New Genes Identified in Hearing Loss Patients

A new study was recently published in The American Journal of Human Genetics which has identified 44 genes that are linked to age-related hearing loss. This is helping to give a clearer picture of how hearing loss develops and potential treatments for it.

In the study, researchers from King's College London and UCL looked at genes from over 250,000 participants aged 40-69 years to see which genes were associated with people who had reported having, or not having, hearing problems on the questionnaire. 44 genes were identified to be linked with hearing loss.

By the age of 65, one-third of people are affected by some degree of hearing loss. This can lead to social isolation and various disabling conditions and has been identified as a risk factor for dementia. The findings of this new study may allow researchers to determine how hearing loss develops as we age and may identify potential targets for new therapies and treatments.

Co-lead author of the study Professor Frances Williams said, "We now know that very many genes are involved in the loss of hearing as we age. This study has identified a few genes that we already know cause deafness in children, but it has also revealed lots of additional novel genes [that] point to new biological pathways in hearing."

The next steps in this research are to understand how each identified gene influences the auditory pathway in order to provide opportunities to develop new treatments.

Learn more about the study here and be sure to sign up for a complimentary consultation at Hearing Health Associates.

It's Audiology Awareness Month!

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October is Audiology Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to spreading awareness about the services audiologists provide as well as why you might consider hearing protection or treatment.

In celebration of Audiology Awareness Month, here is a list of facts you may not have known around the topic of audiology and hearing:

  • 1 billion people are at risk for hearing loss due to unsafe personal use of portable music devices. In fact, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, around 37 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss already.

  • Audiologists treat people of all ages, not just older individuals. Half of those individuals with hearing loss are younger than age 65 and should seek treatment for hearing loss.

  • Audiologists don’t just offer hearing aids as treatment. Audiologists can provide personalized treatment and services to people suffering from a variety of conditions like dizziness/balance issues or tinnitus and also can offer hearing screenings and protection to prevent hearing loss (if you haven’t begun experiencing any yet).

  • If your child isn’t performing well in school or having issues paying attention, it could be due to hearing loss. 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes and can be treated by an audiologist.

Celebrate National Audiology Awareness Month with us and sign up for a complimentary screening at Hearing Health Associates. Our audiologists can help with both preventative care and hearing loss treatment.

September is Healthy Aging Month

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The month of September is Healthy Aging Month. This is a great time to be thinking about some practices and habits you can implement in your life to help your health in the long run. Here are some of our recommendations:

  • Pick up a new exercise or physical activity. Exercises like yoga and swimming are relaxing, low-impact, and fun. Plus you’ll relieve stress and release endorphins, both of which are great for your mental health.

  • Get regular checkups for your hearing and more. Wearing hearing aids, should you need them, can help reduce the risk of falls, reduce the risk of depression, ward off mental decline and conditions like dementia, and keep you socially active. Sign up for your complimentary hearing screening with Hearing Health here. Don’t forget about regular dental, physical, and eyesight checkups as well.

  • Meet more people, more often. An attributing factor to living a longer, happier life is your social life. Volunteer, join clubs, take a class on a subject you’re interested in, or take someone you already know out for lunch/dinner.

  • Be positive. This is the most important tip on this list! Always strive to think positive and take positive actions and steps in your life. In the long run, you will live happier, healthier, and longer because of it.

Have any other tips? Share them with us on Facebook.

Important Factors for a Long, Healthy Life

Thanks to Healthy Aging Month, the aging experts at Assisted Living Services, Inc. (ALS) in Connecticut have offered tips on the top three ways seniors can stay smart, safe and independent.

"Physical, cognitive and environmental factors have the greatest impact on quality of life as we age," said Ron D'Aquila, RN, President and Co-Founder of ALS. "Preventative measures can delay or avoid illness, injury and premature decline."

D'Aquila suggests a healthy eating plan (you should still adhere to any necessary dietary restrictions). Reducing or eliminating sugar intake can help with inflammation and iron-rich foods such as spinach, beans, dried fruit and meats will help increase energy and avoid iron deficiency.

In addition to an annual physical, D'Aquila urges regular exams to maintain sight, hearing and oral health. Untreated hearing loss is linked to impaired memory and dementia, anxiety, avoidance of social situations and increased risk to personal safety. You should schedule a hearing test at the first signs of hearing trouble.

