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.

The Psychology of Hearing Loss

If we seriously want to understand hearing loss, we have to understand both the physical side, which makes hearing progressively more 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 renders the loss and the psychological reality prevents people from treating it.

The numbers tell the story. While virtually 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 enormous discrepancy between the opportunity for better hearing and the wide-spread resistance to achieve it? The first step is to appreciate that hearing loss is in fact a “loss,” in the sense that something invaluable has been taken away and is ostensibly lost forever. The second step is to figure out how people generally react to losing something invaluable, which, thanks 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 pass through (in incredibly consistent ways), although not everyone does so in the same order or in the same period of time.

Here are the stages:

  1. Denial – the individual buffers the emotional shock by denying the loss and imagining a false, preferred reality.
  2. Anger – the individual acknowledges the loss but becomes angry that it has happened to them.
  3. Bargaining – the individual reacts to the feeling of helplessness by seeking to take back control through negotiating.
  4. Depression – understanding the significance of the loss, the individual becomes saddened at the hopelessness of the predicament.
  5. Acceptance – in the last stage, the individual accepts the situation 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 getting to the final stage of acceptance — hence the discrepancy between the potential for better hearing and the low numbers of people who actually seek help, or that otherwise wait a number of years before doing so.

Progressing through the stages of hearing loss

The first stage of grief is the trickiest to escape for those with hearing loss. Considering that hearing loss advances gradually through the years, it can be very hard to recognize. People also have the tendency to make up for hearing loss by turning up the TV volume, for instance, or by forcing people to repeat themselves. Those with hearing loss can stay in the denial stage for many years, saying things like “I can hear just fine” or “I hear what I want to.”

The next stage, the anger stage, can manifest itself as a form of projection. You may 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 problem is in fact with them, and not with others, at which point they may transition on to the bargaining stage.

Bargaining is a form of intellectualization that can take various forms. For example, people with hearing loss might compare their condition to others by thinking, “My hearing has become much worse, but at least my health is good. I really shouldn’t complain, other people my age are dealing with real problems.” You may 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 aging, no big deal.”

After passing through these first three stages of denial, anger, and bargaining, those with hearing loss may go into a stage of depression — under the mistaken presumption that there is no hope for treatment. They may remain in the depression stage for a while until they realize 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 shockingly evasive. If only 20% of those who can benefit from hearing aids actually wear them, that means 80% of those with hearing loss never reach the final stage of acceptance (or they’ve arived at the acceptance stage but for other reasons decide 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 kinds of loss, hearing loss is partially recoverable, making the acceptance stage easier to reach. Thanks to major advancements in digital hearing aid technology, people can in fact strengthen their hearing enough to communicate and engage normally in daily activities — without the stress and frustration 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, damaging relationships, and making excuses — the other 20% have accepted their hearing loss, taken action to strengthen it, and rediscovered the joys of sound.

Which group will you join?

A Short Biography of Raymond Carhart, the “Father of Audiology”

Raymond Carhart

Many people are surprised to hear how young the field of audiology actually is, and how recently its founding father founded the profession. To put this in perspective, if you desired to find the founding father of biology, for example, you’d have to go back in time by 2,300 years and read through the The History of Animals, a natural history text authored in the fourth century BCE by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.

In comparison, to find the founding father of audiology, we need go back only 70 years, to 1945 when Raymond Carhart popularized the word. But who was Raymond Carhart, and how did he come to start a separate scientific field so recently? The story starts with World War II.

World War II and Hearing Loss

One of history’s most reliable lessons tells us that necessity is the mother of invention, which means that difficult situations prompt inventions focused on limiting the difficulty. Such was the case for audiology, as hearing loss was proving to be a bigger public health concern both during and after World War II.

Indeed, the main driving force behind the advancement of audiology was World War II, which lead to military personnel coming back from battle with extreme hearing impairment due to exposure to loud sounds. While many speech pathologists had been calling for better hearing assessment and therapy all along, the multitude of people afflicted with hearing loss from World War II made the request impossible to ignore.

