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!

Posted in Health & Lifestyle, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, News, Research

Communication Tips for the Whole Family

Communication Tips for the Whole Family

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month! For the past 91 years, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has been working tirelessly to promote health and wellbeing for all Americans by raising awareness of communication and language disorders. This includes hearing loss.

Better Speech and Hearing Month is a time to recognize the negative health outcomes of living with hearing loss and bring awareness to prevention and treatment options. This year’s theme is Communication for All, and Kenwood Hearing Centers is here to help you communicate.

 

Don’t Underestimate Communication

Communication is a fundamental part of being human. We start talking when we’re very young, and we never stop. We communicate with our family and friends, the girl who takes our coffee order, and the man who pumps our gas. But if you’re not hearing clearly, communicating can become a real challenge.

Understanding conversations can be a frustrating experience or may leave you feeling embarrassed that you misheard or answered inappropriately. Many people living with untreated hearing loss face isolation, and studies have linked hearing loss to depression. You might feel ignored by your loved ones or are worried you’re not as close as you once were. If you want to keep communicating, the first thing you’ll have to do is admit that you have trouble hearing. The next step is to talk to your family about ways to help you hear.

 

Turn It Down

When your family is trying to communicate, one of the simplest things to do is turn down the volume on the TV or turn off the radio. All that background sound will make it harder for you to focus on what’s being said. Turning it down can be an easy way to catch far more of what’s being said.

 

Face to Face is Always Best

To facilitate communication, make a rule with your family that you always have to be face to face when you talk. If someone yells at you from across the room, you probably won’t hear what’s been said. If you’re sitting on the couch, ask your family to come sit down with you. If you’re both focused on communicating, you’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll hear. Seeing someone’s face while they’re speaking is also important, as it allows you to read facial cues, and catch more of the meaning behind the words.

 

Speak at a Normal Volume

Ask your family to stop yelling at you; it’s actually not helping you hear. Yelling can distort sounds, making it harder to understand. In fact, the only thing you might understand is that they’re frustrated at you for not hearing. Speak at a normal volume and with a normal speed but add a few pauses in speech at the end of a sentence or thought. This will give you time to process what’s been said and get ready for the next thought.

 

Rephrasing

If you’re not understanding what someone is saying, another way they can help you hear is by rephrasing rather than just repeating the same words. When the sentence is rephrased, you’ll have a better chance of catching what’s being said. It’s also better to use a few more words. While you might be used to a simple “yes”, ask your family to use a few more words, such as “yes, that sounds good”. It won’t take any more time to say a couple more words, but it could give your ears and brain the extra time they need to understand what’s been said.

 

Wear Your Hearing Aids

If you struggle with hearing loss and know your communication is suffering, make sure to always wear your hearing aids! They’re designed to help you hear in every listening environment and have many features that help you separate background noise from speech sounds, focus on what you want to hear, and be able to hear all the important sounds to help you communicate.

If you have been struggling with communication, visit us at Kenwood Hearing Centers, where our team of hearing specialists will help you find the perfect hearing device. Starting with a complete hearing assessment, we’ll be able to give you the best advice when it comes to picking the right hearing aid for your lifestyle and hearing needs.

Posted in Communication, Family & Relationships, Health & Lifestyle, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Hearing Loss Tips, Tips and Tricks

Hearing Loss Could Restrict Mobility & Quality of Life

Hearing Loss Could Restrict Mobility & Quality of Life

 

When you have hearing loss it doesn’t just affect your ears, it affects your entire life. Hearing loss can cause issues that ripple through our health and quality of life. A recent study coming out of Finland has found that hearing loss has an impact on our mobility. Following over 800 seniors with and without hearing loss, the researchers found that those with hearing impairments often had a more constricted travel from their homes as well as more limited social circles.

 

Hearing Loss and Mobility

Hearing loss has many ways of limiting your mobility and can influence how you approach the world, in both unfamiliar and familiar settings. Often, hearing loss makes it hard to navigate noisy spaces. It limits the ability to both comprehend speech and locate the sources of sounds.

