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Why Identifying Unrecognized Hearing Loss Is So Important

Over 48 million Americans have hearing loss, with estimates of global numbers set to reach in the hundreds of millions in just a few short decades. Though hearing loss is an extremely prevalent condition, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Despite the high prevalence of age-related hearing loss, many adults still have hearing loss that never gets recognized, or they choose to forgo treatment options altogether. Older populations may miss the subtle changes in their hearing as they age because the onset is often gradual and slow, or possibly, they do not recognize the subtle changes they are making to compensate for their impaired hearing, such as increasing the volume on television sets or audio devices. To understand how some patients can have hearing loss without even realizing it, a study conducted by Wayne State University observed two groups of adults with and without hearing loss, had given them hearing screenings and had concluded with astounding results.

The Risks of Unrecognized Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can present serious risks for patients who do not seek treatment. Unfortunately, many struggling with hearing loss can wait up to 15 years to finally seek help. Research has shown a clear correlation between hearing loss and serious health complications such as depression, anxiety, a higher risk of suicide, and developing dementia. Communication difficulties are also common, as hearing loss causes higher rates of social isolation and a diminished quality of life. However, a majority of hearing aid users report satisfaction with their device, expressing a better quality of life while protecting their hearing for the long term.
Hearing loss is far more dangerous when unrecognized or undiagnosed. Early identification and intervention are critical for positive long-term outcomes when treating hearing loss. According to a 2012 study by Barbara Hutchinson of North Dakota State University, “In fact, adults who delay treatment until their hearing loss is severe do not respond to interventions as well as those who initiate interventions early in the course of their hearing loss.”

Wayne State University’s Conclusions and Recommendations

Self-defined as aiming “to explore characteristics that differentiate adults with unrecognized hearing loss from those with recognized hearing loss and adults with normal hearing”, researchers could determine how likely it was that a participant who described themselves as having no hearing issues, actually had unrecognized hearing loss. As part of the study, participants would complete a subjective and objective assessment of their physical health, various measures of cognition, and personality assessment of their traits for positive and negative affectivity (emotionality).
The results had proven researchers worry about unrecognized hearing loss to be true. “Participants who volunteered for the normal hearing group underwent hearing screens using a portable audiometer as part of the research study. Of the 69 adults who volunteered for that group, our hearing screens indicated that only 39 had hearing in the normal range. Unrecognized hearing loss was identified in 30 volunteers who had described themselves as having no hearing difficulty.”
The study’s research team had concluded that there is a sizeable subset of patients “who are likely to deny hearing difficulty upon questioning but have meaningful hearing loss.”, going as far as to recommend that new research should explore the best practices in psychoeducation about hearing screening that targets patients who do not endorse hearing loss.
If you believe you are suffering from signs of hearing loss but are not completely sure, it’s time to speak to a hearing health professional for a hearing evaluation. Unrecognized hearing loss should not go untreated.

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Why More People Should Be Wearing Hearing Aids (And Why They Choose Not To)

Hearing aid technology has seen miraculous advancements since their bulky predecessors of the 1970s, with new devices performing more like supercomputers than listening devices. Utilizing artificial intelligence, smartphone capability, and even reading your brain activity, some hearing aids are truly out of this world, helping millions across the globe bring sound back into their lives. Though the technology is impressive, studies continue to show that many choose to forgo hearing aids altogether, even when they can directly benefit. Whether you have obvious hearing loss or still aren’t sure, health experts are indicating that more Americans should be wearing hearing aids.

Hearing Loss is Extremely Common

Whether it is profound or mild, many Americans have hearing loss; 48 million in fact! Hearing loss is not an adult-only problem either, as every 2 to 3 children out of 1000 are born with a detectable level of hearing loss. Unfortunately, the estimates continue to grow. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 900 million people may suffer from hearing loss by 2050 across the globe. This is an alarming statistic, as hearing loss comes with many challenges, risks, and quality of life issues for those affected. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to increased risk of dementia, accidental falls, depression, and hospitalizations, making this common impairment a public health concern.

