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As technology advances and “hearables” become more commonplace, one odd fact emerges: We’re putting more and more things behind or in our ears. Whether glasses, headphones, or the latest discreet behind-the-ear hearing device, the area our ears occupy is starting to get a little crowded.
So that begs the question: Can you wear (sun)glasses and the common BTE (behind-the-ear) hearing aid model comfortably and without worry?
Behind the Ear
With all the different hearing aid styles, you might wonder, “There are so many sleek and nearly invisible options on the market, why would someone choose a behind-the-ear model?”
It’s discreet. The great thing about today’s hearing technology? It’s all discreet now. The question is how far you want to go in your discretion. The BTE model tucks unobtrusively between your outer ear and your head. From the side, no one would even know it’s there. And even in the BTE family, there’s now the miniBTE, for an even slimmer profile.
It’s powerful. The BTE is ideal for moderate to severe hearing loss. Other types, such as in-the-canal and in-the-ear, have many strengths, but they may not be ideal for hearing loss greater than a mild to moderate loss.
It’s easy to use. The casing of the BTE is easier to hold and manipulate than the other styles, and it has simple-to-use, easily accessible controls.
It’s comfortable. Many feel the smaller models that sit against or in the ear canal create a plugged-up feeling. In fact, some people have ear canals that are too small to accommodate any model but the BTE.
The BTE With Glasses
The following will ensure you thrive with glasses and a BTE hearing aid.
- If you already have BTE hearing aids and have been told you need glasses: Buy frames with thin wire earpieces to minimize the amount of space taken up behind your ear.
- If you already wear glasses and have been told you need BTE hearing aids: Work with your provider to determine the smallest tube that will work for your situation. A miniBTE might be an ideal option.
- Put your glasses on first, as they are harder to adjust.
- After your glasses are secure, carefully place the hearing aid between the glasses earpiece and your outer ear.
- Adjust both as needed until they are comfortable and the hearing aid isn’t hanging away from your outer ear.
- In front of a mirror but away from a hard surface, practice removing and putting on your glasses. Use both hands, and only use a straight-forward and straight-back motion. Tilting your glasses up and down or side to side will knock off your hearing aids.
- Practice, practice, practice. It might sound silly, but muscle memory will be your best friend. While practicing, you’ll knock off your hearing aid, but each time it happens, you’ll learn a little more about the best method to use for your glasses/hearing aid combination. Better to knock them off at home, in a controlled environment and on carpeting, than not to practice at all and have it happen on the sidewalk, at work, or in the backyard.
We’re here to help — let us know if your BTE hearing devices aren’t cooperating with your glasses! And if you haven’t had your hearing checked in a while, contact us today to schedule a hearing evaluation.
The Sound Void: How Hearing Loss Sneaks Up on You
When you come to your first appointment with us, we encourage you to bring a companion, someone who spends a lot of time with you. Why is that? Because they’re able to give us a different perspective on your hearing loss. In fact, your companion probably noticed your hearing loss — and how it was affecting you — before you did.
But how is that possible if you’re the one with hearing loss?
How Sound Works
To begin with, it helps to understand how sound works. Most people think hearing loss is a question of volume. But that’s only part of the story. Sound is a combination of frequency (also called pitch) and intensity (also called loudness).
Frequency measures how fast (or how frequently) a sound wave vibrates. High frequency means a high pitch, like the notes on the right side of a piano, and low frequency means low pitch, like the notes on the left side of a piano.
Intensity measures loudness. A whisper has low intensity, and a shout has high intensity.
Frequency and Intensity Together
Each sound is a combination of these two qualities.
- A baby screaming has high frequency and high intensity.
- A man shouting has low frequency and high intensity.
- The sound of leaves rustling has high frequency and low intensity.
- A rumble of thunder has low frequency and high intensity.
The Sound Void®
Knowing how sound works helps us understand Sound Voids. We use the term Sound Void to refer to any moment lacking in clarity. Sound Voids have a lot to do with why your companion probably picked up on your hearing loss before you did.