Among those calling for a new discipline, Robert West, a distinguished speech pathologist, called for the expansion of the speech pathology field to include the correction of hearing in 1936 — the same year that Raymond Carhart would graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Speech Pathology, Experimental Phonetics and Psychology.

Raymond Carhart Establishes the New Science of Hearing

Raymond Carhart himself started his career in speech pathology. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Psychology from Dakota Wesleyan University in 1932 and his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Speech Pathology, Experimental Phonetics and Psychology at Northwestern University in 1934 and 1936. Carhart was in fact one of the department’s first two PhD graduates.

Soon after graduation, Carhart became an instructor in Speech Re-education from 1936 to 1940. Then, in 1940 he was promoted to Assistant Professor and in 1943 to Associate Professor. It was what happened next, however, that may have changed the course of history for audiology.

In 1944, Carhart was commissioned a captain in the Army to head the Deshon General Hospital aural rehab program for war-deafened military personnel in Butler, Pennsylvania. It was here that Carhart, in the setting of assisting more than 16,000 hearing-impaired military personnel, popularized the term audiology, designating it as the science of hearing. From that point forward, audiology would split from speech pathology as its own distinctive research specialization.

At the conclusion of the war, Carhart would go back to Northwestern University to establish the country’s first academic program in audiology. As a skilled teacher, he guided 45 doctoral students to the completion of their work, students who would themselves become notable teachers, scientists, and clinical specialists across the country. And as a researcher, among many contributions, Carhart developed and refined speech audiometry, specifically as it applied to calculating the effectiveness of hearing aid performance. He even identified a distinct pattern on the audiogram that reveals otosclerosis (hardening of the middle ear bones), eponymously named the “Carhart notch.”

Raymond Carhart’s Place in History

Of history’s founding fathers, the name Raymond Carhart may not be as familiar as Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, or Charles Darwin. But if you wear hearing aids, and you know the degree to which the quality of life is enhanced as the result, you might place Raymond Carhart on the same level as history’s greats. His students probably would, and if you visit the Frances Searle Building at Northwestern University, you’ll still see a plaque that reads:

“Raymond Carhart, Teacher, Scholar, and Friend. From his students.”

Questions to Ask Your Hearing Specialist Before You Buy Hearing Aids

Question Mark

When it’s time to buy a car, the majority of us know exactly what to do. We carry out some research, evaluate options, and compile a list of questions to ask the dealership. We do this so that by the time we’re ready to stop by the dealership, we have an idea of what we’re looking for and we know which questions to ask.

When it’s time to purchase hearing aids, on the other hand, most people don’t know where to start. While the process is comparable to buying a car, it’s also in many ways more complex (and probably not quite as fun). It’s more complicated because every person’s hearing loss is unique and each pair of hearing aids requires customized programming. If purchasing a car was like this, it would be like you taking it home and having to install the transmission yourself.

Luckily, you don’t need to know how to program your own hearing aids, but you do need to know the questions to ask to make sure that your hearing specialist covers all bases, properly programming the most suitable hearing aids for your requirements and lifestyle. In this manner, compiling a list of questions to talk about with your hearing specialist is the single most important thing you can do prior to your hearing test.

But which questions should you ask? Here are 35 to get you up and running, broken down by category:

HEARING LOSS

Different types of hearing loss require different types of treatment. The more you understand your own hearing loss, the better you’ll be able to evaluate hearing aid alternatives. You want to identify what form of hearing loss you have, if it will get worse, how soon you should treat it, and all of your treatment alternatives.

Questions to ask:

  • What type of hearing loss do I have?
  • Do I have unilateral or bilateral hearing loss?
  • Can I have a copy of my hearing test?
  • Will my hearing loss get worse over time if left untreated?
  • Will hearing aids enhance my hearing?
  • How much of my hearing will hearing aids regain?
  • What are my other alternatives aside from hearing aids?

