On March 3, Celebrate World Hearing Day by Checking Your Hearing!

On March 3, Celebrate World Hearing Day by Checking Your Hearing!

On March 3, Celebrate World Hearing Day by Checking Your Hearing!

 

An exciting day is right around the corner: World Hearing Day! The World Health Organization established this annual holiday to promote awareness and healthy practices about your hearing. This year’s theme for March 3rd’s World Hearing Day is “Check Your Hearing!” When it comes to getting a hearing test, some people feel resistant to the exam. The World Health Organization’s suggestion is the first step to assure better hearing health now and far into the future.

Why World Hearing Day?

Based in Geneva, the World Health Organization is an international organization tasked with health education and promoting healthy practices to make the world a better place. They take hearing health very seriously, knowing that hearing problems and deafness afflict so many across the globe. We know the value of hearing loss prevention which includes wearing protection in the workplace, noisy environments, and even on public transportation. The World Health Organization acknowledges that some people are unaware of the hearing loss they have already experienced, whether through exposure to damaging noise levels or from other reasons. With those facts in mind, they established World Hearing Day to point people around to the world toward healthy hearing practices. This year’s theme is specifically focused on the necessity of checking your hearing.

Why Check My Hearing?

Many people find ways to avoid treatment and make accommodations for hearing loss, without realizing how much damage this can do to their overall health and well-being. The World Health Organization recommends that everyone over the age of 50 should have a regular hearing check, along with anyone under the age of 50 who works in a noisy environment or is otherwise exposed to loud sounds. Even those who simply enjoy listening to music at loud volumes, either at live concerts or through headphones or earbuds, put themselves at risk of damage.

A hearing test is an excellent way to monitor your hearing abilities. When our hearing ability starts to diminish, we begin to work around gaps in our listening experience, both consciously and unconsciously. Consciously, you may avoid situations that will make hearing very difficult, such as a dinner with family or friends in a noisy restaurant. You may also find yourself hesitant to attend a party where voices will be difficult to make out in conversation. In addition to these conscious decisions, you may be doing things unconsciously to assist your own hearing. Some of these tactics include watching the mouth of a speaker to get extra help understanding what they have to say, reading between the lines in conversations by searching for context clues, and orienting your body in a way to maximize hearing ability.

Although these strategies and habits can be effective to a point, they do not provide the assistance needed to truly address hearing loss. The results of a hearing test give you a full picture of your hearing abilities and play a crucial role in treating hearing loss.

Treating Hearing Loss with Kenwood Hearing Centers

Hearing loss affects many different areas of your life, from your relationships to your physical and emotional health. Seeking treatment for hearing loss brings significant benefits beyond simply the ability to hear. Even if an annual hearing test finds that you do not have a hearing loss, establishing a baseline of your hearing ability is useful for monitoring your overall health and well-being. If a hearing loss is found, our team at Kenwood Hearing Centers will consult with you to review the details of your exam, and help you understand why certain environments and situations may make conversations difficult.

With this knowledge in hand, our team can make recommendations to allow you to be more confident in situations when listening is challenging. Often this recommendation will include the use of hearing aids, and the World Health Organization concurs that these should be made available to all with hearing loss around the world. Approximately 466 million people live with hearing loss around the world, and these measures can move many of these people from disability to recovered ability through assistance. This March, get on board with World Hearing Day, and schedule your test with us at Kenwood Hearing Centers!

Posted in Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Testing, Holidays, News

Nonverbal Cues to Help You in Meetings

Nonverbal Cues to Help You in Meetings

Nonverbal Cues to Help You in Meetings

For better or for worse, meetings are a key part of working life. You might spend more time in meetings than you think, and studies show that middle managers usually spend 35% of their time meeting co-workers. For those in upper management, you likely spend half of your time locked in the meeting room. And this number is rising – the time Americans spend in meetings has risen by 10% each year since 2000.