D'Aquila recommends at least three hours of exercise each week to maintain functional fitness. Specific exercises that can improve balance and leg strength are heel, toe and leg lifts. Additionally, practice walking heel to toe, standing up from a sitting position without using hands and do wall push-ups. Exercise helps improve emotional and cognitive health as well. Other great activities to boost brain power are skill games, puzzles, and new learning opportunities.

Sign up for a complimentary hearing screening here or read more of this article here.

Hearing Aids Could Improve Long-Term Brain Function

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We’ve discussed before how hearing loss can negatively affect your health as you age. A recently released study suggests there is a way to combat this. The study revealed that wearing a hearing aid to combat age-related hearing loss could help people improve their brain function long term. 

Researcher Dr. Anne Corbett said, “previous research has shown that hearing loss is linked to a loss of brain function, memory, and an increased risk of dementia. Our work is one of the largest studies to look at the impact of wearing a hearing aid, and suggests that wearing a hearing aid could actually protect the brain.” 

Other recent studies have explored how dangerous hearing loss can be to people’s overall health and wellbeing, as well as how prevalent age-related hearing loss is.

“Old age greatly increases the risk for hearing loss,” said Dr. Vegard Skirbekk, Columbia Aging Center faculty member and professor of population and family health at the Mailman University School of Public Health. “As the population ages, we are seeing increasing numbers of people with hearing loss.”

Come see us for a complimentary consultation. We can help determine the best treatment and course of action for your hearing needs.

Read more here: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/hearing-aids-could-help-improve-brain-function-in-later-life-071619.html

Workplace Hearing Loss: How It Can Affect You

An often serious issue that is overlooked regarding hearing loss for those in their 20s-60s is workplace-related hearing loss. An estimated 24% of reported hearing loss in the US has been directly attributed to workplace noise exposure. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers are not exposed to noise more than 85 decibels (dBA) over 8 continuous hours (the hours in a typical workday.) For reference, normal conversation is 60 dBA; 85 dBA is the sound of a gas-powered lawnmower. This means that those in industries like construction, military, transportation, mining, entertainment, and even fields like hair styling (due to hair dryers) are more likely to suffer from workplace hearing loss.

There are some preventative steps you can take if you work in one of these industries. Here are our tips:

  1. Wear hearing protection. If your workplace does not provide you with hearing protection, contact us. We provide many types and can work with you to find the best solution.

  2. Disclose and be honest about your disability or concerns. If you already suffer from hearing loss, have begun to experience it, or are experiencing side effects of loud noise exposure (i.e. ringing in your ears), be sure to disclose this to your management so appropriate steps can be taken to accommodate you at work.

  3. Seek treatment. If you believe you are experiencing workplace hearing loss, sign up for a complimentary consultation with us or your hearing health provider and get help sooner rather than later. Hearing loss related to loud noise exposure is permanent.

Read more here: https://hearinghealthfoundation.org/hearing-loss-in-the-workplace

Your Back-to-School Hearing Health Checklist

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With back-to-school season heading your direction, we’re sure you have gathered many lists of supplies, like notebooks, pencils, and crayons that your child needs for school. While those are important for your child to learn their best, it’s also important that you consider what your child may need to either prevent hearing loss or help if they are already experiencing it.

Here is a quick list of some hearing health supplies for your child’s return to school:

  1. Written instructions/notebook with important information. If your child is already experiencing some hearing loss, wears a cochlear implant, or has a hearing aid, it can be vital to provide teachers and faculty/administrators with instructions on how your child’s device works and what to do in case it stops working. You can also provide instructions for ways to communicate with your child in case of emergencies – especially if you aren’t able to reach the school in time – or request specific seating for your child in the classroom.

  2. Hearing aid/cochlear implant accessories. Provide your child’s teacher with extra batteries, a dry kit, and cord clips for your child’s device, as well as instructions on how these items work. This will ensure there is already a backup plan in case anything happens to your child’s device during the school day.

  3. Noise cancelling headphones. To prevent hearing loss, you should discuss noise and music level with your child before they use their music devices. However, you can also make sure they wear noise cancelling headphones, instead of earbuds, in order to protect their hearing from elevated conversations and road noise while riding the bus. Your child can also wear these in other scenarios, like recess or music class if the environment is too loud.

  4. Hearing protection for sports. If your child is at the age to participate in contact sports or recess outside, you may want to get them ear protection for those times. A strong blow to the ear from a ball, hand, or other object can cause permanent damage to their ear drum and, ultimately, hearing loss. Wearing the proper protection can help prevent this from happening. If your child also participates in swimming during school hours, consider swimming ear plugs.