HEARING AID STYLES AND FEATURES

Hearing aids are available in several styles, from multiple manufacturers, loaded with numerous features. You need a orderly way to narrow down your choices to be sure that you get the right hearing aid without wasting money on features you don’t need or want.

Questions to ask:

  • How many different types of hearing aid styles do you offer?
  • Which hearing aid style is most advantageous for my requirements and lifestyle?
  • Which digital features would be meaningful to me, and which could I do without having?
  • What are telecoils and directional microphones and do I need them?
  • Do I need Bluetooth compatible hearing aids?
  • Do my hearing aids need to be professionally programmed?
  • Do I need one or two hearing aids, and why?

HEARING AID PRICES, FINANCING, WARRANTIES, AND TRIAL PERIODS

The total price of a pair of hearing aids typically includes the professional fees associated with custom fitting and programming, along with many other services or accessories. You want to make sure that you fully grasp what you’re getting for the cost, if financing is available, if insurance will help, what the warranty includes, the duration of the trial period, and if any “restocking fees” apply to the end of the trial period.

Questions to ask:

  • What is the total price of the hearing aids, including professional services?
  • Do you supply any financing plans?
  • Will my insurance policy help pay for hearing aids?
  • How much will my hearing aids cost me annually?
  • Do the hearing aids have warranty coverage?
  • How much do hearing aid repairs cost after the warranty has expired?
  • Are repairs completed at the office or someplace else?
  • If my hearing aids have to be mailed out for repairs, are loaner hearing aids supplied?
  • Is there a trial period and how long is it?
  • Is there a restocking fee if I return my hearing aids during or after the trial period?

HEARING AID OPERATION, CARE, AND MAINTENANCE

Your hearing specialist should teach you how to care for, clean, and control your hearing aids. To be sure that nothing is missed, see to it that all of these questions are answered:

Questions to ask:

  • How do I operate my hearing aids?
  • How do I use hearing aids with telephones and other devices?
  • Can you show me how to use all of the buttons, features, and settings for my hearing aids?
  • What are environmental presets, and how do I access them?
  • Do I need a remote control, or can I use my cell phone to control the hearing aids?
  • What batteries do I need, how long will they last, and how do I replace them?
  • How should I clean and store my hearing aids?
  • Do I need to return for follow-up visits?
  • How long will my hearing aids last?
  • Do I need to update the hearing aid software application?
  • Do I become eligible for future hearing aid upgrades?

YOU’RE READY TO SCHEDULE YOUR HEARING TEST

Ok, so purchasing a pair of hearing aids may not be as enjoyable as purchasing a new car. But the quality of life you’ll attain from better hearing might very well make you more happy, as you’ll reconnect with people and take joy in the intricacies of sound once again. So go ahead and schedule that hearing test — your new pair of hearing aids are waiting for a test drive.

The Digital Advantage: Analog Vs. Digital Hearing Aids

Digital Code

You’ve probably been told that today’s hearing aids are “not your father’s hearing aids,” or that hearing aid technology is light-years ahead of where it used to be, even as recently as 5 to 10 years ago. But what makes modern technology so much better? And what exactly can present day hearing aids achieve that couldn’t be accomplished in the past?

The short answer is, as with the majority of electronics, hearing aids have benefited considerably from the digital revolution. Hearing aids have become miniaturized computers, with all of the programming versatility you would anticipate from a modern computer.

But before hearing aids became digital, they were analog. Let’s see if we can understand why the shift from analog to digital was such an advancement.

Digital vs analog hearing aids

At the most basic level, all hearing aids do the job the same way. Each hearing aid includes a microphone, amplifier, speaker, and battery. The microphone detects sound in the environment, the amplifier strengthens the signal, and the speaker delivers the louder sound to your ear.

Fundamentally, it’s not very complex. Where is does get complex, however, is in the details of how the hearing aids process sound, which digital hearing aids accomplish much differently than their analog counterparts.

