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Hearing Loss

What Level of Hearing Protection Do I Need?

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Health and Lifestyle

Face Mask Communication Tips

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What Level of Hearing Protection Do I Need?

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the second most common form of hearing loss. It is also a preventable form of hearing loss.

Noisy environments are bad news for your ears. This is especially true if you repeatedly expose yourself to these noisy environments. Noise can affect your hearing, your concentration, and have wider implications on your health.

It’s important to note that we’re not only talking about the sudden, very loud noises (like a firecracker). Prolonged exposure to moderate levels of noise can also impact your hearing health.

Understanding how the noise in your environment can affect your hearing is important. Once you have this understanding, you can start considering what level of hearing protection you need.

Many of us don’t even realize that there are multiple levels of hearing protection. But if you stop to think about it – it makes sense! Some of us may work in an environment exposed to continual loud noise – like a train station. Others may only be exposed to dangerous noise levels in certain circumstances – like when using a leaf blower.

Understanding Levels of Noise

We measure sound in decibels (dB). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that noise “above 70 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears.”

So what does that translate into? Here are some common sounds you may be exposed to, and their corresponding noise level:

  • 20 dB – The ticking of a watch is generally around 20 dB.
  • 30 dB – Whispering is generally around 30 dB.
  • 60 dB – Normal conversation averages around 60 dB
  • 70 dB – Your dishwasher or washing machine is generally around 70 dB.
  • 80 – 85 dB – This is the average volume of city traffic from inside your car. Noises at this level likely annoy you.
  • 90 dB – Lawnmowers, weed whackers and hand driers are all around 90 dB. You risk damage to your hearing after a few hours of exposure.
  • 100 dB – Construction equipment and power tools are often 100 dB. Exposing your hearing for longer than an hour without protection to these sounds can damage your hearing.
  • 105 – 110 dB – This is often the maximum volume level for personal listening devices. Loud entertainment venues also top out around this noise level. You can damage your hearing in under 5 minutes.
  • 110 dB – Sirens, construction equipment and leaf blowers can all be very loud. This level of noise can damage your hearing in under 5 minutes.
  • 140 dB – A jet engine tops out around 140 dB. Exposure to this level of sound and above without protection can cause immediate damage. It can even cause pain and an ear injury.

What Level of Hearing Protection Do You Need?

Noise Reduction Rate (NRR) measures how effective your hearing protection is. The higher the NRR, the more protection offered.

It is important that you choose hearing protection with an NRR appropriate to your environment.

Another consideration is comfort. You want to make sure that wearing your hearing protection is not uncomfortable. Otherwise, you may not even wear it.

There are generally three choices when it comes to hearing protection. These include:

  • Small earplugs that sit inside your ear canal
  • Earplugs that sit outside of your ear canal
  • Ear muffs

When Should You Wear Hearing Protection?

You should ensure that you are wearing hearing protection anytime your hearing could be at risk. A general rule of thumb is that exposure to noises above 85 dB may require protection.

Remember, it’s not just how loud the environment is. It’s also about how long you will be in the environment. If you work in a noisy environment, your employer may be required to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Help understand how loud your environment is with a mobile app. Decibel X and Too Noisy Pro are two mobile phone apps that allow you to check volume levels on the go.

Using hearing protection is the best way to protect your hearing. Noise induced hearing loss is preventable – the power is in your hands.

If you suspect that you may have noise induced hearing loss, please book in a hearing assessment with the hearing healthcare professionals at Clear Wave Hearing Center. Give us a call us on (864) 546-5708 or click here to request an appointment now.

Posted by Admin

Could COVID-19 Cause Tinnitus or Hearing Loss?

The novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has changed our world. Many of us are still adjusting to the ‘new normal.’ Many of us have seen significant impacts to our day to day lives. Remote working, virtual classrooms, social distancing and face coverings are just a few of the changes we’ve all had to deal with.

And the virus isn’t just affecting the U.S. Millions of people around the world have tested positive for coronavirus. Sadly, hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to the virus.

Scientists are doing their best to increase our understanding of the coronavirus. This includes how it is transmitted. They are also looking at the health implications of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the most commonly reported symptoms of coronavirus are: 

  • Fever or chills
  • A persistent cough
  • Difficulty breathing / shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache

While these are the most commonly reported symptoms, the CDC notes that the list is not exhaustive. Other people have reported other symptoms.

We still don’t know too much about the novel coronavirus, but our understanding is growing. Recently, reports have indicated that some people with COVID-19 exhibit neurological symptoms.

Is it possible that tinnitus or hearing loss are neurological symptoms of COVID-19?

Can COVID-19 Cause Hearing Loss?

A report published in the JAMA network investigated the neurological impact of coronavirus. Their research looked at a sample of 214 patients who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 36.4% of the 214 patients observed, 36.4% had neurological symptoms.

The neurologic symptoms were “more common in patients with severe infection (45.5%) according to their respiratory status, which included acute cerebrovascular events, impaired consciousness, and muscle injury,” the study noted. (Source)

There is no clear link between hearing loss and COVID-19, at present. There are anecdotal reports from patients who report hearing loss associated with coronavirus. It’s clear that we need to research the links between the two further.

What is known, however, is that the coronavirus can cause something called ‘peripheral neuropathy.’

