October is Protect Your Hearing Month

October is Protect Your Hearing Month

While you may be seeing Halloween costumes in the drugstores and candy in supermarkets, October is also a month where we celebrate an important month. 

 

October is “Protect Your Hearing” Month, an annual campaign held by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to raise awareness around the importance of detecting and protecting yourself from noise.

 

Who does Hearing loss affect?

Commonly associated with the elderly, hearing loss can affect anyone of any age. Age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is caused by changes to the ears as we age and is the most common type of hearing loss. It affects 1 in 3 people over 65 and half of those over 75. However, hearing loss has been found to affect 10% of millennials and 17% of Generation Z. Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is considered a Millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward is part of generation Z. What are the biggest causes of hearing loss in these younger generations, and what does it mean for the future of hearing health?

 

Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

When sound reaches a certain threshold, it becomes loud enough to damage our hearing. It causes the inside of our ear to vibrate violently enough to cause damage to tiny cells responsible for sending sound from our ears to our brain. This can start slowly, so many of us are not aware we even have hearing issues, but slowly they can affect our relationships, our performance at work and even cause us to score lower on cognitive tests. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 40 million people ages 20 to 69 have hearing damage from everyday noise, which means it’s a big enough problem for a younger generation that must be addressed.

 

What are the Sources of NIHL?

The sources of NIHL could come from many unexpected places. The level of sound is measured in decibels and any decibel level over 85dB can start to damage sound. For many, NIHL occurs in the workplace. Worldwide, occupational noise exposure is responsible for 16% of cases of disabling hearing loss in adults. It is not just the level of exposure, but the length. When we are exposed to 85dB for 8 hours or more, hearing damage starts to occur. Over years, this can turn into a significant hearing loss which can not be reversed. However, the CDC reports that “The decibel scale is logarithmic, which means that loudness is not directly proportional to sound intensity. The intensity of a sound grows quickly. This means that a sound at 20 dB is 10 times more intense than a sound at 10dB.”

Where are Younger Generations Being Exposed?

Of those exposed to NIHL, only half report working in noisy jobs. This means that much of the damage to the ears of a younger generation occurs at home and during recreation. Many believe younger adults are sustaining damage to hearing from attending concerts and shows and participating in dances where music and sounds are loud. Sporting events are also suspected to contribute to NIHL.

Personal Listening Devices

Many suspect that millennials and Generation Z employees have hearing loss caused by using headphones. Personal listening devices can reach levels of 100 – 110 dB, which can cause damage quickly. 100dB can cause damage in about 15 minutes while at levels of 110dB, the same amount of damage can occur in just one minute! This is why it is important to stress safe listening habits with personal listening devices. Always turn the level of your player to no more than 60% of its potential volume and take listening breaks. This can give your ears a chance to rest and recover.

 

Protect Your Hearing

Practice safe listening habits now to protect your hearing for the future. Know the levels of sound you are exposed to daily. Using a free app on your smartphone will allow you to detect the level of sound in the places you frequent most. If the sound is too loud in your environment, wear hearing protection.  Earplugs and protective headphones can lower the level of sound by 15-33dB. Take listening breaks when you can and if a sound is too loud, step away. Hearing loss is permanent, so if you do suspect that you have a hearing loss, it’s important to have it diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Use this October as a call to action and schedule a hearing test with us today.

Addressing Early Hearing Loss Could Help Prevent Dementia

Addressing Early Hearing Loss Could Help Prevent Dementia

Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease which affects thinking, behavior, memory, and the ability to perform everyday activities. According to The World Health Organization (WHO) someone is diagnosed with dementia every 3-4 seconds! This equals 7-9 million new dementia diagnoses worldwide each year! These statistics are staggering but it is important to remember that while there is no cure for dementia it is not inevitable. 

There are several factors which increase your likelihood of dementia such as age (over 65) and genetics, but there are several modifiable factors. Some of these include prioritizing a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, exercising for at least 30 minutes daily and maintaining an active social life. A rich social life helps keep us engaged, connected, and keeps our mind fresh. This is where hearing loss starts to be an issue. Hearing loss makes it more difficult to listen, respond to conversation and affects relationships. Overtime, untreated hearing loss becomes a major risk factor, leading to hearing loss. 

