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The Power of Better Hearing — Micah’s Story

Treating your hearing loss benefits your life in so many ways, from building stronger relationships to advancing your career to discovering your passions and making your dreams attainable. For people born with hearing loss, these achievements are a lifelong testament to the exceptional care and support of their audiologists, as well as the importance of continually investing in better hearing.


From Diagnosis to Acceptance

At a very young age, Micah was diagnosed with Usher’s Syndrome Type 2A, which is a rare genetic mutation that causes mild to severe hearing loss as well as progressive vision loss. He is going blind from retinitis pigmentosa and has worn hearing aids as long as he can remember.

Growing up with this diagnosis was not easy. “I came to know the difference between the other kids and me when they pushed me down, imitated my slurred speech, and laughed,” he says. “The idea that my impairment signified me as ‘wrong’ rang out in the silence of everything else.”
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But with comprehensive hearing care at the hands of an empathetic provider who truly understood the isolation and social difficulties sensory deprivation can cause, Micah’s condition became manageable.

“I know a world of sound because of an audiologist and her team who were devoted to me for over 20 years — the team that fit me, gave me batteries, reminded me of appointments, cleaned my hearing aids, sent them off for repairs, and knew me as an individual. They have given me courage, confidence, and success. I owe them more than the world.”


From Acceptance to Success

Treating multidimensional sensory loss is not only challenging but requires a dedicated provider willing to work closely with their patient. In Micah’s case, this personal investment in helping him live with his unique diagnosis has allowed a formerly isolated child to blossom into a dynamic and fearless person who faces challenges head-on.

“Growing up empowered to become who I wanted to be, and to experience the world as it should be, had requirements that far exceeded the ‘cheapest available option,’” he says. “Amplification alone is not medical treatment. As my situation worsens, I will place my trust in those with the genuine interest in my situation and well-being, and the confidence to rise to the challenge.”

Micah credits his hearing care team with helping him develop the confidence and social skills necessary to pursue his passions and goals, which include music, poetry, and giving back to the hearing care community.

“I’ve been gifted the opportunity to be a musician, and the reality of everything that I have been gifted, in life and loss, has driven me to give all that I can back to the industry that cares for me,” says Micah. “Today I work hand in hand with private-practice providers around the country to deliver the utmost to each and every patient.”
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“Quite honestly, it took me 20 years to stand up straight to my condition, look it in the eyes, and call it my own. It is my hope that this story will […] act as a reminder of the cause hearing health care strives for.”


Contact us today to share your own experience with better hearing and let us know how it has improved your life!

My Tinnitus Has a Melody – Is That Possible? | Musical Ear Syndrome

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.

Awareness.

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 management.

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!

Does Your Heart Health Affect Your Hearing Health?

Easy Ways to Boost Heart Health

The human body is complex. So complex, in fact, that some things you read about it might seem downright far-fetched. For example, your heart health affects your hearing health.

The Heart–Hearing Link

That might sound a little squirrelly, but it’s supported by more than six decades of research. How are they connected?

Your inner ear is where sound waves get translated into a language — electrical impulses — that your brain understands. Structures critical to this translation process depend on nourishment from tiny blood vessels. When your heart doesn’t work well, those structures don’t get enough blood and, therefore, don’t work like they should, leading to hearing loss.

The connection is so strong that, in the event of a heart attack, it’s recommended that you get a hearing test to catch hearing loss early. It’s also been suggested that every hearing care patient’s history include detailed information about heart health, such as history of heart disease, hypertension, heart attacks, or heart surgery due to coronary blockage.


Keep Your Heart Healthy

There are plenty of easy ways to improve your heart health. Instead of a list of don’ts, we’ll keep it positive. Here are three easy things you can do to head toward heart health.

  1. Stand up

    The scientific community is starting to recognize just how unhealthy sitting for a big portion of the day really is. Simply put, sitting for long periods is linked to heart disease. Stand up from time to time. It helps more than you realize. It’s not a matter of making sure you’re exercising enough — per Dr. Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins, “Even if you’re doing 30 minutes per day of physical activity, it matters what you do the other 23 hours of the day.” Dr. Michos finds reasons to get up and move every hour, such as going down the hall to a colleague’s office to ask a question instead of asking via email.

  2. Make every meal a rainbow

    To reduce risk of heart disease, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit every day. Practically all of them are low in calories, fat, and sodium, and many are rich in vitamin C or beta-carotene, both of which reduce plaque buildup in your arteries. To understand what the foundation means by “serving,” here’s Health Canada’s current serving-size guide.

