Six Ways Hearing Can Be Lost

Hearing loss can happen for any number of reasons, though some things are far more likely to cause it than others. Here are the top six triggers for diminished hearing.

  1. Just Getting Older
    If you’re lucky and wait long enough, it’ll probably happen to you. The inner ear is a marvel, with lots of tiny moving parts that do what they do every day of your life. Eventually, parts start to wear out.
  2. Can’t Fight Genetics
    Speaking of marvels, all the genetic information that goes into a human being is astounding. A gram of human DNA holds about a zettabyte — that’s 10 to the 21st power (basically, a lot of zeroes) — of data. Sometimes some of it gets garbled, making genetic predisposition the second most prominent driver of hearing loss.
  3. Issues At Birth
    Birth issues such as maternal diabetes, neonatal jaundice, and premature delivery can cause hearing problems that are permanent.
  4. As Do Infections
    Most ear infections cause only temporary hearing loss, but severe ones can create enduring issues. Take ear infections seriously.
  5. There Are Bones In There
    A dislocated shoulder from a sports injury is not out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, that kind of hard contact can do the same to the tiny bones in the ear. Nerve damage can also result from a hard blow to the head. Concussion protocol includes tracking any potential hearing issues.
  6. Loudness Is The Enemy
    The most likely way to damage ears for most people is exposure to excessive sound. This can be extreme sound like a noisy work environment or not using ear protection when firing a gun. Or loud concerts. Or earbuds or headphones with the volume turned up too high. This is the easiest culprit for people to control.

There’s nothing you can do — other than to manage the problem with hearing aids —about several items on this list. But not number six. Take care of your ears when you can.

Tinnitus: Here Today, Maybe Here Tomorrow

If it becomes persistent, tinnitus can truly become one of life’s not so little annoyances.


There are some strategies for dealing with it—but no known permanent cure. It’s a perplexing syndrome that isn’t fully understood and, unfortunately, not as rare as one would hope. It is generally understood to be the manifestation of underlying damage to the auditory system, usually due to aging or exposure to excessive noise.


Simply put, tinnitus is the hearing of sound that’s not really “there.” There’s no doubt that those dealing with the condition hear “it,” but what they’re hearing is not a sound that’s coming from outside of their bodies. It’s coming from inside the hearer — and they can’t make the sound go away.
The American Tinnitus Association states on its webpage that it “can manifest many different perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. In some rare cases, tinnitus patients report hearing music.”


Studies show that well over 10 percent of Americans experience it at some point, though luckily in many cases it’s only temporary.


If one is not so lucky, then ways to manage it include shunning silent environments (since whatever sound is being heard is harder to ignore), protecting ears from loudness (which can make matters worse), and practicing relaxation techniques (to lessen the stress that can be caused by tinnitus). Some people have also found that certain foods or activities will consistently worsen the situation or bring on a new bout.


If a sound of unknown origin becomes persistent and bothersome, then visiting a hearing health professional is the first step to managing the situation.

Once Again, Oticon Is a Winner

For the fourth year running, Oticon has been honored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CTA) at its annual trade show for bringing some of the most innovative products to market.
Two Oticon brands won CES 2020 Innovation Awards. One was in the Health & Wellness category, where the Oticon Xceed — a hearing aid for those with severe-to-profound hearing loss — won. Meanwhile, the company’s soon-to-be-released e-health platform RemoteCare won in the Tech for a Better World category.


“We are extremely proud to have Oticon Xceed and Oticon RemoteCare honored by the Consumer Electronics Association,” announced the president of Oticon, Gary Rosenblum. “Our ability to consistently stand out in a competition that includes some of the world’s most cutting-edge consumer technology products and services underscores Oticon’s commitment to develop hearing technology that makes a real difference in people’s lives.”


The Xceed provides a powerful tool for people who’s hearing loss has traditionally been a challenge for the industry. The product provides formidable output without the feedback issues that often plague hearing aids that have to compensate for severe hearing issues. It delivers an auditory environment for users that is less stressful and enhances short-term recall of conversations.


The customer service that RemoteCare will provide is startling. Using Internet connectivity, hearing aids will be able to not only collect data in real time and transfer it to hearing health professionals — but any needed adjustments can then be made remotely. The scheduling of office visits and all the complications they generate will be lessened and users will see performance gains straightaway.


Both products build on Oticon’s long track record of adapting cutting-edge technology to the needs of the hearing impaired.

The Advantages of Bluetooth Technology

The full integration of Bluetooth tech into the routine functions of hearing aids has brought a wealth of new possibilities.

Due to the incorporation of higher computer functions into what used to be basically simple amplifiers, hearing aids are now yet another aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT). The interconnectivity that Bluetooth provides — by creating a small wireless network in which devices can communicate — allows hearing aids to connect to other machines nearby and, by extension, to the Internet via another device’s WiFi capabilities.

