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All Posts in Category: Hearing Loss Information

How Important Is Hearing Health Care?

Before I began working in the hearing industry, I have to admit that hearing health care wasn’t really on my radar. Strange since I always went for physicals and yearly eye exams. I could also remember regularly having my hearing checked in school as a child, but it wasn’t something I thought about much. I didn’t notice ads for hearing aids or think about whether my music might be too loud. I didn’t wonder whether or not my family members were getting their annual hearing exams either. However, after meeting and interacting with patients and others in the hearing health field, my whole perspective has changed.

First, I’ve realized that early detection is paramount. I’ve seen the difference in levels of understanding between patients who caught and corrected their hearing loss early and those who may have been unaware or waited to take steps for five, ten, sometimes fifteen years. Our ears are simply devices that send signals to our brain. Over time, our brain can forget how to translate those signals if it’s not getting them regularly. If you have a hearing loss and you wait too long to do something about it, you may never get some of that understanding back.

Second, I’ve seen the way it effects communication—with strangers, with family, in business. Try reading only every third word of this article. Did you get much out of it that way? Can you imagine if that’s all you could hear when others were speaking to you? It becomes so incredibly frustrating for both the people with the hearing loss and their loved ones. Sometimes, those with hearing loss even begin to withdraw and become distant because communication is just too difficult.

Even after getting hearing aids, it’s still extremely important to have regular visits to your hearing specialist to insure your instruments are set to the appropriate prescription for you. We recently had a patient and his wife come in for a follow-up visit who were a perfect example of this. One of our Patient Care Coordinators noted the difficulty he had hearing her, his wife, and others in the waiting room. During his time with our Hearing Instrument Specialist, she made a significant adjustment to the settings on his hearing instruments. When he came back through the waiting room just twenty minutes later, the difference was remarkable. He was communicating easily with others in the waiting room. Our PCC commented to his wife on the immediate difference, and she said, “I know. He’s not yelling anymore!” Did you ever think that twenty minutes of your time could make that big of a difference in how you interact with others? I know I hadn’t before.

Finally, I now consider how hearing health could affect my family in the future. My dad was at my house one day, and my dog suddenly took off running to the kitchen. “Where’s she going?” he asked. I said, “Didn’t you hear that? The cat jumped through the cat door and the bell on his collar jingled.” My dad hadn’t heard it. That was a high frequency sound. If he has a mild high frequency loss now, what sounds might he miss later if it’s not corrected? Could he miss my baby boy’s soft toddler chatter in a few years? Could he miss him whispering “I love you” or telling his favorite story by heart? Will all of my family be able to participate and enjoy conversation at big Sunday dinners? Will we get to appreciate and fully enjoy all of the precious moments we have together? I don’t want my family to miss any of those moments. Nor do I want to miss them myself—now or in the future when I may have my own grandchildren’s sweet words to hear.

So, now I know the real importance of hearing health care. I will get my yearly hearing exams, and I will push and prod my family to do so as well if necessary. I will make sure we get to appreciate all the amazing sounds in our lives. Will you do the same?


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Why should I get a hearing exam?

What you don’t know can hurt you and your future. To understand why, let’s look at the process of human hearing. Sounds are mechanical vibrations carried through air and mass. Most sounds enter our ear canals and vibrate our eardrums. The eardrum transmits the vibrations through the middle ear over the three smallest bones in our body. These are the malleus, incus, and stapes. In school, you may have called them the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The three bones then vibrate the inner ear called the cochlea.

Anything that interrupts that flow of vibrations is called a conductive hearing loss. These interruptions can be as simple as wax blockage or fluid in the middle ear. They can also be caused by more serious health issues. Sometimes, we can treat and correct these problems medically.

When the vibrations arrive at the cochlea (a snail-shaped tube of small hairs in fluid), they are turned into electrical impulses and sent to the brain for translation and interpretation. If the cochlea is damaged from exposure to loud noises, genetics, illness, or other issues, it loses its ability to transmit the signal to the brain properly. This is called a sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss cannot be medically treated. However, it can be treated by compensating for the loss by replacing the signals that are diminished.

Here is the KEY to keeping your ability to hear, understand, and enjoy your relationships, entertainment, and life: You must keep the flow of sound coming to your brain at the correct levels.

From the description of the process of hearing, we see that there are two components that make up your ability to have normal hearing. First is the ability of the ear to receive and send the correct signals to your brain. Second is the ability of the brain to receive, translate, and interpret those signals in real time. If the flow of sound is diminished for any reason, then the brain becomes starved for those signals. Over a period of time, it may lose its ability to translate and interpret correctly. This means it may be unable to recognize the meaning of the sounds or unable to keep up with speech dialog. Delayed treatment of hearing loss can cause serious damage to the brain’s ability to function normally in understanding speech. The longer the delay, the greater the possibility of damage. That is the reason we recommend a hearing screening or exam.