Working with Hearing Loss

The Hearing Loss Association of America found that 60% of Americans with hearing loss are still working or in education. This means that over half of the working population may be struggling to understand their colleagues in meetings and learning institutions across the country. This lack of understanding might be the reason those with untreated hearing loss typically make on average $20,000 less per year than those who wear hearing aids! This makes sense: communication is the bedrock of all well-functioning teams and if communication breaks down, then productivity will suffer. That’s why it’s so important for those with hearing loss to follow certain strategies to maximize their effectiveness in meetings.

Nonverbal Cues to Help You in Meetings

For anyone looking to pick up on non-verbal cues, it can be helpful to learn from those who use them all day, every day. Laurie Achin is deaf, and she’s an American Sign Language faculty member at Northeastern University. She is an expert in studying facial expressions, gestures, and body language to find the nuances that add layers of meaning to people’s words. A lot can be inferred through how a person walks, sits in a chair, or takes a sip of water. What can we learn from her and others like her in order to become more effective in meetings?

Recognize the way people show understanding

Many people rely on backchannels to make sure they’ve been understood. These are the ‘uh huhs’ and ‘hmms’ we say when listening to someone speak. As these are less accessible to those with hearing loss, try leading by example and nodding along when you are understanding a point that someone has made. We humans tend to mirror the actions of our peers, and this can influence others to communicate visually rather than audibly.

Be aware of body language after any important point that you are making. If your colleagues are nodding along then it is obviously a good sign – as is eye contact while you are talking.

Recognize signals that others want to speak

If someone is restless in their chair when you’re speaking, it usually means that your colleague wants to speak, so make some space to allow them to enter the conversation. If you are in an online meeting without video, you won’t be able to notice small things like these. In that case, it is useful to establish a period of silence at the end of each section, which allows space for people to add their own thoughts or ask any questions they might have. Another way to enhance communication in an online meeting is to use a program that allows other users to send public messages during the meeting without interrupting the speaker.

Recognize signs that someone needs to interrupt

You can usually tell when someone wants to interrupt. Interrupting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes your colleague may have a pertinent point to add to the topic that everyone needs to hear. While some approaches to interrupting might seem a little rude, such as tapping someone on the shoulder or a waving your hand to get attention, there are other ways to interject a thought into the conversation.

The solution is to ensure that everyone has a chance to speak. You’ll know that someone wants to interrupt if they’re squirming in their chair, leaning forward, or even raising their shoulders towards their ears. Noticing these nonverbals and giving them a chance to speak will solve the tendency of people to interrupt each other, and give everyone an opportunity to listen more attentively to all opinions.

Take steps to treat your hearing loss with Kenwood Hearing Centers

In addition to these communication tips, wearing hearing aids to treat your hearing loss is one of the most important ways to ensure you have a happy and successful working life. For a comprehensive hearing exam and expert hearing aid fitting, contact Kenwood Hearing Centers today!

Posted in Communication, Hearing Loss, Tips and Tricks

Hearing Loss Among Assisted Living Residents: Earwax May Be the Culprit

Hearing Loss Among Assisted Living Residents: Earwax May Be the Culprit

Hearing Loss Among Assisted Living Residents: Earwax May Be the Culprit

The main culprit to hearing loss among seniors is presbycusis — hearing loss due to aging — but more and more hearing care specialists and providers are meeting patients who experience hearing loss due to earwax buildup. Earwax is one of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss, blockage to the inner ear canal. Luckily for you and your loved ones, it is the most treatable. Read on to learn about the function of earwax, how excessive buildup can lead to hearing loss, and the best steps in addressing the problems.

Earwax is Actually Useful to our Bodies

When you think of earwax, you generally are turned off by that nasty, oily, greasy substance lying on the inner canals of your ear. You might even want to get rid of it as much as you can. But before you do, understand that it plays an important function in protecting our ears.

Cerumen, as earwax is scientifically known, naturally forms in our ears as a barrier in stopping dust, debris, or dirt from entering the deep, often sensitive parts of your ear. Earwax also plays a role as moisturizer for one’s outer ear, preventing any dryness, irritation, or infection. It also protects any type of bugs or critters from entering your inner ear as the smell of earwax is odious to bugs.

