An ear infection is the popular name, but it’s medically called otitis media or AOM. Ear infections such as this are usually seen in babies and young children but they can also affect adults, as well, especially during or after a cold or sinus infection. If you have a bad tooth, that can also result in an ear infection.
When you have an infection in the middle ear you will most likely have at least some hearing loss, but will it go away? The answer to this question may be more challenging than you think. There are many things happening with ear infections. There is damage that can be caused that you need to understand and also how this injury can impact your ability to hear.
Otitus Media, Exactly What is it?
Put simply, otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. It could possibly be any kind of microorganism causing the infection however bacteria is the most common.
The main way an infection is defined is by what part of the ear it occurs in. When the infection is in the pinna, or outer ear, or in front of the eardrum, the condition is known as otitis externa or swimmer’s ear. The term labyrinthitis refers to an infection of the cochlea or inner ear.
The middle ear is comprised of the space behind the eardrum but in front of the cochlea. This area has the three ossicles, or very small bones, that vibrate the membranes of the inner ear. An infection in this part of the ear tends to be very painful because it puts a lot of pressure on the eardrum, often until it breaks. Your inability to hear very well is also due to this pressure. The infectious material accumulates and blocks the ear canal enough to obstruct the movement of sound waves.
A middle ear infection includes the following symptoms:
- Leakage from the ear
- Pain in the ear
- Decreased ability to hear
For most people, hearing returns over time. The pressure dissipates and the ear canal opens. This will only happen when the infection gets better. There are exceptions, though.
Repeated Ear Infections
At least once in their life, the majority of people experience an ear infection. Some people, however, will get ear infections again and again and they will become chronic. Because of complications, these people’s hearing loss is more serious and can possibly become permanent.
Conductive Hearing Loss Caused by Ear Infections
Conductive hearing loss can be caused by chronic ear infections. This means that the inner ear can’t get sound waves at the proper strength. The ear has components along the canal that amplify the sound wave so that when it reaches the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, it is intense enough to create a vibration. When you have conductive hearing loss, something changes along that route and the sound isn’t amplified quite as much.
Bacteria don’t merely sit and do nothing inside the ear when you have an ear infection. They must eat to live and multiply, so they break down those components that amplify sound waves. The damage is in most cases done to the tiny little bones and also the eardrum. It doesn’t take very much to break down these delicate bones. Once they are gone, their gone. When this happens your ears don’t heal themselves. Surgically installing prosthetic bones is one possible way that a doctor might be able to fix this. The eardrum might have scar tissue after it repairs itself, which can influence its ability to vibrate. Surgery can correct that, as well.
What Can You do to Avoid This Permanent Hearing Loss?
If you believe that you might have an ear infection, see a doctor as soon as possible. You shouldn’t wait if you want to protect your hearing. If you have chronic ear infections, you shouldn’t ignore them. The more severe the infections you have, the more harm they cause. Ear infections usually begin with allergies, sinus infections, and colds so take steps to prevent them. It’s time to stop smoking because it leads to chronic respiratory issues which will, in turn, lead to ear infections.
If you are still having trouble hearing after having an ear infection, see a doctor. There are other things which can cause conductive hearing loss, but you may have some damage. Hearing aids can be very helpful if you have permanent hearing loss. To get more info about hearing aids, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist.
Are you starting to hear an annoying high pitch noise coming from your hearing aids? A very common concern with hearing aids which can probably be fixed is feedback. Knowing exactly how hearing aids function and what is behind that annoying high pitched whistling noise will get you one step closer to eradicating it. So what can you do about it?
What Exactly Are The Functions of Your Hearing Aids?
At their core, hearing aids are just a microphone and a speaker. The speaker plays the sound into your ear which the microphone picks up. When the microphone picks the sound up but prior to when it is played back by the speaker, there are some complex functions that happen.
Because the sound is going to be further processed, it must first be translated into an analog signal. The analog form is then converted into digital by the device’s processor. Once digital, the various features and controls of the hearing aids start working to amplify and clean up the sound.
The digital signal processor then transforms the signal back to analog and sends it to a receiver. At this point, what was once a sound becomes an analog electrical signal and that’s not something your ears can hear. The receiver converts the signal back into sound waves and sends them through your ears. Elements in the cochlea turn it back into an electrical signal that the brain can interpret.
Incredibly all of this complicated functionality takes place in a nanosecond. So if your hearing aid is so advanced why does it feedback?
