Hearing Tips

When to Tell a Loved One It’s Time to Discuss Their Hearing Loss?

By: Scot Frink : April 17, 2018

A young woman leans into an older woman to have a delicate conversation about hearing loss and hearing aids.

Hearing problems are one of those things other people usually notice before you do. In part, because a person’s family and friends know them better than they know themselves. They are the ones that see the changes and connect the dots about hearing loss the person with the problem notices the gradual decline that comes with age-related hearing loss.

It’s hard to talk to someone you love about something as personal as their hearing health, though. The person experiencing this decline doesn’t always realize that they are asking you to repeat things often or getting information wrong sometimes. It might feel like a personal attack instead of an attempt to help them. So, when it is the right time to bring the subject up? There is no easy answer to this question, but there are some tell-tale signs that the time has come to discuss hearing loss.

The What Did You Say? Syndrome

It might be the first thing you will notice when this person’s hearing starts to decline. What did you say? It’s a natural response when you don’t hear something very clearly. The problem with age-related hearing loss is they still hear the sound of your voice, just not each word. When that happens, the brain makes them think you are mumbling. The fact is you’re speaking the same way you always did, it is their hearing that is different.

A person that has to say what all the time does not even know they do it, which makes it a hard thing to talk about. You can try counting the number of times you have to repeat something in a conversation. If you see a regular pattern over a week, then it’s time to say something.

When Safety Is a Problem

There is more to hearing than just comprehending speech. Individuals with gradual hearing loss lose the ability to understand specific sound frequencies, too. A traditional smoke and carbon dioxide detector uses a high pitched tone to tell you here is a problem. It’s a sound that someone with hearing loss might not hear. Those who do have this issue can compensate for it by putting in alarms that use a different frequency and that are able to flash the lights and shake the bed, as well.

Safety is a concern for the hearing challenged person that wants to drive a car, too. You need to be able to hear warning sounds like horns, for example, and the car engine running. A person trying to cross the street needs to hear warning sounds there, too. Safety is a definite issue with untreated hearing loss and one that indicates you need to take action.

When the Complaints Start Rolling In

The guy next door complains the TV is too loud, for instance, TV dialogue is as hard to understand as a face-to-face conversation, but there is no one there to answer when they say, “What?” Instead, the volume goes way up. That doesn’t make the words any clearer, though, so it goes up more. When the people around your loved one start talking about high volumes, hearing loss has become something worth talking about.

When Tongues Start Wagging

When other people start asking about this your loved one’s hearing and wondering if something is wrong. Maybe your dad’s neighbor stops to ask if he is having hearing problems or your brother brings the subject up. These people might notice something that you do not yet. This is a big indicator, especially for the parent who lives alone. Friends and neighbors are their social network. They spend time together and are in a position to see pick up on something you do not, so when they take the time to mention it, you need to listen.

When Frustration Becomes the Norm

It is frustrating when you have to struggle to hear, especially if you don’t realize it is a problem. That frustration can quickly turn to angry conversations and other shows of emotion. They may always seem on the edge of crying or yelling but not know why. It’s up to you to help them understand what is going on.

Tips for When the Time Comes

You know the time has come to say something but what? It is a tricky subject because you are saying they are getting old, and that’s something no one wants to hear. How you approach the topic will make all the difference, such as:

  • Make the conversation about you – Talk about the things you’ve noticed and how you feel about them. If you make it about them, they will not want to talk. By making it about how it impacts your life, they are more likely to want to help and be less defensive.
  • Make the conversation positive – Keep in mind, their anger is really just fear. You need to address those fears and reassure them that there is a quick and painless solution like getting a professional hearing test and, maybe, hearing aids. Point out other people who have hearing aids and how they changed their lives.
  • Make the conversation beneficial – Focus on the benefits that will come with getting hearing aids. They will be able to enjoy their favorite shows again and listen to the birds sing. They may not even know what they have been missing, so point out the positives.

