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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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Hearing Loss Could Put You at Risk for Accidental Injury

Hearing loss isn’t as benign or straightforward as we once thought it was. Not just a minor annoyance that you could choose to manage if you wanted to with a hearing aid.
No, hearing loss is a complex condition that can affect every aspect of our life from the way we communicate and our relationships to our total health and well-being. Study after study is finding that treating our hearing loss is no longer an option because untreated hearing loss can have devastating consequences.
New research is finding that it’s not just the cognitive decline and anxiety we should be aware of now, either. It’s something as simple as an increased risk of accidental injury.
Hearing loss and accidental injury
As experts realize the more significant impact of untreated hearing loss, they are digging into existing data as well as compiling new data through various studies to identify patterns related to hearing health. One of the most recent findings is linking hearing loss to an increased risk of accidental injury.
Analyzing data from the National Health Interview Survey gathered between 2007 and 2015, researchers determined that individuals who reported having “a lot of trouble” hearing were twice as likely to have an accidental injury as those who reported no trouble hearing. This fact was true both in work and leisure settings.
While more research is needed into exactly why this is the case, experts believe that the simple effects of sensory impairment may be behind it. This is concerning because accidental injuries are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in America, according to the CDC’s National Health Report.
Reducing your risk for accidental injury could be as easy as scheduling an annual hearing evaluation to determine whether or not you have a hearing loss. This simple step could even help protect you from more than just accidental injury.
The importance of treating hearing loss
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions, affecting an estimated one out of every five Americans and well over 450 million people around the world, yet it often goes untreated. As we learn more about the cost of untreated hearing loss, experts hope that the tide will change and the crucial role that hearing health plays in our lives will be taken more seriously.
While this study found that untreated hearing loss may increase the risk of accidental injury, this isn’t the only often unseen effect of untreated hearing loss. Others include:

Don’t let untreated hearing loss put you, your health and your well-being at risk. Whether it’s an accidental injury, falls, mental health or other concerns, you can take action now to reduce your risk.
Contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation and discuss options to treat hearing loss, such as hearing aids. This could be the most powerful choice you make for your health.

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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.

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The Structure Of A Hearing Aid And How It Works

A hearing loss can have a profound impact on your life, your career, and your relationships. If you choose the correct one, a hearing aid can make a significant difference in your ability to communicate while enhancing your enjoyment of life. Knowing what goes into the design of hearing aids will help you choose the most appropriate device for your hearing needs. Regardless of the style of hearing aid you have, all hearing aids share three essential components:

  • The hearing aid microphone picks up sounds and sends them to the amplifier. New technology distinguishes between speech and background noise, making it easier to understand a conversation.
  • Converting sounds from the microphone into an electrical signal and then sending the message to the receiver is the function of the amplifier. Amplification power is dependent upon the severity of the user’s hearing loss.
  • Power source. Batteries power the hearing device. Batteries may be either rechargeable or disposable, depending on the model.

These three components are in all hearing aids. Depending on the design and the severity of your hearing loss, a few other parts might be residing inside your hearing aid.

Buttons And Switches

Hearing aids that are of the receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) type come equipped with a button or a switch. A hearing healthcare professional programs the button or switch to perform different functions such as alternating between settings or increasing and decreasing volume. Make a point of knowing the purpose of your switch.

Wire

A hearing aid wire is typically thin and coated in plastic. The wire extends from the body of the hearing aid to the speaker, which resides in the ear. The transmission of power and signals takes place in the wire. Hearing aid wires feature conductor materials, shielding, and jacketing manufactured for custom hearing solutions.

Receiver/Speaker

Delivering the sound to the ear is the responsibility of the receiver, which is also known as the speaker. When the speaker receives an electrical signal from the amplifier, it converts it to sound. The speaker is inside the ear dome or earmold, depending on the severity of hearing loss and lifestyle.

Domes

A dome is a small piece of silicone that attaches to hearing aid tubing and fits deep in the ear canal. Domes come in an array of shapes and sizes to accommodate the unique anatomy of a person’s ear canal. A hearing healthcare professional can help you pick the appropriate size for a proper fit.