Our ears are designed to clean themselves. Once the earwax accumulates too much dirt or dry skin, it naturally detaches from the sides of our ears. Chewing or moving your jaw also helps loosen the earwax to the outer parts where it eventually falls out or is washed away when we shower. In some instances, though, certain people’s ears may produce excess wax that could lead to conductive hearing loss.

Impaction: When Earwax Builds Up in Your Ear

According to Jackie Clark, president of the American Academy of Audiology, excessive amounts of earwax buildup could lead to hearing loss. Earwax buildup or impaction may cause more than just the inability to hear clearly. Other symptoms include earaches, a feeling of fullness or clogging in the ear, or even tinnitus — the ringing or buzzing noise in the ear. If excessive earwax is not removed, this could lead to infection, severe pain, drainage from the ear, or fever-like symptoms.

Earwax impaction is particularly common among seniors, although it can impact people of all ages. Studies have shown that nearly thirty percent of elderly people face earwax buildup to the point where it can completely block the canal. Of the 2.2 million people who live in U.S. assisted living facilities or nursing homes, nearly two-thirds of them suffer from this condition.

A study conducted in Japan in 2014 researched the effect of cerumen impaction on hearing and cognitive functions in elderly Japanese patients. The findings revealed significant improvements in hearing and cognitive performance in these patients once the impacted earwax was removed.

Safely Removing Earwax Buildup

We have been consistently told that cotton swabs, or Q-Tips, are the best products to use to clean our ears and to remove earwax, but, that is actually the last thing you should be doing. These types of objects could actually damage your hearing. Cotton swabs or any small foreign objects that could fit in our ears actually push earwax further back into the canal, leading to further obstruction in hearing. The best way to care for your ears is to let them clean themselves.

If you experience earwax buildup that may cause a hearing loss, the good news is that cerumen impaction can be easily treated by a hearing specialist. Professionals can identify if there is earwax buildup or not using an otoscope, a device that allows them to look deep inside the ear. If there is buildup, application of commercial ear drops or saline, or usage of either syringe or curette is the safest option for removal.

Visit us at Kenwood Hearing Centers

Setting up an appointment with a licensed hearing healthcare professional is the best option towards regaining hearing and improving cognitive health. Contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers for a hearing assessment or test, and we’ll help be able to address any hearing issues you may have!

Posted in Age-Related Hearing Loss, Earwax, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Causes, News, Research

Growing Evidence That Noise is Bad for Your Health

Growing Evidence That Noise is Bad for Your Health

Growing Evidence That Noise is Bad for Your Health

The effects of pollution on our environment have been well documented for decades. We understand that the emissions of industry, transportation, and even household waste have devastating effects on our waterways, atmosphere, and soil quality. The effects of these forms of pollution also can be traced to health outcomes. Those who live in areas exposed to industrial waste and toxic substances can have higher rates of cancer, asthma, and other chronic health conditions. Pollution is a danger to our bodies, minds, communities, and our planet.

Yet, did you know that noise pollution has been traced to similarly detrimental effects on individual health?

Studying Noise Pollution

The World Health Organization has been tasked with creating guidelines for the acceptable amounts of noise pollution in areas with human exposure. Stephen Stansfeld, a professor of psychiatry at Queen Mary University of London, brought together eight scientific studies of the effects of noise on our health. This metadata was contributed to the World Health Organization’s findings and recommendations.

In the past, the World Health Organization has recommended levels of noise for aircraft, rail, and roadways. For instance, prolonged exposure to road noise has been linked with increased risk of abdominal obesity and diabetes. Although these effects could be the result of confounding variables such as prolonged stress, road traffic noise has also been associated with an increased risk of a heart attack. Yet, in the most recent report and recommendation, they have added two new forms of noise pollution that have negative effects on our health: wind turbines and leisure noise.

