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How do Complex Environments Impact our Hearing?

“How is your hearing?” Even though this sounds like a simple question, it may not be a simple answer…do you find your answer changes based on where you are? Us to! It’s common for people to say they hear pretty well in certain places, but struggle to hear in others. 

In reality, the answer to the question “how is your hearing?”changes based on where you (and your ears) are! Are you in your home? Are you at a busy and bustling coffee shop? A restaurant with soft music playing? A grocery store? Walking on a busy street? All environments like the ones listed, have many changing variables that impact how easy or difficult it might be to hear what someone is saying. Rarely are we communicating in quiet, one-on-one situations, such as your audiologist’s office. The real world is a loud and busy place! There could be music playing, low lighting, and more than one voice talking at once. These factors all contribute to what we call a complex listening environment and can create a difficult space for communication. 

The main four factors that lead to a complex listening environment are: 

  • Background noise (music, machine noise, other voices)
    • A person’s voice (especially the consonants of speech which provide clarity) can be drowned out by competing sounds in the same room.
  • Lack of visual cues (not being able to see the face of the person you are speaking with)
    • We often use visual cues, such as speech reading (or lip reading) to help us when it is hard to hear…we often do this without realizing it and people with normal hearing do it too!
  • Distance from a sound source (being far away from the person you are speaking with)
    • The power in someone’s voice lowers as it travels across a room…picture how clear someone sounds when they are 1 meter away from you compared to down the hall or in another room.
  • Reverberant space (like a kitchen or hockey arena)
    • The power in someone’s voice can also fade when it bounces off smooth, hard surfaces in a space before reaching your ears.

When someone has hearing loss, hearing in any of these four situations can be extra difficult! This goes for our current patients who already have hearing aids, and our future patients who have never had a hearing test. It can often be confusing when deciding if you need to come to an audiologist for a hearing test or not. You might think back to a group dinner where you had a lot of difficulty hearing, but also remember a phone call or one -on-one visit that you could follow along just fine. The truth is, if you find yourself struggling in even one scenario, it is best to come for a hearing test,  establish a baseline, and learn about your hearing. Audiologists are full of information and tools to help minimize communication breakdowns, which is a fancy way of saying we can help you hear better! These tools can be as high tech as the latest hearing aids, and as low tech as communication strategies. When in doubt, fill up your toolkit to help yourself hear better.

When you come to your first appointment at The Hearing Room, before your hearing test you will complete a case history. The audiologist you see will ask you about your hearing experience in many different scenarios, as well as how you think your hearing is overall. This is a very important conversation for us to have with you, as we want to understand how easy or difficult (or somewhere in the middle) communicating is for you in your day to day life. 

Do you find yourself struggling to hear in complex listening environments or are interested in communication strategies to help you hear? Call The Hearing Room to learn more!

 

Oshawa: 905-571-1999
North Oshawa: 905-725-1999
Stouffville:  905-640-8999
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Traveling with your hearing aids

The holiday season can mean travelling to visit loved ones near and far. This may mean taking a long drive to a family dinner, or getting on a train or plane for some time away to relax and reconnect with loved ones.  Whatever your plans this holiday season, travelling with your hearing aids takes some extra time and thought, so we hope this blog post will help ease any stress during an already busy time of year! A question we often hear from our patients is , “Should I even bother bringing my hearing aids?”

Our answer is: “Of Course!”

As audiologists, we want our patients to get the most out of their hearing aids, which means wearing them all waking hours, especially when they are visiting family and friends!  

 

Here are some helpful hints for travelling with your hearing aids. Whether you use zinc-air batteries or have a rechargeable system, scroll down to the appropriate section after reading through the general tips.

 

General Tips for all hearing aids

  1. Pick a safe spot to keep your hearing aids!

    Suitcases and carry on baggage often have several handy compartments, sometimes too many to remember what went where! Be sure to pick one dry compartment for your hearing aid case and supplies and use that the whole trip. Pro tip: tell someone you are travelling with where you packed your hearing aid supplies.

  2.  Bring cleaning supplies with you!

    Even if you don’t normally need to change your wax guard once per week, you don’t want wax to be the reason you can’t hear well on vacation. Be sure to stop by the clinic if you need an extra pack of wax guards or a new cleaning cloth before you go.

  3. Going through airport security in Canada? Leave your hearing aids in!

    Hearing aids are medical devices, therefore the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) does not require individuals to remove hearing aids or other hearing devices while going through security at the airport. They ask that you let the agent on duty know you are wearing hearing aids and they can be visually inspected. Of course if you wish to take them out and place them in the bins with your other belongings, be sure to place them in your protective case.