Be sure to speak with your child’s teachers often to ensure their devices have been working properly in the classroom and to make sure they’re in the best learning environment with respect to their hearing health.

Click here for more information on protecting your child’s hearing and here for signs of childhood hearing loss. If you believe your child may be experiencing hearing loss, sign your child up for a free hearing screening.

Middle Schooler Shows Hand Dryers Can Cause Hearing Loss

Nora Keegan, picture from  CBC news  via David Keegan.

Nora Keegan, picture from CBC news via David Keegan.

We’re gearing up for back-to-school season at Hearing Health Associates and want to help you protect your child’s hearing and make sure they learn their best at school. While steps can easily be taken to prevent hearing loss at home, we enjoyed reading this article about a 13-year-old girl who took her hearing health at school into her own hands.

Middle schooler Nora Keegan was curious about the hand dryers in her school system and wondered if they were possibly damaging her hearing or her peers’ hearing. She wanted to study this topic when she saw her fellow classmates holding their ears while trying to dry their hands and said that hand dryers hurt her ears, as well. She eventually decided to do a scientific study, and her findings were published in a scientific journal called Pediatrics & Child Health.

Nora’s study questioned whether or not hand dryers pose a risk to ear health, particularly in children. The study ended up proving that hand dryers can cause hearing loss because they operate at levels that are far louder than recommended, especially at a child’s height.

You can find more information about Nora Keegan and read her full findings here. We hope that schools pay close attention to Nora’s study and take appropriate measures to protect students’ hearing.

Protecting Your Ears From the Sounds of Summer

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Some of the best summer sounds, can also be the most harmful: sports games, fireworks, outdoor concerts. However, rather than avoiding these sounds, you can still have fun while protecting your ears! Keep reading to find out how and when you should protect your ears this summer.

HOW LOUD IS TOO LOUD?

The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by prolonged exposure to any noise louder than 85 dB, or by a one-time, intense exposure to a noise like an explosion. Health experts recommend protecting your hearing when exposed to:

  • Noises louder than 100 dB for more than 15 minutes

  • Brief, one-time noises of 120 dB (for children) and 140 dB for adults

To help you understand when it's appropriate to protect your ears, we've created the infographic below. 

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If you hear ringing, buzzing or experience temporary hearing loss when operating machinery, leaving work, or following a concert, hearing protection is crucial. Parents - if you can hear sounds from your child's headphones or earbuds while standing next to them, the volume is too loud.

If you're constantly exposed to noises over 85dB at work or home, please contact us. We provide many types of hearing protection and can work with you to find the best solution. If you think you're experiencing noise-induced hearing loss, you can set up a complimentary screening here.

We wish you all a happy, healthy summer. And, please remember to protect your ears!

It's Swimming Season: Tips to Avoid Swimmer's Ear

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If your child spends most of their summer days in the water, you've likely seen how painful swimmer's ear can be. Swimmer's ear, also known as acute external otitis or otitis externa, is an infection in the outer ear canal (running from your eardrum to the outside of your head). The most common cause is bacteria invading the skin inside your ear canal. It's often brought on by water that remains in your ear after swimming. 

The best way to reduce the chances of getting swimmer’s ear is to take some easy precautions:

  • Dry ears with a towel after swimming

  • Tilt your head to each side to allow any excess water to drain

  • Don’t insert anything into ears, and especially avoid the use of cotton swabs to clean ears

  • Use a hairdryer on the lowest setting to help alleviate moisture in the ear

  • Use ear plugs or a swim cap when swimming, especially in a river or lake

Ear plugs are the preferred way to prevent swimmer's ear; however, the process to determine which over-the-counter ones work and fit best can be quite frustrating for everyone involved. We've spent years testing different products and have taken the guess work out of it for you. Our #1 recommendation is the AquaSeal Custom Flotable Swim Plugs.

AquaSeal Custom Floatable Swim Plugs

These swim plugs are custom molded with easy-grip molded handles for placement and removal; include "right" and "left" markings; and are made with a soft, velvety silicone. Kids love them because they get to choose a color (or color(s)) to match their swimsuits, swim team, or simply their fun personalities. Parents love them because they're easy to spot and they float, which makes them hard to lose and easy to find if they do get misplaced. They also keep children’s ears dry and clean while swimming. With AquaSeal swim plugs, we simply take an impression of the ear (a quick, easy, and painless procedure), send off the impression with the color selections, and then the new ear plugs arrive 7-10 days later.

If you're interested in scheduling an appointment or learning more, feel free to call us. Don't wait until the last minute; swim season is here!