More often than not, people are unaware that they have hearing loss. It develops so gradually that it’s frequently undetectable, and moreover, most family physicians do not regularly test for hearing loss at the annual physical exam.
Bearing in mind these two facts, it’s no wonder that most people first find out they have hearing loss by being informed about it from close friends or family members. But by the time people confront you about your hearing loss, it’s more than likely already relatively advanced. Since hearing loss worsens over time—and cannot be fully restored once lost—it’s essential to treat hearing loss at the earliest opportunity instead of waiting for it to get bad enough for people to notice.
So when and how often should you get your hearing tested? Here are our suggestions:
Establish a Baseline Early
It’s never too early to get your first hearing test. The earlier you test your hearing, the sooner you can create a baseline to compare future tests. The only method to assess if your hearing is getting worse is by comparing the results with earlier examinations.
Although it’s true that as you become older you’re more likely to have hearing loss, keep in mind that 26 million people between the age of 20 and 69 have hearing loss. Hearing loss is common among all age groups, and exposure to loud noise places everyone at risk regardless of age.
Annual Tests After Age 55
At the age of 65, one out of every three people will have some degree of hearing loss. Because hearing loss is so typical around this age, we encourage yearly hearing tests to ensure that your hearing is not worsening. Remember, hearing loss is permanent, cumulative, and practically undetectable. However, with yearly hearing tests, hearing loss can be detected early, and intervention is always more effective when implemented earlier.
Evaluate Personal Risk Factors
As reported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “approximately 15 percent of Americans (26 million people) between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to noise at work or during leisure activities.”
If you have been exposed to loud work environments or activities such as music concerts or sporting events, it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested. It’s also a good idea to get a yearly hearing test if you continue to expose your hearing to these conditions.
Watch for Signs of Hearing Loss
As we explained before, the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are often first recognized by others. You should set up a hearing test if someone has recommended it to you or if you encounter any of these signs or symptoms:
- Muffled hearing
- Trouble understanding what people are saying, especially in noisy settings or in groups
- People commenting on how loud you have the TV or radio
- Avoiding social situations and conversations
- Ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Ear pain, discomfort, or discharge
- Vertigo, dizziness, or balance problems
Don’t Wait Until the Damage is Done
The bottom line is that hearing loss is common among all age groups and that we all live in the presence of several occupational and everyday risk factors. Considering that hearing loss is hard to detect, worsens over time, and is best treated early, we recommend that you get your hearing tested regularly. You might end up saving your hearing with early treatment, and the worst that can happen is that you find out you have normal hearing.
About 45 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, which is the perception of sound where no external sound source exists. This phantom sound is normally identified as a ringing sound, but can also materialize as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking.
First it is important to understand about tinnitus is that it’s a symptom, not a disease. As a result, tinnitus may indicate an underlying health condition that, if cured, cures the tinnitus. Earwax buildup or other blockages, blood vessel conditions, selected medications, and other underlying conditions can all trigger tinnitus, so the starting point is ruling out any ailments that would would need medical or surgical treatment.
In most cases of tinnitus, however, no specific cause is found. In these cases, tinnitus is assumed to be caused by destruction of the nerve cells of hearing in the inner ear. Noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and one-time exposure to very loud sounds can all cause tinnitus.
Whenever tinnitus is induced by nerve cell damage, or is connected with hearing loss, tinnitus often cannot be cured—but that doesn’t imply that people need to suffer without help. While there is no definitive cure for the majority of cases of chronic tinnitus, numerous tinnitus treatment options are available that help patients live better, more comfortable, and more productive lives, even if the perception of tinnitus remains.
The following are some of the treatment options for tinnitus:
The majority of cases of tinnitus are linked with some kind of hearing loss. In people with hearing loss, a smaller amount of sound stimulation reaches the brain, and in response, investigators believe that the brain changes physically and chemically to accommodate the shortage of stimulation. It is this maladaptive response to sound deprivation that results in tinnitus.
Tinnitus is intensified with hearing loss because when surrounding sound is muffled, the sounds associated with tinnitus become more evident. But when hearing aids are used, the amplified sound signals cause the sounds of tinnitus to blend into the richer background sounds. Hearing aids for tinnitus patients can then offer several benefits, such as improved hearing, enhanced auditory stimulation, and a “masking effect” for tinnitus.
Sound therapy is a wide-ranging phrase used to describe several approaches to using external sound to “mask” the tinnitus. After some time, the brain can learn to recognize the sounds of tinnitus as trivial relative to the contending sound, thereby reducing the intensity level of tinnitus.