You can make a difference in the life of someone you love life by helping them come to terms with age-related hearing loss, so go ahead and reach out.





What Do You Think Your Earwax Could Be Telling You About Your Health?

By: Scot Frink : April 10, 2018

A dog is getting earwax cleaned out of its ears while sticking its tongue out.

Is your earwax trying to tell you something about your health? Earwax is more than just the icky stuff that comes out of your ears. Cerumen, the medical name for it, has a purpose in your body. It protects the skin inside the ear canal from damage that can lead to infection. It is also a source of lubrication and helps waterproof the inside of your ear.

That’s all good stuff, but earwax also provides information about you. How it looks, the texture and smell all supply key details about what is going on inside your body. What is your earwax saying to you?

Earwax and Your Heritage

It is hard to believe but, all earwax falls into one of two categories. It is either dry, or wet and kind of sticky. How your earwax feel is a genetic trait you can use to trace your roots. According to a study in the journal Nature Genetics, it is a gene mutation that determines whether your earwax is wet or dry. Researchers investigated 33 different populations around the world and found:

  • Ninety-five percent of East Asians have the dry kind.
  • Ninety-seven percent of people from Europe or Africa have the wet, sticky kind.

The difference between these two groups is one gene called ABCC11. This is the gene that controls the flow of earwax-altering molecules. At some point long ago, the gene changed in people in Europe and Africa. The researchers from this study theorized that insects are to blame for the mutation. Sticky earwax is able to trap insects and keep them from going deeper into the ear canal and possibly even to the brain. It is an example of the body’s ability to adapt to the environment and improve a species odds of survival.

Watery, Green Earwax

Watery, green earwax means one of two things:

  • You’ve been sweating.
  • You have an ear infection.

When you sweat, the water will mix with your earwax, changing the color and texture. When you have an ear infection, the earwax changes due to the body’s inflammatory response to invading organisms. Pus created by the response can mix with the earwax, and that may lead to the difference in color.

Earwax That Smells Bad

Earwax with a bad smell means you need to pay attention. The change in odor typically indicates a rather serious infection. Anaerobic bacteria, in other words, bacteria that do not require oxygen to survive, tend to emit a foul odor that will make earwax stink.

That bad smell can also mean there is an infection causing middle ear damage. You might feel like your balance is off and hear a ringing or other phantom noise in the affected ear. You need to make an appointment with your doctor.

In 2009, a group of Japanese scientists also linked stinky earwax to a gene that might cause breast cancer. It will take more studies to prove this theory but, it’s worth talking to your doctor about if breast cancer runs in the family.

When It Feels Like Your Ear is Wet All the Time

To be honest, this isn’t really earwax, but it is understandable that you might think it is cerumen. Wet ears typically mean disease, most likely infection. Ear infections create pus, so that might be why your ear feels wet. That is not the only possible cause, though.

It is also possible that you have a type of skin growth inside your ear canal called a cholesteatoma. A cholesteatoma is a lot like a cyst, but one that appears inside the ear blocking the canal. When that happens, stuff like earwax and dirt build up. This blockage can cause debris to overflow and come out the ear. Any drainage from your ear means you need to see a doctor and find out why that is happening.

Your Earwax is Very Flaky

Do not worry, flaky earwax isn’t a sign of infection. It is, however, something that happens as you grow older. When someone ages, their body gets a little dryer — including the glands that produce earwax. As a result, their ears get a little itchy. Adding a few drops of mineral oil to the ear canal can ease that discomfort and soften the earwax at the same time.

What if your ears have no earwax at all? It’s rare, but it does happen. It is a condition called keratosis obturans, and it means there is a hard plug where the earwax comes out. It’s unclear why this happens, but researchers do know that the plug is made of keratin, a protein that exists in skin cells. You might feel pain in that ear and have trouble hearing. The treatment is simple, let a doctor pull the plug out. In some, the condition is chronic, and the patient requires regular medical care.

Earwax, who knew it was so interesting. Why not take a look at yours to see it’s trying to say..