Earmold

Earmolds are plastic or acrylic and fit inside your ear canal to form an acoustic seal for the electronic sound coming in. The fit and the shape of your earmold will depend on the model of hearing aid you are utilizing and the severity of your hearing loss. Because they provide the highest amount of amplification, earmolds are for those with severe to profound hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a severe health issue, so do not ignore it. If you suspect that you may have a hearing loss, schedule a hearing screening with a hearing healthcare professional. Swift acting will significantly enhance the quality of your life.

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Caption This: Closed Captioning Is Popular, Let’s Expand It

Whether you’re a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community or just want to make sure you never miss important dialogue in your favorite flick, closed captioning is incredibly popular with many. In fact, a recent survey by 3PlayMedia found that 98% of recipients watched movies with closed captioning turned on! By giving those with normal and damaged hearing alike the ability to read and experience sound and participate in healthy social interactions, it’s clear why closed captioning is such a hit. Thanks to laws such as the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, official state and federal government videos, along with network TV programs, must have “accurate, synchronous, complete, and properly placed” captions, but what about online video? With new-age audiovisual media such as streaming services like Netflix, laws have yet to regulate captioning on the web. Ensuring access to closed captioning across all platforms is critical to avoiding barriers to auditory information, raising our quality of life, and decreasing social and emotional consequences.

The Numbers Are In, Closed Captions Are Used For More Than Hearing Loss

After discovering its popularity, 3PlayMedia’ survey dove even further into demographics, discovering who uses closed captions and why. What they found had further compounded the importance of universal access to these services. Captions were used by virtually everyone for a wide array of reasons, ranging from hearing loss to keeping focus. After crunching the numbers, 25% of respondents utilized captions for hearing loss purposes, while 75% of respondents used captions for other reasons unrelated to hearing damage, showing that captions do not only aid our hard of hearing community but the general public.

How Lack of Access Can Do Harm

For those suffering from hearing loss, there are social and emotional consequences that arise with a lack of access to auditory information. Participation in social interactions can plummet due to difficulty following along with conversations or fear of “being a bother” to friends and family, leading to depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Just like a conversation, watching movies or TV shows can be a social experience often done with friends and family. Without closed captioning, audiovisual information is withheld from those with hearing loss, excluding them from the social experience.
How does one participate in an equal society if they are excluded from social experiences? That’s what the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) argued after filing a lawsuit against streaming giant Netflix in 2011. Due to Netflix’s lack of closed captioning, the NAD argued they were not only violating the ADA, but treating the deaf community unequally. Thankfully, the district judge had ruled in favor of closed captioning marking serious progress for required captions, though many platforms such as Facebook and YouTube remain unregulated. With entertainment becoming increasingly digital, it is simply not enough to mandate captions for government programming or news alerts. Information will remain lost in translation until access to closed captioning is expanded to everyone, regardless of their hearing capabilities.

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It Is Time To Get That Annual Hearing Evaluation

We schedule yearly physical exams and dental exams, so why not schedule annual hearing testing? Hearing loss is gradual, and it affects not only your ability to hear but your physical and mental health too. Yearly hearing evaluations should be a part of your regular healthcare routine. If you are putting off a hearing evaluation, please consider some great reasons why you should schedule that test today!

Hearing Loss Is A Gradual Process

Hearing loss typically occurs at a slow pace over the course of many years. Because of this gradual process, it is difficult to detect when your hearing is not as good as it used to be. People with hearing loss typically wait 7 to 10 years before they address the hearing loss. An annual hearing evaluation by a hearing healthcare professional will detect any hearing loss so you can act before the problem exacerbates. You should monitor your hearing as well to identify hearing loss in your daily life. Indications include the following:

  • Trouble hearing phone
  • Difficulty hearing conversations
  • Ask people to repeat themselves
  • Sounds and voices seem muffled
  • Difficulty pinpointing the direction of a sound

Early Detection Is Critical

Putting off a hearing test for 7 to 10 years is not a good idea. An annual hearing evaluation will allow you the chance to address your hearing loss early before the problem worsens. It is essential to check your hearing annually after age 55, even if you experience no problems because this is the time most people begin to experience age-related hearing loss.