Sound therapy can be delivered through masking devices but can also be delivered through specific hearing aid models that can stream sound wirelessly using Bluetooth technology. Some hearing aid models even link up with compatible Apple products, including iPhones, so that any masking sounds downloaded on the Apple devices can be sent wirelessly to the hearing aids.
The kinds of masking sounds utilized may vary, including white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, and music. Sounds can also be specially designed to correspond to the sound frequency of the patient’s tinnitus, delivering customized masking relief. Given that each patient will respond differently to different masking sounds, it’s essential that you work with a qualified hearing professional.
Several behavioral therapies exist to help the patient deal with the psychological and emotional components of tinnitus. One example is mindfulness-based stress reduction, during which the individual learns to accept the affliction while establishing effective coping techniques.
You may have also heard the term Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), which integrates cognitive-behavioral therapy with sound masking therapy. With Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, patients learn to develop healthy cognitive and emotional reactions to tinnitus while making use of sound therapy to train their brains to reclassify tinnitus as unimportant, so that it can be deliberately ignored.
In combination with the more specific sound and behavioral therapies, patients can take part in general wellness activities that tend to lessen the severity of tinnitus. These activities consist of healthy diets, frequent exercise, social activity, leisure activities, and any other activities that contribute to enhanced health and lowered stress.
There are at present no FDA-approved medications that have been demonstrated to cure or alleviate tinnitus directly, but there are medications that can treat stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can render tinnitus worse or are caused by tinnitus itself. In fact, some antidepressant and antianxiety medicines have been demonstrated to provide some alleviation to patients with severe tinnitus.
A flurry of promising research is being carried out in labs and universities in many countries, as researchers continue to search for the underlying neurological cause of tinnitus and its ultimate cure. While several of these experimental therapies have shown some promise, keep in mind that they are not yet readily available, and that there’s no assurance that they ever will be. People suffering from tinnitus are encouraged to seek out existing treatments rather than waiting for any experimental treatment to hit the market.
Here are a couple of the experimental therapies currently being tested:
- Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) delivers electromagnetic pulses into the affected brain tissue to reduce the hyperactivity that is believed to cause tinnitus.
- Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is another method of delivering electromagnetic pulses into the hyperactive brain tissue that is thought to cause tinnitus.
- Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is similar to the preceding therapies in its use of electromagnetic energy, the difference being that DBS is an invasive procedure requiring surgery and the placement of electrodes in the brain tissue.
Other medical, surgical, and pharmacological therapies exist, but the outcomes have been mixed and the dangers of invasive procedures in many cases overshadow the benefits.
The Best Treatment For Your Tinnitus
The optimal tinnitus treatment for you is dependent on many factors, and is best determined by a certified hearing specialist. As your local hearing care experts, we’ll do everything we can to help you find relief from your tinnitus. Schedule your appointment today and we’ll find the personalized solution that works best for you.
You could make a strong case that the most crucial part of your hearing aid is the battery: without it, nothing else works, and if it fails, your hearing fails with it. In this short guide, we’ll reveal everything you need to know about hearing aid batteries so that you can get the maximum benefit out of your hearing aids.
How Hearing Aid Batteries Work
Hearing aids take a specialized type of battery called zinc-air batteries. Each one has a sticker that covers small holes on the top of the battery. As soon as the sticker is removed, air enters the battery through the holes, which causes a chemical reaction that activates the zinc and makes the battery live. After the battery is active, it begins discharging power and reapplying the sticker will have no effect in conserving its life.
Hearing Aid Battery Types
Zinc-air hearing aid batteries come in four standard sizes, labeled with standard number and color codes. The four sizes, from largest to smallest, are:
Each hearing aid makes use of only one of the sizes, and your hearing specialist will inform you which size you will need. Bear in mind that the numbers and colors above are manufacturer independent, but that manufacturers often add additional letters or numbers to its packaging.
Hearing Aid Battery Life
Hearing aid battery life is reliant on a wide array of factors. Many patients get up to one week of life out of a battery if they use the hearing aid for 12 or more hours a day, but this will differ based on:
- The size of the battery – larger batteries have a longer life.
- The level of hearing loss – More severe hearing loss demands additional power.
- Hearing aid features – wireless functionality, noise reduction applications, and multi-channel processing, for instance, require more power to work.
- Temperature – hot and cold temperatures can decrease battery life.
Your hearing specialist can explore all of this with you, and can help you find the proper balance between hearing aid performance and battery life.
How to Lengthen the Life of Your Hearing Aid Batteries
You can effortlessly increase the life of your hearing aid batteries with one simple trick. As soon as you remove the sticker to activate the battery, wait 5-7 minutes before placing the battery into your hearing aids. By removing the sticker and laying the battery flat side up for several minutes, air is able to properly activate the battery before you start using it, which extends its life.
