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What is noise induced hearing loss and how to prevent it?

Over the next few weeks, here at Andros Audiology and Andros ENT & Sleep Center, we are focusing our conversation on noise induced hearing loss. Our patient often ask:

What is noise induced hearing loss?

Noise induced hearing loss is hearing loss that is permanent in nature. Long-term exposure to loud sounds over a prolonged period of time can cause noise induced hearing loss.  Sounds louder than 85 decibels can be damaging to your hearing.  The louder the sound, the less amount of time it takes before damage occurs. For more information regarding how loud is too loud, check out this article by the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association.

So, in the very noisy world we live and work in, what can we do about dangerously loud noises? The good news is that noise induced hearing loss is preventable.  Wearing hearing protection helps to decrease the intensity of noise and ultimately protect your hearing.

Types of hearing protection

There are two different types of hearing protection available.  Earplugs protect hearing by creating an airtight seal in the ear canal.  This type of protection can be purchased very inexpensively at drug stores or sporting goods stores. You can purchase them in bulk through amazon. Custom-fit earplugs can also be a good option. You will need to see an audiologist for custom hearing protection.

The second type of hearing protection is the over-the-ear style.  This style fits over the entire ear and must create a tight seal with adjustable headbands in order to provide sufficient protection.  This type of hearing protection can also be purchased fairly inexpensively at sporting goods stores or through amazon. Some earmuffs even allow normal sounds, like conversation, though but block out loud, dangerous sounds. These can be very useful and can be purchased at sporting good stores like Cabela’s. 

Take home!

The important part of both types of hearing protection is how much, when appropriately fit, the earplug or muff reduces noise.  The better the noise reduction, the more protected you are from harmful noises.

For more information, schedule a hearing evaluation at Andros Audiology at 651-888-7888.

Easy tips and tricks for hearing aid maintenance

One question Audiologists always get asked about hearing aids is: How long do they last? The short answer is: it depends. The biggest factor in how long a hearing aid lasts is how well they are maintained. That hearing aid maintenance starts at home with some easy steps to clean hearing aids. You should clean hearing aids every day if you want them to last for the long run.

How to clean a hearing aid:

  1. Remove any wax from the surface of the hearing aids

    • Start by inspecting the tip that goes into your ear. Brush or wipe away any wax that you can visually see. Do not use chemicals or water on your hearing aid. If you have a hard shell, wipe the hearing aid with a dry cloth. If you have a soft, rubber tip, brush wax away.
  2.  Inspect the microphone area for anything that might be plugging it

    • If you don’t know where your microphones are, ask your hearing professional at your next visit. On a behind-the-ear hearing aid, the microphones are located on the part that sits above your ear. There are usually 2 ports on the very top of the instrument. In an in-the-ear hearing aid, the microphone is often near the battery door. You can run your brush across the microphones to remove any debris.
  3. Inspect your sound port or wax guard

    • Some hearing aids have a small wax guard or wax trap covering the sound port where the sound comes out of the hearing aid. If these become plugged with wax, this can cause the hearing aid to malfunction. Replace your wax trap when necessary. Some instruments will not have this, and instead have a tubing extending from the instrument. If this is the case, you can use your cleaning tools to pick out the wax. Always remember that if you are unsure which you have, you can ask your hearing professional at the next visit.
  4. If you have a vent in your instrument, run a vent cleaning tool through it.

    • If you have a custom hearing aid or earmold, there is a good chance it has a vent, or air passage. You can run a thin filament through this space to push any wax out.

Take home!

You should be cleaning your hearing aids regularly. You should also do your best to protect your instruments from moisture. There are dri-aid kits or jars that you can store your hearing aids in to help absorb moisture that might have gotten into the devices. Your audiologist can help you to purchase one of these, or you can look into purchasing one off amazon. These can aid in keeping the hearing aids maintained well. If you have any further questions about hearing aid maintenance, contact us at (651) 888-7888.

