Hearing Tips

What Causes Tinnitus? Here is Some New Research

By: Scot Frink : October 9, 2019

Man suffering from ringing in the ears reads about new research into the causes of tinnitus.

Learning to cope with tinnitus is often how you manage it. To help tune it out you leave the television on. And loud music at bars is making your tinnitus worse so you stay away from going dancing. You’re always trying new therapies and strategies with your hearing care expert. You just fold tinnitus into your daily life after a while.

Mainly, that’s because there isn’t any cure for tinnitus. Changes might be coming, however. New research published in PLOS Biology indicates that an reliable and permanent cure for tinnitus might be on the horizon.

Tinnitus Causes

You’re experiencing tinnitus if you hear a ringing or buzzing (or at times other sounds) with no apparent cause. A condition that affects over 50 million people in the United States alone, it’s very common for people to suffer from tinnitus.

And it isn’t a cause itself but a symptom of something else. Simply put, tinnitus is caused by something else – there’s an underlying issue that creates tinnitus symptoms. These root causes can be difficult to diagnose and that’s one reason why a cure is challenging. Tinnitus symptoms can occur due to a number of reasons.

True, most people attribute tinnitus to loss of hearing of some type, but even that connection is unclear. There is some connection but there are some people who have tinnitus and don’t have any hearing loss.

A New Culprit: Inflammation

The new study published in PLOS Biology highlighted a study lead by Dr. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor of physiology at the Arizona College of Medicine in Tuscon. Mice that had tinnitus caused by noise induced hearing loss were experimented on by Dr. Bao. And what she and her team discovered indicates a new tinnitus culprit: inflammation.

Inflammation was seen in the brain centers responsible for hearing when scans were done to these mice. These Scans reveal that noise-induced hearing loss is producing some unidentified damage because inflammation is the body’s response to damage.

But a new type of treatment is also made possible by these discoveries. Because handling inflammation is something we understand how to do (generally). The tinnitus symptoms disappear when the mice were treated for inflammation. Or, at a minimum, those symptoms were no longer observable.

Does This Mean There’s a Pill for Tinnitus?

One day there will likely be a pill for tinnitus. Imagine that–rather than investing in these various coping mechanisms, you can just pop a pill in the morning and keep your tinnitus under control.

That’s clearly the goal, but there are many significant obstacles in the way:

  • There are many causes for tinnitus; Whether any particular forms of tinnitus are connected to inflammation is still unclear.
  • Any new approach needs to be proven safe; it may take some time to determine precise side effects, complications, or issues related to these particular medications that block inflammation.
  • First, these experiments were done on mice. And there’s a long way to go before this particular strategy is safe and approved for people.

So it could be a long way off before we get a pill for tinnitus. But at least it’s now feasible. If you have tinnitus today, that represents a substantial increase in hope. And, obviously, this strategy in managing tinnitus is not the only one currently being researched. That cure gets closer with every bit of knowledge and every new discovery.

Ca Anything be Done Now?

If you have a prolonged buzzing or ringing in your ears today, the potential of a far off pill could give you hope – but probably not relief. There are modern treatments for tinnitus that can deliver real results, even if they don’t necessarily “cure” the root issue.

Some techniques include noise-cancellation units or cognitive therapies created to help you dismiss the noises connected to your tinnitus. A cure could be several years off, but that doesn’t mean you have to deal with tinnitus alone or unaided. Spending less time stressing about the ringing or buzzing in your ears and more time doing what you enjoy is the reason why you should let us help you discover a therapy that works for you. Schedule your appointment today.

This Disease Can Lead to Hearing Loss

By: Scot Frink : October 2, 2019

Image of a neural disease that would cause high-frequency hearing loss.

How often do you think about your nervous system? For the majority of people, the answer would most likely be not that often. As long as your body is performing in the way that it is supposed to, you’ve no reason to consider how your neurons are firing or whether nerves are sending proper messages through the electrical pathways in your body. But you will take a closer look when something goes wrong and the nerves start to misfire.

There’s one specific disease, called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, which can influence the nervous system on a pretty large scale, though the symptoms usually manifest chiefly in the extremities. And there’s some evidence that implies that CMT can also lead to high-frequency loss of hearing.

What Is Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease?

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a set of inherited disorders. The protective sheathing surrounding the nerves fail to function properly due to a genetic disorder.

This means that the signals sent from your brain to those nerves (and from those nerves back to your brain) don’t work all that well. Functionally, this can result in both a loss in motor function and a loss of sensation.

CMT can be present in several variations and a combination of genetic considerations usually lead to its expressions. For most people with CMT, symptoms start in the feet and can work their way up into their arms. And, high-frequency hearing loss, strangely, has a high rate of occurrence among those with CMT.