Managing Hearing Loss to Prevent Dementia

A study led by Dr. Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins University sought to better understand the connection to untreated hearing loss and dementia. He led a study in which 639 adults were tracked over about 12 years. The study showed how dementia was much more present in patients who had untreated hearing loss. A mild case of hearing loss doubled the risk, while a moderate case tripled the risk. For those in the study with severe hearing loss, not treating hearing loss created a five-fold risk in the development of dementia.

The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s accounting for 60% -80% of all dementia cases each year. The Alzheimer’s Action Plan began in 2012, presenting five ambitious goals to both prevent future cases of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.  The co-author of the Alzheimer’s Action Plan, P. Murali Doraiswamy, M.D. explains “The benefits of correcting hearing loss on cognition are twice as large as the benefits from any cognitive-enhancing drugs now on the market. It should be the first thing we focus on.”

 Why Does Hearing Loss Contribute to Dementia?

Researchers are not in concurrence about the connection between the two connections, just that hearing loss when untreated increases the risk. There are some theories as to why this is an issue. 

Cognitive overload

When someone struggles with hearing loss parts of words or sentences start to be difficult to detect. While hearing loss starts in the ears, the ultimate effect is put on the brain. The brain must struggle to understand what is being said with limited information. Over time this constant strain takes away from other cognitive functions, causing fatigue and a greater likeliness to self-isolate.

Social isolation

When a person struggles to understand conversation, withdrawal from social activities commonly occurs. Social isolation, reduced physical activity, and depression have all been recognized as risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia.

Brain shrinkage

Another theory is that when living with untreated hearing loss over the years, the brain becomes under-stimulated as it is deprived of certain auditory stimulation. Some structures of brain cells can potentially shrink when they don’t get enough stimulation.

MRI indicates accelerated brain atrophy in adults with hearing loss in the areas of the brain associated with memory and speech and language function. 

Treating your Hearing Loss to Lower the Risk of Dementia

Many specialists believe that one of the greatest things you can do to prevent dementia is to detect and treat hearing loss early. The most common treatment for hearing loss are hearing aids, which amplify the specific sounds you struggle with so you don’t have to strain to hear. You can connect to others, stay active and keep your mind clear. 

A recent study from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) found that seniors with hearing loss, under the care of an audiologist, performed significantly better on cognitive function tests when wearing hearing aids in comparison to those who did not. This was true even when the person wearing hearing aids had more severe hearing loss than the ones who were not wearing them.

Treat Your Hearing Loss Now!

If you suspect that you have even a slight hearing loss, it is important to not put off dealing with it. A slight issue now could turn into very devastating cognitive issues later on. Schedule a hearing loss, not only for you, but do it for those who love and rely on you.

Communication Disorders are More Common in Kids than you think

Communication Disorders are More Common in Kids than you Think

If you are a parent, then you are most likely juggling a lot. From playdates to carpools to considering your child’s health, there are so many things to account for. We all want our children to succeed to their highest potential and that means paying attention to their interactions and making sure they have the best tools at their disposal. Did you know that over 10% of children have a communication disorder? These are the most common disabilities among kids. In fact, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that:

 

  • Of children between the ages of 3-17, nearly 1 in 12 has had a disorder related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing. 

 

  • Almost 11% of children among children ages 3-6 have a communication disorder 

We do the best to identify any potential issue our children may have, but these statistics show that communication disorders are much more common than we may first suspect.

 

Identifying a Communication Issue Early

It is estimated that 2% of all children born each year will have a communication issue connected to speech and or language delays. Communication issues can affect social, academic, and future career potential if not addressed. Many children will develop normal speech and language skills by the time they reach school, but many will not. The sooner you identify these language issues the better. Research shows that children know a great deal about their language even before the first word is said. You can evaluate your infants ( under 3 years old ) for communication disorders such as a delay in speech, language or hearing. If ignored or undetected a child can quickly fall behind, but early detection increases the chances for improving communication skills.

Common Communication Disorders 

There are several broad disorders that may present on a scale, mildly to profound. Common disorders with speech, voice, and language comprehension include: 

  • Phonological Disorder: This pertains to children with speech issues. Kids affected by this disorder struggle to develop the level of speech appropriate for their age. Issues arise articulating words, producing complex sentences, and in the substitution of words.
  • Expressive Language Disorder: Struggles with verbal communication. This occurs when a child struggles to recall words, use the proper tense and has a limited vocabulary.

