Hearing Tips

Is it Dementia or Hearing Loss?

By: Scot Frink : February 13, 2019

Woman with hearing loss concerned about Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

An inherent fear of Alzheimer’s disease runs rampant in seniors who struggle with the symptoms of loss of memory and impaired mental function. But recent research suggests at least some of that worry may be unjustified and that these problems might be the consequences of a far more treatable condition.

According to a Canadian Medical Journal Study, the symptoms that actually could be the consequences of untreated hearing loss are sometimes mistaken as the product of Alzheimer’s.

For the Canadian study, researchers closely examined participant’s functional abilities pertaining to memory and thought and looked for any connections to possible brain disorders. 56 percent of individuals examined for cognitive impairment had mild to severe hearing loss. Surprisingly, a hearing aid was worn by only 20 percent of those people.

These findings are backed up by patients who think they might have symptoms of Alzheimer’s according to a clinical neuropsychologist who was one of the authors of the paper. In many instances, the reason for that patient’s visit to the doctor was because of their shortened attention span or a failure to remember things their partner told them and in some cases, it was the patient’s loved one who suggested an appointment with a physician.

The Line is Blurred Between Loss of Hearing And Alzheimer’s

While loss of hearing may not be the first thing an aging adult thinks of when faced with potential mental damage, it’s easy to see how someone can confuse it with Alzheimer’s.

Having your good friend ask you for a favor is a situation that you can imagine. Case in point, perhaps they need a ride to the airport for an upcoming trip. What if you didn’t clearly hear them ask you? Would you try to get them to repeat themselves? Is there any way you would recognize that you were expected to drive them if you didn’t hear them the second time?

It’s possible that some people may have misdiagnosed themselves with Alzheimer’s because of this kind of thinking according to hearing specialists. Instead, it could very well be a persistent and progressive hearing issue. Bottom line, you can’t remember something that you didn’t hear to begin with.

There Are Ways to Treat Gradual Hearing Loss Which is a Normal Condition

Considering the connection between aging and an increased likelihood of hearing loss, it’s no surprise that people who are getting older could be experiencing these troubles. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that just 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. Meanwhile, that number rises considerably for older age brackets, coming in at 8.5 percent for 55- to 64-year-olds; 25 percent for 65- to 74-year-olds; and 50 percent for people 75-years or older.

Though it’s true that gradual loss of hearing is a typical part of aging, people often just accept it because they believe it’s just a part of life. In fact, the average time it takes for somebody to seek treatment for loss of hearing is about 10 years. Worse, less than 25 percent of people who need hearing aids will actually get them.

Do You Have Hearing Loss?

If you’ve thought about whether you have hearing loss extreme enough to need to be addressed like millions of other Americans, there are a number of revealing signs you should consider. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have a problem comprehending words when there’s a lot of background sound?
  • Do I have trouble hearing consonants?
  • Is it hard to have conversations in a crowded room so you stay away from social situations?
  • How often do I ask people to speak louder or slower?
  • Do I always need to turn up the volume on the radio or television to hear?

Science has positively found a connection between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s, however they’re not the same. A Johns Hopkins study followed 639 individuals who reported no mental impairment over a 12 to 18 year period studying their progress and aging. The research found that the participants who experienced worse hearing at the onset of the study were more likely to develop dementia, a general term used to describe symptoms of diminished memory and cognitive function.

Getting a hearing evaluating is one way you can eliminate any confusion between Alzheimer’s and loss of hearing. The prevailing thought among the health care community is that this screening should be a regular part of your yearly physical, particularly for those who are over 65 years old.

Do You Have Any Questions About Hearing Loss?

If you think you might be confusing loss of hearing with Alzheimer’s, we can help you with a complete hearing evaluation. Make an appointment for a hearing test right away.

New Technology in Hearing Aids Make Being Active Easy

By: Scot Frink : February 6, 2019

Woman with hearing aid outrunning her husband on the track.

Hearing aids, as with lots of other devices, are getting smarter, less conspicuous and more stylish all the time, and just in time. The U.S. census reports that the average American is older as the whole population gets older, and hearing loss is, sadly, really common, particularly in older adults. Roughly 37.5 million adults in America say they have some amount of hearing loss, and these numbers are increasing.

