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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!

Illustration of an ear with graphics representing noise surrounding it

5 Reasons to Love Earwax | Three Cheers for Earwax!

Let’s talk earwax. From its texture to its appearance, it gets a bad name. We suspect the yellow-brown goo might be down a friend or two, so we want to give credit where credit is due.

Here are five reasons we think you should give earwax a second chance.


  1. Earwax Protects Your Ear Canal and Eardrum

  2. Like many things that seem pointless (eyelashes and nose hair, for example), earwax is actually important. It keeps dust, bacteria, and other microorganisms out of your body. A natural antimicrobial, earwax also keeps infection at bay should your ear canal sustain a scrape. Finally, it keeps your ear canal lubricated so it doesn’t become dry and itchy.
     

  3. Earwax Is Self-Cleaning

  4. Your ear canal has a slight incline. Your jaw’s motion during chewing and talking keeps your earwax from settling into your skin. Put the two together, and you have the perfect self-cleaning system: Your earwax slowly travels down your ear canal, where you can gently wipe it from your outer ear if necessary.
     

  5. Earwax Isn’t Even Wax

  6. The technical term for earwax is cerumen. It comprises a few different things: Secretions from two glands combine to line the inside of your ear canal; then dead hair, skin cells, dust, and the already mentioned microorganisms become trapped in this mixture. All of it together is cerumen.
     

  7. Earwax Is a Good Sign

  8. In general, having earwax is not the sign of poor hygiene some people think it is. Everyone produces earwax, and it serves several important purposes. You will know if your earwax becomes a problem, because you’ll experience hearing loss or develop discomfort in your ear canal.
     

  9. Cotton Swabs Are Not the Answer

  10. You can revel in crossing one more thing off your daily hygiene list: cotton swabs. Again, the ears are self-cleaning. On the rare occasion you suspect you have too much earwax, don’t stick anything hard in your ear, and don’t use ear candles. There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies that are as simple as a drop or two of a solution to break up the earwax, followed by flushing your ear canal gently with water. Regular use of cotton swabs strips your ear canal of important protection and can lead to impacted earwax.

5 Tips to Keep Your Better – Hearing Resolution Going Strong

From spending more time with family and friends to taking classes at the local gym, almost everyone makes at least one New Year’s resolution. The catch? Just 8% of resolvers stick to their goals, per a Forbes story referencing University of Scranton research.

No worries: If you’re aiming to hear your best in 2020, we’re sharing five tips to help boost your stick‑to‑itiveness for the new year and beyond!


  1. BE REALISTIC

  2. Though hearing loss can be permanent — some cases caused by noise exposure, for example, can be irreversible, hence the importance of hearing protection — nearly all types can be effectively managed with solutions such as today’s sophisticated hearing aids. Understanding the power of hearing technology, including what it can and cannot do, can go a long way toward shaping attainable goals.
     

  3. WRITE IT DOWN

  4. With the potential ability of hearing loss to take a heavy toll on relationships, self-esteem, social engagement, brain health, and so much more, it may seem surprising that a written reminder is in order. When it comes to self-care, however, it’s not uncommon for people to put themselves last. Put your better-hearing goal in writing — even setting a weekly electronic reminder — to help stay on track.
     

  5. VISUALIZE SUCCESS

  6. Did you know? Improved hearing is associated with lower odds of depression, a reduced chance of dementia, a greater sense of independence, and other important facets of quality living. What counts even more, however, are the reasons better hearing matters to you. Visualize a world — at home, work, and play — in which you hear the sounds that mean the most, and keep that motivation top of mind.
     

  7. TELL A FRIEND

  8. Sometimes it’s a little easier to feel accountable to someone else, so consider sharing your better-hearing goal with a friend, relative, or other confidant who’s willing to back you with reminders, encouragement, and check-ins. Knowing that someone else wants you to succeed may be just the push you need. You could even take them to your appointments for support and additional perspective.
     

  9. SET BENCHMARKS

  10. You’ve heard the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” (Full disclosure: We don’t eat elephants here!) Your better-hearing goal can work the same way. Break your resolution into small bites set to reasonable deadlines — for example, writing it down, listing the benefits, telling a friend, making a hearing‑check appointment — and reward yourself with each milestone accomplished.

 

No matter your new-year goals, we’re committed to helping you reach them with the power of better hearing. So don’t delay. Contact our caring team for help that’s tailored to your communication needs today!

Early Hearing Testing: 6 Reasons It Matters

Early Hearing Testing: 6 Reasons It Matters

There’s an old saying that “Knowing is half the battle,” and that adage couldn’t be truer when it comes to your hearing and quality of life. Hearing loss affects more than your ability to communicate, so we’re sharing six reasons to have your hearing tested sooner rather than later.