For more information regarding when you see your audiologist, check out one of our older posts. 

What’s the difference between different hearing aid brands?

When beginning the journey to find better hearing there is a lot to consider. You may not know who to go to, what style is best for you, which brand to choose, or even which price point in most appropriate. When it comes to finding the right brand for you, there is little information out there to help you choose. So what’s the deal? Which hearing aid brand is best?

Who you go to might determine this for you. Some audiologists (or hearing aid dispensers) are free to choose and order from any of the hearing aid manufacturers. Others might have to sell only a specific brand. This may be due to a business agreement, or because a hearing aid manufacturer owns the office. It may be hard to determine this outright. The best way to determine this about a company is to ask!

What features are important for you?

Another consideration between brands is asking if the brand in questions has the set of features that you are looking for. Some examples of what might guide you to one brand over another for features may be down to rechargeable technology, or iPhone connectivity. Not every brand offers these unique features. This may help guide your decision of which brand is best for you.

Is there a brand that performs better?

Not necessarily. All of the major hearing aid brands are investing millions (often close to 100 million) in development for new products. All of the major hearing aid brands have all produced products that are reliable, and well tested. The important thing to remember is that a hearing aid is only as good as the provider that is fitting it. This means that you may choose a top brand, but if the provider doesn’t understand the full workings of the device, you may not get a top result. Be careful of marketing that claims the technology is “brand new” or solves issues like hearing in background noise. All hearing aid brands are creating products that are best in class when it comes to having the latest developments.

So what now?

Clearly, there is not a good answer to the question of which hearing aid brand is best. The most important thing is finding a provider you trust, and working through what they feel is going to be the best fit for you. Our audiologists are independent of brands and would love to sit down with you to find the right fit! Call our office at (651) 888-7888 to request an appointment today!

Communication Strategies for Family Members

So someone in your family has a hearing loss? Here are some tips to help with the communication breakdowns that are bound to happen.

Last week’s blog post was dedicated to the topic of issues people with hearing loss have in effectively communication. Because communication is a two-way street, it is important for those that are communicating with people with hearing loss know some important strategies to help alleviate those pesky communication breakdowns.

 Here are some helpful tips to help you have better communication with your family member!

  1. Do they already have a hearing aid? IF so…Please don’t shout at them!  Talking much louder will not help them understand you better when they have a hearing aid on. In fact you may sound too loud and distorted, just speak clearly and at a comfortable level.
  2. When talking with your family member, do your best to slow down your rate of speech.
    • – For example: “Doyawannagoouttoeat?” versus “Do you want to go out to eat?”
  3. Remember that they will have an easier time understanding what you say if you look at them and they can clearly see your face.
    • – Face them, make sure the room lighting is good.
  4. Visual speech cues are important for people with hearing loss, so do not block the view of your mouth.
    • – Sometimes resting a hand near your mouth, chewing gum or even facial hair can make speech reading more difficult.
  5. If you are asked to repeat yourself (and you probably will be asked), don’t get frustrated and say it louder—instead try to rephrase or say it differently.
    • – Often rephrasing instead of simply repeated gets the message across
  6. Try to minimize the distance between you and your family member; don’t try to have a conversation from another room or across the room.
  7. Remember that hearing aids should help your family member with their hearing loss, but will NOT restore it back to normal; they may still have some difficulty understanding you
  8. Do your best to minimize distractions when you are trying to have a conversation with your family member
    • – Some examples: turn down the TV, turn off the sink, roll up the windows in the car, sit by a wall or in a booth at a restaurant
  9. Try not to change the topic of conversation suddenly; it will be easier for your family member to follow along if the topic is clear and consistent.
  10. Have patience, it is going to take time for both you and your family member to adjust to hearing loss and/or hearing aids.

