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!

Check Your Hearing This November for American Diabetes Month

Hearing loss is a widespread health problem that affects millions of people daily. Hearing loss can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, affecting roughly 30 million children and adults in the United States.

 

Hearing loss can be caused by various factors, including genetics and exposure to high sounds in the environment. Existing medical issues are another factor that can contribute to the development of hearing loss. Hearing loss has been linked to several chronic illnesses, including heart disease, hypertension, dementia, and diabetes.

 

Hearing loss is twice as common in those with diabetes, according to growing research and data. Let’s take a closer look at the links between the two conditions as we mark American Diabetes Month.

 

The Basics of Diabetes

 

Diabetes is a condition in which your body’s capacity to generate and use insulin is impaired. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and insulin is released when your body converts food into energy to help deliver that energy to your cells. Essentially, insulin acts as a “key” in the body, telling cells to open and receive the glucose through a chemical signal. Too much sugar remains in your blood if you generate little or no insulin or if you are insulin resistant, and this is where the problem begins.

 

The impact of diabetes on small blood arteries throughout the body is one of the most damaging consequences. A healthy blood flow is essential for each cell, tissue, muscle, neuron, and organ in our bodies to function effectively. The most vital ingredients for life are oxygen and glucose, carried via blood to all of our organs. Diabetes symptoms are caused by an excess of glucose in the blood.

 

The effects of high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels, leading to organ damage such as the heart, eyes, and hearing. Blood vessels are damaged and destroyed when blood glucose levels are high for long periods.

 

The exact mechanism of the harm is unknown, but its influence on people is well understood and very real.

 

Recent Studies

For a long time, the link between hearing loss and diabetes has been debated and explored. Multiple studies have looked at this link, all of which have come to the same conclusion: hearing loss and diabetes are linked. 

 

Consider the following two examples:

 

In a 2019 study, researchers gathered data from 139,909 women who completed questionnaires with and without type 2 diabetes. Participants were surveyed twice between 2009 and 2013 and reported moderate or severe hearing loss, and type 2 diabetes was found to increase the risk of moderate or severe hearing loss in women.

 

In another study published by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, researchers reviewed data from hearing exams conducted by the CDC from 1999 to 2004. Adults between the ages of 20 and 69 took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The hearing test assessed people’s ability to hear low, middle, and high-frequency noises in both ears. According to the study, adults with diabetes were twice as likely to experience hearing loss as adults without diabetes.

 

Diabetes’ Effect on Hearing

 

Even though extensive research shows a close link between these two health issues, it is still unclear how diabetes affects hearing.

 

According to researchers, the nerves and blood arteries in the inner ear may be damaged by high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes. The inner ear’s neurons, hair cells, and blood vessels play a crucial role in how humans process sound. They aid in converting soundwaves into electrical signals, which are ultimately transmitted to the brain via nerve networks. The brain is then able to interpret and analyze the sound we hear. Because the hair cells in the inner ear do not renew, any injury is irreversible and leads to hearing loss.

 

Time to take charge of your hearing

 

It is critical to have your hearing checked if you have diabetes. Hearing tests are a simple and painless way to identify the severity of your hearing loss and the hearing loss you have. Hearing loss can be treated in a variety of methods, which is fortunate. Hearing aids, which are small electronic devices that help absorb, enhance, and process sound to improve one’s ability to hear, are the most prevalent treatment. Detecting any degree of hearing loss as soon as possible and seeking treatment will dramatically benefit your hearing health. Make an appointment with us today to learn more about how to hear at your best!

Subtle hearing loss while young changes brain function, study finds

Subtle hearing loss while young changes brain function, study finds

When you’re young, it’s common to feel like your health will never catch up with you. This unfortunately has led many youths to experience hearing loss at a much earlier age. Many youths enjoy the intensity of loud music on the stereo, to dance to 4 am at a loud club right next to the speaker or even just blast music into their headphones while studying. Sounds we love release endorphins and it’s tempting to want to hear more and feel more of this. However, this behavior which many participate in when they are young can lead to serious issues with hearing. Now a 2018 study has found that hearing loss in younger people affects cognitive function and development.

The Effect of Hearing Loss on a Younger Generation

A study from The Ohio State University explored the effects of hearing loss on a younger generation and found that those with even an unnoticeable hearing loss are putting more burden on their cognitive functioning which more often displayed in late-middle age.

“Hearing loss, even minor deficits, can take a toll in young people,” says lead researcher Yune Lee, an assistant professor of speech and hearing science at Ohio State. “they’re using cognitive resources that could be preserved until much later in life. Most concerning, this early hearing loss could pave the way for dementia.”

The Study

The study published in the online neuroscience journal eNeuro first set out not to identify the effects of hearing loss in the brain in young people. Instead, it was aimed to examine brain activity and speech recognition to identify cognitive changes that occur when trying to comprehend challenging sentences.

The test group for the study included recruited 35 healthy participants, of all genders between the ages of 18 and 41 years old. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology to measure and map brain activity while playing the participants, sentences of varying difficulty. The sentences were delivered in sets of four with the complexity of grammar increasing, as they progressed. A sample of four sentences follows:

  • Kings with three black horses that appreciate queens are good
  • Kings that appreciate queens with three black horses are good
  • Kings with three black horses that queens appreciate are good
  • Kings that queens appreciate with three black horses are good

The study participants were asked questions about each sentence to indicate comprehension.

Unexpected Findings

Lee’s team expected to see activity and changes in the left hemisphere of the brain as participants deciphered these sentences. Before the fMRI tests, the researchers tested the participants hearing to make sure it would not interfere with the study. However, for those with just mild hearing loss, the scientists did not believe it would keep them from engaging equally in the study.

However, the results of the fMRI found that those with subtle hearing loss showed an increased cognitive demand when deciphering speech. It caused a higher cognitive load, forcing those with hearing loss to work harder to understand the progression of sentences.

Instead of affecting the left side of the brain, the right frontal cortex was used to compensate for the hearing loss. This is remarkable for most the use of the right frontal cortex is generally seen in older people as cognitive decline is more common.

The Implications

What is significant about these findings is that those who were using this modified cognitive functioning were people whose hearing loss was so mild that most wouldn’t even consider it as an issue. At first, it didn’t even seem noticeable to the researchers conducting the study.

“Previous research shows that people with mild hearing loss are twice as likely to have dementia. And those with moderate to severe hearing loss have three to five times the risk, “said Lee. The surprising finding of this study illuminated the serious risk of hearing loss to a younger generation. Even if it doesn’t seem like it is immediately affecting your health and your communications, it is.

Treating Hearing Loss

There are numerous causes of hearing loss and they can all affect your hearing and cognitive health, no matter your age. However, it’s important to understand that treating your hearing loss with hearing aids can improve comprehension and significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. The first step is to schedule a hearing test with us before it becomes a bigger issue in the future. Contact us today to learn more!

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.

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!