Whatever You May Think, Getting Hearing Aids May Help Keep You Feeling Youthful

A man with hearing aids playing soccer with his grandson in a youthful way.

There are many myths circling around about the use of hearing aids, for example, wearing one can make you feel old. Of course, that might be true since one in three individuals over the age of 65 have a type of hearing loss called presbycusis. so many elderly do wear a hearing aid. That’s not the end of the story, though. These days, medical researchers have proven that wearing a hearing aid will actually keep you from feeling your age. To figure out why this happens, you must know more about how the brain works.

Let’s Talk About Neuroplasticity

That’s a fancy word that means the brain can adapt based on changes in your life. Consider this scenario; you are a person who loves to exercise in the morning. Each day, you go out and walk along the same sidewalk, but one day, there is a big hole that you can’t cross. You don’t stop walking — you look for a route that takes you around the hole.

The human brain works the same way. There are nerve channels in the brain that allow you do everyday things like take a walk or read a book. When something happens to you like a stroke, for example, the brain needs to find a way to reroute those pathways through neuroplasticity. Your adaptable brain is also how you learn new skills. If you take a tap dance class, for instance, the brain develops new channels called neural pathways to accommodate what you have learned.

Most the time the adaptation works well. If a person has a stroke, the original pathways that let them walk might close down. The brain finds new neural routes so that person can relearn how to take a step.

When Neuroplasticity Fails

Neuroplasticity sometimes causes problems for people with hearing loss. Hearing requires sound waves to go through the ear canal to reach the inner ear. There, tiny hair cells move with the waves to send electrical signals that the brain translates into what you hear.

When a person does lose their hearing, whether it is due to aging, noise exposure or disease, their brain stops getting those critical electrical signals from the inner ear or gets fewer of them, at least. When that happens, the brain can decide that the part it has dedicated to hearing is free real estate. It will create new pathways in that section that have nothing to do with hearing. This is an attempt to use that space efficiently, but it backfires.

A 2015 study done by researchers at the University of Colorado supports this idea. The scientists did EEG recordings, that’s a tool that measures electrical activity in the brain, on people of all ages that have varying degrees of hearing loss. They found that functions like vision and touch can actually invade the part of the brain responsible for hearing.

Hearing Loss and Memory Problems

Researchers already know there is a connection between an increased risk of dementia and hearing loss. Studies indicate that an older individual with hearing loss may suffer mental decline 40 percent faster than someone with good hearing. When the brain stops getting signals from the ears, it starts to decline.

It’s not clear why this decrease might happen, but it is possible neuroplasticity causes it. When the brain struggles to pick up sounds that are faint and it has to pull in resources from other critical functions like short-term memories to compensate.

Why Hearing Aids are the Hero of the Story

These problems all have one thing in common, the brain is no longer receiving the electrical signals from the inner ear that allow it to translate sound. For many individuals, merely filtering sound and amplifying it with hearing aids makes that possible again.

A hearing aid will stimulate the brain, so it tries to hear again. When that happens, it can regenerate the necessary cells and develop new neural pathways. That effect can slow the cognitive decline that leads to memory issues and protects short-term memory.

Having a hearing aid will open you up to new opportunities, too, and that strengthens the brain to keep you young. You can watch TV, take classes and learn new things. Remaining mentally active is really the key to feeling like someone half your age. Too often, older people with hearing loss end up isolated because they can’t take part in discussions or understand what is going on around them.

Hearing aids will change how you live and how your brain works. If you are wondering how well you hear these days, it’s time to schedule a professional hearing exam to see if hearing aids will make you feel young again.

Should You Tell a Loved One About Their Hearing Loss?

A young woman leans into an older woman to have a delicate conversation about hearing loss and hearing aids.

Hearing problems are one of those things other people usually notice before you do. In part, because a person’s family and friends know them better than they know themselves. They are the ones that see the changes and connect the dots about hearing loss the person with the problem notices the gradual decline that comes with age-related hearing loss.

It’s a difficult subject to approach with a person that you love because it is personal. They might not notice this decline or realize that they are asking you to repeat things often or missing information when you talk. It probably feels like an attack instead of your attempt to help. So, when is it the proper time to talk about it? There is no clear-cut answer to this question, but there are some obvious signs that you need to have a conversation about hearing loss.

