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! 

Why Do People Shy Away from Treating Hearing Loss?

Why Do People Shy Away from Treating Hearing Loss?

 

Do you have hearing loss? Are you avoiding talking about your hearing loss, or scared to admit to family and friends that you’re struggling to hear? Roughly 40 million Americans have hearing loss, but only around 1 in every 3 people who need hearing aids actually have them. This is because many people shy away from treating their hearing loss, and choose to ignore their hearing health.

Investing in Hearing Aids

One big reason people shy away from treating hearing loss is the cost of investing in hearing aids. Medicare doesn’t cover hearing aids, and when people weigh the pros and cons of treating their hearing loss, they’ll often choose their bank account over their hearing health, because the initial investment of purchasing hearing aids seems high.

While this might seem to save you money in the moment, untreated hearing loss is actually costing you thousands of dollars. Those who live with untreated hearing loss are more prone to trips, slips and falls. They have more accidents, and are hospitalized more often than their hearing peers. They also visit the doctor far more often, and have higher medical costs. Not only that, but they spend years of their lives missing out on the important sounds around them, damaging the relationships that matter the most, and struggling with social isolation or even depression.

Over the Counter Hearing Aids

When considering the cost of hearing aids, some Americans choose to purchase over the counter devices. Sadly, these devices become another reason people shy away from treating hearing loss. In theory, over the counter hearing aids seem great, providing hearing with a cheap price tag. Unfortunately, when you purchase over the counter hearing aids, you won’t have customized hearing, and the devices likely won’t fit your ears or your hearing needs. Over the counter hearing aids aren’t calibrated to match your unique hearing profile, and you won’t get the benefit of wearing devices. If the device itself fits poorly, you’ll also experience whistling, feedback, or even discomfort.

After a disappointing experience with over the counter devices, people shy away from treating hearing loss, or investing money in a quality hearing device from a hearing health specialist.

Facing the Stigma of Hearing Loss

Another reason people shy away from looking after their hearing health is the stigma that still surrounds hearing loss. Many people feel that talking about their hearing loss, or admitting that their hearing isn’t as sharp as it once was is like admitting that they’re getting old. It’s important to realize that hearing loss affects people of all ages, and has a number of causes. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect seniors, and isn’t about getting old. Treating hearing loss and being able to keep up with the kids lets you seem as young as you feel, and sleek, sophisticated devices will make you seem younger, not older.

The Price of Untreated Hearing Loss

If you think the cost of hearing devices is high, the price of living with untreated hearing loss is far higher. Not only will you be missing out on the sounds around you, but your physical, mental, and emotional health will suffer as well. Those with untreated hearing loss have higher rates of anxiety, social isolation, and depression, and when communication breaks down, relationships will suffer. Those with hearing loss also experience more rapid cognitive decline, have trouble focusing on tasks, and risk earlier onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Hearing Consultants

It’s time to face your hearing loss head on, and stop shying away from treating hearing loss. Many people wait between 5 and 7 years before treating their hearing loss! Don’t become part of that statistic, but do the right thing for your health and your bank account, and call us today at the Hearing Consultants to start your journey to clear hearing.

After a comprehensive hearing test to determine your unique hearing needs, we’ll work with you to find the perfect hearing devices that will give you back your ability to hear in every listening environment. They’ll be programmed to match your lifestyle, and you can focus at work, enjoy time with your friends, and invest in your loved ones. Don’t shy away from treating hearing loss, and visit our hearing health specialists at Hearing Consultants.

 

Treating Hearing Loss is an Important Part of Caring for Your Health as You Age

Treating Hearing Loss is an Important Part of Caring for Your Health as You Age

 

As you age your hearing will inevitably become more strained. Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Are you worried about your hearing loss worsening over time? Not sure if you’re experiencing hearing loss? Here are five types of exercises you can do to help boost your hearing abilities!

Solving Puzzles to Combat Hearing Loss

The brain plays major role in processing sound information our ear receives.  It’s important not to ignore it. Research shows that there are links between hearing loss and mental conditions such as anxiety and depression. This may be a result of brain atrophy, which occurs when brain cells and connections shrink. Like muscles, your brain needs a workout to stay in shape and continue pumping.

