Hearing Loss

Health App Designed to Manage Tinnitus (Ringing in Ears)

If you suffer from ringing or buzzing in the ears or are seeking relief from bothersome noises around you, a phone app - Widex ZEN - might be your answer. Widex ZEN is a holistic approach that incorporates sound therapy, counseling and relaxation techniques to help manage Tinnitus or symptoms similar to those of Tinnitus. It can be used with earbuds or headphones, or with your Widex hearing aids (either with streaming capability or via a COM-DEX or UNI-DEX). It has shown to be effective in 80% of cases of Tinnitus.

Tinnitus (ti-NIGHT-us or TINN-a-tus) is also known as "ringing in the ears;" however, it can manifest as whistling, buzzing, hissing, roaring, swooshing, clicking, and many other sounds. Regardless of the sound, it can be extremely bothersome. It's also common. According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately one in five people experience Tinnitus at some point in their lives. More than 90% of those experiencing Tinnitus also have hearing loss.

The Widex ZEN app consists of four components that can be tailored to your needs:

  1. Counseling - Provides you with relevant information to help you change the negative interpretation of Tinnitus

  2. Amplification - Used to stimulate the ears and brain to reduce the contrast between the surrounding sounds and the Tinnitus

  3. Fractal Tones - Designed to provide relaxation and reduce stress

  4. Relaxation - Exercises designed for relaxation and sleep management

Tinnitus management is one of the many services we offer. If you have Tinnitus or are experiencing ringing, buzzing or humming in your ears, call us for a complimentary consultation. We're happy to discuss Tinnitus management options with you.

Helping Loved Ones Feel Included During the Holidays

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Holidays are a time for family gatherings and celebrations. While most of us relish this time of year and the festivities that ensue, keep in mind that large social gatherings are one of the most difficult environments for someone with hearing loss. Even if surrounded by loved ones, not being able to hear or engage in conversations often makes them feel isolated.

Statistics show that 50% of us will have someone with hearing loss at our holiday table. Thirty percent of holiday gatherings will include someone with hearing aids. 

We've compiled a short list of tips to make sure everyone feels included in the upcoming festivities.

For Friends/Family of Someone with Hearing Loss:

1.     Reduce or eliminate background noises in the main gathering space, such as music or the TV.

2.     Remove or minimize obstacles that interfere with a person’s ability to lip read, such as dim lighting and large centerpieces.

3.     Ask your friend/family member where they’d like to sit. Seat them beside someone who will help them navigate conversations.

4.     If asked to repeat yourself, consider rephrasing what you just said. Oftentimes, those with hearing loss have difficulty hearing a particular word or or deciphering a sound of speech. 

5.     When speaking to someone with hearing loss, stay close. It's often a good idea to touch their arm or shoulder before you speak to get their attention. Face them in case they need to read your lips.

Tips for Those with Hearing Loss

1.     Choose a place at the table that is best for you. If seating has been pre-determined, ask the host if you can re-arrange yours.

2.     Sit beside someone who is your advocate; someone who will repeat things for you if necessary and be patient with you.

3.     Too much background noise? Move the conversation to a quieter room, if possible.

4.     If the music or TV is too loud, ask the host to turn it down. Be polite, but assertive. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. 

5.     If you have hearing aids, wear them! You can always make adjustments to volume or settings if needed. 

Most importantly, we hope everyone enjoys this holiday season surrounded by those you care about most. Sending all of you our best holiday wishes. Cheers!

NPR: Take Care of Your Eyes and Ears to Keep Your Brain Sharp

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We’ve published several blog posts discussing the relationship between the brain and ears. A recent story on NPR (National Public Radio) shared research findings that further link hearing (and sight) to cognitive functioning. Researchers tracked approximately 2,000 older adults in the U.S. both before and after they started using hearing aids. A series of tests were performed with participants every two years from 1996 to 2014. They found the rate of cognitive decline was slowed by 75 percent following the adoption of hearing aids. The same study found that the rate of cognitive decline was slowed by 50 percent following cataract surgery. You can read the full article here. Our takeaway? We understand no one wants hearing aids, but it’s proven that hearing better improves your quality of life, both physically and mentally.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, read our July 2018 blog post, How Untreated Hearing Loss Affects Your Mental Health. It provides more details about the relationship between the ears and the brain and how untreated hearing loss affects the brain’s ability to remember common everyday sounds.

National Audiology Awareness Month

How is your hearing? That’s the question the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) wants you to focus on this month.

The AAA established October as National Audiology Awareness Month to encourage people to remember how important your hearing is to your daily life, along with encouraging hearing screenings and hearing protection.

The statistics on hearing loss are shocking, with 36 million Americans suffering from some degree of hearing loss. Even more staggering is the average amount of time a person with hearing loss waits to seek treatment after noticing a problem - between seven to 10 years. In that time, hearing can not only worsen significantly, but can cause a variety of health and psychological problems, such as depression, social isolation and balance disorders.

Take this month to focus on your hearing. Schedule an appointment with an audiologist to get a hearing screening. If you notice signs of hearing loss in someone close to you, our most recent blog post focused on how to start that conversation.

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.

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. 

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