Analog hearing aids process sound in a very straightforward manner. In three basic steps, sound is recognized by the microphone, amplified, and delivered to the ear through the speaker. That is… ALL sound is made to be louder, including background noise and the sound frequencies you can already hear properly. Put differently, analog hearing aids amplify even the sounds you don’t want to hear — think of the scratching sound you hear from an analog recording on a vinyl record.

Digital hearing aids, conversely, add a fourth step to the processing of sound: transformation of sound waves to digital information. Sound by itself is an analog signal, but instead of only making this analog signal louder, digital hearing aids first transform the sound into digital format (stored as 0s and 1s) that can then be modified. Digital hearing aids, therefore, can CHANGE the sound before amplification by changing the information saved as a series of 0s and 1s.

If this sounds like we’re talking about a computer, we are. Digital hearing aids are essentially miniature computers that run one specific application that manipulates and improves the quality of sound.

Advantages of digital hearing aids

Most modern hearing aids are digital, and for good reason. Seeing as analog hearing aids can only amplify incoming sound, and cannot alter it, analog hearing aids very often will amplify disruptive background noise, making it frustrating to hear in noisy environments and nearly impossible to talk on the phone.

Digital hearing aids, however, have the versatility to amplify select sound frequencies. When sound is converted into a digital signal, the computer chip can detect, distinguish, and store specific frequencies. As an example, the higher frequency speech sounds can be classified and stored separately from the lower frequency background noise. A hearing specialist can then program the computer chip to amplify only the high frequency speech sounds while suppressing the background noise — making it effortless to follow conversations even in noisy circumstances.

Here are some of the other advantages of digital hearing aids:

  • Miniaturized computer technology means smaller, more discreet hearing aids, with some models that fit totally in the ear canal, making them practically undetectable.
  • Digital hearing aids tend to have more stylish designs and colors.
  • Digital hearing aids can be programmed by a hearing specialist to process sound differently according to the location. By switching settings, users can attain ideal hearing for many different situations, from a silent room to a noisy restaurant to talking on the phone.
  • Digital hearing aids can be fine-tuned for every patient. Each person hears different sound frequencies at different decibel levels. Digital hearing aids permit the hearing specialist to vary amplification for each sound frequency based on the properties of each person’s distinctive hearing loss.

Try digital hearing aids out for yourself

Reading about digital hearing aids is one thing, trying them out is another. But bear in mind that, to get the most out of any set of hearing aids, you will need both the technology and the programming proficiency from an experienced, licensed hearing specialist.

And that’s where we come in. We’ve programmed and fine-tuned countless hearing aids for individuals with all varieties of hearing loss, and are more than happy to do the same for you. Give us a call and experience the digital advantage for yourself!

The Top 5 Hearing Aid Myths Exposed

At times, it seems like we love to mislead ourselves. Wikipedia has an entry called “List of common misconceptions” that includes hundreds of widely-held but false beliefs. Yes, I understand it’s Wikipedia, but take a look at the bottom of the page and you’ll notice around 385 credible sources cited.

For instance, did you know that Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb? Or that sugar does not in fact make kids hyperactive? There are plenty of examples of beliefs that we just assume to be correct, but now and then, it’s a good idea to reassess what we think we know.

For a number of of us, it’s time to reexamine what we think we know about hearing aids. The majority of myths and misconceptions about hearing aids are founded on the issues linked with the antiquated analog hearing aid models. But considering that most hearing aids are now digital, those problems are a thing of the past.

So how current is your hearing aid knowledge? Read below to see if any of the top 5 myths are keeping you or someone you know from buying a hearing aid.

The Top 5 Myths About Hearing Aids

Myth # 1: Hearing aids are not effective because some people have had bad experiences.