Why Some Decide Against Hearing Aids

Though technology and treatment options have become more advanced, a big percentage of hearing loss cases still go untreated. Various surveys have found that many struggling with hearing loss will wait years before purchasing hearing aids even though their hearing loss is known, some as long as 15 years! Why is this? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer.
Research indicates that stigma plays a large role in the decision-making process of whether to wear hearing aids. A 2009 study published by Dr. Margaret Wallhagen of the University of California San Francisco found that many patients associated hearing loss with aging or being handicapped. “Some people feared that wearing a hearing aid would make them appear unattractive.” explains Dr. Wallhagen, “They worried about the technology drawing attention to their ears and emphasizing their hearing loss.”
Cost is another worry for many. Though most indicate satisfaction with their device after purchasing, many patients believe they may not be worth the price before making the commitment.

What Experts Are Saying

Using hearing aids has been proven to minimize the risks involved with hearing loss and can truly improve the lives of patients. “Instead of worrying about ‘looking old,’ realize that hearing aids are a gift for you, your family, your friends, and everyone else you interact with,” says Dr. Steven Rauch, an otologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear, “They make everyone’s lives better.”
If you are struggling with hearing loss and have concerns, speak to a hearing health professional to learn about affordable and effective treatment options. Hearing aids will not only protect your health in the long term but will allow you to hear the things that matter to you today.

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Fall Risks and Those with Hearing Loss

While we all may occasionally feel a bit wobbly on our feet, for some it happens more often. Of the older generations approximately 65 years and up, the risks are even higher. One out of every four seniors take a fall at least once each year and of these, one in five have serious outcomes such as head injury or broken bones.
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), every 11 seconds someone in the 65+ age range is treated in an emergency room due to a fall, and tragically, every 19 minutes one will die as a result of a fall. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention report that the death rate for falls taken by older adults has increased by 31 percent between 2007 and 2016 and that number is still rising.
While unsafe surfaces likely account for some of these spills, difficulties with balance and walking are definite factors as well. Issues that involve symptoms of dizziness or vertigo rank as high as 80 percent in this older age group.
A condition called vestibular or inner ear dysfunction is among the leading causes of these symptoms. This includes the parts of the inner ear as well as the areas of the brain that help to control both balance and eye movements. Of U.S. citizens age 40 and up, approximately 35 percent have had problems with vestibular dysfunctions.
The vestibular area acts as a mechanism to control balance, motion, and spatial orientation. Balance disorders can manifest themselves in different ways such as a floating, unsteady feeling, blurry vision, confusion or disorientation, and faintness. These can all contribute to feelings of fear and panic for someone who has no idea their hearing loss can be related to these symptoms.
Damage to the vestibular system whether from age, disease, or injury is often related to the symptoms of vertigo and dizziness. The audiometric area of the ear can also be attributed to potential fall risk. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, as well as the University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health studies, show that those with a minimum of 25 dB hearing loss are three times as likely to report a fall. These chances rise with each 10 dB increase in hearing loss by a shocking 140 percent.
Over time, technology has evolved from what twenty years ago was a standard series of tests using video nystagmography (VNG) as well as caloric testing. Research now shows that approximately 68 percent of people with vestibular dysfunction was not diagnosed when tested with only VNG.
These days patients shouldn’t expect to receive answers like “everything appears normal” or “this is your new normal”. Testing is now much more accurate and specialists in this field stay up to date on the latest in technology as well as research findings in an effort to better diagnose and help their patients.
Conditions of cognitive decline that include a lack of coordination or trouble with regular activities increase the chances of falls and other injuries associated with imbalance according to research. Research shows that hearing loss can lead to this type of cognitive decline. Hearing loss that’s left undiagnosed can have painful consequences.
“Gait and balance are things most people take for granted, but they are actually very cognitively demanding,” says Dr. Frank Lin, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “If hearing loss imposes a cognitive load, there may be fewer cognitive resources to help with maintaining balance and gait.”
With the latest technologies, doctors are now able to monitor a patient’s condition virtually which can really improve the benefits to those with hearing loss. By virtually connecting with patients between visits via virtual reality (VR) programs, they can provide those with balance disorders, dizziness, or vertigo with a safer and less stressful treatment.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), “Hearing and balance disorders cross all ethnic and socioeconomic lines. Approximately 37.5 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss and 33.4 million adults report a problem during the past 12 months with dizziness or balance, such as vertigo, unsteadiness, or blurred vision after moving the head.”
If you are living with hearing loss, there are several steps you can take to help minimize the risk of falling. The first and most important is to visit a trusted hearing health professional. They will perform an examination and possibly tests to determine the best way to help minimize the hearing loss. They can help you make the best choice for hearing devices and refer you to other specialists for services such as therapy to help with balance and coordination.
Other simple to perform tips are:

