Tag: Hearing Health

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!

6 Ways to Keep Your Hearing Loss From Getting Worse

6 Ways to Keep Your Hearing Loss From Getting Worse

6 Ways to Keep Your Hearing Loss From Getting Worse

Looking Out for Your Hearing Health Is Even Easier Than You Think

If you have hearing loss, you’re not alone. With an estimated 466 million children and adults living with disabling hearing loss, per the World Health Organization, it’s one of the most common chronic physical conditions around the globe.

Though most types of hearing loss cannot be reversed, they can often be successfully managed with today’s innovative technology. And there are empowering ways you can keep your hearing loss from getting worse. Read on for six tips to do just that.

  • Avoid Noisy Environments

Among the most preventable causes of hearing loss, harmful noise levels — especially those reaching 85 decibels or higher — can do a number on your ears. The damage could be temporary or permanent. And it can worsen with greater noise exposure. When possible, avoiding harmful noise levels altogether is the best bet.

  • Wear Hearing Protection

Of course, avoiding excess noise isn’t always practical — especially if it’s part of your occupation. Whether you’re working around jet engines, calling games amid the whistles and cheers of a packed arena, or operating machinery at a farm, workplaces can be loud. That’s where hearing protection comes in. We recommend custom protection for even more effectiveness and a secure fit.

  • Address Earwax Buildup

Excess cerumen, or earwax buildup, can also be the culprit in worsening hearing loss. Typically your ears naturally push out excess wax, but sometimes the accumulation can form a blockage. To remove an earwax plug, gently soften it with drops of warmed olive oil, almond oil water, or a commercial solution — as long as you don’t have an eardrum perforation.

  • Beware of Ototoxicity

Some medications, including certain drugs used to fight cancer, can be ototoxic, or damaging to the inner ear, potentially leading to hearing loss or worsening of existing hearing difficulties. Rather than stopping the medication if prescribed, talk to your doctor or another provider about the risks, potential alternatives, and possible ways to mitigate any threats to your hearing.

  • Think Total Wellness

It’s easy to think of hearing loss as just an isolated challenge, but it can go hand in hand with other conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, dementia, and other health problems. Though cause and effect aren’t necessarily conclusive in all cases of hearing loss, staying dedicated to total wellness can potentially go a long way toward helping preserve your current hearing levels.

  • Lean Into Technology

As mentioned early in this story, today’s exciting, advanced technology plays a big role in successfully managing hearing loss. With the help of a licensed hearing care professional and solutions tailored to your needs, you can discover a whole new world of sound. Using hearing technology also helps you preserve the hearing you have.

So don’t wait. Take steps to preserve your hearing today. If it’s been a while since your last hearing check, or your current hearing devices don’t seem to help as much as they used to, contact us for an evaluation. We’re committed to helping you hear your best!

Golfers: 5 Reasons to Keep Your Hearing Health in Shape

Golfers: 5 Reasons to Keep Your Hearing Health in Shape

Why Would a Hearing Care Provider Be Writing About Golf?

If you play golf, you already know one swing of the club is a complex matter. A half-inch difference in heel placement could mean a solid shot or a ball taking a swim.

But one thing golfers depend on, even more than they realize, is their hearing. Here are five ways hearing health supports your golf game.

The Sound of the Clubhead Meeting the Ball

Anyone who has played long enough knows the sweet spot. It’s the sound of your clubhead hitting the ball just right. Distance and accuracy are all but guaranteed with that sweet-spot combination of tone and volume.

Sound is just as important, though, for recognizing when — and how — your clubhead hits the ball wrong. It gives you the information you need to adjust the next shot. This is especially important for chipping and putting, where you want finesse over power.

The Sounds of Camaraderie

A big part of the game is the people involved. Strategizing, heckling, and catching up on each other’s lives is half the enjoyment — and a big reason why many of us pick up the game in the first place.

But it doesn’t stop there. You also hear the heckles, encouragement, and laughter on the other fairways and greens. You might even get to know the people in the group in front of you — or behind you — if it’s a busy day on the links.

The Sound of Danger

Danger? On a golf course? Yes! And you need to be able to hear dangers in advance.

There are surprising dangers — like rattlesnakes and bear cubs — as well as more common ones. Even the best golfers can flub a shot, sending it sailing into another fairway or tee box. And errant, speeding golf carts abound, especially when playing a scramble and when the best shot is “just over this hill, I know it!”

“Golfers, beware,” indeed!

Sure Footing

Sometimes, hearing loss can indeed affect your balance. Every aspect of your game depends on good balance, though, from setup to follow-through. The results of mixing poor balance and golf can range from minor — a missed shot — to major, such as a thrown club, a golf cart accident, or a fall.

