Hearing aids make life better – is that a true statement? Like most medical devices, there are larger than life myths surrounding hearing aids. Which ones are right and which ones are wrong, though? It’s difficult to know because there is such a wide range of hearing aids on the market and hearing loss is a complicated topic. What do you think? Do hearings aids make life better? They do for most people, however; they don’t work for every kind of hearing loss. Consider five more myths about hearing aids that are plain wrong.
1. Hearing Aids Make You Feel Old
Some styles of hearing aids are unique and, perhaps, a little dated, but the technology has come very far in the last few decades. Modern hearing aids come in brilliant colors that should make you feel anything but old. They are also available in stealth designs, so no one even has to know you are wearing one.
2. You have to be Deaf to Need a Hearing Aid
Hearing aids are a practical choice for most levels of loss, not just those almost profoundly deaf. Studies show the even mild hearing loss has a considerable impact on thinking and brain health. Hearing aids provide filtering and amplification, too, so, if even the hearing loss isn’t severe, having them helps make things better.
3. You Should get Just One Hearing Aid and Save Money
This is a common misconception. The problem is that you don’t just hear in one ear, so even if your loss is more pronounced on one side, get two hearing aids to localize the sound. It’s just confusing if the hearing on one side sounds different.
4. Hearing Aids Just Make Things Sound Louder
That is the primary function of a hearing aid, but not the only one. Today’s modern hearing aids do many amazing things. They measure the amount of amplification you need based on the volume and quality of the sound, for example. A soft voice is just as clear as the TV show you are watching.
Hearing aids are able to filter out background noises, too. Environmental sounds are a problem for those with a hearing impairment. Something as basic as a fan may block out all other sounds. Hearing aids can filter out that fan noise, so you hear people talking to you. Many hearing devices come with directional microphones, as well, so those days of trying to figure out where a sound is coming from are over.
5. You Can’t Use Your Phone with a Hearing Aid
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many hearing assistance devices are Bluetooth ready, meaning they connect to your phone, tablet or computer directly. They also have microphones built into them, so you can talk on the phone hands-free.
The right provider will consider many things before making a hearing aid recommendation to you. They look at your hearing test, for example, to determine your level of hearing loss. They consider what you do for a living and what features like Bluetooth might work well for you. Your job is to ask questions so you can make an informed decision when buying hearing aids and not be fooled by the myths.
It’s difficult to watch someone you love struggle, especially with something as basic as hearing. The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates one in every three people over the age of 65 will develop age-related hearing loss – many of them will be husbands with loving wives by their side letting them avoid testing. That leaves the wives with a struggle of their own. How do you get that silly man to a hearing test and maybe to get hearing aids?
The core skill of talking to one another is the foundation of a good marriage, but what can you do with the man that doesn’t want to hear about hearing loss? Consider some tips that will get you talking once again.
Consider Some Key Facts
Knowledge is power, so here’s what you need to know about age-related hearing loss. This condition called presbycusis and most people get it eventually. Presbycusis is the wear and tear breakdown of the nerve cells that translate sound into electrical impulses that the brain can interpret. The sound goes into the ear in a wave that moves small hair cells designed to create electrical impulses. Over time, the hair cells stop working well so the brain doesn’t get a clear signal.
Not all age-related ear conditions affect the nerves of the inner ear, though. For some, conduction or the movement of sound waves to the inner ear is the problem. Maybe the eardrum or bones in the middle ear wear down. This is why getting an ear exam and a hearing test is a critical step for the proper treatment of hearing loss. Not all forms respond to hearing aids, so an accurate diagnosis is a key to getting him the help he needs.
Understand the Signs
The next step is to figure out whether he really can’t hear or is just not listening. There are a lot of changes in the body as you go into those golden years, many of them could make him seem distant or like he’s not paying attention including cognitive problems such as dementia. Only a medical professional can make a diagnosis but wives can look for the signs of hearing loss to get some insight.
- Does he asks you to repeat yourself often?
- Does he covers his ears when the TV is on or a fan is blowing in the room?
- Does it seem like he has problems understanding conversion in public when there are background noises like other people talking or cars going by on the street?