The What Did You Say? Syndrome

It might be the first thing you will notice when this person’s hearing starts to decline. What did you say? It’s a natural response when you don’t hear something very clearly. The problem with age-related hearing loss is they still hear the sound of your voice, just not each word. When that happens, the brain makes them think you are mumbling. The fact is you’re speaking the same way you always did, it is their hearing that is different.

A person that has to say what all the time does not even know they do it, which makes it a hard thing to talk about. You can try counting the number of times you have to repeat something in a conversation. If you see a regular pattern over a week, then it’s time to say something.

When Safety Is a Problem

There is more to hearing than just comprehending speech. Individuals with gradual hearing loss lose the ability to understand specific sound frequencies, too. A traditional smoke and carbon dioxide detector uses a high pitched tone to tell you here is a problem. It’s a sound that someone with hearing loss might not hear. Those who do have this issue can compensate for it by putting in alarms that use a different frequency and that are able to flash the lights and shake the bed, as well.

Safety is a concern for the hearing challenged person that wants to drive a car, too. You need to be able to hear warning sounds like horns, for example, and the car engine running. A person trying to cross the street needs to hear warning sounds there, too. Safety is a definite issue with untreated hearing loss and one that indicates you need to take action.

When the Complaints Start Rolling In

The guy next door complains the TV is too loud, for instance, TV dialogue is as hard to understand as a face-to-face conversation, but there is no one there to answer when they say, “What?” Instead, the volume goes way up. That doesn’t make the words any clearer, though, so it goes up more. When the people around your loved one start talking about high volumes, hearing loss has become something worth talking about.

When Tongues Start Wagging

When other people start asking about this your loved one’s hearing and wondering if something is wrong. Maybe your dad’s neighbor stops to ask if he is having hearing problems or your brother brings the subject up. These people might notice something that you do not yet. This is a big indicator, especially for the parent who lives alone. Friends and neighbors are their social network. They spend time together and are in a position to see pick up on something you do not, so when they take the time to mention it, you need to listen.

When Frustration Becomes the Norm

It is frustrating when you have to struggle to hear, especially if you don’t realize it is a problem. That frustration can quickly turn to angry conversations and other shows of emotion. They may always seem on the edge of crying or yelling but not know why. It’s up to you to help them understand what is going on.

Tips for When the Time Comes

You know the time has come to say something but what? It is a tricky subject because you are saying they are getting old, and that’s something no one wants to hear. How you approach the topic will make all the difference, such as:

  • Make the conversation about you – Talk about the things you’ve noticed and how you feel about them. If you make it about them, they will not want to talk. By making it about how it impacts your life, they are more likely to want to help and be less defensive.
  • Make the conversation positive – Keep in mind, their anger is really just fear. You need to address those fears and reassure them that there is a quick and painless solution like getting a professional hearing test and, maybe, hearing aids. Point out other people who have hearing aids and how they changed their lives.
  • Make the conversation beneficial – Focus on the benefits that will come with getting hearing aids. They will be able to enjoy their favorite shows again and listen to the birds sing. They may not even know what they have been missing, so point out the positives.

You can make a difference in the life of someone you love life by helping them come to terms with age-related hearing loss, so go ahead and reach out.

What is Your Earwax Trying to Disclose About Your Health?

A dog is getting earwax cleaned out of its ears while sticking its tongue out.

Does earwax say something about you and your health? It’s more than just the gross stuff that comes out of your ears. Earwax, or cerumen, has a purpose in the human body. It serves to protect the skin that lines the ear canal from infections. It also provides lubrication and makes that canal somewhat waterproof.

That’s all very important, but there is more to your earwax than just what it can do. The way it looks, smell and feels are indicators of what’s going on with you. What is your earwax trying to tell you?

Earwax and Your Heritage

It is hard to believe but, all earwax falls into one of two categories. It is either dry, or wet and kind of sticky. How your earwax feel is a genetic trait you can use to trace your roots. According to a study in the journal Nature Genetics, it is a gene mutation that determines whether your earwax is wet or dry. Researchers investigated 33 different populations around the world and found:

  • Ninety-five percent of East Asians have the dry kind.
  • Ninety-seven percent of people from Europe or Africa have the wet, sticky kind.

