Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Treat Your Hearing Loss

We all put things off, regularly talking ourselves out of complex or uncomfortable chores in favor of something more enjoyable or fun. Distractions abound as we tell ourselves that we will sooner or later get around to whatever we’re currently working to avoid.

Often times, procrastination is fairly harmless. We might want to clean out the basement, for example, by throwing out or donating the things we never use. A clean basement sounds great, but the activity of actually hauling things to the donation center is not so pleasurable. In the concern of short-term pleasure, it’s easy to notice myriad alternatives that would be more pleasant—so you put it off.

In other cases, procrastination is not so benign, and when it comes to hearing loss, it could be downright harmful. While no one’s idea of a good time is getting a hearing examination, recent research shows that untreated hearing loss has major physical, mental, and social consequences.

To understand why, you have to start with the effects of hearing loss on the brain itself. Here’s a recognizable comparison: if any of you have ever broken a bone, let’s say your leg, you know what happens after you take the cast off. You’ve lost muscle volume and strength from inactivity, because if you don’t regularly make use of your muscles, they get weaker.

The same thing occurs with your brain. If you under-utilize the region of your brain that processes sound, your ability to process auditory information gets weaker. Researchers even have a label for this: they refer to it as “auditory deprivation.”

Returning to the broken leg example. Let’s say you removed the cast from your leg but continued to not make use of the muscles, relying on crutches to get around the same as before. What would happen? Your leg muscles would get increasingly weaker. The same happens with your brain; the longer you go with hearing loss, the less sound stimulation your brain gets, and the worse your hearing gets.

That, in essence, is auditory deprivation, which produces a host of different problems the latest research is continuing to reveal. For example, a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that those with hearing loss suffer from a 40% decrease in cognitive function in comparison to those with regular hearing, along with an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

Generalized cognitive decline also leads to severe mental and social effects. A major study by The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) established that those with neglected hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to participate in social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.

So what starts out as an inconvenience—not having the capability hear people clearly—brings about a downward spiral that impacts all aspects of your health. The chain of events is clear: Hearing loss brings about auditory deprivation, which produces general cognitive decline, which creates psychological harm, including depression and anxiety, which ultimately leads to social isolation, damaged relationships, and an enhanced risk of developing major medical issues.

The Benefits of Hearing Aids

So that was the bad news. The good news is just as encouraging. Let’s visit the broken leg illustration one more time. Just after the cast comes off, you begin working out and stimulating the muscles, and over time, you recoup your muscle mass and strength.

The same process once again is applicable to hearing. If you boost the stimulation of sound to your brain with hearing aids, you can recuperate your brain’s ability to process and comprehend sound. This leads to better communication, improved psychological health, and ultimately to better relationships. And, in fact, as reported by The National Council on the Aging, hearing aid users report improvements in nearly every area of their lives.

Are you ready to achieve the same improvement?

How Insects are Revolutionizing Hearing Aids

Modern day hearing aids have come a long way; present models are highly effective and feature remarkable digital capabilities, like wireless connectivity, that strongly improve a person’s ability to hear along with their all-around quality of life.

But there is still room for improvement.

Specifically, in some situations hearing aids have some challenges with two things:

  1. Locating the source of sound
  2. Cutting out background noise

But that may soon change, as the most recent research in hearing aid design is being guided from a unusual source: the world of insects.

Why insects hold the secret to better hearing aids

Both mammals and insects have the same problem pertaining to hearing: the transformation and amplification of sound waves into information the brain can use. What scientists are identifying is that the mechanism insects use to solve this problem is in many ways more proficient than our own.

The internal organs of hearing in an insect are more compact and more sensitive to a bigger range of frequencies, permitting the insect to identify sounds humans are unable to hear. Insects also can identify the directionality and distance of sound in ways more accurate than the human ear.

Hearing aid design has typically been guided by the way humans hear, and hearing aids have tended to supply straightforward amplification of inbound sound and transmission to the middle ear. But scientists are now asking a different question.

