when combined with magnesium and vitamins A and E, may help thwart noise-induced hearing loss.

Try This: Simple Blueberry Smoothie

  • 1 cup rinsed, stemmed blueberries from the garden
  • 2 cups dairy, rice, soy, or almond milk, your choice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 3 ice cubes
  • Sprig of lavender

Mix first 5 ingredients in blender until smooth. Garnish with lavender, and enjoy. Makes about 2 servings.

 

Kale

The always-reliable kale’s versatility — use it solo or in soups, salads, lasagna, and more — is matched only by its hardiness. This timeless leafy green includes folate — which, when ingested frequently, may help reduce the risk of hearing loss in older men.

 

Pumpkins

Direct-sow this favorite no earlier than late May for summer or fall harvesting. Freshly collected pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, which supports the immune system and — in an oral-medication form — might help improve tinnitus.

 

Tomatoes

The tomato, a garden staple, has earned its place as a fruit to cultivate. It’s rich in a wealth of nutrients, including potassium, an important mineral for regulating blood and tissue fluid levels — including in the inner ear, which plays an important role in hearing and balance.

 

Asparagus

This vegetable can take time to cultivate — a few years may pass before the first harvest — but, boy, is it worth the wait! It’s delicious, it offers an opportunity to grow a prized veggie that can be a little expensive at the store, and it provides another source of folate, the benefits of which are discussed above.

 

“Asparagus can take time to cultivate, but,
boy, is it worth the wait!”

 


 

Have a gardening tip to share? Want to learn more about eating for healthy hearing? We love sharing healthful ideas that you can use. So contact us today!

This Mask Supports Effective Communication

This Mask Supports Effective Communication

Which Mask Can Help You Be Heard?

You probably chose your go-to masks based on safety and comfort. However, communicating while wearing a mask can be tricky — so how do you know which type of mask is best for helping others understand you?

A team at Washington University conducted a study to answer just that question. But before we look at the study, let’s try to understand why your choice of mask would even matter.

 

How Masks Affect Communication

Muffling your voice

Singing in the shower sounds different than singing in the living room. Your voice bounces off mirrors, porcelain, tile, and glass differently than it does off carpet, upholstery, electronics, and your pets’ fur.

Speaking into a mask is no different. Woven cloth interacts with the sound of your voice one way, and the material in surgical masks affects your voice in a different way.

They all, however, muffle sounds at high frequencies. You can start mistaking one word for another; “cat” sounds like “hat,” and “top” sounds like “pop.” What sets one type of mask apart from another is how often this happens.

 

Covering up nonverbal cues

Your face gives many nonverbal cues as you talk or react to what others say. But when you wear a mask, your eyes and eyebrows are the only source for these cues. One type of mask tries to solve that problem by using a large transparent panel so that others can see your mouth as you speak.

 

The Findings of the Mask Study

The study setup

The team at Washington University studied speech understanding using four kinds of masks: surgical, cloth with an inserted filter, cloth without an inserted filter, and transparent.

A researcher read sentences unmasked and then while wearing each of the four mask types. The participants, none of whom had hearing loss, wrote down what they heard and how hard they had to work to hear it. Then they heard the sentences spoken with three different levels of background noise.

 

General results

When there was no background noise, participants understood every sentence. It didn’t make a difference if the speaker wore a mask or not.

When background noise entered the picture, however, the differences between the masks were clear. Communication was easiest through a surgical mask. A cloth mask (no filter) was second-best. Tied for last place were the transparent mask and the cloth mask with a filter.

 

The unexpected result

The big surprise was the transparent mask. When background noise was at its peak, only about 30% of what was said was understood. The plastic panel affected speech more than the other mask materials. But it also obscured nonverbal cues and lip-reading — because fog developed on the panel.

In fact, the researcher who read the sentences aloud had this to say about transparent masks: “They’re super uncomfortable and wet. They’re pretty gross.”

 

The winner

The surgical mask came out on top. It provided more than 50% accuracy of understanding in loud noise, and it took less effort to achieve that level of understanding.

It should come as no surprise that surgical masks won — they’ve been used for decades in settings requiring a sterile environment and clear communication, such as operating rooms and dentist chairs.

 


 

Have you been having more trouble than usual navigating the world of mask wearers? Contact us to schedule a hearing consultation!

Eyes and Ears

We all know that eyes and ears play a huge role in helping people (and animals!) experience life’s adventures. Seeing and hearing the people, places, and moments that matter will create wonderful, lasting memories.