Sound Voids happen all the time: Allergies or a cold affect your ears, leading to increased chance of misunderstanding what people say. Even a buildup of earwax can lead to an increase in Sound Voids.
But Sound Voids are also common with noise-induced or age-related hearing loss. Early on in these types of hearing loss, when someone speaks to you, you miss the high-frequency sounds, such as s, sh, c, ch, p, f, and h. These sounds help you identify words. With those sounds missing, “cat” could be mistaken for “hat” and “pickle” for “fickle.”
With this type of Sound Void, the intensities aren’t the problem — it’s the frequencies. In other words, you can hear people speaking just fine, but sometimes you misunderstand them.
At this early stage, what is actually a hearing loss truly seems to you like a momentary lack of clarity. You assume someone mumbled a little, or there are more people than usual at the restaurant. Loved ones probably think the same thing.
The Sound Voids Increase
But as time goes on, the Sound Voids become more frequent, and those closest to you start to notice subtle signs: You turn up the volume on the TV or radio, you need statements repeated more often, and you get tired more easily while socializing in public venues.
Your companion, by this point, has started to wonder if you have hearing loss. Because you’ve developed coping skills, you probably haven’t truly realized how it’s affecting you or your loved ones.
The Sound Voids Take Over
Eventually, enough of your hearing is damaged that you’re not just missing frequencies — intensity is now a problem, too. You’re more likely to miss the low-frequency sounds of speech, the ones that provide volume, such as o, i, and j.
At this point, your companion has probably wondered aloud whether you have hearing loss, and you’ve started to realize how your hearing loss is affecting others. This is when many people consider getting their hearing tested.
The Hearing Evaluation
This is why the companion is such a key part of the hearing evaluation: They’ve witnessed the early Sound Voids, the gradual behavior changes, how your hearing loss affects those around you, and your realization that you might have hearing loss. Their outside observations are an important complement to your internal observations.
My Tinnitus Has a Melody — Is That Possible?
You probably know someone who experiences tinnitus — a ringing, buzzing, pulsing, hissing, or humming with no external source. People often call it “ringing in the ears,” and it affects approximately 15% of the U.S. population, according to the American Tinnitus Association.
But did you know some people experience a form of tinnitus in which they hear actual melodies? It’s called musical ear syndrome (or musical tinnitus).
What Is Musical Ear Syndrome?
Musical ear syndrome (MES) is when someone hears music that has no external source. Some people hear a single instrument playing a simple melody; others hear several instruments playing a complex piece of music; and still others hear a voice singing, with or without accompaniment. The most common melodies, however, are hymns, Christmas carols, and patriotic music.
How is this different than when you can’t seem to get a piece of music out of your head? In the case of MES, the melody sounds like it’s coming from an obvious and specific direction, so it’s not clear that it’s internal. It sounds self-evidently external. That’s why, for many people, it can take a while to recognize what’s really going on.
What Causes Musical Ear Syndrome?
When you hear something, you’re experiencing a combination of sound input, interpretations by your brain, and predictions by your brain. Strong sound input reduces the amount of predicting required by your brain.
When you don’t get enough sound input, however, your brain has to do more predicting to make sense of the sound input it is receiving. The more severe the hearing loss, the more the auditory deprivation, and the greater the need for the brain to fill in the gaps. The most common hypothesis about what causes MES is, in layman’s terms, that the brain gets bored through sensory deprivation and starts to generate sound by itself.
Is Musical Ear Syndrome Common?
The few studies published in journals suggest only about 20% of those with tinnitus experience musical ear syndrome — that means about 3% of the general population. It’s most likely underreported, however, because those experiencing MES worry that if they tell someone, they’ll seem mentally unstable.
In fact, Dr. Neil Bauman, who coined the term musical ear syndrome and has been raising awareness about the condition for many years, has heard from so many people affected by MES that he suspects the number is higher than 10% of the general population!
Though tinnitus is more prevalent in men, MES appears to be more prevalent in women.
