Hearing Loss

What Gifts To Get For People With Hearing Loss

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Understanding & Preventing Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Do you struggle to follow conversations in loud environments? Have you persistently been exposed to loud noise, or have ringing in your ears? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you may have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to excessive levels of noise – for example, in noisy workplaces, or while listening to loud music. It can also be caused by extremely loud bursts of sound such as gunshots and explosions that can lead to damage within the ear structures. You may not even notice the symptoms of NIHL until years after you were first exposed to loud noise. Tinnitus is often the first indicator that someone’s hearing has been damaged by noise.

Preventing noise-induced hearing loss

Typical Sound Levels

Noise levels are usually measured in decibels (dB), a decibel scale that reflects the sensitivity of human ears to different levels and pitches of sound. Long exposure to sounds over 80 dB can damage your ears.

To help understand how this translates in the real world, ask yourself are you able to talk to someone standing 3 feet away from you without shouting over the background noise? If you are unable to communicate without raising your voice, there’s a good chance that the background noise is potentially hazardous to your hearing. If you’re ever anywhere where the sound volume hurts your ears, you should leave to avoid any damage. Some examples of common sounds we encounter are…

  • Heavy city traffic – 85 decibels
  • Motorcycles – 95 decibels
  • MP3 player at maximum volume – 105 decibels
  • Sirens – 120 decibels
  • Firecrackers/ firearms – 150 decibels

Treating noise-induced hearing loss

Scientific research has determined that, after excessive noise has stimulated cells in the inner ear, a chemical process called “apoptosis” occurs. Once the delicate hair cells in the inner ear are damaged by noise exposure, they cannot be restored. Unfortunately at this time, modern medicine has not yet discovered a way to restore hearing loss caused by excessive noise exposure. It is, however, possible to treat the communication impairments that are caused by noise-induced hearing loss.

Hearing aids can prove beneficial for sufferers by improving hearing in a number of everyday situations. They an also help to reduce an individual’s awareness of any tinnitus. But the best method is to try and prevent any noise-induced hearing loss in the first place. Try to avoid loud sounds at work, at home or when you go out and use hearing protection such as ear plugs or other isolation headphones.

Early detection and vigilance are key to help protect your hearing. We highly recommend regular screening. If you do have or suspect you might have NIHL, come in to speak to our expert team and find out how we can help you today. Call us at (212) 786-5741, or click here to request an appointment today.

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Understanding and Treating Unilateral Hearing Loss

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL), or Single Sided Deafness (SSD), occurs when the hearing in one ear is within a normal range, while the other ear has a hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. SSD is more troublesome and common than most people realize, and often goes untreated. Total hearing loss in one ear has been found to be very debilitating; affecting work, home and social interactions resulting from the reduced ability to localize sounds or discriminate speech in the presence of background noise.

Key Facts about Unilateral Hearing Loss

Before we delve into the symptoms and treatment of UHL, let’s first explore some of the key facts around the condition:

  • In the US, an estimated 60,000 people per year develop UHL.
  • On average, 1 out of every 1000 children is born with UHL. This increases a child’s risk of academic, social-emotional, and speech-language difficulties than their peers with normal hearing.
  • UHL may onset suddenly or progressively. It may also be congenital.
  • Causes can be viral infections, Meniere’s disease, head or ear injuries, or as a result of surgical intervention to remove brainstem tumours.
  • It can be associated with other aural symptoms such as otalgia, tinnitus and vertigo.

Symptoms of Unilateral Hearing Loss

Symptoms of unilateral hearing loss vary, and can include:

  • An inability to pinpoint the origin of sounds in a space. This can prove dangerous in situations where auditory awareness is important, such as when navigating traffic or driving.
  • Difficulty hearing on one side.
  • Difficulty isolating the source of sound especially in the presence of background noise, resulting in a blurring effect.
  • Reduced confidence and overall well-being.
  • Frequent stress and irritability as a result of difficulty communicating
  • Social isolation; avoiding meetings, busy places, social/family gatherings

Treatment for Unilateral Hearing Loss

Less severe cases of UHL are can be managed with conventional hearing aid technology in conjunction with aural rehabilitation and effective communication strategies. This includes advising individuals how to minimize the impact of UHL, such as learning to adapt to the condition and their environment. This can include avoiding overly crowded, noisy environments or selecting seating positions carefully.

More severe cases of UHL may be treated with assistive hearing devices. One such hearing devices is known as ‘Contralateral Routing of Signals’, or (CROS). CROS hearing aids are made up of a hearing aid shell which contains a receiver, and a secondary unit that includes a small microphone system. The receiver unit sits in or behind the unaffected ear, while the microphone system sits on the ear impacted by UHL. The microphone system picks up sounds, and then transmits these sounds to the receive on the good ear. CROS devices look like regular hearing aids but the sound is directed to the better ear.

CROS hearing aids can also be further divided into two additional categories. Bi-CROS hearing aids are used when there is also some hearing loss in the better ear. The signal from the poorer ear is transmitted like in a typical CROS system, but it is also amplified and cleaned up so that it can be heard more easily on the better hearing ear. Amp-CROS hearing aids are capable of stimulating the worse ear with sound, but they also transmit signals to the better ear at the same time. These are used with patients with some residual hearing in the poorer ear who may want to have a small amount of stimulation on that side to help reduce the presence of tinnitus symptoms.

Another treatment method is known as the bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) system. A BAHA is clipped onto a small titanium implant that is surgically anchored in the bone behind the impaired ear. The processor picks up sounds and transfers them to the good ear by vibrating them into the bone inside your skull. This process enables sounds to be heard and understood from both sides of an individual. BAHA hearing aids are also used in patients with severe conductive hearing loss.

