How To Start A Conversation About Hearing Loss

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Hearing loss is frustrating on all accounts. It can be annoying to have to consistently repeat yourself; and, it’s also frustrating to be the one asking for the repeat. As a friend or family member of someone suffering from hearing loss, you probably find yourself wanting to blurt out, “you need hearing aids!” But, because this is such a sensitive topic, it’s better to take the sensitive approach.

Here are a few ways to start that conversation.

  1. Approach the person in a private setting. A group setting will most likely lead to embarrassment, which could have adverse effects on the conversation.

  2. Start by asking if they’ve noticed signs of hearing loss. Feel free to review our questionnaire with them. They may be relieved to have someone to talk to. If they deny there is an issue, (gently) provide examples of situations you’ve noticed that caused you concern.

  3. Explain that hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression, balance disorders, and even dementia. Also, explain that hearing loss is often irreversible, and the longer you wait, the more damage that is done.

  4. Do your research beforehand, and present one or two options for audiologists in their area. Explain that the first step is just a hearing test.

  5. Help them understand what to expect during the first visit with the audiologist.

  6. End on a positive and encouraging note! Discuss how improved hearing will impact their life.

Complimentary Hearing Screening at Waynesboro Library

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Join Us!

Monday, September 24

2 PM - 5:30 PM

Waynesboro Public Library
600 South Wayne Ave
Waynesboro, VA 22980

Dr. Tammy Garber will be offering complimentary hearing screenings this month at the Waynesboro Public Library. No appointment is necessary; stop by anytime to have your hearing checked, or to discuss questions or concerns with her.

Hearing Loss May…

  • Make it difficult to converse on the telephone

  • Make you feel tired or taxed after a gathering or meeting

  • Limit or hamper your personal or social life

  • Cause you to ask people to repeat themselves

  • Result in stress or anxiety

  • Make you feel isolated from friends, family or co-workers

  • Cause you to have difficulty understanding women's and children's voices

  • Cause others to complain that you turn up the TV too loud

Hearing loss has been linked with many health issues, including depression, social isolation, dementia, tinnitus, and balance disorders. Please don’t delay if you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of hearing loss. Once it occurs, the majority of hearing loss is irreversible.

If you can’t make it to this event but are interested in getting your hearing checked, call us at 434-326-4535 to schedule an in-office complimentary screening.

6 Facts About Hearing Aids

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We know you've heard of hearing aids (no pun intended). But, there are a few myths and misperceptions we'd like to address. We've narrowed down our list to six of the most common comments, questions, and concerns we receive in our office.

1. Hearing Aids Are Not Just For The Elderly

It's true: age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss. But, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), of the 466 million people worldwide who suffer from hearing loss, it is estimated that 34 million of these are children (7%). It also estimates that 1.1 billion young people (between 12–35 years old) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings. In fact, we blogged earlier this summer about how hearing loss is on the rise among teens. 

2. Hearing Aids Do Not Cure Hearing Loss

Hearing aids will improve your quality of life by helping you hear life's special moments and feel more connected to the world, but they will not cure your hearing loss. Hearing aids treat hearing loss, though; in fact, more than 95% of hearing loss cases can be treated with today's hearing technologies. 

3. You May Need Hearing Aids Even With A Mild Hearing Loss

Untreated hearing loss, even mild, affects the brain's ability to remember common everyday sounds. When the hearing nerves lose their function and no longer send sounds to the brain, the brain "forgets" the sounds and is unable to understand them over time. The longer people wait to seek treatment, the more sounds will be unrecognizable once treatment is sought. Of course, your audiologist will help you determine if hearing aids are the proper treatment.

4. Hearing Aids Won't Affect Your Lifestyle

Today's hearing technologies are suitable for all lifestyles. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, there are bluetooth-compatible hearing aids that pair with your phone, so you can hear conversations, music and other sounds from your phone directly in your ears. Do you work out and sweat frequently? There are now water resistant hearing aids. Are you often in the company of large groups of people? Hearing aids with multi-directional microphones will help you hear conversations taking place in front of, to the side of, and behind you. 

5. You Should Not Purchase Hearing Aids Online

In order to maximize the potential of your hearing aids and ensure a proper fit, there is customization required from your audiologist. You'll more than likely have questions, which your audiologist can answer, as well. Sure, you may be able to find less expensive hearing aids online, but you won't receive the care and personal attention your hearing deserves.

6. Today's Hearing Aids Are Virtually Invisible

We understand the concerns people have with wanting to keep hearing aids concealed, especially  those who are younger. Unfortunately, hearing aids aren't yet as widely accepted as glasses. But, today's hearing aid technologies are virtually invisible. They come in multiple colors to match your hair or skin type. There are even tiny hearing aids that fit in your ear canal. The different fits have pros and cons, so an audiologist will help you determine which fit works best for you. 

If you have questions or would like to learn more about hearing aid technologies, please feel free to give us a call.