Bluetooth connections are stable and not dependent on a WiFi network’s strength. They work within only a small radius.

This is why it is now possible, using a dedicated app, to control a hearing aid’s functions with a smartphone or tablet. The ability Bluetooth affords for near-instantaneous interaction between the two devices means no more fumbling with tiny knobs or buttons on a hearing aid. It also allows for a far wider range of controls.

Likewise, sound can now be transmitted electronically directly to the hearing aid. The oh-so-annoying squeal that used to mark phone conversations with a hearing aid is a thing of the past. Anything one listens to from electronic sources — radios, televisions, listening devices — can now be streamed directly into hearing aids, resulting in much higher sound quality and the ability to avoid distractions from other sources of noise.

Finally, hearing aids can gather data on the sound dynamics of where you spend your time and how you use your hearing aids. This can then be uploaded — via the Bluetooth connection with your app, then from app to your hearing health provider via the Internet — and the data used to fine-tune your hearing aid for the future.

Managing Thanksgiving With Hearing Loss

Handling hearing issues, even with state-of-the-art hearing aids, can be an everyday challenge. On special days — like Thanksgiving — it can be even more of a trial.

Now, if the tradition for the big meal in your family is a descent into political trench warfare, maybe you’ll just want to turn your hearing aid down low and eat in blissful silence. It’s a known go-to strategy.

But if you want to communicate fully with your loved ones, here are some ideas on how to manage the hubbub of a boisterous Thanksgiving dinner with hearing loss.

First, be prepared to let anyone at the gathering who you don’t see very often know that you’re a little hard of hearing. The “new friend” being brought home to meet the family may not have been informed and letting them know will make things easier on everyone.

And remember the old maxim of location, location, location.  Sitting next to the TV with the big game blasting from it will make things much more difficult. Being away from sources of noise, with a wall behind you so that you’re dealing with 180° of sound — as opposed to a full 360° — will help immensely. At the dinner table, avoid sitting in the middle. Grab a seat on one end and converse with people nearby.

If it all becomes too much, take respite in a quiet room or outside. Like a work break, this will allow your ears and brain to relax and recharge.

And finally, if you have a hearing aid – then use it! No reason to be coy with loved ones. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about and your family is there to support you.

The Current State of Treating Hearing Loss

The science of gauging and treating hearing loss and auditory disorders is far advanced. Today’s technology — and decades of medical progress — now provide a wealth of options for anyone with hearing issues.

Ways to provide rehabilitation include hearing aids, cochlear implants, and therapeutic approaches. Methods employed will depend to some extent on the nature of the hearing loss being managed.

Profound hearing loss may require cochlear implants, which are complex devices that incorporate surgically inserted electrodes that send signals directly to the brain, bypassing the hearing apparatus of the inner ear. A significant amount of subsequent therapeutic training is necessary to make them a successful intervention.

Speech pathologists will be the frontline professional who works with those adapting to cochlear implants, but the kind of audiological rehabilitation they provide can also help a wide array of people with less profound issues learn to manage their hearing loss. This is especially true if it was not immediately treated and “bad habits” developed.

The therapeutic approaches these hearing professionals will manage include developing better hearing techniques, speechreading (based in part on lipreading), and strategies to create a better environment for hearing (including ways that speakers can communicate more clearly).

Ultimately, hearing aids are the most common form of treatment for auditory disorders, especially presbycusis (hearing loss due to age). Contemporary hearing aids are powerful tools. They incorporate significant computing powers that not only provide amplification of sound in the parts of the spectrum where it is needed, but also deliver a wide array of interconnectivity with other wireless devices. This provides access to streaming music, captioned devices, and supplemental assistive listening tools such as infrared and FM systems.

Preventive Maintenance for Summer Ears

Summertime brings its own rituals, pastimes, and challenges. As far as your hearing health goes, there are a few things to be particularly aware of during the hottest days of the year.

The most common one has to do with water.

Diving into swimming pools or natural bodies of water increases the likelihood of fungal or bacterial infections. Usually getting lumped under the term “swimmer’s ear,” what is commonly happening is some kind of irritation of the skin in your ear canal. Even if you don’t spend time in the water, perspiration from hot conditions can cause the same issues.

The key is to get your ears dried out without increasing the likelihood of infection. This is especially true if you use hearing aids, since putting them back in will trap moisture in the ear canal.

The first rule is to not be tempted to use a cotton swab to rub them dry. This can make things worse, since the swabs can scratch the skin in the ear and actually increase the likelihood of infection. The best things to do include letting gravity do some of the work by tilting your to either side (pulling on your earlobe at the same time helps too, since it flattens the ear canal), using a blow dryer on low heat, or drying drops that do the job via a chemical reaction.

