Getting Used To A Hearing Aid

Getting Used to a Hearing Aid

Making the decision to improve your hearing is a big step towards improving your overall quality of life. It can take time to get used to hearing aids once you receive them. Every new hearing aid user experiences an adjustment period.  Getting used to a hearing aid takes time, practice, and patience.

The brain

Your brain is the main reason it takes time to get used to a hearing aid. Do you remember the first time you drove a car? It was hard work. In the first place, we had to learn the basics of how to run the car. After that, we learned how to operate the car in traffic. With time and practice, these motions are now automatic. This is because of muscle memory. The brain creates a memory for the movement, and they become automatic. Hearing is no different. The hearing part of our brain needs to practice and thus, build memories of sounds.

Flipping on the light

Getting a hearing aid is like flipping on bright lights after sitting in the dark for a while. At first, sound might seem too loud or bright. Give yourself time to get used to all of the new sounds. The amount of time it takes to get used to a hearing aid is different for everybody. On average, four to six weeks of consistent use will allow all the new sounds to become normal. For some people, time is all it takes.

Small doses or all at once

It is generally recommended that hearing aids are worn consistently, all day, every day. You take them out at night for sleeping, and can’t wear them in the shower. For some people, this is too much in the beginning. Generally, you should try to wear them as much as possible. If needed, you can start small, and work your way up to a full time wear schedule.

When you’ve been missing out, it can be hard to know what is normal. Ask others around you what they are hearing. It is a noisy world and your brain forgets about all the little sounds around you when you have hearing loss. It takes patience, but rest assured that your brain will get used to all that sound again.

Call your hearing aid professional if you are still having troubles getting used to your hearing aids. Hearing aids are adjustable. Levels that worked for one person may not be the right levels for you. Keeping a journal helps. Writing down your experiences can help guide the fine tuning process.

Best of luck as you go out there and start exploring our noisy world with your new hearing aids!

Hearing Aid Batteries- Tips and Tricks

How to get the most out of your hearing aid batteries

Photo by Hilary Halliwell from Pexels

 

One of the most important parts of your hearing aid is the battery! Did you know that some simple steps can help prolong the life of your hearing aid batteries?

Some background on hearing aid batteries:

Hearing aid batteries are zinc-air and come in 4 sizes (yellow10, brown312, orange13, or blue675). All zinc-air batteries will come with a sticker-like tab on the back. Therefore, you will need to remove the tab prior to using the battery. This tab prevents air from activating the zinc chemical until you need it. Hearing aid batteries are sensitive to extreme temperatures and moisture. If hearing aid batteries touch other metal or other batteries, this can cause them to short out.

How to get the most of your hearing aid batteries:

-Let battery sit un-tabbed one to five minutes prior to using. This allows the power to ramp up before use.

-Store batteries at room temperature in their original packaging.

-Do not store batteries in humid or moist environments.

-Open the battery door of your hearing aid when it is not in use to extend the life of the battery.

Some other tips that can help:

-Keeping track of your battery usage can help you spot changes to the cycle.

-Dispose of dead batteries immediately to avoid mix-ups. You can throw batteries in the trash or take them to a local recycling center.

-Keep spare batteries on you. Your hearing aid batteries are most likely to go out when you are going about your normal day.

Don’t forget that batteries are not safe to be ingested. Keep them out of reach of small children, vulnerable adults, and pets. If batteries are swallowed, see a doctor immediately and call the National Button Battery Hotline at (202) 625-3333.

 

Additionally, if these tips and tricks did not help improve the performance of your devices, please call to visit with our professionals today at (651) 888-7800.

 

How Does the Ear Work?

How does the ear work? Hearing is an essential sense that we rely on every day for communication and safety. Most people don’t realize how important this sense really is on our day-to-day life. For information on the importance of hearing, check out our previous blog. So, how do we hear? How does the ear really work?

In a normal auditory system, the ear is comprised of 3 distinct sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. They work together to funnel and capture sound and thus, feed it into our brains. As a result, our brains do all the hard work of understanding.

The Outer Ear

The outer ear is the portion that is visible to us and is typically what people will think of when they think of ears. The portion that captures and therefore funnels sound into the pinna. Sounds are airwaves and these are funneled into the ear canal by the pinna. Once the sound is trapped in the ear canal, everything is directed towards our tympanic membrane, or eardrum. The eardrum is a very thin membrane that vibrates like a drumhead due to sound hitting it.

The Middle Ear

The eardrum marks the start of the middle ear space. This portion of the ear is where we will find the ossicles, or 3 small bones suspended behind the ear drum. Although medical professionals will call these bones the malleus, incus, and stapes, you might know them as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The stapes, or stirrup, is the smallest bone in the body! The 3 bones work together to pass the vibration of sound from the eardrum (outer ear) to the cochlear (inner ear). It is important that the middle ear hold air and not fluid. The Eustachian tube works to keep the air pressure equalized so the eardrum can vibrate freely.

