Brain Exercises Could Help You Hear in Noise

Brain Exercises Could Help You Hear in Noise

If you have ever tried having a conversation in a noisy restaurant, or bar, it can be completely frustrating to have to yell over all the commotion. If you deal with hearing loss then this can add a whole new set of hurdles in listening. 

In fact, one of the first signs of hearing loss is often trouble hearing speech in noisy settings. Even with the use of hearing aids this can still be a challenge. It’s important to remember that while we hear with our ears, we actually listen with our brains. Even if our ears can’t hear like they used to, there are exercises we can practice to develop skills to understand speech amongst a world of noise. 

While these exercises can’t bring back our hearing, they certainly can sharpen our minds, in conjunction with the use of hearing aids to focus on the sounds we need to hear, in order to follow speech while sending noise pollution to the background of our minds.

Hearing Loss and the Brain

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing damage, permanently affecting the inner ear, which sends auditory information to the brain for processing. Many forms of hearing loss begin with the loss of just certain tones, consonants or pitches. 

As hearing loss progresses, this struggle can become more severe. This creates a chronic condition where the brain is forced to interpret sound with limited information.  Hearing aids are helpful for treating sensorineural hearing loss because they are programmed individually to amplify the specific sounds, which pose a problem, sending the signal to the inner ear where it can be sent to the brain. 

Hearing aids are proven to help improve people’s ability to hear, and they take time to get used to. It takes training to hear in noisy settings even with the added amplification. Often people have to learn to hear again with hearing aids, especially if the hearing loss was left untreated for years. With the use of simple exercises people can learn to hear conversation much more clear in noisy settings.

Train Your Brain

Similar to a muscle, the more you use your brain the sharper and quicker it becomes. Concentrated exercises are used to help focus the brain on the sounds you want to hear and send the other sounds to the background. These listening exercises can’t restore damaged hearing, but can help restore listening compression for hearing aid users, by restoring lost connections.

Strengthening Localization

One aspect that can be particularly challenging for people with hearing issues is distinguishing the direction in which sound is coming from in a noisy indoor or outdoor space. This is referred to as localization and when compromised, can develop into a safety and health issue. This is why people with hearing impairments are at a higher risk for falls, accidents and hospitalizations.  

One way to strengthen localization is to play a sound over a speaker in a room. Then play another sound from a different room in a house. Feel free to turn up the sound on both speakers, creating a noisy environment. Ask a family member or friend to read a book and pace around the house. Close your eyes and repeat the sentences they are reading to you. This type of exercise can give you the tools to improve your localization skills over time.

Practice Listening Skills

Many listening skills can be done at home. In the time of smartphones and personal computers there is no need to visit a speech pathologist to regain conversational skills. There are many apps you can download to help you practice listening and sharpen those auditory connections. One app is called AB CLIX helps you to practice distinguishing between words, in both quiet and noisy environments. The HAPPYNeuron app uses sound-focused games to help you remember, concentrate, and react to sound confidently.

Deal with Hearing Issues

Most importantly, don’t ignore your hearing issues. If you suspect you have even a slight hearing loss, make sure you set up an appointment for a hearing test. 

Hearing tests are quick, painless and can diagnose a hearing loss before it can develop serious communication issues. No matter your age, have your hearing checked annually and keep your brain sharp and on top of any possible hearing issues.

Improving Communication with Your Family

Improving Communication with Your Family

With hearing loss affecting approximately 48 million people in the US alone, there is a good chance that someone in your family may be dealing with some degree of hearing damage. This is especially true if someone in your family is 65 years or older. It is estimated that one in three people over the age of 65 and half of seniors over 75 deal with some degree of hearing loss. 

Even so, hearing loss can affect you or family members at any age due to exposure to loud noise, head trauma, certain medications and infections. While it is important to take steps to protect yours and your loved one’s hearing it is not always possible. Once hearing loss occurs it cannot be reversed only treated with hearing aids.

A Strain on Relationships

Communication is affected more and more as hearing loss becomes more severe. It can be difficult to communicate important information to family members with hearing loss but just as importantly, it becomes challenging to share casual comments and inside jokes that build intimacy. You may start to feel distant from family members with hearing loss and not understand why. 

Know the Signs

Hearing loss is a progressive health issue starting slow and growing worse over time. It is common for people with hearing loss to not be aware of the condition until it progresses to the point where it’s hard to hear even in the most ideal of listening environments. 

It is often family members that recognize a hearing loss first. The sooner this condition is diagnosed the sooner treatment can begin. Untreated hearing loss has not only been connected to strain on relationships but a lack of self confidence, higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, social isolation, and a greater risk for accidents that lead to hospitalization. 

Knowing the signs of hearing loss can allow you to diagnose yourself or a family member before relationships can start to suffer and related health conditions can progress. If you or a family member asks to repeat statements more often than not, complains about the volume of the TV or insists that others mumble, then it is a good idea to schedule a hearing test as soon as possible.