  1. FALLS — Untreated hearing impairment is linked to falling, which is more common among people with hearing loss. In a 2012-published study of 2,017 adults ages 40 to 69 and led by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers, those with mild hearing loss were nearly three times as likely to have reported a fall. Ears play an important role in helping maintain balance, making it important to identify and address hearing problems early.
  2. BRAIN HEALTH — Hearing loss can potentially take a toll on the brain, which may have to work harder to process sound. In addition, an ever-growing body of research connects hearing loss to other problems such as faster brain atrophy, earlier onset of major cognitive decline, and up to five times’ higher risk of dementia. With hearing aid use, however, age-related cognitive decline could slow as much as 75%.
  3. DEPRESSION — Research supports a link between hearing loss and depression. Older adults with hearing loss, for example, have a 57% greater risk of experiencing deep depression than those without it, per a Johns Hopkins investigation. With hearing aid use, however, the odds of depression may be lower, according to another study.
  4. FINANCES — Did you know? Research suggests a link between untreated hearing loss and higher medical costs, with older adults paying some 46% more — about $22,434 — than their normal-hearing peers in a 10-year span. In addition, annual household earnings can take a hit of as much as $30,000 with a hearing loss, but treatment with hearing aids could reduce that risk by up to 100%.
  5. CHILD DEVELOPMENT — The impact of hearing loss on children reaches beyond the physical and emotional effects, with implications for their academic-, social-, and communication-related development. For example, 25% to 35% of kids with hearing loss in even just one ear may risk failing a grade level. Early intervention, which could make a big difference in a child’s quality of life, starts with testing.
  6. RELATIONSHIPS — Adults with unaddressed hearing loss report reduced social engagement, more emotional turmoil, and other challenges that could affect their relationships and more. The good news? Not only do adults treated with hearing aids report significant improvements in their social lives and relationships with families, but their loved ones do too, per research from the National Council on Aging.

Some 466 million children and adults around the globe have experienced disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization, but only a fraction receive care. Empowerment starts with answers, so don’t wait. Stay atop your hearing health by scheduling a comprehensive hearing evaluation with our caring team today. It’s easy, painless, and helps you stay on the path of better hearing and improved overall wellness.

Why Do My Ears Itch? | Causes of Ear Itching

Next to pain, itching is probably the most uncomfortable physical sensation we experience. It is annoying, distracting, and in some cases, absolutely maddening. When that itching occurs in a place we can’t reach, it can be difficult to find relief. Our ear canals are the most common place unreachable itching occurs, but most of us don’t give it much thought. Fortunately, most causes of deep ear itching are understood, and there are things we can do to alleviate or even prevent it.


What Causes Itching Sensations in the Ear?

DRY SKIN
In the outer ear, itching is rarely a notable issue, since we can easily rub or scratch that itch away. It is usually caused by dry skin or irritants that come into contact with the skin. It is no different than itching on any other exposed part of the body, but if it becomes a habitual nuisance, applying a bit of mineral oil or Vaseline to the affected area with a cotton swab can help rehydrate the skin and protect it from further irritation.

SKIN CONDITIONS
In addition to the superficial irritation of substances you come into contact with, two of the most common benign skin diseases, eczema and psoriasis, can also affect your ears. If scaling of the skin is present, one of these conditions will be suspected as the cause of your itching. Your hearing care provider and dermatologist can provide solutions.

ALLERGIES
In the inner parts of the ear, causes of itching become a little more complex. One of the most common culprits is allergies. The same histamine response that causes itchy hives on the skin, watery eyes, and sneezing can also cause the eustachian tube (the pathway that connects the ear to the throat) to become inflamed. Most of us will press on our tragus (that small flap of cartilaginous skin near the ear’s opening) and wiggle it vigorously to relieve this sensation, but the best home remedy is to take an antihistamine.

INFECTION
Almost everyone has suffered an ear infection at some point in our lives, and when we think back on this experience, it is usually the pain that we remember the most, but itching can also be an important indicator of bacterial buildup in the middle ear. If the itching you feel is persistent and intense, or is accompanied by a throbbing sensation or feeling of fullness, schedule an appointment with your audiologist or ENT to find out if infection is present. Treating it at this stage can save you from further discomfort down the road.

ANXIETY
You may be surprised to learn this, but simply being nervous, stressed, or feeling “on edge” can cause the ears to itch!


What Can I Do to Relieve Itching?

As mentioned above, medication is usually the best method to relieve persistent itching deep in the ear, but there are also some over-the-counter remedies you can try. Commercial ear drops that dissolve wax can clear the ear of buildup and debris and relieve itching. Taking a hot shower or sipping a hot cup of tea may also help, as the heat dilates blood vessels and improves circulation to the ears. An added benefit of this approach is that it is likely to relax you, which will reduce nervous itching.

Another useful remedy is placing a few drops of 70% rubbing alcohol in the ear. If this causes a burning sensation, that’s another sign of fungal or bacterial infection, which means a visit to your hearing care provider is in order. Even if an infection is not present, your provider may prescribe steroid drops to bring you relief.


Can I Prevent Itchy Ears?

The best way to prevent itching in any part of the ear is to practice good ear hygiene. While we are all tempted to clean our ears at home, this often does more harm than good. No foreign object should ever be inserted into the ear (this means cotton swabs, too!), because this pushes wax deeper into the canal, which can cause everything from painful blockages to that persistent itching we’re trying to avoid. Wax is actually a very important component of ear health; it keeps the inner ear waterproof and resistant to microbes. Gently washing the outer ear with a soft washcloth and warm water will rinse away any excess wax or debris and help keep dermatitis at bay.