Borrowing inspiration from the natural world, they’re asking how nature—and its hundreds of millions of years of evolution—has attempted to solve the problem of sensing and perceiving sound. By evaluating the hearing mechanism of different insects, such as flies, grasshoppers, and butterflies, scientists can borrow the best from each to design a brand new mechanism that can be put to use in the design of new and improved miniature microphones.

Insect-inspired miniature directional microphones

Scientists from University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and the MRC/CSO Institute for Hearing Research (IHR) at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, will be testing hearing aids furnished with a new type of miniature microphone inspired by insects.

The hope is that the new hearing aids will achieve three things:

  1. More energy-efficient microphones and electronics that will ultimately lead to smaller hearing aids, lower power usage, and extended battery life.
  2. The ability to more precisely locate the source and distance of sound.
  3. The ability to focus on specific sounds while reducing background noise.

Researchers will also be trying out 3D printing procedures to improve the design and ergonomics of the new hearing aids.

The future of hearing aids

For virtually all of their history, hearing aids have been designed with the human hearing mechanism in mind, in an effort to replicate the normal human hearing experience. Now, by asking a different set of questions, researchers are establishing a new set of goals. Rather than attempting to RESTORE normal human hearing, perhaps they can ENHANCE it.

6 Ways Your Brain Transforms Sound Into Emotion

It has long been established that there are strong connections between sound, music, emotion, and memory, and that our personal experiences and tendencies determine the type and intensity of emotional reaction we have to specific sounds.

For example, research has uncovered these widespread associations between specific sounds and emotions:

  • The sound of a thunderstorm evokes a feeling of either relaxation or anxiety, depending on the individual
  • Wind chimes commonly provoke a restless feeling
  • Rain evokes a feeling of relaxation
  • Fireworks evoke a feeling of nostalgia and pleasurable memories
  • The vibrations of a cell phone are often perceived as annoying

Other sounds have a more universal identity. UCLA researchers have observed that the sound of laughter is universally recognized as a positive sound signifying enjoyment, while other sounds are universally associated with fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and surprise.

So why are we predisposed to particular emotional reactions in the presence of certain sounds? And why does the reaction tend to vary between individuals?

Although the answer is still in essence a mystery, current research by Sweden’s Lund University offers some interesting insights into how sound and sound environments can have an affect on humans on personal, emotional, and psychological levels.

Here are six psychological mechanisms through which sound may arouse emotions:

1. Brain-Stem Reflex

You’re sitting quietly in your office when all of a sudden you hear a loud, abrupt crash. What’s your response? If you’re like most, you become emotionally aroused and compelled to investigate. This type of reaction is subconscious and hard-wired into your brain to alert you to possibly critical or harmful sounds.

2. Evaluative Conditioning

Many people commonly associate sounds with specific emotions based on the context in which the sound was heard. For instance, listening to a song previously played on your wedding day may induce feelings of joy, while the same song first listened to by someone during a bad breakup may create the opposing feelings of sadness.

3. Emotional Contagion

When someone smiles or laughs, it’s difficult to not start smiling and laughing yourself. Research conducted in the 1990s revealed that the brain may contain what are labeled as “mirror neurons” that are activated both when you are carrying out a task AND when you are watching someone else perform the task. When we hear someone communicating while crying, for instance, it can be challenging to not also experience the similar feelings of sadness.

4. Visual Imagery

Let’s say you enjoy listening to CDs containing only the sounds of nature. Why do you like it? Presumably because it evokes a positive emotional experience, and, taking that further, it most likely evokes some powerful visual images of the natural setting in which the sounds are heard. Case in point, try listening to the sounds of waves crashing and NOT visualizing yourself relaxing at the beach.

5. Episodic Memory

Sounds can trigger emotionally potent memories, both good and bad. The sounds of rain can stir up memories of a tranquil day spent at home, while the sound of thunder may stimulate memories associated with combat experience, as seen in post-traumatic stress disorder.

6. Music Expectancy

Music has been defined as the universal language, which makes sense the more you give it some thought. Music is, after all, only a random assortment of sounds, and is enjoyable only because the brain imposes order to the sounds and interprets the order in a certain way. It is, in fact, your expectations about the rhythm and melody of the music that generate an emotional response.