Keeping Your Head in the Game

Golf takes brainpower. Strategy and focus are key to a good round. Hearing loss, though, has been linked to cognitive decline. Thinking, remembering, and even your ability to keep your head in the game can suffer. In fact, in one study, seniors with hearing loss experienced cognitive issues 30% to 40% faster than their peers without hearing loss. Hearing aid use, however, may slow cognitive decline by as much as 75%.

A Note in Conclusion

Even way back in 2009, the growing popularity of thin-faced titanium drivers was cause for concern. One study compared the sound of a King Cobra club meeting the ball to a gun blast or sonic boom! If you enjoy using clubs such as the King Cobra — or if you’ve simply noticed that your club packs quite a sonic wallop — consider using hearing protection. There are many kinds available, and some, such as earplugs for musicians, allow you to enjoy conversations and ambient sounds around you but block levels that could damage your hearing.

Contact us today if you think you’d benefit from a hearing evaluation or hearing protection!

Illustration of a silhouette of a human head with a brain - represented by a rain cloud - inside

Could Healthy Hearing Help People With Movement Disorders?

Your ears and your brain are fast friends. In fact, it seems like a new connection is reported every few months. There’s even a growing body of research showing that untreated hearing loss is linked to dementia.

That’s why we encourage annual hearing checkups. Catching changes in hearing early keeps a host of other issues at bay. And we’re just scratching the surface of what we know about the ear-brain connection.

Your ears and brain are so well connected, in fact, that one recent study in Scientific Reports is based on a link the researchers discovered on accident. It’s a link that could improve the assistive devices used by people with movement disorders or limb loss.

Brain-Computer Interfaces

A research team called BrainGate develops brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). These are implants that use nerve signals in the brain to manipulate assistive devices such as prosthetic limbs. Most BCI implants are put in a part of the brain that controls planning to act called the motor cortex. The BrainGate team wondered how workable it was to gather nerve signals earlier than that, though.

Could they use nerve signals from an area of the brain responsible for the simple urge to act — before the planning-to-act brain region gets involved? If so, they might be able to speed up BCI response times.

An Accidental Discovery

One clinical trial participant, because of a spinal cord injury, no longer had the use of his arms and legs. During a simple movement exercise that involved visual cues, his brain was monitored by fMRI. It showed activity in a certain area of this urge-to-act region of his brain.

They repeated the experiment with the BCI implant, instead of fMRI. To their surprise, the implant didn’t register activity in that same area. But while reviewing data from a related research session, they found something equally surprising. During the movement exercise, when they used verbal — not visual — cues, the implant picked up strong signals from that same urge-to-act area.

A Study With Only One Participant

To the BrainGate team, it seemed like this urge-to-act area didn’t care at all about visual cues, only sound-based cues. They designed a new study using the BCI implant to test their hypothesis. It had a sample size of only one — that same spinal-cord-injury participant mentioned above — and the research alternated between visual-only and sound-based-only cues.
They found that the urge-to-act area responded to sound-based cues but not to visual cues. They also found that the planning-to-act area responded to both, and had no preference either way.
The results were published in Scientific Reports in the article “Auditory cues reveal intended movement information in middle frontal gyrus neuronal ensemble activity of a person with tetraplegia.”

Why It Matters

The BrainGate team has some successes under their belt. People with spinal cord injury, brainstem stroke, and ALS have managed to control a computer cursor simply by thinking about the corresponding limb movement. In clinical research, they’ve managed intuitive control over advanced prosthetic limbs. Plus, people with paralysis have enjoyed easy control over powerful external devices.

By discovering that this urge-to-act area responds to sound cues, they can use it as a complement to the planning-to-act area, and BCI implants can gather movement data from two different regions of the brain. The researchers hope to one day use BCIs to enable reliable, intuitive, naturally controlled movement of paralyzed limbs.

And healthy hearing could be an important piece of this exciting puzzle.

Illustration of a park bench on a snowy winter day

How Does a Pandemic Affect Noise Pollution? | The Apple Hearing Study

In this first-of-its-kind study, researchers set out to see how the sound levels we’re exposed to in our day-to-day lives can impact health.

We live in a noisy world. Dr. Richard Neitzel, of the University of Michigan, knows this only too well. In November 2019, his team at Michigan, along with a team at Apple Inc., set out on a two-year mission to measure some of the health effects of our noisy planet.

What they got was an unprecedented collection of information that answered an impossible-to-anticipate question — how does a pandemic affect noise pollution?