Feedback Loops And How They Happen
Feedback doesn’t only happen inside hearing aids. You hear that same high pitched noise in most sound systems that utilize a microphone. The receiver generates sound which the microphone then picks up and re-amplifies. After entering the microphone and being processed, the receiver then converts the signal back into a sound wave. The microphone starts to pick up that sound wave again and amplifies it producing the feedback loop. To put it simply, the hearing aid is hearing itself and it doesn’t like it.
Exactly What is The Cause of Hearing Aid Feedback?
A feedback loop might be caused by several difficulties. If you turn on your hearing aid while it’s still in your hand prior to putting it in, you will get one of the most common causes. Your hearing aid starts to process sound waves right when you press the “on” button. This feedback is triggered as the sound coming from the receiver bounces off of your hand and then back into the microphone. If your hearing aid is snuggly inside your ear before turning it on, you will have resolved this particular feedback issue.
If your hearing aids aren’t fitting as well as they should, this can also lead to feedback. Loose fitting devices have a tendency to be a problem with older hearing aids or if you’ve lost some weight since you last had them fitted. In that case, you should head back to where you got it and have the piece re-adjusted so it will fit your ear properly again.
Earwax And Feedback
Hearing aids definitely have problems with earwax. One of the main reasons that hearing aids don’t fit right is because of the buildup of earwax on the casing. And we are already aware that a loose fitting device can be the cause of feedback. If you get in touch with your retailer or perhaps if you read the users-manual, you will find out how to safely clean this earwax off.
Maybe It’s Only Broke
When you’ve tried everything else but the feedback continues, this is where you head next. Feedback will absolutely be caused by a broken or damaged hearing aid. The casing could have a crack in it somewhere, for example. You should never attempt to fix this damage at home. Schedule a session with a hearing aid repair service to have it fixed.
Sometimes What Sounds Like Feedback is Actually Something Else Entirely
Hearing aids can make other noises that you may think sound like feedback but are really something else. There are things that can go wrong with your hearing aids, such as a low battery, which will give a warning sound. Listen closely to the sound. Is it actually a whistling noise or does it sound more like a beep? If your device has this feature, the manual will tell you.
It doesn’t matter what brand or style you have. Most hearing aids are capable of producing it and the cause is typically very clear.
It’s impossible to forget getting your first car. Nothing can compare to that sense of freedom. At any time you could get in touch with a few friends and drive wherever you wanted. For many people, getting their first hearing aids is a lot like that feeling.
Why would getting your first hearing aids compare to getting your first car? Even though there are obvious benefits to hearing better, there are some not-so-obvious benefits which help you maintain your independence. It so happens that your brain’s functionality is significantly affected by hearing loss.
To reveal how well your brain will respond to change, consider this: You’re on your way to work, following the same way you always take. Now, what if you go to make a turn only to find the road is closed. What would be your response to this blockage? Would you give up and go back home? Probably not unless you’re looking for an excuse to avoid going to work. More than likely, you’ll find a different route. If that new route was even more efficient, or if your regular route remained restricted, the new route would become the new routine.
In your brain, when normal functions are not working the same thing occurs. The brain sends its processing along with alternative paths, and this re-routing process is called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity can help you master a new language, or in learning new abilities such as playing an instrument or building healthy habits. Little by little, the physical changes in the brain adjust to correspond to the new paths and tasks that were once challenging become automatic. Neuroplasticity can be equally as good at causing you to forget things you already know as it can be at assisting you in learning new things.
Hearing Loss And Neuroplasticity
Hearing loss is the perfect example of how neuroplasticity has a negative impact on your day-to-day life. As explained in The Hearing Review, The pathways in your brain will quickly start to be re-purposed if they stop processing sound according to a report conducted by the University of Colorado. And it may not be ideal for them to alter in that way. The connection between hearing loss and cognitive decay can be explained by this.
The areas of your brain which are responsible for hearing will get re-purposed for different functions like vision and touch. The available resources inside your brain used to process sound are lessened and so is your capacity to understand speech.
So, if you find yourself asking “what was that?” regularly, you already have hearing loss. Additionally, it might be a more substantial issue than injury to your inner ear, it’s probable that the untreated loss of hearing has caused your brain structure to change.
How Hearing Aids Can Help You
This ability of your brain has a positive and a negative. Neuroplasticity enhances the performance of your hearing aids even though it might cause your hearing loss to get worse. Thanks to your brain’s ability to regenerate tissue and to reroute neural paths, you can make the most of the technology as part of your ear. Hearing aids encourage mental growth by stimulating the parts of your brain linked with hearing loss.