Sound, Emotion, and Hearing Loss

Regardless of your specific reactions to different sounds, what is certain is that your emotions are directly involved. With hearing loss, you not only lose the capability to hear certain sounds, you also lose the emotional force tied to the sounds you can either no longer hear or can no longer hear properly.

With hearing loss, for example, nature walks become less gratifying when you can no longer hear the faint sounds of flowing water; music loses its emotional punch when you can’t differentiate specific instruments; and you place yourself at greater risk when you can’t hear fire alarms or other alerts to danger.

The bottom line is that hearing is more important to our lives—and to our emotional lives—than we most likely realize. It also means that treating your hearing loss will probably have a greater impact than you realize, too.


What are some of your favorite sounds? What emotions do they provoke?

Are there any particular sounds or songs that make you feel happy, angry, annoyed, sad, or excited? Let us know in a comment.

6 Ways to Lose Your Hearing

The ironic part of hearing loss is that we don’t seem to start appreciating our favorite sounds until after we’ve lost the capacity to clearly hear them. We don’t pause to think about, for example, how much we appreciate a good conversation with a friend until we have to incessantly ask them to repeat themselves.

Whether it’s your favorite Mozart record or the sounds of a Bluejay first thing in the morning, your quality of life is directly connected to your capability to hear—whether you recognize it or not. And if you wait until after you’ve lost your hearing to come to this realization, you’re going to devote a tremendous amount of time and effort working to get it back.

So how can you sustain your ability to hear?

Here are 6 ways you could lose your hearing and what you can do about it.

1. Genetics and aging

Age-related hearing loss, also called presbycusis, is the loss of hearing that steadily occurs as we grow old. Together with presbycusis, there is also some evidence suggesting that genetics plays a role, and that some of us are more vulnerable to hearing loss than others.

While there’s not much you can do to stop the process of getting older or adjust your genes, you can protect against noise-induced hearing loss from the other causes illustrated below. And keep in mind that age-related hearing loss is much more complicated to treat if worsened by avoidable damage.

2. Traveling

Consistent exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels can result in permanent hearing loss, which is bad news if you happen to drive a convertible. New research shows that driving a convertible with the top down at excessive speeds produces an average sound volume level of 90 decibels. Motorcyclists face even higher sounds and those who take the subway are at risk as well.

So does everyone either have to give up travel or live with permanent earplugs? Not quite, but you should certainly look for ways to reduce your cumulative noise exposure during travel. If you drive a convertible, roll up your windows and drive a little slower; if you ride a motorcycle, wear a helmet and think about earplugs; and if you use the subway, think about buying noise-canceling headsets.

3. Going to work

As stated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 22 million workers in the US are exposed to potentially harmful noise levels on the job. The highest risk professions are in manufacturing, farming, construction, the military, and the music industry.

The last thing you need is to spend your entire working life amassing hearing loss that will prevent you from taking pleasure in your retirement. Have a talk with your supervisor about its hearing protection plan, and if they do not have one, talk to your local hearing specialist for customized solutions.

4. Taking drugs and smoking

Smoking interferes with blood flow, on top of other things, which could enhance your risk of developing hearing loss—if you really required another reason to quit. Antibiotics, potent pain medications, and a significant number of other drugs are “ototoxic,” or toxic to the cells of hearing. In fact, there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications.

The bottom line: try to avoid using ototoxic drugs or medications unless completely necessary. Consult with your doctor if you have any questions.

5. Listening to music

85 is turning out to be quite an inconvenient number. All of our favorite activities produce decibel levels just above this threshold, and any sound over 85 decibels can result in hearing loss. If the threshold were just slightly higher, say 100 decibels, we wouldn’t have to worry about it so much.

But 85 it is. And portable mp3 players at max volume get to more than 100 decibels while rock concerts reach more than 110. The solution is straightforward: turn down your iPod, wear earplugs at concerts, and minimize your length of exposure to the music.

6. Getting sick or injured

Some disorders, such as diabetes, along with any traumatic head injuries, places you at greater risk of developing hearing loss. If you have diabetes, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and continual monitoring of glucose levels is vital. And if you drive a motorcycle, using a helmet will help protect against traumatic head injuries.