Reality: First, hearing aids have been proven to be effective. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association comparing the performance of three common types of hearing aids determined that:

Each [hearing aid] circuit markedly improved speech recognition, with greater improvement observed for soft and conversationally loud speech….All 3 circuits significantly reduced the frequency of problems encountered in verbal communication….Each circuit provided significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.

Additionally, since the release of this investigation, hearing aid technology has continued to improve. So the question is not whether hearing aids work — the question is whether you have the right hearing aid for your hearing loss, professionally programmed based on to your preferences by a knowledgeable professional.

Bad experiences are likely the result of purchasing the wrong hearing aid, purchasing hearing aids online, contacting the wrong individual, or not having the hearing aids customized and professionally programmed.

Myth # 2: Hearing aids are big, cumbersome, and unsightly.

Reality: This one is particularly easy to disprove. Simply perform a quick Google image search for “attractive hearing aid designs” and you’ll see several examples of stylish and colorful models from multiple producers.

Also, “completely-in-the-canal” (CIC) hearing aids are available that are virtually or entirely hidden when worn. The newer, stylish designs, however, compel some patients to choose the slightly larger hearing aid models to display the technology.

Myth # 3: Hearing aids are too expensive.

Reality: Today, some flat screen televisions with ultra-high definition curved glass sell for $8,000 or more. But this doesn’t make us say that “all TVs are too expensive.”

Just like television sets, hearing aids vary in price depending on functionality and features. While you may not want — or need — the top of the line hearing aids, you can likely find a pair that meets your needs, preferences, and finances. Also remember that, as is the case with all electronics, hearing aids are becoming more affordable each year, and that the value of better hearing and a better life is almost always well worth the expense.

Myth # 4: You can save time and money buying hearing aids online.

Reality: Remember myth # 1 that alleged that hearing aids are not effective? Well, it was probably created by this myth. Like we stated before, hearing aids have been proven to be effective, but the one caveat to that assertion has always been that hearing aids have to be programmed by a professional to ensure performance.

You wouldn’t dare purchase a pair of prescription glasses on the internet without consulting your eye doctor because your glasses need to be custom-made according to the unique characteristics of your vision loss. Buying hearing aids is exactly the same.

Yes, visiting a hearing specialist is more expensive, but take into account what you receive for the price: you can be certain that you get the right hearing aid with the right fitting and settings, together with follow-up care, adjustments, cleanings, instructions, repair services, and more. It’s worth it.

Myth # 5: Hearing aids are uncomfortable and challenging to operate.

Reality: If this makes reference to analog hearing aids, then yes, it is mostly true. The thing is, nearly all hearing aids are now digital.

Digital hearing aids dynamically process sound with a compact computer chip so that you don’t have to be concerned about manual adjustments; in addition, some digital hearing aids can even be managed through your mobile phone. The bottom line: digital hearing aids are being developed with maximum ease-of-use in mind.

Your hearing specialist can also establish a custom mold for your hearing aids, ensuring a comfortable and correct fit. While a one-size-fits all hearing aid will very likely be uncomfortable, a custom-fit hearing aid conforms to the curves of your ear.

How to Read Your Audiogram at Your Hearing Test

Audiogram

You have just finalized your hearing test. The hearing specialist is now entering the room and presents you with a graph, like the one above, except that it has all of these characters, colors, and lines. This is designed to provide you with the exact, mathematically precise attributes of your hearing loss, but to you it may as well be written in Greek.

The audiogram adds confusion and complexity at a time when you’re supposed to be directing your focus on how to enhance your hearing. But don’t let it mislead you — just because the audiogram looks perplexing doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to interpret.

After looking through this article, and with a little vocabulary and a few basic principles, you’ll be reading audiograms like a expert, so that you can concentrate on what actually matters: better hearing.

Some advice: as you read the article, reference the above blank audiogram. This will make it much easier to understand, and we’ll cover all of those cryptic markings the hearing specialist adds later.

