You Really Want To Ignore Your Hearing Problem?

Ignoring the reality of hearing loss is not a good long-term strategy. Studies have found any number of bad outcomes stem from an unwillingness to treat hearing-related issues. These include not only health effects, but also emotional and economic repercussions.

One of the most troubling findings is that hearing loss correlates with higher incidences of Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are several working theories as to why this is the case.

One theory is that there is a long-term strain on the brain when having to interpret words that are not inputted clearly, causing it to have to overcompensate. Another possibility is that when much of the sound spectrum is no longer heard the brain is deprived of needed stimulation.

Studies have also found that general health is lower in people with untreated hearing loss, compared to those who have had their hearing issues treated.

In addition, it has been found that adults with hearing issues who use hearing aids report higher levels of happiness than those who refuse them. A whole host of issues — sadness, anxiety, insecurity, even paranoia — occur at higher rates in people not dealing directly with hearing loss. Social isolation is also unhealthy in and of itself.

And a study sponsored by the Better Hearing Institute showed that hearing loss could negatively impact household income by up to as much as $12,000 annually. The findings suggest that hard-of-hearing employees are apt to make more errors at work and thus miss out on promotion opportunities — or even end up losing their jobs.

Considering that treatment for hearing issues will ultimately cost only pennies per day, refusing to deal with hearing loss is not a good long-term financial strategy. That’s even before considering the health and emotional satisfaction aspects of such stubbornness.

The Sound Facts of Commuting

Modern life is loud. We’ve grown accustomed to it, but the fact is the everyday environment that many of us live in is not very good for our hearing health.

This includes a daily fact — times two — for many: commuting.

The common car honking, subway clatter, bus engine roar, and general mayhem that is part of getting from Point A to Point B every morning and evening can take a toll.

A recent Canadian study, which used Toronto as its laboratory, found that commuters are regularly exposed to short bursts of sound that exceed safe limits. It’s known that ears can be damaged by that kind of repetitive contact to loud, jarring sounds.

Researchers fitted a number of commuters with noise dosimeters — small devices that measured sounds in the A-weighted decibels (dBAs), a methodology for gauging sounds that humans are especially sensitive to.

Measurements were taken in a myriad of settings — including inside cars and mass transit vehicles — as well as walking and bicycle-riding situations. What they found was that all commuters are subject to bursts of extreme sound, but that those riding the subway and streetcars were subject to the most frequent “peak” noise events.

About 20 percent of the time, this exposure included bursts in excess of World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety standards. Four-second bursts above 114 dBA on subways and one-second bursts above 120 dBA on streetcars were 20 percent of the “peak” sound events that commuters experienced.

Long-term exposure to sound bursts in excess of WHO/EPA recommendations can lead to hearing loss. If this sounds familiar, consider the use of earplugs on your commute.

Luggage

Avoid the Dreaded “I Forgot That” Summer Vacation

What’s the best part of summer? The summer vacation of course!

Unless of course, you do something to ruin it. Like ending up far from home and having a hearing aid emergency.

It may not sound like much fun to go through a hearing aid checklist before vacating, but it might save the vacation. Here’s a checklist of the things to think about before hitting the road.

  • Have a rechargeable hearing aid? Don’t forget the charger. Needless to say, it’s been done before. Don’t be one of those people.
  • And if your hearing aid runs on batteries, don’t forget to bring extra batteries. Running around in a new place frantically looking for the batteries that fit your unit should not be on the vacation itinerary.
  • Don’t get so wrapped up in the fun that you forget to do your normal cleaning routine at the end of the day. Bring along your cleaning kit and use it, since your hearing aid may be getting put through more of a workout than it does at home — exposed to sand and seawater and longer hours of use.
  • Summer vacations often mean time near — or even on — the water. That means moisture. And hearing aids don’t like moisture. Bring your dryer or dehumidifier and put your hearing aid in it for the night after you’ve cleaned it (you did remember to clean it, right?).
  • If you use them, spare domes and wax guards should be packed.

