Check Your Hearing This November for American Diabetes Month

November is American Diabetes Month. This national campaign focuses on raising awareness of diabetes and ways you can protect your health. Over 34 million people have diabetes, a life-long medical condition that impacts how the body produces energy from food. Research shows that people with diabetes, and also people who are prediabetic, experience a higher risk of also developing hearing loss. 

 

Studies show that people with diabetes can be twice as likely to experience hearing loss, a chronic condition that nearly 48 million people live with. If you have diabetes, it is incredibly important to be proactive about your hearing health. This month is a great time to schedule an appointment for a hearing test! 

 

Impact of Diabetes on Hearing 

Research has established a link between diabetes and hearing loss. Studies reveal that diabetes can impact the auditory system – the sensory system that includes the ears and brain which work together to absorb, process, and understand sound. 

 

One major study that highlights this correlation was conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Published in 2008, the study involved researchers analyzing data from a survey that provided information from over 11,000 participants (ages 20-69). This data included results from hearing tests and responses from a questionnaire about diabetes. Researchers found that among people with diabetes:

 

  • 54% had high-frequency hearing loss compared to 32% of people without diabetes.
  • 21% had mid-frequency hearing loss compared to 9% of people without diabetes. 

 

These findings underscore a significant correlation between both chronic conditions. In exploring how this correlation is possible, experts point to the impact of diabetes on blood vessels. 

 

Diabetes is a condition that can damage blood vessels throughout the body and researchers suggest that this could include the blood vessels in the inner ear. The inner ear houses thousands of hair cells that help convert incoming soundwaves into electrical signals that are then sent to the brain to be further processed and assigned meaning to. If blood vessels are damaged, the inner ear could experience challenges performing this function, leading to hearing loss. 

 

Know the Signs of Hearing Loss 

Being able to identify the signs of hearing loss can help you address any changes to your hearing health early. Early intervention can drastically help transform your hearing and help protect your health. Hearing loss reduces the capacity to hear and process sound, producing various symptoms that strain communication. Common symptoms include the following: 

 

  • Tinnitus: often referred to as ringing of the ears, is a buzzing or ringing-like noise that is heard in one or both ears when no noise is actually present in your environment.
  • Sounds are slurred, distorted, or muffled. 
  • Turning up the volume on electronic devices like the TV, phone, speaker, etc. 
  • Asking others to repeat themselves, speak louder, or slower. 
  • Difficulty identifying individual words and following a conversation. 
  • Missing words that someone said, experiencing miscommunication, or not hearing something correctly. 
  • Struggling to hear in environments with background noise or during conversations with multiple people. 
  • Lip reading to help with distinguishing words. 

 

Depending on the degree of hearing loss (mild to profound), these symptoms can be experienced consistently. This prevents people from participating fully in conversations which can produce stress, social withdrawal, and take a toll on relationships. If you recognize any of these signs, it is critical to have your hearing assessed and treated. 

 

Tips to Protect Hearing Health

There are numerous ways you can protect your hearing health. Practicing safety measures can reduce your risk of developing hearing loss. Tips include: 

  • Have a hearing test. One of the best ways to take care of your hearing health is to have your hearing assessed regularly. Hearing tests measure hearing capacity in both ears using a painless process. This identifies any hearing loss and allows a hearing healthcare specialist to recommend effective treatment options to meet hearing needs.  
  • Reduce exposure to loud noise. A common cause of hearing loss is one-time or consistent exposure to loud noise. Loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear which are critical for processing sound. A useful way to protect your hearing is to reduce your exposure to loud noise. You can do this in several ways including maintaining lower volume settings on electronic devices, avoiding environments that are noisier, and wearing hearing protection. 
  • Wear hearing protection. Protective wear for your ears includes headphones, earmuffs, earbuds, etc. which reduce the amount and impact of loud noise you absorb. 

 

American Diabetes Month is a great reminder to prioritize your health. Get started today by calling us to schedule an appointment for a hearing test!

Household Items That Could Damage Your Hearing

Household Items That Could Damage Your Hearing

Hearing loss comes in many forms, but there are two major forms that affect most people. The first is called presbycusis, which is the hearing loss incurred from the normal process of aging. The other common form of hearing loss is noise-induced hearing loss, which is an acquired condition due to years of exposure to dangerous decibels.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

As you know, the ears are exposed to sound from birth to death, and the simple addition of more years of sound exposure has an effect on the ability to hear. The tiny hair-like structures of the inner ear are designed to be sensitive to slight fluctuations in sound. However that sensitivity also makes them prone to damage. Those hairs that are used to detect high-frequency sound can become damaged with age and no longer pick up the vibrations that they pass along to the brain.