Luckily hearing technology has had some amazing breakthroughs recently that will offer more solutions for dealing with hearing loss. A few of the inventions now available are presented here.

Hearing Aids That Keep Track of Your Overall Health

Hearing aids are equal to if not better than a fitness tracker at keeping track of several vital signs. Not only can it monitor the time in between heartbeats to help detect potential cardiovascular concerns, but it also tracks calories burned, heart rate, step count, and the total number of steps taken. They’re also working on technology that can evaluate other important vital signs including blood pressure and oxygenation of the blood. There are other possible benefits that come with hearing aids, including the ability to help drown out tinnitus and will improve your social life by helping your general hearing. Actually, social interaction is another metric we should pay attention to because it has been connected to your overall health. Since hearing aids can now also sync with your smartphone so you can listen to your tunes, you won’t even need a smartwatch or fitness device?

Streaming Made Smarter And Simpler

As we become more dependant on virtual assistants including Alexa and Siri, being connected and able to communicate with them is becoming more important. Even if you defy the allure of talking directly to these assistants, hearing aids with Bluetooth provide key features including streaming music directly from a smart device like your phone or maybe even streaming directly from your smart TV. Just consider the benefits: You could hear the analysts in the big game clearly over your family’s fun (or at least steer clear of getting yelled at for turning the volume too high). Being able to directly stream phone calls, music, shows and more right to your ears not only helps you hear and appreciate them more, but it will help you handle your hearing loss discreetly.

Automatic Adjustments

Have you noticed that you get ads from Goodreads and they seem to know what type of books you enjoy reading? Or how Amazon seems to know which items to suggest? That’s because big data and artificial intelligence are very powerful. Modern hearing aids harness this type of intelligence and use it to make adjustments according to how you reacted in the past. It will notice how you prefer to turn the volume down when you go into the train station and do that automatically the next time it recognizes you’ve entered the station (or any other situation with to much background noise). They are expanding this technology to include crowdsourcing as well, allowing information from other users to inform your hearing aids that you’re approaching a loud zone. Over time the hearing aids add up all this information to make suggestions and automatic corrections, so you can adjust quickly to changes in the hearing environment.

What? No More Little 312 Batteries?

Why would you want to constantly wrestle with hearing aid batteries? You can now get rechargeable hearing aids. Even though you can do a lot to help extend the life of your hearing aids’ batteries, truth be told…it’s still pricey and aggravating. Better yet, they are working on technology that will recharge hearing aids without even having to take them out.

Shocking False Information About Tinnitus And Other Hearing Problems

By: Scot Frink : January 30, 2019

Man looking up information on tinnitus in social media on his cell phone.

You could be exposing yourself to shocking misinformation regarding tinnitus or other hearing problems without ever recognizing it. This based on recent research published in The Hearing Journal. Tinnitus is remarkably common. Out of every 5 Americans one struggles with tinnitus, so it’s essential to make certain people have reliable, accurate information. The web and social media, unfortunately, are full of this sort of misinformation according to a new study.

Finding Information Regarding Tinnitus on Social Media

You aren’t alone if you are looking for other people who have tinnitus. Social media is a great place to build community. But there is very little oversight focused on ensuring disseminated information is truthful. According to one study:

  • Out of all Twitter accounts, 34% had what was categorized as misinformation
  • There is misinformation in 30% of YouTube videos
  • 44% of public Facebook groups contained misinformation

This quantity of misinformation can be an overwhelming obstacle for anyone diagnosed with tinnitus: The misinformation provided is usually enticing and checking facts can be time consuming. We simply want to believe it’s true.

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a common medical condition in which the person suffering hears a buzzing or ringing in one’s ears. When this buzzing or ringing persists for longer than six months, it is called chronic tinnitus.

Tinnitus And Hearing Loss, Common Misinformation

Social media and the internet, obviously, did not invent many of these myths and mistruths. But they do make spreading misinformation easier. A reputable hearing professional should always be contacted with any questions you have about tinnitus.

