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How Prevalent Really is Hearing Loss Among Americans and Canadians?

How many people in your life have hearing difficulties? One person? Two people? A handful? No one? The actual number is quite possibly more than you think, because hearing loss — the inability or reduced ability to perceive sounds that enter the ear — is much more common than many realize.

In the United States and Canada together, for example, millions of people live with hearing loss. Numbers may vary per organization, government agency, or study, but:

In both countries, hearing loss also represents one of the top chronic physical conditions — even, in the case of the United States, ahead of diabetes or cancer. It’s a growing concern affecting children and adults, including approximately 34 million youth worldwide. In fact, it’s one of the most common birth defects in Canada and possibly the most common one in the U.S.
 

The good news?

Most hearing loss can be effectively managed with solutions such as hearing aids, helping you stay connected to the people, places, and experiences that matter most.
 

The bad news?

Only a fraction of those who could benefit from hearing help actually seek or receive it, making hearing loss an undertreated issue.
 
Even worse, hearing loss not only impacts communication but can go hand in hand with other problems such as social isolation, depression, diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and risk of falls.


FEBRUARY IS HEART MONTH

Did you know? Like hearing loss, cardiovascular disease — including heart disease and stroke — is a global public-health challenge. It’s the No. 1 killer worldwide, with nearly 18 million deaths annually per World Health Organization estimates, and is linked to hearing loss.

Precisely how cardiovascular disease and hearing loss are connected isn’t yet conclusive in all cases, but researchers have found, for example, that those with heart disease are 54 percent more likely to experience a hearing loss — even more so if they’ve suffered a heart attack.

Some risk factors such as age, gender, and family history can’t be helped, but healthy choices such as the following can make a difference in helping prevent either condition:

  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting regular hearing and overall checkups

Take it to heart, and spread the word!

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.

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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Hearing loss and Cochlear Implants

Many patients ask if they have enough hearing loss to qualify for a cochlear implant. That can only be determined by a thorough diagnostic hearing evaluation. If a patient’s hearing loss reaches a severe level (which some insurances have certain required levels of severity of hearing loss), then the patient would need to meet with a surgeon to determine if they are a surgical candidate for implantation. If a patient is implanted, we do follow up implant mapping (programming) at our location.

Is Tinnitus Affecting Your Brain’s Emotional Processes?

Anyone afflicted with the annoying ringing and hissing of tinnitus is well aware of the stress, anxiety, and irritability that accompany these phantom noises — but could tinnitus alter an individual’s emotional processing altogether? Research on the subject from the University of Illinois suggests this may be the case.

Using MRI scans to show which areas of the brain respond to various auditory stimuli, researchers found that when compared with normal-hearing people, those with tinnitus showed less activity in the amygdala — a region of the brain associated with emotional processing — but more activity in two other regions associated with emotion.

The findings suggested to researchers that the amygdala in those who suffer from tinnitus had become less active because the brain had adjusted to the tinnitus. In other words, the amygdala couldn’t be active all the time due to the annoying sound, and perhaps other areas of the brain became more active to make up for that reduced activity. This may have translated to an altered emotional state because of the difference in how the brain was processing emotions.

For many, tinnitus relief can be found through a treatment called masking. The technique involves using white noise (either natural or artificial) to cover the sounds of the tinnitus, allowing you to focus more on the sounds of the world around you.

Please call our office at 918.333.9992 to schedule a free clean and check, and we’ll show you how a new hearing system might help you find the relief you seek with a technology demonstration. Put your tinnitus to rest — call to schedule your appointment today!

Sincerely,

Dr. Stephanie R. Moore
Audiologist

Better Hearing Q&A: Is There A Link Between Hearing Loss And Dementia?

Phrenology1Our patients always have great questions about hearing and hearing technology. We feel it’s our obligation as the community’s only AudigyCertifiedTM hearing professionals to provide you more than exceptional hearing care and technology recommendations; we are here to give you the informative answers you’re looking for so you can confidently make educated decisions about your hearing health.

Q: I’ve heard that there’s a link between hearing loss and dementia—is this true?