Even if you don’t suspect having a hearing loss, getting a hearing exam baseline is important for other reasons. It becomes your legal medical record and establishes a history in the event that you were to suffer an accident or illness that may damage your hearing. If, following such an accident or illness, you found yourself in litigation, you would have proof that your condition was not pre-existing.

What you don’t know can hurt you, but you can avoid that pain with a simple exam! Get your baseline hearing exam, follow it with annual hearing screenings, and take control of your future ability to hear and understand.

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How do Hearing Instruments Help?

Eyes and ears are different, yet similar. In simple terms, the difference is what they interpret. The similarity is how they transmit and process the signals interpreted. Eyes are designed to receive visual signals that are shaped by light. The light signal is transmitted through the eyeball to the retina. There it is translated into an electrical signal and sent through the optic nerve to the brain stem and channeled to the brain. The brain is where the electrical signals are interpreted. We simply call this process “sight”.

The ear is different in that it receives (catches) sound waves. Sound waves are mechanical vibrations that enter the ear canal and vibrate the eardrum. The eardrum then transmits the vibrations through the middle ear by three tiny bones (the incus, malleus, and stapes) to the inner ear called the cochlea. The cochlea is vibrated, and about 50 thousand tiny hairs in a bed of fluid are stimulated generating electrical signals. These are transmitted through the acoustic nerve to the brain stem. From there, they are sent to the brain where the signals are interpreted.

The mediums for these two senses are images and sound, but the transmissions for both are changed to electrical energy that the brain interprets. The reason glasses or contacts work is that they change the signal the brain receives for clarity. The brain doesn’t care if it is your eyes or your eyes combined with glasses sending the signals. It just wants the correct signal. The same is true of your hearing. The brain doesn’t care if it is just your ears or your ears and a hearing instrument; it is looking for the necessary signal to bring clarity.

Another difference between your eyes and ears is the number of different environments they encounter. Your eyes deal with two main environments- light and dark. Your ears encounter thousands of different environments each day. Just sitting on your couch watching TV, your ears may pass through hundreds of changing sound environments without ever leaving the room. No matter the number of environments, if you give your eyes and ears the right signals, you get clarity. It’s really all about getting the correct signal to the brain.

What happens to many when they begin to have trouble with their vision or hearing is the degradation of the eyes or ears ability to send the correct signals to the brain. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but may go unnoticed because it occurs gradually rather than all at once. Unless you’ve suffered a sudden major hearing loss, your decreased abilities may become your assumed norm as the changes go on undetected.

To correct this, hearing instruments are programmed with your personal settings (Rx). This gives you back what you are missing just like glasses or contacts adjust the signals from your eyes to your individual needs. The biggest challenge for hearing instruments is noise and how it’s handled. That is why there are many different technologies available. The greater the amount of noise and the more environments you are in on a regular basis increase the technology required to help you.

The best hearing professionals follow the protocols of auditory rehabilitation. It should never be about buying something. It should be all about correcting your brain’s ability to understand speech. This should be done in steps so your brain can acclimate with each step toward what you need. This is similar to strengthening any other part of your body. If you haven’t exercised in a very long time, you can’t just immediately run 10 miles. You have to acclimate your body to running again by starting with shorter distances and gradually making increases. Additionally, verification of improvement and adjustments must be made regularly to reach the optimum goal for each patient. If your improvement plateaus, it may be possible to change technologies so you can continue reaching higher levels of speech understanding.

Hearing loss is a disability that for most can be successfully corrected and maintained for the rest of their lives. Delayed treatment can have adverse effects on your health physically and emotionally. Plus, some of your loss can become irreversible over time. Early detection and correction can save your ability to understand and enjoy life!

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How to Talk to a Loved One about Their Hearing Loss

Hearing loss, as well as other important health issues like blood pressure and glaucoma, often go unnoticed by the individual who suffers from them until they lead to major, potentially irreversible problems. Screening is critical to identify these health issues. At your doctor’s, you’ll have a blood pressure test. At your optometrist, you’ll have a glaucoma test with your eye exam. Similarly, you should be receiving a yearly hearing screening. Sadly, hearing loss, the pain and long-term damage it causes, and the links between hearing loss and dementia were not on many people’s radar until recently.

Previously, doctors and other healthcare professionals received little education in audiology. This often lead to a “just deal with it” attitude towards patients with hearing difficulties. Plus, hearing loss was associated with a negative stereotype of aging for many. Often, this lead to denial and resistance from someone suffering hearing loss when a loved one would attempt to address the problem.

