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Unique Occupations with Hearing Risks

Man with hearing protection at work

When we think about the importance of protecting ourselves from noise induced hearing loss, the occupations that come to mind most often are ones such as concert venue employees, construction workers, factory workers, sports professionals, musicians, miners, etc.
What may be surprising, however, is to learn about all of the jobs that may be just as dangerous to your hearing health, or even more so since most people in these occupations don’t realize they need to protect their ears too.
Here’s a list of some unique occupations that may pose a risk to your hearing.
Preschool Teacher
According to a study conducted by the University of Gothenburg, seven out of ten female preschool teachers deal with auditory fatigue as a result of sound exposure, four out of ten become hypersensitive to noise, and half have difficulty understanding speech. This statistic is higher than what’s found in more expected noise-exposed occupational groups.
Hair Stylist
Although exposure to noises emanating from hair dryers, clippers, blow dryers, body massagers, nail filers, etc. may be intermittent, the repeated exposure to these devices have resulted in growing observations of hearing loss in this bustling industry.
Many of these machines emit noises above the recommended 85-decibel limit, inducing mild to moderate hearing loss that begins to present symptoms within five to ten years of exposure after enough of the cochlea’s hairlike cells responsible for auditory signal transmission become damaged.
Gardener
Yes, even gardeners may be exposed to hearing damage, but not in the way you might expect. Knowledge about the dangers of outdoor landscaping equipment such as lawn mowers and weed whackers is already abundant, and most landscapers take the proper precautions. But physical damage can also occur in atypical ways, such as injury caused by plants such as the Yucca plant.
These popular decorative landscaping plants with long spiky leaves have become more than just a nuisance, as hospital visits as a result of spiking the ear and piercing the eardrum have been reported, sometimes resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Chemist
Risk of hearing loss to chemists and others working in the chemical industry is real and often unexpected. It isn’t the noise that’s causing the damage. It’s the exposure to harmful chemicals that have caused damage to hearing. Compounds containing lead, toluene, n-butyl alcohol and carbon monoxide all have a propensity for inducing hearing loss.
Don’t take your hearing health for granted. The most important step you can take to protect your hearing is to look at your own occupation and the hearing risks that come with the job. You may notice sounds you’re consistently exposed to that you hadn’t noticed before.
Taking the proper precautions to mitigate unnecessary exposure to high decibel noise will go a long way in protecting your hearing health. There may be other risks besides noise exposure that can lead to hearing loss, too. If you have any questions about your profession and its exposure to noise, please don’t hesitate to call our office to talk to a hearing health professional today.

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Summer Travel, Mobile Devices, And Kids’ Hearing Health

Child looks at iPad with earbuds

The start of summer often brings an opportunity for a vacation and some family travel, but is all of that travel dangerous to your children’s hearing health?
With the kids off of school and the return of summer weather, many people take some time for a beach vacation or a family reunion. While these fun activities are often a focal point and a much-anticipated break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, they do pose some unanticipated risks, particularly to our hearing.
These days, traveling can be a stressful event. What with plane delays, overbooked flights, road construction, and complicated public transport systems, just getting to your destination can be a major accomplishment. Thus, many of us begin our travels armed with a collection of different entertainment options, from books and laptops to tablets and crossword puzzles.
While these entertainment options can help us get through a long flight or some serious traffic, personal electronic devices are known to be linked to hearing loss, particularly in children, so they must be used with caution.
Travel Entertainment And Hearing Loss
According to a new study by Dutch researchers at the Erasmus University Medical Center, children that listen to music using headphones are at a greater risk for noise-related hearing loss. After examining the hearing test results of thousands of children aged 9 to 11, the researchers found that nearly 14 percent experienced some sort of difficulty hearing sounds at higher frequencies, something that suggests potential noise-related hearing damage.
The researchers then compared these hearing test result to information from the children’s parents about how frequently the children listen to music on portable devices and how loud they keep the volume. Ultimately, the researchers learned that regardless of how long a child used headphones for or how high they set the volume, children that used these devices at least once or twice a week were more than twice as likely to have signs of hearing loss than children who don’t use the devices.
Since 90 percent of today’s children and teens use some form of portable electronic device for listening to music, this is some jaw-dropping information. Particularly for those of us who travel with children and teens, we might find that they spend quite a lot of their time on these devices during family vacations.
Reducing Your Child’s Hearing Loss Risk
Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult – if not impossible – to convince today’s children and teens to quit cold turkey on their devices. Instead of causing a major family argument right before your vacation, consider these strategies to reduce your child’s hearing loss risk:

  • Encourage them to listen on low or moderate volumes. Often, a simple conversation can convince your child to listen to the music at a responsible level. Or, you can set a maximum volume setting on your child’s device.
  • Invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. We often turn up the volume because our surroundings are too loud. Noise-canceling headphones can reduce the need to turn up the volume past 50%.
  • Make sure the headphones fit properly. Ill-fitting headphones cause sound leakage, which means your child has to turn the volume up. A good fitting pair of headphones can reduce this leakage.

Hearing loss in children can be a scary thought, so it’s important to be proactive and aware about threats to your children’s hearing health. This summer travel season, be attentive to your children’s screen time as it might have a negative impact on their hearing. As always, if you’re concerned about your child’s hearing loss, speak to your hearing healthcare provider for help.

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What a HoH Believes

Author: Gael Hannan

I’m a HoH. I like and use this term because it’s snappy and takes less time to say than “I’m hard of hearing” or “I’ve got hearing loss”. Problem is, not everyone understands this particular meaning of the word, which rhymes with ‘hoe’. If you’re not sure if someone is familiar with the term (which is almost anybody who doesn’t have hearing loss themselves), use a longer term for self-identification.
Moving along…
As a longtime HoH, I’ve learned to live by a set of principles and beliefs that make hearing loss life easier. I first offered this list in my 178th article for HearingHealthMatters. It’s now about 170 blogs later, but my the list of personal beliefs remains more or less the same (I’ve made a few very minor changes). This is the HoH’s Credo – what this particular HoH believes. Maybe you have more to add to the list.
I BELIEVE THAT:
Having hearing loss is just one aspect of who I am. It does not define me as a person or confine me to a single group (hard of hearing, deaf, etc.)
Living with hearing loss, while challenging, is not the greatest challenge I will face as a human being. (Right now there are far greater challenges such as achieving the return of world peace and human civility.)
My most important goal is not to hear better, but to communicate better. I must learn to listen with all of my gifts – my ears, my eyes, my heart and my mind.
By accepting my hearing loss, I am breaking down personal barriers.
By advocating for others with hearing loss, I am helping to break down public and societal barriers.
By being honest about my hearing loss and articulating my needs, I become a better communicator.
I need professional help from a hearing health care provider who works with me to find solutions that meet my needs.
Hearing technology helps me hear. When I stopped fighting it, I heard even better.
By connecting with others who have hearing loss, I am entering a circle of invisible and unbreakable supports.
The person who has the most power to hurt me because of my hearing loss – is me. There’s no shame in hearing loss, and even the best HoHs have bad hearing moments.
It’s not always easy to see the humor in awkward hearing moments—but it helps.
Hearing is precious, and I will protect what I have from noise damage.
My hearing loss affects my family and friends; I celebrate their efforts to communicate well.
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Here’s another truth: I don’t always honor my Credo in those painfully embarrassing hearing moments. But I try….all I can do is try.

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What's Behind the Clogged Ear Feeling