With these limitations, traveling to unfamiliar locations can produce anxiety and frustration. Spaces with many different noises like restaurants, stadiums and museums can make it hard for people with hearing loss to feel comfortable and makes participating in conversation challenging. Places that are hubs for transportation like airports and train stations can become difficult, especially when critical announcements are given verbally over and announcement system.

A person with hearing loss can easily feel like they are “bad at traveling” when really they are simply traveling with the extra burden of trying to compensate for things they are not hearing. The feeling of discomfort in these places and while traveling makes its mark however by gradually changing behavior patterns.

What once seemed like an interesting trip to a new movie theater now seems like too much hassle. A distaste for traveling far from home- even to familiar destinations- can also develop, constricting the radius a person moves through in their life.

 

Mobility and Social Isolation

A lack of mobility in the world can exacerbate social isolation. As more locations become out of reach to a person with hearing loss, the social connections associated with those locations also constricts. When we stop attending parties, religious services or family dinners we can easily lose the connections with friends and loved ones that we once found in these places.

Those who have hearing loss often experience a slow drift away from social situations they once engaged in. On a subtle level, hearing impairment makes these spaces seem less enjoyable. For someone who may not be acknowledging their hearing issues, this creates a convenient excuse for participating in social spaces – being part of social activities is no longer pleasurable. In such a way, social isolation can increase for an individual, perhaps without them even being able to see the root cause.

 

Mobility Research

In the past several years, Finnish researchers at the University of Jyväskylä and the University of Tampere have helped put together the ramifications of hearing loss on mobility. Through studying a population of 75-90 year old people and their day-today activities, the university team found a remarkable difference between people with hearing loss and those without. Hearing loss meant it was twice as likely that the person’s life was restricted to their immediate local area.

Researchers followed study participants for two years and found that hearing loss led to a dramatic decrease in how far a person was comfortable and able to travel from their home. The Finnish study also charted various quality of life markers throughout the study period and found that people with hearing loss experienced a lower quality of life on average.

Treating hearing loss can help restore mobility and restore social connections. When we can hear better, it is immediately easier to find our way through spaces, engage in conversations and enjoy living. When hearing problems arise, seeking treatment is the most straightforward and effective way to regain confidence and retain mobility.

 

Kenwood Hearing Centers

If there’s been a recent change in your hearing, the time to see a hearing specialist is now. Here at Kenwood Hearing Centers, we help you understand your hearing and connect you with the best hearing solutions. We’re with you from your first visit to answer questions and give you options to hear your best. Our thorough audiological testing and expert knowledge of top performing hearing aids and assistive devices makes Kenwood Hearing Centers your first choice for hearing health.

Posted in Health & Lifestyle, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

Why Are Restaurants So Loud?

Why Are Restaurants So Loud?

For people with hearing loss, speech recognition poses a challenge. Dining in a restaurant means you are competing with background noise to hear. If you experience a hearing loss, you may find that dining in noisy restaurants makes conversation difficult. The noise levels in restaurants certainly don’t help!

Have you wondered recently if restaurants are louder than ever? If so, you’ve noticed something that food critics and business journals have commented on in recent years. Across the country, as new restaurants open and standard favorites are renovated, the trend toward more modern design has changed the acoustics of restaurants – which may alienate those who are hard of hearing.

Here, we take a look at this new phenomenon of loud restaurants and give you some tips for an enjoyable dining experience.

 

Sleek Interior Design Results in Louder Acoustics

Gone are the tablecloths and carpeted floors of fine-dining. These days, restaurants tend to occupy former warehouses or loft spaces, with a modern industrial-chic aesthetic. Restaurant designs now boast exposed brick, wood, iron, and concrete. According to The Wall Street Journal, these interiors add to the rise in volume in restaurants. Architect Dirk Denison, who has designed the interior of many high-end restaurants, says that restaurants resemble “a big square box – the worst-case scenario. Parallel walls cause noise to ping back and forth.”

In the past, carpeting and linens helped to muffle the sounds of the restaurant. Now, with mostly hard surfaces, the acoustics of restaurants are not absorbed. Luckily, there are acoustics experts who install decorations to buffer these loud sounds.