Debunking some examples may illustrate why this misinformation spreads and how it can be challenged:

  • If you’re deaf, you have tinnitus and if you have tinnitus, you will lose your hearing: It’s true that in certain cases tinnitus and loss of hearing can be linked, but such a link is not universal. There are some medical concerns which could cause tinnitus but otherwise leave your hearing intact.
  • Tinnitus is caused only by loud noises: The precise causes of tinnitus are not really well understood or documented. It’s true that really severe or long term noise exposure can cause tinnitus. But traumatic brain injuries, genetics, and other factors can also cause the development of tinnitus.
  • Tinnitus isn’t helped by hearing aids: Many people assume hearing aids won’t help because tinnitus manifests as buzzing or ringing in the ears. But modern hearing aids have been developed that can help you successfully manage your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Changes in diet will restore your hearing: It’s true that some lifestyle issues may exacerbate your tinnitus (for many drinking anything that contains caffeine can make it worse, for example). And the symptoms can be lessened by eating some foods. But tinnitus can’t be “cured” for good by diet or lifestyle changes.
  • There is a cure for tinnitus: One of the most common forms of misinformation plays on the hopes of individuals who suffer from tinnitus. Tinnitus doesn’t have a miracle cure. You can, however, effectively manage your symptoms and maintain a high quality of life with treatment.

Accurate Information Concerning Your Hearing Loss is Available

For both new tinnitus sufferers and those well acquainted with the symptoms it’s important to stop the spread of misinformation. To shield themselves from misinformation there are several steps that people can take.

  • If the information appears hard to believe, it most likely isn’t true. You most likely have a case of misinformation if a website or media post professes a miracle cure.
  • Look for sources: Try to find out what the source of information is. Are there hearing specialists or medical professionals involved? Do trustworthy sources document the information?
  • Consult a hearing specialist or medical professional: If you want to see if the information is trustworthy, and you’ve tried everything else, talk to a trusted hearing professional.

Something both profound and simple was once said by astrophysicist Carl Sagan: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Not until social media platforms more carefully separate information from misinformation, sharp critical thinking skills are your most useful defense against alarming misinformation regarding tinnitus and other hearing issues.

If you have found some information that you are not certain of, schedule an appointment with a hearing care professional.

What is The Connection Between Mental Acuity And Hearing Loss?

By: Scot Frink : January 23, 2019

Woman having difficulty concentrating because of hearing loss.

“Mental acuity” is a phrase that gets commonly tossed around in context with aging. It’s called, by most health care expertssharpness of the mind in layman’s terms, But the measurement of mental acuity takes into consideration several factors. One’s mental acuity is influenced by numerous factors such as memory, concentration, and the ability to comprehend and understand.

Mind-altering ailments such as dementia are generally considered the culprit for a decrease in mental acuity, but loss of hearing has also been consistently linked as another major contributor to cognitive decline.

Between Dementia And Your Hearing What is The Link?

In fact, research out of Johns Hopkins University discovered a relationship between loss of hearing, dementia and a loss in cognitive ability. Through a study of 2,000 men and women age 75-84 over a six-year period, researchers concluded that participants who had hearing loss had a 30 to 40 percent faster decline in mental function than those with normal hearing.

In the study which researchers noted a decrease in cognitive capability, memory and attention were two of the areas highlighted. One Johns Hopkins professor warned against downplaying the significance of loss of hearing just because it’s considered a typical aspect of getting older.

Complications Due to Impaired Hearing Beyond Memory Loss

Not only memory loss but stress, periods of sadness, and depression are also more likely in people with loss of hearing according to another study. Hospitalization and injury from a fall were also found to be more likely in this study’s participants.

A study of 600 older adults in 2011 concluded that participants who suffered from loss of hearing at the beginning of the study were more inclined to develop dementia than those who have healthy hearing. Additionally, the study discovered a direct relationship between the severity of loss of hearing and the probability of developing a mind-weakening condition. Symptoms of dementia were as much as five times more probable in individuals with more extreme hearing loss.

And other studies internationally, besides this Johns Hopkins study, have also drawn attention to the loss of cognitive aptitude and hearing loss.

A Link Between Mental Decline And Hearing Loss is Supported by International Research

Published in 2014, a University of Utah study of 4,400 seniors discovered similar findings in that dementia will be developed more frequently and earlier by people who have loss of hearing than by people with normal hearing.

One study in Italy went even further and investigated age related hearing loss by examining two different causes. Individuals with normal hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss were less likely to develop mental impairment than those with central hearing loss. This was determined after researchers examined both peripheral and central hearing loss. Generally, people struggle to comprehend words they hear if they have central hearing loss, which is caused by an inability to process sound.