Talk to Your Hearing Specialist

Although there are numerous ways to lose your hearing, a few basic lifestyle adjustments can help you maintain your hearing for life. Keep in mind: the small hassle of wearing custom earplugs, driving with the windows up, or turning down your iPod are small in comparison to the substantial inconvenience of hearing loss later in life.

Ready to take your hearing health seriously? Give us a call today.

Why Choose a Local Hearing Care Provider?

The hearing healthcare industry has two barriers that prevent people from achieving healthier hearing:

  1. The inability to detect hearing loss in the first place (owing to its gradual onset), and
  2. The temptation to find a quick, easy, and inexpensive solution.

Unfortunately, countless people who have overcome the first barrier have been lured into the allegedly “cheaper and easier” techniques of correcting their hearing loss, whether it be through the purchase of hearing aids over the internet, the purchase of personal sound amplifiers, or by heading to the big box stores that are much more concerned with profitability than with patient care.

Despite the lure of these simple remedies, the fact is that local hearing care providers are your best option for better hearing, and here are the reasons why.

Local hearing care providers choose to use a customer-centric business model

National chain stores are profitable for one reason: they sell a high volume of low-priced goods and services at low prices in the name of larger revenue. National chains are all about efficiency, which is a nice way of saying “get as many people in and out the door as rapidly as possible.”

Undoubtedly, this profit-centric model works great with most purchases, because you most likely don’t need professional, individualized care to help select your undershirts and bath soap. Customer service simply doesn’t factor in.

However, problems result when this business model is expanded to services that do demand expert, customized care—such as the correction of hearing loss. National chains are not focused on patient outcomes because they can’t be; it’s too time-consuming and flies in the face of the high volume “see as many patients as possible” business model.

Local hearing care providers are very different. They’re not preoccupied with short-term profits because they don’t have a board of directors to answer to. The success of a local practice is reliant on patient outcomes and high quality of care, which results in satisfied patients who continue to be faithful to the practice and disperse the positive word-of-mouth advertising that leads to more referrals.

Local practices, for that reason, thrive on delivering quality care, which will benefit both the patient and the practice. In contrast, what happens if a national chain can’t deliver quality care and happy patients? Simple, they use nationwide advertising to get a endless flow of new patients, vowing the same “quick and cheap fix” that enticed in the original customers.

Local hearing care providers have more experience

Hearing is complex, and like our fingerprints, is unique to everyone, so the frequencies I may have difficulty hearing are distinct from the frequencies you have difficulty hearing. In other words, you can’t just take surrounding sound, make it all louder, and pump it into your ears and count on good results. But this is essentially what personal sound amplifiers, along with the cheaper hearing aid models, accomplish.

The truth is, the sounds your hearing aids amplify—AND the sounds they don’t—HAVE to complement the way you, and only you, hear. That’s only going to occur by:

  • Having your hearing professionally tested so you know the EXACT features of your hearing loss, and…
  • Having your hearing aids professionally programmed to amplify the sounds you have difficulty hearing while distinguishing and suppressing the sounds you don’t want to hear (such as low-frequency background sound).

For the hearing care provider, this is no straight forward task. It requires a considerable amount of training and patient care experience to be able to conduct a hearing test, help patients select the right hearing aid, skillfully program the hearing aids, and supply the patient training and aftercare necessary for optimal hearing. There are no shortcuts to supplying comprehensive hearing care—but the results are worth the time and effort.

Make your choice

So, who do you want to leave your hearing to? To someone who views you as a transaction, as a consumer, and as a means to attaining sales targets? Or to an experienced local professional that cares about the same thing you do—helping you acquire the best hearing possible, which, by the way, is the lifeblood of the local practice.

As a general rule, we advise that you avoid purchasing your hearing aids anywhere you see a sign that reads “10 items or less.” As local, experienced hearing professionals, we provide comprehensive hearing healthcare and the best hearing technology to match your specific needs, lifestyle, and budget.

Still have questions? Give us a call today.

