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EARS Hearing Healthcare is Proud to Support The Hearing Health Foundation

As the holiday season ends, we’re reminded of all the things we’re thankful for. Not only are we grateful to support our patients with their hearing concerns, but we appreciate the opportunity to help others in need. It’s not just the immediate people around us that can benefit from generosity; you can make a difference in the world no matter where you are.
At EARS Hearing Healthcare, we are a proud supporter of a variety of charities and noteworthy causes. This winter, we’ve extended our reach to support the Hearing Health Foundation. We’re committed to the welfare of others and are grateful that we can encourage this fantastic organization and the important work they’re doing.
Our staff thanks you for the gift you give us daily – being able to help you with your hearing needs. It’s what makes our job truly special.
Season’s greetings!

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Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids; What Does This Mean for Audiology?

As technology and medical research continue to advance, more facets of your healthcare are becoming increasingly over the counter, whether that be medication, devices, or just medical advice. Treatment for hearing loss is no exception, with over the counter hearing aids becoming an imminent reality, invoking worry in many audiologists across the country. As hearing aids become more accessible over the counter, audiologists fear the impact on their profession and practice. This disruptive innovation is poised to achieve a new market foothold, becoming a more attractive option to new consumers who are looking for the most convenient and simple transition into hearing aids, taking business from traditional hearing aid manufacturers and audiologists who often bundle devices into their services. Though they seem convenient, the introduction of OTC hearing aids shows that despite intentions to increase accessibility and reduce costs, patients are not receiving the treatment they desperately need in exchange for ease.

Don’t Bypass Your Doctors Appointment Just Yet

According to the OTC Hearing Aid Act, the intention was to increase accessibility and affordability of devices, though OTC hearing aids have done little to achieve those goals. In fact, they hinder the ability of patients to get the information and proper assessments that they should have before finding the most effective hearing aid. OTC Hearing Aids utilize a business model designed to bypass diagnostic evaluations, hearing needs assessments, and audiologists all together in favor of self-identifying a device. Not only does this keep patients out of their doctor’s office, but also from receiving the medical advice they may need, ignoring the advocation by organizations such as the American Academy of Audiology for required medical evaluations for OTC hearing aids. Moreover, “receiving an OTC device is expected to be based on self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, not measured hearing capability that directly aligns with the definition provided by ASHA.”
 
As hearing loss can differ greatly from patient to patient, it’s critical that patients do not bypass professional medical advice. Herein lies the fear of audiologists, as numerous unofficial polls conducted via social media and trade publications have documented the anxiety had by medical professionals as OTC devices are positioned to impact not only their practice but their profession as a whole.

Changing Public Perception

To combat this imminent and disruptive technology, Audiologists must aim to change public perception about the importance of their profession and medical advice regarding hearing loss. ”The efforts of the profession should be focused not on a device, but rather on educating the public such that they recognize audiologists’ value and demand access to it.” says Dr. Sarah Sydlowski, Audiology Director of the Otolaryngology department at Cleveland Clinic, ”Take every opportunity to reinforce the value audiologists provide. Emphasize the importance of a hearing evaluation before deciding to use any hearing device. Help the public understand that an inappropriate hearing device can be as detrimental as no hearing device.” With proper advocation, audiologists can continue to give the critical information required for patients with hearing loss, ensuring that patients do not give up their doctors for convenience.

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Advantages of Music for the Hearing Impaired