  4. Consider bringing a spare case, maybe even make it waterproof!

    Since vacation can often mean time on a beach, we really want to keep hearing aids dry and sand free. Make sure your hearing aid case closes properly and perhaps is in another bag to keep it off the ground. People often find a waterproof utility case helpful for things like keys, wallet, or phone – make some room for your hearing aids in there as well!

  5. Make time to put in your hearing aids each morning!

    Routines are often different when travelling, be sure to allow yourself time to put in your hearing aids before heading out for your day of adventures!

Rechargeable Hearing Aids:

  1. Bring your charger!

    You want to be sure to power up overnight, just like when you are at home – Pro tip: your charger will work in any country with the appropriate international power adapter, similar to what you would use to charge a cell phone.

  2. Charge on the go!

    Taking a road trip with your hearing aids or want some extra battery life before your reach your evening destination? Most chargers have a USB end that you can plug into your car by simply removing the wall plug section from the end of the cord.

  3. Bring your hearing aid protective case  – just in case!

    There may be a time while you’re away when you need to take out your hearing aids in the middle of the day but you aren’t putting them into the charger. For example, when going for a swim.  Should this happen, be sure to place your hearing aids safely in the case. Pro tip: ask your audiologist about how to power off the hearing aids, so you aren’t using up the charge while the hearing aids are out!

  4. Bring back-up batteries!

    Do you use rechargeable hearing aid batteries? Some people with this style of rechargeable hearing aid prefer using disposable batteries on vacation. This can be a handy and helpful suggestion if you are travelling to many different places on your vacation or if you forget your charger!

 

Non-rechargeable Hearing Aids:

  1. Bring back up batteries…more than you think!

    You never know if a bag will be misplaced while travelling, or a local shop that sold batteries has moved, or perhaps you get delayed coming home. To avoid stress, always bring enough batteries for your trip, plus some spares.

  2. Travelling light? No problem!

    Save some space by cutting off the cardboard top of your hearing aid battery card. Keeping batteries in the wheel ensures the stickers stay on (keeping the batteries new) until you need the batteries.

 

Don’t forget, these tips apply for any time of year travel!  Need more supplies before boarding time? Call The Hearing Room location nearest to you before you begin your adventures!

Oshawa: 905-571-1999
North Oshawa: 905-725-1999
Stouffville:  905-640-8999
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How much Noise is too much? Your Autumn and Winter Guide to Safe Hearing 

Fall is here, but if you reside in Canada, it’s feeling a lot more like winter! Along with artists continuing their tour sessions, sports are back! The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors are in season! The Oshawa Generals, a team we are so excited to support, also opened their season at the Tribute Communities Centre on Sept 29.  While the return of basketball and hockey, and attending concerts are fun activities, it is important to be mindful of hearing health as these environments can expose people attending to unsafe noise levels.

At concerts, people in attendance are likely to experience noise levels for too long. This can cause permanent damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, meaning hearing permanent, irreversible hearing loss. Rock concerts are often used as an example in a noise chart for ‘very loud sounds’ coming in at 115 decibels (dB) or more!

In Ontario, the limit of safe noise exposure for an 8-hour duration is 85 dBA. For every increase of 3 dBA to the noise level, the safe listening time decreases by half. Following this exchange rate, at a dB level of 97 dBA, your safe listening time before damage occurs is only 30 minutes. If we use this tool for the 115 dB example of the rock concert, the safe listening time at the concert before permanent damage takes place would be less than thirty seconds! 

What does noise damage look like? After one concert, a person can experience tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears, which indicates their ears were exposed to too much sound. Eventually over time, noise at concerts can cause this ringing in the ears to become more frequent, and also show up in later years as noise induced hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the second most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss. The factors of NIHL include the level (how loud), duration (how long), and frequency (how often) of exposure.

Arenas are also notorious for becoming extremely loud! For example, during the 2015 NBA finals, the arena for the Golden State Warriors was estimated to be around 100-120 dB! This loudness level was likely attained several times during the game, putting people in attendance at risk for damage to hair cells and permanent hearing loss.

When attending your favourite concert or sporting event, remember the following hearing tips.

1) Always pack earplugs! Bring an extra pair for a friend or family member. If you forget yours, keep an eye out, some concerts and arenas now sell earplugs to protect you from noise!