The health evidence on wind turbines is still coming in. It is sure to cause annoyance for those who live close to them, and there is mounting evidence that they may have an effect on sleep. These effects are difficult to disentangle from the visual appearance of wind turbines, the low-frequency nature of their audio emissions, and the bias of study subjects when it comes to their opinions of wind power. In this case, some consider the positive effects of reduced carbon emissions associated with wind power along with the negative effects on the comfort of those who live nearby them.

On the other hand, the health effects of leisure noise have been demonstrated widely and significantly. Loud noise from leisure locations, such as nightclubs, pubs, fitness classes, live sporting events, and concerts or live music venues, as well as listening to loud music through headphones, can have a serious effect on the individual who is exposed. It is a concern that exposure to these types of noise may bring about tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Anecdotally, many people report this experience, yet they tend to find that the ringing goes away not long after the exposure stops. Researchers are investigating links with other adverse health effects for those who constantly expose themselves to leisure noise, as well as the residents who live nearby such establishments. The connection with annoyance, frustration, and stress is undeniable; those who constantly hear loud noise through their windows report these mental symptoms. The linked health effects remain unknown.

Raising Awareness on Noise Pollution

These guidelines by the World Health Organization were prepared for Europe, but they can be extended to all parts of the globe, as well. The effects of transportation noise have long been the subject of policy interventions, requiring lower noise emissions on trains, planes, and automobiles. Noise pollution for those who live nearby major transportation hubs and thoroughfares, such as airports, train yards, and freeways, undergo constant exposure, although at a lower overall level. The addition of these two new forms of noise pollution should be taken under consideration by other countries beyond Europe, as well. Wind turbines may only cause annoyance, but the possibility of noise-related health effects remains unknown.

The other addition—leisure noise—is more troubling, because many individuals subject themselves to such noise at loud levels and repeatedly over time. Those who love live music may be piling on the cognitive and physical load of loud noise day after day. If you are someone who is exposed to leisure noise on a regular basis, it may be a cue that you should have your hearing checked. Acquiring hearing assistance and protection can help keep you from encountering further health problems in the years to come.

Visit Us at Kenwood Hearing Centers

Are you concerned about your hearing abilities? Kenwood Hearing Centers has six convenient locations in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sonoma, and Fairfield, CA, providing comprehensive hearing health services. Visit us for a consultation today!

Posted in Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Causes, News, Noise Pollution, Overall Health, Research

Tips on Preventing Hearing Loss

Tips on Preventing Hearing Loss

Tips on Preventing Hearing Loss

Imagine life in a rural area before the industrial revolution. You might wake to a quiet environment including only the sounds of birds and insects. As you went about your day, you might encounter the sound of carriage wheels and a horse’s hooves against cobblestones, but even these transportation sounds might be rare. As you went about a day’s work, machines would not fill your sound environment whatsoever. In the evening you might listen to or play acoustic music for entertainment, or a family member might read a favorite text aloud.

Fast forward to our busy technologically driven lives. Alarms start the day, and the sound of grinding motors accompanies our every move. Sirens, car horns, and jackhammers are commonplace, and workplaces may include incessant machine sounds for some. Others wear headphones nearly from waking to sleeping, including all day long while working on computers. These headphones, particularly when used in already-noisy environments, can be punishingly loud. For generations our ears were accustomed to the pre-industrial sounds described above. Only in the last few centuries of human history have we been inundated with the sounds of new technology and machines. When the tiny amplifiers inside headphones are projecting sound directly into our ears, the risks are even greater.

The volume of sound is measured in decibels, and human speech tends to register around 60 decibels. Machines can deliver the auditory shock of 80 decibels or above, and a loud concert can deliver in excess of 110 decibels. Aside from the injurious noises of explosives or jet engines, our ears take a beating in the process of everyday life. With such risks around us everywhere we go, a few tips can help prevent hearing loss despite the many causes of damage.

Turn It Down

Headphones are commonplace, yet our ears are not suited to the volumes they are capable of delivering. Earbuds can easily channel 90 decibels of sound or more, and many register 100 decibels at the loudest setting. It is recommended to keep headphone use to 90 minutes per day, and even that length is best with regular breaks interspersed. If you wear headphones on public transportation, lawnmowers, or treadmills, it is easy to push the volume to the max. Invest in a set of noise-cancelling headphones to keep out the sound from the environment, enabling you to lower the volume on your mobile device or audio player. Although earbuds are convenient and easy to pop in and out, the time spent using them can add up quickly. Keep a vigilant watch on the daily time spent using headphones to preserve your hearing.