Other summer issues to keep in mind include protecting ears from extreme sound environments (fireworks, concerts, vehicle races), fluid buildup in your ears due to allergies, and discomfort from the effects of flying (if a summer vacation is in the mix).

Take it easy on your ears this summer.

Alcohol and Hearing Function

The negative effects of drinking too much are pretty well advertised. Less obvious is that drinking too much over both the short-term and long-term can also cause hearing issues.

Believe it or not, too much alcohol in the bloodstream can cause stress on the tiny hairs inside the ears that send electronic signals to the brain. One of the reasons hearing loss is common in many older people is because these hairs stop regenerating. And alcohol can cause the same kind of damage.

On the other hand, this one is not so hard to believe — alcohol affects the brain. This includes the auditory cortex, where the sound transmitted from the ears is processed. Long-term drinking can shrink the auditory cortex.

Temporary or permanent tinnitus — an incessant ringing in the ears — can also result from alcohol consumption. This is due to the increased blood flow that drinking causes, which throws the inner ear mechanism awry. And since that blood is full of alcohol, the fluid within the ear that is an important part of its functioning is infused with alcohol. This has a number of repercussions, including altering one’s sense of balance — which is why the room starts to spin and “falling down drunk” is a thing.

And there’s a term for getting oblivious about how loud an environment is. It’s called “cocktail deafness.” Getting drunk at a concert or in a loud bar can result in basically forgetting to process how loud it really is. This leads to one of the worst things for hearing health — prolonged exposure to high-decibel sound that can do permanent damage.

Hearing health, another reason to be mindful of your alcohol consumption.

Better Hearing & Speech Month: Natural Ways to Promote Hearing Health

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, which provides a great opportunity to raise awareness about communication disorders and hearing health. Promoted annually by the American-Language-Hearing-Association, this year’s theme is “Communication Across the Lifespan.” What better way to spread awareness than understanding natural ways to promote hearing health?

Although natural remedies and diet-based strategies to improve or maintain hearing cannot replace professional treatment when facing pronounced hearing loss, there are things worth doing to maintain hearing health.

Certain minerals, herbs, and habits are known to be beneficial. Likewise, some things are to be avoided (and not just the obvious things like loud noise and not using ear protection).

For example, a number of medications are known to have adverse side effects on the hearing of some individuals; they are known as ototoxic drugs. Tinnitus is the most common side effect, though more serious complications are possible. There are lists of ototoxic drugs that can be referenced and, when needed, alternatives should be explored.

Heavy consumption of alcohol is also known to cause hearing issues — including possible long-term damage to the tiny hairs inside the ear that are crucial to hearing.

On a more positive note, brain games are a way to maintain or improve the ability to better understand sounds. Voices especially not only have to be heard, but ultimately processed efficiently. Websites like Lumosity and organizations like AARP have resources for exercising brain function.

Then there are certain herbs that humans have consumed for countless generations that are believed to have a positive impact on hearing health.

Blood circulation is vital to the operation of the ears and Ginkgo biloba is known to have a positive impact. Ginger is a strong antibiotic that will inhibit ear infections. Likewise, echinacea enhances the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties that can help ears get through bouts of sickness.

Many hearing issues demand medical attention, but maintaining general overall hearing health can be pursued outside of the medical office.

A Not Subtle Hearing Issue

Though rare, sudden hearing loss (SHL) is not unknown. And though the medical community does not fully understand the phenomena, any abrupt cessation of hearing in an ear is cause to seek urgent medical attention.

SHL can be temporary or permanent. Only time will tell. It can also affect one or both ears. Early intervention is key.

The cause of SHL is not clearly understood but there are a number of factors believed to be at play, either singly or in combination. These include the delayed effects of ear infections or spinal injuries; issues stemming from chronic blood circulation problems like obesity, blood clots, arteriosclerosis, and diabetes; and bouts of stress that curtail blood flow.

The “sudden” part of SHL is meaningful. Oftentimes hearing loss is clearly related to disease — meningitis, mumps, or chickenpox for example — or exposure to high-decibel sound that directly damages the inner ear. SHL happens suddenly, with no clear cause or even an earache of any kind.

A bout of tinnitus — an unremitting ringing sound that is heard but not produced by anything in the hearer’s environment — does sometimes happen as part of a SHL event. Fluctuating pressure in the ear and numbness also are accompanying symptoms.

As a first step, medical care providers will deliver treatment that produces better blood circulation to the head, since this sometimes clears up the problem. If this isn’t successful, then further testing will be required. An ear microscopy and/or MRI can find evidence of the underlying issue that has caused the SHL.

The key is to seek immediate medical care. SHL is a medical crisis and can be a sign of other underlying medical issues. Don’t wait for it to “clear up” on its own.