You workout regularly and watch your diet just to stay healthy but shouldn’t that apply to your hearing too? Many people see a loss of hearing as a something that happens naturally due to aging but fail to take it into account how bad habits affect it. The hearing sense is one the most important you have and what you do now does matter if you want to keep it. Everything from eating fast food to refusing to give up the cigarettes to hitting the couch for hours at a time contributes to changes in the hearing related to aging. It’s time to make some positive choices by considering preventative measures that benefit your heart and hearing at the same time.
Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your entire body including your ears. A 2009 study conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) determined there is a connection between heart health and the gradual hearing loss associated with aging. They found that heart disease was a factor in hearing loss very late in life and failure to exercise leads to cardiovascular disease.
A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine looked at how body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and physical activity factored into the hearing equation. They were able to conclude that the better fit you are, the better your chance of keeping your hearing. Even the American Journal of Audiology identified a direct link between cardiovascular health and hearing function. With that much proof on hand, it’s clear that sitting on the couch day after day will cost you in many ways, so start a regular workout schedule or, at least, find time to take a walk most days of the week.
There is a reason mom said you are what you eat. There is a certain nutritional aspect to maintaining ear health. Omega 3 fatty acids, for instance, are deemed healthy foods good for the heart but studies show they also help protect you against age-related hearing loss. Look to get some omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon.
While you are out shopping for fish, make sure to get pick up some greens, too. Spinach, kale and asparagus are all rich in folic acid, an antioxidant that helps to reduce nerve damage including the type that keeps the ears from talking to the brain. Add some magnesium found in bananas and artichokes to your plate and you are eating your way to better ear health.
Start Eating to Prevent Chronic Disease
When it comes to what you eat, the rest of the body matters just as much as your ears. Preventing chronic illnesses like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes also protects your hearing. It might surprise you to know the kinds of foods can help fight disease like:
- Wine – Red wine is good for the body, especially the heart, in moderation. Just be sure to keep it to one glass a day and check with your doctor before you start.
- Cocoa – You know that good stuff chocolate is made from, a little each day will improve your brain health without blowing your diet. When you shop, look for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao.
- Almonds – They make an effective and efficient high-protein snack with lots of crunch to help lower cholesterol levels for better heart and brain health. Stick to just a few each day, though. They add a lot of calories to your diet.
While meal planning, find ways to cut the salt. Excess salt leads to water retention and higher blood pressure.
Of course, don’t ignore the things that you do just for your ears when considering smart health choices. Sound hygiene refers to protecting your ears from the noise that leads to damage. Don’t wear headphones or earbuds to listen to music or talk on the phone. They introduce loud noise directly into the ear canal. By the time it reaches the sensitive mechanisms of the inner ear, it is strong enough to cause problems. If you are going out for the night to a club or to hear a band, wear ear protection to prevent the sound vibrations from causing ear trauma.
Get Quality Sleep
If you need eight hours a night, then make you get them. See a doctor if you think you might sleep apnea, as well. Sleep apnea is often a sign of an underlying problem like will affect the ears like poor circulation or inflammation. Research suggests that those with untreated sleep apnea most likely have hearing problems, especially with low and high-frequency sounds.
Learn to live right and your ears will thank you. If you already think you have hearing problems, now is the time to see your doctor for a professional hearing exam and test.
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If you are one of the 25 million people in the U.S. with a medical condition called tinnitus, usually ringing in the ears, then you probably know that it tends to get worse when you are trying to fall asleep, but why? The ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this ringing, buzzing or swishing noise more often at night.
The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this very common medical problem.
What is Tinnitus?
To say tinnitus is not a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a noise no one else can hear and does not happen of a real sound close to your ear. The individual lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even if it sounds like a tornado to you.
Tinnitus alone is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is typically associated with significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they do not notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom noise works like a flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is one of medical sciences biggest conundrums. Doctors do not have a clear understanding of why it happens, only what it usually means. It is a symptom of a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. These electrical messages is how the brain translates sound into something you can clearly comprehend like a car horn or person talking.
The current theory about tinnitus has to do with the silence or a lack of sound. The brain works hard to interpret sound through these messages, but when they don’t come, it is confusing. To compensate, your brain fills that that lack of sound with the ringing or buzzing noise of tinnitus.
The need for feedback from the ears does explain a few things related to tinnitus. For one, it tells you why that sound is a symptom of such a variety of illnesses that affect hearing from a mild ear infection to age-related hearing loss. It also explains why the volume goes up at night for some people.
Why Does Tinnitus Get Worse at Night?
Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up certain sounds all day long even if you do not realize it. The ears hear faint noises like music playing or the TV humming even if there is no comprehension of the sound. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but at night, it all stops.
At bedtime, the world goes silent and that lack of noise creates confusion in the brain in response to it. The brain only knows one thing to do when that happens – create noise even if it’s not real.