If you use a remote mic or any other Bluetooth accessory, don’t forget

Woman wearing sun glasses

Ear Infections Will Ruin a Summer

For many people, summer means getting in the water after months of it being too cold for comfort. But if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the water — especially if you’ll be popping your hearing aid back in when you get out — then you should know about swimmer’s ear.

And you don’t have to be a swimmer to get it.

Swimmer’s ear is a not uncommon type of infection of the ear canal’s skin layer. Caused by water collecting in the inner and outer ear canal, it is a bacterial infection that, in its early stages, can cause itching and discomfort.

The discomfort is more pronounced when that little thingamabob at the opening of your ear — the tragus — is pushed. Or when your earlobe is pulled.

Another early sign is a clear fluid draining out of your ear.

If you notice early signs of swimmer’s ear, then take action — because things can escalate. Eventually, that clear fluid turns to pus, you notice hearing loss due to swelling, pain starts spreading down into your neck and face, your lymph nodes are effected, and a fever comes on. Not sounding much like summer fun.

Eardrops are the best treatment for swimmer’s ear. They help dry out your ear while also providing treatment against bacteria and fungus.

The best way to prevent swimmer’s ear in the first place is to wear earplugs when you’re in the water for an extended amount of time.

Not putting your hearing aid back in immediately will help too. Give your ear a little time to air out before sealing it off with your hearing aid.

Also, be careful about cleaning your ears when you’re doing a lot of water activities. Small abrasions to the ear canal’s walls make for a more-friendly environment for the bacteria that causes swimmer’s ear.

Athlete Jogging

Athletics and Hearing Aids Are Not Mutually Exclusive

The lifestyle of an active athlete and the need to use a hearing aid can indeed coexist. There are a few basic things to take into consideration, but your hearing aid shouldn’t hold you back from pursuing your fitness goals.

Moisture is the most common issue that needs to be addressed. Exercising means sweating and sweating means moisture. Cleaning and completely drying your hearing aid after a workout is important.

If you’re exercising outdoors in a wet environment, then that too will require taking care of your hearing aid. If you use a BTE (behind-the-ear) model you may want to be more proactive and devise a strategy for covering your hearing aid with a plastic bag, though take care make sure there’s some airflow around the unit. A tight wrapping may do more harm than good.

The other main issue is when your hearing aid — and probably your head too — takes a blow. It might be best when participating in contact sports to wear a head guard or helmet. It’ll not only protect your noggin, but your hearing aid as well.

As far as specific models go, Phonak’s Lyric is a small, permanent hearing aid that — once inserted in your ear canal — is worn for up to four months. This takes the pressure off of maintaining your hearing aid after exercise, since the Lyric is designed to deal with moisture (you can even shower with it in) during its useful lifetime.

The Siemens’ line of Aquaris hearing aids is fully waterproof. It’s a rugged product that can be fully immersed in water. It’s also been tested in the NFL. Former safety Reed Doughty wore one during his playing days.

When More Than a Hearing Aid Is Needed

For most people, a modern hearing aid is enough to compensate for any hearing issues that are present. But for some people — or in some situations — additional assistive listening devices (ALDs) might be needed.

Here are some of the most common types of ALDs that may help you with hearing difficulties that your hearing aid can’t deal with on its own.

A personal amplifier is just what it sounds like. A small, easily transportable amplifier with a microphone and that boosts volume. They aren’t really for crowded situations, but rather work well for one-on-one conversations. Usually, the other person in the conversation clips the mic to themselves — like newscasters — and is able to speak in their normal voice, while the amplifier makes them easier to hear.

A more flexible device better suited for more complex situations is an FM system. It’s simply a transmitter system that uses the FM radio spectrum to bring sounds to the listener. As with an amplifier system, the speaker is “mic’d up” and what they’re saying — or playing on an instrument — is broadcast in a very localized area.

An infrared ALD works in much the same way, only instead of wavelengths in the radio spectrum transmitting sound the light wave spectrum is utilized. These systems tend to be used in very specific situations. Their weakness is that sunlight can interfere with them and infrared systems can’t pass through solid objects like walls. But that is also one of their strengths, since they provide a level of privacy that FM transmitters cannot.