 

Open Kitchens Create More Clatter

With the popularity of chefs in the media, the people preparing your food have become celebrities and the art of cooking is a performance. Many newer restaurants feature the open kitchen design, some which even offer diners a front row seat to watch chefs prepare the meal.

Open kitchen designs add to the noise level in a restaurant, with the clatter of pots and pans and the chatter of chefs and cooks. If you experience a hearing loss, request a seat away from the open kitchen.

 

A Lively Restaurant is a Loud Restaurant

Music and ambiance is a huge part of popular restaurants. People no longer want to eat in quiet, with whispers. Nowadays, loud music and chatter add to the vibe of the place. Bon Appetit Magazine writes that loud restaurants “are perceived as lively and vibrant. Very few people want to eat in a silent room.”

From New York Magazine’s Grubstreet: “Most restaurant scholars will tell you that the Great Noise Boom began in the late nineties, when Mario Batali had the genius idea of taking the kind of music he and his kitchen-slave compatriots listened to while rolling their pastas and stirring their offal-rich ragus and blasting it over the heads of the startled patrons in the staid dining room at Babbo…Sound systems were cranked up and suddenly noise became the hallmark of a successful New York restaurant.”

Unfortunately, this leads to the Lombard effect: as the music gets louder, we raise our voices in an attempt to hear each other over the tunes and other diners. If possible, ask for a seat away from the speakers and near the perimeter of the room. If the restaurant offers a booth, request to sit in one, as this configuration is the best seating for seeing and hearing your dining companions!

 

How Hearing Aids Help Your Dining Experience

For people who are hard of hearing, don’t lose your appetite quite yet! With the use of hearing aids, you’ll still be able to enjoy dinner in these loud restaurants with your friends and loved ones.

Advanced hearing aids are equipped with fast and smart features such as noise reduction,; multiple microphones that scan the environment and focuses on the sounds you want to hear; and processing platforms that adjust automatically to provide a natural listening experience in any environment. Some hearing aid models offer features to soften sharp sounds, which helps when there are forks scraping against plates and clatter rising from the kitchen. Overall, hearing aids can provide you with a comfortable listening experience that allows you to focus on great conversation and great food.

If you are experiencing a hearing loss, contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers. For a comprehensive hearing test and hearing aid fitting.

Posted in Hearing Health, Noise Pollution

When Should I Update My Hearing Aids?

When Should I Update My Hearing Aids?

When Should I Update My Hearing Aids

Treating your hearing loss with hearing aids is an important part of ensuring your health and well-being. Hearing aids are a great investment and can bring significant benefits to your life including easier communication, improved relationships, and reduced risk for developing dementia, depression, and anxiety.

Whether you are on your first or your fourth pair of hearing aids, it’s important to keep in mind that your hearing abilities are always changing. At the same time, hearing aids should be used every day to be effective, which means they work very hard from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed.

When should you update your hearing aids? Here, we take a look at a few reasons that may encourage you to upgrade your devices.

Changes in Your Hearing Abilities

Even if you are currently treating hearing loss with the use of hearing aids, we recommend that you schedule an annual hearing test. In the same way you would get an annual physical or eye exam, incorporate a hearing test into your yearly health checkups.

Our hearing abilities are always changing. While most hearing aid models are flexible and can accommodate a wide range of hearing loss, you may want to upgrade to a new pair of hearing aids if they no longer treat your degree of hearing loss. At first, it may seem like your hearing aids are no longer functioning as well as they once did, and you may even take them in for repair or cleaning. If there’s nothing wrong with the hearing aids, it may be time to see if new hearing aid technology can help you to hear better.

Visit us at Kenwood Hearing Centers for a hearing evaluation. We’ll make sure that your hearing aids are treating your current hearing abilities, and if they are not, we’ll help you find a better treatment option.

Exciting New Hearing Aid Technology

Have you been following the latest in hearing aid technology? This is an exciting time for hearing aids. Developing in tandem with other digital, wireless technologies, hearing aids are now more advanced than ever.

Most hearing aid brands offer hearing aids that connect wirelessly to your smartphone (or other devices, such as your tablet, Apple Watch, and even home entertainment systems), allowing you to stream phone calls, music, and other media directly to your ears. Usually controlled through a downloadable app from the manufacturer, these hearing aids offer a number of exciting features. A GPS geo-tagging function can help you find your hearing aids if they are lost.

