Hearing Tips

3 Easy Tasks to Train Your Hearing at Home

By: Scot Frink : October 12, 2017

artwork of a man fighting against noise of music from headphones

#1 Learn to Filter Noise at Home

When you workout your ears, are you working out your mind too? Sound filtering is the phrase we use when talking about how focusing on something essential and filtering out the sound distractions in the room. Exercising this skill keeps it sharp and that means you are able to understand a conversation even in a noisy space.

You can start your practice with music from a couple of different devices – maybe use the TV and your laptop. Now, ask a friend to sit with you and talk. Take time to focus on the conversation while ignoring the music playing around you from the various devices. Work this exercise in a room where you can change the environmental distractions easily like adjusting the volume.

How to do the Exercise

It’s a challenge for someone with hearing loss to listen to the conversation when there is a lot of distracting noise. That’s a problem most people have but one that is significant with serious hearing loss. Consider how a noise as simple as the heater or AC unit coming on could make hard to understand words unless you learn to keep your mind focused and your ears sharp with hearing exercises.

Begin your practice in a comfortable space. You’ll want to avoid fidgeting so you can focus. When possible, find a quiet room for this exercise. It will be less frustrating if you have control over the distracting sounds.

Start a conversation and turn one device on low. Are you both still using your normal speaking voices? Can you hear the other person? If you answered yes to both questions, then keep moving on, if not, turn the volume down on the device until you can comfortably hear and speak with the other person.

After you’ve gotten used to filtering out one music source, try adding in the second one. To make it more of a challenge, try adjusting the volume or adding on even more devices. The nice part of this exercise is both you and your friend are doing something good for your ears and minds!

#2 Identify and Locate Sounds

Wait, what was that noise? It’s a question that most people ask at some point. This means that everyone can benefit from practicing how to locate a sound and figuring out what’s making it to strengthen their hearing.

This is a lot like the previous exercise, so you won’t need fancy tools or equipment. It’s also a great training exercise for outdoors whether you’re in the country or a major city. The goal is to surround yourself with varied sounds. The more diverse the environment the better!

How to do the Exercise

This straightforward task is good for your mental health because it works to strengthen the connections and pathways the brain needs to translate information coming from the ears. In other words, it will work to fine-tune your thinking so you can do more with less effort!

Look for a space that is bustling but comfortable. Maybe use the local shopping mall or food court. Now, close your eyes and focus on one singular sound around you. Let your mind help you determine where that sound is coming from and what’s making it. Is it someone’s shoes clicking? Maybe it’s a child clapping her hands? If you can’t quite identify it try to figure out how big the object is that’s making the sound and how it makes you feel, or even what type of material might be used to create it. All of these small puzzle pieces will help you figure the noise out but, just as importantly, they will strengthen your hearing.

#3 Play Brain Games

Not every hearing exercise has to be work. You can improve all of your senses, including your hearing, by strengthening your mind. Since your brain is your internal translator you can improve its ability to distinguish sound by improving its overall functionality. While a medical professional can recommend specific games to improve your mental focus there are many you can start off doing on your own.

How to do the Exercise

There are countless games for one or more players that can help with this exercise. Any kind of logic or strategy game will help and it can be on your tablet, on your table, or in the newspaper.

Speaking of newspapers, crosswords and Sudoku are excellent options for someone who wants to practice flexing their mental muscles solo. Even activities like crocheting can help keep your mind strong. Memory games are also great as they can be as simple as a card game or as exciting as a shell game. If none of those appeal to you there are still more options. For example, a simple Rubik’s cube can offer up hours of pattern recognition and problem-solving practice.

Of course, there are more social ways to play brain games such as playing chess, checkers, or scrabble. It doesn’t matter what you choose so long as you’re using your noggin!

Are There Compliments You Won’t Be Hearing Now

By: Scot Frink : October 5, 2017

Picture of an extended hand

Is your hearing loss leaving you feeling just a little less than? Less than intelligent, perhaps, because you must fight to stay involved in every conversation. How about a little alone? It probably seems like your friends and family are avoiding you. Maybe hearing loss has left you devoid of energy. Just the effort to hear and comprehend every sound is exhausting.

Depression is a natural side effect of hearing loss, especially when it is associated with aging, because the decline is gradual and easy to miss. In between the various moods you experience are periods of enhanced stress because you don’t really understand what’s happening to you. If all this sounds a bit like your life, then you could probably use a pick-me-up. How about a compliment?