Treat Hearing Loss with Hearing Aids

The most important step for family communication is to wear your hearing aids at all hours from the time you wake up till the time you go to sleep. It is not just enough for your hearing aids when you go out in public. When your hearing aids are left unused, you are back to missing important casual conversation between family members that build intimacy and connection. 

Important Communication Strategies for Family Communication

Communication requires at least two people. If you are the speaker, it is important to get the listener’s attention first so they can be fully present to receive the information. This cannot be stressed more for family members with a hearing impairment. 

Make sure you maintain eye contact and that they have a full view of your face. This way they can rely on facial expression, body language and even lip reading to supplement for what they cannot hear. If you are the listener it is your job to let the speaker know that you understand what they are saying. When everyone in the family works together to ensure active communication hearing issues can cause less stress and strain in the family.

Clear Communication Strategies

Knowing and using communication strategies will relieve stress when speaking to people in the family with hearing loss. Make sure that the person with a hearing disability can see you before you start speaking. Avoid speaking to them from another room as this communication can be missed. Start by saying their name or lightly tapping them on the shoulder before you start speaking. Avoid yelling as this can actually distort the sound. Instead speak clearly and slowly enunciate each word. 

Make an Appointment for a Hearing Exam Today

If you suspect that you or someone in your family is dealing with even a slight amount of hearing loss make sure to set up a hearing exam as soon as possible. Hearing tests are quick and painless and can diagnose the extent of a hearing issue so the proper hearing aids can be recommended. The sooner you start wearing hearing aids, the sooner you can lower the stress level in your family, continue to build relationships and get back to enjoying life you love.

Earbud Use Could Harm Your Hearing

Earbud Use Could Harm Your Hearing

Personal listening devices offer a way for people to listen to music privately in a public setting. Earbuds are small headphones, which fit in the base of the ear canal, delivering sound like headphones. Earbuds are convenient and popular because they offer portability with decent sound quality. However, this convenient technology can damage your ears if you are not extremely careful. 

How Earbuds Damage the Ears

Many people understand the dangers of noise induced hearing damage. They know it is a safe practice to wear ear protection in a noisy work setting, when attending a loud concert, sporting event or while using power tools like a lawnmower, leaf blower or chainsaw. However many people don’t even suspect that earbuds are one of the greatest dangers to our hearing. This is especially true for a younger generation of listeners who may not be considering the dangers earbuds could cause their ears. Sound is measured in decibels and any decibel level over 85 dBA can damage the tiny hair cells, which send sound to the brain to be processed. The higher the decibel level and the longer the exposure, the more damage is incurred. This is why a low level of noise in a workplace setting can damage hearing over years. Power tools like a lawnmower or chainsaw can reach decibel levels of 100 dBA damaging hearing quickly. However, many people do not understand that earbuds can easily reach levels as high as 106 dBA, sending damaging sound into the ear canal. As the Internet provides endless streaming sound information, people listen for longer, permanently damaging hearing at a younger age.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise induced hearing loss affects more than just your ears. Hearing loss is a communication issue. For teens and younger adults hearing loss makes it difficult to participate in conversation. People with unaddressed hearing loss are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety and sleeplessness as they struggle to keep up with conversation. Many with hearing loss choice to self isolate, rather than struggle through conversation with hearing loss. Once earbuds or other noises damage hearing it cannot be repaired. Even so, this does not mean it cannot be treated.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you are struggling with noise induced hearing loss then you can benefit from hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify the specific sounds, which are lost due to noise exposure. Noise induced hearing loss affects everyone differently so it is important to make an appointment to have your hearing tested. You’re your audiologist understands what sounds you struggle with they can prioritize these pitches making it easier to hear and participate in conversation again

Using Earbuds the Correctly

While noise induced hearing loss is a far reaching problem, it is important to remember that it can be avoided in many cases. Feel free to enjoy listening to headphones and earbuds but be aware of the risks. Understanding and following safe listening practices can allow you to listen safely for years to come. 

First of all, though it may be tempting, avoid turning up the volume on your earbuds and headphones to levels past 60% of the available volume. Of course, due to varying compression levels on different media platforms, volume can vary, from song to song. Be sure to turn your headphones all the way down, whenever switching media platforms and raising the sound up slowly.  

Another thing to take into consideration is that the length of listening can also affect your hearing. Make sure to take a break every hour from your earbuds or headphones. This allows your ears to recover, avoiding damaging the tiny hairs or even destroying them. 

Another trick that can let you know if your earbuds are too loud requires you to ask a nearby person for feedback. If the person sitting next to you can hear your earbuds then they are at a dangerous listening level.

Listening Alternatives

With more education and awareness around the damage earbuds can cause, many people are turning to active noise canceling headphones to protect their hearing. This technology actively detects the noise around you and sends out an inverted sound wave, which actively cancels out the damaging noise. 

This amazing technology allows you to listen to your favorite media through headphones and earbuds without feeling tempted to turn up the sound to block out background noise. Consider exploring this technology and preventing damaging hearing loss for the future.

If you are concerned about your hearing abilities, contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test!