  • Get physical. Daily physical activity can help keep the body limber and prevent falls. Try some gentle movements such as activities that help improve balance, coordination, flexibility, and strength
  • Remove hazards around the home such as papers, boxes, electrical cords, or other cluttered areas
  • Fix loose boards or carpeting and rugs so they are not hazardous
  • Put things in their places like books, dishes, and small items, but keep them within easy reach so you’re not straining to get to them
  • Keep the home clean of spills such as food, grease, or liquids
  • Utilize nonslip mats in your tub or shower as well as the bathroom floors
  • Remove furniture (coffee or end tables, magazine or plant racks) from high traffic areas
  • Keep areas well light and place lamps in easy to reach areas so you’re not fumbling in the dark
  • Take advantage of assistive devices like grab bars for showers or tubs, handrails for stairways, nonslip treading on wood steps, and a solid seat and handheld shower wand for use while bathing

By visiting your hearing health professional and following these simple steps you have the tools to minimize the risk of falls for you or a loved one.

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What’s the Difference Between Hearing Aids & Hearing Amplifiers?

Have you heard of a hearing amplifier? Sometimes called a hearing enhancer or a personal sound amplifying product (PSAP), a hearing amplifier does just what its name suggests: it amplifies sound. While this may sound similar to what hearing aids do, they are different tools for different purposes.
First, let’s start with what hearing aids are and who might need them. Hearing aids are designed for people with hearing loss. They work by boosting or enhancing certain frequencies of sound in order to help the person better hear that particular frequency. This can, in turn, help the person better understand speech and other sounds.
Hearing aids are typically professionally fitted and finely tuned to each person’s unique needs. This is because each case of hearing loss is unique. Hearing aids are highly personal and can be a great tool for improving a person’s ability to hear sounds and communicate with others. When properly used, hearing aids can improve a person’s quality of life.
Now, let’s turn to hearing amplifiers. Hearing amplifiers are made for people with normal hearing. Unlike hearing aids, which enhance only certain frequencies, hearing amplifiers work by amplifying all sounds.
A hearing amplifier’s abilities can be useful in situations where the sound needs a boost to allow you to hear it better, such as while watching TV, while birdwatching, or while at the theater. Sound amplifiers can also be used in closed environments where the sound level needs a boost, such as at the cinema or in a restaurant. Some sound amplifiers can even be used to keep an “ear” out for babies or small children at home. You may want to use a hearing amplifier if you have normal hearing and would like to enhance the sound by simply making it louder.
Sound amplifiers are not made for people who are hard of hearing. Using a sound amplifier when you suffer from hearing loss will likely do nothing to improve your ability to hear or understand sounds. This is because the amplifier will boost the volume of all sounds, while most people with hearing loss have difficulty hearing specific frequencies. Furthermore, neglecting to properly treat hearing loss can lead to further deterioration of your hearing ability.
It may sometimes be difficult to tell whether you simply need the sound to be louder (as provided by a sound amplifier) or if you are experiencing hearing loss. The following are common signs of hearing loss:

  • Difficulty hearing in crowded or noisy environments
  • Constant need to increase the volume on the TV, radio, or music
  • Difficulty understanding conversations
  • A sensation of muffled hearing
  • Frequently choosing to avoid social events and activities
  • Spending more time trying to read lips

If you have noticed these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, hearing loss may be the cause. In these cases, it is important to receive high-quality care from a hearing professional. They will be able to evaluate your hearing ability and recommend the proper hearing device.
To learn more about the difference between hearing amplifiers and hearing aids, and to set up an appointment with our friendly hearing professional, we encourage you to contact our office today.

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How Hearing Loss in Children Affects School Attendance

Think back to your childhood school days. Did you love going to school, or did you attempt to manufacture excuses that would allow you to stay home from school?
Either way, it is likely that you attended school more days than not. And whether you enjoyed school or not, your early education played a big role in your future educational success and social life, as well as your success in a career.
Recently, researchers in Australia discovered one factor that can cause students to miss more school and thus affect their education: hearing loss. Researchers conducted the study in Northern Territory (NT) of Australia and specifically focused on the Year One school attendance of Aboriginal children.
In the study, researchers compared Year One attendance among Aboriginal children with normal hearing to that of the children with preventable hearing impairment. The study considered both unilateral hearing loss as well as bilateral hearing impairment. More than a third (36.3 percent) of the children surveyed had bilateral hearing loss, while over half (55.1 percent) had either unilateral or bilateral hearing loss.
Researchers found that no matter the type or severity of hearing loss, the children with impaired hearing attended fewer school days than their peers with normal hearing. As noted, this study focused on children with preventable hearing loss. The most common cause of hearing loss among these children is otitis media or an infection of the middle ear.
As part of their conclusions from the study, the researchers suggest “regular surveillance” of the children, both regarding the infection and their hearing ability. They recommend screening for hearing loss, and perhaps infection as well, during early childhood when the children enter preschool and their first year of full-time education. The study particularly recommended these measures for Aboriginal children who live in more remote areas, such as those studied in NT.
While this study was conducted in Australia and focused on the case of Aboriginal children, the findings and conclusions can be applied to children worldwide. Otitis media and other illnesses that result in preventable hearing loss are not isolated to NT. It can also be beneficial for children to be screened for hearing loss in early childhood and in school in order to identify hearing loss at an early stage and provide treatment at the earliest time possible.
By identifying and treating hearing loss, as well as preventing hearing loss when possible, these children will have a greater opportunity for success in school, education, their social lives, and their careers. As the study found that students with normal hearing were less likely to miss school days, they were present for more learning. School sets up a child for success, and even early education is important and formative.
If you believe that your child may be suffering from hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our hearing practice today. We are here to care for you and your family.

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Not Just for Sleeping: White Noise Can Improve Your Hearing

Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you turn on relaxing sounds before bed? White noise is used by many to drift off to dreamland at night with machines and even smartphone applications replicating the noise, but a new study by the University of Basel has found that white noise may be able to do much more than help you catch some Z’s. Though it is essentially an extra background noise, researchers have concluded that it can make hearing pure sounds more precise, a realization with the possibility of aiding in the future development of cochlear implants.

How Is White Noise Special?

Most of us associate white noise with the sound an old television set makes without a signal, but white noise is far different than other noise. By definition, white noise is described as a random signal made up of sounds from all the frequencies the human ear can hear, but at the same exact intensity. How does that help you sleep and hear? Since it is created from all of the frequencies the ear and brain can perceive, no sound is uniquely distinct, turning everything you hear into a blurred “hissing” or “shushing” sound. This continuous sound makes it much easier for us to sleep through things such as a door slamming or a ringing phone, as they are folded into the blur and muffled. Next time you put on white noise before going to bed, remember that you are hearing every sound from every frequency between 20Hz to 20,000Hz all at once.

