Tag: advice

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!

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!

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.

It’s Not Just About Hearing

It’s Not Just About Hearing

Hearing loss can affect not only your well-being but also your overall quality of life. If you have hearing loss, read on to for ways to be the happiest, healthiest you.

Hearing Loss and Falls Are Linked

Research backs up the connection between hearing loss and falls. In one study, those with at least a mild hearing loss fell more often than those with healthy hearing. In fact, the odds of a fall increased as hearing loss worsened — falls were 1.4 times more likely for each 10-decibel increase in hearing loss.

One possible cause is that hearing loss robs your brain of resources. As more brainpower becomes devoted to hearing, less is available for postural control, which increases the risk of falling.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA):

  • Falling is the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for older Americans.
  • Falls threaten safety and independence, and they generate enormous economic and personal costs.
  • Falls result in more than three million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including over 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 32,000 deaths.

Hearing Technology Can Help

In a study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, participants with hearing loss had better balance when using hearing aids than when they didn’t. Senior author Timothy E. Hullar explained they seemed to use “the sound information coming through their hearing aids as auditory reference points or landmarks to help maintain balance.”

Lifestyle and Hearing Are Linked

A study done by Age and Ageing looked at hearing loss alongside disability and mortality in older men. The study found that, compared with those with no hearing loss, those with hearing loss have a greater risk of mobility problems and difficulties when performing daily activities. It also found that men with hearing loss have a greater risk of dying of any cause.

In a different study, it was reported that hearing loss is 5.5 times more prevalent in men than in women. In particular, those with high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as smokers of more than 20 years, are more likely to have a hearing loss.

Hearing Technology Can Help

A study done by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that people who used hearing aids reported an increased sense of independence and safety, as well as improvements in depression, anxiety, and social isolation compared with the time before they treated their hearing loss.

Nutrition Affects Your Hearing

Nutrients are a great first-line defense against hearing loss, especially folate and omega-3 fatty acids.

Folate, a B vitamin, helps prevent age-related hearing loss. It does this by regulating the amount of homocysteine (an amino acid) in your system. A lack of homocysteine reduces blood flow to the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss. Good sources of folate include broccoli, leafy green vegetables, pulses, and liver.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a building block of your cell membranes. They fight inflammation, too. These are two properties that make omega-3 fatty acids ideal protectors of hearing health, and research backs this up. It’s well established that omega-3 fatty acids do, indeed, prevent age-related hearing loss. Good sources of this nutrient are fish, nuts, seeds, plant oils, and fortified foods.

Hearing Technology Can Help

If you do have age-related hearing loss, it’s easy to miss out on children laughing in another room, birds chirping, or your sweetheart’s whispered “I love you.” It’s these little moments that make life so rich. But hearing technology is now so advanced that you can adjust your settings to your surroundings.

 

Don’t miss another moment — contact us today!

5 Ways to Help Others With Hearing Loss

5 Ways to Help Others With Hearing Loss

5 Ways to Help Others With Hearing Loss

Getting treated for hearing loss can be such a life-changing experience that it’s only natural to want to share the sense of independence, reconnection, and other positive outcomes that can go hand in hand with improved hearing. These five tips can help you pay your better-hearing success forward, inspiring others living with hearing difficulties to get the help they need.

 

1. Share Your Story

Research indicates hearing-aid wearers on average waited over a decade after a hearing loss diagnosis before getting the proper hearing technology. That’s a lot of time spent potentially missing out on important moments in life — not to mention the physical, mental, social, and even financial consequences linked to untreated hearing issues.

What if sharing your experience could motivate others to walk their own better-hearing path a lot sooner? Consider telling your inspiring story — whether virtually or in person — to neighborhood groups, senior-living gatherings, community sports teams, and other audiences eager to learn. Moving even one person with hearing loss to take action is time well spent.

 

2. Be the Companion  

Seeking hearing help is a big, empowering step, made even easier with the support of friends and family who not only want the best for the people they care about but who are also affected when those loved ones have unaddressed hearing loss.

