Tips for Better Hearing in honor of Better Hearing Month

Tips for Better Hearing

Even the smallest change in a listening environment of a person with hearing loss can have a huge impact.  People are generally not good communicators.  We have bad habits that we do not even realize that we exhibit when communicating with our loved ones.  Some of the things we should NOT do when communicating with people who have difficulty hearing are:

  1. Do not walk away when speaking to them.  Many people with hearing loss rely heavily on facial content.  They likely read lips more that they realize and can get a lot of information from facial expressions as well.
  2. Do not yell when speaking to them.  Speaking loudly can often actually distort the sound quality and even cause discomfort.  Speak in a regular speed just clearly annunciate your words.
  3. Do not chew gum, eat or otherwise do things that may cause your words to become unclear.
  4. Do not assume they know you are talking to them.  Get their attention before beginning the conversation.  Let them know what the conversation is about so they can look for content that makes sense for the conversation.
  5. Do not say the same thing over and over again.  If it seems like you are not being heard or understood change the words you use.  Some words are easier to lip read or are made up of sounds that carry better like vowels.
  6. Do not try to communicate in poor listening environments.  When choosing a table in a restaurant make sure they have their back to the wall so there is no competing noise coming from behind them.  Request a booth if possible.  If there are only tables request a table away from the bar or kitchen, where it is generally more noisey.
  7. Do not get frustrated and I know this is hard but please be patient with the hearing impaired they are working very hard to be a part of the conversation.

Tips for communicating with the hard of hearing person

Even the smallest change in a listening environment of a person with hearing loss can have a huge impact. People are generally not good communicators. We have bad habits that we do not even realize that we exhibit when communicating with our loved ones. Some of the things we should NOT do when communicating with people who have difficulty hearing are:
*Do not walk away when speaking to them. Many people with hearing loss rely heavily on facial content. They likely read lips more than they realize and can get a lot of information from facial expressions as well.
*Do not yell when speaking to them. Speaking loudly can often actually distort the sound quality and even cause discomfort. Speak in a regular volume and average speed just clearly enunciate your words.
*Do not chew gum, eat or otherwise do things that may cause your words to become unclear.
*Do not assume they know you are talking to them. Get their attention before beginning the conversation. Let them know what the conversation is about so they can look for content that makes sense for the conversation.
*Do not say the same thing over and over again. If it seems like you are not being heard or understood change the words you use. Some words are easier to lip read or are made up of sounds that the listener can understand better.
*Do not try to communicate in poor listening environments. When choosing a table in a restaurant make sure those with hearing loss have their back to the wall so there is no competing noise coming from behind them. Request a booth if possible. If there are only tables request a table away from the bar or kitchen, where it is generally more noisy.
*Do not get frustrated and I know this is hard but please be patient with the hearing impaired they are working very hard to be a part of the conversation.

Treatment, Prevention and Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear – Acute External Otitis

Swimmer’s ear, formally referred to as acute external otitis or otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal (the section outside the eardrum). This type of infection was named “swimmer’s ear” because it is often caused by water staying in the outer ear after swimming, which provides a moist environment which encourages the growth of bacteria. But water is not the only culprit. Acute external otitis may also be the result of damaging the delicate skin lining the ear canal by poking fingertips, Q-tips or other objects in the ear. Luckily for us swimmer’s ear is readily cured. If untreated, swimmer’s ear may cause serious complications so it is essential to recognize the symptoms of the infection.

Swimmer’s ear crops up because the ear’s innate defenses (glands that secrete a waxy, water-repellent substance termed cerumen) are overwhelmed. A buildup of moisture in the ear, damage to the lining of the ear canal, and sensitivity reactions can all result in an ideal environment for bacterial growth, and result in infection. Activities that raise your chance of developing swimmer’s ear include swimming (especially in untreated water such as lakes), aggressive cleaning of the ear canal with cotton swabs, use of in-ear devices such as ear buds or hearing aids, and allergies.

The most common symptoms of swimmer’s ear are itching in the ear canal, mild pain that is made worse by tugging on your ear, a slight redness inside the ear, and mild drainage of an odorless, clear liquid. In more moderate cases, these symptoms may develop into more severe itching, pain, and discharge of pus. Extreme cases of swimmer’s ear are accompanied by symptoms such as fever, severe pain which may radiate into other parts of the head, neck and face, swelling redness of the outer ear or lymph nodes, and possibly blockage of the ear canal. Complications of untreated swimmer’s ear may be serious, including short-term hearing loss, bone and cartilage loss, long-term ear infections, and the spreading of deep-tissue infections to other parts of the body. The possibility of serious complications means that you should visit a physician as soon as you suspect swimmer’s ear.