The Inner Ear

The stapes, or stirrup, connects to the final part of our ear, the cochlea. The cochlea is snail shaped and resides in the temporal bone of our skull. The cochlea contains fluid and has 2 parts. The snail shaped half deals with the sound waves and hearing, and the other half contains 3 semi-circular canals which we call the vestibular system. We use the 3 semi-circular canals to maintain our balance and sense of motion in space. If something interrupts the fluid in the semi-circular canals, the person will likely become dizzy.

To hear, we use the coiled portion of the cochlea. Once the sound enters the cochlea, it travels like a wave through the fluid inside the ear. The entire length of the cochlea contains outer and inner hair cells. These hair cells will dance and sway as a result of sound waves passing by. The bundles of hair cells have nerves attached that will therefore fire the signal into the brain.

The Bottom Line

The important thing to remember about our hearing is that we really hear with our brains. Our ears capture the sound wave and therefore converts it to a nerve impulse. Our brains need constant practice and should not go without sound for too long.

An audiologist can evaluate how all 3 sections of your ear are working, along with the brain. To schedule an evaluation, call (651) 888-7888.

Tinnitus: What is it? Why do I have it? And What to do about it?

People who experience tinnitus know that it can be very bothersome. Tinnitus (pronounced ten / ih / tus) is the perception or sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. These sounds are typically described as ringing, buzzing, roaring, chirping, or hissing.

The noises may vary in pitch from a low roaring sound to a high-pitched squeal. You can experience tinnitus in one ear, or both ears.

Tinnitus can significantly affect quality of life. Although it affects people differently, if you have tinnitus, you also may experience:

  • -Fatigue
  • -Stress
  • -Sleep problems
  • -Trouble concentrating
  • -Memory problems
  • -Depression, anxiety, and/or irritability

What causes tinnitus? Are there risk factors?

A number of health conditions can cause or worsen tinnitus. In many cases, an exact cause is never found.

A common cause of tinnitus is inner ear cell damage. Tiny, delicate hairs in your inner ear move in relation to the pressure of sound waves. This triggers ear cells to release an electrical signal through a nerve from your ear (auditory nerve) to your brain. Your brain interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken, they can “leak” random electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus.

Anyone can experience tinnitus, but these factors may increase your risk:

  • -Loud noise exposure. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can damage the tiny sensory hair cells in your ear that transmit sound to your brain. People who work in noisy environments — such as factory and construction workers, musicians, and soldiers — are particularly at risk.
  • -Age. As you age, the number of functioning nerve fibers in your ears declines, possibly causing hearing problems often associated with tinnitus.
  • -Gender. Men are more likely to experience tinnitus.
  • -Smoking. Smokers have a higher risk of developing tinnitus.
  • -Cardiovascular problems. Conditions that affect your blood flow, such as high blood pressure or narrowed arteries (atherosclerosis), can increase your risk of tinnitus.

 How is tinnitus diagnosed?

Because tinnitus is a perception, there is no way to truly test for tinnitus. Your doctor will diagnose tinnitus based on your symptoms, your medical history, and exam findings. A hearing test will likely be ordered to rule out any underlying conditions and to assess if any hearing loss is present. Your doctor may also may want you to have an x-ray, a CT scan, or MRI of your head.

How is tinnitus treated?

To treat your tinnitus, your doctor will first try to identify any underlying, treatable condition that may be associated with your symptoms. If tinnitus is due to a health condition, your doctor may be able to take steps that could reduce or eliminate the noise. Examples include:

  • -Earwax removal. Removing impacted earwax can decrease tinnitus symptoms.
  • -Treating a blood vessel condition. Underlying vascular conditions may require medication, surgery or another treatment to address the problem.
  • -Changing your medication. If a medication you’re taking appears to be the cause of tinnitus, your doctor may recommend stopping or reducing the drug, or switching to a different medication.

In some cases white noise may help suppress the sound so that it’s less bothersome. Your doctor may suggest using an electronic device to suppress the noise. Devices include:

  • -White noise machines. These devices, which produce simulated environmental sounds such as falling rain or ocean waves, are often an effective treatment for tinnitus. You may want to try a white noise machine with pillow speakers to help you sleep. Fans, humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air conditioners in the bedroom also may help cover the internal noise at night.
  • -Hearing aids. These can be especially helpful if you have hearing problems as well as tinnitus.
  • -Tinnitus retraining. A wearable device delivers individually programmed tonal music to mask the specific frequencies of the tinnitus you experience. Over time, this technique may accustom you to the tinnitus, thereby helping you not to focus on it. Counseling is often a component of tinnitus retraining.

There’s little evidence that alternative medicine treatments work for tinnitus. However, some alternative therapies that have been tried for tinnitus include acupuncture, hypnosis, ginkgo biloba, zinc supplements, and B vitamins.

Bottom Line:

If your tinnitus gets worse with stress, make sure to do things that decrease the stress in your life and help you to relax. Try to get enough sleep. Cut down on the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink, and stop smoking if you smoke. These things can make your tinnitus worse. Avoid listening to loud noises. If you cannot avoid loud noises, use silicone earplugs or earmuffs to protect your ears.

Helpful Resources:

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/home/ovc-20180349

American Tinnitus Association: https://www.ata.org

Check out our blag regarding Noise Induced Hearing Loss if you suspect you have hearing loss as well.

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.