man holding his ears in discomfort

Summertime at the pool or the beach is time well spent. But, it doesn’t come without its disadvantages. The risk of sunburn is at the top of the list of annoyances, but clogged ears from trapped water comes in a close second. That feeling like your ears are clogged after spending a lot of time in the water can be one of the most irritating feelings, and often takes a while to go away.
But you don’t have to just be a swimmer to experience the feeling of clogged ears. That stuffy ear experience can happen as a result of other conditions too and could be an indicator of more serious issues if left untreated.
Here are some of the most common causes behind that clogged ear feeling, and what you can do about them:
Trapped Fluid
Fluid that becomes trapped in the ear as a result of swimming or ear infection can become very painful, especially if it gets behind the eardrum into the middle ear.  Although plenty of earwax in the ear works hard to keep water out, sometimes water sneaks in, especially if a lot of time is spent in the pool or other types of water.
Typically the body will relieve the issue on its own and the fluid will eventually drain. But, if it does not and you are experiencing severe pain or consistent discharge that lasts more than a day, call the doctor and get it checked out.
In the meantime, if you feel water has creeped into your ear during your last swim, tilt your head, and pull down on your earlobe for a while to help water flow back out. You may also need to help open up your eustachian tubes to let water trapped behind the eardrum drain. Try using a warm compress to assist in that, or yawn repeatedly, chew gum, or breathe deeply.
Earwax Buildup
Earwax can occasionally build up, causing that irritating clogged feeling. But, earwax buildup can also cause earaches, ringing in the ear (called Tinnitus), itchy ears, discharge, odor, hearing loss, and coughing.
Normally you shouldn’t need to do anything about earwax, because it takes care of itself and makes its way out of the ear when needed. But sometimes, it builds up and needs to be removed with some help. Never attempt to remove earwax on your own, especially if that involves inserting anything at all into your ear canal. You can run the very real risk of puncturing or damaging your eardrum by doing this.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Leaving your ears unprotected to noise levels above 85 decibels will cause damage to your inner ear over time, resulting in sensorineural hearing loss. Noise exposure for longer than a brief moment, such as a loud concert venue or a party may leave you with a feeling your ears are clogged, or an annoying ringing in your ears.
This may be temporary and fade away within a day or two. But, repeated exposure is certain to cause some degree of hearing loss. Protect yourself in advance by wearing earplugs when you’re involved in any loud activities.
If you’re experiencing a clogged or stuffy feeling in your ears that just won’t go away, please don’t hesitate to call our office today to talk to a hearing health professional.

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Hearing Restorative Drugs

Doctor gives patient prescription

Many people who learn that they have hearing loss often struggle to come to terms with their new condition. While it can be difficult to adapt to hearing loss, it is comforting to know that there are a variety of different treatment options available to help people live a high-quality life.
Although your hearing healthcare professional will walk you through your hearing loss treatment options, it’s always helpful to know what might be available to you. Typically, when people think of hearing loss treatment, the first thing they think of is hearing aids. While hearing aids are certainly great devices, many people forget that there are other potential hearing loss treatments available.
One of the lesser known of these treatments is hearing restorative drugs. Although this medical advancement is still in its infancy, new studies are showing promising potential for the use of medication to treat hearing loss.
A New Study
A new study by researchers at the University of Iowa, Iowa City and the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) demonstrated the effectiveness of a new hearing restorative drug.
The study, which investigated the use of a small-molecule drug in preserving the hearing abilities of mice with a genetic form of progressive deafness (classified as DFNA27), found that the drug was able to partially restore hearing and save some sensory hair cells.
The drug worked by creating a template for the formation of a protein that is integral to the activation of inner ear hair cell survival and function. Without this protein, the hair cells in people with this condition would essentially die and cause deafness.
Genetic breakthroughs ultimately led to the success of this study and they allowed researchers to problem-solve their way to an effective drug. The researchers believe this is a major advancement in this type of medical technology because if it’s possible to treat this type of deafness in people, then similar approaches might work for other genetic forms of progressive hearing loss.
Ultimately, this study sets the foundations for future advancement in hearing restorative drug technology. With this newfound information and concepts, researchers can investigate the causes behind other forms of hereditary deafness to develop appropriate medications. Moreover, this technology could eventually pave the way for future drugs that treat non-hereditary forms of deafness or perhaps age and noise-related hearing loss.
Although this technology is still in its very early stages, the possibilities are limitless. That being said, there are a number of stages that any such medical advancement must go through before it will be readily available for consumer use. Thus, while the thought of this type of medication is exciting, it’s important to be realistic about your treatment options when talking with your hearing healthcare provider.
If you’re concerned about your hearing health, don’t hesitate to reach out to a hearing healthcare professional today. They can help diagnose any issues you might have and help you understand what treatment options might be available to you.