A few other tips:
- Keep the batteries away from coinage, keys, or other metal materials that could short the battery.
- When the hearing aid isn’t being used, turn it off and store it with the battery door open. If you don’t anticipate using your hearing aids for a prolonged period of time, remove the batteries completely.
- Unopened batteries can last for many years; nevertheless, fresher batteries are preferable because each year that goes by reduces the life of the battery.
- Store your batteries at room temperature. This advice is so crucial that the next section is dedicated to the subject.
How to Store Your Hearing Aid Batteries
There’s a dangerous myth out there advocating that storing your batteries in the refrigerator lengthens their life. This is not only mistaken; it produces the opposite effect!
The reasoning behind storing your batteries in the refrigerator is that the cold temperature will delay the release of power. While this may be technically true, the amount of power you will save will be minimal, and the unwanted effects of moisture will produce far greater negative consequences.
Storing zinc-air batteries in a cold environment enables micro condensation to form in an on the battery, leading to corrosion and a high risk of premature failure. Therefore, for maximum performance, simply keep your batteries away from extreme hot or cold temperatures and store at room temperature.
Managing Your Hearing Aid Battery Supply
Once you figure out how long your batteries last, on average, you’ll want to keep a month’s supply. If your batteries last 1 week, and you use 2 batteries (1 for each hearing aid), then you’ll end up using roughly 8 per month. Simply set 8 as your reorder point, and once you consume your inventory down to 8, order an additional pack. Alternatively, you may want to look into the price savings linked with bulk buys and maintain a supply that lasts longer than one month. If you’re not sure, we are more than happy to help you put together a plan and will handle all of your hearing aid battery needs. Just give us a call!
Have any additional questions? Speak with one of our hearing specialists today!
The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion individuals are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, generated by exposure to substantial sound levels from personal audio devices and very loud settings such as nightclubs, bars, concerts, and sporting events. An estimated 26 million Americans currently suffer from the condition.
If noise-induced hearing loss occurs from direct exposure to elevated sound levels, then what is considered excessive? It turns out that any noise above 85 decibels is potentially damaging, and regrettably, many of our everyday activities expose us to sounds well above this limit. An music player at maximum volume, for example, hits 105 decibels, and law enforcement sirens can hit 130.
So is hearing loss an inescapable outcome of our over-amplified world? Not if you make the right choices, because it also turns out that noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.
Here are six ways you can save your hearing:
1. Use custom earplugs
The ideal way to prevent hearing loss is to avoid loud noise entirely. Of course, for most people that would lead to abandoning their jobs and ditching their plans to watch their favorite band perform live in concert.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to live like a recluse to keep your hearing. If you’re exposed to loud sounds at work, or if you plan on attending a concert, rather than avoiding the noise you can reduce its volume with earplugs. One alternative is to pick up a low cost pair of foam earplugs at the convenience store, understanding that they will most likely create muffled sound. There is a better option.
Today, a variety of custom earplugs are available that fit comfortably in the ear. Custom earplugs are molded to the curves of your ear for maximum comfort, and they contain sophisticated electronics that decrease sound volume evenly across frequencies so that music and speech can be heard clearly and naturally. Talk to your local hearing professional for additional information.
2. Maintain a safe distance from the sound source
The inverse square law, as applied to sound, says that as you double the distance from the source of sound the intensity of the sound declines by 75%. This law of physics might save your hearing at a rock concert; instead of standing in the front row adjacent to the speaker, increase your distance as much as possible, weighing the benefits of a good view against a safe distance.
3. Take rest breaks for your ears
Hearing impairment from exposure to loud sound is influenced by on three factors:
- the sound level or intensity
- your distance from the sound source
- the length of time you’re exposed to the sound
You can decrease the intensity of sound with earplugs, you can increase your distance from the sound source, and you can also limit your cumulative length of exposure by taking rest breaks from the sound. If you’re at a concert or in a recording studio, for instance, make certain to give your ears regular breaks and time to recuperate.
4. Turn down the music – follow the 60/60 rule
If you often listen to music from a portable MP3 player, make sure you maintain the volume no higher that 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes each day. Higher volume and longer listening times increase the risk of irreversible damage.
5. Purchase noise-canceling headphones
The 60/60 rule is very difficult, if not impossible to stick to in certain listening situations. In the presence of very loud background noise, like in a busy city, you have to turn up the volume on your MP3 player to hear the music over the ambient noise.
The answer? Noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones will filter background sounds so that you can enjoy your music without breaking the 60/60 rule.
