Swimming Season is Here: Help Avoid Swimmer's Ear

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If you have a child who spends most Summer days in the water, you've most likely witnessed 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 of swimmer's ear 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 trial-and-error process to determine which over-the-counter ones work and fit best can be quite frustrating for parents (and kids). We've spent many 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 pick the color (or color(s) if they want the swirl option) to match their swimsuits, swim team, or just their fun personalities. Parents love them because they're bright (read: easy to find), they float (again, easy to find), and they keep ears perfectly clean and dry. 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!

The (Loud) Sounds of Summer: How and When to Protect Your Ears

 Crozet, VA, Fireworks. Photo credit: M.C. Andrews Photography

Crickets chirping, waves crashing, and campfires crackling are sounds typically associated with fond Summer memories. But, some of the most harmful sounds to your ears are also associated with this season: fireworks, lawnmowers, power tools, and outdoor concerts are among the loudest. 

More than 26 million Americans ages 20-69 have noise-induced hearing loss. This is caused by damage to the hair cells that are found in our inner ear. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back, causing permanent hearing loss. 

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. ƒHealth 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. 

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, call us for an appointment. We provide hearing evaluations and carry the latest in hearing technologies.

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

New Study Finds Healthy Diets May Reduce Risk of Hearing Loss in Women

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We've blogged in the past about how nutrition affects hearing, but now there's more! A study published in the May 11 issue of the Journal of Nutrition found that eating well contributes to a reduced risk of hearing loss among women. The study was conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and examined the relationship between hearing loss and three diets: The Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED), Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), and the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 (AHEI-2010).

Researchers followed 81,818 women for 22 years (1991-2013) and found that women who closely followed the AMED and DASH diets had about a 30 percent lower risk of moderate or worse hearing loss, compared to women who didn't follow these dietary guidelines. Additionally, a sub-cohort of 33,000 women who gave more detailed reports of hearing information as part of the study found that the amount of reduced risk of hearing loss could be greater than 30 percent and also relate to the AHEI-2010 diet.

The AMED diet features extra virgin olive oil, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and moderate intake of alcohol. The DASH diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables, is moderate in dairy, meat, poultry and fish, and is low in fats, oils and sweets. The AHEI-2010 shares components of both of these diets. 

The authors of the study state that more research needs to be done, but that based on these findings they can conclude that, "Adherence to healthful dietary patterns is associated with lower risk of hearing loss in women, and consuming a healthy diet may be helpful in reducing the risk of acquired hearing loss."

You can read the full study here

Interested in this topic? Read our other blog post, "Nutrition & Hearing: Top Foods to Consume and Avoid."

 

Rock Stars and Hearing Loss: Why Hearing Protection is Important

We thought this would be a good follow up to our post last week about the increased rates of hearing loss among teens (now 1 in 5 teens reporting hearing loss), which most health experts attribute to wearing earbuds and headphones while listening to digital entertainment at loud volumes.

The hearing of many rock stars has been affected by years of live performances and time spent in recording studios. (In the teen blog post, we referenced how noise-induced hearing loss is very similar to sun damage; that is, you may not notice the results until it's too late.) These stars are now living with hearing loss, Tinnitus, Meniere's Disease, and more. We're sharing their stories in the hopes that parents and kids will pay close attention and realize the importance of hearing protection. 

 Photo Credit: The Sun

Photo Credit: The Sun

1. Chris Martin

The Coldplay lead singer suffers from Tinnitus, which he says, gives him excruciating headaches. He now wears ear plugs to help prevent it from worsening. 

2. Brian johnson

The lead singer of the rock group AC/DC was told in 2016 by his doctors that he risked total hearing loss if he continued to tour and perform with the band.

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3. Neil Young

The legendary songwriter and musician claims that his album, "Weld," really damaged his hearing in the early 90s. He also states that he recorded "Harvest Moon" because he wanted to avoid loud music at the time. He suffers from Tinnitus.

4. Sting

Music legend Sting suffers from hearing loss and openly discusses living with it. In an interview with SiriusXM, he stated, "I'm fairly deaf. 'What?' is my favorite word." He has also previously advocated for conscious hearing and safe listening practices as an ambassador for the Hear the World Foundation.

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 Photo Credit: Rolling Stone

Photo Credit: Rolling Stone

5. Ryan Adams

Rocker Ryan Adams (and ex-husband of "This Is Us" star Mandy Moore) has suffered for years from Tinnitus and Meniere's Disease. He often shares his experiences online and acts as an advocate for those with Meniere's. He took time off from playing music around 2009 to deal with the disorders. 

6. Huey Lewis

Huey Lewis accounted on April 19 that he is canceling his upcoming 2018 tour due to hearing loss, saying hearing himself sing during performances is difficult. 

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7. Eric Clapton

The legendary guitar player announced this year that he's losing his hearing and struggles with Tinnitus, but promises to keep playing as long as he can.