Many sufferers would defend their stance with such phrases as “I can hear everything I want to”. Interestingly, they could be right in terms of the volume of sound. There are several different types of hearing loss, and some do not result in a sense of loss of volume. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t missing out on important sounds in their life. Many are not “hard of hearing”. They are “hard of understanding”—especially those suffering from noise exposure and damage. These issues led many to avoid seeking help. Meanwhile, families and friends suffered communication breakdowns and the trauma they produced. Everyone involved suffered some degree of pain or detachment.

So, how do you talk to a loved one about hearing loss? Everyone is different and circumstances surrounding each individual and family can and should influence choices. However, when applied, there are principles that can help your loved one accept and take steps to correct their hearing loss.

Principle 1:

When discussing potential hearing loss, use the term “find truth”. Finding truth is the goal. Buying something is not. This can be done simply with a baseline hearing screening. A baseline screening should be done annually to track any changes, and most hearing professionals will perform this screening free of charge. Plus, it only takes about 10 minutes or less. This allows your medical team to note any changes, keep track of your hearing health, and establish treatment options if necessary before exceptional damage is done.

There are many advantages to having your baseline hearing level established. Once determined, it becomes part of your medical records. If accident or illness were to befall you, you’d then have proof of your hearing levels prior to the event. Attorneys and insurance companies would no longer have the ability to claim that your loss was preexisting.

Principle 2:

Don’t try to trap. Everything that feels trapped will try to escape. If the person you’re trying to talk to is your spouse, significant other, or close friend, simply mention that you were reading about the importance of a baseline hearing screening for legal and medical reference. Suggest that you would like to go together to get hearing screenings and establish these records. The new healthcare laws actually include hearing screenings as one of the four screenings in the preventative healthcare mandate for which your doctor can be reimbursed. If you choose this option for your screening, the nurse does the screen panel, and you do not receive results or consultation, but these newly implemented procedures are just further proof of how important hearing has become in today’s medicine.

Principle 3:

Seek knowledge and share it without pressure or emotion. The amount of information available on the web today is amazing. Use the knowledge you’ve gained from personal research to share the importance of annual hearing screenings, establishing your baseline, and early diagnosis. These are all critical in keeping or improving your ability to understand for the rest of your life and improving quality of life for yourself and those you love.

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New Year, New Ears!

3 reasons why better hearing should be a top priority for you, your health, and your life this New Year and every year.

Reason 1: Family and Friends.

Of the 5 senses God gave us, only hearing and the changes that come with hearing loss affect everyone in our life as much or more than they affect us personally. When hearing loss is denied or ignored, it sets the stage for frustration, avoidance of things, people, and places that enrich our lives.  Simply stated, what appears as a little problem begins to rob us of quality of life and the joys we enjoyed, and it hurts those we care about.

Reason 2: Quality of life.

Helen Keller, the noted blind and deaf hero who overcame so much to become a beacon of light and hope to the world said that if she were given the choice between sight and hearing she would chose hearing. Why? Because “when you lose your vision, you lose contact with things; when you lose your hearing, you lose contact with people.” When you have hearing loss, many times the simple pleasures of entertainment and drama from TV and movies become impossible to follow and enjoy. Conversations in noisy places become difficult; people sound as if they mumble. It’s interaction with people that brings and keeps the warmth, care, and love in our lives, and when that is diminished so is your quality of life.

Reason 3: Your health.

Years ago when you had surgery, the doctors kept you in bed for weeks to heal. Now days immediately after surgery, they have you moving non-stop. Why?

Your body is not a compilation of parts, but a whole unit functioning together and controlled by a fantastic computer called the brain. A recent study by John Hopkins University found that those with untreated hearing loss were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s than those who didn’t. You can find and read the study here. While the exact links are yet to be defined and further studies underway, it appears that defective signals from the ears to the brain may cause confusion and instability. Years ago, our generation had a statement we used for food, computers, personal knowledge and many other things. “Garbage in, garbage out”. It appears that is still true today in more ways than we ever considered.

In summary, our three reasons to make Better Hearing a critical priority this year are:

    1. Family, friends, and yourself.

    2. Quality of life

    3.  Your Health

Contact us today to start the journey to recovery and retention of your hearing and all the benefits that come with it.

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Hearing Loss Linked to Dementia

Can getting a hearing aid help prevent memory loss?

Download a recent study about the connection between hearing loss and memory loss by filling out the form below!

To download the study

just fill out the form below and you'll be redirected to a page to download all the information you'll need.
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