The Right Way to Clean Your Ears

Anatomy of the ear
Blausen.com staff. “Blausen gallery 2014”.

That there is a right way to clean your ears suggests that there is a wrong way, and indeed, there is a very wrong way. The wrong way is widespread, and it breaches the very first rule of cleaning your ears: don’t insert foreign objects into your ear canal. That includes cotton swabs and any other object that will likely only force the earwax up against the eardrum, possibly causing irritation, temporary hearing loss, or eardrum injury.

So what should you be doing to clean your ears under usual circumstances? In a word: nothing (I hope you weren’t expecting something more profound). Your ears are made to be self-cleaning, and the normal movements of your jaw move earwax from the canal to the outer ear. If you try to remove it, your ear just produces more wax.

And earwax is important, as it contains protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. In fact, over-cleaning the ears can cause dry, itchy, irritated skin within the ear canal. So, for most people the majority of of the time, nothing is needed other than normal bathing to wash the outer ear.

But notice that we said MOST of the time, because there are instances in which people do produce an excessive amount of earwax or excess earwax impacts the eardrum. In situations like these, you will need to clean out your ears. Here’s how:

Cleaning your ears at home

We will say it again: don’t insert any foreign objects into your ear canal. You can irritate the delicate skin of the canal and can end up perforating your eardrum. This means no cotton swabs and absolutely no ear candles. (Speaking of ear candles, in 2010, the FDA issued a warning against using them, declaring that no scientific evidence supports their effectiveness and that their use can lead to major injuries.)

To correctly clean your ears at home, take the following actions:

  1. Purchase earwax softening solution at the drugstore or make some at home. Instructions for making the mixture can be found on the internet, and the solution often includes the use of hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, and glycerin.
  2. Pour the solution into your ears from the container or by using a plastic or bulb syringe. Tilt your head to the side and allow the solution to work for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Drain the solution out of your ear by tilting your head slowly over a bowl or the sink, or you can use a cotton ball pressed against the outside of the ear. (I know it’s tempting, but again, don’t force the cotton ball into your ear.)
  4. Flush out your ears with lukewarm water using a bulb syringe to displace any loose earwax.

When not to clean your ears at home

Cleaning your ears at home could be unsafe in the presence of an ear infection or a perforated eardrum. If you suffer from any symptoms such as fever, lightheadedness, ear pain, or ear discharge, it’s best to consult with your doctor or hearing specialist. Also, repeated attempts at self cleaning that are unsuccessful may signify a more serious congestion that necessitates professional cleaning.

Medical doctors and hearing specialists apply a variety of medicines and devices to rapidly, thoroughly, and safely remove excess earwax. The solutions tend to be more powerful than the homemade versions, and tools called curettes can be inserted into the ear to manually remove the wax.

When in doubt, leave it to the experts. You’ll get the assurance that you’re not causing damage to your ears, and symptoms can subside within minutes of a professional cleaning. In addition, underlying problems or hearing loss can be identified and corrected by a professional.

If you have any additional questions or want to set up an appointment, give us a call today! And keep in mind, if you’re a hearing aid user, you’ll want to get a repeated professional checkup every 6 months.

The Surprising Statistics Behind Occupational Hearing Loss

It’s popular to think of hearing loss as an inescapable problem linked with aging, or, more recently, as a consequence of the younger generation’s constant use of iPods. But the numbers reveal that the larger problem may be exposure to loud noise at work.

In the United States, 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise, and an approximated 242 million dollars is devoted each year on worker’s compensation claims for hearing loss, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

What’s more is that higher rates of hearing loss are found in progressively noisier occupations, suggesting that exposure to sounds above a certain level progressively enhances your risk for developing noise-induced hearing loss later in life.

How loud is too loud?

A study performed by Audicus discovered that, of those who were not subjected to work-related noise levels over 90 decibels, only 9 percent struggled with noise-induced hearing loss at age 50. In comparison, construction workers, who are regularly exposed to sound levels as high as 120 decibels, struggled with noise-induced hearing loss at the age of 50 at a rate of 60 percent!