If you’ve had a companion at hearing care appointments, you may already appreciate the power of having that emotional support, an additional perspective on your hearing needs, or a familiar voice for test-driving hearing technology. Imagine the satisfaction of being that companion for someone else.

 

3. Lend Your Skills

Whether streaming from media devices, connecting to hearing loops, interfacing with smart-home technology, providing fall detection, or translating other languages, today’s cutting-edge hearing aids bring their A-game, but knowing how to work them is key.

As hearing care professionals, we love helping patients get the most out of their hearing devices, but sharing your own tips, tricks, favorite apps, and compatible smartphone settings can also go a long way. If you know someone who might benefit from your helpful discoveries, consider offering a hand today.

 

4. Donate Your Hearing Aids

Ever wondered whether your used hearing aids could help someone else in need? They sure can! An estimated 466 million children and adults around the globe have disabling hearing loss, per the World Health Organization, and some have benefited from pre-owned hearing technology.

If you have an old set of hearing aids taking up space in a drawer or are thinking of upgrading your current ones to newer technology, please let us know. We may be running periodic donation drives or can help connect you with charitable organizations seeking used devices.

 

5. Remember Self-Care

In the excitement of a new year, you might forget to keep your own hearing health at its best. But as you plan upcoming adventures and begin working on your New Year’s resolutions, it’s a perfect reason to get your hearing — and your hearing technology — checked.

Not only do adults treated for hearing loss report significant improvements in relationships, mental health, social engagement, and other crucial areas, but their loved ones report improvements, too. So take care of yourself — for them and for you.

 

What if sharing your experiences could motivate others to walk their own better-hearing path? Consider telling your story to neighborhood groups and other audiences eager to learn.

 


 

Has it been a while since your last hearing evaluation? Do you have a loved one experiencing listening difficulties of their own? Don’t wait. Please contact our caring team today. We’re here to help!

8 Back-to-School Communication Tips

Make Hitting the Books Even Easier With These Helpful Tricks

It’s practically back-to-school time! Whether the students in your life are heading back to class in person or online, keep these helpful tips in mind.

  1. Maximize lipreading. Hearing and lipreading work together to enhance communication, making clear masks an important tool for teachers if using protective equipment for in-person learning. It also helps for speakers to appear on camera during virtual classes so that participants can see their lips.
  2. Turn on live captioning during virtual lessons, or ask the host — if applicable — to activate the option. Free apps and web-based services are also available for live transcribing of speech.
  3. Curb background noise. Learning from home can be challenging amid the everyday sounds of household life, but setting up in a quieter room, wearing connected headphones, and closing the door to shut out distracting background noise can help facilitate speech understanding.
  4. Use the chat function — if available when using an online virtual platform — to help clarify any missed points. And remember: There’s a good chance others may need clarification, too, and will appreciate the request.
  5. Pair a compatible wireless multimicrophone with your hearing device to enhance hearing in one-on-one and group environments.
  6. Stream audio directly to your hearing technology. Modern hearing aids can receive audio directly from sources such as smartphones, computers, stereos, and more — depending on compatibility — and make it easy to personalize sound for specific listening and learning needs.
  7. Help your hearing aids and mask coexist. If wearing hearing aids, help keep them undisturbed and working their best by choosing masks that wrap around the head rather than the ears.
  8. Choose the mask setting on your hearing aids — if the option is available — to help clearly and confidently communicate with others who are wearing face coverings.

 

How’s Their Hearing?

Schedule regular hearing checkups for the schoolkids in your household — just as you would for their eyes and teeth — and recognize some of the signs of potential hearing loss:

  • Struggling to understand people speaking through masks
  • Trouble following lessons or instructions from teachers
  • Frequent responses of “Huh?” or “What?”
  • Complaints of noise or earaches
  • Turning up the television volume
  • Failing grades or reports that your child doesn’t respond in class
  • A gut feeling that something’s off with your child’s hearing

Improved hearing can play a big role in helping students perform their best in class. So don’t wait. Schedule back-to-school hearing evaluations for the whole family today!