In other words, tinnitus gets worse at night because it’s too quiet. Creating sound is the solution for those who can’t sleep because their ears are ringing.
How to Create Noise at Night
If you can believe that ear ringing does get worse at night because there is not enough noise to keep the brain busy, the answer to the problem is clear – make some. For people suffering from tinnitus, all they need do is run a fan in the room. Just the noise of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.
Manufacturers do make a device designed to help those with tinnitus get to sleep, as well. The white noise machine plays environmental sounds like rain falling or wind blowing to fill that empty space. The soft sounds can soothe the brain without distracting it from the main object – to fall asleep.
Can Anything Else Increase Tinnitus?
It’s important to remember that the lack of noise is just one possible reason for the increase in tinnitus at night. The ringing can also get worse with stress and certain some medical problems like high blood pressure. If playing sounds at night doesn’t help or you get dizzy when with the ringing, it’s time to see the doctor.
Age-related hearing loss, which impacts most adults at some point, tends to be lateral, in other words, it affects both ears to a degree. Because of this, the public sees hearing loss as a binary — someone has average hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on both sides, but that ignores one form of hearing loss altogether.
A 1998 study thought that approximately 400,000 children had a unilateral hearing loss due to injury or disease in the moment. It is safe to say this number has increased in that last two decades. The fact is single-sided hearing loss does happen and it brings with it complications.
What’s Single-Sided hearing loss and What Causes It?
As the name suggests, single-sided hearing loss suggests a decrease in hearing just in one ear. The hearing loss may be conductive, sensorineural or mixed. In intense instances, profound deafness is possible.
Causes of unilateral hearing loss differ. It can be caused by trauma, for example, someone standing next to gunfire on the left may get profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disorder may lead to this issue, as well, for example:
- Acoustic neuroma
- Waardenburg syndrome
Whatever the origin, an individual with unilateral hearing needs to adapt to a different method of processing sound.
Management of the Audio
The mind utilizes the ears almost like a compass. It identifies the direction of sound based on what ear registers it first and in the maximum volume. When somebody speaks to you while positioned on the left, the brain sends a message to flip in that way.
Together with the single-sided hearing loss, the noise will only come in one ear regardless of what direction it comes from. In case you have hearing loss from the left ear, then your head will turn left to search for the sound even if the person talking is on the right.
Think for a minute what that would be similar to. The audio would enter 1 side regardless of where what direction it comes from. How would you understand where an individual talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss isn’t profound, sound management is tricky.
Focusing on Audio
The mind also uses the ears to filter out background sound. It informs one ear, the one closest to the sound that you want to concentrate on, to listen to a voice. The other ear manages the background noises. This is precisely why at a noisy restaurant, you can still focus on the dialogue at the table.
When you don’t have that tool, the brain becomes confused. It is not able to filter out background sounds like a fan running, so that is everything you hear.
The mind has a lot happening at any given time but having use of two ears enables it to multitask. That’s why you’re able to sit and read your social media sites whilst watching Netflix or talking with family. With only one working ear, the mind loses that ability to do one thing when listening. It has to prioritize between what you see and what you hear, which means you usually lose out on the conversation around you while you navigate your newsfeed.
The Head Shadow Impact
The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are inaccessible to a person having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap around the mind and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not survive the trek.
If you’re standing beside a person with a high pitched voice, then you may not understand what they say unless you turn so the working ear is on their side. On the other hand, you might hear somebody with a deep voice just fine regardless of what side they’re on because they create longer sound waves that make it to either ear.
Individuals with just slight hearing loss in only one ear have a tendency to accommodate. They learn fast to turn their mind a certain way to listen to a friend talk, for instance. For those who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that returns their lateral hearing.
It may seem like it would be obvious, but hearing loss tends to be gradual, so how can someone know they have it? There is no darting pain to function as a warning sign. You do not pass out or make unnecessary trips to the bathroom once it occurs, either. It’s safe to say the symptoms of hearing loss are somewhat more subtle than other autoimmune disorders like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.
Nevertheless, there are indicators if you know to look for them. It is a matter of paying attention to the way you hear and the effect any change might be having in your life. Take the time to consider the ways you’re able to pinpoint hearing loss for you or somebody you care about.
Conversations are Harder
The effect on socializing provides a number of the most telling indications. As an example, if the first word out of your mouth during most discussions is “what?” That shows you aren’t comprehending words well. Questioning people that you talk to tell you again what they said is something they are very likely to detect before you do, too, so pay attention to the way folks react to having a chat with you.
When speaking to a group of a couple of individuals, you might have difficulty following along. You’re missing pieces of what each person says, so you are not part of the conversation. You can not ask everybody talking to echo themselves, either, so you only get lost. As time passes, you hide from group discussions or stand there not listening to what’s said, because it is just too confusing when you do.