But did you know that seeing and hearing are connected? Here are four reasons to schedule regular checkups for hearing and vision to benefit your overall health and wellness:

  • Hearing actually enhances the sense of sight, according to a UCLA study, with both working 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 was moving, hearing the direction in which the dots were traveling enhanced participants’ ability to see the direction.
  • 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 discovered, even after taking age into account, that the two conditions were linked, with “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 each condition is somehow connected to reduced mental functioning over time. One study, referenced in a news article, found that participants with the most profound vision impairment had the lowest average scores on cognition tests. And seniors with hearing loss may experience significantly reduced cognitive function at least three years before their peers who do not have hearing loss.
  • Healthy eyes and ears — along with joints, muscles, and brain — help keep you steady on your feet, reducing your risk of falling. It’s pretty obvious that seeing your best helps you stay upright, but many people do not realize that the inner ear also plays an important role in maintaining balance. Conversely, untreated hearing loss may nearly triple your risk of falling, per a Johns Hopkins study.

 


Hearing and vision work together to help you live your best life, so remember to keep them both in top shape. Start with a hearing checkup by contacting us today!

Should I Clean My Ears At Home?

By now, many of you have probably seen or heard of videos in which various people demonstrate how to use OTC digital otoscopes and ear irrigation kits to clean your ears at home. While this can be a tempting foray into self-care, we want to remind you that ear cleaning should be done by a professional! Here’s why:

Ears are generally self-cleaning. Unless you’re accumulating serious buildup, there won’t be an excess of wax to begin with. Movement of the jaw during talking and chewing helps move earwax to the outer ear, where it can be easily washed away during a shower. You won’t even notice this is happening. The recent trend of ear cleaning is just that — a trend. For most of us, it’s unnecessary.

In individuals who do experience buildup, audiologists use a special instrument called a curette to gently remove it. It is important that a professional do this for you. You’ve undoubtedly already heard that inserting objects, such as cotton swabs, into the ear canal can risk eardrum perforation, but digital otoscopes and irrigation kits should be avoided as well. They are easy to misuse and can exacerbate the problem — particularly if it’s due to a physical cause, such as a narrow ear canal or underlying medical condition.

Digital otoscopes are especially risky, as they require very precise control of the instrument and an understanding of how your movements correspond to the image on the screen. They may also provide a misleading impression of how much buildup is actually in your ear. Wax traps debris and microbes and keeps your ears healthy. Too little can lead to itchiness and infections, and too much can lead to blockages and discomfort.

The bottom line: If you’re curious or concerned about the amount of wax in your ears, don’t take matters into your own hands, and instead make an appointment with an audiologist or ENT!

For general ear cleaning at home, here are some do’s and don’ts:

  • DO use a warm, soft cloth — after washing or showering — to remove normal amounts of earwax in the outer ear.
  • DO gently soften the earwax with drops of warmed olive oil, almond oil, water, or a commercial solution to remove larger amounts of earwax or an earwax plug.
  • DON’T use ear candles, which may cause serious injury and have not been proven effective in clinical trials.
  • DON’T stick cotton swabs or other objects in the ear; they can cause injury and push wax farther into the ear canal.

By following these simple rules, you can ensure your ears remain clear and healthy.

 


 

Feeling a little plugged up? Call us today to schedule a consultation and ear cleaning.

Famous Women With Hearing Loss

Marlee Matlin

A celebrated actress who lost her hearing to a childhood illness, Matlin has been a vocal advocate for the deaf for over 30 years and is one of the most recognizable faces of hearing loss. She won an Academy Award at age 21 for her very first film role, making her both the youngest Best Actress winner and the only deaf person to receive the award.

 

Evelyn Glennie

Living with a hearing loss is challenging for anyone, but it can be especially frustrating for musicians. Dame Evelyn is a testament to the power of determination. Profoundly deaf since the age of 12, this brilliant percussionist went on to win not just one but two Grammy awards and has received 15 honorary doctorates from various universities. Her 2003 TED Talk, “How to Truly Listen,” describes her unique approach to “hearing” sounds with her entire body.

 

Gertrude Ederle

Being the first woman to swim across the English Channel is an incredible feat. Ederle never even considered letting hearing loss slow her down. In 1926, after a swim that clocked at 14 hours and 34 minutes, she emerged from the water at Kingsdown, England, having broken the record set by the last man to swim the channel. Ederle was crowned “Queen of the Waves” and went on to be featured in both the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

 

Regina Olson Hughes

As the first deaf artist to have a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., Hughes’ achievements echo through the halls of natural science. After graduating from the only postdoctoral program available to deaf students in 1920, she became a botanical illustrator for the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Agricultural Research Service. Additionally, Hughes retained her speaking skills and was fluent in four languages. Two plants are named after her: Billbergia reginae, a type of bromeliad, and Hughesia reginae, a Peruvian flower similar to a daisy.

 

Jodie Foster

Ordinarily a very private person, this Academy Award-winning actress has been spotted wearing a hearing aid on the red carpet and suffers from bouts of vertigo, which is a condition that often accompanies hearing loss. Foster is one of the most famous and decorated actresses alive, with multiple awards to her name, including the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award. She is also a vocal advocate for LGBTQ rights.

