Enjoying the Holidays with Hearing Loss

Enjoying the Holidays with Hearing Loss

Here we are, right in the midst of the holiday season! One highlight of this time of year is the opportunity to spend time with family and friends at big parties, small get-togethers, and even getting some quality time with our immediate families. The preparation for these events can’t be forgotten either. Although the tasks can feel endless at times, they are also fun aren’t they? Buying groceries and cooking for a big event can test our culinary skills indeed. Running errands around town can be chaotic with holiday traffic everywhere we turn, but the hustle and bustle also puts a buzz of excited energy in the air. Cleaning up the house for a gathering may seem mundane until you remember the connections with our loved ones that are maintained through these annual events. Those of us who have to travel across the country to meet up with our loved ones have a difficult task, as well, but the travel to see our loved ones has an underlying tone of anticipation.

Through all of these holiday activities, both attending gatherings and preparing for them, we can’t forget to include our loved ones with hearing loss in the process. A few simple tips can help us incorporate these family members into everything we do without overwhelming or stressing them out.

Preparing for the Holidays

Although you might worry that the process could be stressful or overwhelming, why not invite your family members with hearing loss along with you while you prepare for the holidays? They can join you for all of these preparatory tasks with just a few accommodations made. First of all, make sure that your family members with hearing loss are driving safely. If they do not have hearing aids, you might want to start a discussion about the dangers of driving with impaired hearing. For those who do have hearing aids, make sure to remind them how important it is to have assisted hearing on the road. While you go together shopping or running errands, be sure to stay within eyeshot as much as possible. If your loved one gets separated from the group, they may not be able to hear you calling their name. If noisy locations are a part of your preparation process, stand close by your loved one to communicate, looking them straight in the eye to assist communication.

Holiday Gatherings

When the time finally comes for a holiday party or gathering, it’s your time to really shine! Make sure that your loved one with hearing loss is able to do the same. A few simple tips will help make any gathering easier on your family member with hearing loss. First of all, it can help to speak more loudly, but take care with your tone. Raising your voice can often come with a feeling of annoyance or even anger. Be careful to keep your voice easy and gentle even when you raise the volume.

If you find your loved one in an awkward placement at a table or other arrangement, take the initiative to help them move to the middle of the group. Some subtle acts of translation can be helpful, as well. If you know that a person is speaking too quietly or is to far away to be understood, fill in the details for your loved one with hearing loss; context clues are very helpful. Don’t simply repeat the same thing over and over if your loved one cannot hear what you say. Instead, rephrase slightly, offering new context clues to help aid in the process of understanding. Reducing the background noise can be quite helpful, as well. Some music in the background is a surefire way to get any party in the festive mood, but make sure that it doesn’t simply make people raise their voices to compete for volume. If so, turn the background music down a few notches and watch as the group speaks more quietly.

These are just a few of the ways that you can consider the needs of your hearing-impaired family member at the gathering, but the most important thing is to make sure they feel included and like an essential part of the group.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

If you believe you have a hearing loss, why not give yourself the gift of hearing this holiday? Hearing loss affects you – and your loved ones. Difficulties with speech recognition could make communication a struggle, especially during the busy holiday season. Contact us at Hearing Consultants to schedule an appointment for a hearing test today.

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month

Did you know that November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month? In 1983, President Ronald Reagan wanted to shed light on this devastating disease, which at the time affect 2 million people. That number has since grown to over 5 million people affected by Alzheimer’s disease.  Here at Hearing Consultants, our commitment to hearing health means that we want to bring awareness to the link between untreated hearing loss and a potential risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies on Hearing Loss and Cognitive Abilities

A striking connection has been discovered between hearing loss and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Frank Lin and his fellow researchers at Johns Hopkins University have discovered two important findings regarding this connection. In the first case, they have found that hearing loss and dementia are statistically linked, with those who have an untreated hearing loss more likely to experience diminished cognitive abilities, which opens up the risk for dementia. In another study, they also found a link between the rate of decline for those who have both dementia and hearing loss. In other words, those who had hearing loss along with dementia experienced a faster decline in their cognitive ability.

It is important to note that hearing loss affects two-thirds of people over the age of 65 and is a natural occurrence with aging. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is common and treatable. On the other hand, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (which makes up 60% to 80% of dementia cases) are not natural conditions when it comes to aging. Among the risk factors for dementia and Alzheimer’s, two stand out to us: untreated hearing loss and social isolation.

The Effects of Hearing Loss on Your Social Life

Take a moment to think back to the last time you were at a large social gathering for the holidays. Perhaps it was a public event such as a concert, play, or movie. You might be thinking of a family party where everyone converged at the end of the year to catch up and revisit memories from past holidays. You might even be thinking of the experience of shopping for gifts in a crowded locale, such as a shopping mall or city commercial district. Now ask yourself: how important was my hearing in that instance?