The difference between these two groups boils down to one gene called ABCC11. It is the gene that manages the flow of earwax-altering molecules. At some point centuries ago, the gene changed in people in Europe and Africa as they adapted to a new surrounding. The researchers from this study hypothesized that insects lead to the mutation. The thick, wet earwax can trap insects and protect the deeper areas inside the ear canal and possibly even the brain. It is an example of the body’s natural ability to change based environmental stressors. It is a change designed to improve a species odds of survival.

Green, Wet Earwax

Green, wet earwax means one of two things:

  • You’ve been sweating.
  • You have an ear infection.

When you sweat, the water will mix with your earwax, changing the color and texture. When you have an ear infection, the earwax changes due to the body’s inflammatory response to invading organisms. Pus created by the response can mix with the earwax, and that may lead to the difference in color.

Earwax That Smells Bad

Earwax with a bad smell means you need to pay attention. The change in odor typically indicates a rather serious infection. Anaerobic bacteria, in other words, bacteria that do not require oxygen to survive, tend to emit a foul odor that will make earwax stink.

That bad smell can also mean there is an infection causing middle ear damage. You might feel like your balance is off and hear a ringing or other phantom noise in the affected ear. You need to make an appointment with your doctor.

In 2009, a group of Japanese scientists also linked stinky earwax to a gene that might cause breast cancer. It will take more studies to prove this theory but, it’s worth talking to your doctor about if breast cancer runs in the family.

When It Feels Like Your Ear is Wet All the Time

To be honest, this isn’t really earwax, but it is understandable that you might think it is cerumen. Wet ears typically mean disease, most likely infection. Ear infections create pus, so that might be why your ear feels wet. That is not the only possible cause, though.

It is also possible that you have a type of skin growth inside your ear canal called a cholesteatoma. A cholesteatoma is a lot like a cyst, but one that appears inside the ear blocking the canal. When that happens, stuff like earwax and dirt build up. This blockage can cause debris to overflow and come out the ear. Any drainage from your ear means you need to see a doctor and find out why that is happening.

Your Earwax is Very Flaky

Do not worry, flaky earwax isn’t a sign of infection. It is, however, something that happens as you grow older. When someone ages, their body gets a little dryer — including the glands that produce earwax. As a result, their ears get a little itchy. Adding a few drops of mineral oil to the ear canal can ease that discomfort and soften the earwax at the same time.

What if your ears have no earwax at all? It’s rare, but it does happen. It is a condition called keratosis obturans, and it means there is a hard plug where the earwax comes out. It’s unclear why this happens, but researchers do know that the plug is made of keratin, a protein that exists in skin cells. You might feel pain in that ear and have trouble hearing. The treatment is simple, let a doctor pull the plug out. In some, the condition is chronic, and the patient requires regular medical care.

Earwax, who knew it was so interesting. Why not take a look at yours to see it’s trying to say..

Hearing Loss Effects More Than Just Your Hearing

Hearing loss depicted as a problem that compounds by showing several cutout men toppled over on one man.

Are you taken aback to learn that hearing loss is more than just your ears? Ears are the tools of hearing, so the harm done to them due to aging, injury or illness is why someone can not hear, but did you know there is more to it than the loss of one’s hearing bleeds into many other facets of their life. It’s a dramatic change for someone who has always been able to hear. Consider some ways that hearing loss has a profound impact on more than just the ears.

Earning Capability

A 2006 report published by the Australian company Access Economics states there is a connection between salary potential and hearing. They found that an individual with hearing loss will potentially make about 25 percent less than those that do hear, but why?

There are a lot of things that could affect earnings. Someone who works with no hearing assistance device like a hearing aid might miss out on crucial information. They may show up for a company meeting at 4 if it was really at 2 pm, for instance. Employers tend to value those with shrewd attention to detail, and that’s a challenge when you can not hear the specifics.

Work environments can be noisy and chaotic, too. A individual with hearing loss can become confused with all that sound around them. They’ll struggle to talk on the phone, to listen to clients and to understand what coworkers are saying because in a noisy environment the background sounds like clacking keyboards or an air conditioner vent become conspicuous.

Relationships

Some of the very same problems at work become an issue at home. Hearing loss has the potential to cause conflict, especially when the person with the problem continues to deny it. Little things such as saying “what” a lot during conversations and turning the TV up too loud irritate friends, relatives, and spouses.