Millie Bobby Brown

One of the most recognizable stars of the hit series Stranger Things, Brown is already making headlines as the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Emmy award. She is completely deaf in one ear and is quickly becoming a positive role model for deaf youth around the world, saying of her recent entry into music: “I just started to sing, and if I sound bad, I don’t care, because I’m just doing what I love. You don’t have to be good at singing. You don’t have to be good at dancing or acting. If you like to do it, if you genuinely enjoy doing it, then do it.” With a can-do attitude like that, the sky is the limit!

 

Helen Keller

Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, stunned the world by learning how to read, write, and speak. She is arguably the most famous and recognized deaf person in history. After mastering the use of language, she became a prolific scholar and author, attended Radcliffe College at Harvard University, published two dozen books, and joined the fight for women’s suffrage. Keller traveled the world as a public speaker passionate about the rights of the disabled. In 1964, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – one of the highest honors in the United States. Her life and work are towering examples of the power of human perseverance and what is possible when a woman fully believes in herself and refuses to give up.

 


 

Living with hearing loss takes courage, determination, and a commitment to self-care. Hearing technology can help you rise to the challenge. Call now to schedule a hearing exam or a clean and check of your hearing aids today!

Hear With All Your Heart

Hear With All Your Heart

Hear With All Your Heart

Better hearing improves your relationship with everyone in your life — especially your romantic partner. Read on to find out how.

Better Hearing, Less Miscommunication

Stakes are high in romantic relationships. Treating hearing loss is a small price to pay for dramatically lowering the chance of miscommunication. Hearing your best means a more harmonious relationship, less confusion about plans, and making more time for each other.

Better Hearing, Less Frustration

When you have hearing loss, responsibilities shift. Your partner has to answer when the phone or doorbell rings, call to schedule appointments, or even respond for you in social situations if you miss a question. No matter how understanding your partner is, frustration can still settle in. Hearing your best shifts the responsibilities back to a balanced state.

Better Hearing, Less Distance

You might not even notice it, but when conversations start to become difficult or even embarrassing because of your hearing loss, you withdraw a bit. You might even avoid interacting with your partner. But better hearing means more confidence in conversations, making you both more proactive about engaging each other.

Better Hearing, More Affection

Intimacy and affection are built from the small things, like inside jokes, whispered “I love yous,” and enjoying movies or music together. Hearing better means once again enjoying those beloved subtleties in your partner’s voice, the nuances of the first song you danced to, and the sweet nothings said quietly over dinner in a restaurant.

Tips for Date Night

If you’ve just started your better-hearing journey, here are some strategies to ensure your first date as a hearing aid wearer goes great.

Be Practical About the Location

Don’t set yourself up for failure. If you’re still learning how your hearing devices perform in different environments, it’s best to choose something quiet. Head to the park for a picnic, stay in and cook dinner together, or choose a restaurant you know will be quiet. If you’re past the adjustment phase, consider your limitations when choosing the venue.

Be Prepared

Put fresh batteries in your devices or, if you have rechargeable devices, ensure they have enough charge to last you through the evening. Give your devices a maintenance once-over as well, to clear them of wax and debris.

Be Your Own Advocate

Let your partner know the best ways to communicate with you. If they need to switch seats or talk slower, tell them. They’ll be grateful for the feedback; they want your time together to be special, too. And don’t be shy with the staff — let them know what your needs are, such as a table away from excessive noise.


Are you wondering how your hearing is doing? Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

A Bit of Preparation Can Go a Long Way

A Bit of Preparation Can Go a Long Way

A Bit of Preparation Can Go a Long Way

It can sometimes take a little nudge to schedule an annual physical. So when you finally take that step, it’s important to maximize your visit. For National Heart Month and beyond, we’re helping you make the most of that critical appointment with six questions to ask your medical provider.

 

1. What Vaccines Am I Due For?

Vaccinations don’t stop when you’re 18. Ask your doctor what regular or special vaccines you may need and when, based on your age, health, and any travel plans. Afterward, the front office can work with you to schedule any applicable immunization appointments and send convenient reminders.

 

2. What Types of Exercise Do You Recommend?

Nearly every aspect of health — heart, lungs, muscle strength, circulation, brain function, and more — can benefit from regular exercise. Conversely, hearing loss and certain other conditions may be associated with decreased physical activity. An exercise regimen that is tailored to you can support your health goals.

 

3. How’s My Hearing?

Though age can be a strong predictor, hearing loss doesn’t have to be inevitable as you get older. Eating healthy, avoiding excess noise, keeping cotton swabs and other objects out your ears, and scheduling regular hearing evaluations can help you preserve one of your most precious senses.