  3. Keep the fats — but only the healthy kind

    It’s never a good idea to cut out all fat. Your body needs certain fats. According to the American Heart Association, the heart-healthy approach is to focus on unsaturated fats (poly or mono), heavily limit saturated fats, and cut out artificial trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and tropical oils entirely.

    What does that mean, exactly? Easy ways to load up on the good stuff are adding fish and avocado to your diet, eating nuts in moderation, and steering toward oils that are low in saturated fat, such as avocado, grapeseed, olive, and sesame oils.

No Bones About It: Osteoporosis May Nearly Double Risk of Sudden Hearing Loss

What does osteoporosis, a potentially debilitating disease affecting some 10 million Americans and 2 million Canadians, have in common with conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, dementia, and other selected conditions? It can go hand in hand with hearing loss.

More specifically, at least one study links osteoporosis to a nearly doubled risk of sudden sensorineural hearing loss, a disease that can touch people of all ages around the globe but primarily affects those in their 50s and 60s.

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by weakened bones that are more vulnerable to breakage. It occurs when the normal process of old bone being replaced by new bone slows down, putting the person at greater risk of serious problems such as hip, wrist, and spine fractures.

Though some osteoporosis risk factors such as gender, age, race, and family history canít be helped, a few preventive tactics can make a difference in keeping bones healthy, strong, and more resistant to becoming fragile, weak, and brittle:

  • Avoid tobacco use and excess drinking.
  • Adopt a regular exercise regimen approved by your doctor.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight, steering clear of too few or too many calories.
  • Eat healthfully, being sure to include protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients in your diet.

Does Osteoporosis Cause Sudden Hearing Loss?

Scientists arenít necessarily ready to say that osteoporosis actually causes sudden sensorineural hearing loss, but studies have long reported a relationship between the two. More recently, researchers in Taiwan sought to quantify the risk of sudden hearing loss in osteoporotic patients. They published their results in the June 2015 edition of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The investigators, who studied a random representative sample of 1 million participants in Taiwanís National Health Insurance program, found that those with osteoporosis had a 1.76-fold risk of experiencing sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Patients at seemingly greatest risk: adults 50 and older, women, and ó possibly ó those with hypertension and osteoporosis.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT SUDDEN SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS

  • Relatively common and typically referred to as ìsudden deafnessî or ìSSHLî
  • Involves rapid hearing loss in an instant or over several days
  • Usually develops in one ear rather than both
  • May occur together with dizziness or ringing in the ears
  • Requires immediate help for greatest effectiveness of treatment
  • Common treatment includes steroid therapy, but some cases resolve on their own
  • Often has unknown cause, but common culprits include head injury, ototoxic drugs, infectious disease, circulation problems, thyroid disorders, and other selected conditions

What Can You Do?

Take good care of your bones ó and your ears. A causal relationship between osteoporosis and sudden sensorineural hearing loss might not yet be conclusive, but one thing is clear: If you or a loved one has osteoporosis or is experiencing listening difficulties, itís important to get a hearing check.

So donít wait. To stay atop your hearing health and help catch any potential changes or problems early, contact us to schedule a hearing evaluation today. Our caring team is here to help with all your listening needs!

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

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

4 Reasons to Keep Your Hearing and Vision in Check

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

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

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

What Does Hypertension Have to Do With Hearing? Plenty!

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

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

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

Hypertension and Hearing Loss Are Connected

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

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

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

High Blood Pressure Can Be Reined In

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

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

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

Regular Hearing Checks Can Make a Difference

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

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

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

Diabetes & Hearing Loss: What’s the Deal?

Diabetes & Hearing Loss: What’s the Deal?

Are hearing impairment and diabetes connected? More than you might think.

Hearing loss ó which affects an estimated one of every five Americans ó is twice as common among people living with diabetes, making healthy habits and regular hearing checkups all the more important for overall wellness.

Some 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, a chronic metabolic disease that isn’t yet curable but can be managed. Controlling blood sugar is crucial to managing the condition, which, if uncontrolled, can lead over time to other problems such as cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, and hearing loss.

Much like age-related hearing loss, diabetes-related hearing issues commonly take a toll on higher-frequency hearing. In addition, people with diabetes can have a harder time hearing speech in noisy environments such as restaurants and parties.

What’s the link between the two conditions?