They may attempt to intervene and encourage this person to recognize their hearing loss, and that leads to friction, also. It is extremely common for people with hearing loss to detach themselves and refuse to go out and spend time with other people. They struggle to keep up with conversations, so that they so what the can to avoid them.

Mental Health Concerns

The issues at work and house take a toll on mental health over time. A 2014 study conducted by the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders found a cause and effect relationship between hearing loss and melancholy. Their study suggests an increased risk of depression, particularly among women and individuals under the age of 70. Their risk of depression goes from 5 percent to about 11 percent with hearing loss.

A second study from the Senior Research Group suggests that the risk of mental health issues including depression, anxiety and paranoia goes up when a individual with hearing loss does not use hearing aids. The study participants who didn’t wear hearing aids reported everything from feelings of sadness to sudden fits of anger more frequently than those that did wear them.

Safety Issues

Security is always an issue for the hearing impaired. Most security systems, while it’s a smoke or carbon monoxide detector or a perimeter alert, work based on sound. They exude a high-frequency noise when there’s a danger. Even people with minor hearing loss can have difficulty hearing high pitched tones.

Personal safety becomes an issue when a person with hearing loss crosses the street or drives a car, too. Sound serves to signal problems like a car coming down the street or a horn honking.

Cognitive Functioning

Medical science has made a connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss. It isn’t clear why people with hearing loss have a greater risk of dementia. The current theory is that the brain struggles to hear and to compensate, it robs other vital functions like short-term memory.

A 2011 study conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine discovered that even someone with minor hearing loss is twice as likely to develop dementia. Moderate hearing loss increases the risk by three times and an individual with severe hearing impairment is five times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Hearing health is just one factor in memory loss conditions, but it is an important one.

When a person has hearing loss, it’s true there is likely something wrong with their ears, but that’s just where it starts. The good news is that getting help in the form of hearing aids and other treatment options lowers the risk of mental health issues, dementia and the various issues related to hearing decline.

Why You Should Think of Quality Hearing Aids More Like a Service Than a Device

Woman is being fitted for her first hearing aid by an audiologist

When people set out to buy a hearing aid, it’s easy to see nothing but the price tag. A good quality hearing aid costs a little bit of money, that’s true. What you should really consider is the service the hearing aid provides, though, instead of what it costs. All through life, you buy things because you need the service they provide such as a car or home. Both cost a lot of money, but without them, you can’t get to work, and you don’t have a place to live.

Purchasing a hearing aid falls into the same category because without it, you can’t hear and that affects your ability to do things like talk to your boss or listen to a customer. It means you won’t hear the traffic when you drive or as you walk across the street. It also hinders you from creating, strengthening, and maintaining the most essential aspect of life, relationships.

Hearing aids are not a luxury when your hearing changes. It’s a device that provides a critical service to you. Consider some facts about hearing aids you might not know and why they are more service than a product.

What Does a Hearing Aid Do?

Let’s start with the basics. What is a hearing aid and why do you need it? A hearing aid is a device that provides amplification, but it does more than just that one thing. Modern digital hearing aids:

  • Filter out background noise
  • They increase and decrease the volume automatically through gain processing
  • They analyze the sound environment
  • They pick up conversation even in a noisy room
  • They help you determine where a sound came from

They are also self-learning, in other words, they begin to know how you hear and learn what sounds matter to you. They can use that information to improve their service. There is no more annoying feedback, either, like you used to hear coming from your grandpa’s hearing aid. Modern hearing aids include digital feedback reduction. Today’s hearing aids offer Bluetooth-compatibility, as well, so they work with computers, tablets, and smartphones. No need to take the hearing aid out to answer the phone.

Why do Hearing Aids Cost So Much?

That’s a reasonable question because if you are going to think of your hearing aid a service, you have a right to know why it costs so much. Some critical elements that go into creating your hearing aid include:

  • Advanced technology
  • Durability and long battery life
  • Personal design and fitting
  • Warranty
  • Free trials

You can buy less expensive hearing aids online, but they don’t have the same technology as a quality product or offer the perks of a personal fitting, a grace period, or in-person assistance. If you go that route, you might as well just hold a glass up to your ear and see what happen.

Things to Think About When Buying a Hearing Aid

When you purchase a car or house, you do your homework first, right? Take that same approach when buying a hearing aid while keeping in mind that it is a service. Start by planning a way to pay for this service. Is it something your health insurance covers? Many don’t, but you should check to be sure. You can do this by directly calling your insurance provider or audiologist.