The Apple Hearing Study

 

The noise pollution problem

Around 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss simply because of their recreational habits. Occupational noise exposure affects up to 25% of American and 15% of Canadian workers. Plus, there’s traffic, daily construction in major cities, and a host of other sources of constant noise.

All this unwanted sound affects more than your hearing. It can disturb sleep, worsen patient outcomes in hospitals, even affect schoolchildren’s cognitive abilities. That’s on top of the already well-established effects hearing loss has on overall health.

In the face of this public health challenge, wouldn’t it be handy to measure just how much noise we’re all exposed to?

This is where Dr. Neitzel and his team come in.


The study

In this first-of-its-kind, two-year study, volunteers downloaded the Apple Research app to their iPhone. Headphone and sound-exposure data were regularly collected from their iPhone and Apple Watch (if applicable). The aim of the study was to measure how the sound levels we’re exposed to in our day-to-day lives impact hearing, cardiovascular health, and stress levels.

The COVID-19 Connection

A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, they realized they had a unique, timely, privacy-centric opportunity: They could harvest data from their Apple Hearing Study to measure how social distancing affected sound-exposure levels.

They selected four states based on geographic and cultural diversity — California, Florida, New York, and Texas — and compared the data from two time periods. The first was January 8 to February 21, reflecting pre-COVID-19 conditions. The second period began for each state when that state first issued its social-distancing recommendations, and ended April 22, soon before the first states began loosening restrictions. They ended up with over half a million daily noise level measurements from almost 6,000 participants.

The Surprising Results

They published their findings in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Their analysis revealed that, compared to the pre-COVID-19 time period, daily average noise exposure was cut nearly in half during the social-distancing period, from just over 73 decibels to around 70.5 decibels.

One important piece of this decrease is the sound level at which it happened — 70 decibels. That’s well above the point at which noise can affect heart health, hypertension, and brainpower.

At those decibels, cutting sound exposure in half can have meaningful health benefits. In the words of the authors, “[T]he COVID-related reduction in sound exposures among study participants likely represents a meaningful reduction in overall risk of sound-related health effects.”

A Noisy World

The unforeseen — a pandemic — resulted in nearly halved noise levels, but you don’t have to wait for such extreme circumstances to take charge of your sound-exposure levels. From specialty earplugs to hearing devices, there are simple ways to take charge of how much noise you’re willing to put up with.

Contact us today to learn more about options for curbing noise pollution, regardless of the social-distancing situation you find yourself in!

Illustration of a crowd from above walking in all directions

Better Hearing, Resilience & You: 5 Tips For Resilience

“All things in moderation,” the saying goes, but can one have too much resilience? Looking back on such an unprecedented year, we’re not too sure about that.

Like improved hearing, resilience can make a significant difference in quality of life — after all, it reflects an invaluable ability to adapt to, recover from, or withstand challenges, change, and adversity.

As your hearing care team, we’ve some tips for building resilience in your life. For today, the new year, and beyond, keep these five steps in mind:

  1. Remember You’re Not Alone

    If you’ve felt somewhat disconnected in these times, that’s not uncommon. Challenges such as the pandemic have upended the way we live, work, and play. Newer norms can feel uncomfortable. Drawing strength from the knowledge that others share your experiences can make a difference.

  2. Gain Empowerment Through Preparation

    If you wear hearing technology, it’s probably no surprise that a little maintenance goes a long way toward helping you stay engaged. Regular DIY care, supplies such as extra batteries and wax guards, and periodic clean and checks with our team can help you feel prepared for anything life brings.

  3. Think Total Wellness

    Hearing plays an important role in overall wellness, which in turn plays a role in resilience. Did you know? Ears and eyes work together to help you perceive the world. Conversely, hearing loss is linked to cognitive decline, heart disease, isolation, and other issues, so protect your hearing health.

  4. Commit to Learning

    Learning not only stimulates the brain but supports resilience. It also supports better hearing, especially when learning more about your existing hearing device’s helpful features and capabilities — streaming, for example — that can help you communicate confidently and navigate your world.

  5. Reach Out for Help

    Expanding and tapping into your network of support — including friends, family, and neighbors — can help fortify your resilience. Count on our hearing care team as part of that important network, letting us know how we can help!

Has it been a while since your last hearing evaluation or technology clean and check? Please don’t wait. Schedule your appointment with us today!

Illustration of two hands; one holding a green puzzle piece and the other holding a yellow puzzle piece.

5 Simple Ways to Boost Your Mood This Winter

Hearing health and mental health have a clear connection.

In fact, untreated hearing loss increases your risk of depression, anxiety, social isolation, and more. Winter is also a prime time for seasonal blahs. If you could use a little mental-health boost, here are some simple ways to get started.


