March 3 is World Hearing Day – Celebrate with a Hearing Test!

March 3 is World Hearing Day - Celebrate with a Hearing Test!

 

It may seem like March is a void of holidays. Some people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and others take caution on the Ides of March, but most people can’t find much reason to celebrate. Depending where you live, the month may have treacherous weather, and many feel like winter will never end. Although the month can feel like it is dragging on, the World Health Organization has introduced a new holiday into the mix of emotions that many of us experience each March: World Hearing Day.

March 3rd has been set aside to commemorate the need for hearing health, but many people do not understand all that can entail. Sure, most of us know that it is a good idea to wear earplugs in an extremely loud environment, but what else might be affecting our hearing health? The World Health Organization has done an excellent job providing materials regarding the need for hearing health practices, and the following are some of the highlights of the research they have promoted in honor of World Hearing Day.

Hearing Loss, Deafness, and Public Health

With 466 million people suffering from debilitating hearing loss around the world, the World Health Organization has estimated that the number may rise to 900 million by the year 2050. A devastating 34 million of those who currently have hearing loss are children, and people everywhere are seeking solutions to the experience of hearing loss and deafness. A full 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes, including diseases that could be eradicated with better health care and eliminating exposure to toxins that cause hearing loss. Birth complications are yet another cause of hearing loss, and improvements to obstetric and maternal health care could make a big difference in the number of children born with hearing loss or total deafness. With such staggering numbers, you may wonder what can be done to reduce or eliminate hearing loss.

Hearing Loss Prevention

Though it may go without saying that wearing ear plugs or noise cancelling ear muffs in very loud environments can prevent hearing loss, there is a lot more that you can do to reduce the risk. Exposure to chemicals and medications that cause hearing loss, also called ototoxic substances, are a serious risk, especially for the sensitive ears of growing children. Infections such as mumps, measles, rubella, meningitis, cytomegalovirus infections, and chronic otitis media are responsible for a large percentage of childhood hearing loss, and many of these conditions are preventable.

Adequate funding is necessary to make sure that children receive the vaccines they need and have access to clinics and treatment centers when these conditions arise. Those who incur hearing loss before or soon after birth can benefit from a number of policy changes that would affect maternal health practices. Cytomegalovirus infections in expectant mothers can cause hearing loss in the child, and these infections can be prevented through good hygiene. Proper screening for and treatment of syphilis and other infections in pregnant women can prevent hearing loss in children, as well. In general, maternal health programs can do wonders for early childhood health, including hearing health.

Getting a Hearing Test

One of the things you can do to take part in World Hearing Day, no matter where you are, is to get a hearing test. Even if you don’t think you have hearing loss, a hearing test will set the baseline for your personal hearing profile, and a hearing healthcare provider will be able to use that knowledge in the future to identify ways that your hearing has changed or been compromised.

In addition, you may have hearing loss that you don’t even know about, and hearing tests are the only way to get precise information about your ability to hear at different volumes and frequencies of sound.

With these many reasons to get a hearing test, why not schedule one today? World Hearing Day on March 3rd is a great opportunity to take care of your hearing health with a very simple, quick, and painless examination. You won’t regret the knowledge you receive from this test, and it may point you toward early solutions for your hearing health! Contact us at Hearing Consultants today to schedule a hearing test and consultation.

 

How Do We Hear Voices in a Crowd?

How Do We Hear Voices in a Crowd?

Anyone who has hearing aids will have experienced the many benefits they offer to our lives. Where once it might have been challenging to have a conversation, it is now possible and enjoyable. Relationships can be strengthened, and our metal wellness may improve, as well.  Depression, anxiety, and anger problems can all be associated to hearing loss, but those issues may evaporate or at least improve greatly with the use of hearing aids. Hearing aids improve our physical safety, as well. Hearing is a crucial sense to alert us to danger as we move through the world, and those with unassisted hearing loss even demonstrate a higher likelihood of serious falls. Furthermore, there is a surprising link between hearing loss and memory problems, even dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. As you can see, the benefits of hearing aids are remarkable.

Yet, one problem has remained unsolved for many who wear hearing aids: distinguishing voices in a crowd. Although hearing assistance innovations have made giant leaps toward eliminating the experience of hearing loss, they have yet to uncover the solution to sound differentiation within a noisy context. Many people who have worn hearing aids at a restaurant or party will recall the problem hearing the person standing directly in front of them. Although you can hear the voice rather well, it might tend to jumble with others in the room.

New Research Sheds Light on Differentiating Voices

Some groundbreaking research has shed some light on the process of differentiating voices in a crowd, and these findings might have implications for hearing assistive technology, as well. We have known for some time that the basilar membrane is a lining around the cochlea of the ear that makes hearing different tones possible. The cochlea are very fine spiraling features of the inner ear. They have tiny hairs that are sensitive to the pressure waves of sound, vibrating at different speeds when they fell that pressure. In addition to these tiny hairs, the basilar membrane is a thin lining of the cochlea that is sensitive to different frequencies, or pitches, of sound. As sound travels through the inner ear, it actually breaks like a wave over these ridges of the cochlea and basilar membrane.