A 2012 study published by the National Institutes of Natural Science discovered that people improve when someone offers them a compliment. The ability to give and receive compliments provides a number of health benefits like a stronger immune system and better productivity, too. Of course, if you have hearing loss, you are not enjoying those compliments like you used to or the health perks that come with them. What kinds of compliments do you think you might be missing?

The Ones That Offer Support

When is the last time a person you cared about said they believe in you? With hearing impairment, they might be doing just that and you wouldn’t know. That feeling of accomplishment that comes with this compliment is difficult to muster regularly without the support from your friends and family. Maybe you feel a sense of power when you finish a project or get in a workout, but it’s fleeting sensation without reinforcement. As a society, we rely heavily on what the people in our lives think of the things we do.

If you have presbycusis, the technical name for hearing loss that occurs with age, you may not hear your grandchild say she believes and loves you or that special person in your life’s message of support. This type of hearing problem makes high tones like the female voice hard to comprehend.

You might, on the other hand, easily pick out the sound of a man’s voice, but it isn’t clear and crisp. The deep tones come off more like gruff and less like a statement of support because you miss the occasional word and your brain fills in the void.

Age-related hearing loss is a consequence of the things people do all their lives that damage their hearing like wearing headphones or going to concerts each week. Even playing the music in the car loud has a cumulative effect. These actions take a toll on the delicate mechanisms of the ear, which is why professionals warn people to start protecting them early in life.

Nature’s Own Complements

Often the sounds that help the most are not man-made. Nature has its own way of soothing you with her diverse set of sounds. Do you enjoy hearing the birds sing in the morning or the wind blowing through the trees? Perhaps you like listening to the rainfall. Since presbycusis tends to develop slowly, you might not even know these things are missing from your life, well, until you put on hearing aids for the first time and they all come back to you.

The Benefit of Feeling Safe Compliments Your Life

Losing your hearing is about more than just how you feel, though. There is a safety concern to consider when you lived your whole life relying on your ears as a warning system. They tell you when there is a car coming, for example. If you miss the sound of the car itself, there is the backup of another person yelling the warning at you. Those are all potentially gone when you live with untreated hearing loss.

The Environmental Compliments

You’re missing out on the little things around the house, too. How about the signal the dryer rings out when the cycle is complete? All those wrinkled clothes are enough to make anyone depressed.

There are more serious concerns at home, too, like the smoke alarm. Traditional ones emit a high-pitch sound that a person with age-related hearing might not comprehend. They make special types of smoke and carbon monoxide warning systems with low-frequency tones just for that reason along with other types of alarms like ones that flash the lights or shake the bed. You won’t have these systems in place, though, unless you recognize your hearing impairment.

Getting Back on the Compliment Track

Now that you know what you are missing, what can you do about it? There is more at stake here than just the occasional compliment to make you feel good. Hearing loss has a significant impact on your quality of life and safety. If you are noticing fewer compliments coming your way, maybe it’s time to make an appointment for a hearing exam and professional hearing test.

7 Hearing-Related Tongue Twisters You Really Should Learn

By: Scot Frink : September 28, 2017

Picture of a woman with letters coming out her mouth

Do tongue twisters help improve your ear health? One could make the argument that tongue twisters are effective for brain health and there is a clear overlap between the brain and ears. Tongue twisters bring with them a unique linguistic anomaly – the double onset. In one study, a team from MIT, working with a number of universities, looked closer at this phenomenon. They brought together some volunteers and had them record different tongue-twisting word groupings to see if they could create problem scenarios like word reversals – a good example of the double onset

What they discovered was a pattern of mistakes relates to each tongue twister. What does all that have to do with your ear health? The tongue twisters we face in adult life are not as clever as “Rubber baby buggy bumpers” but they can be just as tricky. Medical terminology is a fine example of this in action and the hearing health industry is full of many of these types of tongue twisters. Even if you can’t say them fast, you still need to understand them and know what they mean for you and your ears. Consider seven tongue-twisting words that you should know.

1. Otolaryngologist

That’s a tricky word. It’s pronounced like this: [oh-toh-lar-ing-goluh-jist]. An otolaryngologist is an ear doctor with a focus in otorhinolaryngology – a medical-surgical subspecialty for the study and treatment of conditions that affect the ear, nose and throat. Doctors who study this specialty may also be called ENT surgeons. Their job is to do surgeries of the ear, nose, throat and base of the skull. This is the specialist you would see for many different procedures including cochlear implants.