2) Stand away from the speakers! Choose your listening spot wisely, make sure you aren’t near any speakers as this will increase your noise exposure and almost guarantee permanent hearing damage without hearing protection.

3) Take listening breaks! Step away from the noise to give your ears a break if listening for a long period of time.

4) Children are often in attendance at sporting events, so be sure to apply these tips for everyone in the family!

 

If you have any concerns about noise at concerts or sporting events you have attended and how they have impacted your hearing, it is important to get a hearing test. Even more important, is if you plan on attending more loud events in the future, invest in hearing protection! This can be as simple as purchasing a foam earplug from the drug store, as long as it is inserted properly and the correct size for your ear. Alternatively, you can have custom noise plugs made for a perfect fit every time. In particular, musician’s plugs have a sophisticated filter in them that maintains the quality of the music you are listening to, but lowers it to a safe listening level. Not sure what the right solution is for you? Give us a call at The Hearing Room and our audiologists will be happy to help you.

If you have questions about your hearing and want your hearing assessed before the holidays, do not hesitate to call The Hearing Room. We would be happy to help!

 

Oshawa: 905-571-1999
North Oshawa: 905-725-1999
Stouffville:  905-640-8999
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Communication Tips for Your Holiday Meal

Thanksgiving is here and the holidays are around the corner! ‘Tis the season for seeing friends and gathering together with those we care about most. This is always an exciting time of the year, but if you have a hearing loss, being part of a busy, social gathering and communicating with others can be difficult and you may feel as if you are missing out on some of the conversation.  If you have a hearing loss and notice people sound unclear, or as if they are mumbling while speaking, a hearing test is strongly recommended. The good news is hearing tests are often complimentary!  If you have hearing aids, be sure they are working in proper order prior to the festivities, and keep the following simple tips in mind to help you communicate better at the dinner table. Don’t forget to pass these tips along to your loved ones too!

 

  1. If you have hearing loss, be sure to face the person you are speaking to.

 

Hearing aids work best when the user is facing the person they are communicating with. This is because the microphones in the hearing aids work to amplify the strongest speech signal and decrease surrounding noise. Facing the person  you are speaking with will also make it easier for you to focus on the conversation better, while also allowing you to use visual cues to understand what is being said better. If you do not wear hearing aids and find you struggle in these situations more than before, it might be time for a hearing test. Hearing tests are complimentary if you are over 65 at The Hearing Room!

 

  1. Adequate lighting is important for lip reading.

 

We all lip read to a certain extent.  Even people with normal hearing use facial cues and body language to understand what is being said and follow conversations. More light enables stronger visualization of what is being said resulting in better conversations at the dinner table. This is especially important when more than one conversation is happening at once and greater focus is required.

 

  1. If communicating with someone with a hearing loss, do not talk with your mouth full!

 

Not only is talking with your mouth full impolite, but it also makes it harder for those with hearing loss to understand what is being communicated. When talking with your mouth full, the listener will find it more difficult to lip read as the intonation of your voice, the shape of the words being said, and how well you can project speech all change dramatically.  As the speaker, it is also beneficial to those with hearing loss if you sit up straight, and speak clearly and loudly. However, it is important not to yell as this actually causes speech to become distorted, prohibiting lip-reading.

 

 

  1. If speaking to someone with hearing loss, get their attention before you start a conversation.

 

Saying a person’s name is very powerful, and it can also let them know you are starting a conversation with them. This allows the listener to face you and become attentive. Hearing loss requires increased attention to hear, especially in noise.  Obtaining someone’s attention before speaking with them can help them better follow the conversation and make their dining experience, usually during the holidays, much more enjoyable! It can also decrease overall fatigue levels, as those with a hearing loss are already using more resources than average to be able to follow conversation.

If you have questions about your hearing or hearing aids and want your hearing assessed before the holidays, do not hesitate to call The Hearing Room. We would be happy to help!

 

Oshawa: 905-571-1999
North Oshawa: 905-725-1999
Stouffville:  905-640-8999
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So You Need a Hearing Aid…

When we ask our patients if they are excited about new hearing aids, the response we get is lackluster, to say the least. Hearing aid technology has never been better and manufacturers are always looking to make improvements, spending millions of dollars on research and development to improve patient outcomes. Patient satisfaction ratings have been dramatically on the rise, with 84% of patients reporting high satisfaction with their hearing aids in the most recent mass patient survey conducted in 2014 (see link below for details). If you need a hearing aid, it’s ok to become excited! In this blog, we will outline what to expect while going through the hearing aid selection and fitting process.