- Does he seem like he is trying to avoid talking to people or joining discussions?
- Does he act depressed for no clear reason?
Anyone one of these signs may indicate the onset of hearing loss.
Plan to Have the Talk
Get creative with your initial approach. For example, you might begin leaving some hearing aid literature around the house and forgetting about them. If he asks, say you were just looking into options for yourself. It’s a good time to mention that you would like to schedule a hearing test, as well, but you think you should get them together. It’s a discreet way to introduce the subject without making it all about his hearing loss.
If he claims there is nothing wrong with his hearing, provide recent examples of when you both struggled with a conversation. Make it clear that there is a problem but you are not sure if it’s you, him or both.
Get Right to the Point
If the soft approach doesn’t work on your man, then be more direct. Sit down with him and talk about how you feel. Avoid talking specifically about his hearing problems but, instead, talk about how hard it is for you to watch him struggle or how much you miss conversations with him. Tell him, gently, that having to repeat yourself or keep checking to make sure he heard you is upsetting to you.
Concentrate on his fear of the diagnosis, too. Most people, probably even you, experience hearing loss at this time in life. It’s a natural process and not a sign of a more serious medical condition.
Discuss about how simple hearing tests are and how much that technology has improved over the last few years. There are hearing aids available the no one can see, ones that work with phones even hearing products that look like Bluetooth devices. No one would have to know he was wearing a hearing aid or he can use it to impress his friends and family his mad tech skills.
The most important thing is to let him know he is not alone in this struggle. Offer to get a hearing test of your own and to accompany him to all his appointments. Just having you there by his side may be all it takes to get him on the right track.
Do you hear that ringing in your ears and wonder where it comes from? You’re not alone. It is estimated by the Hearing Health Foundation that 20 percent of Americans hear that same ringing sound, or ones similar to it, each day. Only around 16 percent of those with tinnitus will discuss the problem with a physician even though it disrupts their lives. Of that 20 percent, 90 percent of them also live with hearing loss even if they realize it. It is a growing concern throughout the country, but what does all the noise mean?
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the medical name for the phantom sound in your ears. There is no one source for this noise – it’s actually a symptom of another problem, one usually associated with loss of hearing.
Tinnitus is more of a sensation than an actual sound, too. This is why no one else hears the noise that’s keeping you awake at night. There are no sound waves causes this phenomenon, instead, it relates directly to tiny hairs inside the inner ear that produce an electrical signal telling the brain there is a sound. These cells are misfiring, sending random electrical impulses not based on any true noise.
Is There More to It Than Just Ringing
Tinnitus is usually described as a high-pitched ringing, but not everyone hears the same thing. Some report:
Others say it sounds like you are pressing your ear up against a seashell to hear the waves. The diversity of sounds is one thing that makes this condition confusing, especially for some who fails to get medical treatment or a hearing test.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is simply a mechanical breakdown of a critical part of the human ear but what is behind this breakdown? For most people, the answer is presbycusis, a form of hearing loss related to aging. Presbycusis is degenerative, so it tends to get worse as the person gets older. Other potential illnesses that present with tinnitus include:
- Loud sounds – It might be a one-time bang or something that is a day to day problem like machinery, earphones or exposure to loud music
- A build up of earwax – Earwax in the ear canal block sound waves interfering with your hearing
- Ear bone growth – This is a genetic problem that changes the bones in the ear
There are other possibilities, although they are rare, such as Ménière’s disease, which refers to increased pressure inside the ear. Jaw problems may be a source of the ringing, as well. For some, the noise is a consequence of a head injury that damaged the nerves in the ear. It might also be a sign of high blood pressure, a rare tumor in the ear or a side effect of a medication.
What Can You Do About Tinnitus?
First, make an appointment for a hearing test and ear examination to figure out the cause of the ringing. Once you treat the underlying hearing loss with something like a hearing aid, the ringing may resolve over time. Tinnitus is usually a sign of hearing loss that may be affecting your life in other ways, too, like isolating you during conversations or leaving you feeling like you are missing things. Once you identify your hearing loss, then getting hearing aids increases real sounds so the phantom ones are less of an issue.