In addition to these tech pairings, hearing aids are also smaller, sleeker, and smarter than ever before. With super-fast processing platforms, hearing aids process sound and provide you clarity and access in the blink of an eye. Noise cancellation and feedback cancellation features ensure a comfortable listening experience. Hearing aid design provides wearers with a level of discretion.

Rechargeable hearing aids are now more widely available, thanks to consumer calls for better energy options. With rechargeable hearing aids, you simply place them into their charging station and they begin immediate charging. Unlike traditional hearing aid batteries, rechargeable hearing aids provide peace of mind – with some models providing up to 24 hours of listening.

Changes in Your Lifestyle

When you were first fitted for your hearing aids, you provided your hearing professional with details about your life and scenarios in which you may struggle to hear. If you’ve had recent lifestyle changes, there may be a better hearing aid to suit your needs. If you’ve taken up hiking for example, you may want to get a pair of hearing aids with wind protection and a better IP rating to repel moisture. If you’ve got a new job that takes you on the road with lots of phone calls, you may want to get a pair of smartphone hearing aids that allow you to stream phone calls directly to your ears.

Visit Us at Kenwood Hearing Centers

Are you ready to upgrade your hearing aids? If you’re curious about the options available to you, contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers. Our friendly team is here to guide you through the many extraordinary hearing devices that we offer.

Posted in Hearing Aids, Tips and Tricks

Hearing Loss Fatigue: How to Restore Your Energy

Do you struggle with fatigue? Overwhelming exhaustion can happen for a number of reasons, but if you have hearing loss you may be especially vulnerable to it effects. Problems with our hearing can deplete our mental and physical energy in ways we don’t even realize. Hearing loss has a huge influence on the daily stress we are subject to, especially in workplace and professional situations.

If you have hearing loss and fatigue, some simple lifestyle modifications may help you reclaim your energy and alertness. Being understanding with yourself and making space in your life for quiet, energy restoring techniques can make all the difference.

Working Your Hearing Overtime

In the workplace, around one in every two people with hearing loss also report experiencing chronic mental or physical fatigue. Compare this to the rate of fatigue in workers without hearing loss which drops to around 30%. Having issues with your hearing can constantly “drain your battery,” making your brain scramble to process incomplete sounds into comprehensible communication.

Hearing loss initiates major changes in the way your body hears sound. Our inner ear, responsible for routing sound information to our auditory cortex where they are recognized and interpreted. When our hearing is compromised, the auditory nerve forges entirely new pathways to the brain. Additionally, our mind has to devote extra cognitive function to interpretation and comprehension.

This reorganizing of our mental energy may not seem like a big deal but it takes a toll on our physical resources and can quickly become exhausting. Our hearing is constantly sending noises from our environment to our brain to be understood. This ongoing commitment of extra cognitive resources to the task of hearing takes away from other functions, even things as basic as balance and coordination. All of this contributes to a rapid depletion of energy and can make schedules that once seemed reasonable become strenuous.

Mental Strain

Hearing loss not only changes the physical demands on our body’s systems, it can also contribute to mental health issues linked to fatigue. The effects of hearing loss contribute to increased rates of anxiety, isolation and depression. Hearing issues can cause frustration and confusion that fuel anxiety and burn through the stress responses that occur instinctively in the body. The challenges of communication can produce feelings of isolation and retreat that can easily fuel depression. In turn, exhaustion frequently accompanies depression, hallmarked by a lack of enthusiasm and overwhelming tiredness.

How Hearing Better Reduces Fatigue

When it comes to hearing loss, for many people the most important thing you can do is take a hearing test and get fitted for hearing aids. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, people wait an average of seven years from the time they first experience the signs of hearing loss before they decide to take a hearing test.

If you’ve experienced fatigue from hearing loss, contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers to schedule a hearing test. If a hearing loss is detected, after a comprehensive hearing exam and consultation with our team, we will work with you to find the best hearing aid to treat your hearing loss.