University of Basel’s Findings

Your brain has an extraordinary ability to pick out relevant information from less relevant background noise thanks to an area that processes auditory stimuli called the auditory cortex. Led by Professor Dr.Tania Rinaldi Barkat from the Department of Biomedicine, the University of Basel’s team investigated sound perception and sound discrimination in a challenging sound environment.
Past studies have concluded that the distinction between sounds becomes more difficult the closer they are in frequency, which led researchers to believe that introducing white noise would make the task even more challenging. Despite their beliefs, the opposite was observed, with research concluding that “the brain’s ability to distinguish subtle tone differences improved when white noise was added to the background. Compared to a quiet environment, the noise thus facilitated auditory perception.” But how?

White Noise Reduced Neuronal Activity

Data presented by the group had found that white noise reduced the activity of the nerve cells in the auditory cortex by a significant margin. In contradictory fashion, this inhibition of the neuronal activity led to a more precise perception of pure tones. We found that less overlap occurred between populations of neurons during two separate tone representations,” stated Dr. Barkat. “As a result, the overall reduction in neuronal activity produced a more distinct tone representation.”

This Conclusion May Help In The Future

According to Dr. Barkat, it is possible that cochlear implants could use an effect similar to white noise in order to improve the frequency resolution and in turn, the hearing of their users. To determine whether white noise may help you, speak to a hearing health professional about possible options.

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Holistic Methods That May Help Ease Your Tinnitus

With around 50 million Americans reporting some form of tinnitus and 1 in 5 saying their condition is disabling, it’s clear that tinnitus is a serious problem that affects the day to day lives of many. Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus, but there are ways to ease or treat your symptoms depending on the root cause. For some, an underlying ailment such as a blood vessel condition or impacted earwax may be the cause of the bothersome buzzing, while others may choose to use medication such as antidepressants to reduce symptoms. Though medication may be a treatment option, certain medications are ototoxic and may actually worsen your tinnitus symptoms, leading some patients to prefer more holistic methods to avoid being introduced to new prescriptions. These certain adjustments to your daily life may reduce your tinnitus symptoms and increase your quality of life.

Lifestyle Changes

There are a number of changes you can make that may reduce your tinnitus symptoms that do not require supplements or medication.

  • Manage Stress. Studies have linked the onset of tinnitus to stressful events in patient’s lives, and there is a clear correlation between the severity of tinnitus symptoms and stress levels. Reducing stress may reduce the chance of experiencing tinnitus, or make your symptoms easier to cope with.
  • Avoid Possible Irritation. Some medications, stimulants, and environments are known to worsen tinnitus symptoms. Avoiding aspirin, nicotine, caffeine, and exposure to loud noises may stop the ringing from becoming more severe.
  • Drink Less, Hear More. Alcohol consumption is known to increase the severity of your tinnitus due to alcohol’s ability to dilate the blood vessels causing more blood to flow within the inner ear. This increased blood flow may change the composition of fluid in the inner ear and can have accompanying vertigo as well.

Alternative Medicine

Though there is little evidence to support alternative medicine’s treatment of tinnitus, some alternative therapies have been used to help patients with their symptoms.

  • Zinc Supplements. Research has found that some patients with tinnitus may have low blood zinc levels. A 2003 study by the Ankara Numune Research and Education Hospital in Turkey found that patients who took 50mg of Zinc daily for 2 months reported a 10 dB decrease in the volume of their tinnitus, though these results are inconclusive.
  • Vitamin B. Like Zinc, Vitamin B deficiency is more common in people with tinnitus. Though some studies have found an improvement in symptom severity following Vitamin B12 therapy, the results are not overwhelmingly significant.
  • Tinnitus has often been linked to trouble sleeping, with exhaustion leading to higher levels of stress, anxiety, and severity of symptoms. Melatonin is a hormone used to regulate sleep cycles, which may make falling and staying asleep much easier.

Seek The Advice of a Hearing Health Professional

Starting a supplement regimen or new medication without the approval of a health care provider may result in worsening symptoms. Before starting any treatment options, it is best to consult a hearing health professional who knows your unique health needs and can give you the most up to date medical advice.