Is There a Cure?
MES is even less understood than tinnitus. But like tinnitus, there are some ways you can minimize its effects.
For many people, a great deal of stress and anxiety is alleviated when they can put a name to what they’re experiencing. Knowing others experience it also provides relief — it’s nice to know you’re not alone in your MES.
Stress has been shown to make symptoms worse, so finding ways to minimize your stress might minimize the severity of your MES. For example, deep breathing can relax your body, but it also pulls your attention away from the MES, allowing it to fade into the background. Some patients have also had success with cognitive behavioral therapy.
Bring more sound to your environment.
MES is a product of sound deprivation — give your brain plenty to listen to! If you don’t have hearing aids, get some. If you have hearing aids, be sure to wear them as much as possible. Get out in nature and socialize more. Natural sounds and conversations are ideal stimulation for a bored brain.
Adjust your medication.
MES has been reported as a side effect for almost 300 medications, both common and little known. Don’t make any changes on your own, though — consult your doctor if you suspect the MES is a side effect of a current medication.
Musical ear syndrome is real, and it’s more common than you realize. If you or someone you love suspects they have tinnitus — musical or otherwise — contact us today for a consultation!
Hearing Care Q & A
Why Do You Encourage Us to Bring a Companion?
The simple answer is that everyone benefits, including your audiologist.
Let’s unpack some of the reasons for this:
- Hearing loss affects your companion, too
Once someone suspects they have hearing issues, they’ll wait, on average, seven years before getting a hearing evaluation. One reason is they don’t think it affects the people around them.
But a study by The National Council on Aging had surprising findings: After study participants with hearing loss began using hearing aids, their family members reported better relationships at home, better feelings of self-worth, better relationships with children or grandchildren, and even better physical health.
Inviting a loved one shows you recognize that it affects them. It also shows you respect their insight, thoughts, and feelings about this important step you’re taking.
- Your companion provides a complementary perspective
Whether it’s a spouse, a good friend, or a niece, your companion spends a lot of time with you, and their perspective will be a valuable complement to yours. They definitely notice things you don’t, such as how often and how much you turn up the TV. Your companion will also have their own questions based on their experiences with you, which can inform the discussion in ways you’d never have considered otherwise.
- Your companion learns more about you
No matter how close you and your companion are, you probably haven’t discussed in detail how your hearing loss affects you. Sitting in the appointment with you provides them an intimate window into your world. Also, the audiologist can provide your companion a simulation of hearing loss, helping them understand better what you experience day to day.
- Your companion is an extra set of ears
A typical new-patient appointment lasts 60–90 minutes — that’s a lot of information! We explain how hearing works, your specific type of hearing loss, and the best options for moving forward. If we decide together that hearing technology is the best solution, we’ll discuss different styles of hearing devices as well as accessories.
Having a companion with you means you can focus on what’s being said while they take notes. Alternatively, you can both take notes and compare them afterward; you’re each sure to jot down things the other didn’t.
- Your technology can be tailored to the voice you hear the most
If we decide technology is the best solution, you can bring whoever you’re around the most — a sibling, spouse, a child — to the fitting appointment so we can optimize the technology for their voice.
- Your companion can be involved in financial considerations
Many people want to consult their significant other about major medical decisions. If your significant other is in the office with you, they can be a part of the conversation from the start and ask their questions directly.
- Your companion helps us, too
For us to truly understand your situation and, therefore, truly be of optimal benefit, we depend on the perspective of someone close to you. They know where you thrive, where you struggle, what noises you don’t even realize you’re missing, and how your hearing loss affects others in your life who may not have the heart to tell you how its affecting them. Your input and their input are two sides of one coin, and each is crucial to our understanding of your listening lifestyle.
Embrace summer with gusto. Whether having some local fun or taking a trip, here are six ways your hearing technology can help you dive in.
Nothing says “Summertime, here we come!” like hitting the road, rails, trails, and friendly skies to make new memories with loved ones far and nearby. Whether having some local fun or taking a trip, here are six ways your hearing technology can help you dive in.