With few exceptions, you will agree that hearing is crucial to your ability to take part in a social gathering around the holidays. Even at small events, such as a gathering of immediate family members, the ability to have a conversation relies on the ability to hear what others are saying. Without that ability, the puzzle falls to pieces, and you are left feeling alone within the crowd. You might even recall holidays past when you were able to easily relate with your family members and closest friends. Without the ability to hear properly in a conversation, that connection can be lost.

One of the most common signs of untreated hearing loss is social isolation. As we know, hearing loss can be an isolating experience. Those who struggle to understand what others have to say may find themselves increasingly reticent to engage in social events, parties, and family gatherings. Even if they do attend, they may prefer to keep quiet and let others do the talking. Any attempt at communication may be met with frustration, anger, or embarrassment. Some will feel that they are not able to connect with even their closest loved ones. All of this can accumulate to the experience of social isolation. Either desiring to stay home during social events or avoiding communication while attending them, people with hearing loss may find themselves isolated from others.

This social isolation may hold a key to understanding the link with dementia. We know that communication is key to keeping the cognitive process freely flowing and open to new information.

Treating Hearing Loss

This holiday season, take the opportunity to give a priceless gift to your family by seeking hearing loss treatment. If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing abilities, it is important to contact us at Hearing Consultants. Just imagine how much more enjoyable these holiday gatherings can be when you feel connected to the sounds around you! Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

How Smoking & Drinking May Affect Hearing

Health professionals point out the risks of smoking and drinking to your health, and the results of numerous recent studies now indicate that drinking, smoking and even exposure to second hand smoke may affect your hearing. If you had plans to quit, read on to learn more!

Smokers at Risk for Hearing Loss

A study by the American Medical Association reveals that smokers are more likely to experience hearing loss than non-smokers. Furthermore, passive or second-hand smoke can also take a toll on your hearing abilities. Research from the US and Europe also confirm a link between drinking and hearing loss. Spending a lot of time at your favorite club drinking and just having a cigarette or two – or four – is going to catch up to you in a few ways – and this includes your hearing abilities.

Statistics on Smoking and Hearing Loss

Smokers are 70% more likely to experience hearing loss, and the studies that started showing this date back more than 10 years. The risk of hearing loss gets greater with the number of cigarettes smoked daily. Hearing loss also increases exponentially when the duration of the exposure is factored in. For instance, smokers who were in an environment for a significant amount of time, with their own smoke or smoke from other, are more likely to experience hearing loss. Another study compared nonsmokers to current smokers who had 10 cigarettes a day. The smokers were 40% more likely to suffer low frequency hearing loss. Smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day boosted the chance of hearing loss to 70%.

Seniors who smoked and/or continue to smoke are nearly one and a half times more likely to have hearing loss as compared to those in their age group who didn’t or don’t smoke. Nearly 30% of smokers in the age group of between 48 and 59 years old had hearing loss, revealed another study. The same number of non-smokers surveyed in that age group showed only 16% had hearing loss issues.

Hearing loss rises proportionately if there is also an exposure to noise factored into the equation. A study of employees in a manufacturing environment involving noise indicated those employees who also smoked were four times more likely to have some hearing loss. Individuals who worked at entertainment venues where they were exposed to music over 85 decibels for more than 20 hours a week and exposed to second hand smoke were also found to be more likely to experience hearing loss.

Second-Hand Smoke is Also Harmful

Giving up smoking but frequenting environments where you may be exposed to smoke – also known as second-hand or passive smoke – can also lead to hearing loss. Research shows that exposure leads to levels of hearing loss that may make conversational speech seem muffled. Second-hand smoke can also cause hearing loss in children because their auditory nerves are not fully developed.

Health Effects of Smoking

Nicotine and carbon monoxide, both toxins associated with smoking, constrict blood vessels including the delicate blood vessels located in the inner ear. Nicotine also affects neurotransmitters, the nerve transmitters that send a message from the brain to the ear for auditory function. Damage to the neurotransmitters causes a loss of comprehension creating what smokers describe as an inability to distinguish between sounds so conversations as well as television audio is muffled.

Hearing Loss and Alcohol

High alcohol use over a long period of time can damage the central auditory cortex of the brain and lead to brain shrinkage. So, although the ears may be functioning properly, the brain is no longer able to process the sounds correctly and this results in hearing loss. People who suffer from alcoholism may also have damage within their ears. High levels of alcohol in the bloodstream can create a toxic environment which can also damage the fragile hair cells in the cochlea. This is known as ototoxicity. Alcohol can cause hearing loss because of this or because of damage to the auditory cortex.

Schedule a Hearing Test

If you are a smoker or a former smoker, and you also consume alcohol, consider taking a hearing test to check on your hearing abilities. At Hearing Consultants, we offer comprehensive hearing tests. Hearing tests are non-invasive and will determine whether you currently experience a hearing loss. If you do, we can get you started on a treatment plan to correct it. Contact us today to learn more.