It seems that 85-90 decibels is the ceiling for safe sound levels, but that’s not the complete story: the decibel scale is logarithmic, not linear. That signifies that as you increase the decibel level by 3 decibels, the sound level just about doubles. So 160 decibels is not two times as loud as 80—it’s about 26 times louder!

Here’s how it breaks down: a decibel level of 0 is hardly perceptible, regular conversation is about 60 decibels, the threshold for safety is 85-90 decibels, and the death of hearing cells starts at 180 decibels. It’s the region between 85 and 180 that leads to noise-induced hearing loss, and as would be imagined, the professions with increasingly louder decibel levels have steadily higher rates of hearing loss.

Hearing loss by occupation

As the following table demonstrates, as the decibel levels connected with each occupation increase, hearing loss rates increase as well:

Occupation Decibel level Incidence rates of hearing loss at age 50
No noise exposure Less than 90 decibels 9%
Manufacturing 105 decibels 30%
Farming 105 decibels 36%
Construction 120 decibels 60%

Any occupation with decibel levels above 90 places its workforce at risk for hearing loss, and this includes rock musicians (110 dB), nightclub staff (110 dB), Formula One drivers (135 dB), airport ground staff (140 dB), and shooting range marshalls (140 dB). In each case, as the decibel level rises, the risk of noise-induced hearing loss rises with it.

Protecting your hearing

A recent US study on the prevalence of hearing loss in farming found that 92 percent of the US farmers surveyed were exposed to unsafe noise levels, but that only 44 percent reported to use hearing protection accessories on a every day basis. Factory workers, on the other hand, tend to stick to to stricter hearing protection regulations, which may explain why the incidence rate of hearing loss is slightly lower in manufacturing than it is in farming, despite subjection to similar decibel volumes.

All of the data point to one thing: the significance of protecting your hearing. If you work in a risky job, you need to take the right preventive steps. If avoiding the noise is not an option, you need to find ways to minimize the noise levels (best attained with custom earplugs), in addition to assuring that you take frequent rest breaks for your ears. Controlling both the sound volume and exposure time will decrease your chances of acquiring noise-induced hearing loss.

If you would like to talk about a hearing protection plan for your unique circumstances or job, give us a call. As hearing specialists, we can provide tailor-made solutions to best protect your hearing at work. We also offer custom earplugs that, in addition to defending your hearing, are comfortable to wear and can maintain the natural quality of sound (as opposed to the muffled sound you hear with foam earplugs).

Finding Financial Assistance for Your Hearing Aids

Hearing Aid Financing

The maxim “you get what you pay for” is certainly true of hearing aids, and while the latest hearing aids are designed to be more effective than ever, they’re not exactly inexpensive, either.

Fortunately, modern digital hearing aids, while not cheap, ARE becoming more affordable, in the same manner that most consumer electronics are becoming more affordable (A 20-inch flat screen TV cost $1,200 in 1999; it costs just $84 today). And when you stop to think about it, we have a tendency to spend considerably more money on things that simply do not enhance our quality of life to the magnitude that a pair of hearing aids can.

Let’s say, for example, that a pair of hearing aids costs $5,000. Assuming the hearing aids last 5 years, that equates to a monthly cost of only $83.33 per month. Many people spend more money on their cable tv bill, and that’s why the majority of our patients openly confess that while the upfront expense seems high, the monthly expense, relative to the benefit they receive from better hearing, is more than worth the cost.

So you have to ask yourself, would you be prepared to devote less than 100 dollars per month to have better conversations and interactions with your family and friends? Most people would, and that’s why millions of people choose to buy hearing aids.

But once you decide to purchase hearing aids, what are your methods for paying for them? Despite common beliefs, you have a number of possible options.