A Link Between Loss of Hearing And CMT: The Cochlear Nerve

There has always been an anecdotal connection between loss of hearing and CMT (meaning that within the CMT culture everybody has heard other people talk about it). And it seemed to confuse people who suffered from CMT – the ear didn’t seem all that related to the loss of feeling in the legs, for example.

A scientific study firmly established the connection just recently when a group of scientists examined 79 people with CMT at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The findings were rather conclusive. Almost everyone with CMT passed their low and moderate frequency hearing tests with flying colors. But high-frequency sounds (in the moderate region particularly) were effortlessly heard by all of the individuals. Based on this study, it seems pretty likely that CMT can at least be connected to high-frequency hearing loss.

What is The Cause of Hearing Loss And How Can it be Addressed?

The connection between high-frequency loss of hearing and CMT might, at first, seem puzzling. Like all other parts of your body rely on correctly functioning nerves. Your ears are no different.

The theory is, CMT impacts the cochlear nerve so noises in the high-frequency range aren’t able to be translated. Anybody with this kind of hearing loss will have a hard time hearing certain sounds, and that includes peoples voices. Notably, make out voices in crowded or noisy rooms can be a real obstacle.

This kind of hearing loss is usually managed with hearing aids. There’s no known cure for CMT. Modern hearing aids can isolate the exact frequencies to boost which can offer significant assistance in battling high-frequency hearing loss. Most modern hearing aids can also perform well in noisy environments.

Hearing Loss Can Have Several Causes

Experts still aren’t entirely sure why CMT and loss of hearing seem to co-exist quite so frequently (above and beyond their untested hypothesis). But hearing aid tech provides a definite treatment for the symptoms of that hearing loss. That’s why countless individuals who have CMT will take the time to get a consultation with a hearing care specialist and get fitted for a custom hearing aid.

Hearing loss symptoms can surface for numerous reasons. In some instances, hearing loss is triggered by undesirable exposure to harmful noises. Obstructions can be another cause. It also looks like CMT is another possible cause.

“Organic” Isn’t Necessarily Good For You

By: Scot Frink : August 28, 2019

Organic paint and solvents that cause hearing loss.

At times the dangers to your hearing are obvious: a roaring jet engine or loud equipment. When the dangers are intuitive and logical, it’s easy to get people on board with pragmatic solutions (which normally include wearing earmuffs or earplugs). But what if your ears could be damaged by an organic substance? After all, just because something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s healthy for you? But how is possible that your ears could be harmed by an organic substance?

You Probably Won’t Want to Eat This Organic Compound

To be clear, we’re not talking about organic things like produce or other food products. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a strong chance that a collection of chemicals known as organic solvents can damage your hearing even if exposure is minimal and limited. To be certain, the type of organic label you see on fruit in the grocery store is totally different. In reality, the word “organic” is used by marketers to make consumers presume a product is good for them. When food is labeled as organic, it means that specific growing practices are used to keep food free of artificial contaminants. The word organic, when related to solvents, is a chemistry term. In the field of chemistry, the word organic makes reference to any compounds and chemicals that contain bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can produce a high number of molecules and consequently useful chemicals. But that doesn’t guarantee they aren’t potentially dangerous. Every year, millions of workers are exposed to the hazards of hearing loss by handling organic solvents.

Where do You Find Organic Solvents?

Some of the following products contain organic solvents:

  • Degreasing agents
  • Varnishes and paints
  • Adhesives and glue
  • Cleaning supplies

You get the point. So, the question suddenly becomes, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room harm your hearing?

Dangers Associated With Organic Solvents

The more you’re subjected to these substances, based on current research, the higher the corresponding risks. So when you clean your home you will probably be ok. The most potent risk is to those with the most prolonged contact, in other words, factory workers who develop or make use of organic solvents on an industrial scale. Industrial solvents, especially, have been well investigated and definitively reveal that exposure can trigger ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system). Lab tests that used animals, in addition to surveys of people, have both demonstrated this to be true. Exposure to the solvents can have a negative impact on the outer hair cells of the ear, leading to loss of hearing in the mid-frequency range. The problem is that a lot of businesses are don’t know about the ototoxicity of these solvents. These dangers are even less recognized by workers. So there are an absence of standardized protocols to safeguard the hearing of those employees. One thing that could really help, for example, would be standardized hearing exams for all workers who deal with organic solvents on a consistent basis. These workers would be able to get early treatment for hearing loss because it would be detected in its beginning stages.

You Can’t Simply Quit Your Job

Most guidelines for safeguarding your hearing from these particular organic substances include controlling your exposure as well as periodic hearing examinations. But first, you need to be conscious of the dangers before you can heed that advice. It’s easy when the dangers are plain to see. No one doubts that loud noises can injure your hearing and so taking steps to protect your hearing from day-to-day sounds of the factory floor seems obvious and logical. But when the threat is not visible as it is for the millions of Americans who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Thankfully, as researchers raise more alarm bells, employees and employers are moving to make their workplaces a little bit safer for everyone. Some of the most practical advice would be to use a mask and work in a well ventilated area. Getting your ears examined by a hearing expert is also a smart idea.