When we’re young, we attend music classes in school. It helps us learn to remember words, develop patterns, express ourselves in front of others, even come up with new ideas on our own. For hearing impaired children, attending music classes could be even more imperative to their early childhood education.
Many youngsters who are born with or develop auditory problems at a young age fall behind other kids in many areas. It’s difficult to assist them in a large classroom setting so they’re then segregated with other kids in the same developmental stage in order to give them the one on one help they need to catch up.
This can cause them to feel like they are different from other kids. They may have other learning or social issues that prohibit them from being involved with regular activities. Athletic events are often a problem since balance is directly controlled within the inner ear.
With the addition of musical activities, it evens the odds somewhat for these children in the areas of speech, language, and even social skills. Through playschool type activities, children equipped with cochlear implants have been assessed and demonstrated that learning through musical activity enhances early childhood education.
Singing, in particular, aids in speech and language skills of these youngsters by helping to develop a sense of their ability to manipulate different rhythms and pitches. It also allows them to learn in a fun and upbeat atmosphere where noise and activity are not viewed as stressful. It’s a place they enjoy coming back to. This is makes it much easier for them to take in things going on around them as well.
While it’s important for children to be involved in these activities as soon as possible, it’s also imperative for the parents to understand the process being taught. Since they spend the most time with their child, it’s only logical to teach them the skills to incorporate this training in their normal environment.
By following up with this type of music therapy at home, kids can have a much greater advantage and the ability to catch up and keep up with others their age. Learning must be fun for them, or they won’t want to interact with the process. If you can make it a positive, upbeat, and rewarding experience, they will thrive and excel in not only their own communication skills, but in recognition of what others are saying around them.
Because children with hearing impairments have lapses in their learning in the areas of auditory attention, memory, and perception, they struggle to detect speech patterns, phonemes, and sound location. Studies on learning through music have shown that rehabilitation through this method have shown improvement in all of these areas as well as overall hearing in general.
Children fitted with cochlear implants stand a good chance of improving their auditory skills through music learning or hobbies involving music. Researchers at the University of Helsinki were able to study children with cochlear implants and their findings showed that, “Hearing impaired children with cochlear implants who sing regularly have better perception of speech in noise compared to children who don’t sing. This is an important skill in day care or school where children discuss and receive instructions in noisy conditions,” Dr. Ritva Torppa PhD says.
She also says that, “Communication skills and especially the ability to perceive speech in noise have a vital importance in education. All children, but especially children with a hearing impairment, should have the possibility to learn music and especially singing.”
As a parent, becoming involved in your child’s learning experience is so important. The involvement of the entire family supports this teaching method and helps it to become a tool that can come in handy in your child’s future development. It also acts as a bonding activity and shows them you are part of their support network.
Research done in Finland was particularly effective, especially with their cultures’ high esteem for music. But don’t let the distance from this rich culture keep you from finding a program that will benefit your child’s learning. Daycares, playschools, and preschool settings are all influential areas that you can explore, and the musical advantages that can be helpful learning tools.
Through careful research and the help of your child’s audiologist, you can find out what options are available in your area for music related learning. School programs and programs for the hearing impaired are also helpful areas to inquire when your seeking help in this field.
With all the advantages involved in music play programs, your child will have the opportunity to get ahead of the group, or at least advance right alongside of them. Music supports learning in so many ways, but it’s incredibly beneficial for those growing up with auditory impairments.
In order to give your child the best chance, consult with your audiologist today to see what is available in your area.

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Diving Into the Emotional Side of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is not the simple black and white diagnosis it once seemed to be. Recent research findings, paired with the growing number of personal stories about hearing loss, paint a much more complicated picture that is fueling the conversation about hearing loss.
According to the National Institutes of Health:

  • Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing.
  • About 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids.
  • About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.

These numbers are eye-opening and show just how many people’s lives, not only hearing, are affected.
A better approach
With a growing focus on more holistic approaches to health and hearing loss, some experts are exploring how hearing healthcare professionals can better serve their patients. That is, beyond the mechanics of hearing loss.
As a first step to gather data and identify potential opportunities, researchers studied a possible additional screening component about the emotional aspects of hearing loss. The team surveyed both patients and providers about their experience during these screenings. The results revealed that such a screening by hearing healthcare providers could be a smart strategy for both identifying emotional concerns for further treatment and in better treating an individual’s hearing loss.
The study
For several months during the spring of 2015, those with hearing loss (and parents of children with hearing loss) who attended follow-up appointments for hearing aids and cochlear implants were able to participate in the study. They were asked to fill out a survey form relating to the more emotional aspects of hearing loss, including questions on depression, anxiety and stress and feedback on the appointment itself.
At the same time, ten providers were asked to use the additional screening form relating to emotional concerns relating to hearing loss and then provide feedback at the end of the study.
Researchers walked away at the end of the study with three significant finds:

  • Some of the individuals with hearing loss were dealing with depression, anxiety and/or stress
  • The individuals found the screening of those emotional aspects acceptable
  • Providers were more uncertain about the screening

But how could these findings better support individuals with hearing loss in coping with the emotional side of that diagnosis?
Deeper insights
What the survey results highlighted was that patients seemed to appreciate that their hearing healthcare provider was going beyond the hearing loss to check on their emotional well-being. Researchers believe that this deeper connection with clients could help improve their care and compliance. Routine questions like these could help open up communication between the patient and provider and uncover potential emotional barriers to treating hearing loss.
On the other side, however, the survey results uncovered an opportunity for hearing health care providers to go beyond the mechanics of hearing and dig deeper into their patient’s well-being. Whether this is through enhanced screening during appointments or additional training before they begin practicing in the field, it could make all the difference in treating hearing loss.
While more research is needed, this small study showed promise. It offered insight into ways hearing healthcare providers could help bring the emotional aspects of hearing loss to the forefront early.
If you are someone you know is dealing with anxiety, depression or other difficult emotions as a result of hearing loss contact your provider for recommendations.