Maybe there is a special funding plan available to you. Are you a veteran, for example? The VA might help to pay for the hearing aid. You should also check to see if you qualify for federal or state assistance, and you can look into civil organizations, too.

Next, go to the doctor for a proper diagnosis and hearing test. If you don’t already know why you suffer hearing loss, take the time to find out before you spend money on a hearing aid. It might be a side effect of a medical problem like diabetes. If you treat the condition, there is a chance you will not need the hearing aid.

It is also essential to get a professional hearing test, so you purchase the right hearing aid. A practice like ours can use your hearing test to customize the settings on any device you choose, so it best serves your needs.

Finally, meet with a specialist in person. The Internet doesn’t know what kind of hearing aid you need – that requires a personal touch. Sit down with an expert and write out what you hope to get from your hearing aid beyond just amplification. Do you want one that connects to your mobile device? Do you want the volume to adjust automatically? You are paying for this service, so get what you want from it.

Once you pick out the right hearing aid, look at the various service options. Does it come with a warranty? How about a free trial, so you know it’s the right one for you?

By seeing your hearing aid as a service – a necessary one – you’ll be able to look past the price tag towards what it can do for your life.

How to Find Primo Hearing Protection for Your Needs

Man trying to research hearing protection online and having questions.

One in every 10 Americans lose their ability to hear due to noise pollution. Often, the damage done by noise is gradual. It is not just explosions that are the problem, but more the stuff you experience on a day-to-day basis in your home or at work. With each new day, you hear noises that you don’t realize is a problem such as the headphones you wear to listen to music or sounds at work like equipment running. Safeguarding your hearing from noise-related loss is one of the best health decisions you can make, but how do you know what products offer this protection?

Assess Your Noise Exposure Needs

It is tricky to consider different options offered for hearing protection and find the type that works for you. There are a few of things to consider such as:

  • Why you want hearing protection? Is it for your job or perhaps you need them for a sport like hunting?
  • How much does it cost? The pricing goes from really cheap to very expensive, so budget is worth thinking about.
  • How comfortable is it? If you are buying something that you will wear most of the day, then comfort is an issue.

There are also some safety concerns to keep in mind. Avoid hearing protection that gets in the way of movement or introduces blind spots. If you are looking to save your ears from work-related sounds, then have a conversation with your employer before paying for anything out of pocket. Many companies offer hearing protection as part of your benefits or at least can guide you on what right type to buy and the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) you need.

What is the NRR?

The NRR rating listed on hearing protection devices offers a critical piece of information to you. The Noise Reduction Rating determines how well the device blocks out a sound. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires manufacturers to do tests and provide rating information based on their findings. The NRR measurement is in decibels and states the maximum amount of sound that device is able to block. A hearing protection product with an NRR of 26 will block a maximum of 26 decibels.

For most job-related hearing protection products, you should look for a device that blocks twice the amount of sounds you experience daily at work. You might purchase something with an NRR of 200 if your regular noise exposure is around 100 decibels, for example. Just so you know, 100 dB is about the level of a tractor and similar equipment.

What Types of Hearing Protection Devices are Available?

When it comes to protecting your ears, the most common products are:

  • Earplugs
  • Canal caps
  • Earmuffs

There may be different styles within each category and even some hybrid products out there.

Earplugs

Earplugs offer moldable foam products that you throw away or a pre-molded one-size-fits-all reusable style. There are pros and cons for both kinds of earplugs, so it really comes It comes down which one you like best. The disposable foam plugs usually have a higher NRR rating and will fit tightly in your ears, but they can be costly. They are like disposable contact lenses; you have to keep buying fresh ones.

The pre-molded style is more economical but can lead to infections if not cleaned right. They also do not fit as well as the moldable ones, so they are hard to keep in place.

Canal Caps

Canal caps work like earplugs but come with a flexible band. Also like earplug products, they have either moldable or pre-molded end pieces that go into the ear. The band that attaches the two earplugs together lets you can take them out quickly and let them hang around your neck. They work better than earplugs if you anticipate wearing them on and off throughout the day.

Earmuffs

Earmuffs are more like headphones, and some even come with mics that allow you to talk to other people through a Bluetooth connection. They are comfortable to wear and easy to use, although, they can get heavy and make your ears sweat. You will pay more for quality earmuffs, but they have a longer shelf life and will likely save you money over time.