Hearing Loss Can be Caused by Some Drugs

By: Scot Frink : August 21, 2019

Medications that cause hearing loss and other side effects.

Medications that harm your hearing are surprisingly common. From tinnitus medicines that stop the ringing in the ears to drugs that could lead to hearing loss, find out which of them has an effect on your hearing.

Your Hearing Can be Affected by Medicines

The US makes up almost half of the $500 billion dollar pharmaceutical industry. Are you getting medications over-the-counter? Or are you using ones which your doctor prescribes? All medications have risks, and even though side effects and risks may be noted in the paperwork, people usually don’t think they’ll be impacted. So it’s worthwhile to mention that some medications raise the chance of having loss of hearing. Certain medications can, on the plus side, assist your hearing, like tinnitus medication. But which of these will be an issue for your hearing? And what to do if a doctor prescribes drugs that lead to hearing loss? A little knowledge on the subject can really help.

1. Over-the-Counter Painkillers That Affect Your Hearing

The fact that such a common thing could cause hearing loss. How regularly loss of hearing took place in individuals who were taking many different kinds of pain relievers was studied by researchers. This connection is backed by several studies of both women and men. A collaborative study among Harvard, Brigham Young and Women’s Hospital discovered something alarming. Over-the-counter painkillers, if used on a regular basis, will injure hearing. 2 or more times per week is defined as regular use. You typically see this frequency in people with chronic pain. Temporary loss of hearing can result from using too much aspirin at once and eventually can become permanent. NSAID drugs that contain ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen appear to be the most common. But you may be surprised to find the one with the strongest link. The culprit was acetaminophen. For men under 50 there’s almost double the risk of hearing loss if they were using this drug to deal with chronic pain. To be clear, prescription drugs are equally as bad. Loss of hearing might be caused by the following:

  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone
  • Fentinol

It’s not clear specifically what triggers this loss of hearing. The nerves of the inner ear that pick up sound could be killed by the decrease of blood flow possibly triggered by these medications. That’s why prolonged use of these medications could lead to irreversible hearing loss.

2. Some Antibiotics Are Ototoxic

Most antibiotics are most likely fairly safe when taken as directed and you don’t have an allergic reaction to it. But the type of antibiotic called Aminoglycoside may increase hearing loss. Human studies haven’t yet come up with reliable data because they are in the early stages. But there absolutely seem to be a few people who have noticed loss of hearing after using these drugs. Results from animal-testing are persuasive enough. There could be something to be concerned about as indicated by the medical community. Mice that took these antibiotics, over a period of time, ultimately lost their hearing for good, every time. The following conditions are generally treated with Aminoglycoside antibiotics:

  • Certain other respiratory diseases
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Bacterial meningitis

More prolonged illnesses are treated over a longer time period with these. Until recently, Neomycin was actually a very common antibiotic used to treat children’s ear infections and pneumonia. Alternate options are now being prescribed by doctors because of worries about side effects. More investigation is necessary to identify why certain antibiotics could contribute to loss of hearing. It would seem that they could cause swelling in the inner ear that creates long-term harm.

3. How Your Hearing is Affected by Quinine

You know what quinine is if you’ve ever had a gin and tonic. Quinine is used to manage malaria and has also been used to assist people suffering from restless leg syndrome while also being the principal ingredient in tonic that gives the drink its bitter flavor. While research that investigates the correlation between quinine use and hearing loss aren’t that widespread. Reversible loss of hearing has been observed in some malaria patients.

4. Chemo Drugs Could Damage Your Hearing

You understand there will be side effects when you go through chemo. Attempting to kill cancer cells, doctors are filling the body with toxins. These toxins can’t often tell the difference between healthy cells and cancer. Some of the drugs that are being looked at are:

  • Bleomycin commonly known as Blenoxane
  • Carboplatin commonly known as Paraplatin
  • Cisplatin commonly known as Platinol

Unfortunately, chemo-induced loss of hearing is a crucial trade off when fighting cancer. While you’re dealing with chemo, a hearing care professional could help you monitor your hearing. Or you may want to look into whether there are any recommendations we can make that can help in your individual circumstance.

5. Hearing Loss And Loop Diuretics

You might be taking diuretics to help control fluid balance in your body. As with any attempt to regulate something using medication, you can go too far in one direction, which can dehydrate the body. This can lead to inflammation when salt vs water ratios get out of balance. Although it’s generally temporary, this can cause hearing loss. But if you allow the imbalance to go on or keep happening, loss of hearing could be irreversible. The drugs listed in this article are ototoxic and if taken with loop diuretics could worsen long term loss of hearing. Lasix is the most well known loop diuretic, so if you’re prescribed this drug, you should check with your doctor regarding any side effects that might occur when combined with other medications you’re taking.