Communication Strategies for Combating Noisy Situations

Difficulty hearing in noisy situations is one of the most common complaints of people with hearing loss. In some cases, people with hearing loss will get a hearing aid and this difficulty is alleviated to some degree. Other times however, the hearing loss is not enough to a need for hearing aids or the difficulty hearing is background noise persists even with hearing aids. In these cases, it is very helpful to use some communication strategies to help hear better when in noisy situations.

Here are some listening strategies to help in situations where we are not hearing our best:

 How can you REDUCE BACKGROUND NOISE in your environment?

  • – At Home: Turn the TV off, down, or mute it when having a conversation
  • – In the Kitchen: Turn off  running water, the microwave, and fans that cause a lot of background noise
  • – In the Car: Roll up the windows and turn down the radio to better understand the speaker
  • – At the Office: Close the door to the room you are trying to have a conversation, this will help block out the extra office noise
  • – In the Restaurant: Request a booth up against the wall or in a corner, avoid tables in the middle of the dining area, try to avoid
  • busy dinner rush hours because there is more commotion and noise, ask to be seated away from the kitchen

Can you SEE the Speaker?

  • – Face the person talking: Facial expressions, gestures and speech reading are all helpful cues in understanding and
  • hearing the message
  • – Wear your glasses: This will help you see the speakers face and mouth
  • – Sit close to the speaker: The closer you are the easier it is to hear and see them, stay within 6 feet of each other; Avoid
  • having conversation from different rooms
  • – Good lighting is important to see the speaker clearly

What did you HEAR?

  • – Repeat what you heard: This helps the speaker know you are listening
  • – Avoid using the phrases “huh?” and “what?”: Instead repeat the parts you heard and the speaker can fill in any blanks
  • – Don’t pretend you heard everything! Do not just nod in agreement; you never know what you might be agreeing to

Communication strategies can be used for people with hearing loss, but they are also effective and useful for people without hearing loss as well. It is important to remember that even those with great hearing still struggle to hear in some situations.

Next week we will go over good communication strategies for partners of those who have hearing loss. Sometimes we as communication partners can get frustrated or upset at our significant other who has difficulty hearing. We have some tips and strategies to help improve the flow of communication! Stay tuned!

If you are experiencing any difficulty hearing in background noise, please contact our office at 651-888-7800 to make an appointment with one of our audiologists.

Help! I have high frequency hearing loss.

Two very common types of hearing loss include noise induced hearing loss and presbycusis, or age related hearing loss. Both of these are permanent in the fact that once our inner ear hair cells are damaged, we have no way in restoring their function to normal. Both conditions frequently result in something call high frequency hearing loss.

What is high frequency hearing loss?

Our ears hear a wide range of tones or frequencies. These range from low or bass tones, to high or treble tones. Often times, only part of the hearing range is damaged. For people who have high frequency hearing loss, it is not uncommon to have normal hearing for the bass or low pitch tones, but to have lost the ability to hear the high pitches. If you picture a radio that has all of the treble tuned out of it, this is what it can be like with high frequency hearing loss. You will still hear, but often times people complain of a lack of clarity.

How can high frequency hearing loss affect me?

Clarity in our hearing comes from the ability to hear high frequency sounds. We have many valuable speech sounds in the high frequency region that are important for distinguishing words. These include the “s” “f” “t” “th” sounds to name a few. Somebody who has high frequency hearing loss may hear the word “wife” and “white” the same, and this often leads to a misunderstanding. We will hear patients with high frequency hearing loss say, “I can hear the voice, I just don’t understand what they’re saying.”

Missing out on these valuable speech cues and having misunderstanding can be very frustrating. This frustration can lead to the listener giving up, or possibly isolating themselves because they don’t want to put in the extra effort to communicate.

Hearing aids can help with high frequency hearing loss

Hearing aid technology allows for the important speech information to be amplified to a point that the individual ear can use the information again. It is important that individuals don’t go too long without hearing the high frequencies because the longer the brain goes w/out hearing certain tones, the harder it is to introduce them back at a later time. Remember, the brain is a muscle, and you have to keep it exercised to keep it strong.