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Your Habits Are Hurting Your Hearing

bad habits that harm hearing

We all have habits that we’d like to break, whether it’s an overindulgence in chocolate or fingernail biting. While some of our habits don’t really affect our lives, others can have serious impacts on our health. In fact, many of the most common negative habits can have a major impact on your hearing health. Here are a few:
Smoking
The research is pretty clear: smoking has a huge negative effect on our health. Smoking has been linked to everything from lung cancer to stroke and poor dental health, but did you know that it can also hurt your hearing?
While most of smoking’s negative health effects come from the innumerable chemicals and carcinogens in tobacco, nicotine is the main culprit in smoking’s effects on our ears. Nicotine actually restricts blood flow to our ears, which can cause long-term and irreversible damage to the delicate cells that we rely upon for our hearing abilities. Basically, the more you smoke, the more damage you do to your ears.
Additionally, smoking hurts the hearing health of your loved ones. In addition to harming your own hearing health, studies show that people exposed to second-hand smoke (especially adolescents) are almost twice as likely to develop low-frequency hearing loss than their peers in non-smoking households.
Vaping
Although the jury is still out on the overall negative health effects of vaping and e-cigarettes on the human body, any vaping fluid or e-juice that contains nicotine will have the same negative hearing health effects as smoking. If that wasn’t bad enough, e-juices contain hundreds of chemicals with as-of-yet unknown health impacts, one of which, propylene glycol, has been clearly linked to cases of sudden hearing loss.
Binge Drinking
While moderate and responsible alcohol consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle, binge drinking and consistent excessive drinking can do more than irreversibly damage your liver. Many of the leading health experts believe that drinking alcohol can affect your brain’s ability to interpret and understand sound.
When this happens, it’s believed that sounds at lower frequencies might create a toxic environment within the inner ear that can damage the all-important and sensitive hair cells of the cochlea. As a response, the central auditory cortex of the brain might actually shrink in binge drinkers, which means that the nerves responsible for our hearing abilities can be negatively impacted over time.
Poor Dental Hygiene
Forgetting to floss can do more than give you a cavity or two. In fact, while it might seem a bit weird to think that not brushing your teeth can hurt your hearing, when you allow your teeth and gums to become unhealthy, you allow bacteria to build up in your mouth.
Eventually, these bacteria can make it into your bloodstream, causing inflammation and a narrowing of the arteries, both of which result in poor circulation. Since adequate blood circulation is critical for healthy hearing, forgetting to floss and brush your teeth twice a day could be hurting your ears.
Letting Hearing Loss Go Untreated
All too often, people with signs and symptoms of hearing loss let it go untreated. Whether this is due to a lack of access to hearing healthcare, a dearth of financial resources, or an unwillingness to acknowledge one’s hearing difficulties, untreated hearing loss is a major concern.
When hearing loss is left untreated, one increases their risk for dementia, dangerous falls, and other negative health effects. Thus, if you or someone you know if experiencing hearing loss, the best place to start is to schedule an appointment with your hearing healthcare professional today!

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The Surprising Do’s and Don'ts of Earwax Removal

removing earwax

Cleaning your ears can be an often uncomfortable experience and understandably worrying when wondering if you are removing earwax in a safe and effective way when using at-home remedies. To make matters worse, asking your doctor or healthcare provider about earwax removal is often perceived as an unpleasant or embarrassing subject, but is much more common than one might think. About 44,000 ears are syringed by health care providers to remove ear wax annually, proving that rules regarding the do’s and don’ts of ear wax removal are not widely known.

The Do’s

  1. It’s important to first understand that earwax is completely healthy and an important defense mechanism for your ear’s overall health. Earwax, also known as Cerumen, shields the ear from bacteria, microorganisms, and foreign particles, protecting you from ear damage and infections. With over 22 million visits to physicians each year in the United States for ear infections, keeping earwax levels healthy is important, but how much is too much?
  2. Understanding the symptoms of excessive earwax buildup is the second step to making sure your ear health is up to code. Impacted earwax is when earwax has built up in the ear canal to an extensive degree, showing symptoms that something isn’t quite correct. Ringing in the ears known as Tinnitus, impaired hearing, ear fullness, an unpleasant odor or discharge, and changes to hearing aid effectiveness or functionality are all signs that it’s time for a cleaning.
  3. Seek out the advice or help from a medical professional if you notice hearing impairment, ringing, or if infections have occurred, as they may be signs of an underlying condition. It is also important to seek out medical advice before attempting any at-home remedies for earwax removal, as some medical conditions can make those remedies unsafe.

The Don’ts

  1. Amazingly, our ears are designed to clean themselves, as old earwax is moved outside of the ear canal by jaw movements such as chewing or talking and flakes off, but sometimes this earwax requires some outside assistance being removed. With that in mind, it’s important to only clean your ears when necessary, as overcleaning can lead to irritation, infection, or even more wax buildup in the ear canal, making wax removal counterproductive.
  2. If you must clean your ears at home, avoid using cotton swabs or sharp objects such as pins or paper clips to clean or scratch your ears. These objects are far too small and can reach fragile parts of your ear canal, cutting or even puncturing your eardrum. Damaged or ruptured eardrums can lead to a host of complications, including hearing impairment, middle ear infections, and cholesteatoma, a formed cyst that can damage bones in your middle ear.
  3. Do not forget to clean hearings aids properly according to your health care providers instructions. Dirty or ill-fitting hearing aids can aid in the creation of earwax by introducing outside bacteria into the ear canal in which earwax is created as a defense mechanism to protect against.