Financing options for hearing aids

The very first mistake people make is assuming that no financial assistance is possible. Even though receiving assistance can be challenging at times, there are in fact quite a few resources that you should inquire about before choosing to hand over a full cash payment. Here are some of the steps we suggest taking:

  • Begin by calling your private insurance provider. While private insurance varies by company and by state, many people discover that their private insurance supplies some type of assistance with hearing aids.
  • Look into utilizing a medical flexible spending account. This is a special kind of account you can use to put aside money (pre-tax) to pay for out-of-pocket medical costs.
  • Check out your Medicare and Medicaid benefits. This is not the most likely way to help pay for hearing aids, but Medicare and Medicaid do supply benefits in certain limited situations.
  • Contact your local VA office if you’re a veteran. Veterans may receive benefits that can help partly or totally pay for hearing aids. Check with your local VA office for more information.
  • Search for charitable organizations that grant hearing aids or financial help. If you meet the financial criteria, there are numerous charitable organizations that offer hearing aids or financial assistance for hearing aids. We’ll share some resources for you in the following section.
  • Check your state’s vocational rehabilitation program. If hearing aids are required for work, your state may help you pay for them through its vocational rehabilitation program.
  • Consider financing your hearing aids. Numerous programs can be found, including CareCredit, which functions like a credit card but is exclusive to healthcare services.

Additional resources

There are far too many options and resources to name, and many programs are specific to the state you reside in or to the specific institutions you’re associated with. So, instead of reading through a long list of resources, it’s best to search for programs specific to your state or circumstances. For instance, performing a Google search for “hearing aid funding in ” or “hearing aid assistance for veterans” will likely supply some valuable results.

You might also want to check out the list of financial resources from the
Better Hearing Institute
and the Hearing Loss Association of America, both of which list programs by state and incorporate lists of various charitable organizations.

If you’re still not positive where to get started, or are having a hard time finding information, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We can point you in the right direction and can help you find the financing option that works best for you. Your hearing is worth it—call us today!

Understanding Your Treatment Options for Tinnitus

Approximately 45 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, which is the perception of sound where no outside sound source exists. This phantom sound is normally perceived as a ringing sound, but can also materialize as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking.

The first thing to understand about tinnitus is that it’s a symptom, not a disease. As a result, tinnitus may indicate an underlying medical condition that, after treated, cures the tinnitus. Earwax accumulation or other blockages, blood vessel disorders, specific medications, and other underlying disorders can all bring on tinnitus, so the starting point is ruling out any ailments that would require medical or surgical treatment.

In most instances of tinnitus, however, no specific cause is discovered. In these cases, tinnitus is assumed to be caused by damage to 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 caused by nerve cell damage, or is connected with hearing loss, tinnitus often cannot be cured—but that doesn’t mean people need to suffer without help. While there is no conclusive cure for most instances of chronic tinnitus, various tinnitus treatment options are available that help patients live better, more comfortable, and more productive lives, even if the perception of tinnitus persists.

Here are some of the treatment options for tinnitus:

Hearing Aids

The majority of cases of tinnitus are connected 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 reaction to sound deprivation that results in tinnitus.

Tinnitus is worsened with hearing loss because when surrounding sound is muffled, the sounds associated with tinnitus become more recognizable. But when hearing aids are utilized, the amplified sound signals cause the sounds of tinnitus to blend into the richer background sounds. Hearing aids for tinnitus patients can then produce multiple benefits, among them better hearing, enhanced auditory stimulation, and a “masking effect” for tinnitus.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy is a wide-ranging phrase used to describe a number of techniques to using external sound to “mask” the tinnitus. Over time, the brain can learn to recognize the sounds of tinnitus as unimportant in comparison to the contending sound, thereby minimizing the intensity of tinnitus.

Sound therapy can be delivered through masking devices but can also be provided through specific hearing aid models that can stream sound wirelessly by means of Bluetooth technology. Some hearing aid models even connect with compatible Apple products, including iPhones, so that any masking sounds installed on the Apple devices can be sent wirelessly to the hearing aids.

The types of masking sounds used may vary, including white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, and music. Sounds can also be specially programmed to match the sound frequency of the patient’s tinnitus, providing customized masking relief. Provided that each patient will respond differently to different masking sounds, it’s critical that you work with a experienced hearing professional.

Behavioral Therapies

Several behavioral therapies exist to help the patient cope with the psychological and emotional elements of tinnitus. One example is mindfulness-based stress reduction, during which the individual learns to accept the ailment while establishing useful coping strategies.