Work with Protection

The workplace can become a source of hearing injury when it includes repetitive noise or periodic loud sounds. Even workplaces that are non-industrial can have very loud sound environments, including noisy restaurants or businesses that play music throughout the day. Talk to your HR manager about assistance with hearing protection. They should be eager to help you acquire and pay for a good pair of earplugs or noise cancelling earmuffs in many instances. Custom-fitted earplugs can be very comfortable to wear and can save your ears from damage at work.

Give It A Break

Periodic breaks from sound can do wonders for protecting your hearing. When you step from a noisy urban environment into a quiet home or office, you may notice a slight ringing. If that is the case, you should not turn up the volume on a radio or television to drown it out. On the contrary, it is time to enjoy the silence for a while. You might be surprised how rejuvenating a period of quite time can be, giving your ears a break and your mind a rest from filtering out the inundation of sounds that accosts the ears. Sleeping in a quiet environment is best when it is possible. Although we can close our eyes to sleep each night, from birth to death we never blink our ears.

With these tips in mind, you can prevent hearing loss further into your later life, even if a noisy urban environment surrounds you. Although we can’t turn back the clock to rural pre-industrial days, we can work against the tide to prevent hearing loss. To learn more, contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers.

Posted in Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Prevention, Tips and Tricks

Treating Hearing Loss May Improve Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Treating Hearing Loss May Improve Alzheimer's Symptoms

Treating Hearing Loss May Improve Alzheimer's Symptoms

Did you know that September is World Alzheimer’s Month? The annual awareness campaign was launched in 2011 to raise awareness of the many stigmas and the misinformation that surrounds dementia.

Alzheimer’s is in fact the most common type of dementia. It is a degenerative brain disease that most commonly affects people’s memory. People with Alzheimer’s have difficulty remembering information that they have recently learned. As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s can also include bouts of disorientation and increased confusion about events that are happening around a person.

The disease also affects people’s moods, and it can include behavioral changes—oftentimes people experiencing Alzheimer’s disease have a sense of suspicion and paranoia about friends, loved ones, and coworkers.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease frequently affects people who are over the age of 65 and the signs and symptoms of the disease can become more intense and worsen as people age. This is not only a disease that affects older people, however. The Alzheimer’s Association also reports that early onset Alzheimer’s affects approximately 200,000 people in the United States who are under the age of 65. The disease can occur as the result of genetics as well as health, environmental, and lifestyle reasons. Scientists have been exploring the relationships between Alzheimer’s disease and vascular conditions, stroke, and blood pressure. They have explored the links between the disease and diabetes and obesity.

Scientists have also been investigating the relationships between Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss. A 2011 study conducted at Johns Hopkins tracked almost 2,000 older people— the average age was 77—to understand how hearing loss and cognitive decline may be connected. They tracked these people for between 12 and 18 years and paid particular attention to those who developed Alzheimer’s, and spent time understanding how quickly the disease progressed in their research subjects. As they write, “In one study, people with hearing loss were 24% more likely to have Alzheimer’s. In another, they found that the worse the hearing loss was, the more likely the person was to develop dementia.”

Their study came to similar conclusions as other studies investigating the relationships between hearing loss and cognitive decline. In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at Johns Hopkins determined that people with hearing loss experienced declines in cognitive skills faster than those without it. Almost 2,000 volunteers over the age of 70 were studied for 6 years, and the people with hearing loss had poorer scores on a test assessing cognitive impairment, called the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination. Where researchers estimated that people with normal hearing would take around 11 years to develop cognitive impairment, older adults with hearing loss were estimated to develop cognitive impairment in under 8 years.

