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Hearing Loss

Can Seasonal Allergies Cause Hearing Loss?

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Hearing Assessment

Why bring someone to a hearing test?

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Hearing Aids

Do’s And Don’ts With Your Hearing Aid

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Can Seasonal Allergies Cause Hearing Loss?

It’s that time of year when the seasons are beginning to change. For allergy sufferers, that can mean itchy eyes and stuffy noses. It might surprise you to find out that it could also mean hearing loss for many people. Your hearing and auditory systems are extremely complex, and can in fact be affected by an allergic reaction.

Understanding Allergies

An allergic reaction is a body’s way of responding to a perceived threat. Your immune system will identify a foreign body, such as an infection, and work to fight this off. In the process, your immune system will create antibodies designed to help fight off the same infection in the future.

The problem is the immune system is far from perfect. Sometimes harmless substances like dust or pollen will have been marked as a threat by your immune system, and antibodies subsequently produced. Once this occurs, these foreign bodies will always seem like a threat. This is how an allergy comes to be. For allergy sufferers, this means every time you come in contact with this allergen, i.e. the dust or pollen, your immune system will respond. By definition, an allergy means you are hypersensitive to something that is harmless to most people.

Seasonal Allergies and Hearing Loss

Each year, millions of people in this U.S. seek treatment for seasonal allergies. Common symptoms of allergies, such as congestion, may cause people not to notice a change in their hearing. The ears rely on sound waves reaching a nerve in the inner ear, and allergies can interfere with that process.

An allergic response typically leads to swelling and congestion. This can, in turn, change the fluid pressure and prevent sound from traveling to the inner ear. This often manifests as a sense of fullness or feeling of pressure in the ear. The body can also produce more earwax in response to an allergy, thereby creating a buildup that blocks sound.

The Skin and Allergies

An allergic response can affect the skin, causing inflammation or a rash. The skin in the ear is also at risk when allergies strike. As the ear canal is covered with skin, if it swells it could potentially become inflamed enough to close the ear passage and prevent sound from entering further into the ear.

Allergies and the Middle Ear

The middle ear is the area most often affected by allergies. This region contains tubes that allow fluid to drain and control the pressure inside the ear. An allergic reaction closes the tubes, allowing fluid and pressure to build. This makes it hard to hear.

How to Recognize Allergy-Related Hearing Loss

If you are prone to allergies, these symptoms will be familiar:

  • Itching inside the ear canal
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Fullness inside the ear
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

If you experience any changes in your hearing, you may want to consider speaking to a hearing care professional. Contact us at (507) 208-7002, or click here to request an appointment today.

Posted by Admin

Why bring someone to a hearing test?

Recently, I made an appointment for my father’s hearing assessment with a local audiologist. The woman who confirmed the appointment reminded me that he needed to bring someone to the hearing test. It may seem like an unusual request, but bringing someone to a hearing test can help ensure a higher-quality outcome. It’s best to bring the person who speaks with him most to take part in the familiar voice test. So, last Thursday I joined my dad at the audiologist’s office and I’m so glad I went.

Helping Dad hear better means helping myself

Before I even called, Dad was already a bit reluctant to address his hearing loss. He had a lot of denial about how much he was missing. At 93 years old, he had survived a lifetime without hearing aids, but as his daughter I was tired of constantly having to repeat things, and explain what doctors, friends and even my kids say. Finally, I insisted that he get a free hearing assessment* and eventually he agreed to see what the audiologist had to say.

A hearing assessment starts with a conversation with the audiologist

As expected, the hearing assessment began with the audiologist asking routine questions about Dad’s health. He asked about how well Dad hears in various situations. It seemed the audiologist was not only trying to learn what his needs may be, but also how well Dad could follow along a discussion in a quiet space. 

In the booth

After our talk, the audiologist invited Dad to sit in a booth and listen to tones at different frequencies and volumes. Dad was asked to indicate when he heard something. From my vantage point (outside the booth), I could see the audiologist press buttons, which my Dad didn’t hear. As soon as it was finished, the audiologist explained what the audiogram indicated. As with many older seniors, Dad had below-normal hearing across all frequencies, but he had the most difficulty with higher-pitched sounds. Dad was a bit disappointed to see the results, but I don’t think he was surprised.

The audiologist explained the audiogram key to explain the results. The audiogram showed the conclusions of both the air conduction and bone conduction hearing tests. 

My part in a familiar voice hearing test

A familiar voice hearing test is the main reason to bring someone to a hearing test. It provides a chance for a hearing care provider to see how well an individual understands words spoken by someone close to them. This was when the family member or close friend takes a more active role in the appointment. The audiologist asked me to step into the hallway, about eight feet from where my Dad was sitting. 

