Noise induced hearing loss is prevalent in our society, affecting tens of millions of Americans. Exposure to loud noises either very loud all at once, or moderately loud over a long period of time, can cause a characteristic noise related hearing loss. Over long period of time we can actually have quite severe hearing loss at numerous frequencies. However, a sudden noise induced hearing drop will often present a decline at 4000 Hz and 6000 Hz.
This study was published in JAMA Open Access last month and is one of the largest rigorous population based studies on the topic. This research comes on the heels of other mounting evidence that hearing loss can worsen or promote dementia.
A recent study of over 16,000 adults found that hearing loss was positively correlated to the development of dementia in adults. The 45-64 year age group was the most strongly impacted showing a more than DOUBLE RISK of dementia if there was significant untreated hearing decline noted. The study took great care to account for differences in gender, normal age changes, and socioeconomic level.
What does this mean? It is becoming clear that hearing screening should occur at earlier ages, that hearing complaints should be taken more seriously by healthcare gatekeepers (primary care) and that more aggressive auditory rehabilitation is indicated.
The mechanisms of cognitive decline and hearing change are not well understood. In a simplistic form, we use a hearing test called “word discrimination” that we know seems to worsen with cognitive decline and can radpily decline when the ears are not being stimulated. In other words, if we are not hearing well we are not stimulating parts of our brain, and our brain cells do poorly when not stimulated – ‘USE IT OR LOSE IT’.
Our audiologists and associated physicians are all up-to-speed on cognitive risks of early hearing loss and untreated hearing loss. Middle-aged professionals will notice loss early as their daily communication is impacted, finding increased distractibility (reduced focus) at work. This can cause secondary stress.
Title: Ten Common Hearing Loss Symptoms
Hearing loss is a widespread condition, affecting nearly 50 million people in the United States. Changes in our hearing don’t typically occur all at once. Rather, hearing loss symptoms appear over time. Hearing loss is a gradual process that often impacts certain listening frequencies more than it affects others.
Do you or a loved one sometimes have a difficult time hearing? Consider these questions:
- Are you embarrassed to talk openly about not being able to hear?
- Are you cutting out activities that you used to love because you cannot join in fully anymore?
- Is your inability to hear co-workers affecting your job performance?
- Do you have difficult hearing friends and family in noisy places like a restaurant?
- Are you feeling cut off from your young children or grandchildren because you cannot hear their high-pitched voices?
- Are family holidays a strain because so many people are talking at once?
- Do you frequently ask people to repeat themselves?
- Is there a ringing or buzzing in your ear?
- Do you often complain that people talking to you are mumbling?
- Are you having difficulties understanding people on the phone?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, consider getting your hearing checked as soon as possible. Advanced Hearing Centers offers a free hearing consultation. Schedule your appointment by calling Kim, Alan or Lyn at (404) 943-0900.
Hearing Health and Prevention of Cognitive Decline
Hearing isn’t quite like riding a bike
Studies have shown that, on average, people will wait eight to ten years between first experiencing symptoms of hearing loss and finally seeking help. Unfortunately, during this timeframe, people fall into coping mechanisms. They ask people to repeat themselves, turn the TV up louder, or avoid places where hearing is more challenging. These behaviors are actually exacerbating the negative effects. That’s why early intervention is always recommended.
Early intervention prevents your brain from forgetting what to do
The ability to make instant association depends on repeatedly hearing a word. If you do not hear a word for a long period of time, difficulty connecting the sound to its meaning occurs. Over time, reduced stimulation to the brain can impair its ability to process sound and recognize speech. Once speech recognition deteriorates, it is only partially recoverable with hearing aids.
Early intervention slows cognitive decline and communication problems
Not being able to hear what’s going on around you contributes to reduced mental sharpness and communication abilities.
Early intervention improves the use of hearing aids
The earlier people begin to use hearing aids, the sooner they get comfortable wearing them, and the easier it is to maximize their advantage.
Take action this Better Hearing Month
Next month is Better Hearing Month — meaning now is a great time to be proactive about your hearing loss and seek treatment before its negative effects get worse. To arrange for a free hearing consultation, contact us by filling out our Contact Us page and we will be in touch to schedule your free appointment.
Teens Suffering Hearing Loss at an Alarming Trend
Research indicates that young people today are losing their hearing faster than their parents and grandparents. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 teenagers have some hearing loss.
Researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston examined data collected from more than 4,600 12-to-19-year-olds in two ongoing federal surveys. The first covered 1988 to 1994, and the other 2005 to 2006.
The prevalence of hearing loss increased from 14.9 percent from 1988-94 to 19.5 during 2005-06, a rise of about 31 percent, the researchers reported to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Some other interesting results from the survey:
- High-frequency hearing loss was more common than that in low frequencies
- Most of the time the loss was in one ear
- Girls were much less likely than boys to have lost some hearing
While the study did not examine specific reasons for the increase in teens, most experts agree that it is due to listening to loud music for long stretches of time on MP3 players, iPods and other portable devices.
The issue received national attention in March 2013, when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took up the cause as his latest public health crusade, announcing a $250,000 social media campaign to caution young people about the dangers of too loud music on personal listening devices.
How can adults encourage young people to listen more carefully to stop this alarming trend? One good tip is to use the 60/60 rule. Listen to music at 60 percent of the max volume and for only 60 minutes.