“Peripheral neuropathy refers to the conditions that result when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord from and to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased.” (Source)

Given the potential damage to our nerves, it is possible for COVID-19 to cause auditory neuropathy.

Auditory neuropathy is defined by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) as a “hearing disorder in which the inner ear successfully detects sound, but has a problem with sending sound from the ear to the brain.”

Can COVID-19 Cause Tinnitus?

It’s a similar story with tinnitus. There is not currently much evidence linking tinnitus and COVID-19. However, if the coronavirus affects our hearing, it is possible that tinnitus is a symptom of the hearing loss.

As our understanding of COVID-19 evolves, it’s important for us all to adhere to the advise of public health officials. One piece of advice involves wearing a face covering. If you have a hearing loss, face coverings can present a unique challenge. We’ve put together a blog to help – read more by clicking here.

If you’d like to book in a hearing assessment, the hearing healthcare professionals at Clear Wave Hearing Center can help. Give us a call us on (864) 546-5708 or click here to request an appointment now.

Posted by Admin

Face Mask Communication Tips

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, many of us are adjusting to a new normal. Health and safety measures are being implemented from state to state. They aim to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Americans have been advised on the best ways to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19. This advice, from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), includes what to do if you are sick. Further information offers advice on protecting yourself and those around you.

You’re probably already familiar with the two most common measures: social distancing and face masks. As the CDC states, “[limiting face-to-face contact with people] is the best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

Where social distancing is not possible (such as when we’re in a grocery store), the CDC has recommended face masks. Face masks are being mandated, as according to the CDC, “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”)…  even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.”

The Challenges of Face Masks

We are advised to wear a face mask to keep us and those around us safe. A hearing impairment, however, can make it difficult to understand people wearing a face mask. Some of the challenges include:

  • Limited Visual Cues – Covering the lips makes lip reading impossible. For many with hearing loss, the ability to see other people’s lips and facial expressions are an important communication tool.
  • Muffled Speech – A face masks distorts the sound waves from our mouths. This can result in muffled speech. Even in the most ideal listening environments, it can be more difficult to understand speech. Hearing loss is just one further complication!

Face Mask Communication Tips

If you have a hearing loss, face masks can make communication challenging. While it would be great to see more people wearing transparent face masks, that is not always the case. To help you communicate, here are our face mask communication tips.

  • Use live speech-to-text applications
  • Write things down
  • If someone has asked you to repeat yourself multiple times, rephrase what you are saying
  • Speak clearly and normally
  • Write important notes down – such as a prescription!
  • Use the built-in notepad on your smartphone as a communication tool
  • Reduce background noise
  • Opt for quiet environments to communicate in
  • Wear your hearing device

One point to note – if you wear a hearing device with your face masks, please be careful when removing it. Your hearing device may be caught on the bands of your face mask. We recommend removing your face mask at home, to avoid losing your hearing aid devices.

We know that times are changing. Hearing loss can make an already challenging time more difficult. The hearing specialists at Clear Wave Hearing Center are ready to help you with your hearing needs. Give us a call us on (864) 546-5708 or click here to request an appointment now.

Posted by Admin

Can Hearing Loss Affect Speech?

Untreated hearing loss can affect our lives in a number of ways. It can increase our risks of cognitive decline, affect our mental well being, and even pose a safety risk.

Hearing loss can also complicate our ability to communicate. Aside from not being able to hear conversations, in some cases hearing loss can affect speech.

Hearing loss affecting speech is most often seen in people who have had a hearing loss since childhood. For adults, it’s more often an issue in cases of severe or long-term hearing loss, particularly if that hearing loss is untreated.

Why Can Speech Be Affected?

When we’re speaking and forming words, each verbal sound and letter has its own unique frequency range. With a worsening hearing loss, particularly if left untreated, the frequencies that we are able to hear sounds at also reduces.

If you’re experiencing a hearing loss that is causing this, you’ll notice a few things happening. Initially, letters, words and sounds that use or involve these frequencies become harder to hear. At the same time, they may become more difficult to identify or understand.

With untreated hearing loss, our brains will adjust to our inability to hear the sounds associated with these particular frequencies. This subsequently impacts how the brain interprets and uses speech.

To put it simply: you may find yourself struggling to say the letters or sounds that you have difficulty hearing in words.

What Treatment Options Are There?

When a speech impairment accompanies a hearing loss, it’s not unusual to experience depression, anxiety, or find it difficult to concentrate. You may also be tempted to withdraw from activities or other social situations. However, there are treatment options available.

First, ensure that you have been fitted for the correct hearing aid. At Clear Wave hearing Center, our hearing care professionals will work with you to ensure that you’re fitted with the right device for your lifestyle.

When speaking, you can:

  1. Try to minimize background noise. Try to eliminate unnecessary distractions (like the T.V. on in the background!).
  2. See if there are local support groups available.
  3. Speak clearly, and deliberately. Use visual cues or gestures when necessary.
  4. Find the method of communication that works for you. Perhaps this is writing things down, learning sign language, or other gestures.
  5. Take advantage of assistive technology.

We understand that accepting that your hearing loss is affecting your day to day life isn’t easy. Our team is more than happy to help and discuss treatment options that are right for you. If you suspect that your hearing loss is affecting your speech, please book in an appointment today. Give us a call us on (864) 546-5708 or click here to request an appointment now.

Posted by Admin

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