Understanding Sound Frequencies and Decibels

The audiogram is basically just a chart that records sound volume on the vertical axis and sound frequency on the horizontal axis. (are you having flashbacks to high school geometry class yet?) Yes, there’s more to it, but at a basic level it’s just a chart graphing two variables, as follows:

The vertical axis documents sound intensity or volume, measured in decibels (dB). As you move up the axis, the sound volume decreases. So the top line, at 0 decibels, is a very soft, faint sound. As you move down the line, the decibel levels increase, representing progressively louder sounds until you get to 100 dB.

The horizontal axis records sound frequency, measured in Hertz (Hz). Starting at the top left of the graph, you will see a low frequency of 125 or 250 Hz. As you move along the horizontal axis to the right, the frequency will steadily increase until it hits 8,000 Hz. Vowel sounds of speech are ordinarily low frequency sounds, while consonant sounds of speech are high frequency sounds.

So, if you were to begin at the top left corner of the graph and sketch a diagonal line to the bottom right corner, you would be increasing the frequency of sound (progressing from vowel sounds to consonant sounds) while increasing the level of sound (moving from softer to louder volume).

Assessing Hearing and Marking Up the Audiogram

So, what’s with all the marks you usually see on this basic chart?

Simple. Begin at the top left corner of the graph, at the lowest frequency (125 Hz). Your hearing professional will present you with a sound at this frequency by way of headsets, beginning with the lowest volume decibel level. If you can hear it at the lowest level (0 decibels), a mark is created at the intersection of 125 Hz and 0 decibels. If you are not able to hear the 125 Hz sound at 0 decibels, the sound will be presented once again at the next loudest decibel level (10 decibels). If you can perceive it at 10 decibels, a mark is created. If not, advance on to 15 decibels, and so on.

This same technique is reiterated for every frequency as the hearing specialist travels along the horizontal frequency line. A mark is produced at the lowest perceivable decibel level you can perceive for every sound frequency.

Regarding the other symbols? If you see two lines, one is for the left ear (the blue line) and one is for the right ear (the red line: red is for right). An X is typically used to mark the points for the left ear; an O is applied for the right ear. You may discover some additional characters, but these are less essential for your basic understanding.

What Normal Hearing Looks Like

So what is deemed as normal hearing, and what would that look like on the audiogram?

Individuals with normal hearing should be able to perceive each sound frequency level (125 to 8000 Hz) at 0-25 decibels. What would this look like on the audiogram?

Take the blank graph, find 25 decibels on the vertical axis, and draw a horizontal line all the way across. Any mark made under this line may signify hearing loss. If you can perceive all frequencies beneath this line (25 decibels or higher), then you very likely have normal hearing.

If, however, you can’t perceive the sound of a particular frequency at 0-25 dB, you probably have some type of hearing loss. The lowest decibel level at which you can perceive sound at that frequency pinpoints the tier of your hearing loss.

For instance, consider the 1,000 Hertz frequency. If you can perceive this frequency at 0-25 decibels, you have normal hearing for this frequency. If the minimum decibel level at which you can perceive this frequency is 40 decibels, for instance, then you have moderate hearing loss at this frequency.

As an overview, here are the decibel levels correlated with normal hearing along with the levels correlated with mild, moderate, severe, and profound hearing loss:

Normal hearing: 0-25 dB

Mild hearing loss: 20-40 dB

Moderate hearing loss: 40-70 dB

Severe hearing loss: 70-90 dB

Profound hearing loss: 90+ dB

What Hearing Loss Looks Like

So what might an audiogram with marks of hearing loss look like? Since many cases of hearing loss are in the higher frequencies (labeled as — you guessed it — high-frequency hearing loss), the audiogram would have a downwards sloping line from the top left corner of the chart sloping downward horizontally to the right.

This means that at the higher-frequencies, it requires a increasingly louder decibel level for you to experience the sound. Furthermore, given that higher-frequency sounds are linked with the consonant sounds of speech, high-frequency hearing loss impairs your ability to comprehend and follow conversations.