Link Between Hearing Loss and Dementia

People who are experiencing untreated hearing loss are in fact at a greater risk for developing a whole host of cognitive issues, and scientists have discovered links between untreated hearing loss and dementia, which is an umbrella category for a variety of cognitive disorders. When a person is experiencing hearing loss, their brain does a lot of work in order to compensate for the loss. The areas of your brain that are devoted to other senses such as sight and touch are reorganized so that your brain can deal with your hearing loss.

While there is not a definitive causal link between hearing loss and cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease, the relationships between the two are important to note. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are ways to protect one’s hearing to ensure greater mental health in the long run. The first step is to notice the signs of Alzheimer’s, which include memory loss that interrupts daily life, difficulty planning or solving problems, and completing familiar tasks. Taking steps to develop relationships with your family doctor and hearing health professionals will ensure that that trained professionals give you the tools to understand the scope of cognitive abilities in you or your loved one.

Hearing Health

You can also practice safe hearing no matter your hearing or cognitive abilities by doing things such as using ear plugs in loud spaces and limiting the use and volume of in-ear headphones. Taking these steps will go a long way to protect the hearing you currently have and to ensure future loss from loud noise exposure is at a minimum. Periodic hearing tests are an important part of hearing health as well. To schedule your appointment and consultation, contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers today.

Posted in Dementia & Alzheimer's Disease, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Mental Health, Research

Help Delay and Even Prevent Cognitive Decline

In order to help delay and even prevent cognitive decline, it is important to understand more about your own hearing and determine if interventions are necessary. In fact, a study* conducted at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) found that older adults whose evaluation revealed the need for hearing aids performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those who needed, but did not use, a hearing aid.

http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/blog/2016/04/25/hearing-aid-use-associated-improved-cognitive-function-hearing-impaired-elderly/  

What To Do

  • Have your hearing evaluated regularly after the age of 50. The sooner you address the issue, the less likely you are to suffer
    cognitive disadvantages. Auditory processing can become more difficult with age and/or untreated hearing loss. It is important
    to identify hearing problems early on in order to keep the brain pathways strong.
  • Protect your ears. Even if you don’t need hearing aids, there are many ways to keep your ears protected from loud sounds.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle. Be wise about your overall health. According to Weill Cornell Medical School, it is important to
    prevent low blood flow, which can harm your inner ear. Exercising, eating well, getting a massage, checking the side effects of your medications, and ceasing to smoke are all steps you can take that can increase health and well being.
Posted in Health & Lifestyle, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Tips, Hearing Protection

The Link Between Hearing and Brain Function

Hearing loss is often viewed as a stand-alone medical issue. However, there are additional health concerns associated with hearing loss that shouldn’t be ignored. Studies are beginning to show that memory and brain function can both be negatively impacted as a result of hearing loss.

When we think of hearing, our first thought is generally our ears, but in reality, it is the brain that hears. Understanding the brain’s role in quality hearing is key to understanding hearing loss.

Oftentimes, the additional effort dedicated to listening when there is a decrease in hearing ability can cause stress, which in turn may result in decreased memory resources. In essence, one’s brain becomes so taxed from the mere effort of listening, that there is no energy left to remember the information that was taken in.

Here is the core issue: we actually hear with our brain, and not our ears. Our brain’s ability to analyze information heard is impacted by the effort the brain must put forth in order to first decode the actual words heard.

The link between hearing and brain function also suggests connections between hearing loss and dementia. According to multiple John Hopkins studies1, the use of properly fitted hearing aids can help in preventing dementia. In fact, hearing loss can have a greater impact on potential dementia than other health conditions or even genetic diseases.

Additionally, studies2 have shown that those who use effective hearing aids are more socially engaged and possess a more positive outlook on life. The relationships one engages in once hearing loss is treated can be yet another preventative measure when it comes to cognitive abilities, memory, and dementia. A recent study by the Journal of the American Geriatric Society3 shows that there is a greater chance of cognitive decline for those with hearing difficulties who do not use hearing aids. This is largely due to the natural tendency to withdraw from social activities when listening becomes difficult.