Finally, induction loop systems use electromagnetic fields to get amplified sound to the end user. They are very versatile systems that are becoming more common in public spaces, such as schools, concert halls, and stadiums. Basically, a loop of wire is placed in an area and powered up, creating a magnetic field that any receiver — including many hearing aids — can pick up a signal from. They are slowly becoming common, much like wheelchair access ramps did years ago.

When Is It Time to Replace Your Hearing Aid?

Getting a new hearing aid — after having invested in one already — shouldn’t happen too often. But there are instances when “starting over” is the best course of action.

Other than the obvious situation that your hearing capabilities have changed enough to warrant a new hearing aid — most likely a more powerful unit to deal with more severe hearing loss — here are a few instances when upgrading may be called for.

One instance is that you got a great deal last time. Your hearing aid has had a few repairs over the years, but you’ve been satisfied with it over the years too. Unfortunately, if your hearing aid lasts long enough, then eventually there won’t be spare parts to fix it anymore. Most manufacturers make replacement parts for only about five years. Then it’s on to used parts. This can be effective for only so long.

Tapping into new technology is also a good reason to upgrade. Today’s “smart” hearing aids are part of the ever-expanding world of connectivity and the Internet of things (IoT). Direct wireless connections with smartphones, media devices, and even doorbells and washing machines are now possible. You can stream music and get “your laundry is done” notifications directly into your hearing aid.

Physical changes other than your hearing may also warrant a change in hearing aids. Arthritis can make changing batteries and other adjustments to your hearing aid slow and frustrating. Finding a new unit with longer battery life and more automated controls might make life a little more pleasant.
Then there’s always just the desire for something new. And that’s alright too.

Specialized Hearing Aids for Severe Hearing Loss

Of the people who use hearing aids, 70 percent have mild to moderate hearing loss. That leaves 30 percent of hearing aid users who fall within the severe to profound categories of hearing loss.

This level of hearing loss requires hearing aids that can powerfully amplify sound. In addition, more robust speech recognition capabilities are also essential.
Generally, these kinds of hearing aids will be BTE (behind-the-ear) units that provide more customization and wider microphone options than smaller ITE (in-the-ear) units can offer.
Here are some of leading hearing aids for severe hearing loss:

  • The Oticon Dynamo, Sensei SP, and BTE Plus Power lines provide increased gain and output, feedback control, and individualized control capabilities. Enhanced speech recognition and wireless connectivity are also features.
  • The Naida V is Phonak’s model for severe hearing loss. It features several speakers and is capable of amplifying the high-frequency sounds that are crucial to better hearing.
  • Siemens’ Nitro BTE features BestSound Technology, directional microphones, and improved speech recognition. It is strong in addressing both the high- and low-frequency needs of wearers.
  • The Signia Primax is designed for moderately severe hearing loss. It has superior noise reduction, speech recognition, and amplification options.

Rock Musicians with Hearing Aids

It may come as a shock, but there are a number of rock music legends now in need of hearing aids. How long-term exposure to high-decibel amplified music — and an uncounted number of pyrotechnical explosions — led to this is anyone’s guess.

Recently announcing a year-long sabbatical at the age of 72, The Who’s Pete Townshend — for a solid decade his band held the Guinness Book of Records top mark for the loudest concert — is now almost deaf, suffering both partial deafness and tinnitus. In 1989 Townshend helped to found H.E.A.R. (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers), a non-profit hearing advocacy group, and has struggled to continue working due to his hearing loss over the last two decades.

One strategy Townshend has used in order to continue performing is thanks to another rocker with hearing issues. Neil Young introduced him to in-ear monitors (IEMs), which Young had started to use to deal with his tinnitus. They are basically hearing aids on steroids, specialized earpieces that are fed audio via the sound mixing board at concerts or in the studio. Young has said that some of his more acoustic works, including Harvest Moon, were made in part to give his ears a rest from his louder electric work.

Like Townshend, another English rock legend, Eric Clapton, also has both significant hearing loss and tinnitus in both ears. He says that these days he listens to classical music, in part so that he can keep his hearing.