Look for the Loop
Touring a new city? Some sites — museums, theaters, houses of worship, and more — may have installed a hearing loop, letting you receive enhanced audio by wirelessly connecting through the T-coil setting on your hearing aid, if it has been enabled. Look for the hearing-loop logo at participating spots.
If you’re traveling well beyond your local area and are one of our patients, check with us to find an AudigyCertifiedTM practice near your destination. With the AGXchange Program, you get the same quality hearing care you’ve come to expect from us. Now, that’s peace of mind.
“Cache” Up on AI
The future is here with artificial intelligence at your ears! You can monitor your physical and mental well-being with the AGXS liv and its Thrive app. Some devices and apps even have a translation feature, letting you communicate with others even if you don’t know their local language.
Charge Into Some Fun
What’s worse than dead batteries? Not having spares when in need. Rather than worry about keeping extras on hand, consider the convenience of rechargeability. With many manufacturers offering rechargeable technology, you can live it up with the confidence of all-day hearing aid power.
Tune Up for Tunes
Hearing tech is optimized for speech, but if live music is on your mind, we can nudge your settings to help you enjoy tunes without compromising how you hear speech. With some hearing aids, we can even make minor adjustments remotely via the AGXR Attune app’s Audigy Assist feature or the Thrive app!
Bookmark Your Faves
Through selected apps, you can “bookmark” or geotag your hearing aid settings to your favorite locations — a happy-hour hangout, the gym, or a golfing spot, for example — so that the app automatically adjusts your technology to your listening preferences for that venue.
Make it a summer to remember with hearing technology that has your back every step of the way. For more on optimizing your devices or to experience a demo of the latest hearing aids, schedule a consultation with our expert team today!
Hearing Loss Affects People of All Ages
When you think about eyeglasses, what do you think of? Most likely your own pair or those of loved ones. If you’re more fashion-minded, you might even think about that funky pair you saw recently on one of your favorite celebrities. You definitely don’t think of old age.
But what about when you think of hearing aids? Probably a different story.
A PR Problem
In the United States, 14 million people 12 years or older have a visual impairment. Thirty million people 12 years or older have hearing loss in both ears — that’s one out of every eight people.
Both eyeglasses and hearing aids correct a sense impairment — so why are eyeglasses a fashion statement, but it takes, on average, seven years for someone to even get their hearing tested after noticing a hearing loss?
Hearing Loss Affects All Age Groups
The idea that hearing loss is something that happens to people in their old age simply isn’t true. Significant numbers of people across all generations experience some degree of hearing loss.
- 2 to 3 of every 1,000 U.S. babies are born with a detectable hearing loss
- 1 in 5 U.S. teens has some degree of hearing loss
- 1 in 8 U.S. kids ages 6 to 19 has hearing loss from using earbuds to listen to music at unsafe volumes
- Over 90 percent of U.S. children born with hearing loss have parents with no hearing loss>/li>
According to a World Health Organization report, 50 percent of millennials risk hearing loss because of damaging volumes via personal audio devices; 40 percent do so via noisy entertainment venues such as concerts.
- About 1 in 7 U.S. adults ages 20 to 69 has hearing loss
- 22 percent of U.S. adults are exposed to dangerous noise levels at work
- About 1 in 10 U.S. adults experiences tinnitus (a ringing, pulsing, or buzzing only they can hear)
- About 90 percent of tinnitus cases have accompanying hearing loss
- 3 in 5 returning service members experience hearing loss
- Among both active and veteran service members, hearing loss and tinnitus are the most reported health issue
- 50 percent of all blast-induced injuries result in permanent hearing loss
- Hearing loss among service members has become a big enough problem that the Department of Defense spearheaded an interactive course that provides early and ongoing hearing loss-prevention training
Normalizing Hearing Loss
Clearly, hearing loss is even more prevalent than vision problems. And it leaves no age group untouched. But the stigma remains, such that only 1 in 5 people who could benefit from hearing technology actually uses it.