An otolaryngologist is a physician who must complete an additional five years of surgical residency training. Once done, he or she undergoes fellowship training that lasts one or two more years.

2. Sensorineural

That’s is a real tongue-twister. Sensorineural pronounced: [sen-suh-ree-noo r-uh l] and it indicates a very specific kind of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss, known also as sensory hearing loss, means you have a problem with the inner ear problem that is affecting your hearing — typically involving the hair cells in the cochlea. That is not the same thing as conductive hearing loss, which refers specifically to the movement of sound waves toward the inner ear. It is estimated that about 90 percent of hearing loss falls under the category of sensorineural.

3. Audiological

Yeah, that one is tough, too. The pronunciation is: [ô′dē-ŏl′ə-jē-kel] and it refers to something that is related to audiology, which is the study of hearing. Another word that falls into that line of thinking is an audiologist, which is a person that performs and interprets professional hearing tests such as the pure tone audiometry or the otoacoustic emission measurement.

Those tests might sound like just more of the same tongue twisters but, ultimately, all these words describe the exam process used to assess your hearing deficits and strengths. The goal is to determine the level of hearing loss you might have and make recommendations for devices that can help like hearing aids.

4. Presbycusis

Hard to pronounce, [prez-by-coo-sis], but it is a word you do need to know. This is the condition that most people call age-related hearing loss. Presbycusis isn’t about age, though. It is the cumulation of various stressors that eventually affect hearing ability. Every time you put on those headphones, you are damaging the delicate mechanisms of the ear, leading you one step closer to that age-related hearing loss.

5. Tympanometry

It sounds a little like what you might play in band class, but tympanometry refers to a type of hearing test. Pronounced [tim-panohm-i-tree], this exam introduces air pressure into the ear canal to see how the different components function. Specifically, it measures the mobility of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and then tells the hearing specialist if there is fluid there, how well the middle ear system words and the ear canal volume.

6. Ototoxicity

This word has critical meaning when it comes to hearing health. Pronounced [o-tuh-tok-sis-i-tee], it refers to something that is toxic to the ear and usually applies to medication. Certain types of antibiotics, for example, can cause hearing loss. This is also true for certain over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen. If you worried, you should ask your doctor before taking a drug to find out if it is ototoxic.

7. Audiogram

That one’s not quite so hard to say but it is a good one to know. Pronounced [aw-dee-uh-gram], this is a chart produced by a professional hearing test. It maps out the tones at different frequencies and how well you can hear them.

Whether they twist your tongue or not, these are words worth understanding. Your hearing health relies on the little things you do to protect it like seeing an ear doctor regularly and getting a hearing test done. Now is a good time to educate yourself by learning the terminology that affects your ear health.

How Do Doctors With Hearing Loss Manage Their Careers

By: Scot Frink : September 21, 2017

Picture of an audiologist

Is hearing loss something you should let choose your career path for you? For that matter, is there any career that you couldn’t do with a hearing problem? More than 20 percent of the population in the United States has some form of hearing loss and many of them have jobs that you might think are impossible without a perficient hearing. You might even be surprised to learn that individuals with hearing loss are lawyers, actors, musicians, dentists, judges and, yes, even doctors.

The fact is determined people who are hearing challenged find few limitations in their lives, especially given today’s advancements in hearing technology. Physicians that face this problem just look for workarounds that help them accomplish their goals. It is, after all, one small obstacle in a road full of challenges. How do physicians who have hearing loss manage their jobs?

They Understand Their Condition

Who would know better than a doctor that hearing loss and intelligence having nothing to do with one another. Hearing impairment is simply a mechanical failure of some portion of the auditory system. It doesn’t have anything to do with cognitive thinking or problem-solving skills.

Once a person with hearing loss accepts that they can stop being held back by this one sense, or lack of it. Doctors look for solutions that help them overcome any hurdles related to their ear health.

They Get a Professional Diagnosis

A physician experiencing gradual hearing loss will know to do what everyone else should too — see an ear specialist and get a proper diagnosis. Hearing loss can occur for many reasons and some of them are reversible. The problem may be excess ear wax, for example.

Chances are a medical doctor will also know to get regular hearing tests to gauge their decline. This allows you to be proactive about your hearing health.

They Get Hearing Assistance

There is no rule that says you must learn to live with hearing loss. Doctors understand the importance of hearing assistance tools like good quality digital hearing aids. After the hearing test, a physician would know to work with a certified retailer to find a brand and model hearing aid that best suits his or her needs.