Hearing aids amplify speech sounds and help with localization. For people with hearing loss, hearing aids help us reconnect with our family, friends, and colleagues by making communication easier. With better access to the sounds of our environment, hearing aids ensure that we no longer strain to hear or struggle to focus on sounds in noisy spaces.

Everyone hears differently, and for this reason, there are many diverse hearing aid options on the market, offering incredible listening features and advanced wireless streaming technologies. Depending on your lifestyle, your employment, and your needs, we’ll help you find the right hearing aid to seamlessly reconnect you to the sounds of your life. Hearing aids can help alleviate the constant struggle to hear, thus giving you back the energy you would have expended with untreated hearing loss.

Kenwood Hearing Centers

If you’re facing hearing loss, you need responsive, personalized hearing care you can trust. At Kenwood Hearing Centers, your concerns are our top priority. We focus on helping you find the perfect hearing solution for your lifestyle.

Posted in Hearing Loss, Tips and Tricks

Treating Hearing Loss Could Help Your Cognitive Abilities

Treating Hearing Loss Could Help Your Cognitive Abilities

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. This devastating disease affects an estimated 5.5 million Americans, with the majority of people age 65 or older. A study from 2013 found that untreated hearing loss could have an adverse effect on your cognitive abilities. We’d like to take this opportunity to raise awareness on Alzheimer’s Disease and discuss the cognitive benefits of treating hearing loss.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

Despite the high rate of Alzheimer’s among people age 65 and older, it is important to keep in mind that memory loss is not a normal part of aging. Furthermore, early onset Alzheimer’s affects approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease, commonly referred to as Alzheimer’s, is a “type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.” Making up 60% to 80% of cases, Alzheimer’s is actually the most common type of dementia. Dementia is a general term that is used to describe a collection of symptoms of mental decline, ranging from memory loss to thinking skills.

As a progressive disease, Alzheimer’s worsens over time – on average, over 14 years. Commonly, Alzheimer’s is not diagnosed until it is in its later stages, usually years 8-10, when people begin to lose the ability to have a conversation or respond to their environment. Unfortunately, because of this late diagnosis, by the time it is detected, Alzheimer’s patients already suffer from lesions that have spread through the brain.

Though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are many effective treatments, especially with early intervention for patients with healthy brains. Common treatments include medication, a good diet, physical exercise, and social engagement. If detected early, people can preserve their quality of life. Another important element is treating hearing loss.

The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss on the Brain

There are many intersections between hearing health and healthy cognitive abilities. Because one in three people over the age of 65 experience some degree of hearing loss, and the majority of Alzheimer’s patients are over the age of 65, we find some parallel in the two conditions.

While hearing impairment has commonly been accepted as a fact of aging, studies from Johns Hopkins have pointed to a possible link between hearing impairment and cognitive decline. Our brains, which are on average 1300-1500 cubic centimeters, peak in size in our mid-20s and begin to shrink as we get older, which contributes to cognitive decline. Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that cognitive decline is more likely to expedite over the long term for hearing-impaired test subjects, who “lost more than an additional cubic centimeter of brain tissue each year compared with those with normal hearing.”

In a study with 639 subjects, Dr. Frank Lin and his team of researchers monitored cognitive decline in correlation with hearing loss over a span of 12 to 18 years and found that the “worse the initial hearing loss was, the more likely the person was to develop dementia.” According to Dr. Lin, “Our results suggest that hearing loss could be another ‘hit’ on the brain in many ways.” Lin points to three particular areas that could be affected: cognitive load, changes in brain structure and function, and reduced social engagement.

With untreated hearing loss, people may struggle to hear and recognize speech, which could lead to a heavier “cognitive load.”  Over time, untreated hearing loss could lead to social isolation, which is listed as a risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia. The good news is that treating hearing loss with hearing aids provides significant benefits, both to cognitive health and improving one’s social engagement.

The Use of Hearing Aids Could Reduce Cognitive Decline

Hearing aids are the most common form of treatment for hearing loss. A 2011 study from Japan researched three groups of people (normal hearing, hearing loss without hearing aids, and hearing loss with hearing aids) and gauged their cognitive abilities through a series of tests. They found that “between the three groups…the hearing loss without hearing aids group showed the lowest score” while there was no difference in results from people with normal hearing and people who treated hearing loss with hearing aids. They concluded “that prescription of a hearing aid during the early stages of hearing loss is related to the retention of cognitive abilities in such elderly people.”