Hearing Loss and Communication Issues

One of the most common causes of communication disorders among children is hearing loss. Though hearing loss is commonly associated with old age, nearly 15% of children have some degree of hearing loss in one or both ears. This can be present at birth or develop due to an infection, exposure to loud noise or genetics. When a child suffers from hearing impairment it can be identified if you notice your child struggling to communicate. A hearing loss can cause sounds to be perceived as muffled or slurred. It can be more severe in around noise as your child struggles to separate words in sentences and makes it difficult for them to follow conversation.

Other Causes of Communication Disorders

Hearing loss is a common cause of communication disorders. Other common issues include:

  • Autism
  • Brain injury 
  • Nervous system disorder  
  • Attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder 
  • Developmental or neurological disorder

Diagnosing Hearing Loss in Children

If your child 1-5 does not react to loud sounds, has trouble with the localization of sound, or does not react to voices, even when being held, this could be a sign of hearing loss. As your child reaches school age, there are other signs to be aware of:

  • If your child struggles to follow simple commands,
  • falls behind with speech and communication skills
  • Must look at you to hear
  • Struggles with localization 
  • Experiences problems keeping up at school, grades slipping, or has behavioral issues

Treatment Options

There are several successful ways to treat communication disorders including:

  • Behavioral Therapy: This therapy focusing on developing skills to manage disruptive behavior.
  • Speech Therapy: focuses on building communication skills including the development of g language, articulation, and fluency. 
  • Changes to Environment: a quieter environment can help a child with a communication disorder focus and secede.

If you do suspect that your child has a communication disorder it is a good idea to schedule a hearing test as soon as possible. We can test your child’s hearing and help you find the best treatment to help them communicate and get the very best from life. Schedule an appointment today.

A Healthy Diet May Stave Off Age-Related Hearing Loss

A Healthy Diet May Stave Off Age-Related Hearing Loss

The more we understand about nutrition and food, we understand that what we choose to put in our body makes a big impact on every aspect of our health. The foods we choose affect our heart, blood pressure, immune system, energy level and mood. Now researchers are beginning to understand how choosing certain foods can prioritize hearing health as well.

 

Understanding Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic medical condition in the United States, affecting approximately 48 million people. Worldwide this condition affects 466 million people and is expected to rise exponentially in the next 30 years to 700 million. Described as an invisible condition, it often causes misunderstandings many attributes to lack of interest or lack of presence in relationships at home and in the workplace. It also doesn’t usually become severe overnight except in extreme noise exposure instances. More commonly it creeps in slowly, so the individual often has no awareness about their condition until they struggle to hear even in the most ideal of situations.

 

Understanding How Diet Affects Hearing

The more we understand our health, the more we see how the entire body supports itself together. When one aspect of health suffers the entire body must compensate or suffer. We are what we eat. A study led by Dr. Sharon Curhan of the Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston conducted a study to identify an ideal diet to support hearing. Dr. Curhan’s team examined diverse dietary patterns to understand their effects on hearing health by tracking the diets of nearly 80,000 women over a 26 year span. She explains that those “whose diets scored highest for health and quality were up to 47 percent less likely to experience moderate or severe hearing loss than women with the lowest dietary scores.”

 

How a Health Diet Supports Hearing Health

Your hearing is supported by tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear which transmit sound information from the ears to the brain. When these become damaged hearing loss occurs, aggravating several health risks. One way to support your hearing health is to make sure your diet is full of nutrients that can protect the cells of your inner ear. These cells rely on a healthy supply of blood transmitted to the ear and foods that constrict blood vessels, clog arteries, and increase blood sugar levels can easily damage your hearing.

 

What Nutrients support Hearing Health

Dr. Joe McDermott published finding in the In the Daily Sentinel, discusses how nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and vitamins B12, C, D, and E, are essential to support healthy hearing. Omega-3 fatty acids have been identified as important for anti-inflammatory properties which strengthen blood vessels. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include fish, soy beans, spinach and flax seeds.

 

A diet rich in vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins such as poultry, fish, beans and nuts can improve heart health, blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and more. Avoiding any of these health complications can also protect your inner ear from interruptions in blood flow, which can cause permanent hearing loss.