Choosing the Right Ear Protection

After deciding the proper NRR rating, the next step is to pick a style for your protection device based on your personal needs. If you want something that is not too confining, earplugs or canal caps might be the right choice for you. Look to get different types of ear protection products based on the seasons, too. For example, canal caps will be less cumbersome in warm weather, but the earmuff design will keep your ears warm in the cold.

The trick is to try the different forms of hearing protection devices and see what works best for you. A person who needs something for work has different needs than a person who wants to protect their ears while they hunt or on the shooting range.

Four Ways You Can Stay Safe in the Face of Hearing Loss

Man wearing security jacket is meant to represent practices that can keep you safe when you have hearing loss.

Sound is what tethers you safely to the world even though you may not realize it. For instance, it is the sound of an alarm that tells you there is smoke in the house and a potential fire. This type of security is critical for those who do have hearing loss, especially when there is a gradual decline. How do people who can’t hear well anymore know the alarm is going off in time to get out of the house?

With about 20 percent of the people in the U.S. diagnosed with some form off hearing loss, clearly, this question has come up before. Consider some of the security issues those with hearing loss face daily and how they are handled.

About Those Smoke Alarms

So, what do they do about smoke alarms? The key is to make use of the other senses. The common high-frequency smoke alarm won’t work effectively for someone with hearing loss, especially during the night when their hearing aids are put away somewhere.

A 2009 study published in Ear and Hearing states that alarms to detect smoke and heat in a home that comes with low-frequency tones work better for those who are struggling to hear like the elderly, even more so than flashing lights which were effective only about 27 percent of the time. Bed or pillow shakers were a practical choice, as well. The study found between 80 to 84 percent of participants awoke when shaken during the night.

Access to 911

The emergency response system is a lifeline that connects you to police and EMS but how do you use that if you can’t hear? There are a couple of approaches you could take to solve this problem. First, make sure your mobile phone has a GPS system. This allows a 911 operator to find you anywhere if you do call even if you can’t communicate with them. They will send someone to you based on your phone coordinates. You can also look into hearing aids that connect to your phone through Bluetooth technology. The right hearing aid eliminates the communication problem.

You might also consider installing landlines at home with one next to the bed. With a landline, you can call 911, and someone will come out whether you speak to the operator or not. Double check with your service provider before installing a landline to ensure it is 911 compliant. Some VoIP services will not automatically transmit your address to the 911 system.

You may want to take advantage of some hearing assistive devices such as a video relay system or a captioned phone. If you do opt for just a smartphone, buddy up with others in case you need help. You can send a group text out to them, and they can call 911 for you. The more people on your buddy list, the better.

Protecting Your Home

Home alarm systems bring with them some of the same challenges as smoke alarms. They tend to emit a high-frequency sound that is tough for someone with a hearing challenged to hear. It is important to have this kind of safety equipment because you are also not going to hear someone breaking into your home, either.

Look for alarms systems designed just for the hearing impaired. Many come with bed shakers and strobe lights that warn you of a break-in. Pick a security system with a remote panic button that you can keep close to your bed for added safety, too. Make a point to tell the alarm company that you are hearing impaired when you sign up for the service. They will work with you to figure out the best way to communicate.

Take Advantage of Hearing Technology

For many, the best option is hearing aids. Talk to your doctor to determine if hearing aids are a workable choice for you. If so, go to a certified retailer so you know you purchase quality products designed to keep you safe and improve your life.

Bluetooth compatibility is just one common feature in modern hearing aids. Directional microphones cut back on interference, so you can concentrate on what is going on around you.

Finally, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Your friends, neighbors, and family are some of the most powerful safety assets you have, so just be honest and tell them about hearing challenges. If you are worried about your security, sit down with them and discuss ways to keep you safe, so you feel better about your security options.

5 Reasons Why Living with Tinnitus Can Be Challenging

Woman with tinnitus trying to muffle the ringing in her ears with a pillow to overcome challenge.

 

You hear a lot of talk nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness which has a strong emotional component because it affects so many areas of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in both ears. Most people describe the sound as ringing, hissing, buzzing, or clicking that no one else can hear.