In the Italian study, participants with lower scores on speech comprehension evaluations also had lower scores on cognitive tests involving thought and memory.

Even though researchers were sure about the connection between loss of hearing and mental impairments, the cause behind the correlation remains a mystery.

How Can Hearing Loss Impact Mental Acuity?

However, researchers involved with the study in Italy do have a theory that revolves around the brain’s temporal cortex. In speaking on that potential cause, the study’s lead researcher emphasized the importance of the brain’s superior temporal gyrus situated above the ear, these ridges on the cerebral cortex are involved in the recognition of speech and words.

The auditory cortex serves as a receiver of information and goes through changes as we grow older along with the memory areas of the temporal cortex which may be a conduit to a loss of neurons in the brain.

What Can You do if You Have Loss of Hearing?

A pre-clinical stage of dementia, as reported by the Italian research, is related to a mild form of cognitive impairment. Despite that pre-clinical diagnosis, it’s certainly something to be serious about And it’s staggering the number of Us citizens who are at risk.

Out of all people, two of three have lost some hearing ability if they are over the age of 75, with significant loss of hearing in 48 million Americans. Even 14 percent of those ages 45 to 64 are affected by hearing loss.

Hearing aids can offer a considerable improvement in hearing function decreasing risks for many people and that’s the good news. This is according to that lead author of the Italian research.
Schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist to see if you need hearing aids.

Warning: Your Hearing Can be Impaired by The Common Cold

By: Scot Frink : January 16, 2019

Man holding his ear because he has an ear infection that is causing hearing loss.

The American Lung Association has found that the typical adult gets as many as four colds a year. While colds are normally minor viral infections, that’s a lot. It doesn’t make a difference what part of the body the virus attacks, if it results in congestion, it can cause an ear infection.

Although many people consider colds harmless, there are a few symptoms you don’t want to dismiss. The link between the common cold and ear infections has finally been verified by scientists. This is an important discovery, because ear infections are a major contributing factor in the disturbing rise in antibiotic resistance.

You Should Never Ignore These Symptoms

Considering that your sinuses and ears are interconnected, it’s not unusual to feel congested in your ears when you’re experiencing a cold. Normally, this feeling comes and goes, particularly if you’re using a decongestant and your head is draining out fluids. But in just a few hours congestion can develop into an ear infection. This is the reason why you should always seek expert assistance if you experience any pain or unusual discharge in your ear.

Pain is a sign that your cold is moving in the wrong direction and can be an indication of inflammation or infection. If caught early, you can get a prescription for antibiotics and prevent permanent damage. It can result in eardrum scaring and could damage the cilia if dismissed.

Is this very serious? Usually, cold induced hearing loss is only temporary. However, permanent hearing loss can result if the eardrum or cilia get injured and that can lead to other health issues.

Your Overall Health Can be Harmed by Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has been linked to other health problems, from loss of cognitive ability to depression to a rise in accidents. Researchers have recently shown a connection between loss of hearing and more expensive healthcare expenses. As a matter of fact, in only 10 years, untreated hearing loss can raise your healthcare costs by 46%.

Your probability of needing hospitalization with untreated hearing loss increases by 50%….and the likelihood of needing to be readmitted also increases.

Even minor damage can add up. Johns Hopkins found that just having mild hearing loss can double your probability of getting dementia. Consider the fact that every time you get an ear infection it can lead to scarring that leads to considerable hearing loss over time.

Have You Had Ear Pain For Days?

Have you been suffered from ear pain for days and neglected it? Get treatment immediately. Don’t make the normal mistake of waiting too long. There’s a reason most health insurance companies consider ear pain or signs of an ear infection an emergency. If you feel pain in your ear during a cold or after a cold schedule a hearing exam. If you schedule a hearing test you can find out if:

  • you need to address damage to the eardrum
  • there is any impact on your inner ear
  • you currently have an ear infection

Pain or temporary loss of hearing can be caused by an obstruction in the ear that can also be determined by a professional ear exam.

It’s a sure indication that you should see a professional if you have prolonged hearing loss or pain in your ear. Schedule a hearing examination right away.

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