 

Addressing a Hearing Loss

We stress annual hearing tests, especially after 65, to identify a hearing loss before it develops into the negative side effects of hearing loss. For those over 65, these risks often include an increased risk of depression, stress, anxiety, dementia, falls and hospitalizations. Hearing loss is a communication issue that affects relationships, and a sense of space. Untreated hearing loss can damage a person’s sense of self, independence, cognitive functioning and more. The sooner it can be treated the better. Schedule a hearing test now. If a hearing loss is detected make sure to treat it as soon as possible.

 

She says, “Although hearing loss is thought to be an unavoidable companion to aging, findings from our research have highlighted a number of dietary factors that can be modified and may reduce the risk of hearing loss.” Curhan’s study was built upon the foundation of previous studies that explored the benefits of vitamins and minerals on hearing health. 

 

In other words – yes, a healthy diet can in fact support better hearing health! In fact, one of the best ways to improve your hearing health is to take an annual hearing test. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Know Alzheimer’s Disease: Treat Hearing Loss in September during World Alzheimer’s Month

Know Alzheimer's Disease Treat Hearing Loss in September during World Alzheimer's Month(5) (2)

If you know someone who has suffered Alzheimer’s disease, then you already know how devastating this disease is not only for you, but for the caregivers and loved ones who surround them. Therefore, each September, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) celebrates World Alzheimer’s Month.  

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect over 50 million people across the globe with nearly 10 million new cases being reported each year. This September is a great time to ask questions about this common brain condition and what you can do to delay or prevent it from happening to you or your loved ones.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease was named and discovered by Alois Alzheimer in 1906, who first identified tissue damage in the brains of his patients with similar mental health issues. This tissue damage was later identified as the formation of amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles, which caused damage or destruction to brain tissue and stopped the important communication between brain cells. The result of this often starts as mild forgetfulness and over time escalates into the inability to complete everyday tasks. This is because dementia is considered a progressive disease.

How to Recognize Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease can occur at any age but is most identified in people 65 or older. It is estimated that every five years after 65, the risk of dementia doubles. At first, it is common to not notice. Everyone forgets their keys or an appointment every now and then. However, there are a few ways to recognize Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory Loss: Pay attention to your memory. While it is normal to forget an item at the grocery store, if you have dementia, these lapse in memory will become more and more frequent. It’s common to forget the day of the week or forget your medication. Eventually you may identify gaps in your recent memories, like forgetting who you met last week, or what happened yesterday.

Completing Task: You may have driven the same route for years, enjoyed a recipe, or enjoyed a craft or hobby. However, as Alzheimer’s becomes worse, you may forget how to complete the project in the middle of it.

Mood Swings: The issue is that it can be hard to self-identify Alzheimer’s. It creeps up and while others may notice, it’s easy for the person affected to not be aware of these cognitive lapses. Alzheimer’s disease can lead to some changes in your mood or cause you to become confused in social situations. Your loved ones may point out that your personality has shifted.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Anything you can do to improve the health of your brain can also minimize the risk of developing dementia. While age is a huge and unmodifiable factor in the likeliness of the development of dementia, it doesn’t mean that it is certain. Other factors such as an active lifestyle, a healthy heart conscious diet, avoiding stress and a healthy social life all help increase cognitive health and decrease the risk of cognitive decline

The Connection Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Loss

Like dementia, the risk of hearing loss increases as we reach 65. One in three people over 65 deal with hearing loss and half of those over 75. While you may not think that hearing loss is as serious as dementia, the truth is that they are very connected. This is because, while hearing happens in the ears, comprehension occurs in the brain. As we lose more and more sound delivered to the auditory cortex of our brain, it creates cognitive strain.

If you’re living with untreated hearing loss, a study for Johns Hopkins by Dr. Frank Lin found that the risk of dementia is significantly higher. The study found that people with a mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia for those with moderate hearing loss the risk was tripled and found to be a five-fold risk for those with a severe loss.