A: What an important question. This subject has been in the news quite a bit lately. For years researchers have suspected a connection between hearing loss and dementia, but just this year a study funded by the National Institutes of Health determined that a mild hearing loss of 25 decibels (dB) can increase the development of cognitive problems by 30% to 40%.

When asked for an explanation of the cognitive decline, Frank Lin—Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine otologist and assistant professor, and the study’s lead author—offered as possible contributing factors the combination of social isolation and the extra mental effort it takes to understand sounds.

Dementia is on the rise in the U.S. with over 4 million affected by the malady, and recent estimates place the cost on families and society at $157 billion to $215 billion a year, making it more expensive than cancer and heart disease.

Hearing should become a regular part of the conversation during general health exams, and regular hearing evaluations the norm, in order to delay the onset of cognitive decline.

While hearing aids aren’t a cure for the effects of dementia, appropriately fit hearing technology is designed to alleviate the energy required to understand sounds, and to decrease feelings of isolation by reengaging people with the world around them through better hearing.

Diabetes and Hearing Loss

Original post from The Hearing Care Blog

human-ear-listening-hearing-263654721Diabetics at Greater Risk for Hearing Loss

People with diabetes are usually aware of their increased risk of kidney, cardiovascular, and visual disorders. However, most diabetics don’t know they are more than twice as likely to have hearing loss as those without the disease. And the risk is greater among younger diabetics than older.

Younger Diabetics at Greater Risk

A recent study in Japan was published in November 2012 in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Led by Chika Horikawa, the team examined data from 13 previous studies published between 1977 and 2011. Their conclusion? Not only were diabetics 2.15 times as likely as others to have hearing loss, but those under age 60 had 2.61 times the risk while those over 60 had 1.58. In a related study by the National Institutes of Health, it was shown that more than 40% of people with diabetes had some degree of hearing loss.

Link Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

The link between diabetes and hearing loss is not yet fully understood. Some think that high blood sugar levels may damage the blood vessels in the ears. Others caution that certain medications commonly used by diabetic patients, such as diuretics, may be a contributing factor. Though more research is needed in order to understand the connection between diabetes and hearing loss, according to Horikawa, “these results propose that diabetic patients are screened for hearing impairment from an earlier age compared with nondiabetics,” particularly because untreated hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of dementia and depression. For more information regarding diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website.

Gloria Boms, AuD

About the Author

Gloria Boms, AuD has been a licensed audiologist since 1978. Dr. Boms began her professional career at Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, NY where she specialized in pediatric audiology. She began working in private practice serving both children and adults in 1984, and her practice has been located in Great Neck since 1997. Dr. Boms is a Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology, a Fellow of the Academy of Dispensing Audiologists, and a member of the American Auditory Society and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Researchers Identify Genetic Mutation Responsible for Age-Related Hearing Loss

From HealthyHearing.com

In a nine-year study that was a collaboration between University of South Florida’s Global Center for Hearing & Speech Research and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology, researchers were able to identify the first genetic biomarker for presbycusis. The genetic mutation carried by those who ultimately suffer from age-related hearing loss is linked to speech processing abilities in older people.

In collaboration with the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, the researchers discovered a gene that produces a key protein in the inner ear — the cochlea — called glutamate receptor metabotropic 7 (GRM7). The GRM7 protein is intimately involved in converting sound into the code of the nervous system, in the cochlea, which is then sent to the parts of the brain used for hearing and speech processing.

Now having identified the gene, the researchers said people can be tested and takes steps earlier in life — such as avoiding loud noises, wearing ear protection and avoiding certain medicines known to damage hearing — to protect their hearing.

“This gene is the first genetic biomarker for human age related hearing loss, meaning if you had certain configurations of this gene you would know that you are probably going to lose your hearing faster than someone who might have another configuration,” said Robert Frisina Jr.

The Frisinas launched their study of genetics’ role in hearing loss nine years ago in hopes of identifying the cause of one of the most common forms of permanent hearing loss. Clinically, age-related hearing loss has been defined as a progressive loss of sensitivity to sound, starting at the high frequencies, inability to understand speech, the lengthening of the minimum discernible temporal gap in sounds, and a decrease in the ability to filter out background noise. Researchers now know the causes of presbycusis are likely a combination of multiple environmental and genetic factors.