Can you hear me now?

As I stood a short distance away, the audiologist asked me to read a list of high-frequency words and have my Dad repeat them.

I said, “pail.”

Dad said, “nail.”

I said, “face.” 

Dad said, “late.”

And so on. It was quite fun to see what I had suspected. His score wasn’t great. Without a hearing aid, Dad only heard three out of ten words correctly. When he heard the outcome, Dad was even more disappointed than with the audiogram. He couldn’t deny it. He couldn’t hear me speaking to him only a few steps away. The audiologist, my Dad and I all witnessed it. 

Getting a different result: a familiar voice hearing test with hearing aids

I have to admit I was feeling a bit vindicated. I’ve been complaining that my father can’t hear me for years. The audiologist popped fresh batteries in a pair of behind-the-ear hearing aids and had him try them on. They were light and comfortable, and a slightly beige color that matched my dad’s coloring. The audiologist asked me to go back into the hallway and repeat the test. 

I said, “cup.”

Dad said, “cup.”

I said, “peach.” 

Dad said, “peach.”

I said, “pew.”

Dad said, “few.”

This time, Dad heard 7 out of 10 words. It was a vast improvement. He was very pleased. 

Another familiar voice hearing test…

With my dad still wearing the hearing aids, the audiologist asked me to walk down the hallway, about 15 or 20 feet away. The audiologist turned off the hearing aids. He asked me to speak in a normal volume and talk about what we were planning to have for dinner. Dad didn’t notice that I’d said anything at all. Once he turned the hearing aids back on, I repeated that I was planning go to the grocery store, and then we would have chicken for dinner. This time Dad heard and repeated every word.  

Why bring someone to a hearing test? Because hearing loved ones matters

My dad lives with me. He is accustomed to the cadence of my voice. Without even thinking about it, he knows that my vowels sound a certain way. Across the United States, we have a variety of regional accents. Even people who grow up in the same town may use different intonations. With familiar voice testing, it is easier for the individual to understand speech in a familiar voice test. 

Next steps: getting a hearing aid and getting used to it

Even experiencing firsthand how well hearing aids improved his ability to understand a conversation and hear people speaking from afar, my 93 year old is very set in his ways. So, I gave a gentle push. 

Improving a senior’s quality of life

For 93 years old, Dad is in incredible shape. He has many activities where hearing well would improve his quality of life. He enjoys playing piano, eating in restaurants, watching Perry Mason and NOVA on TV, and, of course, spending time with family. All of these things would be easier if he could hear better. It wasn’t until I mentioned that he should be able to hear the announcer during soccer matches that he finally agreed that hearing aids would improve his quality of life.

I can’t wait until his new hearing aids arrive. After years of watching him miss a lot of the conversation at family dinners, I’m pleased he’s finally taking the opportunity to hear better. At 93, it might be an big adjustment for him, but after a few weeks he may wonder how he survived decades without hearing aids.

It might be time to book their appointment. Then you can enjoy it when they are asked to bring someone to their free hearing assessment.*

Remember: The purpose of this hearing assessment and/or demonstration is for hearing wellness to determine if the patient(s) may benefit from using hearing aids. Products demonstrated may differ from products sold. Test conclusion may not be a medical diagnosis. The use of any hearing aid may not fully restore normal hearing and does not prevent future hearing loss. Testing is to evaluate your hearing wellness, which may include selling and fitting hearing aids. Hearing instruments may not meet the needs of all hearing-impaired individuals.

Posted by Admin

Do’s And Don’ts With Your Hearing Aid

Your hearing aid is an advanced piece of technology which can maximize your hearing experience. To help you make the most of your hearing device, we have compiled a list of tips, as well as do’s and don’ts. Read on, whether you’re a first time hearing aid user or a long-time wearer.

General Advice

  • Firstly, make sure your device has been fitted professionally. It was chosen to suit your hearing loss and lifestyle. Take the time to get to know it’s features, enabling the best hearing experience possible.
  • Gradually get used to different noise levels and situations. Some features help you focus by reducing distracting background noise.
  • If you suffer with tinnitus, check for features that help cancel it out.
  • Loud sounds will be jarring at first, and busy environments tiring. Be patient; your tolerance will improve.
  • If your voice sounds different to you, don’t worry, you will adjust to this!
  • Learn about apps, Bluetooth functions and find out where you can connect to hearing loops (usually theaters, cinemas and sporting centres).
  • If the skin of the ear feels irritated, check for any scratches in the ear canal and check your device for mold.
  • Gently clean and dry your aid and your ears. If irritation persists, contact your hearing center as you could have an allergy to one of the hearing aid materials.