Get Your Hearing Tested

The fight against Alzheimer’s starts with you. This disease starts with individuals but the devastating effects ripple through communities of those who love them. Like dementia, we are not always aware we have a hearing issue, but that does not mean that it isn’t affecting our cognitive health. One thing you can do to fight Alzheimer’s Disease this September is to schedule a hearing test. The tests are painless, easy and can identify if you are struggling with a hearing loss once and for all.

How Hearing Loss May Affect Your Job

How Hearing Loss May Affect Your Job

Have you been having trouble hearing at work? Do you find you have to ask people to repeat themselves or even mishear and respond inappropriately sometimes? This can happen to anyone, but it may also signify a hearing loss. It’s important to understand that you are not alone. In the United States, hearing loss is the third-most common chronic physical condition. About 12% of the U.S. working population has hearing difficulty. About 24% of the hearing difficulty among U.S. workers is caused by hazardous noise exposure in the workplace. 

While there are protections in place in most work environments, millions of workers are still exposed to dangerously high levels of sound putting their hearing at risk for developing permanent hearing loss. This is serious because more than just the ears, hearing loss can potentially affect relationships at work, job performance and earning power.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

One of the most common forms of hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud sound. Sound is measured in decibels and a decibel level over 85bB can slowly cause damage to your hearing. As the level rises it can damage or even destroy tiny hair-like cells of your inner ear called stereocilia. Stereocilia collect sound from your ears and send it to your brain in the form of electrical impulses which it is then comprehended into speech and sounds are identified. It’s important to understand that it is not just the level of the decibel which puts stereocilia at risk but the length of exposure. For instance, during an average work shift of eight hours 85 decibels can cause some damage, especially if the exposure occurs five times a week for a decade or more. However, at 88dB, the same amount of damage can occur after just four hours.  

Protecting Your Hearing

This is why hearing protection is so important. Hearing protection has the potential to lower the decibel level by 15 to 33 decibels. However, for those who work around unexpected noise such as air traffic control, law enforcement or the military, it’s common to struggle with severe hearing damage as it’s hard to predict when an extreme exposure will occur.

Hearing Loss and Job Performance

While hearing loss is an ear issue it affects your ability to stay alert and communicate with the people around you. Co-workers and employees who are not aware of your condition may assume that you are distracted or uninterested by what they are saying, when it is actually a hearing issue. You may mishear directions or miss them all together, leading the others in your workplace to rely on you less. This quickly turns into a safety issue as delayed reaction times to warning signs can put you and co-workers at risk. 

Hearing Loss and Unemployment

If you are on the job market and have been having trouble finding work, it could be connected to your hearing. If you have a hearing loss, the chances of getting hired are lessened. Even though The American Disability Act protects people hearing loss from discrimination in the workplace, you must know and be open about the disability to receive the protection. Most people with hearing loss are not even aware they have an issue. A 2016 study called, The Socioeconomic Impact of Hearing Loss in US Adults, found that individuals with hearing loss had nearly two times higher odds of unemployment or underemployment.

Hearing Loss and Salary

Not only is it more difficult to find a job when living with untreated hearing loss but the salary is often notably lower. A study out of the Better Hearing Institute found that those with hearing loss had a notably disparity in earnings in comparison with peers with normal hearing. Even a mild hearing loss affected earning by an average $14,000 disparity in comparison to those with no hearing loss. If your hearing loss is severe, the study found the disparity on average comes to approximately $31,000 less per year than those without a hearing loss.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you are putting off dealing with your hearing loss, consider the impact on your earnings. The good news is that while hearing loss is permanent, the use of hearing aids can help you to avoid the impact on your job performance and earnings. In the long run it will cost you more by avoiding dealing with your hearing loss. Treat your hearing loss now and start by scheduling a hearing exam.

Tips for Better Hearing in Noise

Tips for Better Hearing in Noise

If you have hearing loss, it is likely that you could have first realized it while trying to communicate amongst noise. It may have been in a crowded restaurant, party, or even busy grocery store. Sometimes even the hum of loud appliances like the fridge or air conditioner can create so much racket that it is a challenge to hear. Isolating and prioritizing sounds in a crowded environment is a common challenge as hearing declines. Even if you have taken the leap to invest in hearing aids you may still have issues differentiating sounds amongst noise. While hearing aids can help significantly, there are certain strategies you can employ to make it easier to hear in a sea of competing noises. 