But there’s a growing online trend of people discussing their lives with hearing loss — many of them millennials or slightly older — in an attempt to remove the stigma of hearing loss and hearing aids.
- Living With Hearing Loss is written by Shari Eberts, who was recognized as a HearStrong Champion for her tireless work to change the stigma surrounding hearing loss.
- The Invisible Disability and Me is written by a woman with a cochlear implant who hopes to raise awareness of and support those who’ve experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
- Cosmopolitan magazine’s brand connection to millennial women is so strong that it launched a Cosmo Millennial Advisory Board staffed with millennials who are experts in their fields; Cosmopolitan regularly features articles about life with hearing loss, covering topics from dating with hearing loss to becoming a NASA engineer despite having been born profoundly deaf.
- The Twitter page Normalize Hearing Loss is “on a mission to normalize hearing loss and hearing aids and other tech the way we’ve normalized glasses,” and encourages users to include @NormalizeHL or #NormalizeHearingLoss in their tweets.
Hearing Tech for Today’s Connected Culture
What’s more, the hearing technology of today is a far cry from the hearing aids of 50 years ago. The digital tech of today is sleek and discreet, minimizes background noise, improves speech clarity in complicated sound environments, and focuses on what’s in front of you rather than taking in and amplifying all sounds equally.
Plus, hearing devices are becoming as connected as everything else. You can stream audio wirelessly from your mobile device to your hearing aids, geotag the hearing aid settings for your favorite locations, even hear a phone call in both ears simultaneously — and control it all on the sly with a smartphone app!
Fang Ko et al. Prevalence of Nonrefractive Visual Impairment in U.S. Adults and Associated Risk Factors, 1999-2002 and 2005-2008. JAMA: 2012;308(22): 2361–2386. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Quick Statistics About Hearing. Accessed March 6, 2019. Hearing Loss Association of America. Hearing Loss Facts and Statistics. Accessed March 6, 2019. Hearing Health Foundation. Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Statistics. Accessed March 6, 2019.
Ahhh, spring! As power tools whir, ball games bloom, and concerts sprout, are your ears protected from the louder sounds of the season?
Some noises pack a bigger punch than your ears should take, so for Better Hearing Month this May, we’re sharing three quick tips to keep harmful volumes at bay.
TURN DOWN THE SOUND
Planning a hearty run in the fresh air with favorite tunes in your ears? It’s tempting to crank up the beats, but MP3 players can reach an ear-splitting 105 decibels. Better bet: Enjoy the sounds but turn them down to 50 percent maximum volume or lower.
GUARD YOUR EARS
Cutting that spring grass can feel so satisfying, but the noise of a gas mower can blow past the danger threshold of 85 decibels. Hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs help soften loud sounds and can be customized to your ears, so keep them on hand when using power equipment.
LIMIT YOUR EXPOSURE
Spring concerts, sports, and festivals abound, so help keep your hearing sound by wearing hearing protection and taking breaks from the festivities. Permanent hearing loss can result even from a single exposure to loud noise, making it important to give your ears a helpful rest from excess volumes.
Did you know?
- An estimated one-third of hearing loss among children and adults worldwide is connected to noise exposure.
- Excess noise can destroy the inner ear’s tiny, irreplaceable hair cells, which are crucial to healthy hearing.
- Loud sounds can lead to tinnitus, a common and potentially debilitating problem of buzzing, humming, or ringing in the ears.
- Quality hearing protection can curb noise intensity while letting music and other audio sound just as good.
As the season showers you with sound, make this the month to start protecting your hearing. Contact our caring team today to learn more about custom hearing protection for the whole family.
Tinnitus isn’t curable, but it’s effects can be managed through treatment. Recent studies suggest that a nutritious diet can be a good place to start.
From sound-based therapies to mindfulness-based exercises, new ways to manage or reduce the sounds associated with tinnitus — a ringing, buzzing, or pulsing that has no external sound source — are being developed every day.