Doctors usually diagnose swimmer’s ear after a visual examination with a lighted instrument termed an otoscope. Physicians will also make sure that your eardrum has not been ruptured or damaged. If you definitely have swimmer’s ear, the standard treatment consists of cautiously cleaning the ears and using prescription eardrops to combat the infectious bacteria. If the infection is serious, your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics taken orally to help overcome it.

Just remember these three tips to avoid getting swimmer’s ear.

  1. Dry your ears completely after swimming or showering.
  2. Don’t swim in open, untreated bodies of water.
  3. Do not place any foreign objects in your ears in an attempt to clean them.

Hearing Health Research Update: Regenerating Inner Ear Hair Cells

A number of the problems that cause hearing problems for our patients cannot be reversed which is frustrating for our hearing specialists. Damage to the very tiny, sensitive hair cells of the inner ear is one of the more common reasons for hearing loss. The job of these hair cells is to vibrate in response to sound waves. These vibrations are interpreted by the brain into what we call hearing.

The sensitivity of these tiny hair cells enables them to vibrate in such a manner, and thus makes it possible for us to hear, but their very sensitivity makes them very fragile, and at risk of damage. This damage may occur as the result of aging, infections, medications, and by prolonged exposure to high-volume sounds, resulting in noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL. The hair cells in human ears can’t be regenerated or “fixed” after they are damaged or destroyed. Consequently, hearing specialists and audiologists must use technological innovations such as hearing aids or cochlear implants to compensate for hearing loss that is in essence irreversible.

If humans were more like chickens or fish, we’d have other options available. Unlike humans, some bird species and fish actually have the ability to regenerate their damaged inner ear hair cells and recover their lost hearing. Strange, but true. Chickens and zebra fish are just 2 examples of species that have the capacity to spontaneously replicate and replace their damaged inner ear hair cells, thus allowing them to fully recover from hearing loss.

Keeping in mind that this research is preliminary and has as yet produced no proven benefits for humans, some hope for the treatment of hearing loss comes from research called the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP). The nonprofit organization, Hearing Health Foundation, is currently conducting research at laboratories in the U.S. and Canada Working to isolate the compounds that allow the replication and regeneration in some animals, HRP researchers hope to find some way to enable human hair cells to do the same.

Because there are so many different molecules mixed up in regeneration process – some that facilitate replication, some that impede it – the researchers’ work is slow and challenging. Researchers are hoping that what they learn about inner ear hair cell regeneration in avian or fish cochlea can later be applied to humans. Some of the HRP researchers are working on gene therapies as a way to promote such regrowth, while others are working on stem cell-based approaches.

Although this research is still in the preliminary stages, our staff wishes them speedy success so that their results can be extended to humans. Absolutely nothing would be more enjoyable than to be able to provide our hearing loss patients a true cure.

Should You Replace Your Old Hearing Aid or Should You Fix It?

One of the most common questions we hear is, “My hearing aid is broken or just isn’t working the way it used to – do you think I should buy a new one, or have it repaired?” The only possible answer is “It depends.” It is really an individual decision, and the “correct answer” is as individual as the people who ask it.

For starters, it should be noted that hearing aids – regardless of how well-crafted they are or what their original price was – occasionally fail, or begin to function incorrectly. The environment that hearing aids operate in – your ear canals – is an inhospitable one for sophisticated electronic instruments, filled with ear wax (cerumen) and moisture. Ear wax is produced naturally, and we need it because it protects the lining of our ear canals, but it can “gum up the inner workings” of hearing aids; similarly, lingering moisture is natural after swimming or showering, but it too can harm hearing aids. Additionally, there is obviously the potential for breakage from an accident or dropping the aids, and the internal tubing and other components inevitably wear out with time, so after a few years you can expect your aids needing repair or replacement.

So how do you choose between replace and repair? The biggest factor really is you, and whether you like your existing hearing aids. If you like them and are accustomed to the sound that they generate or really like how they fit, repair may be the more sensible choice for you.

A further thing to consider, obviously, is cost – brand new hearing aids may cost thousands of dollars, but fixing your present aids might cost only a couple of hundred dollars. Balancing this, however, many people have insurance coverage that will partly or fully cover the expense of new hearing aids, but that will not cover fixing them.

If you opt to have your hearing aids repaired, another common question that arises is, “Should I take them to the place I purchased them from, or send them to one of the numerous repair labs who advertise on the Internet?” While internet advertisers will try paint your hometown audiologist as just a middle-man, that’s not correct. There are numerous advantages to staying nearby. Think about whether you are qualified to assess whether a badly operating hearing aid needs repairs versus cleaning? Can you figure out if your damaged aid is capable of being repaired? Your neighborhood audiologist or hearing instrument specialist can tell you what is actually wrong with it and may be able to fix it on the spot. If they do need to send the hearing aid back to the manufacturer for major repairs, they’ll make the process easy for you and you might even get a better rate because they deal in bulk.