Challenges with Background Noise

When you suffer from hearing loss, complex sound environments can make it difficult to create hierarchies of important sounds. If someone is having a conversation while you are attempting to have a completely different conversation nearby, it is a common struggle to separate the two. Even if you find that you are able to hear, it may still be hard to comprehend what is being said.

Use Binaural Hearing Aids

No matter how advanced a hearing aid technology is, or how long the person has used their hearing device, it can still be difficult to hear. However, the use of two hearing aids can make a significant difference in making sure this is less of an issue. This is because we use both ears, known as binaural hearing, to decipher where sounds are coming from, how fast and how close. It is common for one ear to not hear as well as the other. This is often referred to as the “bad ear”. However, it is very rare that hearing loss is unilateral. Amplifying both ears, even if the loss is slight in one, can improve your brain’s ability to distinguish front and background noises and improve localization of sound. This can also help you stay more alert in listening environments and prevent accidents that can potentially occur. 

Style Matters

If you have been enjoying hearing aids for years this is wonderful news. Using hearing aids improves your ability to communicate amongst friends, family, and co-workers. It helps you stay independent, socially active and protects your brain from cognitive decline due to a lack of audio and social stimulation. However, hearing aid technology is rapidly changing and there are more and more features available to make hearing easier than before. This is particularly true of hearing amongst background noise, which has been a complaint of many hearing aid users for years. The latest technology in hearing aids has background suppression which prioritizes conversation in front of you, by pointing a microphone towards the speaker you are facing. This is called directional microphone systems (DPS): single or dual microphones, which capture and process sounds coming from the front of the device differently than those from the back. 

DPS also provides wind and background suppression to minimize ambient noise which could interfere with your hearing experience. This is achieved by preserving signals that can fluctuate, such as speech, in which the patterns of high and low frequency as well as loud and soft sounds can quickly shift. In addition, many hearing aids are now compatible with Bluetooth and Telecoil technology, which can send sound wirelessly to your hearing aids so you can hear media more clearly in a noisy auditorium or another crowded space. 

Training Yourself to Improve Your Listening

While hearing aids can make a world of difference, there are several ways that you can train your brain to hear sharper and clearer. This is especially essential for those who may have gone without hearing aids for years. There is a real need to train yourself how to hear again after potential decades of not hearing these sounds. There are several programs designed to help people hear sound amongst other competing noises. Some of these are complementary while others require a paid subscription or one time purchase. These programs employ games and memory strengthening activities to help people to prioritize sounds. The Listening and Communication Enhancement (LACE) program has been found to enhance ability to hear speech in noise significantly based on a 2011 study. 

Dealing with Your Hearing Loss

If you notice that you are having issues with hearing in noisy places, it’s time to have your hearing tested. Even if you are already using hearing aids, it may be worth your while to explore what options there are for you to hear even better. Schedule a hearing test today and find out what the world of hearing enhancements can do for you, to hear through all the noise.

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline

Hearing Loss & Cognitive Decline (1)

Hearing loss affects an estimated 48 million people in the US alone and has far reaching side effects past obvious issues with hearing. Ultimately, hearing loss is a communication issue making it more difficult to connect to the people in your life. It can affect your personal life as well as your career, reverberating into your sense of self-worth, self-esteem and sense of independence. In addition to emotional impacts of hearing loss, struggling to hear can cause exhaustion. While we hear with our ears, we listen with our brain. When we cannot receive ample audio signals to our brain, cognitive decline can occur.

The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

Numerous studies have found a strong connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Age related hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss, affecting one in three people over 65, and half of those over 75. While cognitive decline occurs as a natural part of aging, age related hearing loss, seems to escalate cognitive decline. Similarly, rates of cognitive decline, leading to dementia increase as you reach 65 years. The Alzheimer’s society reports that “Above the age of 65, a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia doubles roughly every 5 years. It is estimated that dementia affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80.”

What is Dementia?

Dementia is actually a grouping of many conditions related to the loss of cognitive functioning. This condition is estimated to affect half of all people over 85 years, while the most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease affects 62 million people in the US alone. Dementia affects thinking, remembering, reasoning and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it makes it hard to complete normal daily tasks and activities. Often people affected by dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may seem to change. Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells which interferes with the ability of brain cells to communicate with one another. However, several studies have found that untreated hearing loss, depending on the severity, can increase the risk of dementia significantly.