Some people work in loud places like factories where the sound of machines has a more profound damaging effect on hearing. However, noise damage can happen not only in the places we expect it, such as among musicians who spend time in loud venues and clubs, but as features of our everyday lives, as well. Let’s take a moment to consider some of the everyday sounds that can cross the threshold into damaging noise, particularly when they are heard for a long period of time.

Decibels & Noise Exposure

The crucial threshold of volume when it comes to damaging our hearing is 85 decibels. As you know, the volume or loudness of sound is measured in decibels, and some quieter sounds can only be measured in a few decibels. For instance, the sound of a watch ticking is only 20 decibels. As we climb higher, the length of time a person is exposed to a sound has to do with the amount of damage it can do. Up to 85 decibels, the use of most household items is no cause for concern. However, we have many common household items that can cause hearing loss, particularly when they are used for a sustained period of time.

Household Items and Machines That Could Harm Your Hearing

Take, for example, some cleaning and household appliances. A vacuum cleaner can be up to 85 decibels. This device is just fine to use for a short time, once a week for example. However, those who use vacuum cleaners as part of their jobs, such as hotel maintenance, should consider wearing hearing protection to limit the exposure to damaging noise.

Another common example is a lawn mower. Many lawn mowers can be rated at 90 decibels, meaning they should not be used for more than four hours at a time. However, some people whose jobs include landscaping or property management can be expected to use them for a full day. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has regulations against that type of work, but some employers can skirt their worker-protection laws.

If you or someone you know is engaged in an occupation with a high level of noise, particularly when it takes place for a long duration, you can begin by wearing your own hearing protection and proceed to contact authorities if you feel that your workplace is unsafe.

Some items are louder than these common household appliances, such as firearms, chainsaws, and heavy machinery. Each of these items should be treated on a case-by-case basis, but wearing noise-cancelling earmuffs is a wise course of action in any case.

One nearly invisible culprit that might surprise you is a pair of earbuds you might have laying around the house. These small devices are designed precisely to channel sound directly into your inner ear, and they are quite effective when you want to hear music or the sound of a video from your phone, computer, or media player. However, they should not be used at maximum volume, nor should they be worn for a long time. Earbuds can issue sounds well into the damaging range, so limit the time of use to a half hour at a time whenever possible.

Hearing Consultants

With an awareness of these household items that can cause hearing damage, you should be able to avoid the threat they pose. Careful protection and limited times of use are the two keys to preserving your hearing ability far into the future. At Hearing Consultants, we provide custom hearing protection and comprehensive hearing health care. Contact us to learn more.

How Exercise, Diet, Sleep, and Hearing Affect Brain Aging

How Exercise, Diet, Sleep, and Hearing Affect Brain Aging

Have you been wondering what factors affect your brain, and what can lead to early aging? Exercise, diet, sleep, and hearing all affect brain aging. If you look after your health today, you can look forward to a future with a healthy brain, but if you ignore the advice of your doctor, you could be facing some serious consequences as you age.

What Happens to the Brain as We Age?

According to Stephen M. Stahl, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, exercise, diet, sleep, and hearing are the 4 biggest factors that affect the brain as we age. “In normal aging, our brains slow down,” explains Stahl. “Intelligence remains stable, but we become less mentally flexible. We have longer processing time and declines in motor, sensory, and cognitive abilities.” In fact, in normal aging, the brain shrinks, and there is less white matter tissue in an older brain, as well as less myelin, the coating along neural pathways that speeds up synaptic activity in the brain.

Exercise and the Brain

It’s no secret that staying mobile is the key to staying young. Running around the park with your grandchildren will keep you young at heart, help you maintain a healthy weight, and keep your joints working smoothly. For those who are active as they age, the risk of dementia is lowered by 32%, meaning that your brain is a lot healthier! Even exercising for half an hour 3 or more times a week has great benefits for your overall health and wellbeing as well as your brain health. Recent studies show that exercising leads to improved attention and processing speed, as well as better memory recall and decision-making skills.

Diet and the Brain

They say you are what you eat, and this might hold more truth than you realize. Two diets that are great for the brain are the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the Mediterranean Diet (MediDiet). While you can follow any healthy diet, the reason these particular diets showed great brain health was due to the high recommended consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. Both diets also recommend a low intake of red meat or any processed meats. For adults following these diets, studies show improved cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline, and better brain health.

Sleep and the Brain

This one is a real no-brainer, and we all know how tired and unfocused we are if we haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Sleep disorders are increasingly common among seniors, and many adults struggle with insomnia or sleep apnea, both of which impact your ability to fall asleep and sleep deeply through the night. A lack of sleep has some extremely negative health outcomes, including stress, anxiety, and depression. You might also experience irritability, moodiness, and the inability to concentrate on tasks.