As a matter of fact, a long-term study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Cognitive decline was decreased in people with hearing aids, according to this study. The study, titled Self-Reported Hearing Loss: Hearing Aids and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-year Study, observed over three thousand adults age 65 and older over a 25 year period. What the researchers discovered was that the speed of cognitive decline was higher in those with hearing loss compared to those with healthy hearing. However, participants that used hearing aids to correct their hearing loss displayed no difference in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those with normal hearing.
The most useful part of this study is that we can confirm what we already understand about neuroplasticity: the brain will coordinate functions according to your need and the amount of stimulation it receives. In other words, you need to, “use it or lose it.”
Maintaining a Youthful Brain
In short, the brain is powerful and can change itself drastically regardless of your age or stage in life. You should also take into consideration that hearing loss can accelerate mental deterioration and that this decline can be decreased or even prevented by using hearing aids.
Hearing aids are sophisticated hearing enhancement technology, not just over-the-counter amplification devices. According to leading brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich, you can increase your brain function despite any health issues by pushing yourself to accomplish challenging new activities, being active socially, and practicing mindfulness among other techniques.
To guarantee your quality of life, hearing aids are a must have. People who have loss of hearing may become withdrawn or isolated. Simply by investing in a pair of hearing aids, you can make sure that you remain active and independent. After all, you want your brain to keep receiving stimulation and processing the sounds you hear so it will remain as young as you feel!
When traveling to your favorite destination you will need to put steps in place to protect your hearing aid investment. Often times vacations are not as worry-free as you would hope. Making arrangements to care for your hearing aids will give you one less thing to be worried about while going on vacation. When heading out, are there any specific precautions to put in place for the safety of your hearing aids?
Start With the Essentials
First of all, you will need to bring your cleaning kit. When going on vacation you still need to do everything you do at home to clean your hearing aids. Most good quality hearing aid brands come with or offer a special cleaning kit that contains a brush or pick. When you’re not wearing them, you should keep them in a case for storage. Also, bring along a soft cloth to wipe them down.
It’s a prudent idea to bring along extra batteries, as well. Odds are you’ll be using the hearing aids longer than usual, so it’s prudent to have a backup. If your hearing aids have rechargeable batteries, bring along an additional charger, also. Every now and then things get lost so carry your extra charger in a separate bag.
Also, make plans to bring along these other items:
- Soft domes
- Sport clip
Create a list of all the things you use at home before you leave and double check to ensure you have everything with you before you load up your automobile. You never know for sure exactly when you may actually need one of your hearing aid supplies, so pack them in an easy to access spot. Carry on luggage is the best place to keep these items if you are flying on a plane.
Make Sure You Get Them Cleaned And Checked
Your hearing aids really should be professionally tuned and cleaned at least a week before you leave. You want them working their best when you are traveling. Ask the retailer about any warranties you have on your devices and bring the paperwork with you just in case something goes wrong. Make sure that you know how to file a claim, so you don’t miss anything and possibly void the warranty.
You ought to find out whether there are any hearing aid retailers close to where you are going. Then you will know where to go if you need a quick service, a new battery or even a new hearing aid.
Wearing Hearing Aids at The Airport
Often times it can be challenging to know all of the constantly changing security expectations while at the airport. When you are going through the security checkpoint, keep your hearing aids in your ear. Inform the security officer that you have a hearing aid as you approach so that they know ahead of time. If you adhere to the officer’s direction you most likely won’t have to remove them to go through the metal detector.
While you are on the plane you can still keep your hearing aids in as well. You will not be required to turn them off before the plane takes off like you have to with a mobile device, either. You might notice your hearing aids won’t function as well on the plane, so be prepared for that possibility. Use visual clues to let people know you may not hear as well. If you can’t understand what someone is saying, try cupping your ear to make them aware.
Consider Getting a Dryer or Dehumidifier
Vacations usually go hand in hand with swimming and humidity. Just because you’re not planning to go swimming, it doesn’t mean humidity is not still a potential problem. A dryer is a precaution worth having all year round, but it’s especially important when you’re traveling.
Learn About How Your Hearing Aids Operate
Some features work best in one kind of environment, other features work better in a different kind of environment. In a busy restaurant for instance, or at a theme park, you will want to filter out background noise. Some have outdoor settings that will make the beach more fun. You can’t know what feature to take advantage of if you are not familiar with how your hearing aid works.