Solving a variety of puzzles such as crossword puzzles, word searches, and Sudoku throughout the week are fun exercises that get your brain working to prevent atrophy. Playing bingo with your friends, and card games such as hearts and poker, are more great ways to work out your brain and combat hearing loss.

Do Yoga to Improve Your Hearing

Yoga is widely practiced for its many health benefits. There are even yoga exercises that help with your hearing as well! The goal of these exercises is to increase circulation in your ears and your brain, since increased circulation helps improve nerve functions and forces out harmful toxins.

Yoga poses that help with circulation include the tree pose, lotus pose, cobra pose, and triangle pose. Yoga can also help with tinnitus and an overall sense of peace and calm.  There are many videos online if there are no yoga classes in your area, so take advantage of this great way to protect your hearing.

Exercise Daily to Maintain your Hearing

Keeping your body in shape is important for keeping your ears and brain healthy. Exercise every day by going out for a walk, taking a jog, or even just gardening.  You could even turn your housework into an exercise routine. Anything to get your blood pumping and circulation going strong is good for your hearing health.

Try not to exercise with headphones, earphones, or any source of loud music, because repeated exposure to loud noise can damage ear cells, which are irreplaceable. If you decide to exercise with music, keep the volume relatively quiet and comfortable. As a rule, if other people around you can ear the music playing in your headphones or earbuds, your music is too loud.

Meditate to Improve Your Hearing

Meditate in your backyard or a park, or anywhere you will be surrounded by gentle sounds. As you meditate, take deep breaths to help blood circulation and increase oxygen in your body. Focus on each sound around you and try to locate where each sound is coming from. This exercise will relax you, and also help you concentrate on deciphering sounds in noisy environments by determining the location of each sound.

Practice Focusing on and Locating Sounds to Sharpen your Hearing

Hearing exercises can help you hone in on where sounds are coming from and who or what is making the sounds. There are exercises you can do with a friend or loved one to improve your hearing health.  Place a Bluetooth speaker or radio in one area of the room, and play music at a comfortable volume. Place another sound source in a different area of the room, and turn up the volume until the combination of the two sounds creates a noisy environment.

Have someone move around the room while reading sentences from a book or newspaper. Close your eyes, repeat the sentence back to them, and try to locate where the person is standing in the room.

Hearing Consultants

It is normal for hearing to decline with age, but with some of these daily exercises you can practice harm reduction to slow this process.  These are only a few of the  exercises that can keep your hearing and brain in shape. If you’ve noticed any recent changes to your hearing health, visit us today at Hearing Consultants for a hearing test.

Understanding Sudden Hearing Loss

Understanding Sudden Hearing Loss

 

Although most people lose their hearing progressively as a natural part of the aging process, other adults have an entirely different experience. Imagine that one day you woke up with noticeable hearing loss. Some people have this experience in both ears, while others have sudden hearing loss in only one ear. Those who have sudden hearing loss in only one ear might not notice until they try to use that ear to use the phone. Still others might hear a sudden popping sound after which they notice that their hearing is seriously compromised. Some have a feeling of dullness, fullness, or ringing in the ear prior to sudden hearing loss, while others simply lose their hearing without warning.

These experiences of sudden hearing loss are varied, and the causes can be equally varied, as well. In order to better understand sudden hearing loss, let’s take a look at the range of possible causes, diagnosis and treatment, as well as the ways you can prevent sudden hearing loss from happening in the first place.

Causes of Sudden Hearing Loss

The causes of sudden hearing loss are as varied as the experiences mentioned above. The most obvious cause of sudden hearing loss is an injury that affects the ears. These injuries may be caused by an accident or other catastrophic event, but the injury can also happen in terms of exposure to injurious sound. Sound in itself is merely a pressure wave pressing itself against the particles of air, so a very loud blast, explosion, or car crash can create such air pressure that it damages the sensitive features of the inner ear.

Other major causes include infections, either viral or bacterial, and autoimmune diseases can cause sudden hearing loss, as well. Certain drugs have been found to cause sudden hearing loss, particularly those used to treat cancer or other severe infections. Neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, can cause sudden hearing loss, as can disorders of the inner ear, such as Ménière’s Disease.