Next-Gen Hearing Protection: Because Your Hearing Is Worth It

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Approximately 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-69 have hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises. We understand many people avoid wearing hearing protection because it blocks out the wanted noise along with the unwanted noise. What most people don't realize is that today's generation of hearing protection actually enhances low-level sounds (like conversations), while minimizing the loud sounds that create noise-induced hearing loss. This means if you're working in a noisy environment or attending a concert, you can carry on conversations with colleagues and friends comfortably at the same time you're protecting your hearing from the unwanted noises. 

Who Should Wear Hearing Protection?

There are varying recommendations based on the noise level (decibel) and the time exposed. The chart below by Westone explains when ear protection is needed. Certain professions, including factory workers, construction workers, musicians, and mechanics, require hearing protection more than others. For noisy experiences and hobbies, such as concerts, hunting, and riding motorcycles, you should wear hearing protection, as well. If you're ever in a situation where your hearing is muffled or you hear ringing or buzzing following the experience, that's also a tell tale sign that you're damaging your hearing.

 
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Types of Hearing Protection Available

We offer many types of hearing protection at various price points depending on your needs and situation. We offer high-end, in-ear musician monitors with multiple drivers for the professional musicians. We offer custom hearing protection devices that offer the ability to adjust the volume for those who need protection on the job. And, we offer recreational ear plugs for situations like loud movies, concerts, and sporting events. 

Please don't hesitate to call us if you feel you are a good candidate for hearing protection. We do not charge for this initial consultation. 

How Untreated Hearing Loss Affects Your Mental Health

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It is widely known that hearing loss affects your quality of life. We've blogged in the past about how hearing loss is connected with depression, social isolation, balance disorders, and fatigue. What isn't as well known is that untreated hearing loss affects the brain's ability to remember common everyday sounds. When the hearing nerves lose their function and no longer send sounds to the brain, the brain "forgets" the sounds and is unable to understand them over time. The longer people wait to seek treatment, the more sounds will be unrecognizable once treatment is sought. 

Contrary to popular belief, we hear mostly with our brains, not our ears. There is a specific area of the brain (Wernicke's area) whose sole purpose is to decipher and make sense of the sound it receives from your ears. The brain stores sounds and noises for up to three years. On average, it takes people with hearing loss 10 years to seek treatment. Waiting this long means that even hearing aids may not be able to make the brain understand the noises it's hearing. The brain will have to learn these common everyday noises - like birds chirping and refrigerators humming - all over again. This is why we ask patients to be patient with their new hearing aids. Chances are, their brains are relearning how to hear. 

Not only will your brain have to learn the sounds again, but when your hearing diminishes, your brain stops getting the stimulation it needs to process information. A lack of stimulation causes deterioration. A Johns Hopkins study showed that people with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to suffer from dementia. Those with moderate hearing loss tripled their risk, and those with severe loss were five times more likely to suffer from dementia. Not only that, but 83% of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's have untreated hearing loss. 

These statistics are daunting, but the good news is that seeking treatment as early as possible can have a significant impact on your mental health. If you believe you're experiencing hearing loss or know someone who might be, please have them see an audiologist to get tested sooner rather than later. Although hearing loss is painless, it's still just as important as other health symptoms people experience and get checked out right away. 

Bose's New Sleepbuds Touted for Tinnitus

 Photo Credit: Bose

Photo Credit: Bose

Bose recently launched noise-masking sleepbuds™, tiny wireless earbuds designed for comfort that deliver soothing sounds to help you sleep. Bose markets the sleepbuds to everyone who has trouble falling or staying asleep due to unwanted noises like snoring and traffic (or for those who have partners who are bothered by standard noise machines). But, SoundGuys published an article a few days ago identifying another group who might benefit from these earbuds: those with Tinnitus. Since many of our patients suffer from Tinnitus, and we understand how it affects their sleep patterns, we were intrigued enough to look into this and share.

The new sleepbuds only work with the Bose Sleep app, meaning you can't listen to music or other forms of entertainment. The sleepbuds provide 10 soothing sounds you can choose from - ranging from beach settings to campfires - to help you fall and stay asleep. Some sounds are better suited to help mask unwanted noise, and some are designed purely for relaxation.

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The rechargeable batteries last up to 15 hours at max volume which, according to the SoundGuys, measured at 74dB. (We don't recommend more than 8 hours of exposure to sounds over 80dB due to noise-induced hearing loss.) The earbuds are charged in the battery case, which holds them in place magnetically. Another great feature is the ability to set an alarm that only you can hear. 

We visited the Bose community page to see what those with Tinnitus had to say about the sleepbuds. Users had some great recommendations, including partnering with other Tinnitus-relief apps and allowing users to adjust the frequency of sounds emitted from the sleepbuds. You can view some of these comments here

The earbuds retail on the Bose website for $249.95. 

Tinnitus is a condition most commonly known as "ringing in the ears;" however, the "ringing" can also be in the forms of whistling, buzzing, hissing, clicking, and roaring, among others. Take a closer look at Tinnitus' causes and management in our August 2017 blog post

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

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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