Common causes of hearing loss

By Diane Krieger Spivak

Hearing loss is a common occurrence among most people as they age.

Beginning at around age 30 or 40, hearing starts to worsen.  By age 80 more than half of adults in the U.S. experience serious hearing loss, according to hear-it.org, which adds that more than half of all hearing-impaired people are still of working age. Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) usually occurs gradually and is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults.

Age-related hearing loss most often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally, says the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Because the loss is gradual you may not realize it.

Symptoms of hearing loss include problems hearing on the phone or when there is background noise, having trouble following a conversation with two or more people talking at the same time, straining to understand a conversation, feeling people are mumbling, misunderstanding what others are saying, often asking people to repeat themselves or turning up the TV volume too loud for others

Other common causes of hearing loss are working in a noisy environment or entertainment and sports venues such as rock concerts, night clubs or football games. The use of headphones and earbuds on mobile devices are also common causes, especially among younger people.

All of these expose people to excessive decibel (dB) levels, which can temporarily, or permanently, damage hearing.

Sensorineural hearing loss can result from high blood pressure or diabetes, and even measles, mumps or shingles can play a role, as can smoking and certain medications like some chemotherapy drugs.

Conductive hearing loss, typically caused by some obstructions in the ear, are commonly caused by infections, perforation, wax buildup and growths or tumors.

If you experience hearing loss, consult a hearing health professional.

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When it comes to hearing aids, try before you buy

By Diane Krieger Spivak

If you’ve just been told you need hearing aids, you may be confused by the different types of devices that are available.

Analog, digital, in-the-ear, behind-the-ear, and even more. There are different kinds of  hearing aids for different kinds of hearing loss. That’s why it’s important to be able to “test drive” a hearing aid before you make a financial commitment.

With the Flex:trial program demonstration hearing aids are programmed with the technology tailored to the patient’s specific hearing needs. The patient then takes them home to use during a free trial” period.

The try-before-you-buy approach to hearing aids is an important risk-free factor in getting those with hearing loss the help they need. According to data from hearing industry surveys  about half the patients visiting a hearing health professional for the first time end up not making a purchase because they don’t want to invest in hearing aids that may not be right or them, according to The Hearing Review.

The Flex:trial program offers five technology levels geared toward the patient’s specific hearing loss, that can be changed over and over. The hearing aid is programmed for the appropriate level and the patient is allowed to wear it for a specified period of time. The technology can be adjusted higher or lower during the trial period until the most comfortable hearing level is reached, giving the patient time to decide if he/ she wants to purchase the device.

There is also a Flex:upgrade program for patients who already have a hearing aid but want to upgrade their technology, based on changes in their hearing loss, their preference or lifestyle, says The Hearing Review. This program allows them to make their desired changes in their existing hearing aid without purchasing a new one.

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Focused on service

Our number one goal at Hearing Help Express is to help you hear as well as you possibly can.  You can count on us to get your hearing aids working as well as possible. We offer professional hearing aid service and repair for almost all makes and models.

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How your health and hearing go hand in hand

active-seniorsBy Diane Krieger Spivak

It’s easy to believe that hearing has nothing to do with overall health.

But hearing, or the lack thereof, has a tremendous effect on more than just your ability to hear what’s going on around you.

Hearing loss is a hidden disability that can cause psychological, emotional and even physical illness, according to Hearing Health. Because most people wait years to seek help for hearing impairment, often the damage to health is already done.

Hearing loss affects mental health. Social isolation is common because many seek to avoid embarrassing situations. Unfortunately, a lack of socialization often leads to depression. Impaired hearing also leads to anger, frustration and stress, all immunity killers.

Heart disease is linked to hearing loss, too. When the cardiovascular system doesn’t work properly, blood flow to the ears is compromised, affecting hearing, health experts have determined. Conversely, the stress caused by impaired hearing can increase the risk of heart disease. Studies additionally show a link to high blood pressure.

Hearing loss also causes cognitive decline, resulting in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, research shows. With the brain’s reduced ability to process sound, its cognitive areas take over for those weaker areas, leaving less to devote to higher level thinking, says Hearing Health.

Physical safety is also adversely affected by hearing loss. Walking, driving, riding a bicycle all become dangerous, not only for the person with impaired hearing, but for others, as well. Safety also extends to inability to hear a smoke alarm, television and radio weather warnings, or even a cry for help, adds Hearing Health.

Impaired hearing affects balance. A study at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine revealed that hearing loss, even a mild case, triples the risk of falling among the elderly, the leading cause of death for people over age 65.