More choices are open to those who decide to replace their current hearing aids. You should be open to new styles and technology acknowledging that anything new takes getting accustomed to. Newer hearing aids are more compact and provide enhanced programability to achieve the quality of sound you want. Ultimately, the “replace or repair” question cannot be answered by anyone other than you.

Come See Dr. Karg at Pistol Parlour this Friday!

Good Sound Audiology and Pistol Parlour are honored to invite you to this one-of-kind event:

Dr. Tanya Karg will provide a FREE Demonstration of the smallest electronic sound suppression! This tiny device delivers excellent sound quality to compensate for the fact that you have an ear plug in your ear BUT is powerful enough to protect your ears from damaging soundwaves that are produced when shooting guns!

Please join us at Pistol Parlour, 1356 S. Gilbert Rd., Mesa, AZ 85204 on AUGUST 15, 2014 ~ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Drs. Jessee and Karg are excited to partner with Pistol Parlour, who has been serving the valley’s 2nd Amendment needs for over 30 years. They are the home of all things tactical! For more information, visit their website or call 480-835-6643

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Could Hearing Impairment be an Indicator of Alzheimer’s?

Do you have hearing loss? If yes, do you occasionally find that it feels like work just to understand what the people around you are saying? This experience of having to work to understand people is normal even among people who use hearing aids, because the aids need to be fitted and tuned correctly to work well, and people need to become acclimated to using them.

As though that wasn’t bad enough, it may not be just your hearing that is affected, but also cognitive abilities. In the latest studies, scientists have found that hearing loss drastically increases your chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.

One of these studies, from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, analyzed 639 volunteers ages 36 to 90, for a period of 16 years. At the conclusion of the research, scientists found that 58 people (9%) had been identified as having dementia, and that 37 of them (5.8 percent) had developed Alzheimer’s. The degree of hearing loss was positively correlated with the probability of developing either condition. For every 10 decibel further hearing loss, the risk of developing dementia increased 20%.

A separate study of 1,984 people, also 16 years long, showed similar results connecting dementia and hearing loss. In this second research study, investigators also found decline of cognitive functions among the hearing-impaired over the course of the study. The hearing-impaired individuals showed memory loss and reduced thinking capacity 40% faster than participants with normal hearing. An even more astonishing conclusion in both studies was that the connection between dementia and hearing loss held true even if the participants used hearing aids.

A number of hypotheses have been suggested to explain this seeming link between hearing loss and loss of cognitive ability. One of these explanations relates to the question that began this article, about having to work harder to hear; this has been called cognitive overload. The cognitive overload theory states that the hearing-impaired individual expends so much brain power trying to hear, that the brain tires itself out and has a reduced capacity to comprehend and assimilate verbal information. Maintaining a two-way dialogue requires understanding. A lack of understanding causes interactions to break down and might bring about social isolation. Another idea is that neither dementia nor hearing loss cause the other, but that they are both linked to an as-yet-undiscovered disease mechanism – possibly vascular, possibly genetic, possibly environmental – that causes both.

However dismal these study results may sound, there are lessons to be learned from them. For those of us who wear hearing aids, these outcomes serve as a reminder to see our audiologists on a regular basis to keep the aids properly adjusted and tuned, so that we’re not constantly straining to hear. The less you have to strain, the more cognitive power your brain has in reserve to comprehend what is said, and remember it. Also, if loss of hearing is related to dementia, knowing this might bring about interventional methods that can postpone its development.

Protecting Your Ears and Hearing if You’re an Amateur or Professional Musician

In addition to all of them being musicians, what do Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Ludwig van Beethoven and Brian Wilson have in common? As a result of years of performing, they all have permanent hearing loss. When I treat musicians, I have to tell them a sad but unavoidable fact of life – the very music they love to play may be damaging their hearing. Exposure to loud music causes noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which can produce a temporary ringing in the ears (tinnitus); if you continue to expose yourself to the loud music, the condition can become permanent.

And this is true whether you play in a rock band onstage in front of thousands, in a symphony orchestra, in a chamber music group, or at home, rehearsing. Any sound with an amplitude (volume) of over 85 decibels (dB) can cause hearing loss if you are exposed to it for long periods of time. While 85dB may sound like a high level of sound, even rehearsal situations can produce these levels. Rock musicians and classical alike are both exposed to excessive amplitude of sound; an unamplified violin reaches 103dB and an electric guitar produces 120dB. In fact, audiologists researching hearing loss in musicians have found that overexposure to sound while rehearsing adds up to more hours than they spend on stage performing.

