hearing loss

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.

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.

5 Diseases That May Cause Hearing Loss

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Although hearing loss is typically associated with aging, environmental or hereditary causes, there are several diseases that contribute to the risk of hearing loss.

  1. Ménière’s Disease: This disease affects the fluid of the inner ear. Symptoms include a loss of balance, a feeling of fullness in one or both ears, nausea, dizziness, and ringing in the ear. This disease can lead to hearing loss due to the extreme buildup of fluid in the ear. To treat, our doctors would prescribe medications to control the symptoms.

  2. Mumps: A viral infection that occurs more frequently in children, mumps causes the salivary glands to become inflamed and leads to swollen cheeks, fever, and headaches. Hearing loss can be a side effect, as the mumps virus can damage the cochlea of the inner ear. This is the part of the ear that contains the hair cells that turn sound vibrations into the nerve impulse that the brain interprets as sound. Unfortunately, there are no drugs available to treat mumps, but a vaccination can prevent the disease. If hearing loss has occurred, hearing aids and cochlear implants can help.

  3. German Measles: Another common childhood illness that can occur in adults, this disease is caused by the Rubella virus. Although it is possible to be symptom-free, typically a pinkish rash is present. The concern here is for pregnant mothers and their unborn children. German measles can cause a baby to be born with abnormalities, especially deafness as a result of nerve damage. Vaccinations are available, as well as a booster shot if you are planning on becoming pregnant.

  4. Otosclerosis: A relatively common cause of hearing loss, Otosclerosis is an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear. This bone growth prevents structures within the ear from working properly and causes hearing loss. The main symptom of otosclerosis is hearing loss. Other symptoms include dizziness, balance problems and tinnitus. There are a few methods doctors use for otosclerosis. A surgical procedure called stapedectomy, as well as a cochlear implant may help reverse hearing loss.

  5. Acoustic Neuroma: This is a rare disease that involves a non-cancerous tumor growing directly on the nerve (the eighth cranial nerve) responsible for hearing and balance; it is typically caused by radiation or regular exposure to loud noise. Symptoms include hearing loss and a feeling of fullness in one ear, dizziness, a loss of balance, headaches, and facial numbness or tingling. In severe cases, brain surgery is necessary to remove the tumor.

How to Protect Your Ears During Flu Season

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Cold and flu season is in full swing. At some point, all of us have experienced the chills, the congestion, the fatigue, and the nagging cough. Among these symptoms is the “plugged ear” sensation that occurs from congestion build up in the sinuses and ears. Like the other symptoms, the hearing loss is usually temporary, but it can linger and only adds to the misery of being sick.

Why Do We Experience Hearing Loss When We Are Sick?

When you have a cold or the flu, congestion builds up in the middle ear. This makes it difficult for the sound waves to travel through the ear. The Eustachian tubes can also become blocked. The Eustachian tube is a narrow tube connecting the back of the nose and the middle ear. It is filled with air and protects, ventilates, and drains mucus from the middle ear. Blockage of the Eustachian tube causes the lining of the middle ear to absorb the trapped air. This creates a negative pressure that pulls the eardrum inward. When this occurs, people may experience muffled hearing, pain, tinnitus, reduced hearing, pressure, or problems with balance.  The good news is that hearing usually returns to normal within a few days.

How to Prevent Hearing Loss During Cold & Flu Season

There are a few things you can do to help minimize your chances of getting a bad cold or the flu:

  1. Take Vitamin C to help boost your immune system.

  2. Get the flu vaccine! Even if it does not offer 100% protection from the flu, it will at least help minimize symptoms if you do get sick.

  3. Wash your hands often.

  4. Keep your ears warm and dry when you are outside in cold temperatures.

  5. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise to improve blood circulation.

  6. Avoid others who are sick.

If you do get sick, a decongestant will help minimize the congestion. If your ears feel “plugged” for more than a few days or you have pain, contact your doctor for a possible ear infection. For more information, contact us.

Hearing Restoration Study Enters Phase 2

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We first blogged about the first in-human safety study aimed at restoring hearing last January. It was one of our most read blog posts of the year. With that level of interest, we wanted to share the most recent news on this study.

The loss of inner ear hair cells is the most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Once these cells are damaged, they cannot grow back. This causes permanent hearing loss. Frequency Therapeutics, a U.S.-based biotechnology company, has created FX-322, a Progenitor Cell Activation (PCA™) regenerative medicine aimed at creating new inner ear hair cells in the cochlea. With the successful completion of its first in-human safety study a year ago, the company received an additional $42 million in financing to allow the research to advance to Phase 2. The company stated that top-line results from an on-going Phase 1-2 study are expected in the first half of this year. Frequency Therapeutics has received a total of $87 million.

You can read the full press release here. We will be following this study and will share updates to the research findings as news is released.

Top Five Hearing Health Blog Posts of 2018

Each month, our blog focuses on the latest research, technologies, and other important industry findings that we capture and share. With 2019 just around the corner, here are our top five most popular blog posts of 2018 for a quick year-at-a-glance. 


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#1. Bose’s New Sleepbuds Touted for Tinnitus

Bose markets the new sound-masking sleepbuds to everyone who has trouble falling or staying asleep due to unwanted noises like snoring and traffic. But, these sleep aids have also gained attention for another reason: providing help for those with Tinnitus.


#2: Rock Stars and Hearing Loss

Our second most popular post was featured in April 2018 and discusses the importance of wearing ear protection to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

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#3: First In-Human Safety Study for Hearing Restoration

The loss of inner ear hair cells is the most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss. One 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.


#4: How Untreated hearing loss affects Mental Health

This July 2018 post discusses how untreated hearing loss affects your brain’s ability to remember common everyday sounds.

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#5: Six Facts About Hearing Aids

Our fifth most popular blog post of 2018 focuses on the myths and misperceptions of hearing aids.


If you are interested in receiving highlights of our featured blog posts each month, please complete the form below to be added to our eNewsletter list. 

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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.