One fascinating place for further research is the link between circulation and cardiovascular health and the possibility of sudden hearing loss. The organs of the middle and inner ear require adequate blood flow to do their work of hearing, and poor circulation can have an effect on the ability to properly hear. Stress may be a cause of this type of cardiovascular disorder, so stress may be indirectly linked to sudden hearing loss, as well.

The main preventative measures to sudden hearing loss are to wear hearing protection in risky situations and maintain good overall health through diet, exercise, and regular checkups with your primary care physician.

Diagnosis of Sudden Hearing Loss

Although there is a wide range of causes of sudden hearing loss, only about 10 percent of cases can be accurately diagnosed. Many cases of sudden hearing loss are mysterious in origin, and audiologists and hearing specialists are tasked with trying to devise a treatment plan. The first step is to observe the ear itself and make sure there is not an obstruction or visible problem in the outer or middle ear. Pure tone audiometry is the proper examination to discover if a person has suffered sudden hearing loss. If that is the case, the patient will have lost at least 30 decibels in three connected frequencies within a 72-hour period. Many report that other people’s voices have suddenly begun to sound like they are whispering. Those patients who have other symptoms may need other tests to determine the cause of sudden hearing loss and to come up with a treatment plan.

Treatment and Prevention of Sudden Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss treatment plans depend both on the cause and on the degree of severity. If the cause is unknown, the most common treatment plan is to administer corticosteroids. With the administration of these steroids, it is crucial to get going right away, ideally within two to four months of the beginning of the incident. If you feel that you have experienced sudden hearing loss, contact us at Hearing Consultants.

Depending on the severity of the condition, digital hearing aids may be a possible treatment plan, and more severe cases or total deafness may even require cochlear implants to assist the remaining hearing. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Why People Avoid Treating Hearing Loss – and Why You Should Schedule a Hearing Test!

Why People Avoid Treating Hearing Loss - and Why You Should Schedule a Hearing Test!

 

There are lots of reasons people give for avoiding a hearing test, but there are even more reasons why you should get a hearing test. So, stop putting it off and call Hearing Consultants today for a painless hearing evaluation that will make your life better!

Avoiding bad news

We get it. No one likes bad news and taking a hearing test seems to be inviting bad  news. But hearing loss can be treated and we’re here to get you through all those issues you think are part of the ‘bad’ news.

You are not alone

In the United States hearing loss is the third most prevalent medical issue, ranked behind arthritis and heart disease. A lot of adults wait up to five years after they think they are experiencing hearing loss to get it checked and corrected. Let’s face it, no one likes bad news. And avoiding a hearing test is like, well, not getting bad news. Are you using any of the following reasons for not getting a test?

You think it will take surgery to fix the problem. Not likely, only five to 10% of hearing loss cases need a surgical option to correct them. For the rest, one of the pretty awesome new hearing aid options will work just great!

I only have hearing loss in one ear. Actually, you probably have hearing loss in both ears, but one ear is better than the other, so you are favoring that ear. How disconcerting for someone you may be talking to if you keep shifting your heard to one side or re-adjusting for your “good” ear. Hearing aids can correct the issue in both ears and give you better comprehension of what is going on.

Hearing loss means I am old. Well, hearing loss can be a natural progression of aging, but hearing loss affects all age groups. Six million people between the ages of 18 and 44 have hearing loss and more than 1 million school-age children have hearing loss.

My family doctor would have told me if I need hearing aids. While hearing associations are getting more and more general physicians and internists to routinely recommend hearing tests – many still don’t. It is likely you seem to be hearing fine in the quiet doctor’s office. Perhaps you are turning up the television and radio more and more to hear it, but that’s not a question routinely asked by a family doctor.

Hearing loss is a normal part of aging and I will just get used to it. You didn’t say that when you got your glasses prescription changed, did you? So why wouldn’t you get your hearing corrected?

Hearing aids are ugly. Nonsense! We aren’t talking about you getting those big flesh colored pieces of plastic your grandparents had. Hearing aids now are tiny, discreet turbo-charged wonders that let you stream from your television, your phone or your laptop.