 

Hearing Aid Selection

A wide variety of hearing aids, technology levels, and styles exist in the hearing industry. The options might seem overwhelming, but an audiologist’s job is to help simplify this process! Technology selection is based on patient needs, preferences and lifestyle. Hearing aid style depends on the hearing loss, manual dexterity, options for rechargeability and aesthetics, just to name a few. Hearing aids now have the potential to be quite technical as well if the patient is interested. Hearing aids are able to connect to cell phones, be controlled and adjusted by apps, and allow for direct streaming from televisions for more pleasurable viewing. If technology does not interest you, that is ok too. Hearing aids can also be as simple as putting on a pair of glasses. With that being said, you should know that your first hearing aid fitting will be very different than getting a pair of glasses!

 

Hearing Aids are Not the Same as Glasses

Some patients seem surprised to hear their first hearing aid fitting will take almost an hour! Hearing aids are comparable to micro computers that need to be programmed to a patient’s unique hearing thresholds and then further adjusted to the patient’s comfort levels. Noise management strategies, the physical fit and comfort of the hearing aid, the patient’s lifestyle and the need for programs are all taken into consideration during the hearing aid fitting. The hearing aid is then checked using a “verification system” to ensure it was fit based on the patient’s hearing loss. Smart phone and tablet apps or other accessories are reviewed and how to clean the hearing aid is also discussed at the appointment. Many aspects are involved in a patient’s first hearing aid fitting!

Another significant difference between wearing glasses and hearing aids is the amount of adaptation required by the brain when new and wonderful sounds are being heard for the first time in a long time. Truthfully, some patients may not agree that the sounds they are hearing are wonderful. For example, the sound of a clock ticking may sound alarming initially. However, it is important to remember that the patient’s brain has not heard many of these sounds in a long time, and the regions of the brain that previously heard those sounds need to re-adjust. Rest assured however, because as a person’s brain becomes used to hearing again, these sounds will start to sound normal. Patients often come back to The Hearing Room and express their wonder at ever living without hearing them!

 

Follow up and Maintenance

Audiologists strive to see their hearing aid patients quite regularly in order to re-assess hearing thresholds and ensure their patients’ hearing aids are being maintained properly. Hearing clinics have equipment, such as a small hearing aid vacuum cleaner, used to deep clean the hearing aids more than the patient is able to do at home. It’s extremely important for this reason to maintain regular follow-up appointments (usually scheduled every 6 months), to ensure the hearing aids are kept in fine condition. While hearing thresholds usually do remain quite steady, a gradual decline is expected over time and adjusting the patient’s hearing aids to their hearing as it changes ensures optimal hearing.

 

If you have questions about your hearing or hearing aids, do not hesitate to call The Hearing Room. We would be happy to help!

 

Oshawa: 905-571-1999

North Oshawa: 905-725-1999

Stouffville:  905-640-8999

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When Should I Start Thinking About Hearing Aids?

How old do I need to be for hearing aids? Is my hearing loss bad enough for hearing aids? Is it ok to wait? This, and questions like it are what we often hear from our patients. These are all valid questions and ones we will address with today’s blog.

 

Hearing Loss Can start at Any Age

Hearing loss can occur at any age. In Ontario, infants get screened for hearing loss when they are born. In elementary school, an audiologist usually comes to provide hearing screenings as well. Sources like WebMD recommend a hearing test again at 21 years of age for a baseline, and a hearing test every 10 years after that until the age of 50 if the person feels his or her hearing is normal throughout that time. After the age of 50, testing is recommended every 3 years. If hearing loss is present at any point, the person is a candidate for hearing aids to treat the hearing loss.

 

Do I have enough Hearing Loss for Hearing Aids?

If hearing loss is present, a person could be a candidate for hearing aids. Current hearing aid technology is capable of fitting almost any hearing loss. If you are noticing difficulties in the presence of background noise, even with a mild hearing loss, hearing aids could be helpful. The challenge with hearing loss is that the change is gradual, meaning at times it can be difficult for the person to know what they are missing. Many clinics offer hearing aid demos or a trial period. A demo may help someone with hearing loss understand all the sounds they are missing and provide a clear idea of how hearing aids might work in noise. Noisy situations are often the most challenging for those with hearing loss.

 

Early Intervention is Key!

When it comes to hearing aids, early intervention is important for many reasons. While our ears pick up sounds, it is the brain that processes the sound. The longer someone is deprived of auditory information, the more challenging it becomes for their brain to become accustomed to hearing the missing sounds again once they are re-introduced with hearing aids. If the regions of the brain that process sound are deprived from sound for too long of a time period, those regions of the brain will experience shrinkage over time. The saying ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ holds true here.