One of the best things you can do to preserve your memory and cognitive abilities is to get a hearing test. Be proactive about your hearing. Many hearing evaluations are covered by Medicare or insurance and can help identify any hearing difficulties you may be experiencing.

 


1 “Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss – 01/22/2014.” Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, John Hopkins Medicine, 22
Jan. 2014, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_accelerated_brain_tissue_loss_.
2 “The National Council on the Aging.” Seniors Research Group, May 1999, pp. 1–12.
3 Amieva, Hélène, et al. “Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-Year Study.” Journal of the
American Geriatrics Society, vol. 63, no. 10, 2015, pp. 2099–2104., doi:10.1111/jgs.13649
• https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_accelerated_brain_tissue_loss_
• https://www.ncoa.org/wp-content/uploads/NCOA-Study-1999.pdf

Posted in Health & Lifestyle, Hearing Health

Protect Your Hearing This Summer Festival Season

Protect Your Hearing This Summer Festival Season

Summer is in full swing and so are the outdoor festivals. Throughout history, humans have loved coming together as a community through festival celebration. The word festival was actually derived from Latin roots in the fourteenth century, and stems from the word “feast” dating back to the twelfth century. Historically, a festival was a way for a community to highlight or acclaim a specific aspect of their culture, religion, folklore, or agricultural processes.

While varied in geography and purpose, most historical festivals shared a commonality: music and dancing. The same is true today. Festivals, regardless of type, tend to be places of jubilant celebration and loud music. While these festivals and their associated noises can bring attendees a lot of joy, they also come with a bit of a dark side: their ability to damage your hearing.

Are festivals really that loud?

Not all festivals are created equal in their noise levels and potential for hearing damage. As one would expect, music festivals are the loudest – and are therefore the most likely to cause damage. In fact, a recent study published in Noise and Health, found that the average outdoor concertgoer was exposed to sounds at 95dBA, and 8% of participants were exposed to sounds at 100dBA or higher (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10710843_The_sound_exposure_of_the_audience_at_a_music_festival). Combine the fact that a sound level at 95dBA has the potential to cause damage in only about 1 hour, and most outdoor musical festivals last all day if not multiple days, it is easy to see how quickly these festivals can damage one’s hearing.

Ok, but only young people attend these concerts, and young people don’t experience hearing loss, right?

Wrong on both counts. Actually, the type of hearing loss that can be experience after noisy events such as outdoor music festivals is called Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). NIHL can affect anyone, at any age. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that over a billion young people aged 12-35 are at risk for developing noise induced hearing loss because of their noisy recreational activities. In terms of average age of festival attendees, about 16% of attendees were 35 or older according to a recent survey. Some newer festivals are actually specifically targeted for an older crowd, such as Desert Trip, which has been dubbed “Coachella for older people” or “Oldchella” (https://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/04/entertainment/desert-trip-coachella-old-people/index.html).

Regardless of these facts, it is very important that all of us – no matter what our age – are aware of the dangers of excessive noise exposure and how to protect ourselves from it.

How do I protect my hearing at an outdoor festival?

You don’t have to stay home in order to protect your hearing at outdoor music fests. There are some simple rules you can follow to help protect your hearing and still enjoy the vibes.

  1. Wear hearing protection. This one is by far the most important. If you do nothing else on this list, please use hearing protection at your festivals. If you attend concerts regularly, it might we a wise investment to purchase custom-fit hearing protection that is specifically targeted towards music-lovers. These types of earplugs are very comfortable because they are form-fitted to your ears, and also are specially crafted to ensure you hear the music the way it was intended. If custom plugs are not an option, disposable earplugs can also do the trick and can be purchased at almost any drug store and are very inexpensive.
  2. Choose a good spot. This doesn’t mean be front row! Take a minute to scan the venue setup. Most often, speakers are located on the sides of the stage. If this is the case, find a spot towards the middle or back of the audience. Even if you are standing further back, if you are in direct line of the speakers, you can still experience quite a blast.
  3. Take mini noise retreats. Noise induced hearing loss is cumulative, meaning the more often you expose yourself to noise, the more likely you are to experience loss. It is important to take mini breaks during a festival where you find a quiet place to give your ears a break. You’re not going to love each and every artist at the event – so find some time to decompress between sets. Also, take a day before or after your festival to have a day of quiet. Put down the personal listening device, turn off the TV and instead read a book or simply experience the beautiful peace of nature. Your ears will thank you!