6. Schedule regular hearing exams
It’s never too soon or too late to book a hearing test. Along with the ability to identify existing hearing loss, a hearing assessment can also establish a baseline for subsequent comparison.
Because hearing loss develops gradually, it is difficult to perceive. For most people, the only way to know if hearing loss is present is to have a professional hearing test. But you shouldn’t wait until after the harm is done to schedule an appointment; prevention is the best medicine, and your local hearing specialist can offer individualized hearing protection solutions so that you can avoid hearing loss altogether.
If we really want to understand hearing loss, we need to understand both the physical side, which makes hearing progressively difficult, and the psychological side, which includes the lesser-known emotional reactions to the loss of hearing. In conjunction, the two sides of hearing loss can wreak havoc on a person’s total well being, as the physical reality brings about the loss and the psychological reality prevents people from dealing with it.
The statistics tell the story. Although nearly all cases of hearing loss are physically treatable, only around 20% of people who would benefit from hearing aids make use of them. And even among those who do seek help, it takes an average of 5 to 7 years before they arrange for a hearing test.
How can we explain the massive discrepancy between the possibility for better hearing and the commonplace unwillingness to attain it? The first step is to acknowledge that hearing loss is in fact a “loss,” in the sense that something valuable has been taken away and is apparently lost forever. The second step is to figure out how individuals generally react to losing something invaluable, which, owing to the scholarship of the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, we now understand very well.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 stages of grief
Kübler-Ross defined 5 stages of grief that everyone dealing with loss seems to go through (in remarkably consistent ways), although not everyone does so in the same order or in the same timeframe.
Here are the stages:
- Denial – the individual buffers the emotional shock by denying the loss and contemplating a false, preferred reality.
- Anger – the individual recognizes the loss but becomes angry that it has happened to them.
- Bargaining – the individual reacts to the feeling of helplessness by trying to take back control through bargaining.
- Depression – comprehending the significance of the loss, the individual becomes saddened at the hopelessness of the situation.
- Acceptance – in the last stage, the individual accepts the predicament and presents a more stable set of emotions. The rationality associated with this stage leads to productive problem solving and the recovering of control over emotions and actions.
People with hearing loss progress through the stages at different rates, with some never reaching the last stage of acceptance — hence the gap between the opportunity for better hearing and the low numbers of people who actually seek help, or that otherwise hold off many years before doing so.
Progressing through the stages of hearing loss
The first stage of grief is the most challenging to escape for those with loss of hearing. Because hearing loss advances gradually through the years, it can be very difficult to recognize. People also tend to make up for hearing loss by cranking up the TV volume, for example, or by forcing people to repeat themselves. Those with hearing loss can stay in the denial stage for years, saying things like “I can hear just fine” or “I hear what I want to.”
The next stage, the anger stage, can reveal itself as a form of projection. You might hear those with hearing loss claim that everyone else mumbles, as if the problem is with everyone else rather than with them. People remain in the anger stage until they recognize that the issue is in fact with them, and not with others, at which point they may move on to the bargaining stage.
Bargaining is a form of intellectualization that can take different forms. For instance, people with hearing loss might compare their condition to others by thinking, “My hearing has gotten a lot worse, but at least my health is good. I really shouldn’t complain, other people my age are dealing with genuine problems.” You might also come across those with hearing loss devaluing their problem by thinking, “So I can’t hear as well as I used to. It’s just part of getting older, no big deal.”
After passing through these first three stages of denial, anger, and bargaining, those with hearing loss may go through a stage of depression — under the false presumption that there is no hope for treatment. They may remain in the depression stage for a period of time until they recognize that hearing loss can be treated, at which point they can enter the last stage: the acceptance stage.
The acceptance stage for hearing loss is surprisingly evasive. If only 20% of those who can benefit from hearing aids actually use them, that means 80% of those with hearing loss never get to the final stage of acceptance (or they’ve arrived at the acceptance stage but for other reasons choose not to act). In the acceptance stage, people recognize their hearing loss but take action to restore it, to the best of their ability.
This is the one positive side to hearing loss: in contrast to other types of loss, hearing loss is partly recoverable, making the acceptance stage easier to reach. Thanks to major advances in digital hearing aid technology, people can in fact enhance their hearing enough to communicate and engage normally in daily activities — without the stress and difficulty of impaired hearing — empowering them to reconnect to the people and activities that give their life the most value.
Which stage are you in?
In the case of hearing loss, following the crowd is going to get you into some trouble. While 80% of those with hearing loss are stuck somewhere along the first four stages of grief — struggling to hear, harming relationships, and making excuses — the other 20% have accepted their hearing loss, taken action to strengthen it, and rediscovered the pleasures of sound.
Which group will you join?