The brain may no longer have a memory of what certain sounds are over time and bringing those sounds to the forefront again can also be overwhelming if a person waits too long to treat their hearing loss.  A good example to explain this concept is to think about the sound of a clock ticking.  If someone with normal hearing were to close their eyes and hear a clock tick, they would be familiar with the sound and would be able to identify it with no problem. If someone with hearing loss for 20 years finally decided to pursue hearing aids (which is not an uncommon scenario), it is possible that they will not even be able to identify what a ticking clock is initially due to the brain having not heard that exact sound in years. More specifically, the memory of that sound has faded and it will take time for the brain to adapt to hearing all the sounds again.

Manual dexterity is also something else that can deteriorate with age. People who become accustomed to inserting and cleaning hearing aids when they are younger, and while their dexterity is intact, will not have issues using hearing aids when they are older. As audiologists at The Hearing Room, we have seen experienced hearing aid users with arthritic hands insert hearing aids with no issues because they pursued them when they were younger. Early intervention is strongly encouraged when it comes to hearing aids and it can actually make the overall experience better as you age.

 

If you have questions about your hearing or hearing aids, do not hesitate to call The Hearing Room. We would be happy to help!

 

Oshawa: 905-571-1999

North Oshawa: 905-725-1999

Stouffville:  905-640-8999

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Demystifying Tinnitus

Do I have tinnitus?

Is there noise in your ears? In your head? Ringing? Buzzing? Whooshing? Hissing? These sounds are all commonly referred to as tinnitus. A leading company which works with this phenomenon estimates that around 250 million people worldwide experience this problem! You may be wondering…what exactly is this sound in your head? Tinnitus is the perception of sound with no external sound source. If you can’t quite recall if you have ever experienced this, think back to a time you attended a loud concert or event. Did you feel your ears were ringing after you left? Were they still ringing the next day? This is called tinnitus. Some people have it temporarily after one particular loud event or some experience it regularly on and off. Some individuals experience constant tinnitus – their ears are always ringing!

Why do I have tinnitus?

The ringing or buzzing sounds you hear can be related to many causes or activities, including exposure to loud sounds and subsequent inner ear damage, certain groups of medication, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, consuming caffeine, high blood pressure, stress, lack of sleep, increased sodium (salt) intake. It is important to know not everyone who partakes in these activities will experience tinnitus, and everyone who experiences tinnitus, may not necessarily partake in the above activities.

If I have tinnitus does that mean I have hearing loss?

Back to our example at the beginning of the loud concert, the ringing you might experience after an event is a sign that the sound was too loud, unsafe, and you would benefit from wearing earplugs next time. Repeating this activity can lead to permanent damage of the inner ear, also known as sensorineural hearing loss. Often hearing loss and the ringing or hissing sounds go hand in hand; therefore, when a patient books an appointment to address these issues at The Hearing Room,  an audiologist will always do a full audiological assessment (hearing test).

What can I do about my tinnitus?

Those who experience hissing or ringing sounds in their ears, often report the sounds are the most noticeable when they are in a quiet environment, as there is no other environmental noise to distract them. There is no magic cure for tinnitus, or pill that will take it away; however we work with our patients with the goal for them to become less bothered by their tinnitus to reduce the negative impact on their lives. When hearing loss is present, the best way to help the ringing or buzzing sounds become less obvious is to treat the hearing loss by wearing properly fit amplification, or hearing aids. This allows the patient  to hear more sounds around them, creating a more rich and full soundscape. Properly fit hearing aids means less time in quiet, which means less time to focus on the ringing!  A common time when the ringing or hissing sounds are the ‘the loudest’ is right before you fall asleep at night. Playing some soft background music, or turning on a fan may be helpful to give you another sound to listen to as you fall asleep. Certain types of tinnitus require a full audiological assessment as well as a referral to an ear specialist (ENT or Otolaryngologist).

If you have questions about your tinnitus, or you are worried it is stopping you from enjoying your life, call The Hearing Room today to book an appointment and come in to learn about what options are available.

 

Oshawa: 905-571-1999
North Oshawa: 905-725-1999
Stouffville:  905-640-8999
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5 Reasons You Should have a Hearing Test

1. Hearing connects us with people; have a hearing test if you are experiencing difficulties!

Expressing how we feel and communicating with our loved ones is largely a function of how we hear. Hearing keeps us connected with our friends, family and the lady behind the check-out at the grocery store! If you seem to have trouble conversing with your grandchildren lately, or you are convinced that the teenagers in your life mumble, it might be time to have a hearing test.