 

4. What Health Issues Am I at Risk For?

The health issues that should be on your radar can vary with age, race, lifestyle, family history, and sex. Some conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, smoking, dementia, and even falls, can go hand in hand with hearing loss. Your doctor can help you practice prevention or proper management.

 

5. How’s My Mental Health?

If you’ve been feeling a lack of energy or drive, experienced a change in mood, or noticed that you’re withdrawing from social engagements, it might mean a range of issues tied to mental, emotional, or physical health — even hearing loss. Having a frank chat about it is the first step to effective solutions.

 

6. What Is This?

Have a weird tic? A clicking sound when you walk? Maybe your elbow hurts, there’s a new spot on your skin, or your vision isn’t quite the same recently. This is a good time to ask about those issues that may have presented since your last annual visit. Be sure to write them down ahead of the appointment.

 

Having a frank conversation with your health care provider is the first step to finding an effective solution.

 


Do you have questions about your hearing health — including ways to protect it? Ask your doctor to refer you to a licensed hearing care professional, or contact us to schedule a consultation today. We’re here to help!

Time to Get Inspired

Time to Get Inspired

Time to Get Inspired

With an estimated one in five Americans directly touched by hearing loss — a common chronic condition that spans race, sex, age, and socioeconomic status — a variety of icons in pop culture and beyond have experienced this challenge in their own lives. For February’s Black History Month, we’re showcasing eight African American notables with hearing loss and whose stories inspire.

 

1. Whoopi Goldberg

Oscar-winning actress, comedian, activist, writer, and “The View” moderator, Goldberg cites longtime exposure to loud music as the reason for her hearing loss, according to published reports. The Sister Act and Ghost star, who has collaborated with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, wears hearing aids and has advised others to take care of their hearing health.

 

2. Derrick Coleman

As the NFL’s first legally deaf offensive player, Coleman, who is a former fullback, began tackling adversity at an early age. He was just 3 years old when he lost his hearing. He eventually not only made it in the NFL but also won the Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2014. He launched the nonprofit Derrick L. Coleman Jr. No Excuse Foundation to give back to kids, teens, and adults with hearing loss who are in need.

 

3. Tamika Catchings

The four-time Olympic gold medalist and retired WNBA great of Indiana Fever fame was born with a hearing loss, using the experience to help fuel her drive to win. “In the classroom, kids could make fun of me for being different,” wrote Catchings in a 2011 ESPN profile. “On the soccer field (my first sport) and eventually the basketball court, they couldn’t. I outworked them, plain and simple.”

 

4. Andrew Foster

Being the first African American to hold a Bachelor of Arts degree from Gallaudet University, the renowned school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, was one of many pioneering moments for Foster, who then earned two master’s degrees at other institutions and eventually launched more than 30 schools for the deaf in over a dozen African nations.

 

5. Halle Berry

An alleged domestic violence incident led to Berry’s hearing loss, but the Oscar-winning actress, activist, beauty brand partner, and X-Men megastar didn’t let that setback torpedo her goals. Berry, also a producer, has around 50 movie and television acting roles under her belt and debuted as a director in 2021 with the film Bruised.

 

6. Will.i.am

This Emmy- and Grammy-winning recording artist, who is also a tech visionary, producer, DJ, designer, and education philanthropist, is best known for his Black Eyed Peas hits. Many people may not know that the global entertainer experiences tinnitus, which he has described as a constant ringing in his ears.

 

7. Claudia Gordon

After losing her hearing at age 8 and migrating to the United States from Jamaica with her mother at age 11, Gordon defied the naysayers to not only reportedly become the first Black and deaf female attorney in the U.S. but also to help enforce the rights of those with disabilities, as she worked as a lawyer in the executive branch under former President Barack Obama.

 

8. Connie Briscoe

A New York Times bestselling author, Briscoe, who has a cochlear implant, was born with a hearing loss, but she never let it slow her down. The Money Can’t Buy Love and Big Girls Don’t Cry writer has sold more than 600,000 hardcover and paperback copies of her first novel, Sisters and Lovers, per an online bio, and credits tackling hearing loss with helping her grow “stronger, more resilient and more determined to reach [her] goals.”

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Non-Hispanic African Americans “have the lowest prevalence of hearing loss among adults aged 20–69,” per the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
  • Some 53.3% of deaf people had jobs in 2017, per a 2019 report by the National Deaf Center, but only 44.8% of deaf African Americans are in the labor force.
  • Since 1982, the nonprofit National Black Deaf Advocates — along with more than 30 local chapters — has worked with parents, professionals, organizations, and others to help ensure the representation of deaf community members in public policy, leadership, economic opportunity, and more.

 


Don’t let hearing loss get in the way of reaching your dreams — not even a little bit! Be a hero to the people who count on you by keeping your hearing in top shape. Contact us to schedule a hearing exam or a clean and check of your hearing aids today.