Similarly, Dr. Lin at Johns Hopkins believes that the link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline offers “a starting point for interventions – even as simple as hearing aids – that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing.” In other words, hearing aids support our brains in the listening process and reconnect us to our loved ones and communities, keeping us social.

Visit Us at Kenwood Hearing Center

Scheduling an annual hearing test is an important part of maintain your hearing health, as well as your cognitive health. For more information and to schedule a consultation, contact us at Kenwood Hearing Center.

Posted in Community, Hearing Loss Tips, Tips and Tricks

Getting to Know Your Hearing Aids

Getting to Know Your Hearing Aids

Throughout human history, there have been many instruments used to amplify hearing. In the past century, following World War II, there were major advancements in the field of audiological research. As such, hearing aids began to resemble the devices we use today to treat hearing loss. In recent decades, with advancements in technology, hearing aids have evolved into smarter, sleeker devices. Simply put, hearing aids are small, electronic devices that receive and amplify sound from your environment and direct this amplified sound into your ears.

If you’ve just been fitted for a pair of hearing aids, and you are curious to learn more, we’ve compiled some handy information for getting to know your hearing aids.

 

How does my hearing aid work?

In many respects, hearing aids mirror the way our ears work: our outer ear picks up sound, which is then sent through the middle ear, which turns the sound wave into vibrations, which are then sent on to the inner ear to be converted into electric signals delivered to the brain to process as sound. With hearing loss, sounds are more difficult to pick up. Hearing aids are used to address this.

Though hearing aids come in many different sizes, shapes, and styles, they share several common components:

  • Microphone: picks up sound;
  • Amplifier: makes sound louder;
  • Receiver: sends amplified sound into ear.
  • Battery: provides energy supply.

 

What are the different hearing aid features?

Whatever the style, behind-the-ear or in-the-ear or invisible-in-canal, etc., all hearing aids offer the same basic features. Microphones amplify the sounds you want to hear, while automatic volume controls amplify selective sounds depending on your hearing loss and minimize sounds that are extraneous.

Background noise may pose a challenge for people with hearing loss. Speech recognition is difficult for people who experience any degree of hearing loss. Hearing aids offer features that eliminate or lessen background noise and boost speech sounds that wearers want to focus on. Some hearing aids offer the option of a telecoil, which allows you to connect to induction loop systems via electromagnetic waves.

Most hearing aids use digital technology that automatically filter and reduce buzzing and whistling and remember your preferred sound settings. These features also help eliminate wind sound, soften loud sounds, and provide a more comfortable and natural listening experience. Additionally, most new hearing aids now have wireless technology that allows you to connect to your smartphones and other electronic devices via Bluetooth.

 

How are my hearing aids fitted?

When you visit us at Kenwood Hearing Center for a consultation, our team will help you determine the best hearing aid to treat your hearing needs and to fit your aesthetic preferences and lifestyle.

Once hearing aids have become seamlessly incorporated into your life, they may not be the first thing on your mind. That’s their purpose, of course, to amplify sounds and provide you with clear accessibility to the world around you. At the same time, it’s important to remember that they are sophisticated electronic devices which require basic care and maintenance to keep them functioning at their best.

 

Maintenance Tips for Your Hearing Aids

Avoid moisture: Hearing aids are comprised of sensitive electronic components. Although they are often housed in plastic, exposure to moisture has the potential to damage them. Invest in a dehumidifying unit and don’t forget to remove your aids before showering or exercising!

Clean your hearing aids periodically: From daily wear, your hearing aids may pick up dust, lint, or earwax. This debris may cause damage to your hearing aid by clogging up certain components. Clean your hearing aids carefully with a cloth or tissue.

Store your hearing aids in a safe, dry space: With many small components, hearing aids may prove dangerous for pets and children. If they are in a precarious area, they may get knocked over and damaged. For newer wearers, begin by building in a daily routine to remove and store your hearing aids before bed each night and keep them in the case that we provide you.  Usually a night table or dresser are safe places for them. Avoid leaving them in the washroom due to moisture accumulation.