The Background Noise Takes Over
If all you hear these days is background noise, then it’s time for a hearing test. This is a common sign of hearing loss because you are not able to filter out sounds just like a fan blowing off, or an air conditioner operating. It gets to the point at which you can’t hear what people are saying for you because it becomes lost in the background noise.
The TV Volume Creeps Up and Upward
It’s simple to excuse the need to turn the TV volume up on this dying box because of a busy room, but when it occurs every day, it’s most likely an indication of gradual hearing loss. When everyone else starts telling you that you’ve got the TV or computer volume up too high, you need to wonder why this really is, and, probably, conclude that your hearing is not like it had been at one time.
You End up Watching Their Lips
Reading lips is a coping skill for missing words. Gradual hearing loss starts with the reduction of hard sounds. Words that contain certain letters will probably be incomplete. Your mind might automatically refocus your eyes on the individual’s lips to fix the issue. It is likely that you do not even understand you do it until somebody points it out or suddenly seems uncomfortable when speaking to you.
Then There is the Ringing
The constant clicking or buzzing or the noise of breeze in your ears — this is called tinnitus, and it’s a warning of significant hearing loss. These sounds aren’t real, but auditory hallucinations that just you hear. For some folks, they are just bothersome, but for others tinnitus is painful. If you have that, then you most surely have hearing loss that you need to handle.
Hearing problems are not always obvious to the individual suffering from them, but it is to others. Listen to what your family is telling you about your hearing loss. Consider, also, other medical issues that may give rise to this problem like hypertension or medication you take that could damage your ears and find out if age-related hearing loss runs in your family.
It’s really like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. When you do come to this conclusion, visit your health care provider and get a professional hearing test for confirmation. Hearing loss isn’t the end of the world, but for most, it will imply it is time to consider hearing aids.
Each new year and every new season brings with it the stuffy nose and itchy eyes that means allergies, but does that also mean you’ll have hearing loss? It might surprise you to know there is a connection for many people. You don’t necessarily associate hearing with the immune system, after all. It is not that simple. Your hearing is a complex sense, one that can be affected by an allergic reaction. So, what should you do if your allergies affect your hearing?
An allergic reaction is part of body’s internal security plan managed by the immune system. It monitors different areas to detect intruders such as an infection. When bacteria gets in, the immune system works to fight it off. It also creates a special tag, known as an antibody, that marks this invader for future reference.
Let’s say a family member exposes you to the flu virus. If you have had the same strain before, an antibody allows the immune system to recognize it and respond. It will release histamine — the ground troops that fight off invaders — and that typically means inflammation of some kind. In the case of the flu, your sinus cavities and mucous membranes might swell in an attempt to trap the virus.
The problem is the immune system is far from perfect. Sometimes harmless substances like dust or pollen get an antibody in error. Once flagged, they will always seem like a threat. That’s an allergy. For allergy sufferers, this means everytime you come in contact with this allergen — that’s the dust or pollen — there is an immune system response. By definition, an allergy means you are hypersensitive to something that is harmless to most people.
Seasonal Allergies and Hearing Loss
Each year millions of people in this U.S. seek treatment for seasonal allergies. The other symptoms like congestion might keep them suffering enough that they fail to notice a change in their hearing. The ears rely on sound waves reaching a nerve in the inner ear, so they can be translated into something the brain can understand and allergies interfere with that process.
The allergic response almost automatically means swelling and congestion and that can interfere with that process. A change in fluid pressure prevents sound from traveling to the inner ear, for example. You might notice pressure or a sense of fullness in the ears when that happens. The body produces more earwax in response to an allergy, too, creating a buildup that blocks sound.
The Skin and Allergies
Sometimes the allergic response includes a skin reaction like swelling and an itchy rash. The ear has a considerable amount of skin that can be affected. Typically, skin reactions occur on the outer ear, known as the pinna. They can also cause problems inside the ear, though. The ear canal is covered with skin that can swell and itch enough to close the passage and prevent sound waves from moving forward.
Allergies and the Middle Ear
The middle ear is the area most often affected by allergies. This region contains tubes that allow fluid to drain and control the pressure inside the ear. An allergic reaction closes the tubes allowing fluid and pressure to build, and that makes it hard to hear.
How to Recognize Allergy-Related Hearing Loss
If you are prone to allergies, these symptoms will be familiar:
- Itching inside the ear canal
- Chronic ear infections
- Fullness inside the ear
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
When combined with the conductive hearing loss, these are signs of an allergy.
Any time your hearing changes suddenly, though, it is worth considering seeing a doctor, especially if you don’t usually have allergies. Your hearing loss might be the first sign of a chronic medical problem like high blood pressure or diabetes. If allergies are a way of life for you, however, then treating them is probably all it will take to get your hearing back.
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