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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!

Are Portable Music Players Putting Your Ears at Risk?

Turn the Music Up, Dude — But Not Past 85 Decibels

You probably use your tablet or smartphone often to stream music, TV shows, or movies. In fact, many websites these days auto-play videos regardless of whether you want them to.

Smartphones, tablets, and other types of portable music players (PMPs) are now commonplace, as are earbuds and headphones. But if your PMP is turned up too loud while wearing earbuds or headphones, you can damage your hearing quickly. Let’s look at why.

NIHL

This isn’t some new sports league — NIHL stands for noise-induced hearing loss, and it’s the second-largest cause of hearing loss worldwide.

You’re able to hear because of hair cells in your inner ear. These cells convert sound signals to electrical signals and send them to your brain, where they’re interpreted as sounds. But loud sounds can actually damage or destroy your hair cells.

Every time a hair cell gets damaged, you lose a little bit of your ability to hear, and that damage can’t be repaired. The result is NIHL.

How Headphones Hurt Your Hearing

Navigating noise is all about the decibels (a measure of sound pressure). You’re safe if the sound in question stays below 85 decibels (dB); above that, you’re in the action zone — protect your ears or risk hearing damage.

For comparison:

  • A clothes dryer = 60 dB
    No need for hearing protection
  • A gas lawn mower = 91 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in 2 hours
  • A tractor =100 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in 15 minutes
  • A chain saw = 112 dB
    Exposure can damage hearing in less than 1 minute

Some PMPs can generate 112 dB — in other words, if you like to listen to your PMP at full volume, you’re likely pumping a chain saw’s worth of noise at your ears from centimeters away.

Why Protecting Your Hearing Matters

Hearing loss is connected to overall health in surprising ways. It’s been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cognitive decline, dementia, and other health concerns.

But it’s not just a concern for later in life: One study found that any degree of hearing loss early in life increases a child’s risk for language and learning problems.

Considering that one study of PMP use in 9-to 11-year-olds reported that 9 in 10 children and teens use some form of audio-streaming device for education or recreation, PMPs pose a considerable hearing health risk at all ages.

Indeed, that same study found that 14 percent of the children had measurable hearing loss. In addition, if a child listened to their PMP only once or twice a week, it doubled their chances of hearing loss compared to children who didn’t use a PMP.

What You Can Do

  • Enforce the 60/60 rule. Don’t turn the volume of your PMPs up past 60 percent of full volume, and turn the device off completely after listening for 60 minutes so your ears can have a break.
  • Use headphones instead of earbuds. With earbuds, you pick up background noise, which often leads to turning up the volume on the PMP to hear the audio better. Headphones that surround the ear keep the background noise to a minimum, allowing you to leave the volume at or below 60 percent. Even better, invest in noise-canceling headphones.
  • If you must use earbuds, make them in-ear earbuds. With these earbuds, the earpiece sits inside the ear canal, rather than just outside it. The sleeve around the speaker blocks out background noise and keeps your audio from escaping the ear canal.
  • Use the sound limiter built into the PMP. Many devices allow you to limit how loud the volume goes, or the device has a built-in alert telling you you’re risking hearing damage by pushing the volume higher.
  • For kids, get volume-limiting headphones. Though there are many child-friendly options for headphones that will keep the volume from going over 85, it’s best to read up on whichever pair you choose to buy. Research by Wirecutter found that, of more than 30 brands tested, almost half were not effective at keeping the volume below 85 dB.

Is Weight Connected to Hearing Loss? Studies Say There’s a Connection

Is Weight Connected to Hearing Loss?

Studies about weight often concern its relation to overall health. Common connections include weight and the risk for or prevalence of heart disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea, to name a few. One topic that doesn’t get as much attention is the connection between weight and risk for hearing loss. But is there a connection?

To understand how weight affects hearing, you need to know about something tiny but important in your inner ear: the hair cell.

The Hair Cell

Your brain doesn’t understand sound waves. Tiny, hair-like structures in your inner ear, called hair cells, translate sound waves into a language — electrical signals — your brain understands. It sends those signals to your brain through the auditory nerve, and your brain interprets the signals as sound information.

Care and Feeding of Your Hair Cells

Hair cells need plenty of oxygen, which they get from strong, rich blood flow. If you have poor circulation, your hair cells don’t get sufficient nourishment. This leads to cell damage or death. Your body can’t repair hair cells — the damage is done, leaving fewer opportunities for sound information to reach your brain. Hearing loss due to damaged or destroyed hair cells is permanent.

Weight and Blood Flow

The more fat tissue in the body, the harder the heart has to work to get blood where it needs to go. Despite the extra work and increased blood pressure, the blood doesn’t actually move through the body as easily. It’s harder for the blood to reach areas farther away from the heart, such as the tiny blood vessels in your inner ear. Again, the poorer the blood flow, the less nourishment for your hair cells.

Is the Belly the Culprit?

Results from a John Hopkins School of Medicine study reported that improvement in blood flow is directly related to a reduction in excess belly fat. How? As belly fat is lost, the arteries regain their ability to expand, allowing blood to flow freely. The greater the reduction of belly fat, the stronger the recovery of healthy blood flow.

So it stands to reason that reducing belly fat would lead to better hearing. And results from the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study support that reasoning: They found a direct correlation between amount of belly fat and risk of hearing loss. They also found that exercise protected against hearing loss.


If you suspect you might have hearing loss, contact us today to schedule an appointment!