It’s possible a physician might do well with hearing aids that are Bluetooth compatible, for instance, and have directional microphones. Bluetooth allows the physician to connect the hearing aids to a smartphone or tablet and directional microphones enhance conversation in noisy environments. Noise reduction probably comes in handy, as well, to filter out background noise.

They Get a Strong Support System

For a physician that might include joining professional organizations to network with colleagues facing the same challenges. The Association of Medical Professionals With Hearing Losses is a practical choice for an industrious doctor. They will connect clinicians with other professionals online and via conferences, but they offer some must-have resources, too including ones that help the hearing challenged physician to find the right stethoscope.

They Use Their Disability to Grow

There is little doubt that hearing loss, new or a lifelong, opens up some career concerns, but, just maybe, it leads to new opportunities, as well. Consider Dr. Philip Zazove, for example. Dr. Zazove has been deaf most of his life and saw the challenges first hand. He states in an article for CNN Health that he applied to 12 separate medical schools and didn’t even get interviews despite doing well on the MCATs. After settling for graduate school, he was finally given a chance to go to medical school.

Nowadays, he uses his hearing loss to help his patients facing similar problems. In his family practice, he works with many who are hard of hearing or severely deaf. His life experiences have given him a distinctive opportunity to help others find their own way through life despite the challenges they face.

What do physicians with hearing loss do? The same thing anyone else does, they march on against the things that work to hold them back beginning with a proper diagnosis and hearing test.

One Hearing Aid or Two: How Will You Know

By: Scot Frink : September 14, 2017

Picture of a person making a decision

When it comes to making the decision to be fitted for hearing aids, you may be wondering, “Can​ I get by with wearing a hearing aid in just one ear?”

Let’s take a look at when you should consider getting two hearing aids and when you should consider just getting one.

Temporary Versus Permanent Hearing Loss

It’s important to first determine whether your hearing loss is temporary or permanent. This can be answered by a qualified professional following a thorough examination. If your hearing loss is attributable to any of the following situations, it’s likely temporary.

  • Wax buildup that can be remedied in a clinical setting
  • Prescription medications with a side effect of partial loss of hearing in one or both ears
  • Head cold, ear infection or other illness
  • Exposure to loud sounds

If the hearing loss is temporary, your doctor can address ways to work with this prognosis. But if you’re hearing loss is permanent, you’ll want to consider hearing aids. Now the question becomes, one hearing or two?

When Should I Consider Getting Two Hearing Aids?

Hearing aids are an investment, so It’s tempting to purchase just one and save the expense of a second device. You might want to reconsider, though. There are benefits to getting a hearing aid for each ear, especially if you have some hearing loss in both such as:

  • Better clarity and alertness that having two functional ears gives you
  • Research suggests that hearing well in both ears lets your brain distinguish between important auditory input and useless background noise
  • Two hearing aids help you locate where sound comes from so you can fully tune into the message
  • Offers a sense of clarity through balancing incoming stimuli
  • Lowers the risk of developing tinnitus
  • Decreases the chance of auditory deprivation, in other words, there is a tendency for the function of an unaided ear to decline

What Is Single-Sided Hearing Loss?

Single-sided, or unilateral, hearing loss occurs when you can hear well in one ear and have difficulty in the other.

When Should I Consider Getting One Hearing Aid?

The three primary reasons to purchase just one hearing aid is that you have single-sided hearing loss, you’re completely and irreversibly deaf in one ear or you have age-induced cognitive delays.

Assuming you do have some hearing loss in just one ear, you won’t need a hearing aid in your other one. This is also true if you are permanently deaf in the one ear, there is no point in purchasing a second hearing aid. These two situations will not improve with the addition of a second hearing aid.

If you are a person over the age of 85 and have cognitive delays, choosing to wear two hearing aids might create excess auditory stimuli, enough that it becomes overwhelming and confusing. You might find you struggle to separate speech patterns from other speech or background noise, as well.

The final reason to choose only one hearing aid is it’s just too big of a financial burden if you do try to buy two. Make sure you exhaust all of your options first, though, before settling for just the one hearing-assistance device. Look to social services and your insurance company for help.

Choosing The Right Hearing Aid For You

Of course, you want what’s best for your ears, so you can continue to participate in all the activities you love. For more information on hearing health, check us out today!

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