Tinnitus technically isn’t an illness but a symptom of an another medical problem like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on a day to day basis. The phantom sound tends to start at the worst possible times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, trying to read a book or listening to a friend tell a great story. Tinnitus can flare up even once you attempt to go to sleep.

Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer from tinnitus or how it occurs. The accepted theory is that the brain creates this sound to counteract the silence that accompanies hearing loss. Whatever the cause, tinnitus is a life-changing issue. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.

1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing

Recent research indicates that people who experience tinnitus also have increased activity in the limbic system of the brain. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Up until this discovery, most specialists thought that individuals with tinnitus were worried and that’s why they were always so sensitive. This new research indicates there’s much more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus more irritable and emotionally fragile.

2. Tinnitus is Tough to Talk About

How do you explain to someone else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy when you say it. The inability to talk about tinnitus is isolating. Even if you could tell somebody else, it’s not something that they truly get unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have the very same symptoms of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but it means speaking to a bunch of people you don’t know about something very personal, so it’s not an attractive option to most.

3. Tinnitus is Annoying

Imagine trying to write a paper or study with noise in the background that you can not turn down or shut off. It’s a diversion that many find disabling whether they are at home or just doing things around the office. The noise changes your attention making it tough to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a true motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and worthless.

4. Tinnitus Inhibits Sleep

This might be one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The sound tends to amp up when a sufferer is attempting to fall asleep. It is not certain why it increases during the night, but the most logical reason is that the silence around you makes it more active. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the noise of tinnitus such as the TV, but you turn off everything when it is when you lay down for the night.

A lot of men and women use a sound machine or a fan at night to help relieve their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient sound is enough to get your mind to reduce the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to get some sleep.

5. There is No Permanent Solution For Tinnitus

Just the concept that tinnitus is something you have to live with is hard to come to terms with. Although no cure will stop that noise for good, a few things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the doctor’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it’s vital to get a proper diagnosis. For instance, if you hear clicking, perhaps the noise isn’t tinnitus but a sound related to a jaw problem like TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like hypertension.

Many people will discover their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that problem relieves the noise they hear. Obtaining a hearing aid means an increase in the level of noise, so the brain can stop trying to create it to fill a void. Hearing loss can also be temporary, such as earwax build up. When the doctor treats the underlying issue, the tinnitus vanishes.

In extreme cases, your doctor may attempt to treat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the noise, for instance. The doctor may provide you with lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus simple, like using a noise machine and finding ways to handle stress.

Tinnitus presents many struggles, but there is hope. Medical science is learning more every year about how the brain functions and strategies to improve life for those suffering from tinnitus.

Best Travel Tips for Anyone on the Go With Hearing Aids

Couple planning to take a trip and enjoy freedom despite needing hearing aids.

Is your motto have hearing aid will travel? If so, you probably already have a game plan in mind each time you take a vacation. If this is your first time hitting the road with a hearing aid, though, try to remember that planning ahead is the best way to protect and maintain the device while you travel. Consider some travel tips that will ensure you and your hearing aid stay safe and have a great time on your next vacation.

Travel is Chaotic

No matter how well you organize your trip or even how you get from place to place, travel is chaotic. That is true whether you are on a road trip, take a plane with your family or are riding the rails. Chaos breeds stress, and, when you are stressed, it’s easy to miss important details like how to care for your hearing aid.

Before you leave, develop a list of all the stuff you need to take with you and make sure extra batteries for your hearing aid is on the top of it. If your hearing aid comes with rechargeable batteries then bring along an extra charging station in case yours gets lost along the way. If you are traveling and are required to check your luggage carry batteries or that extra charger on you in case your bags get lost.

While you are making your list, think about what else you will need to maintain your hearing aids. How about:

  • The cleaning kit
  • A hairdryer to use in case they get wet
  • Additional domes and wax guards

Pack a few of Bluetooth accessories in your luggage, too. They are a big help if you should lose or damage your hearing aid on the road. The mic on a Bluetooth device can help you talk to people in a pinch.

Boarding a Plane

If a plane is your chosen mode of transportation, plan to wear your hearing aids all the way to your destination. You should carry the case, batteries and cleaning supplies in your carry on, so they are easy to get to if you need them. When going through security, leave your hearing aids in your ears. When it comes time to go through the body scanner, tell them that you have a hearing aid in, so they don’t think you are hiding anything. If they ask you to take it out so they can examine it, you should comply but they may just let you go through with it in place.