Express Gratitude

Gratitude improves happiness, well-being, and mental health. The best-researched method is keeping a gratitude journal. Once or twice a week, choose one act or person you’re grateful for and write a few sentences detailing why. In daily life, you’ll begin to seek out the positive — rather than the negative — and writing it down allows you to really savor that positive emotion.
 

Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins, which relieve stress and boost your mood. You can even use small things that add more activity to your day, like skipping the elevator in favor of the stairs or taking a short, brisk walk. If you work from home, tackle chores that require you to walk to another room or — better yet — another floor. Aim for 30 minutes a day.
 

Spoil Your Senses

Use your senses to quickly find calm. For some people, it’s an uplifting song or the smell of ground coffee. For others, it’s squeezing a stress ball. Each person’s relationship to their senses is a little different, so experiment to figure out what works best to bring you back to center.
 

Lose Yourself

Doing something you love, something you know you can lose yourself in, allows you to forget about life for a while. You don’t have to be a parent, a spouse, or an employee — you can just be.
 

Find a Furry Friend

Interacting with a pet lowers cortisol — the stress hormone — and raises oxytocin — the feel-good hormone. It also lowers blood pressure and eases loneliness and depression. Don’t have a pet? Walk a friend’s dog, volunteer to cat-sit for a vacationing neighbor, or volunteer at a shelter.

Contact us to learn more about the hearing health–mental health connection!

Fun sketch of a happy black and white dog with perked up ears on a teal background

When It Comes to Hearing Wellness, Don’t Fur-Get Your Pets!

Just like their people parents, these furry members of the family can experience hearing difficulties too. Read on to learn what you can do.


AVOID EXCESS NOISE

As one of the most preventable causes of hearing loss in humans, loud sounds can also be a problem for the beloved pets in your household. Excess noise can go hand in hand with hearing damage, anxiety, fear, and even trauma. Limiting noise exposure helps support their hearing health and overall wellness.
 

CONSIDER HEARING PROTECTION

If hightailing it to a quieter space isn’t an option for Rover and Pepper during fireworks or other super-loud situations, hearing protection is another approach that could help. Earplugs and earmuffs made especially for pets help deaden intrusive sounds.
 

KNOW THE SIGNS

If your pooch or kitty doesn’t react in the usual way to your voice, squeaky toys, the doorbell, or other sounds, hearing loss may be the culprit. Behaviors such as reduced activity, excess barking, loud meowing, and sound sleeping even through the loudest noises may also indicate a problem.
 

SCHEDULE REGULAR CHECKUPS

Comprehensive vet exams may include not only a check of your pet’s eyes, nose, mouth, legs, heart, skin, weight, and joints but also their ears. It’s a good time to discuss any changes you’ve noticed in their response to commands or other sounds and gain tips on proper nutrition for optimal hearing health.
 

ADDRESS PROBLEMS EARLY

Early intervention on a suspected hearing condition could make the difference in your fur baby’s quality of life. Not all hearing loss is preventable — for example, a congenital problem, irreversible damage from injury, or another challenge — but working with your veterinarian may help moderate the problem.

When It Comes to Hearing Wellness for the Whole Family, Don’t Fur-Get Your Pets!

Hearing Loss & Accidental Injury: More Connected Than You May Think

From slips and spills to collisions, machine mishaps and more, accidents befall us all, but did you know that hearing loss might contribute to the risk of injury? In fact, one investigation found that those with hearing difficulties may have a doubled chance of suffering an accidental injury at work or play.

The study, published in a 2018 edition of JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery and involving data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, noted that the greater the degree of self-perceived hearing difficulty, the greater the overall accidental-injury risk.

This dovetails with other research that points to links between hearing loss and the increased risk of falling, for example. One study even showed that people with mild hearing loss had a tripled chance of reporting a fall in the prior year, and every 10-decibel increase in hearing loss further raised the odds.

The good news? Addressing hearing loss head-on could cut down on the risk of problems such as falling. Research from the University of Michigan published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, for instance, showed a 13% reduced chance “of being treated for fall-related injuries” among newly diagnosed hearing-impaired seniors fitted with hearing aids.

It’s not necessarily conclusive why hearing loss goes hand in hand with a higher risk of accidental injury or even other issues such as dementia and depression, but one thing’s for sure: Early intervention on hearing problems can go a long way toward supporting your hearing health and overall wellness.


Has it been a while since your last hearing checkup?
Do the sounds coming through your hearing technology seem less clear than they used to be?
Are you ready for some increased connectivity between your hearing aids and the other smart devices that help you run your world?

Don’t wait!

Contact our expert team for an appointment today. Together, let’s make sure you’re hearing and communicating your best!