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The Future Is Today: Brain-Controlled Hearing Aids

When you imagine what the future will be like in, say, 20 years, what do you see? Pop culture fosters expectations of flying cars, personal jetpacks, hoverboards, and much more. Some recent technological advances even seem like something you would find in a science fiction novel, not in real life—like self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality technologies.
Another futuristic advancement that may soon be a reality is more closely related to current hearing devices than to flying cars: brain-controlled hearing aids. Hearing aids have already seen numerous advances and developments in recent years, making them more effective than ever before. Today’s hearing aids are smaller, more comfortable, more discreet, and more powerful than those of years past.
Even with recent advances, hearing aids are still imperfect. One area where hearing aid users often notice a big difference from before they wore or needed hearing aids is in listening to a speaker when other noise is present. In a person with normal hearing, your brain distinguishes between the target speaker and all other noises, allowing you to focus on the target and minimize your attention to other speakers or sounds.
However, hearing aids cannot automatically perform this same function. If you increase the volume on your hearing aid in an effort to better hear the target speaker, you are also increasing the volume on all of the background noise. Some hearing aids allow the user to identify a target speaker by turning their head or gaze towards the target speaker, or by manually selecting the target speaker. These features are helpful yet imperfect; if the hearing aid user cannot maintain a gaze in the direction of the target speaker, does not want to use manual selections, or the target speaker is very close to another speaker, these features come up short.
Enter brain-controlled hearing aids. Previous research has determined that when a person focuses their listening efforts on a certain speaker in a noisy environment, their brain waves track the voice of the target speaker. The aim of a brain-controlled hearing aid is to monitor the brainwaves of the user in order to facilitate hearing and amplifying the voice of the target speaker.
Although much research and development remains to be explored in this field, recent research has shown promise in separating and amplifying the sound of a target speaker among background noise and other speakers. In a 2019 experiment, researchers used an auditory attention decoding (AAD) process to detect and amplify a target speaker among mixed background noise. The study participants indicated that it was significantly easier to follow the voice of the target speaker in the AAD-enhanced audio than in the original mixed audio. This advance can be used in brain-controlled hearing aids to amplify the voice of the target speaker and enable the listener to better follow a specific voice.
One major obstacle that remains to be overcome by researchers is determining a noninvasive and nonintrusive way to monitor the brain signals of the hearing aid user. This, along with an AAD process that accurately and rapidly identifies the target speaker, will present a challenge for researchers and developers. Still, the promise of brain-controlled hearing aids is very real and is closer than we may realize today.
For more information about brain-controlled hearing aids and other exciting advancements in the audiology field, we encourage you to contact our hearing professional today.

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How to Better Include Children with Hearing Loss in Team Sports

Are you aware of any professional athletes with hearing loss? You may have heard of Derrick Coleman, who was the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. Or perhaps you watched a baseball game played by Curtis Pride, who, in 1993, was the first legally deaf player in the MLB in over 50 years.
While these athletes and others are inspiring in how they have overcome obstacles in order to succeed, the number of well-known athletes with hearing loss is sadly few. This is due at least in part to the difficulties players with hearing loss often encounter while participating in sports.
Imagine for a moment the challenges you might encounter in team sports if you are deaf or hard of hearing. You may not be able to hear the referee’s whistle to indicate that play should start or stop. You may also miss other important signals, such as the start of a race. You may not be able to understand what your coach tells you in a huddle or from the sidelines. You may not be able to effectively communicate with your teammates.
Due to these difficulties and others, children with hearing loss are often left out of team sports, or they may eventually give up and withdraw because of the challenges these sports present. This can be damaging to the child’s self-confidence, friendships, social activity, physical health, and overall development.
If you have a child with hearing loss or if you coach a team sport, it is important to know how children with hearing loss can be better included. Here are a few tips to help you include your child with hearing loss in team sports:
If you have a child with hearing loss:

  • Communicate with your child’s coach about your child’s needs and what might be most helpful to your child.
  • Ask whether trained support staff for children with sensory challenges are available. While support staff may not be available for the entire league, there may be sufficient resources to provide support staff for one or two teams.
  • Show your child’s coach or the team’s support staff how your child’s hearing device works.
  • Consider becoming a coach for your child’s team. Become involved in your child’s school sports by attending athletic department meetings and encouraging the coaches to become better educated on how to assist players with differing needs.