Hearing Loss Can Mimic Cognitive Decline 

Often people suspect that they are developing dementia when the symptoms of hearing loss can mimic this devastating brain disease. If you struggle to understand speech, or feel exhausted by regular conversation, you may be dealing with undiagnosed hearing loss. It’s important to check your hearing regularly to detect a hearing loss before it can develop further. Hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline which can increase the likelihood of dementia.

What Research on Dementia and Hearing Loss Reveals

A Johns Hopkins study led by Dr. Frank R. Lin  examined cognitive impairment scores in over 2000 seniors, over a six year period. The study found that patients with hearing loss had a much faster and significant decline.

Can Hearing Aids Reverse Cognitive Decline?

The answer to this is still up for debate, however, several studies suggest that there is a chance that they can. Hearing aids can amplify the sounds you struggle with, making it much easier to follow conversation in noisy and quiet environments. This can increase connections, self-esteem and slowly lift chronic depression. Hearing aids also will allow your brain to take a well-deserved break from constant straining. Some studies suggest that hearing aid can delay the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Seeking Treatment

If you find that you are struggling to hear the people in your life, this is a serious issue. The sooner you address even slight signs of hearing loss, the greater chance you can delay or prevent the development of cognitive decline and dementia. Dementia destroys lives, takes away memories from its victims and currently there is no cure for this disease. It’s important to take every precaution possible to prevent it from progressing. Prompt treatment can help you or your loved one stay connected to the activities and the people they love, avoiding social isolation and loneliness, commonly associated with hearing loss and dementia. Call today to set up an appointment for a hearing test. You have too much to lose to put this off another day! 

Tips for Communicating with Hearing Loss

Tips for Communicating with Hearing Loss

With nearly one in eight people affected by hearing loss in both ears in the US, it is likely that someone you know is struggling with the condition. This could be a co-worker, a friend, a relative, or even your significant other. When people live with hearing loss, it can be a challenge to follow even a simple conversation. 

Hearing loss is considered an invisible disability, meaning that it’s not always apparent when someone is struggling to hear. You may perceive that they seem disinterested or not paying attention instead. As a result, many important relationships become strained due to unclear communication. You may stop putting as much energy into the relationship and feel distant from this individual when in actuality, they need more intentional communication strategies. Here are just a few tips to make it easier to communicate with the people in your life, so you can continue to build your relationships into the future.

 

Gaining attention

When someone is living with hearing loss, it can be helpful for them to be prepared to listen. This gives the listener a chance to prepare to focus on what is about to be said. Try saying the person’s name before you start talking. If appropriate, it can be helpful to touch them on the shoulder and gain eye contact before you begin.

Visual cues

Many times, people with hearing loss rely on visual cues to compensate for what they can’t hear. It can be helpful to have a few views of your face and body so they can rely on lip reading, as well as body language. This gives added context and clue towards your tone and intent to what you are saying. Make sure you are well lit and that there is nothing obscuring the listener’s view, such as hands over the mouth. Maintaining eye contact will let you know if the person is following or not. If you sense that the listener has lost focus, you can reiterate or pause and gently check-in. In addition, it’s important to avoid speaking to people with hearing loss from another room. So much can get lost when you are not sure if the person is prepared to listen and doesn’t have the visual cues that many of us with normal hearing take for granted.

Minimize background noise

One of the earliest signs of hearing loss is trouble hearing in noisy situations. Multiple conversations or deciphering speech amongst background noise can make communicating with hearing loss a nightmare. When you can, choose to meet in locations where you can control the noise environment. Turn off background music and wait to run noisy appliances till later.  Avoid meeting in public spaces during peak hours to minimize noise. However, you can’t always account for the noise of any space. If a place is unexpectedly loud and you can’t relocate, try writing out words and relying on visual cues.

Speak naturally

Often, people think that talking to someone with hearing loss effectively means they have to yell, so they can hear. The issue is that yelling can actually distort the words and the shape of your mouth. Instead, try annunciating words and speak slowly. Make sure to pause at the end of sentences and concepts to make sure they have time to fully absorb it, before moving on.