8. Pete Townshend

The Who has been called one of the world's loudest bands. Its guitarist, Pete Townshend, has a severe case of hearing loss. He stated, “I have severe hearing damage. It’s manifested itself as tinnitus, ringing in the ears at frequencies that I play guitar. It hurts, it’s painful, and it’s frustrating. My right ear, which encounters my own edgy guitar and the machine gun strokes of the drums, has suffered badly. Luckily for me, I still have my left ear, which seems to be less messed up. When I’ve worked solo in the past five years, I’ve not used drums. This has meant I could play more quietly I think. With The Who, there is, of course, no way to play the old songs without drums. I’ve no idea what I can do about this. I am unable to perform with in-ear monitors. In fact, they increase the often unbearable tinnitus I suffer after shows.”

9. Ozzy Osbourne

The Black Sabbath front man and reality show star has suffered significant hearing loss due to his heavy metal and 'alternative' lifestyles. 

10. Grimes

The 30-year-old indie pop rocker canceled her entire European tour in 2012 due to a case of Tinnitus. Regarding this cancellation, she tweeted, “It’s depressing to cancel more shows, but we have to cancel all Grimes dates in Europe due to health issues  im having hearing problems and im supposed to limit my exposure to loud noise for as long as possible.”


We encourage the younger generation to take preventative measures to preserve hearing, as hearing damage is irreversible. Here are some tips to help reduce noise-induced hearing loss

Please contact us for hearing evaluations or to find out more about hearing protection devices. 

For musicians, we offer offer custom-molded in-ear monitors fitted into medical-grade silicone ear molds, as well as universal fit monitors. You can find out more about these here

Hearing Loss Rising Among Teens

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Earlier this month, a Washington Post column referenced this American Osteopathic Association article stating, "1 in 5 teens has some form of hearing loss - a rate about 30% higher than it was in the 1980s and 1990s - which many experts believe is due, in part, to the increased use of headphones." That's a number that might come as a surprise to many parents. It might also come as a surprise that noise - not age - is the number one cause of hearing loss.

Think of hearing loss as sun damage - although you don't notice it in the moment, exposure to loud noises over time can result in irreparable damage for the rest of your life. Kids are being exposed to loud noises from electronic media, concerts, movies, and more at earlier ages, now. Sarah Sydlowski, the audiology director of the hearing implant program at the Cleveland Clinic stated, “The baby boomer generation is dealing with skin cancer from the tanning they did as teens. This generation will have to deal with the consequences of noise exposure that damaged their hearing.”

What Can Parents Do?

1. Test for Hearing Loss - Get your kids screened by an audiologist or physician. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening for high-frequency hearing, a telltale sign of noise-induced hearing loss, at three ages:

  • 11-14 years
  • 15-17 years
  • 18-21 years

2. Enforce Safe Listening Habits - A good rule of thumb for parents is if you can hear noise from your child's headphones/earbuds, then it's too loud. Volume above 50-60% on personal listening devices while wearing headphones and earbuds is risky. Kids also should be able to hear conversations taking place while listening, and they should take breaks every hour.

3. Protect Your Ears - Kids (and adults) should wear ear protection when being exposed to loud noises, such as concerts, movies and mowing the lawn. We've identified common sounds and decibels that warrant hearing protection in our post titled, "Protect Your Ears from Loud Summer Sounds."

Hearing loss has been linked to poor school performance, social isolation, feelings of depression and anxiety, reduced language development, and low self esteem. Although we agree as parents that our children don't always "listen" to us, as audiologists, we recommend a hearing screening to rule out a legitimate hearing loss. Contact us for a complimentary screening. 

Additional Reading for Parents with Young Children

Child Health Day: Early Signs of Hearing Loss

Chemotherapy and Hearing Loss

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Among the many negative side effects of chemotherapy, there is one that does not receive as much attention: hearing loss. Many cancer treatments are ototoxic, which means they have a toxic effect on the ears. Damage can be in the form of destroying the tiny hairs in the cochlea, attacking the cochlea and other structures of the ear, and damaging the auditory nerve. Chemotherapy treatments can also cause Tinnitus ("ringing in the ears"), dizziness and/or balance disorders, all of which are related to the inner ear. 

Chemotherapy treatments from the "platinum" group, such as Cisplatin and Carboplatin, are known to be particularly harmful. These are commonly used to treat breast, ovarian, testicular, cervical, and lung cancers. The effects of these chemotherapies are irreversible and are seen in approximately 20% of patients (1 in 5) who take them.

During treatment, patients are typically focused on the more prominent and visible side effects (such as hair loss and nausea). Hearing loss and Tinnitus are generally slow to progress and build over time. It is important for patients undergoing cancer treatment to be aware of the side effects affecting hearing since they may not be noticed right away.

It is our recommendation (and the recommendation of most doctors and health experts) to see an audiologist for a baseline hearing test before treatment begins. This way, your hearing can be monitored throughout treatment. If hearing loss, Tinnitus, dizziness or balance disorders are present, adjustments in dosages or other medications designed to decrease the symptoms may be considered. 