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What is that ringing in my ears?

ears_ringing

By Diane Krieger Spivak

If you experience a constant ringing in your ears, you have company.

The noise you hear in your head is called tinnitus, and about 50 million people in the United States – 15 percent – have it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s a common neurological condition that causes you to hear a sound that has no external source. Typically the sound is referred to as buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing or clicking. It can be temporary or permanent, says the American Tinnitus Association.

The CDC reports that about 20 million people experience chronic tinnitus, and 2 million suffer debilitating effects.

Tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss resulting from a number of causes, including age, typically starting at age 60. This common form is usually in both ears. Noise-induced hearing loss is a result of exposure to loud noises from work, sporting events, concerts, recreational activities or the result of an accident, according to ATA. This type can be in one ear only.

Blockages in the ear, from ear wax, congestion, loose hair or dirt or foreign objects can also cause tinnitus. Removal of the blockage may or may not eliminate tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus can also result from injury to the head or neck or from temporomandibular (TMS) joint disorders of the jaw, and from sinus pressure from a cold, flu or sinus infection, or from certain prescription drugs.

Treatment for tinnitus varies. If due to an underlying cause, treating or eliminating the cause can sometimes cure the tinnitus. If the cause is untreatable or the tinnitus is permanent, treatment of tinnitus symptoms can include a tinnitus masker, worn like a hearing aid, that emits white noise to mask the tinnitus noise. Hearing aids often treat not only impaired hearing, but can also reduce tinnitus symptoms.

Consult your hearing health professional for answers to your tinnitus questions.

 

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Drugs that cause hearing loss

Certain medications can cause hearing loss.

Called ototoxins, there are more than 200 on the market today, available by prescription and over-the-counter, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Many are used to treat serious infections, cancer, and heart disease.

Ototoxins damage the sensory cells in the inner ear, which causes the hearing loss. In some cases the damage to hearing can be reversed when the medication is discontinued. In others, however, the hearing loss is permanent.

In some cases physicians have no alternative choices in prescribing ototoxins if they are the best available treatment for a serious disease or infection, says ASHA.

Symptoms of drug-induced hearing loss is typically a ringing in the ears, followed by a loss of hearing and loss of balance. The damage can be gradual so that you don’t notice it at first.

ASHA notes that the resulting hearing loss can affect quality of life, effectively cutting them off from activities they formerly participated in.

Medications causing permanent hearing damage include some aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as gentamicin and cancer chemotherapy drugs cisplatin and carboplatin, according to ASHA. Drugs that cause temporary damage include salicylate pain relievers like aspirin, used for pain relief and to treat heart conditions, quinine to treat malaria and loop diuretics for heart and kidney conditions.

Exposure to loud noise while taking some drugs can damage hearing even further.

While there is no way to prevent hearing loss from ototoxic medications, patients should consult their physician in order to monitor such drugs before and during treatment, and their effect on hearing so your doctor can stop or change the drug therapy, if possible, before your hearing is damaged, says ASHA.

If medication can’t be stopped or changed, consult a hearing health professional for ways to treat hearing loss.

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How We Hear

By Diane Krieger Spivak

Joy of Hearing

Hearing, one of the five senses, helps us to be aware of the world around us and to communicate with others.

According to the American Hearing Research Foundation we hear sound when a series of sound waves, or vibrations, pass through the ear and reach our brain for interpretation.

Babies’ hearing is fully developed at birth, and science shows that they can hear even in the womb. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the process of hearing involves the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear leading to the brain, enabling us to hear sounds ranging from extremely soft to extremely loud.

The outer ear includes the part that we see, on the outside of the head, as well as the ear canal and eardrum. Sound travels down the ear canal, striking the eardrum, causing it to vibrate.

The middle ear, behind the eardrum, contains the three smallest bones in the body, called ossicles. Formally called the malleus, incus, and stapes, they are commonly referred to by their shapes – the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. They are connected to the eardrum at one end and to an opening to the inner ear at the other end. When sound causes the eardrum to move, the ossicles also vibrate, causing the fluid in the snail-shaped inner ear, called the cochlea, to move, explains ASHA.

The inner ear is important in the transformation of the vibrations into electrical impulses, or signals, which are recognized by the brain. The movement of the fluid creates a back-and- forth motion of thousands of tiny hairs, called sensory receptors, lining the cochlea, says AHRF. The hair cells then send a signal along the auditory nerve, also called the hearing nerve, to the brain.

The brain then interprets these electrical signals as sound, says ASHA.

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