Hearing Loss Limits More Than Just Your Ears

By: Scot Frink : April 3, 2018

Hearing loss depicted as a problem that compounds by showing several cutout men toppled over on one man.

Are you amazed to learn that hearing loss is about more than just your ears? Ears are the tools of hearing, so the harm done to them because of aging, injury or disease is why someone can not hear, but did you know there is more to it than that The loss of a person’s hearing bleeds into many other facets of their life. It’s a dramatic change for somebody who has always been able to hear. Consider some ways that hearing loss has a significant impact on more than just the ears.

Earning Ability

A 2006 report released by the Australian firm Access Economics states there’s a link between earning potential and hearing. They discovered that an individual with hearing loss will possibly make about 25 percent less than those that do listen, but why?

There are many things that could impact earnings. Somebody who works without any hearing assistance device like a hearing aid might miss out on weighty information. They may appear for a company meeting at 4 if it was actually at 2 pm, for example. Employers tend to value those with astute attention to detail, which is a challenge when you can not hear the specifics.

Work environments can be noisy and chaotic, too. A person with hearing loss can become confused with all that noise around them. They’ll struggle to talk on the phone, to listen to customers and to understand what colleagues are saying because in a loud environment the background sounds like clicking keyboards or an air conditioner motor become conspicuous.

Relationships

Some of the same problems at work become an issue at home. Hearing loss has the potential to cause conflict, particularly when the individual with the problem continues to deny it. Little things such as saying “what” a lot during discussions and turning the TV up too loud irritate friends, relatives, and spouses.

They may attempt to intervene and encourage this person to recognize their hearing loss, which leads to friction, also. It’s very common for someone with hearing loss to sequester themselves and refuse to go out and spend time with others. They struggle to keep up with conversations, so that they so what the can to avoid them.

Mental Health Concerns

The problems at work and house take a toll on mental health over time. A 2014 study performed by the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders discovered a cause and effect relationship between hearing loss and melancholy. Their research suggests an increased risk of depression, particularly among women and individuals under the age of 70. Their risk of depression goes from 5 percent to approximately 11 percent with hearing loss.

A second study by the Senior Research Group suggests that the risk of mental health problems including depression, anxiety and paranoia goes up when a individual with hearing loss doesn’t use hearing aids. The study participants who didn’t wear hearing aids reported everything from feelings of sadness to sudden fits of anger more frequently than those who did wear them.

Safety Issues

Safety is always a concern for the hearing impaired. Most security systems, while it’s a smoke or carbon monoxide detector or a perimeter alarm, work based on noise. They exude a high-frequency noise if there’s a danger. Even people with minor hearing loss can have trouble hearing high pitched tones.

Personal security becomes an issue when a individual with hearing loss crosses the road or drives a car, too. Sound serves to signal problems like a car coming down the street or a horn honking.

Cognitive Functioning

Medical science has made a connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss. It’s not clear why people with hearing loss have a greater risk of dementia. The current theory is that the mind struggles to listen and to compensate, it robs other vital functions like short-term memory.

A 2011 study conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine discovered that someone with minor hearing loss is twice as likely to develop dementia. Moderate hearing loss increases the risk by three times and an individual with severe hearing impairment is five times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Hearing health is just 1 factor in memory loss conditions, but it is an important one.

When a person has hearing loss, it’s true there is probably something wrong with their ears, but that’s just where it begins. The fantastic news is that getting help in the form of hearing aids and other treatment options lowers the chance of mental health problems, dementia and the various issues associated with hearing decline.





Modern Hearing Aids are a Service Not Just a Device

By: Scot Frink : March 27, 2018

Woman is being fitted for her first hearing aid by an audiologist

When a person goes out to purchase hearing aids, they are looking for a product to buy. With that in mind, it is typical for them to only think only about the cost of what they are getting. It’s true that a quality hearing device is costly, but you need to shift your thinking. If you consider the service you get from a hearing aid and put aside the cost factor, it starts to make more sense. You spend your life buying stuff because it provides a valuable service like a new car or a house. Both of these things will set you back, too, but you buy them anyway because otherwise, you have no transportation or roof over your head.