New Research Uses Brainwaves To Test Understanding of Speech

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Researchers are aiming to change the way we measure a person's ability to understand speech. Yes, hearing aids help you hear better. But, often speech gets lost in translation. Hearing someone talk (from another room, for example) and understanding what they're saying are two different things. That's because hearing requires more than just your ears. Your brain actually plays a large part, as well. Our blog post on one manufacturer's BrainHearing™ technology discusses this more in depth.

A new technique developed by researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium, in collaboration with the University of Maryland, involves using an EEG brain cap with 64 electrodes to measure a person's brainwaves while they listen to speech. It shows not only whether a person has heard a particular sound, but whether they've understood it.

EEG caps are already used to measure hearing, especially in newborns. But, the current test just measures whether the sound was heard. Instead of just tonal sounds or individual words (such as the ones you repeat during a hearing test), the new test measures brain waves of someone listening to a sentence and how well they actually understood what they heard.

Although it's currently in a demo state, this new test has some beneficial implications as to how well we will be able to measure the hearing and understanding of speech in the future. It could lead to better diagnoses in patients with speech comprehension issues, and more accurate hearing aid fittings. Imagine not only hearing better, but being able to understand everything that is said! Because the patient does not need to be awake or alert for the test, it also could mean better understanding for people in comas or for those who cannot communicate verbally. 

Exciting things are on the horizon in the field of audiology. We'll do our best to keep you up to date with the most recent research, trends and news.

 

World Hearing Day on March 3

Did You Know...

  • 360 million people live with disabling hearing loss
  • >1 billion young people (12-35 years) are at risk of hearing loss due to recreational exposure to loud sounds
  • 750 billion is the overall cost of unaddressing hearing loss globally
 Click the image to visit the World Health Organization's website.

Click the image to visit the World Health Organization's website.

World Hearing Day is a good time to think about YOUR hearing. Contact us if you have questions or concerns related to hearing loss, hearing aids, or hearing protection.

Casting a Spotlight on Deafness

 Photo Credit: New Renaissance Film Festival, London

Photo Credit: New Renaissance Film Festival, London

The Silent Child, a short film about a deaf child named Libby (Maisie Sly), has helped bring deafness into the spotlight. In the film, 4-year-old Libby has two hearing parents who have limited knowledge about the disability. A social worker (Rachel Shenton) comes along and teaches Libby sign language, which leads to a transformation in her behavior and happiness as she feels more connected to the world. The film has received many awards and accolades; however, it's up for its biggest award on March 4. The Silent Child was nominated for an Oscar for the "Live Action Short Film" category.

Rachel Shenton is also the writer of the film. On the film's website, she says she was inspired by her father, who suddenly and profoundly lost his hearing when she was 12 years old. Rachel saw the impact his hearing loss had on him and her family. She learned sign language as a result.

Rachel, along with inspirational deaf artists like Marlee Matlin and Nyle DiMarco, are helping to raise awareness of and changes for the deaf community. 

Rachel is focusing her efforts on children. According to her,

 

"90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents with no experience of deafness often resulting in limited communication between the parent and child, meaning a child can start school with little to no communication skills. Since the closure of almost all deaf schools, deaf children now have to attend mainstream school and shockingly over 78% of deaf children attend mainstream school with no specialised support in place. This is heavily reflected in their grades as well as their mental health and well being.

Deafness is a silent disability, you can’t see it and it’s not life threatening so it’s easy for it to slip under your radar. We hope this movie helps to get sign language recognised in schools and give a voice to all the silent children around the world."

 

Nyle DiMarco, who is currently starring in the TV show This Close (Hollywood's first-ever series to feature deaf writers, producers, and creators) and producing Children of a Lesser God on Broadway, tweeted recently about the much-deserved recognition deaf actors and films are receiving in Hollywood:

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Nyle has a foundation dedicated to "making the world a better place for deaf people and their families."

We're grateful for people like Rachel, Nyle and Marlee (who needs no introduction) for using their influence to help shed light on and support the deaf community. 

If you're on Twitter, be sure to follow Nyle DiMarco, Rachel Shenton, and Marlee Matlin to hear more about their work and their efforts. 

Research Watch: First-In-Human Safety Study for Hearing Restoration

 Image credit: University of Virginia Health System

Image credit: University of Virginia Health System

The loss of inner ear hair cells is the most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Once damaged (due to loud noises, trauma, aging and other factors), these hair cells cannot grow back, which causes permanent hearing loss. U.S.-based biotech company Frequency Therapeutics is trying to change that. Last month, the company successfully completed the first-in-human study of FX-322, a Progenitor Cell Activation (PCA™) regenerative medicine aimed at creating new inner ear hair cells in the cochlea.

FX-322 previously worked at restoring hearing in animals. This first-in-human study was to prove the safety and tolerability of it. Nine adults with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss who were scheduled to receive a cochlear implant in the 24 hours following receiving FX-322 were enrolled in the study. The success of this trial means that future trials may take place in patients with moderate hearing loss who are not candidates for the cochlear implant and whose hearing can be studied over time. 

You can read more about this study here. We're unsure of the timeframe - it could be years - but we're encouraged for our patients about the research taking place.