Dementia And Depression

Inquiry from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NICDC) states that depression is higher among U.S. adults with hearing loss than those without a hearing loss. Although the cause of this relationship is unknown, acting now can reduce your chances of experiencing mental health symptoms that often accompany hearing loss.

Hearing Loss And Happiness

People of all ages experience hearing loss, and the chances that you will experience change in your hearing over time are high. Here are a few statistics to consider:

  • 5% of American children have permanent hearing damage from exposure to loud noise.
  • 14% of American adults between the ages of 45 and 64 have some degree of hearing loss.
  • 30-40% of American adults over the age of 65 have hearing loss.
  • 50% of American adults over the age of 75 have some hearing loss.

It is essential to take hearing loss seriously. The longer you wait, the worse it gets. Heart disease, dementia, sleep apnea, and brain shrinkage all have a connection to hearing loss.

Schedule A Hearing Evaluation Today

Hearing loss will interfere with your life much quicker than you might realize. You may find yourself having trouble at work, not hearing your loved ones, or even enjoying the sounds of nature. Do something for your hearing today. Schedule an annual hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional and protect your hearing before it is too late!

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How to Enjoy Swimming Without the Clogged Ears

We all experience water in our ears from time to time. It happens during baths and showers and is very common for swimmers. However, it can lead to inflammation and infection of the ear canal. The most common cause of the infection is bacteria such as streptococcus, pseudomonas, and staphylococcus. Water in the ear is aggravating and can also be harmful to your hearing health. Here is what you can do about water in your ears.

Symptoms

The symptoms of water in the ear begin mild with itching and a slight redness within the infected ear. The problem gradually gets worse with an increase in pain and itching as well as discharge from the ear. Ultimately the pain becomes intense, the canal is completely blocked, and the face and possibly the lymph nodes begin to swell.

Removing Water From Your Ear

If you have water in your ear, here are ways for safely removing the irritating liquid:

  • Jiggle your earlobe. You might be able to shake the water from your ear by gently pulling on the earlobe and shaking.
  • Use gravity. Lie on your side and let the water slowly drain from your ear onto a towel.
  • Create a vacuum. Tilt head sideways and rest ear into cupped palm. Push hand back and forth in rapid motion while covering the ear cupping your palm as you pull away.
  • Hot compress. Applying a compress can release the water trapped in the eustachian tubes.
  • Blow dryer. Set the dryer on the lowermost setting and hold about a foot away from the ear. The heat from the dryer can help to evaporate the water inside the ear canal.
  • Apply a few drops per ear. Alcohol helps to evaporate water. It also helps to eradicate the growth of bacteria, which in turn helps to prevent infections.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. This solution can clear debris and earwax which may be trapping water inside the ear.
  • Olive oil. Warm olive oil and place a few drops in the ear. It can help to prevent infection in the ear as well as repel water out.
  • The movement of the mouth can open the eustachian tubes and let the stuck water come out.
  • Valsalva maneuver. Close mouth and gently squeeze your nostrils shut with fingers while listening for a popping sound which means the Eustachian tubes are open.
  • Warm steam helps to release water from the middle ear through Eustachian tubes.
  • OTC medication. OTC eardrops are alcohol-based and can help to reduce moisture in the outer ear canal. They also kill bacteria and remove debris.

Prevention

Of course, the best way to handle ears clogged with water is through prevention. Here are a few measures to take in the prevention of water and the bacteria it contains, from entering your ears:

  • Avoid swimming in contaminated pools
  • Wear a swim cap
  • Wear earplugs
  • Dry ears thoroughly once out of water

Remember that water in the ear is usually not dangerous, but if left unaddressed, the following problems may occur:

  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Long-term infections
  • Deep tissue infection
  • Bone and cartilage damage
  • Other widespread diseases.

If you have any additional questions about hearing loss or your hearing health, please feel free to contact our office!

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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.