There are other, less frequent patterns of hearing loss that can appear on the audiogram, but that’s probably too much information for this entry.

Test Your New-Found Knowledge

You now know the fundamentals of how to read an audiogram. So go ahead, book that hearing test and impress your hearing specialist with your newfound abilities. And just imagine the look on their face when you tell them all about your high frequency hearing loss before they even say a word.

How to Persuade Someone to Get a Hearing Test

We don’t need to explain to you the symptoms of hearing loss; you already know them all too well. You have a different kind of problem: persuading someone you care about to get their hearing assessed and treated.

But how are you expected to get through to someone who denies there is even a problem, or that simply shrugs it off as “just part of getting old”?

It turns out that it’s not as simplistic as just recommending to them that they need their hearing examined. They won’t see the need, and you won’t get very far with threats, ultimatums, or other coercive methods.

Even though it may seem like a hopeless scenario, there are other, more discreet strategies you can employ. In fact, you can tap into the massive body of social scientific research that teaches which practices of persuasion have been discovered to be the most consistently successful.

This means, you can utilize tested, researched, and validated persuasive strategies that have been shown to actually work. It’s worth an attempt, right? And scanning the strategies might make it easier to think of additional ideas.

With that in mind, here are 6 scientifically tested methods of persuasion and how you might use them to persuade a loved one to get their hearing tested:

1. Reciprocity

What it is:

The basic principle of reciprocity is very simple: if someone does a favor for you, you’re powerfully motivated to return the favor for them.

How to use it:

Timing is everything. You plan on asking your loved one to get their hearing examined at some point anyway, so why don’t you render the request just after you’ve done something special for them?

2. Commitment and Consistency

What it is:

We all have a strong psychological motivation to think and behave consistently.

How to use it:

The trick is to begin with small commitments in advance of making the final request. If you start off by ordering your loved one to get a hearing test, you probably won’t see much success.

Instead, ease into the topic by casually sharing an article on hearing loss and how prevalent it is. Without mentioning their own hearing loss, get them to admit that hearing loss is a more prominent problem than they had assumed.

As soon as they concede to a couple of basic facts, it may be easier to talk about their own individual hearing loss, and they may be more likely to disclose that they have a problem.

3. Social Proof

What it is:

We tend to think in terms of “safety in numbers.” We have a tendency to conform to the crowd, and we assume that if a number of other people are doing something, it must be safe or beneficial.

How to use it:

There are at minimum two ways to use this strategy. One way is to share articles on the many advantages of wearing hearing aids and how hearing aids elevate the quality of life for millions of people in the U.S. and globally.

The second way to use the approach is to set up a hearing test for yourself. Inform your loved one that you want to check on the health of your own hearing, but that you would feel better if they went with you and had their own assessment.

4. Liking

What it is:

You are more likely to be persuaded by people you personally like than by either a stranger or by someone you dislike.

How to use it:

Solicit the assistance of those you know your loved one likes or respects. Attempt to find that one person whom your loved one consistently seems to respond to, and have him or her discuss and recommend a hearing test.

5. Authority

What it is:

We are inclined to listen to and respect the feedback of those we perceive as authority figures.

How to use it:

Share articles on how celebrities, professional athletes, and other distinguished figures use and benefit from hearing aids. You can also share articles from trustworthy sources that outline the necessity of having your hearing tested. As an example, the World Health Organization recently published an article titled “1.1 billion people at risk of hearing loss.”

6. Scarcity

What it is:

Scarcity brings about a sense of urgency when what we want is perceived as limited or in short supply. Scarcity creates the perception that, if we don’t act immediately, we may lose something forever.

How to use it:

The latest research has coupled hearing loss to a multitude of serious conditions, including Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia, memory impairment, and rapid cognitive decline. Hearing loss also gets worse as time passes, so the earlier it’s corrected, the better.