And in a truly shocking development, Ozzy Osbourne — the lead singer of heavy metal icons Black Sabbath before his second life as a reality TV show star — suffers from serious hearing loss. He’s shared publicly (this is what the Osbourne’s do) his adventures with hearing aids.

A Discussion of Hearing Problems in Children

Five thousand children are born profoundly deaf each year in the United States alone. Another 10 to 15 percent of newborns have a partial hearing loss.

SENSORINEURAL IMPAIRMENT

A sensorineural hearing loss is used to describe hearing impairments which result from a disruption of the conversion of mechanical vibrations in the inner ear to nerve signals, which go up to the brain. These impairments may be congenital (i.e. present at birth), hereditary, developmental, or a combination of these. In addition, these impairments may result from infections, injuries, ototoxic drug therapy, or lack of oxygen.

Hearing loss may be classified further due to the cause of the hearing handicap.

A. Congenital hearing loss

1. Genetic – In the genetic type there is an actual defect in your child’s genes which results in an abnormal development of the ear.

2. Non-genetic – This is a hearing loss which is due to some problem which occurred during the fetal development or the immediate birth period.

B. Acquired hearing loss – This is a hearing impairment which occurs sometime after birth and is not transmitted to future children.

CONGENITAL FACTORS

Several viral infections, including CMV and German measles contracted by the mother during the first three months of pregnancy, may interfere with inner ear development in the fetus. Occasionally, the origin is other viruses, such as the viruses of measles and mumps.  Fortunately, due to better immunization prevelance, these diseases are not as common as they once were.

PROBLEMS AT BIRTH

A very difficult and complicated labor or premature birth may also result in an inner ear hearing impairment on occasion. This may be due to lack of oxygen. These are many syndromes which can also result in a hearing impairment at birth. One can have a hearing loss at birth without any hereditary relationship.

Jaundice occurring at or shortly after birth is capable of damaging the inner ear. This is most often due to Rh incompatibility between the mother’s and the child’s blood. Fortunately, this is not a common occurrence.

HEREDITARY IMPAIRMENT

The development and function of the ear is dependent upon hundreds or even thousands of genes, interacting with each other and with the inter-and extrauterine environment. A major cause of late-onset hearing loss for children is genetic in origin. Most cases of hereditary-based childhood deafness are sensorineural rather than conductive in nature. frequencies.

Hereditary sensorineural hearing loss may be present at birth, or may develop later in life. This may be due to inner ear malformations or to other associated syndromes which have an associated inner ear hearing loss. One may see a genetic sensorineural hearing loss with or without associated abnormalities.

INFECTIONS

The most common type of acquired sensorineural loss is meningitis. Frequently this may affect both ears, but can involve one ear. Other types of infections would include viral diseases, such as mumps, rubella and otitis media.

HEARING IMPAIRMENT IN ONE EAR

A hearing impairment that is confined to one ear deprives a person of the ability to distinguish the direction of sound. He will also have difficulty hearing from the involved side in a noisy background. These are minor problems to a young child. When this hearing impairment in one ear is conductive, surgery will usually be able to restore the hearing, giving a better balance to the hearing hearing. When the unilateral impairment is sensorineural, either amplification in the poorer ear, or use of a CROS hearing aid is indicated. A CROS hearing aid (Contralateral Routing of Signal) is utilized when the hearing in the poorer ear is too poor to be aided directly. With a CROS aid, a microphone is placed on the poor hearing side and a signal is transmitted to the better hearing side.

TREATMENT

There is no known medical or surgical treatment that will  totally restore normal hearing in patients with sesorineural hearing impairments. We therefore, rely on rehabilitation through the use of a hearing aid, a cochlear implant and/or special training.  Fortunately, many children with this type of hearing impairment will not show progression of the impairment as they get older.

THE HARD-OF-HEARING CHILD

If your child’s hearing impairment is in the range of 35-70 dB HL, he or she should do well with a properly fitted hearing aid. He or she will probably be able to attend school with normal hearing children. He or she will need preschool speech therapy and auditory training in order that communication abilities will be at the optimal level when regular school starts.