There are other things you can do at home, too, to help deal with what can be an annoying and distracting problem. White noise machines produce environmental sounds that sooth your mind, especially if tinnitus is keeping you awake. You can fall asleep listening to the rain, for example, instead of that buzzing in your head.
You can create your own background noise, too, to deflect some of the tinnitus chaos. A fan blowing in the room might help or a humidifier – anything that produces a soft, but persistent sound to keep the hair cells in the ear busy so they don’t misfire.
It’s important to remember, though, that the ringing is trying to tell you something. Most likely the message is about hearing loss, so it’s worth a trip to the doctor to get a hearing test and find out more about your ear health.
Is hearing loss more than just awkward? Left undiagnosed, hearing loss has a major effect on wellness, careers and, yes, including your social life. Individuals tend to take their hearing for granted, that is until they start noticing little things like conversations that seem faint or chronically low sound on the television. It might take a minute to connect the dots between the things they no longer hear and their potentially failing ear health.
Of course, there are ways to circumvent hearing challenges in the beginning like asking people to repeat themselves all the time or turning up the volume but it does change things – beginning with your social life. Consider some ways that your social life might suffer if you don’t take the steps necessary to improve your hearing.
You’re Left Out of the Conversation
Communication is a large part of being social, but that becomes difficult with a gradual hearing loss. It will start small with certain sounds dropping out when you are listening to someone talk. For instances, people with mild hearing loss tend to complain about not hearing words with “S” or “F” clearly. Certain voices might sound faint or mumbled, as well – usually high or low pitches.
In time, background noise takes over your conversations. It’s impossible to hear anything but the fan blowing or the AC running as you try to listen. Something as simple as the wind blowing leads to frustration.
You may start to feel left out as the people around you talk but you struggle to hear and understand everything they say. That feeling of isolation in a room full of conversation has an impact.
You Experience Real Isolation
Not being able to hear a loved one, friend or family member says leads to mistakes and maybe even conflicts. The people in your life can start to treat you differently, trying to avoid conversations because you don’t understand them. They can’t talk to you, so it makes them uncomfortable to be around you. The phone stops ringing because you never answer anyway. When you do hear it ring, it’s a struggle to interpret what is being said.
The people in your life don’t ask you to hang out anymore, as much as they used to either. You don’t understand the movies or TV shows, anymore, so it just gets messy. When your hearing loss began, you felt a little isolated, but as it gets worse, you spend more time alone or on social media pages instead of seeing your friends in person.
They say good relationships require effective communication, but that suffers when you start to lose your hearing. What once was a partnership built around your ability to talk to one another is now a series of miscommunications. Maybe, you didn’t stop and pick up milk because you have no idea she asked you to do it or you miss a date because you got the time wrong.
That special person in your life may get frustrated because every conversation consists of you saying “What?”. As difficult as it is to experience hearing loss, it’s just as hard to see a change in someone you love without understanding why it’s happening. You lose that connection you once had with a close friend or partner because you refuse to accept that you need to see a hearing professional for help.
It’s depressing to think of how many ways losing your can hearing cost you, but for most people, there is hope. It’s estimated that 14 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 65 suffer mild to moderate hearing loss. For these individuals, getting a professional hearing test and investing in hearing aids is all it takes to return them to the social life they once enjoyed.
If you look over your box of swabs in the bathroom, you’ll find the following warning (or one very similar to it): “WARNING: Do not insert the swab into ear canal.” You need to listen to this warning while you can still hear. Everyone from your hearing care professional and the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) to your grandma agrees on this. Here are 5 reasons to find some other way to use your swabs besides ear cleaning:
1. Who Needs Swabs When You’ve Got Ear Wax?
Ear wax is actually called “cerumen” by scientists and doctors, and it’s not actually even wax in the traditional sense. It’s an ear-cleaning solution that’s made specifically by your ears to keep your ears clean. So why would you want to get rid of it? It traps stray dust and dirt, preventing it from getting deeper into your ear canal. Then, as you go through your day talking, chewing and yawning, those actions actually move the soiled ear wax down and out of the ear canal where you can easily wipe it out with a washcloth during your shower. So easy, right? Ear wax, for all its gross appearance, is pretty cool!