If you wear earrings, make sure they are made of a hypoallergenic metal such as pure gold, sterling silver, or titanium, as some other metals (chiefly nickel) can react with the skin and cause itching.
Avoid getting excess water in your ears whenever possible. Swim with your head above the surface and consider wearing a shower cap while bathing. Additionally, switching to a shampoo formulated for sensitive skin can cut down on ear irritation.

When inserting hearing aids or earbuds, or any other device that fits into the ear, do so gently and carefully. It may seem like a small gesture, but anytime we place anything in or near the ear canal, we are potentially disrupting the ear’s natural defenses against invaders.

Hand Dryers: For Kids, Beware the Noise

It’s no secret that hand dryers installed in public bathrooms can seem rather loud, but we were blown away by a young scientist’s findings when she put the volume levels of 44 automated machines to the test in restrooms across Alberta, Canada.

Turns out some of those volumes can do a number on kids’ ears — which are more susceptible to noise-induced hearing problems — by reaching sound levels well beyond the danger zone of 85 decibels. Several of the various brands measured above 100 decibels when in actual use for hand-drying, and one was even greater than 120.

The study, by then-9-year-old Nora Keegan, has captured international attention, with coverage by the New York Times, CNN, Canada’s CBC, and other media outlets. Now 13, Keegan is likely one of the youngest researchers to have her work published in the journal Pediatrics & Child Health.

Per an NPR story, the Calgary student was inspired by the ringing in her ears and other kids’ reactions to hand-dryer noise to get to the bottom of just how loud the dryers — a common presence in public washrooms around the world — can be and whether they might negatively impact hearing ability.

Her research, published this past summer after an approximately 15-month investigation, interestingly noted that some of the automated machines’ higher readings surpassed the legal limit of 100 decibels for peak loudness of children’s toys in Canada.

A few other notable findings from this timely research:

  • “Not all hand dryers are equal in their hearing safety.”
  • Various dryers are potentially louder than some manufacturers’ claims.
  • Dryer noise is “much louder at children’s heights than at adult height.”

According to Keegan, the study’s “results can be used to guide regulators, builders, and landlords in making decisions about which dryers to install in public facilities.” The investigation also highlights “the importance of measuring dryer loudness at the location of children’s ears” — versus that of adults, who are typically taller.


What’s the big deal?

Noise exposure, one of the most preventable risk factors, is a leading cause of hearing impairment — second only to aging. Over a billion children and adults are vulnerable to recreational noise-related hearing impairment alone, per the World Health Organization, making it essential to keep the volume down.

One of the most effective actions you can take is to prevent or limit your child’s exposure to excessively loud noise. Keeping hearing protection on hand — including custom earplugs, headphones, or earmuffs to help temper loud sounds, can also go a long way toward preserving your child’s hearing.

5 Tips to Protect Against Falls

They’re typically unexpected and can happen anytime. They sometimes end with a giggle but often are far more serious. They’re falls, and preventing them can help preserve your health and quality of life. So don’t miss this: We’ve got five simple tips for avoiding hazardous slips!

According to research, falls are more common among people with hearing loss. In one study, patients with mild hearing loss were nearly three times as likely to report a fall in the previous year. Plus, every 10-decibel increase in hearing loss also meant a 1.4-fold increase in the odds of a fall the prior year.

The findings, from researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute on Aging, were consistent with past research linking hearing loss and increased risk of falling.

Falls are the second leading cause of accidental death, per the World Health Organization, and they can result in other serious injury or disability. They’re also associated with hearing impairment, which can affect your balance.


Reduce your risk with these five tips:

  1. Get your vision checked, making sure you’re seeing your best.
  2. Be sure to understand how any medications may affect you, including your balance.
  3. Check your surroundings for hazards such as uneven surfaces, slippery floors, small rugs, or unstable handrails.
  4. Help ensure your loved ones and those with disabilities have a safe environment adapted to their physical needs.
  5. Keep your hearing in top shape, starting with hearing exams once a year and whenever you’re having trouble understanding — especially if you’re having difficulty while dining out, watching TV, or talking on the phone.

FALLS: MORE SERIOUS THAN YOU MIGHT THINK

  • An estimated 646,000 individuals each year die from falls.
  • Nearly all hip fractures — over 95% — are attributable to falls.
  • Over 37 million nonfatal falls each year are severe enough to require medical attention.
  • Balance disorders are big contributors to falls among seniors, who suffer the most fall-related fatalities.

Falls can get in the way of your overall wellness and sense of independence. If you’re experiencing balance issues, dizziness, or falls or are having trouble hearing, please don’t wait. Schedule an appointment with our hearing care professionals today.

The Sound Void: How Hearing Loss Sneaks Up on You

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

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

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.

Why Should You Bring a Companion?

Hearing Care Q & A

Question:
Why Do You Encourage Us to Bring a Companion?

Answer:
The simple answer is that everyone benefits, including your audiologist.

 

Let’s unpack some of the reasons for this:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.