HEARING AID EVALUATION

The techniques involved in assessing the hearing of young children have improved over recent years.  Electrophysiologic techniques such as A.B.R. and O.A.E. Testing have improved the accuracy of test results at progressively earlier ages. It is important to determine an accurate measurement of both the type and the degree of hearing impairment in order to select the proper hearing aid.  Care must be taken to prescribe the correct amount of sound amplification or gain for the aided infant/toddler/child. Too much powerful and the child might reject the aid. If the aid is not strong enough, a child may receive little or no benefit from it and therefore object to wearing it. Fortunately, there are also objective measures through real-ear probe-tube microphone measurements which can both accurately prescribe as well as validate/measure the actual amount of amplification being delivered to the child.

SPEECH READING (LIP READING)

Speech reading is very important whatever the type of degree of impairment. This skill enables a person with impaired hearing to understand conversation by attentively observing the speaker. All of us, whether we have a hearing loss or not, employ the sense of sight as well as the sense of hearing in ordinary conversation. We find it easier to comprehend if we can watch the speaker’s facial expressions, lip movements and gestures. .It is important to tell other family members and friends to get the child’s attention before speaking. The child with a hearing impairment must recognize characteristics of the English language. Many sounds and many words look the same on the lips. The hearing impaired child will find it impossible to see certain words on the lips and therefore needs to continuously fill in the “gaps” of words and sentences. The child, who is learning to speech read, learning to use a hearing aid, or both, should have help from a professional person trained to teach these skills.

PROFOUND SENSORINEURAL HEARING IMPAIRMENT

With the increasing implementation of Cochlear Implants, even children with profound hearing losses will likely be able to hear sound to some degree.  However, the sound will not have the same tonal quality as it does for a normally hearing person. They still may need what is called a manual form of communication and intensive auditory training.  American Sign Language is still used, though it is not as common for younger profoundly impaired children as it is for older adults.  Whether the child communicates orally, with A.S.L., or in a “total communication” environment, they will most likely need intensive interventional help to mainstream to regular society.

REHABILITATIVE MEASURES

There are two very important factors to be determined upon examining the child with a suspected hearing impairment. First, determination should be made regarding the presence of a hearing loss and the type (i.e., conductive or sensorineural). Secondly, once a hearing loss is found to be present, it should be determined if this loss is progressive or stable. Therefore, your child may require periodic audiograms to be sure that the hearing loss is going to remain stable.

Complete Audiologic and Otologic examinations are recommended to determine what type of hearing impairment is present, its probable cause, and its treatment.  The Otologist (ENT) may recommend special x-rays of the inner ear (CT,MRI, etc), a balance test or other laboratory tests to make this decision.

A well-rounded program of rehabilitation for children with hearing loss may include speech reading, auditory training, speech therapy and instruction in the use of a hearing aid. One may also consider other adjuvants to assist with their communication skills such as cued speech or other manual techniques. All aspects of the program do not necessarily apply to each child with an impairment, but each individual may be helped through some of these methods. One cannot stress the importance of early identification of hearing loss and early intervention.  Critical speech and language development starts within the first three to four months of life.

THE COCHLEAR IMPLANT

The cochlear implant is an electronic device that is implanted into the inner ear of a severe to profoundly hearing impaired child. This device is only utilized in the child who can benefit more from an implant than from a hearing aid. It is a device which is used to bypass the diseased or nonfunctional hair cells and converts sounds to electrical impulses which directly stimulate the cochlear nerve. The implant consists of an external portion comprised of a microphone, sound processor, and external coil and an internal portion that must be surgically implanted. The surgical procedure involves the placement of an internal coil beneath the skin behind the ear and a stimulating electrode which is inserted into the cochlea or inner ear.

To determine suitability for this device in the severe to profoundly hearing impaired child, a careful examination is required. The evaluation is performed to determine whether or not the child can receive adequate information from a powerful hearing aid, or whether or not the implantation procedure can be performed and give the expected improvement.

Currently there are several multiple stimulating channel devices used. This is related to the number of stimulating electrodes within the cochlea.

For further information, contact: www.agbell.org