Age-related hearing loss is a very prevalent problem in our society. It costs billions of dollars every year to manage and deal with it. It’s right up there with heart disease and arthritis as far as being one of the top three chronic medical conditions of the aged,” said Robert Frisina Jr.

DNA analyses were conducted and completed at the University of Rochester Medical School and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

The study involved 687 people who underwent three hours of extensive examination of their hearing capabilities, including genetic analyses and testing of speech processing.

National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month – Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss

From the Better Hearing Institute

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or is showing signs of dementia, a thorough hearing check is in order.

Studies suggest that hearing impairment contributes to the progression of cognitive dysfunction in older adults. If not managed, as for example with hearing aids, hearing loss can interrupt the cognitive processing of spoken language and sound.

When an individual has both Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, many of the symptoms of hearing loss can interact with those common to Alzheimer’s, making the disease more difficult than it might be if the loved one has been treated for hearing loss.

When left unaddressed, hearing loss can compound the difficulties that people with Alzheimer’s and their families already face. But in many cases, the appropriate use of hearing aids can benefit people with hearing loss, including those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, increased risk to personal safety, irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, and diminished psychological and overall health.

A comprehensive hearing assessment should be part of any medical evaluation prior to the evaluation of dementia. By addressing the hearing loss, quality-of-life for those who have Alzheimer’s can be improved and they can live life as fully as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Today, an estimated 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and they are supported by nearly 15 million caregivers. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)

There are 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the signs, please see a doctor. Early diagnosis gives you a chance to seek treatment and plan for the future.

o Memory loss that disrupts daily life
o Challenges in planning or solving problems
o Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
o Confusion with time or place
o Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
o New problems with words in speaking or writing
o Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
o Decreased or poor judgment
o Withdrawal from work or social activities
o Changes in mood and personality

For more information about the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s disease, early detection and diagnosis, contact the Alzheimer’s Association toll-free Helpline at (800)272-3900 or visit www.alz.org/10signs.

4 Reasons to Make a Hearing Test Part of Your Yearly Check-up Routine

There are many reasons why having a regular hearing test is a good idea, even if you have normal hearing.  Hearing is our most important social sense; it is what allows us to communicate with one another and connect with our friends, families, and loved ones.  A yearly test is particularly important if you have other disorders which have been identified as possible causes of hearing loss, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a history of certain infections, particularly in childhood.

As more research is conducted into the impact of hearing loss, we learn about exactly how insidious the disorder can be.

Hearing loss has also been identified as a risk factor for other disorders, particularly disorders that affect cognitive health.  Four of these disorders are particularly important as a person continues to age:

  1. Dementia – Researchers at Johns Hopkins University recently found that individuals who have untreated hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia time than those people who seek early treatment for their hearing loss.  This relationship could be due to a number of factors, such as social isolation, increased cognitive strain or a similar underlying pathology.
  2. Brain Atrophy – This study was released by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Researchers found that brain volume decreased among patients with untreated hearing loss, a condition that made it more difficult for those particular subjects to understand complex sentences.
  3. Depression – In 1999, a National Counsel on Aging survey of 2,300 hearing impaired adults age 50 and older found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and were less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
  4. Risk of Falling – Though some people have issues with their hearing that involve their vestibular (balance) function, this study looks more at the direct nature between even a so-called mild hearing loss and fall risk.   All other risk factors aside, a person with hearing loss is three times more likely to fall, and that risk increases dramatically as the hearing loss progresses.

These are just a few of the ways in which even a so-called mild hearing loss can affect a person’s lifestyle on a larger scale.  A yearly hearing test, particularly for those patients with risk factors for hearing loss, can help insure that treatment is sought for the hearing loss when it is needed.  Also, yearly tests can serve as valuable tools to monitor the progression of hearing loss over time, allowing any hearing aid prescribed to be appropriately fit to an individual’s hearing needs.

To schedule your yearly or baseline hearing test, call us today for an appointment.  Our Four-Step Process is centered around discovering your individual hearing and listening needs, even if you just need a baseline examination.  We have appointment times available Monday thru Friday, so we’re sure to have one that’s perfect for your busy schedule.  Let us help you keep on top of your hearing health needs!