Take home

The first step in identifying whether or not hearing loss exists, is to visit an audiologist for a hearing test. If you think you may have hearing loss come meet with one of our Doctors of Audiology. Together we work with our medical doctors to come up with the best treatment options for your needs. Call us at 651-888-7800 to schedule an appointment.

In the meantime, here is some information about why our hearing is so important. 

What is Eustachian Tube Dysfunction and How is it Treated?

Now that winter is officially upon us, many people are experiencing some symptoms associated with colds and sinuses. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and affect all sort of areas in our bodies as well as in our daily lives. One of the most common symptoms associated with this time of year is eustachian tube dysfunction.

What is eustachian tube dysfunction?

We have 3 main parts of our ears: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. All 3 of these parts need to be working properly for us to hear effectively. As our allergies act up, out middle ear is particularly susceptible to issues, particularly due to dysfunction of our eustachian tubes. The most common cause of eustachian tube dysfunction is excessive mucus and inflammation of the tube caused by a cold, the flu, a sinus infection or allergies.

The eustachian tube is a small passageway that connects the upper part of your throat (pharynx) to your middle ears. The purpose of our eustachian tubes is to equalize pressure the pressure in our middle ear. Sneezing, swallowing, or yawning will usually force open the eustachian tubes to allow air to flow in and out. But sometimes one or both of our eustachian tubes is plugged and the eustachian tubes cannot open. This is called eustachian tube dysfunction or ETD for short. When this happens, sounds can become muffled and your ear may feel full. You may also experience ear pain or other symptoms.

What are the symptoms of eustachian tube dysfunction?

Some common complaints of those with eustachian tube dysfunction are:

  • – Plugged or full sensation of your ears
  • – Muffled hearing
  • – Popping, clicking, or fluttering sensation in your ears
  • – Pain in your ears
  • – Ringing, or tinnitus, in your ears
  • – Mild dizziness or off-balance feeling

Some people will experience only a few of these symptoms and other may experience all of them. Activities such as flying or riding in an elevator can further affect the pressure in the middle ear.

How is eustachian tube dysfunction diagnosed?

An otolaryngologist (ENT) doctor can diagnose eustachian tube dysfunction. Your ENT doctor will be able to diagnose ETD by talking to you about your symptoms and by examining you. Your doctor will examine your ear canals and eardrums, and your nasal passages and the back of your throat.

An audiologist may also want to see you if you are having symptoms associated with eustachian tube dysfunction. The audiologist will do a tympanogram test to determine if there is an abnormal amount of negative pressure in your middle ear space. They may also want to conduct a hearing test to determine if there is any hearing loss associated with the eustachian tube dysfunction.

What is the treatment for eustachian tube dysfunction?

Sometimes eustachian tube dysfunction clears up on its own without any treatment. If it does not clear up, there are a number of things your doctor may do to help alleviate the eustachian tube dysfunction, including:

  • – Eustachian tube exercises to help force the eustachian tube to open
  • – Prescribing a decongestant to help reduce swelling of the eustachian tube
  • – Prescribing an antihistamine or steroid nasal spray to reduce allergic responses
  • – Surgically implanting pressure equalizing (PE) tubes to help equalize the pressure
  • – Performing a myringotomy – making a tiny incision in the eardrum to help equalize the pressure

Take Home

If you are someone you know is experiencing symptoms associated with eustachian tube dysfunction call us at 651-888-7800 to schedule an appointment with our doctor.

Check out our post from last week for more information about when to see your audiologist or see our Andros ENT and Sleep Center website to get more information.

When is it Time to See Your Audiologist?

Audiologists are health care professionals that evaluate hearing and how the ear functions. Most audiologists have trained for 8 years and achieved a Doctorate degree making them specialists in evaluating hearing disorders. When is the right time to see an audiologist?