Why you should get a hearing test

Injuries from falls are one of the main reasons seniors find themselves in long-term care facilities. Loss of hearing affects your balance and makes you accident prone. It can impact your driving ability. Will you hear a siren? Will you get distracted trying to follow a conversation in your car and watch the roadway? Do you want to risk losing your independence and your driver’s license?

People with untreated hearing loss tend to start isolating themselves because they don’t want to deal with the challenges of following a conversation in a group setting. Or, they don’t want to be ridiculed for making an inappropriate comment because they misunderstood what was being said. This leads to depression and a decline in cognitive abilities because you are no longer exercising your brain in a lot of ways that keeps it sharp.

What are you waiting for?

There are hearing aid models that fit behind the ear, have tiny receivers that fit over the ear – and look cool and trendy considering they seem to be a phone accessory – and hearing aids that are invisible and fit entirely in the ear canal. There are special hearing aids to help you hear music better, that can adjust to wind noise, so you can enjoy the outdoors, and digital hearing aids just need to be recharged instead of you having to worry about batteries.  And, you can test drive the model you chose so you won’t be spending money on something you won’t use.

Get energized, get re-engaged and get a hearing exam today. Call Hearing Consultants and get start enjoying all your senses again.

 

The Pros & Cons of Different Hearing Aid Styles

The Hearing Consultants - The Pros and Cons of Different Hearing Aid Styles

 

Choosing the right hearing aid is a big decision. Part of making the right choice is knowing a bit about the different styles available and what they can offer you. Hearing aid styles are designed for a wide variety of hearing needs, so here’s a handy guide to the key features of the most common styles.

RIC: Receiver in Canal

Receiver in Canal means that a unit behind the ear houses a microphone and amplifier that deliver sound to an ear mold or ear bud receiver placed in the ear canal. RIC hearing aids are some of the most discreet and powerful hearing aids on the market with great sound quality and loads of options. They are appropriate for a wide range of hearing loss, and RIC bluetooth hearing aids offer digital sound streaming capabilities from smart phones and other devices.

ITC: In the Canal

In the Canal hearing aids are small custom-molded hearing devices that sit entirely in the ear canal. ITC hearing aids pack a lot of punch for their size and they are still capable of directional microphone pickup. Their small size and placement make them hardly noticeable and but they can also be harder to manipulate. ITC devices are also more inclined to feedback issues and may not be available for all levels of hearing loss.

CIC: Completely in Canal

Even less noticeable than ITC hearing aids, hearing aids with a Completely in Canal design are positioned entirely inside the ear canal. CIC hearing aids take advantage of the natural shape of the outer ear to direct sound, as their size and placement make embedded directional microphones not possible. CIC hearing aids are virtually unnoticeable but come with some of the same concerns as ITC hearing aids – they can be hard to maneuver for people with dexterity issues, may be prone to feedback and are not available for more severe degrees of hearing loss.

IIC: Invisible in Canal

The shrinking size of digital components has led to an even further advancement in hearing aid size – the Invisible in Canal style. IIC hearing aids are custom fit to sit deep in the ear canal. These tiny devices don’t have the feedback issues of ITC or CIC designs while offering a near-invisible profile. IIC design does have some of the same limitations as other compact hearing aids – the small size can make battery life and battery changing an issue.

BTE: Behind the Ear

Behind the Ear hearing aids are comprised of a small unit that rests on the ear and delivers sound via plastic tubing to a discrete ear mold placed in the ear canal. BTE hearing aids are the workhorses of hearing aid styles: while still compact, their larger size makes them sturdier and easier to handle than other designs. BTE hearing aids are a durable and versatile option that can be used to assist most degrees of hearing loss.

Mini BTE: Mini Behind the Ear

This adaptation of the BTE design uses an earbud to deliver sound to the ear canal rather than a fitted ear mold. Because the ear bud does not fill the ear canal, mini-BTE sound delivery feels more natural. Mini-BTE design is a compact version of the BTE hearing aid style, and they are similarly built to deliver reliable sound with easy-to-use features.