However, the basilar membrane is not responsible for differentiating different sounds of the same pitch. Recent research out of MIT has found that the tectorial membrane is responsible for this function. The tectorial membrane is also a lining of the spiraling cochlea, but it is a gel-like substance not found elsewhere in the body with tiny pores that let sound waves come through. These pores need to be a specific size to accurately detect differences in sound, including different voices in a crowd. If the pores are too big, they cannot adequately differentiate sound. Yet, if they are too small, they are very sensitive to sonic differences. Although that might seem like a good thing, the brain then takes too long trying to differentiate one sound from another. That slow speed can mean that sound differentiation is impossible, as well. The perfect sized pores of the tectorial membrane are necessary to tell one voice from another in a crowd.

This discovery has remarkable possibilities for hearing aid technology and development. If it were possible to apply this type of finding to the hearing aids, then they might be able to better distinguish one voice from another in a crowd. Although the innovations have not yet taken place, there is a very promising field for research and development when it comes to the new knowledge about the pores of the tectorial membrane. Such tiny gel-like substances will be difficult to devise in a hearing aid, but researchers are optimistic that the technology may be able to resolve existing problems with hearing.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

With these and other innovations on the way, why not investigate the possibility of hearing aids for yourself? Although some people are reluctant to use hearing aids due to their limitations, those limitations are quickly disappearing. As they become more accurate and helpful, you can experience even greater benefits from hearing assistance.

If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, consider taking a hearing test. Visit us at Hearing Consultants for a comprehensive hearing test and consultation.

Symptoms of Memory Loss Could Actually Be Hearing Loss

Symptoms of Memory Loss Could Actually Be Hearing Loss

 

The connection between hearing loss and cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have been clearly established in the medical literature. Researchers have shown that those who have hearing loss are statistically more likely to have dementia and the decline of cognitive ability among those who have hearing loss tends to be quicker, as well. However, the nature of that connection remains unclear. Some suspect that the two simply occur at the same time of life, and many experience both conditions at once. Yet, the statistical results of these studies demonstrate a stronger link than mere coincidence. This link may have a causal dimension. It is possible that having hearing loss actually makes it more likely to have a cognitive dysfunction, such as dementia.

A New Study on Hearing Loss & Memory

A recent study in the Canadian Journal on Aging demonstrated the possibility of this link. Dr. Susan Vandermorris is a neuropsychologist at Baycrest, and she led the study of the connection between memory loss, an early sign of dementia, and hearing loss. The majority of participants who were evaluated for memory, thinking, brain, and cognitive concerns had some form of hearing loss, ranging from mild to severe. Out of this group who had hearing loss, only about 20 percent were using assistance, such as hearing aids. This anomaly led the researchers to think more deeply about the connection between memory loss, hearing loss, and how we measure each condition.

A quarter of the participants in this study did not show any signs of memory loss due to a brain disorder, yet something led them to seek treatment. That something is often a loved one or family member. Clients who came seeking treatment tended to be urged by a close relative who has complained that they don’t seem to be paying attention that they don’t seem to be listening to what they have to say, or that they don’t remember what was said to them in conversation. As you can see, these conditions may be closely related to hearing loss. When a person seems to be checked out, unable to pay attention, or unable to remember details of conversations, each of these experiences is equally likely to be due to hearing loss as it is to memory loss.

The connection between memory loss and hearing loss is a puzzle that remains to be solved. Those who suspect that hearing loss may cause dementia point to the link between spoken language and cognition. When a person has hearing loss, the sounds that encounter the ears are a jumble of randomness. Fragments of words might break through, and sounds can be like the pieces of puzzle. The time expected for a person to understand a conversation is like putting a timer on the game, requiring the listener to quickly throw together random sounds into something meaningful, even when speech is unintelligible. You can imagine how difficult this process might be, creating a heavy cognitive load on the person with hearing loss. The mind is under constant assault during these conversations, with too much being expected of it and too few audible resources.

Many neuropsychologists suspect that this cognitive load can spill over into other areas of thought, and this relationship may even be responsible for memory loss and dementia. That being the case, this study points to two components of the relationship between hearing loss and memory loss. In the first instance, a loved one may simply mistake hearing loss for memory loss. When a person cannot hear what is said, she or he will have no opportunity to remember it! In the other case, it is possible that hearing loss may actually be a risk factor for developing memory loss and more advanced dementia.

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

With these two components of the relationship between hearing loss and memory loss, it is more urgent than ever to seek assistance for hearing problems. At Hearing Consultants, we provide comprehensive hearing tests. If a hearing loss is detected, treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids can make an incredible difference in your ability to understand, think, and remember, especially when it comes to face-to-face conversations. The first step is the simplest. Call us at Hearing Consultantsto make an appointment for a hearing test and consultation to embark on the path toward healthy hearing once again.