The treatment options for UHL depend on the severity of the condition. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from unilateral hearing loss, don’t delay speaking to a hearing specialist. Call us on (212) 786-5741 or click here to Request An Appointment today.

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Tips on When to Get a Hearing Aid

Do You Really Need A Hearing Aid?

After being diagnosed with hearing loss, many individuals will wait months, if not years, before finally getting a hearing aid. There are many reasons that people delay getting a hearing aid, including denial, appearance and cost.

Individuals with hearing loss may also feel that their hearing is still acceptable, and therefore justify delaying getting a hearing aid. But ‘acceptable’ hearing may still be improved upon with the help of a hearing aid.

When Should You Get A Hearing Aid?

According to the MarkeTrak VIII survey on hearing impairment in the US, conducted in 2009 by the American hearing expert, Sergei Kochkin, 55.4% of Americans cited ‘my hearing loss has worsened’ as the reason for them deciding to get their first hearing aid.

There are a number of indicators that your hearing loss may be impacting your quality of life. Some of the more common symptoms can include:

  • Your friends and family tell you that you need to get your hearing checked
  • You struggle to hear in social situations with multiple people talking at once
  • You prefer the TV or radio at a higher volume than you used to
  • You often complain that people are mumbling
  • You have trouble understanding people when they are not looking directly at you
  • Your hearing loss has reduced your confidence
  • Conversations feel they they require your full effort and attention
  • You ask people to repeat themselves and often say “what?”
  • You prefer to use closed captions when watching television
  • You prefer to use the speakerphone feature during phone calls
  • You miss calls because you no longer hear the phone ringing
  • You no longer participate in social activities because of your difficulty hearing

The Benefits Of A Hearing Aid

There are many reasons that people will delay getting a hearing aid, but there are even better reasons to get one!

  1. Improved hearing! Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. Increased confidence. When you can hear clearly, you’ll be more self-assured in restaurants, on the job, and in social and public settings.
  2. Improved relationships. Communication is the cornerstone of any relationship. Hearing clearly can facilitate communication and improve your relationships.
  3. Reduced risk of memory loss or dementia. Recent studies have shown a link between hearing loss and memory loss or dementia, as the brain is lacking the stimulation that comes from hearing. Hearing aids can help to mitigate this.
  4. More energy! Struggling to hear all day takes a great deal of energy for your brain. Hearing aids can help to reduce this mental fatigue, leaving you feel more energized throughout the day.
  5. Improved quality of life. 70% of respondents to a study in Germany identified that digital hearing aids improved their overall quality of life.
  6. Avoid impacting your earning potential. Studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can negatively impact your earning potential. Don’t let your wallet take the hit, when hearing aids can help!
  7. Improved safety. Avoid missing out on emergency sounds such as fire alarms or calls for help.

If you’re ready to speak to a hearing care professional about how a hearing aid can improve your quality of life, contact us at (212) 786-5741 today. At Sutton Hearing & Balance, we want to help you enjoy a fuller life through better hearing. Request your free hearing assessment now.

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Protecting Yourself from Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear, or “otitis externa”, is a painful type of ear infection that involves the ear canal and typically occurs when water gets trapped inside the ear. Because the ear canal is dark and warm, normally present bacteria (or fungi) can easily multiply and cause an infection.

Anyone is susceptible, but children are particularly prone to this type of infection since their ear canals are narrower. We hope that by explaining the causes and symptoms you can avoid the discomfort of swimmer’s ear, or seek prompt treatment when needed.

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear has a few primary causes:

  • Trapped moisture from bathing/showering, trips to the pond/lake/beach/swimming pool or from moist or humid environments.
  • Contact with excessive bacteria present in hot tubs or polluted water.
  • Scratches or cuts within the ear i.e. from aggressive cleaning.
  • Damage to the skin of the ear canal i.e from skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or seborrhea.
  • Contact with certain chemicals such as hairspray or hair dye.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear

Initial symptoms of swimmer’s ear are usually mild. However, if an infection goes untreated, symptoms may progressively worsen. Symptoms will often first appear as itching and redness, resulting in the ear then becoming inflamed and painful. Pain can become severe, and is often worsened when the ear is touched or moved, i.e. when chewing or lying on a pillow. It is common to have jaw pain, as there are lots of nerves linking the base of the brain through the ear canal, the jaw, and down to the diaphragm. Other symptoms include:

  • A stuffy or plugged-up feeling in the affected ear.
  • Fluid draining from the affected ear.
  • Decreased or muffled hearing.
  • Fever and swollen lymph nodes can occur in severe cases.

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

The aim is to keep your ears as dry as possible. Consider wearing ear plugs and a bathing cap/wetsuit hood when you are in the water. After swimming or washing, turn your head side to side and pull the earlobes in different directions to help any excess water drain out. After draining, gently dry your ears with a towel. Do not try to clean your ears by inserting a foreign object like a cotton swab.

Treating Swimmer’s Ear

See a doctor as soon as you can if you suspect swimmer’s ear. A fluid sample may be taken when you are seen. You will likely be given antibiotic ear drops, as these reduce inflammation and inhibit bacterial/fungal growth.

If after a few days symptoms do not improve, return to your doctor. There could be a blockage preventing the medication working or oral antibiotics may be needed.

Please note, without treatment, infection can continue. This can cause recurring ear infections (chronic otitis externa). Diabetics and older adults are also at higher risk of dangerous complications. Infection can spread to the base of your skull, brain, or cranial nerves, causing bone and cartilage damage (malignant otitis externa).

Swimmer’s ear is a very common but preventable infection. Following treatment, hearing should return to normal. To further protect yourself make sure you have regular check ups and evaluations with your hearing specialist. Contact us today if you suspect that you may have swimmer’s ear, or to learn more information.

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