If You Are Taking Medications That Cause Hearing Loss What Can You do?

You should speak with your doctor before you stop using any drugs they have prescribed. Before you speak with your doctor, you will need to take inventory of all your medications. If your doctor has put you on one or more of these drugs that result in loss of hearing, ask if there are alternate options that may reduce risk. You can also make lifestyle changes to reduce your need for medications. You can get on a healthier path, in some situations, with small modifications to your diet and some exercise. Your immune system can be strengthened while pain and water retention can also be minimized with these changes. If you are or have ever used these ototoxic medications, you need to schedule an appointment to have your hearing tested as soon as possible. Hearing loss can advance very slowly, which makes it less perceptible at first. But make no mistake: it can affect your health and happiness in ways you might not realize, and you will have more options for treatment if you catch it early.

Why Wearing Your Hearing Aids Matters

By: Scot Frink : August 14, 2019

Woman wearing hearing aids enjoys a hike with friends.

So you don’t wear your hearing aids all that often? Most of the time you keep them in the drawer unless you are, for instance, going to the theater or to a party. Is it really necessary to wear them more often than that?

The issue is that when you don’t wear your hearing aids on a regular basis, you’re developing some troubling disadvantages for yourself over time. You could irreversibly injure your hearing. Cognitive decline and social isolation could be the outcome. Your overall health might be jeopardized. So, if you aren’t wearing your hearing aids, you should definitely be reading this.

Why Aren’t Your Hearing Aids in Your Ears?

You probably have a good reason for keeping your hearing aids in a drawer somewhere. Sure, perhaps you haven’t specifically been honest about what those reasons might be. Perhaps, when your family questions you, you even say something generic and elusive, such as, “I just don’t like them”.

Certainly, though, there’s more to the story than that. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll likely find that there’s a particular complaint at the heart of your irregular hearing aid use. Specific grievances are positive because they create the possibility to find an equally specific remedy.

The following are some of the most common complaints;

“My Hearing Aids Don’t Feel That Comfortable”

One of the most regularly cited reasons that individuals stop wearing their hearing aids regularly is discomfort. Often, the hearing aid won’t stop falling out of your ear. Or perhaps pain and tenderness are developing in just the wrong spot with your over-the-ear model.

It’s not supposed to be uncomfortable to use hearing aids, so something is surely wrong if they are causing any sort of irritation. And it’s easy to understand that you wouldn’t want to use a piece of technology that creates pain, frustration or soreness.

Possible solution: If your hearing aids are not comfortable, consider setting up an additional or follow-up fitting appointment. A couple little adjustments might be all your hearing aid requires. Some models can even be completely personalized to the size and shape of your ears. You will be able to leave your hearing aid in longer if it fits properly and is comfortable.

I’m Experiencing Poor Quality Sound From my Hearing Aids

Maybe you find the sound of your hearing aid to be too fuzzy or tinny so you don’t wear them very often. If that’s the circumstance, it’s not surprising that you’ve decided to stow your hearing aids in your nightstand drawer and save them for “special occasions”.”

This fuzzy or tinny sound can happen because hearing aids are doing complex auditory processes all the time, filtering out some sounds while trying to amplify others. So the sound quality might seem hard to rely on if your settings aren’t properly adjusted.

Solution: This issue has two potential answer: calibration and upkeep. It’s possible that your hearing aids are damaged in some form or another and require repairs. But it might be possible that they just need a simple calibration (generally this is something your hearing specialist can do for you).

Voices Are Muffled When I Use my Hearing Aids

When you listen to people talk, you want to be able to hear them with clarity. When you first bought hearing aids that was the whole reason! You didn’t want to miss out on one word. So it may be a little bit aggravating if all the voices you hear with you’re hearing aid sound muffled or hard to comprehend.

Because your brain and ears aren’t communicating effectively anymore, this issue commonly occurs when you first purchase your hearing aids.

The Remedy: Keep practicing. Your brain is going to have to get used to hearing language again, so whatever you can do to help provide some repetition will help. Try reading along to an audiobook or reading along with the closed captioning while you watch tv. Merely having more discussions with the people around you is a perfect way to practice, too.

Getting Solutions

You can discover a solution regardless of why you’re not wearing your hearing aid. And you have to wear your hearing aid routinely in order to protect your cognitive health and the health of your hearing.

So if your hearing aids don’t seem to be working perfectly for you? After determining the problem, find a solution, so you can get active in your life again. If you believe your hearing aids require adjustment, consult your hearing care expert right away.

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