While flying, you might find hearing is more difficult even while wearing with your hearing aid. The noise can overwhelm the device, so use other tricks to understand what is going on like visual cues. Try putting a Bluetooth device in one ear if you are struggling, too. The remote mic will pick up conversation better while you are in the air than your hearing aid.

Some Common Sense Advice

Your hearing aids are critical for vacation enjoyment, but you need to think ahead just in case they go missing or break during your trip. You need to find other ways to accommodate your hearing loss when are not wearing them, too, like at night. If you are staying at a hotel, ask about adaptive equipment designed for the hearing impaired. Some offer rooms that include lights that flash when the phone rings or in case the fire alarm goes off.

Keep detailed information with you at all times like your itinerary and emergency contacts. A written itinerary makes checking in to your hotel easier because you’ll probably be tired and understanding the clerk will be a struggle even with your hearing aid.

Do your homework before you leave to learn more about the areas you visit, and, especially if there is a certified hearing aid retailer nearby. This way if something does happen and you need to get your hearing aid repaired or even replaced, you already know where to go for help.

Have hearing aid will travel? Absolutely! Don’t let your hearing issues change the way you live on the road. There is no reason you can’t go out and enjoy your vacation just like anyone. Go ahead and plan that dream adventure just think ahead, so you hear every minute of the fun.

The Fantastic Antidepressant That You Should Get for Your Ears

Man suffering from hearing loss covering his ears with his hands while noises are all around him.

There is a complicated link between hearing and mood that tends to go unnoticed. A 2014 study conducted by researchers at The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) suggests a strong correlation exists between loss of hearing and mood disorders with both often going untreated.

What that indicates for those with some hearing loss, whether they know it or not, is that the decrease in their hearing directly impacts their mood. Keeping that in mind means it is safe to conclude that hearing enhancement devices like hearing aids might be just what you need to fight depression.

The Study

The scientists working with The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders looked at data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to find a connection between certain mood disorders and hearing loss for those participants over the age of 18. This lead to some interesting facts:

  • Moderate to severe depression rates were around 4.9 percent for those with good hearing.
  • Moderate to severe depression rates were around 11.4 percent for those with some hearing loss.
  • The rate of depression increased as hearing declined but did not change for those already deaf.
  • Women over the age of 70 found to have reduced hearing through professional hearing exams did experience depression.
  • Men over the age of 70 did not experience depression despite their hearing loss.

This study allowed researchers to conclude that a loss in hearing for those over the age of 70 didn’t really factor into depression for the male population but did seem to impact the women. The young adults who reported some level of hearing loss were also more prone to depression regardless of gender.

Why Hearing Loss Can Lead to Depression

There are a number of theories out there to answer this question but the most likely one is more common sense than science. Simply put, finding yourself with hearing loss can trigger mood swings and depression because:

  • Most forms of hearing loss are permanent. Once a person loses their hearing due to trauma, disease or just aging, that damage is done. The components that let you hear are very delicate and there is no proven way to fix most of them. Hearing aids provide a workable solution, but it is not a permanent one.
  • Hearing loss leads to isolation. People start to avoid social situations when they have an untreated hearing loss. They might think they are too dumb to understand the conversation or maybe they are not ready to admit they have a problem hearing. Studies show that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia, as well, as depression.
  • Hearing loss causes stress. A person suffering from hearing loss is suddenly unable to enjoy things the same way they used to like watching TV. Turning the volume up just irritates family members and the neighbors. They have a hard time interpreting words, as well. Sounds tend to drop out making words hard to distinguish and that stress can quickly turn to sadness and, eventually, depression.

How Hearing Aids Help

The NIDCD believes most people over the age of 70 would benefit from having hearing aids just to compensate for the age-related hearing loss. According to the institute, only one in three people who could benefit from hearing assistance actually have a proper diagnosis of the hearing loss and hearing aids. The reasons for not getting hearing aids vary from the cost to not wanting to admit there is a problem. Those people struggle to get through life, so it’s no wonder they get depressed.

A study for the National Council on Aging found that those individuals that do see a doctor, get a professional hearing test and then wear hearing aids are 50 percent less likely to become depressed.

Getting hearing aids improves the quality of life. If you know you have problems hearing, then make an appointment to see your doctor and get a hearing test. You’ll be surprised how much better you will feel once you start hearing again.