To apply scarcity, share articles, such as our earlier blog post titled 8 reasons hearing loss is more dangerous than you think, with your loved one. Show them that each day spent with untreated hearing loss exacerbates the hearing loss, deteriorates health, and heightens the risk of developing more serious conditions.


If all else fails, just give it to them straight. Convey to your loved ones how their hearing loss affects you, together with how it’s affecting your relationship. When you make it about your needs and feelings rather than theirs, the reaction is usually better.

Have you had success persuading someone to have their hearing tested? Let us know your methods in a comment.

Source

The six principles of persuasion were developed by Dr. Robert Cialdini, and can be found in his book titled “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.”

5 Reasons Why People Deny Hearing Loss

5 Reasons Why People Deny Hearing Loss

It takes the average person with hearing loss 5 to 7 years before seeking a qualified professional diagnosis, in spite of the reality that the warning signs of hearing loss are clear to others. But are those with hearing loss simply too stubborn to get help? No, actually, and for a handful of different reasons.

Perhaps you know someone with hearing loss who either denies the difficulties or refuses to seek professional help, and despite the fact that this is no doubt frustrating, it is very possible that the indications of hearing loss are much more obvious to you than they are to them.

Here are the reasons why:

1. Hearing loss is gradual

In the majority of scenarios, hearing loss comes about so slowly and gradually that the afflicted person simply doesn’t perceive the change. While you would detect an quick change from normal hearing to a 25 decibel hearing loss (defined as moderate hearing loss), you wouldn’t perceive the modest change of a 1-2 decibel loss.

So a gradual loss of 1-2 decibels over the course of 10-20 years, while generating a 20-40 total decibel loss, is not going to be perceptible at any given moment in time for those impacted. That’s why friends and family are nearly always the first to recognize hearing loss.

2. Hearing loss is often partial (high-frequency only)

The majority of hearing loss scenarios are categorized as high-frequency hearing loss, which means that the impacted individual can still hear low-frequency background sounds normally. Even though speech, which is a high-frequency sound, is difficult for those with hearing loss to comprehend, other sounds can usually be heard normally. This is why it’s not uncommon for those with hearing loss to say, “my hearing is fine, everyone else mumbles.”

3. Hearing loss is not attended to by the family doctor

Individuals suffering with hearing loss can get a mistaken sense of well-being following their yearly physical. It’s common to hear people state “if I had hearing loss, my doctor would have told me.”

This is of course not true because only 14% of physicians regularly test for hearing loss during the course of the yearly checkup. Not to mention that the primary symptom for most cases of hearing loss — difficulty comprehending speech in the presence of background noise — will not present itself in a quiet office setting.

4. The burden of hearing loss can be shared or passed on to others

How do you remedy hearing loss when there’s no cure? The answer is straight forward: amplify sounds. The problem is, while hearing aids are the most effective at amplifying sounds, they are not the only way to accomplish it — which people with hearing loss promptly identify.

Those with hearing loss commonly crank up the volume on everything, to the detriment of those around them. TVs and radios are played extremely loud and people are made to either shout or repeat themselves. The person with hearing loss can manage just fine with this method, but only by passing on the burden to friends, family members, and co-workers.

5. Hearing loss is pain-free and invisible

Hearing loss is predominately subjective: it cannot be diagnosed by visible evaluation and it generally is not accompanied by any pain or discomfort. If those with hearing loss do not recognize a problem, chiefly because of the reasons above, then they most likely won’t take action.

The only way to appropriately diagnose hearing loss is through audiometry, which will measure the specific decibel level hearing loss at various sound frequencies. This is the only method to objectively determine whether hearing loss is present, but the tricky part is needless to say getting to that point.

How to approach those with hearing loss

Hopefully, this article has generated some empathy. It is always frustrating when someone with hearing loss refuses to accept the problem, but keep in mind, they may legitimately not recognize the extent of the problem. Rather than commanding that they get their hearing tested, a more productive method may be to educate them on the features of hearing loss that make the condition virtually invisible.

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