So whenever you stick a finger, swab, key, fork, pencil, chopstick, etc. into your ear to dig out what you think is unnecessary ear wax, you’re actually thwarting your ears own self-cleaning process, shoving cerumen back down into the ear canal where it might get impacted and cause hearing loss—or injury from sticking things into your ears that you shouldn’t.
2. Ear Wax is Customized for Healthy Ears
Sure, most of us shudder at the thought of noshing an ear wax flavored Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor jellybean, but cerumen actually has many special properties that help keep your ears healthy. Special glands inside of the ear canal produce a special recipe of cerumen just for your own ears. This recipe contains a mixture of long-chain fatty acids, alcohols, enzymes, cholesterol, sebum, sloughed off skin cells and other chemicals that perform a wide range of ear-protecting functions like:
- It’s antimicrobial; it protects your ears against viral, fungal and bacterial infections very effectively.
- It repels insects—their sensitive sense of smell finds ear wax too stinky.
- It lubricates and moisturizes the ear canal, keeping it healthy and soft.
- Healthy ear wax is slightly acidic, something else that hinders fungal and bacterial growth in your ears.
Thanks again, ear wax!
3. Hearing Loss and Ear Wax Removal is a Reality
You may already have sustained some level of hearing loss, just from the process of swab-based ear wax removal habits. This type of ear wax removal actually shoves soiled, old ear wax further down into the ear canal where it can become impacted and cause hearing loss. If you’ve been doing this for years, schedule an appointment with your hearing care professional to have them check whether you have impacted ear wax that might be causing some amount of hearing loss.
Now, you may be one of those people who actually do have a problem with ear wax (beyond just wanting it gone). Some people make too much, while others don’t make enough. Occasionally, it may be too wet, too dry or not have the right balance of ingredients to get the job done right. Nevertheless, you still shouldn’t try to remedy or clean it out yourself with a swab or anything else (smaller than your elbow). If you’re worried about the health of your ear wax, please get in touch with your hearing care professional for an evaluation.
Now, if you need to wear hearing aids, you do need to pay attention to ear wax buildup and proper ear cleaning because sometimes that can impact ear wax into the ear canal. But still—no swabs! That’s why it’s so important to follow your hearing care professional’s recommendations on gentle ear washing and regular cleaning of your hearing aids to keep the balance right and your hearing healthy.
4. Save Your Family from Ear Cleaning Injuries
But sadly, they happen all too often. About 12,500 kids all across America end up in the doctor’s office each year with ear cleaning injuries like torn tympanic membrane (ear drum) or cuts and lacerations inside the ear canal. Unfortunately, these accidents can cause hearing loss, particularly during a developmentally important time in life. Aggressive ear cleaning with pointy objects is something the whole family could do without.
And don’t get us started on “ear candling”. Thousands of people sustain “ear candling” injuries every year, which is very unfortunate. Often advertised at your local health food store as a “natural ear wax removal” technique, ear candling enthusiasts stick a hollow, cone-shaped candle into their ear canals and set it on fire. Who thought that was a good idea? Just because it’s billed as “ancient” and “natural” doesn’t mean it’s actually good. Here’s what you need to know about ear candles:
- It’s been proven ineffective for ear cleaning and can actually make ear wax impaction worse.
- It causes burn injuries to the face, ears, hair, etc. – even burns that go all the way to the ear drum and middle ear.
- It’s also been known to puncture the ear drum.
So no ear candling for you!
5. Ear Cleaning Should Be Done The Safe Way…
While you’re in the shower, use your washcloth to gently wipe around your ears, taking care not to stick your finger into the ear canal. Then just towel away the excess water when you’re done and voila! Ears sufficiently cleaned. But if you have any concerns about your ear health, excess ear wax, impaction, ear injury or hearing loss, schedule an appointment with your hearing care professional today for appropriate care – and be a little more thankful for that hard-working cerumen!
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