Roanoke

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!

Possible Link Between Hearing Loss Before Age 50 and Substance Abuse

 
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A recent study by the University of Michigan and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System showed that people under age 50 with hearing loss misuse prescription opioids at twice the rate compared to their hearing peers and are more likely to misuse alcohol and other drugs, as well. The study was led by Dr. Michael McKee after noticing that a relatively large share of his younger patients with hearing loss were struggling with substance abuse disorders. Dr. McKee runs the Deaf Health Clinic, which provides primary care and mental health care to deaf and hard-of-hearing patients.

Even after researchers adjusted for differences in social, economic and mental health between the hearing and hard-of-hearing populations, the differences remained. Adults under age 35 with a hearing loss were two and a half times more likely to have a prescription opioid use disorder. Those between ages 35 and 49 who had hearing loss were nearly twice as likely as their hearing peers to have disorders related to both prescription opioids and alcohol.

This study should be of particular interest to healthcare providers who prescribe pain and mental health medications to patients with hearing loss.

If you or someone you know in the Charlottesville or Roanoke, VA areas may be experiencing hearing loss, please contact us. For concerns of substance abuse, you can visit the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) treatment locator website. On that page, you can search for providers by zip code.

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!

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. 

How to Talk to Your Doctor: Choosing the Right Hearing Aids for You

If you're reading this post, hopefully you've already familiarized yourself with how to talk to your doctor about hearing loss. This is Part 2 of our "How to Talk to Your Doctor" series and will focus on the conversations following the initial hearing screening, after it has been determined that your level of hearing loss requires support from hearing aid technologies. 

First, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the various hearing aid options. There are in-the-ear, behind-the-ear, rechargeable-battery, iPhone-compatible, and many more hearing aid options from which to choose. Make a list of what is most important to you from a hearing aid perspective. Here are some things to consider:

  • How active is your lifestyle? Do you spend most of your days in a quiet or more social setting? Are you just trying to hear the TV better, or do you need to actively participate in group conversations? This will help you decide which features will work best with your lifestyle, such as noise reduction, directional microphones, wireless technologies, additional programming, and more.
  • How often are you on the phone? If your answer is "often," you should consider the iPhone/mobile phone compatible hearing aids. 
  • How important is discreetness? Hearing aids vary in discreetness, ranging from the most discreet completely-in-the-canal options to less discreet behind-the-ear technologies. Of course, each type also has its pros and cons. Be sure to discuss these with your audiologist.
  • Do you have a budget? Hearing aids also vary in costs, so it's important to discuss your personal budget with your audiologist when deciding which technology is best for you.
  • Are rechargeable batteries important? The latest hearing aid technologies offer rechargeable battery options. This is an important consideration from environmental, maintenance and cost perspectives. 
  • Can you take the hearing aid for a test drive? Hearing aids are an important investment. Before settling on a final option, ask if you can take them for a test drive. Even if it's not exactly the hearing aid you plan to order, it will give you a good idea of what you can expect and will help you prioritize features and programs. You can read one of our patient's reviews after a demo with the iPhone-compatible hearing aids. 

Finally, find a reputable, local audiologist. During the first few months, you'll be getting used to your hearing aids and will probably have many questions or will need to visit the office for minor adjustments. This is why it's important to find a local audiologist that you trust. It's also the reason we recommend against buying something as important as hearing aids online. There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to your hearing. You'll need to work with your audiologist until you find the best solution for your hearing loss and lifestyle needs.

 

Protect Your Ears From Loud Summer Sounds

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

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

For many of us, Summer sounds are pleasant and nostalgic. Crickets chirping, children splashing in the pool, the ocean, and campfires crackling are some common sounds 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!

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Hearing Loss: The Initial Appointment

Dr. Douglas Cameron, Hearing Health Associates Roanoke

Dr. Douglas Cameron, Hearing Health Associates Roanoke

Because we know that hearing plays such an important role in our overall wellbeing, it's important to be aware of the signs of hearing loss and consult a doctor as soon as those first signs appear. 

During the initial appointment, you'll want to address:

  1. Any family history of hearing loss.
  2. Medications you take or have taken in the past. Some medications can increase the risk of hearing loss.
  3. Health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease.
  4. Frequent exposure to noise on the job or during everyday activities.
  5. Your symptoms. It's especially important to provide as many details and scenarios as possible. In fact, leading up to the appointment, it's a good idea to document those exact moments when you're having a difficult time hearing. Was it during a social gathering? Is it during conversations with men? Women? On the phone? The more details you can provide, the better.

If your initial appointment is with a general practitioner, ask them to either provide a baseline hearing screening or refer you to an audiologist for a more comprehensive screening. You also can check with your provider to see if you need a referral. If not, you can make an appointment directly with an audiologist. 

If you receive a hearing screening from an audiologist, ask that those results be shared with your general practitioner. This way, everyone is familiar with the extent of your hearing loss.

If you're not sure whether to make that first appointment, take our online Hearing Questionnaire. We'll contact you with your results and make recommendations about whether an appointment is necessary.

Our next blog post will focus on talking to your doctor about hearing aids. Stay tuned!

Rechargeable Hearing Aids: How ZPower is Changing the Landscape

Update: We now carry these in our Roanoke and Charlottesville (Crozet) offices. Call us to find out if you're eligible for this rechargeable battery upgrade. If you're in the market for a new pair of hearing aids, some manufacturers offer the ZPower batteries at no additional charge, as well as other incentives!