Musicians can take steps to protect their hearing despite this unavoidable exposure to sound that exceeds acceptable levels, even in seemingly quiet rehearsal settings. When investing in high-quality ear protection beyond what can be had from drug-store Styrofoam ear plugs, performers can trust their hearing is protected. The first musicians earphones were invented by Etymotic Research, and other manufacturers still use their design to create specialized ear protection for musicians. Unlike the cheap Styrofoam earplugs that simply block sound, musician ear protection customized for you by your audiologist allows you to hear your normal full range of sound, just at a reduced volume ensuring your hearing is protected. You can find universal-fit musicians earplugs in most stores that sell musical instruments, starting at about $15 a pair. For musicians that want to protect their hearing and hear the full range of their music, I recommend custom-molded earplugs with Etymotic filters. The custom molded ear plugs will be more comfortable, will block more undesirable sounds while allowing you to hear the full range of music, and will be easier to maintain. When it comes to protecting your hearing from permanent damage it is well worth the added expense so you can enjoy performing your music for years to come.

How Come I Only Have Difficulty Hearing in Crowds?

Patients commonly inquire precisely why hearing in crowds of people is especially hard for them. When they are talking to people one-on-one, or in small groups of people there is no problem, and they seem to hear just fine. But in a crowd, such as a noisy party or in large public gatherings, suddenly it becomes difficult to understand what the person speaking to them is saying, or to distinguish the speaker’s voice from the background sounds. The same people that have difficulty with crowds, will often also express that they find it challenging to hear and distinguish certain consonants especially H, F, and S.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, there is a possibility that you may have suffered some form or high-frequency hearing loss. When describing human speech, audiologists define the 3000 to 8000 Hz range as high-frequency. This is the range that the F, S, and H sounds typically fall into. In a crowd, what you hear is a mixture of frequencies, with the high frequencies of human speech “competing” with lower-frequency sounds such as music or the noise of people walking or dancing. Those suffering from high-frequency hearing loss tend to perceive the low-frequency sounds (which in this case qualify as noise) as sounding louder than the high-frequency sounds they are trying to focus on – the voices of people speaking to them.

High-frequency hearing loss is common, afflicting at least 18% of the population. High-frequency hearing loss is normal with aging, but is increasingly being diagnosed in younger adults too. Audiologists suspect this may come from repeated exposure to loud music especially through personal headphones. Other factors that can cause hearing loss include genetics, exposure to toxic drugs (including some chemotherapy agents), diabetes, and other diseases.

If you are having trouble hearing in crowds and the reason turns out to be high-frequency hearing loss you’ll be glad to know that this can be treated. Modern hearing aids can be tuned to amplify certain frequencies while suppressing others. This makes it possible to adjust a hearing aid specifically for high-frequency hearing loss and better hearing in crowds.

The first step is to visit one of our specialists, and make sure that the problem is caused by a loss of hearing. There are other causes for this, and our specialists can perform tests to determine whether the cause in your case really is hearing loss, and if so, treat it.

Shopping for a Compatible Hearing Aid / Cellular Phone Combination

Hearing aids and mobile phones haven’t always gotten along as well as they do today. The complex electronics in both devices often caused static, lost words or squealing interference noises. Technology enhancements along with new government regulations have mostly eliminated this issue. Nowadays cell phone – hearing aid compatibility isn’t the huge problem it once was. The labeling requirements mandated by the new government regulations make it easy to find a mobile phone that is compatible with your hearing aid.

To understand how this rating system works, you should first understand the two modes that hearing aids work in – M mode (for microphone) and T mode (for telecoil). In M mode, your hearing aid uses its built-in microphone to pick up audible sounds from the environment and amplify them so that you can hear them. When the hearing aid is in T mode, instead of the microphone it uses its built-in telecoil to directly pick up conversations from inside the phone, in the form of electromagnetic signals. Roughly 60 percent of all cell phones sold in the U.S. have a telecoil (T) mode.

Under the new regulations, these two modes of operation have ratings that range from 1 (the lowest sensitivity) to 4 (the highest sensitivity). To be sold in the United States as hearing aid compatible (HAC), a mobile phone or cordless handset must have a rating of at least M3 or T3.

Hearing aids themselves also carry M and T ratings to indicate their sensitivity and ability to block interference in each mode. If you know the M and T ratings for your hearing aid, to determine its compatibility with any mobile phone, just add the two sets of ratings together. A sum of 6 or more makes a solid pairing. That hearing aid and cell phone combination should work well for you. A sum of 5 is considered normal and should work fine for typical cell phone users. A combined rating of 4 is considered usable for brief calls, but may not be suitable for extended phone use.

If you are shopping for a mobile phone online, you can usually use this combined rating to determine how compatible the phone you are interested in buying will be with your hearing aid. A better approach, of course, would be to go to a store that allows you to “try before you buy,” and actually use the phone you want while wearing your hearing aid, in both M and T modes.