Bring Along a Remote Microphone
A remote microphone will come in handy in loud settings, when driving in the car, or if you are on a plane. When you are chatting with someone, clip the microphone to them and you will be able to hear them better.
Notify the Hotel or Resort
Prominent vacation venues commonly have accommodations for the hearing impaired. Since you won’t be using your hearing aids during the night you will want to take advantage of that. Smoke alarms that shake the bed or have flashing lights should be available to you. Closed caption televisions and special phones can be requested.
Going on vacation is fun, but it can also be frantic, too. Deal with your hearing aids before you go, so you can relax and enjoy your trip. Schedule an appointment for a tune-up today.
Why permit your summer to be ruined by bad hearing? If you’re not aware of your hearing loss, it’s even worse. A few ear conditions and getting older carry a prolonged loss of hearing which you may not even recognize. You may also stay away from engaging in summer events that you love just because you don’t hear as well. Search for solutions to the difficulties that come with loss of hearing, so you can get out there and enjoy the fun with everyone else.
Hearing loss can get tricky at summer cookouts. Background noise is one big difficulty you will have. Lots of people are chatting all around you. On the lawn and in the swimming pool youngsters are shouting and having fun. There is the sound of the stuff cooking on the grill and, of course, the wonderful sounds of the natural world.
Whatever hearing you may have left can’t compete with all that noise. This type of background noise will easily overwhelm someone who has hearing decline.
There are some things you can do to compensate including:
Sitting in a quiet spot for short periods can help get rid of some of that overwhelming background noise. Facing away from the sun will permit you to look at people when they talk and use their lips to figure out words you miss.
- Turn off any background music or turn it down, at least. You might choose not to have music if you are the host of the barbecue. Tell the host about your issue if you are attending someone else’s barbecue.
- Now and then just walk away. It takes a lot of energy struggling to hear. Every hour or so try to go indoors or a little ways away from all the noise.
- Inform others that you can’t hear. People will get annoyed when you try to fake it. Tell people when you can’t hear them. You can also utilize visual hints that you are struggling such as cupping your ear. They will automatically get closer or speak up to help out.
Don’t attempt to hear everything. The fact that you can’t engage in every conversation is something you need to accept. Set sensible limits for yourself and try to take part in small groups instead.
What might you be missing by remaining inside? Don’t be scared to go outside the house and focus on the sounds of nature. No, you won’t be able to hear everything but with a little concentration, you might hear more than you might think.
Make a game out of it and listen for:
- Chirping birds
- Insects buzzing
- Crickets in the evening
- Blowing leaves
- Rain on your roof
- Kids running around and playing
- Barking dogs
- Waves splashing
Temper expectations when going outdoors, to the beach, or for a walk in the park by trying to hear one thing at a time.
Enjoy a Vacation or Maybe Just a Day Trip
That’s truly what summertime is all about, isn’t it? What type of vacation would you enjoy? What restrictions come along with your hearing loss that will affect it? Sailing or fishing would be ideal but an amusement park would probably be a bit too much. Go to the zoo or maybe go to a nature preserve. Stroll on the boardwalk by the beach or go to a museum.
Don’t let your loss of hearing rob you of your chance to travel this summer. Tell the airline about your condition when you get your ticket if you are flying. Alert the hotel, also, so they can give you a room with accommodations for the hearing impaired like smoke alarms with flashing lights or shaking beds and TVs with closed captioning.
Learn to paint or maybe take a fitness class to help better yourself this summer. If you would like to find a spot in the front, get there early. Bring a couple of friends with you and let them fill you in on what you are missing during the session.
Safety Precautions Should Be Taken This Summer
There are a number of summer activities which require you to take safeguards to protect yourself, your ears, and any costly hearing assistance devices you own. Play it safe by:
- Taking care when at the pool or swimming. Don’t let your hearing aids get wet and wear earplugs while swimming.
- Remember not to take evening walks by yourself. You may not hear the warning sounds from potential hazards like oncoming vehicles or maybe even a frightening stranger walking up from behind you.
- If you are going to fireworks or maybe a concert, wear ear protection.
Making The Most of it This Summer
Three simple things will help you avoid most of these things.
- Get your ears examined by a hearing specialist. It is possible that your hearing loss is treatable.
- Get a professional hearing examination, to determine if you do have hearing loss.
- Wear good-quality hearing aids. They can get rid of any background noises so you hear what’s important.
Summertime is all about having fun. Don’t let the loss of hearing take it away from you.
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