 

Questions about your hearing aids? Contact us at Kenwood Hearing Center to learn more.

Posted in Hearing Aids, Tips and Tricks

Understanding Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Kenwood Hearing Centers - Understanding Sensorineural Hearing Loss

What are the Different Types of Hearing Loss?

There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss is localized to the outer and middle ear structures. Conductive hearing loss might occur due to congenital malformations of the ear canal and middle ear structures or head trauma, infections, tumors, impacted earwax, or other medical conditions.

Sensorineural hearing loss refers to problems with the inner ear structure and the process by which sound waves are transformed into electric signals sent to the brain. Exposure to loud noise, aging, and Meniere’s disease are all related to sensorineural hearing loss.

Mixed hearing loss is the combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing losses, in which different elements of the auditory system (outer, middle, and inner ear) are damaged or affected by any combination of the above conditions.

Understanding Sensorineural Hearing Loss

According to the American Hearing Loss Foundation, sensorineural hearing loss is “the most common type of hearing loss, occurring in 23% of population older than 65 years of age.” Sensorineural hearing loss pertains to the inner ear, which is made up of the auditory-vestibular nerve, the cochlea, and the vestibular system (which consists of semi-circular canals).

Sound waves enter the ear and are transformed by the inner ear into signals that are sent to the brain, which registers this signal as a sound. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the cochlea or the nerve pathways between the inner ear and the brain. This kind of hearing loss, often permanent, has different causes.

Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss may be congenital, meaning it is caused by inherited genetics. In some cases, the malformation of the inner ear results in hearing loss. Certain infections transmitted from mother to infant may lead to sensorineural hearing loss as well, such as rubella or human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV). In terms of acquired diseases, mumps, syphilis, bacterial meningitis, and autoimmune diseases may all contribute to sensorineural hearing loss.

Unfortunately, some medications used to treat the aforementioned diseases may also cause sensorineural hearing loss by irreparably damaging the hair cells of the inner ear, which do not regenerate. This problem is known as ototoxicity, or “ear poisoning.” Though there are at least 100 classes of drugs that cause inner ear hearing loss, the most common ones are aminoglycoside antibiotics (used to treat bacterial infections, such as meningitis), loop diuretics, and antimetabolites. Researchers are currently in the process of finding alternatives to these drugs, as well as patenting a new aminoglycoside antibiotic that is effective in fighting the specific disease without damaging inner ear cells.

Both presbycusis (age-related) and noise-induced hearing loss are forms of sensorineural hearing loss. While presbycusis occurs naturally, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable if you take the proper precautions with exposure to noise in your life. Exposure to loud noises, 90 decibels and higher, for an extended period of time, may lead to sensorineural hearing loss.

Physical trauma is another common cause for sensorineural hearing loss. Injury to the temporal bone may affect the cochlea, while other head and neck injuries may affect the auditory system. Tumors in the head and neck area may also cause sensorineural hearing loss by creating pressure against certain processing centers of the brain and within the inner ear.

Though conditions surrounding the causes of sensorineural hearing loss may be corrected, such as removal of tumors, drainage of fluids within the inner ear, or eradication of certain diseases, the effects of sensorineural hearing loss are usually permanent. The use of a hearing aid drastically improves the lives of people suffering from sensorineural hearing loss.

Treating Sensorineural Hearing Loss

While hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the US, the way in which it manifests will differ from person to person. With hearing loss, it is important to remember that hearing happens in the brain. In other words, we recognize sounds in our daily life because the information to recognize them has been stored in our brains.

As such, hearing is an incredibly personalized experience and for this reason, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for hearing loss that is easily found over the counter. If you’ve experienced changes in your hearing, it is important to seek professional care.

When you visit us at Kenwood Hearing Centers, our friendly team will provide a comprehensive hearing exam. If a hearing loss is present, your audiogram will indicate the degree and configuration of the hearing loss. From these results, we will also be able determine the type of hearing loss and from there, we will work with you to find the best solution for your hearing needs.

For more information, contact us at Kenwood Hearing Centers.

Posted in Hearing Loss Causes