If you are coaching a team that includes one or more children with hearing loss:

  • Reach out to parents and ask how you can best support their child. Express a willingness to learn.
  • Understand that each situation is different. A solution that works for one child with hearing loss may not work for another. Keep in mind that other needs may be present on the team as well, such as children with attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and more.
  • Encourage team members to ask questions to learn how to better support the player with hearing loss. Promote respectful conversations about their challenges and solutions.
  • Face the players when you speak to them.
  • If you show a video, especially one with poor audio, provide a transcript.
  • When you discuss plays on the drawing board, add clear text labels.
  • After reviewing a game or discussing other important information, provide a written note detailing what you discussed

These simple tips can play a big role in making team sports an easier and more enjoyable experience for all children.
To learn more about how to accommodate and advocate for children with hearing loss, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to assist you!

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How Clean is Too Clean? Cotton Swabs Can Be Harmful To Your Ears

Most would agree that good hygiene is an important aspect of your health, but how clean is too clean? When it comes to your ears, cleaning them with cotton swabs can actually damage your hearing and your eardrum. Despite their common usage in movies or at your local pharmacy, Q-Tips can be more harmful than helpful, leading the Scottish Parliament to ban plastic cotton buds this year in an effort to combat excessive litter and reduce their usage for inadvisable ear cleaning. Though it is admirable to try and maintain a healthy body, there is a wide consensus against cotton swabs for cleaning your ears. If you are experiencing a blockage, it is best to receive help from a medical professional, but when it comes to your day to day hygiene, let your ears handle it on their own. Your hearing will thank you.

How Can Cotton Swabs Damage My Ear?

Though they seem like the perfect length and shape to clean your ears, there is a consensus against cotton swabs for a reason. Puncturing your eardrum with a cotton swab due to going too far into the ear canal is more common than you might think, especially in children. This accidental puncture can not only damage your hearing but may also result in painful ear infections and an accumulation of fluid and bacteria. Not so hygienic, right?
Depending on the material your Q-Tip is made out of, it may also be abrasive to the sensitive skin within your ear. Some cotton swabs utilize a paper or plastic stick, which can scratch or puncture fragile areas of the ear resulting in infection, vertigo, and even permanent deafness.

Cleaning Your Ear Can Actually Be Counterproductive

Instead of removing ear wax, cotton swabs may actually push it deeper into the ear, compacting it and making your wax harder to remove. This misplaced wax can cause a whole host of problems, including ear fullness, hearing loss, and you guessed it: infection. If a blockage is created by your cotton swab, you may need to seek treatment from a doctor for removal, causing many more problems than they solve.

Your Ear Is Designed To Clean Itself

Earwax, also known as Cerumen, is an important part of your ear’s environment. Cerumen coats the inner ear protecting fragile cells and trapping dust and debris. Without this defense,  debris can travel to your inner ear and damage structures that we require to hear. Removing this natural part of the ear’s ecosystem can not only cause damage to your hearing but will actually make your ear less hygienic. Your body is designed to move earwax out of your ear through natural movements such as chewing, yawning, or skin cell growth inside the ear. Without this process, dust and debris may build up within the ear and cause infection, leading doctors to give simple advice when it comes to cleaning your ears: Don’t!
If you are experiencing ear pain, fullness, hearing loss, or suspect you may have an unnatural amount of earwax, it is best to consult a hearing health professional. You may be suffering from an infection that requires antibiotics or may need something as simple as proper cleaning.