Hearing professionals also encourage people to wear hearing protection when they go to concerts. Inexpensive ear buds are available for as little as a $1 that can significantly reduce the amount of potentially damaging noise at a concert without affecting the musical experience.
Why You Should Only Buy Hearing Aids From a Hearing Professional
Today’s hearing aids are precision instruments, utilizing advance digital technology that can and should be customized to fit your specific hearing loss and your unique lifestyle needs.
This is why the Better Hearing Institute, a non-profit center for hearing advocacy, published a consumer warning against “do-it-yourself hearing care,” writing,
“The process requires a complete in-person hearing assessment in a sound booth; the training and skills of a credentialed hearing healthcare professional in order to prescriptively fit the hearing aids using sophisticated computer programs; and appropriate in-person follow-up and counseling. This is not possible when consumers purchase one-size-fits-all hearing aids over the Internet or elsewhere.”
While the Internet is an increasingly convenient place to purchase many items, consumers should be cautious about purchasing their hearing aids online. Any upfront cost savings will likely be used towards after purchase costs like maintenance, cleaning or reprogramming an aid, services that are included in the purchase at a hearing care professional.
An audiologist and ear doctor will ensure that you receive a proper evaluation and help prescribe the proper treatment for your loss. Your ears will be visually examined and you’ll be tested with state-of-the-art equipment to determine the type of hearing loss you have.
If it’s determined that hearing aids can help, your hearing professional will show you the best solutions to fit your unique needs and lifestyle.
If you think you may be suffering from hearing loss, don’t hesitate to contact Advanced Hearing Centers, 404-924-4510, today for a free hearing consultation.
Q&A: My three year-old son gets ear infections every fall and spring. Does he need to get ear tubes? -T. in Georgia
Thanks, T. Constantly battling with ear infections can take a toll on you as well as your child. We place tubes usually for two separate reasons: #1 fluid behind the eardrum that does not clear up in 2-3 months after an infection. While fluid is there, hearing may be reduced significantly enough to cause speech delay or impediment, or poor school benhavior. And #2: recurrent ear infections, 3 in 6 months or 4 in 12 months. Basically it may be safer to have a minor procedure than suffer through all the misery of painful ear infections and expose your child to so much antibiotics. Kids generally do grow out of infections by 6-8 years old. Tubes last about 1 year then fall out. Ideally a child grows out of the tendency for ear infections about the time the tube falls out. Some kids wind up needing new tubes over and over again, but this is not super common. Surgery takes only about 3 minutes per side done under anesthetic gas in an operating room. No IV’s usually. After tubes are in, you do have to think about keeping the ears dry. My recommendation for most kids is to dry the ear with hair-dryer after swimming and place a few prophylactic drops of antibiotic. No special precautions for baths (for most kids). Custom ear plugs may also be used. After tubes are placed, if infection does happen again usually no pain because the infected pus just drains out the tube and can often be treated with just ear drops.
Basically if your child is spending a large amount of time in pain, on antibiotics, or with fluid behind the ear waiting for infection to clear then I usually just recommend placing tubes.
Adult-onset hearing loss affects millions of Americans and accounts
for a huge economic burden in our country. There are two major forms
of hearing loss – “sensory / neural” and “conductive”. Sensorineural
hearing loss is caused by injury to the acoustic nerve or the cochlea.
These injuries can be from noise damage, viruses, meningitis, and of
course the slow degeneration of aging. Conductive hearing loss is
most commonly from an earwax impaction, fluid behind the ear drum,
infections, or a type of ear scarring called otosclerosis.
A hearing test is a brief painless test battery performed by an
audiologist to determine what your hearing level is, how it compares
to normals, and what type of hearing loss you may have. This, as well
as a microscopic examination of the ear and eardrum will allow the
physician to make recommendations about improving your hearing.
Wax removal, antibiotics, steroids, minor procedures, and sometimes
MRI scans can be useful in sorting out the hearing loss. An
electrical hearing test, called an ABR, is often helpful as well,
especially in young children.
Sometimes the only option for improving hearing are hearing aids.
These have gotten much smaller and much more advanced over the past
decade. The smallest of which are now the size of a large pencil
eraser and are completely hidden in the ear canal. Your physician and
audiologist can make recommendations about which type and size of
hearing aid may be best for you.
Why do restaurants wreak such havoc on your hearing? The most common sort of age-related hearing loss begins the in the highest frequencies (1000Hz and above). Most speech tones are lower than this, however missing out on high pitches makes it particularly difficult when sound localization is required. Bustling busy restaurants with high ceilings are notorious for creating a lot of acoustic “noise”. Many times you will be trying to hold a conversation with more than one individual, who may not be immediately in front of you, while their voice is competing with dozens of others in an acoustically-challenging room.
Hearing loss in restaurants is usually the first sign of age-related hearing loss (or any other sort of progressive high frequency loss). The same is true for difficulty in conference rooms, conference calls, or airplanes – making it particularly difficult for busy businesspeople. All of these environments have a lot of acoustical competition. It is ironic that we evaluate your hearing in a quiet sound-proof booth, so many times your degree of listening difficulty is underestimated by a routine hearing test. Usually in a 1-on-1 quiet environment there is much less hearing trouble.
A real world test of hearing aid function is critical, which is why we stand behind our money-back policy if your hearing cannot be satisfactorily improved.