Rephrase rather than repeat

Many times, a person will ask you to repeat themselves when they have hearing loss. You can try to repeat yourself, but often it is a certain consonant or tone which is causing the hearing issue. To avoid this, try to rephrase the statement instead of repeating it. This could avoid the tones which are causing the issue, as well as adding more context to the previous statement. Sometimes you can ask what word is causing the issue, so you can just emphasize just that word.

Communicate needs

For hearing impaired individuals, it is important to express what your needs are. The first step is being honest with yourself. If someone in your life seems to have a hearing loss and is not actively treating it, it can be helpful to gently mention to them that you’ve noticed. When the people in your life are open about hearing loss, they can tell you what they need to communicate clearly. The next step is to seek treatment. Encourage them to schedule a hearing test and get on the road to more clear communication.

How Untreated Hearing Loss Interferes with Your Relationships

How Untreated Hearing Loss Interferes with Your Relationships

Hearing loss is an issue that begins in the ears but affects much more. What can begin as simple misunderstandings and having to ask the people in your life to repeat themselves, can build up over time into resentment, loneliness, anxiety and estranged relationships. While hearing loss is often irreversible it is treatable with hearing aids. These amazing devices amplify the sounds you struggle to hear so you can participate in your relationships again. It takes people five to seven years on average, after they suspect they have a problem to address the issue. In addition, of those 70 and older who could benefit from hearing aids, only one in three people, or 30 percent have ever tried them. The dangers of ignoring or choosing not to treat your hearing loss can not only impact you, but the people you care about.

Communication is Key to a Healthy Relationship

Healthy relationships are built on communication. When hearing starts to decline it often becomes difficult to stay connected to people in your life. In the instance of your partner or significant other, you may have shared years and life experience together, but even so, healthy communication is still essential. Tension builds and miscommunications become standard. Often the significant other with more hearing ability will take on the responsibility of an interpreter for the other, which can cause unhealthy codependency and resentment on both sides. However, It’s not only important conversations and logistical issues that cause stress. It’s the casual banter and inside jokes which build intimacy and help both people in a relationship feel understood. As hearing loss minimizes these interactions, feelings of closeness fade.

Communication and Professional Relationships

In the workplace hearing loss can affect your relationships as well. It is all too common to seem distracted or disinterested during conversation when it is actually that you cannot hear. It’s tempting to pretend to understand but this can add to miscommunications and failures in the workplace. However, the effects of losing your hearing in the workplace extend beyond communicating with others. Ultimately our auditory system involves the brain. When sound doesn’t reach the brain, it is forced to work overtime. This can cause cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal. These emotional impacts of hearing loss can affect your value at work, causing a huge portion of the workforce who have hearing loss a significant decline in wages when compared to people with healthy hearing or those using hearing aids. 

How Hearing Aids Improve Relationships

Treating your hearing loss with hearing aids or cochlear implants allows you to hear what you may have been missing for years. The longer you have lived with undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss, the greater the potential for a strain on your most precious relationships. The good news is you can start to rebuild them when you invest in your hearing.

Improved Communication

Everyone’s hearing loss is just a little different. This is why it’s important to have your hearing tested. We can diagnose your particular type of hearing loss and find the best hearing aids to amplify the sounds you struggle with. With hearing aids, you will be able to follow conversations and begin to reconnect to old friends as well as build new relationships. This can ultimately cause a rise in your self-esteem and sense of independence. With hearing aids you’ll feel comfortable going out more, pursuing your interests and improving your quality of life.

Increased Earning Power

Not only do hearing aids improve your relationships, but they can actually increase earning power at work! A report from The Better Hearing Institute found that not treating hearing loss can lower annual earnings by as much as $30,000. However, the study found that hearing aids minimized this risk by more than 90 percent for those with mild hearing loss! For those with moderate-to-severe hearing loss, a loss of earnings was decreased by 77%. This is just one example of how important it is to be able to communicate as clearly as possible.

Don’t Put This Off!

Maybe you suspect you have hearing loss, but you are reluctant to find out. Hearing loss is often associated with old age, causing many to put off treatment. The irony of this is, that nothing can make you seem more out of touch than struggling to hear without hearing aids. If you have put off dealing with your hearing loss for years, it will take time to heal some of the damage that has been done. The sooner you get started, the better. The first step is simple. Call and book an appointment to have your hearing tested today!