When to wear and when not to

It is recommended to wear hearing aids most of the day. However, if this is your first pair you will need to build up the time you feel comfortable with them in. But remember, it can take a while to get used the sensation of hearing with them and also with how it fits.

There are times it is not recommended to wear your hearing aids…

  • Whilst you sleep – it is best to give your ears a rest.
  • Avoid wearing in humid environments, whilst near to water i.e swimming or showering and when playing sports.
  • When applying hairspray, sun lotion, perfume or cosmetics.

Hearing Aid Do’s and Don’ts

  • Don’t keep hearing aids or batteries in reach of dogs or children.
  • Don’t expect to hear everything perfectly, it would be overwhelming if nothing was filtered out.
  • Do a quick check when you put them; rub your hands together near each ear. Can you hear this on both sides?
  • Do keep spare batteries.
  • Do dab baby oil in the ear to help insert your device easier.
  • Do make the effort to listen to people, not just hear. Watch body language, their mouth and hand movements too.
  • Do try these exercises to adjust to wearing hearing aids:
    • With eyes closed, work out where something is by its sound only.
    • Eyes closed, see if you can tell the difference between sounds of speech.
    • Listen to an audio-book and read along at the same time.
    • Watch television with subtitles.

Hearing Aid Maintenance

  • Clean away earwax, grease and moisture using a soft cloth, or cleaning tools.
  • Store switched off and in a cool dry place with battery compartment open.
  • Use a damp (NOT WET) cloth to clean receiver tube and dome.
  • If any parts look discolored or feel brittle contact your hearing center.

Above all, do persevere with your hearing aids. It takes time to get used to them, but amongst other health benefits they can help keep your brain sharp for longer. If you would like further advice on any of the points raised, please do get in touch. Request an appointment today, or call us on (507) 208-7002.

Posted by Admin

Did You Know How Easy it is to Damage Your Hearing with Headphones?

We accept the fact that loud noise exposure damages hearing. Stats show there are more people than ever with Noise Induced Hearing Loss and sufferers are getting younger. 20% of our teens today have a noticeable hearing loss, which is 30% more than in the 1980’s.

The World Health Organization, among others, concludes that although it cannot be directly proven, headphone use could be a culprit. So heeding the warnings about loud noise, let’s start by looking at why headphones pose a threat to your hearing health.

How does loud noise damage hearing?

The hair cells of the inner ear need to send signals to the brain when we hear a sound. But, loud noise damages these hair cells by disrupting the fluid of the inner ear. This then causes a reduction in the threshold of sounds that can be heard. When this keeps happening, more and more hearing loss occurs.

Why blame headphones?

Our workplaces have to protect us from loud noise exposure. We naturally limit time in loud environments – such as speeding past roadworks, or rushing a meal in a noisy restaurant, or sitting away from a crying child etc.

When it comes to music and computer games, we feed it directly into our ear canal. We even turn it up to drown out the rest of the world, and some of us frequently do this for hours. It’s the direct feed of loud noise into our ears for long periods, frequently repeated that poses the threat to hearing.

The louder the sound, the less time you should be exposed for. A daily limit guideline is…

  • 95 dB, less than 4 hours.
  • 100 dB, less than 2 hours.
  • 105 dB, less than 1 hour.
  • 110 dB, less than 30 minutes.
  • 115 dB, less than 15 minutes.
  • 120-plus dB, damage occurs almost immediately and causes pain.

For comparison, a soft whisper is usually measured at 30dB.

How to tell the volume is too loud

  • You can’t hear or understand someone 3 feet away from you.
  • You have to raise your voice to be heard.
  • When you remove headphones, speech around you sounds muffled or dull.
  • You have ringing or pain in your ears.

I want to use headphones – how do i limit the damage?

  • Choose noise cancelling headphones.
  • Do not use earbuds – they have no sound buffer.
  • Keep the volume at around 60% of the maximum.
  • Limit your time and take a ten minute break for every hour during the day to let your ears recover.
  • Use both earphones.
  • If you use a hearing aid – look for bluetooth headphones to regulate the volume.

If you’re concerned you may have impacted your hearing from prolonged headphone use, get in touch to arrange a hearing evaluation. Any damage may not be permanent and our advice may just be music to your ears. Request an appointment today, or call us on (507) 208-7002.

Posted by Admin

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