Visit Us at Kenwood Hearing Centers

Are you concerned about your hearing abilities? Do you want to learn more about hearing health? Our team at Kenwood Hearing Centers is here to help. Contact us today for a consultation.

Posted in Hearing Health, Hearing Protection, Tips and Tricks

Untreated Hearing Loss May Make You Accident-Prone

Untreated Hearing Loss May Make You Accident-Prone

Many people think that leaving hearing loss untreated isn’t a big deal, but, in actuality, failing to treat hearing loss can have big repercussions for you and your health.  Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the way you hear, it fundamentally changes how your brain functions and more and more researchers are finding that it can leave your body overtaxed and more accident-prone.

 

Hearing Loss and Cognition

While most hearing loss originates in the ear, it quickly affects other parts of the body and brain. Most often hearing loss is caused by permanent damage in the inner ear where fragile hair cells detect sound waves and transmit the signal to our brain. Hair cells are incredibly small and sensitive and they lack the ability to repair themselves so that when they are damaged, the cell never recovers its ability to function normally.

When damaged hair cells are no longer sending sound signals to the brain, it creates a gap in our hearing. When many hair cells are not working, significant hearing loss results. The sound signal being sent to the brain is incomplete, with missing sound information.

Receiving incomplete information provokes several responses in the brain. First, the mind has to use more resources to process less information. Often, trying to hear with hearing loss, especially in loud or confusing noise situations, strains cognitive abilities. Focus is redirected from other cognitive tasks, such as balance and coordination, and used to piece together auditory information.

At the same time, the familiar neural pathways that the auditory cortex has traditionally used for hearing begin to atrophy. Our brain slowly adapts to a new way of hearing, working hard to compensate for hearing loss. By rerouting the way our hearing works, the infrastructure of our ability to hear is changed. The more time it has to change, the more challenging it can be to recover our sense of hearing when treatment is sought. It’s never too late to think about your hearing health but the sooner you confront hearing issues, the easier it is to adjust to treating them!

 

Cognition and Accidents

Hearing loss pulls from our cognitive resources and redistributes our focus and attention, prioritizing auditory deciphering. This rearrangement of cognitive functioning has several results, all of which can increase the incidence of accidents and falling injuries.

Cognitive attention is fundamental to keeping us out of harm’s way as we move through the world. When focus is diverted towards keeping up with what we hear, other cognitive tasks often come up short. When it comes to coordination and balance, the result can be quite serious and put a person in danger of serious injury. The less mental space we have for maintaining our physical movements, the more likely accidents become.

Keeping up with conversation or navigating a complicated sound environment with hearing loss can easily become quite exhausting. To properly give our attention to the audio information coming in, the brain works extra hard in ways that it often has to improvise. The resulting fatigue can leave us feeling drained and further affect our ability to coordinate our actions and avoid obstacles.

 

 Finding Solutions

Luckily, there’s a solution for untreated hearing loss – treating it! Most hearing loss can be effectively treated with hearing aids, helping to curtail the cognitive burden hearing loss places on the brain. Modern hearing aids offer better sound recovery than ever before in a range of discreet and powerful designs to fit every lifestyle. When we treat hearing loss, we give our body and brain  the gift of relief from cognitive strain.

 

Kenwood Hearing Centers

If it is time to treat your hearing issues, it’s time to make an appointment with Kenwood Hearing Centers. Our hearing specialists offer personalized care and comprehensive audiological testing. We listen to your needs to match you with the ideal hearing solution for your lifestyle, programmed specifically to best recover the areas of your hearing where you need it most. Hearing aids can help you recover your hearing health, and change your overall health as well, so get in touch with Kenwood Hearing Centers today!

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