Hearing and the Brain

Finally, hearing has been closely linked to brain health. Hearing loss affects millions of Americans of all ages, and especially among seniors, living with untreated hearing loss is hurting your brain. Hearing loss is linked to rapid cognitive decline, and a higher risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Those with hearing loss aren’t able to communicate easily, often withdraw from conversations, and face social isolation. The brain doesn’t get enough exercise, and in a case of use it or lose it, hearing loss can lead to poor brain health. Hearing loss has also been linked to problems with memory, attention span, and the ability to focus on difficult tasks, whether at home or at the office.

Hearing Consultants

Do the right thing for your brain, and call us today at the Hearing Consultants. According to Stahl, treating hearing loss can lead to cognitive improvements, and when you get a quality pair of hearing aids, you’ll notice the difference not just in your hearing, but in your cognitive abilities. Your friends and family will be amazed at how well you can hold your own in battles of the wit, and you’ll wish you’d treated your hearing loss sooner. Once you’ve looked after your hearing health, take a close look at your exercise, diet, and sleep patterns, and learn new ways to preserve brain health.

 

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.

Everyday Noises That Can Damage Your Hearing

Everyday Noises That Can Damage Your Hearing

 

The world is a noisy place. Everyday sounds that we often are oblivious to can damage our hearing. From household appliances to background music at restaurants or shops, loud noises are all around us. On our commute to work, we may hear cars honking, buses screeching their brakes, or the thunderous sounds of the subway train. Going out on the weekend to a loud concert or club with friends may slowly rob you of your hearing ability.

According to audiologist Natalie Gibbs, exposure to noise is the second leading cause behind hearing loss. Depending on the volume and the time exposed to it, hearing loss could be temporary, but also permanent. Knowing and understanding the noises that could affect our hearing on a daily basis is a step in mitigating hearing loss.

How You May Be Affected by Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can be caused by a one-time intense burst of noise, like a gunshot or explosion. Exposure to these extremely loud sounds cause immediate damage to the fragile structures in the inner ear which may lead to permanent hearing loss. NIHL is more common though by being exposed to dangerous sound levels over time; being surrounded by the daily loud noises that we may not even notice.

According to the National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have noise induced hearing loss. It is important to remember that noise-induced hearing loss is something can impact anyone. What is appalling about this though, is that NIHL is quite preventable through the use of hearing protection.

How Loud is Too Loud? How Long is Too Long?

At what level is hearing damaged? Audiologist Natalie Gibbs says that 85 decibels (dB) is the terrible number. Decibels are used to measure the volume of sounds, which help us identify if sounds are within safe volumes or if they may damage our hearing. Once sounds reach 85dB or above, there is a potential that the noise could cause permanent damage to your hearing. The longer the exposure for sounds above this level, the more damage occurs.

You would be surprised what every day noises are listed at 85dB. Vacuum cleaners you use at home may reach this decibel level. Lawn mowers are rated around 90dB. Other everyday noises that fall into the 85-100dB range include: hair dryers, food processors, trucks or motorcycles, power tools, and yard and garden tools. Continuous exposure to these noises over 85 decibels could be damaging to our hearing ability.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, there are mandates for occupational noise exposure. With hearing protection, one can work under constant levels at 85dB for up to 8 hours. By 90dB, it is half, and at 94dB, it’s only one hour. Anything above 120dB could be enough to cause permanent hearing loss, even if only exposed once.

If you are exposed to these noises frequently, you could be at risk of permanent hearing loss. It is best to use hearing protection if you know you will be encountering any of these items.

How to Protect Yourself From Hearing Loss

First and foremost, think about the type of sounds you are exposed to in your everyday life. Are these sounds louder than 85dB? How frequent to you hear these noises at those levels? If you frequently hear sounds above this level on a daily basis, then you need to take the necessary steps to protecting your hearing.

The first steps you can take are being cognizant of the sounds your intake around you. Turning down the volume while listening to music or watching a movie helps. If you are on your way to work and encounter much noise pollution from the commute, be sure to wear hearing protection. If you’re attending a concert or sporting event, make sure to always bring earplugs. Try to avoid sitting near loud sounds if you’re out at a restaurant or cafe.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

If you feel that you may be experiencing noise-induced hearing loss, schedule an appointment to talk to us at Hearing Consultants about your hearing loss. On average, people take seven years to start their hearing loss treatment, time in which they could be learning about how to prevent further hearing loss.

Come visit us at Hearing Consultants for a hearing test. We’ll be able to determine your level of hearing loss, provide important tips to protect your hearing, and work with you in finding solutions and treatment that meet your specific needs!