Buying a hearing aid introduces you to another critical service because without it, you can’t hear and that affects your ability to do important things like talk to your boss or listen to a customer. Losing that sense means you won’t hear the traffic as you drive to work or when you walk across the street. It also gets in the way of you from creating, strengthening, and maintaining the essential aspect of life, relationships.

Hearing aids are not a luxury when your hearing changes. It’s a device that provides a critical service to you. Consider some facts about hearing aids you might not know and why they are more service than a product.

What Does a Hearing Aid Do?

Let’s start with the basics. What is a hearing aid and why do you need it? A hearing aid is a device that provides amplification, but it does more than just that one thing. Modern digital hearing aids:

  • Filter out background noise
  • They increase and decrease the volume automatically through gain processing
  • They analyze the sound environment
  • They pick up conversation even in a noisy room
  • They help you determine where a sound came from

They are also self-learning, in other words, they begin to know how you hear and learn what sounds matter to you. They can use that information to improve their service. There is no more annoying feedback, either, like you used to hear coming from your grandpa’s hearing aid. Modern hearing aids include digital feedback reduction. Today’s hearing aids offer Bluetooth-compatibility, as well, so they work with computers, tablets, and smartphones. No need to take the hearing aid out to answer the phone.

Why do Hearing Aids Cost So Much?

That’s a reasonable question because if you are going to think of your hearing aid a service, you have a right to know why it costs so much. Some critical elements that go into creating your hearing aid include:

  • Advanced technology
  • Durability and long battery life
  • Personal design and fitting
  • Warranty
  • Free trials

You can buy cheap hearing aids online, but they don’t have the same technology as a quality product nor do they have all the perks of a personal fitting, trial period, or in-person assistance. You might as well just hold a glass up to your ear and hope for the best.

Things to Consider When Buying a Hearing Aid

When you buy a car or house, you do research first, right? Take that same approach when purchasing a hearing aid but keep in mind that it is a service. Start by figuring out how you will pay for this service. Does your health insurance cover hearing aids? Many don’t, but it can’t hurt to check. You can do this by directly calling your insurance provider or audiologist.

How about some kind of special funding plan? Are you a veteran, for example? The VA might pay for the hearing aid. You might also qualify for federal or state assistance, and you can look into civil organizations, too.

Next, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and hearing test. If you don’t already know why you suffer hearing loss, find out before you spend money on a hearing aid. It might be a side effect of a medical problem like diabetes. If you treat the condition, you might not need a hearing aid.

It is also important to get a professional hearing test, so you buy the right hearing aid. A practice like ours can use your hearing test to customize the settings on any device you choose, so it best serves your needs.

Finally, meet with a specialist in person. The Internet doesn’t know what kind of hearing aid you need – that requires a personal touch. Sit down with an expert and write out what you hope to get from your hearing aid beyond just amplification. Do you want one that connects to your mobile device? Do you want the volume to adjust automatically? You are paying for this service, so get what you want from it.

Once you pick out the right hearing aid, look at the various service options. Does it come with a warranty? How about a free trial, so you know it’s the right one for you?

By seeing your hearing aid as a service – a necessary one – you’ll be able to look past the price tag towards what it can do for your life.





How to Find First-Rate Hearing Protection for You

By: Scot Frink : March 20, 2018

Man trying to research hearing protection online and having questions.

One in every 10 Americans lose their ability to hear due to noise pollution. Often, the damage done by noise is gradual. It is not just explosions that are the problem, but more the stuff you experience on a day-to-day basis in your home or at work. With each new day, you hear noises that you don’t realize is a problem such as the headphones you wear to listen to music or sounds at work like equipment running. Safeguarding your hearing from noise-related loss is one of the best health decisions you can make, but how do you know what products offer this protection?