A new generation of rechargeable battery technologies has set out to make life easier for hearing aid consumers. The most common complaints we hear among hearing aid users relate to batteries: they fail at the most inconvenient times; they can be expensive to replace; and, they're bad for the environment.

Depending on the sophistication of your technology, such as streaming capabilities, they may only last a few days! According to a study of over 500 hearing aid users, 70 percent said they want rechargeable hearing aids, even though only 11 percent said they currently have them. Our "No More Batteries" blog post from last year continues to be our most-read post to date, so we know this is a topic that many of our patients are interested in learning more about.

The ZPower silver-zinc batteries are the latest to hit the market. ZPower is an independent battery company, which means its rechargeable batteries can be used instead of standard disposable batteries in many manufacturers' hearing aid models. This works by replacing the original battery compartment with ZPower’s retrofit battery compartment, which we can do right in our office.

Why ZPower?

ZPower’s silver-zinc rechargeable batteries offer hearing aid wearers 24-hours of use time—even with streaming technology. If you forget to charge the battery, you can replace the ZPower batteries with the standard disposable zinc-air batteries - they're interchangeable! Additionally, ZPower batteries are safe, 100% recyclable, mercury-free, and non-flammable. (Remember the recent lithium-ion Samsung phone recall? Lithium-ion batteries are used in many rechargeable hearing aid models and, therefore, have to be placed in sealed cases to ensure safety.) ZPower's proprietary silver-zinc battery technology also can be recharged hundreds of times without losing significant capacity. An extra bonus: they're made in the U.S.A. The silver-zinc technology was originally developed by NASA for its Apollo moon missions. 

What's Next?

The hearing aid industry is making vast strides with the introduction of new technologies every year. Looking to the near future, we should expect to see further developments from other major hearing aid manufactures and third-party companies. Battery life in hearing aids is getting shorter as technology improves. That's why we're so grateful that companies like ZPower are offering our patients more innovative solutions. 

We will continue to post about rechargeable hearing aid batteries as news of new products becomes available. In the meantime, feel free to call us for more information or ask about it at your next appointment. 

Hearing Aid Guide: Which Fit is Best for You?

There are many different styles of hearing aids; the choices can be overwhelming. Ultimately, you and your audiologist will decide which style is best for you depending on your hearing needs, lifestyle, and style preference.

Hearing aids are categorized by how they are worn. Here are several of the most common categories:

  1. BTEs—behind the ear—fit snugly behind your outer ear.
    a. Open Fit is a variation of a BTE hearing aid with a thin tube that keeps the ear canal open.
    b. RIC - receiver in the canal - are the smallest BTEs that also leave the ear canal open so you don't get that "plugged up" sensation.
  2. ITEs—in the ear—are custom-fitted to your outer ear’s contours.
    a. ITCs—in the canal—are smaller. They fit farther into the ear canal so they are barely visible.
    b. IICs—invisible in the canal—are the smallest ITEs. Cosmetically, they may be the most flattering, but their tiny size can be a real disadvantage in handling.

Pros & Cons of BTEs and ITEs

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids - BTEs fit snugly behind your outer ear and attach to the ear with either a custom mold or a thin tube with a flexible "dome" tip at the end that is inserted into the canal. 

Pros: Can provide significant low- and high-frequency amplification. Comfortable. Barely visible (especially the RIC hearing aids). Prevents a plugged-up feeling. Easy to insert. Compatible with most technologies. Less feedback issues because of greater separation between microphone and receiver. Easy-to-clean custom molds. Domes are disposable to help prevent wax build up.

Cons: Wax and moisture may limit life of receiver for RIC models. More sensitive to wind noise. Custom molds need to be replaced every few years. Custom molds are more visible. Dome tips need to be replaced frequently (but come in disposable packages.)

In-the-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids - IICs (Invisible in the Canal) are the smallest ITE hearing aids. ITCs (In the Canal) are more visible than IICs but still very discreet. ITEs (In the Ear) are the largest and fit within the outer ear's contours. Because of the various sizes of ITEs, we've included pros and cons of each category:

1. Invisible-in-the-Canal Hearing Aids - Limited to mild and moderate hearing loss.

Pros: Extremely discreet. Insensitive to wind noise. Better for phone usage. Virtually no feedback.

Cons: Ear might feel plugged up unless hearing aid is vented. No directional microphone. Vulnerable to wax and moisture. Due to its size, handling may be difficult. Battery life is relatively short. 

2. In-the-Canal Hearing Aid

Pros: Molded to fit within the ear canal. Barely visible. Relatively easy to insert. Larger units can include directional microphones. Use a larger battery than IICs, so batter life is longer. 

Cons: Similar issues as IICs on a less severe scale.

3. In-the-Ear Hearing Aid

Pros: Offer more features than ITCs and IICs, such as directional microphone and volume control. Less of a "plugged-up" feeling when vented. Easy to insert.

Cons: More visible. Vulnerable to wax build-up and moisture. Feedback may be an issue.

For more information about hearing aid styles, take a look at the chart on our website. We also list the categories that best fit various lifestyles. For the latest in hearing aid technologies, you may be interested in this post about the next generation, or our post, How to Talk to Your Doctor About Hearing Aids. As always, if you have questions or would like additional details on styles and new technologies, feel free to contact us.