Though there’s no cure, treatment options abound. One promising option: nutrition.
Recipes With Tinnitus-Friendly Ingredients
A growing body of research is linking not food but nutrition with tinnitus. For example, people with Ménière’s disease-related tinnitus should keep their salt intake from fluctuating to control tinnitus symptoms. Some encouraging studies have shown that folate, B12, and certain antioxidants are linked to improved tinnitus symptoms.
In honor of National Nutrition Month, enjoy these recipes bursting with tinnitus-friendly nutrition!
Whether you serve it over chow mein or skip the noodles for a low-carb option, this hearty and healthy recipe can’t miss. Packed with B12 (flank steak), folate (spinach), and antioxidants (spinach), this is a blast of sweet and savory flavor.
If you saw “pesto” in the name and thought, “Basil? No thanks…,” don’t worry — the basil takes a back seat among the delicious, complex flavors in this recipe. The ingredients are rich in antioxidants (cherry tomatoes, walnuts, basil), hearing-healthy omega-3s (anchovies, basil), and folate (cherry tomatoes).
You finally figured out how to get your windowsill herb garden to thrive. Now what? We’ve got just the thing! With this hearty salad, you can mix and match the herbs to suit your palate, while the main ingredients — tinnitus-friendly potatoes and spinach — provide a heapin’ helpin’ of antioxidants and folate.
This easy, light, delicious side dish is sure to become a spring and summer staple in your home! The tart sweetness of the cherry tomatoes perfectly complements the earthy punch of the spinach, and both are overflowing with — you guessed it —antioxidants and folate.
Looking for a great way to start the day off with a nutrition boost but really don’t like greens? Look no further than this recipe! Nestled among the berries, banana, and your choice of milk (the recipe uses almond milk), you won’t even know the spinach is there. And like the pesto dish above, this smoothie is packed with antioxidants, folate, and hearing-healthy omega-3s.
March is National Nutrition Month, and that makes this an especially great time to talk about hearing wellness and nutrition. Never thought about food in relation to your ears? You’re not alone. But considering food is a critical source of elements crucial to healthy skin, muscles, organs, and more, it’s no wonder that nutrition and hearing are connected.
Take children and hearing loss, for instance. Did you know that a lack of adequate nutrition early in life could mean problems with hearing later on? A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February 2018, for example, found that young adults who experienced poor nutrition in their preschool years had double the risk of hearing loss versus their better-nourished counterparts.
Though the research focused on a population with ongoing malnutrition issues and limited health care access, the study adds to the body of research linking nourishment — broccoli, anyone? — and hearing health.
Speaking of broccoli: Selected vitamins and minerals in your food can contribute to protecting your hearing wellness, according to HealthyHearing.com, so feast your eyes — and ears — on these examples to jump-start your healthy-hearing nutrition:
Clams, Cod, and Rockfish
These delights from the sea not only please a discerning palate but can provide 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.
Okra, Asparagus, and Spinach
Choices abound when it comes to sources of folate, which studies have linked to healthy outcomes such as decreased risk of hearing impairment among older men. Whether you’re into dark green veggies, broccoli, avocado, escarole, or edamame, you can find folate-rich foods to match your tastes.
Leafy Greens, Whole Grains, and — Hey — Dark Chocolate!
Yep, dark chocolate’s on our list of foods containing magnesium, which — combined with vitamins A, C, and E — can help thwart noise-induced hearing loss. Other magnesium sources include pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, chicken breast, and more.
Lentils, Split Peas, and Navy Beans
Serve them mashed, whole, in a soup, or in a salad bowl — whatever your delight! Lentils — along with other legumes and foods such as beef, oysters, and dark-meat chicken — offer zinc, which supports the immune system and may help fight tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
Healthy eating is important year-round, so keep these helpful tips in mind for National Nutrition Month and beyond. Want to learn more about hearing wellness and nutrition? Contact us! We’re happy to answer your questions.