You may have also heard the term Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), which brings together cognitive-behavioral therapy with sound masking therapy. With Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, people learn to establish healthy cognitive and emotional reactions to tinnitus while making use of sound therapy to teach their brains to reclassify tinnitus as unimportant, so that it can be consciously ignored.

General Wellness

In addition to the more targeted sound and behavioral therapies, people can participate in general wellness activities that have a tendency to lessen the severity of tinnitus. These activities consist of healthy diets, frequent exercise, social activity, recreational activities, and any other activities that contribute to improved health and lowered stress.

Drug Therapies

There are presently no FDA-approved medications that have been shown to cure or relieve tinnitus directly, but there are medications that can treat stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can make tinnitus worse or are caused by tinnitus itself. In fact, some antidepressant and antianxiety medications have been shown to provide some relief to patients with severe tinnitus.

Experimental Therapies

A flurry of encouraging research is being carried out in labs and universities throughout the world, as researchers continue to hunt for the underlying neurological cause of tinnitus and its ultimate cure. While many 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 established treatments rather than waiting for any experimental treatment to hit the market.

Here are a few 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 comparable to the above therapies in its use of electromagnetic energy, the difference being that DBS is an invasive procedure requiring surgery and the positioning 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 oftentimes outweigh the benefits.

The Best Treatment For Your Tinnitus

The ideal tinnitus treatment for you is based on many factors, and is best evaluated by a qualified hearing specialist. As your local hearing care experts, we’ll do everything we can to help you find relief from your tinnitus. Book your appointment today and we’ll find the personalized solution that works best for you.

6 Ways to Save Your Hearing

The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion individuals are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, caused by exposure to intense sound levels from personal mp3 devices and very loud settings such as nightclubs, bars, concerts, and sporting events. An projected 26 million Americans currently suffer from the condition.

If noise-induced hearing loss results from being exposed to high sound levels, then what is considered to be excessive? It turns out that any noise higher than 85 decibels is potentially injurious, and unfortunately, many of our normal activities expose us to sounds well above this limit. An portable music player at maximum volume, for instance, 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 decisions, 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 stay away from loud noise completely. Of course, for most people that would mean quitting their jobs and ditching their plans to see their favorite music group perform live in concert.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to live like a recluse to spare your hearing. If you’re exposed to loud noise at work, or if you plan on going to a live performance, instead of avoiding the noise you can reduce its volume with earplugs. One method is to buy a cheap pair of foam earplugs at the convenience store, recognizing that they will 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 shaped to the contours of your ear for optimum comfort, and they include advanced electronics that reduce sound volume evenly across frequencies so that music and speech can be perceived clearly and naturally. Talk to your local hearing professional for more information.

2. Keep 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 strength of the sound falls by 75%. This law of physics might save your hearing at a rock concert; instead of standing front row next to the speaker, increase your distance as much as possible, managing the benefits of a good view versus a safe distance.

3. Take rest breaks for your ears

Hearing damage from subjection to loud sound is dependent on three factors:

  1. the sound level or intensity
  2. your distance from the sound source
  3. the length of time you’re subjected to the sound

You can lower the intensity level of sound with earplugs, you can increase your distance from the sound source, and you can also lessen your collective exposure time by taking rest breaks from the sound. If you’re at a live concert or in a recording studio, for instance, you’ll want to give your ears occasional 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, ensure that you keep the volume no higher that 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes per day. Higher volume and longer listening times enhance the risk of long-term damage.

5. Purchase noise-canceling headphones

The 60/60 rule is very hard, if not impossible to adhere to in certain listening conditions. In the presence of 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 resolution? Noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones will filter ambient sounds so that you can enjoy your music without breaking the 60/60 rule.

6. Arrange for regular hearing exams

It’s never too soon or too late to arrange a hearing exam. In addition to being able to detect current hearing loss, a hearing examination can also establish a baseline for later comparison.

Ever since hearing loss develops gradually, it is difficult to perceive. For the majority of 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 furnish personal hearing protection solutions so that you can avoid hearing loss altogether.

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