ITE: In the Ear

In the Ear hearing aids are built in a shell that is worn in the outer ear. ITE designs vary in shell molding but can easily accommodate features like volume and directional microphones. Because they are positioned in the outer ear, ITE hearing aids are often more noticeable than other styles. Unlike designs that sit further into the ear canal, ITE hearing aids are easy to manipulate and position.

The Hearing Consultants

Figuring out the right hearing aid for your lifestyle and needs takes some consideration. At The Hearing Consultants we put our years of experience and personalized care into helping you find your best hearing solution. We’re always happy to help you understand the features and advantages of the hearing aids you are considering, as well as providing you the best in programming and hearing aid repair.

Treating Sudden Hearing Loss

Treating Sudden Hearing Loss

The sudden loss of hearing in one or both ears can be frightening, but many patients make a full recovery. For patients who are left with a degree of hearing loss and tinnitus, treatments such as hearing aids and audiological rehabilitation can provide relief. Sudden Sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) is a medical emergency: it should always be taken seriously and assessed by a doctor immediately, for better chances of a full recovery of hearing.

Some facts about sudden hearing loss:

-Sudden hearing loss occurs when there is a loss greater than 30 decibels over three frequencies, which appears over a period of less than three days.

-Sudden hearing loss often appears without a warning sign and for no apparent reason. It typically develops in 24 hours or less.

-The hearing loss may be noticed first thing in the morning, and you may hear a “pop” in your ear before the loss occurs.

-SSNHL comes from the inner ear (cochlea) rather than the outer or middle ear.

-Most cases of SSNHL are viral, and most patients receive treatment with steroids. Patients with only mild degrees of hearing loss tend to recover.

-70 percent of SSNHL patients also experience tinnitus symptoms, and 50 percent also suffer from vertigo (dizziness).

-Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is usually unilateral (occurring in only one ear); only 2 percent of patients experience a sudden loss of hearing in both ears. It occurs in the left ear in 55 percent of cases.
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-Older adults have a higher chance of developing SSNHL. In 20 to 30-year olds, this condition affects 4.7 people out of 100,000; in 50 to 60-year olds, it affects 15.8 people out of 100,000.

-The incidence of SSNHL is the same in men and women.

Treating SSNHL

Before your sudden hearing loss can be treated, your doctor will first need to identify the cause of the loss. The evaluation will include a complete medical history, a physical exam, a hearing test, and laboratory and radiographic studies.

The good news is that, in 32 to 79 percent of cases of sudden hearing loss, patients recover spontaneously, typically within the first two weeks. In patients with severe hearing loss and patients who also have vertigo, the chances of full recovery are smaller. Treating SSNHL with steroids immediately greatly increases the chances of a full recovery. Studies also show that younger patients are more likely to make a full recovery from this type of hearing loss.

Despite the fact that sudden sensorineural hearing loss is a fairly common disease that has been researched heavily, this condition continues to be confounding for doctors and patients because the cause is still often unknown, and the prognosis is usually unclear.

Many patients with sudden hearing loss are initially misdiagnosed as having an ear infection or impacted earwax, which delays treatment. Prompt treatment has been proven successful in many cases, but some patients may not improve and may be left with permanent hearing loss.

Systemic steroid treatment is most common

In most cases, doctors prescribe steroids (cortisone) which are taken orally over the course of one to two weeks, as this is the most beneficial treatment for sudden hearing loss. Studies show that patients who begin this treatment within two to four weeks after the onset of the loss have the best chance of recovery. In some cases, an additional (“booster”) shot of steroids is injected directly into the ear. Injection allows higher doses of steroids to reach the inner ear fluids, but it does not lead to recovery of hearing in every case.

Sometimes, additional treatment is needed if doctors discover that the underlying cause of the hearing loss is a secondary medical issue.

Hearing aids and cochlear implants can help

In those patients who suffer a permanent hearing loss, options still exist. Being fitted with hearing aids or receiving a surgically implanted cochlear implant can assist greatly with amplification, hearing in background noise, understanding speech, locating the direction of sounds and reducing the burden of tinnitus.

At Hearing Consultants, our team will work with you to find the best treatment and get back to living the life you love.  Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test and consultation.