Assess Your Noise Exposure Needs

It is tricky to consider different options offered for hearing protection and find the type that works for you. There are a few of things to consider such as:

  • Why you want hearing protection? Is it for your job or perhaps you need them for a sport like hunting?
  • How much does it cost? The pricing goes from really cheap to very expensive, so budget is worth thinking about.
  • How comfortable is it? If you are buying something that you will wear most of the day, then comfort is an issue.

There are also some safety concerns to keep in mind. Avoid hearing protection that gets in the way of movement or introduces blind spots. If you are looking to save your ears from work-related sounds, then have a conversation with your employer before paying for anything out of pocket. Many companies offer hearing protection as part of your benefits or at least can guide you on what right type to buy and the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) you need.

What is the NRR?

The NRR rating listed on hearing protection devices offers a critical piece of information to you. The Noise Reduction Rating determines how well the device blocks out a sound. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires manufacturers to do tests and provide rating information based on their findings. The NRR measurement is in decibels and states the maximum amount of sound that device is able to block. A hearing protection product with an NRR of 26 will block a maximum of 26 decibels.

For most occupational hearing protection devices, you look for something to block double the amount you experience on the job. You might buy a device with an NRR of 200 if your exposure is around 100 decibels. By the way, 100 dB is about the amount of noise created by tractors and other kinds of equipment.

What Types of Hearing Protection Devices are Available?

When it comes to hearing protection devices, you are typically talking about:

  • Earplugs
  • Canal caps
  • Earmuffs

There may be variations within each category and even some hybrid products out there.

Earplugs

Earplugs come in moldable foam that is disposable or pre-molded one-size-fits-all reusable plugs. There are pros and cons for both styles of earplugs. It comes down to personal choice for most wearers. The disposable foam plugs tend to have higher NRR ratings and will fit better in your ear canals. The downside to these plugs is cost. They are like disposable contact lenses; you have to keep buying fresh ones.

The pre-molded plugs are more economical but can breed infection if not cleaned regularly. The form doesn’t fit as well as the moldable ones, either, making them difficult to keep in place.

Canal Caps

Canal caps are like earplugs with a flexible band. They also come with moldable tips or pre-molded ends. The benefits of this hearing protection device are that you can take them out quickly and let the band hang around your neck. They work better than earplugs if you anticipate wearing them on and off throughout the day.

Earmuffs

Earmuffs look like headphones, and some even have mics in them so you can talk to other people through a wireless connection. They are easy to wear and use, too, but tend to be heavy and can make your ears sweat. Although you may pay more for quality earmuffs initially, they last longer and will probably save you money over time.

Choosing the Right Ear Protection

Once you determine what NRR rating you need for your ear protection device, the next thing to consider is your comfort and ease of use. If you want something that is less confining, then earplugs or canal caps are probably the best choices. You might even want to get different types of ear protection for the seasons. For example, canal caps will be less cumbersome in warm weather, but earmuff will keep you more comfortable in the cold.

The key is to try the various types of ear protection and see what works best for your situation. A person who needs something for work has different criteria then a person who wants to protect their ears while they hunt or on the shooting range.





Ask an Expert.

computer-icon

Meet the Team

The best way to pick the right hearing expert is to get to know them.

Click Here >

computer-icon

What Our Patients Say

Find out what people you may know in your community say about our services.

Read More >

computer-icon

Talk to the Experts

Call us today to cut through the confusion about hearing loss and hearing aids.

Find Out More >

“Outstanding Service – Very Professional And Knowledgeable Staff! Purchased first set of hearing aids recently and appreciate the help in picking out the right ones for me. Scott was extremely helpful, and knowledgeable about his products, He provided a variety of options. Staff members maintain a positive and caring attitude and provide assistance as needed. I am very happy with my new Starkey Halo aids and how they work with my iphone. I can recommend Salem Audiology without hesitation!”

testimonial Doug W., Patient