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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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Feel Good Foods for Your Hearing

food and hearing health

Forefront in the media is the battle of the bulge, foods that may or may not cause disease, and what’s on the menu at the local fast food joint. We hear about the latest diet fad, the latest YouTube recipes and what the stars are eating. What we don’t often hear about foods that can affect our hearing health.
Sticking to a healthy diet is good for more than just your waistline. By increasing your intake of certain foods, you can increase your chances of healthy hearing well into your golden years. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods is sure to be better for you all around than sugary junk food. Eating a rainbow variety of foods increases the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that help your body to heal and stay healthy, including your hearing.
We get much needed naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and nutrients by eating plants that take in these fuel molecules from within the soil as they grow. We either eat the plants directly or eat meat from animals that consumed the plants. This allows us the ability to meet the daily requirements needed for optimal health. The following list is key in maintaining good auditory health.
Folate
Foods such as asparagus, broccoli, chickpeas, lentils, and liver are great sources of folate which provides vitamin B9. Folate, or folic acid, help to minimize the possibility of hearing loss related to the aging process. Other foods such as fortified cereals, baker’s yeast, leafy vegetables, and sunflower seeds are also good sources of folic acid. If those don’t appeal or the food prep is to time consuming, you can take a vitamin supplement such as B9 or B complex.
Magnesium 
For those who live or work in noisy environments, there is help. Magnesium has been proven to protect the sensitive hairs within our inner ears from free radical molecules that are produced by the hazardous effects of long-term loud noise. Without these tiny hairs, our ears are unable to transmit the electrical currents to the brain, which are then identified as sound. This means that we develop hearing loss.
To combat the effects of loud noise, be sure to keep up your magnesium level by eating plenty of artichokes, avocados, beans, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, and even whole grains. These foods are easily added to stir fry dishes or grilled. They’ll have a protective effect on the sensitive hairs within the ear and will help to ensure you can hear for many years to come.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
For those over 50, decreased hearing becomes an increasing possibility, but it doesn’t have to. By consuming omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, you can delay or even prevent hearing loss related to aging.
Fresh fish are among the food’s rich in these beneficial fatty acids. Anchovies, herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon and sardines top this list. If you prefer more of a supplement than actually eating fish, cod liver oil might get you where you need to go. One tablespoon provides your daily recommended dosage of omega 3’s as well as vitamins A and D.
Potassium
For some people, a low potassium level plays a part in decreased hearing. By upping your intake of foods like apricots, bananas, beet greens, lima beans, milk, oranges, potatoes, and raisins, you can help maintain your ability to hear normally.
The electrical impulses that are transmitted to the brain that we comprehend as sounds are affected by the amount of fluid within the inner ear. When supplied with enough potassium, we effectively give ourselves the ability to regulate the fluid within our body which ensures the proper flow of fluids to the ears. These fluid levels tend to drop as we age, and by keeping your potassium levels up, you can help to balance these levels.
Zinc
With a rise in the population for tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, it’s a good idea to keep your zinc levels up. The areas of the inner ear contain the largest amount of zinc in the entire body, and without the proper levels, there’s the likelihood of tinnitus developing over time.
To combat this detrimental decrease, be sure eat plenty of needs, legumes, seeds, and vegetables. Meats like beef, pork, and chicken with dark meat are good options, as well as dark chocolate, split peas, and oysters. With all these options, there should be plenty of opportunities to keep your zinc intake where it needs to be.
The key to meeting your body’s needs is to eat the foods you know you enjoy, then try new things to see if they’re a good fit. Prepare them in different ways to find what your preferences are, and don’t give up just because it’s not something you’d normally eat. With the boom of the internet, recipes abound, and your likely to find a dish to make just about anything palatable.
Hiding spinach in a green smoothie with bananas and peanut butter, or chickpeas and rice in a soup or stew are great ways to help you and your kids to get the variety needed to fulfill your body’s needs. Stir fry or steam some asparagus, artichokes, and black beans to top a dish of rice with slivered almonds.
Making food fun while sharing it, and the skills to prepare it, with friends and family can be the best part of the day. Knowing it’s good for them and helping them learn how and why will ensure that others become aware of the benefits to their auditory system.

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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.