Hearing is a vital sense that connects us to our outside world. We use our ears and hearing for communication with each other, for safety in locating sounds around us, and the balance portion helps us orient ourselves in space. Recent research studies have found that the brain actually changes and ages faster when we are not hearing as well due to a lack of consistent stimulation to the brain. Since hearing is such an important part of our lives and well-being, it is important to seek medical advice if there are any changes to our hearing and balance systems.

Hearing Issues to See Your Audiologist About

Some clues that your hearing might not be as acute as it used to be:

  • – You find yourself asking “what” or “huh” more often
  • – Your ears are ringing or buzzing
  • – Background noise has become increasingly difficult, and you may even start avoiding them
  • – You feel as though you can still hear people’s voices, but just not understand the words they are saying as well
  • – Your ears have a sensation of fullness, or you feel as though you have pressure in your ears
  • – You have drainage coming from your ears
  • – You are more sensitive to loud sounds than you were before

Balance Issues to See Your Audiologist About

The ear is also responsible for helping us keep our balance and if this part of the ear experiences any disturbances, it can cause dizziness or balance related issues.

Some clues that your balance system might not be as acute as it used to be:

  • – You experience vertigo, or dizziness
  • – You feel as though you drift to one side when walking
  • – Dizziness occurs with positional changes like turning your head or looking up to the sky or rolling over in bed
  • – You experience a drunk-like feeling when not drunk

These are just a limited group of symptoms that can be related to changes in your ears, hearing, and balance system. Symptoms are even more alarming if they are isolated to one ear or one side. The above list would not be considered emergent items. If you experience a sudden change in hearing, you should seek medical help immediately as there is a critical window of 48 hours to seek treatment in these cases.

If you are experiencing any of the hearing or balance issues above, an audiologist is a great place to start to get more information. Audiologists are trained to make appropriate referrals if warranted. Most audiological testing is fast, covered by insurance, and easy to perform in a routine clinical environment. Call 651-888-7888 to arrange evaluation with one of our Doctors of Audiology today!

Photo by Dawid Sobolewski on Unsplash

Why Hearing is Important

Your hearing is important because it is what connects you with the world around you. It is one of our five precious senses. It is not something that is typically asked about by your family practice doctors but it is the sense that stimulates the brain the most. How important is hearing, really?

Birth-to-school age

We begin hearing in the womb and can recognize our mother’s voice before we are even born! Early on in life, our hearing allows us to start learning language. Unless sign language is used, our hearing is an integral part in language development. Babies and toddlers will imitate the sounds of the world around them before they develop language. Strong language development lays the groundwork for our educational years.

School-age

While in our school-aged years, our hearing becomes important for both social and educational reasons. People who are unable to hear their teachers may start to fall behind their peers. This may also impact and shape social connections. Our life experiences build through our educational years. Hearing loss can be isolating and have an impact on how social connections are built.

Adult

Once people are entering the workforce, hearing can have a major impact on employment opportunities and earning potential. A study published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology (2012) found that people with hearing loss are more likely to be either unemployed, or earn significantly lower incomes than their normal hearing peers.

Retirement

The more common impacts of hearing loss tend to show in our elderly and aging population. Hearing loss becomes increasingly common as age increases. Our bodies wear out with age, and hearing is no different. Keeping the brain stimulated and active is a key activity to prevent this wear and tear from impacting our brains. If hearing loss prevents people from engaging in their social lives, the brain can start to shrink from lack of use. This can also lead to isolation, depression, and overall lower quality-of-life. If hearing loss goes untreated long enough, it can even cause neurological changes.

Hearing is important at every stage of life. We can take steps to prevent noise-induced hearing loss by wearing hearing protection in hazardous levels of noise. Some hearing loss in unpreventable. This is why it is important to get routine hearing evaluations so that you can catch changes before they may problematic and bothersome. Call our office today at (651) 888-7888 to schedule your hearing evaluation!