It’s not yet known all the ways in which diabetes and hearing impairment ó two global public-health challenges ó are connected, but research has identified poor blood flow to the cochlea as the main culprit in hearing loss among diabetic patients.

Diabetes-associated hearing loss could affect one or both ears, may occur suddenly or gradually, and could appear with or without balance problems of the inner ear, but routine hearing checks can help catch potential issues early.

As evidence of links between hearing loss and diabetes continues to grow, researchers recommend that annual hearing evaluations be a standard part of the health care regimen for individuals with diabetes.

FIGHT BACK

Diabetes may play a role in hearing loss, but you can fight back by helping reduce your overall risk of hearing impairment. Some prevention tips:

  • Manage your diabetes if you have the disease, using strategies created with your medical doctor.
  • Reduce exposure to excess noise, one of the most preventable causes of hearing loss.
  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet, which contributes to better ear functioning.
  • Avoid tobacco use, a risk factor for cancer, hearing loss, and many other problems.
  • Stay physically active, because excess weight not only ups the risk of diabetes but can tax your hearing.

If you have diabetes or listening difficulties, don’t wait. Contact us today to have your hearing evaluated by a licensed hearing professional. Early testing, detection, and treatment can make a difference in your quality of life.

Cognitive Decline is a Real Risk With Hearing Loss

Dementia a Real Risk With Hearing Loss

If you think of hearing loss as just an inconsequential part of getting older, you’re not alone.

The truth is, however, that the condition can strike even the youngest among us ó more than one in 1,000 babies screened has some form of hearing impairment, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data ó and it can trigger other health problems, too.

Take cognitive decline, for example, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Research has long pointed to links between hearing loss and reduced brain functioning over time, but the statistics may surprise you.

Consider these startling findings:

  • On average, seniors with hearing loss experience significantly reduced cognitive function 3.2 years before their normal-hearing counterparts.
  • Hearing-impaired seniors experience thinking and memory problems 30 to 40 percent faster than their normal-hearing counterparts.
  • Older adults with a hearing disability may lose over a cubic centimeter of brain tissue annually beyond normal shrinkage.
  • Those with hearing loss are two, three, or nearly five times as likely to develop dementia, depending on the severity of the hearing impairment.

So what’s the connection between hearing impairment and cognitive decline? It’s not completely clear how hearing loss, which is also associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other common public-health challenges, contributes to development of dementia.

What is clear, however, is the importance of regular hearing checkups to help stave off the threat of cognitive impairment. Tackling risk factors such as hearing loss earlier on could cut dementia cases by a third, according to a research collaborative led by UK psychiatry professor Gill Livingston and involving the Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and other individuals, institutions, and organizations.

As one of your most crucial senses for communication and perception, hearing not only helps you stay connected to the world but helps keep your brain sharp. Give your hearing health and overall wellness a hand by staying active, eating a diet rich in important nutrients, avoiding excess noise, and scheduling regular hearing checkups.


Munch to Better Hearing

Hearing power is brainpower, and some key foods can help! Certain vitamins and minerals can go a long way toward supporting your hearing wellness, according to HealthyHearing.com. In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, check out these examples:

  • Bananas

    These reliable delights are rich in potassium, an important mineral for regulating blood and tissue fluid levels ó including in the inner ear, which plays an important role in hearing and balance.

  • Broccoli

    This versatile vegetable with an edible stalk and green flowering head provides folate, which studies have linked to healthy outcomes such as decreased risk of hearing impairment among older men.

  • Tomatoes

    These juicy fruits ó easy to grow and delicious cooked in a sauce or served raw ó offer magnesium, which, combined with vitamins A, C, and E, help thwart noise-induced hearing loss.

  • Dark-Meat Chicken

    This flavorful part of the bird ó along with other foods such as beef, oysters, and legumes ó delivers zinc, which supports the immune system and may help fight tinnitus or ringing in the ears.


Sources:
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hearing Loss Accelerates Brain Function Decline in Older Adults. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_accelerates_brain_function_decline_in_older_adults. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_accelerated_brain_tissue_loss_. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.
The JAMA Network | JAMA Neurology. Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/802291. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.
U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health. A Prospective Study of Vitamin Intake and the Risk of Hearing Loss in Men. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2853884/. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.
U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health. Free Radical Scavengers Vitamins A, C, and E Plus Magnesium Reduce Noise Trauma. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1950331/. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.
U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health. The Role of Zinc in the Treatment of Tinnitus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12544035. Accessed Feb. 5, 2018.