 2. Hearing well keeps you active!

There is a common misconception that hearing aids are just for the elderly.. this is simply not true! The Center for Disease Control in the United States reports that 5 out of every 1000 children have a diagnosed hearing loss from ages 3-17 (1). Hearing loss can affect people of all ages. Hearing well and treating hearing loss with hearing aids is important to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Research has shown that those with untreated hearing loss suffer higher incidences of depression, feel more isolated, are more dependent on others and participate less socially (2). Hearing loss can greatly affect how we interact with other people and the world around us. If it seems you have more trouble hearing lately, don’t hesitate to see your audiologist for a hearing test. You will be glad you did!

 

3. Hearing is important for your brain.

Believe it or not, the brain and your ears have a pretty close relationship! The auditory cortex is a part of the brain that processes speech and sounds from the environment. Untreated hearing loss means the brain loses access to sounds, and the brain will actually shrink (by an additional cubic centimeter per year to be exact) as those regions are not being stimulated. Research has also found that those with untreated hearing loss seem to have faster rates of cognitive decline as compared to their normal hearing counterparts. The good news is  that hearing aids seem to help! Research has shown that hearing aids may slow the accelerated decline by 75% according to some studies. Hearing loss was also listed as the largest reversible risk factor in dementia prevention. (3,4,5,6,7)

4. Hearing tests are quick and often complimentary.

A thorough diagnostic examination of your hearing is much quicker than you think! An audiologist can gather a lot of information from a 15-minute examination, and they are often complimentary! If hearing loss is present, a hearing aid evaluation often follows where the audiologist will review suitable technology options and styles. Adults over 55 years of age would benefit from a hearing test, even if it is just to obtain a baseline of hearing.

 

5. Hearing aids are smart!

Hearing aids are small devices packed with technology. They can detect many sounds in the world around you and make automatic adjustments to optimize speech sounds and decrease noise. The more ‘high-end’ the hearing aid technology is, the better the hearing aid is at making adjustments. If technology interests you, hearing aids have a variety of apps you can connect to, they can act as streaming devices for cell phones (made for iPhone and android), and some even have artificial intelligence capabilities. All with the touch of a finger! The large, brown, clunky hearing aids of the past are just that, in the past!

If you have questions or are interested in learning more, call The Hearing Room. We are always happy to help! Better hearing is waiting for you!

 

Oshawa: 905-571-1999

North Oshawa: 905-725-1999

Stouffville:  905-640-8999

 

  1. Center for Disease and Prevention Control “Data and Statistics About Hearing Loss in Children” accessed from (May 6, 2019): https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/data.html
  2. Dalton, D., Cruickshanks, K., Klein, B., Klein, R., et al. The Impact of Hearing Loss on Quality of Life in Older Adults.Gerontologist. 2003; 43 (5): 661-668
  3. Lin, F., Metter, J., O’Brian,. R. et al. Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia Arch Neurol. 2011; 68(2):214-220.
  4. Lin, F.,  Ferrucci, L., An, Y. Association of Hearing Impairment with Brain Volume Changes in Older Adults Neuroimage. 2014; (15); 90: 84–92.
  5. Amieva, H., Ouvard, C., Giulioli, C., et al. Self-Reported Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids, and Cognitive Decline in Elderly Adults: A 25-Year Study  2015;63(10):2099–2104.
  6. Livingston,G., Sommerlad, A., Orgeta, V., et al. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care The Lancet Commissions. 2017; 390: 2673–2734.
  7. Bodkin, Henry “Hearing aids slow dementia by ‘75%’, new study finds” The Telegraph.2018; accessed from (May 6, 2019): https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/10/11/hearing-aids-slow-dementia-75-new-study-finds/

 

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Studies Show a Link Between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

Yet another article has been published describing the impacts of untreated hearing loss. The findings in the study link hearing loss and cognitive decline, and the CBC has made an easily digestible summary from their radio program earlier this month by Dr. Peter Lin. Harvard Medical School followed 10 000 men over 8 years and were able to compare those with hearing loss and those with normal hearing. The participants in the study used subjective cognitive decline, or memory and thinking problems they noticed themselves. This means the changes noted were more subtle, and involved with earlier signs of cognitive change, and not necessarily a full diagnosis of dementia.

 

The Take Home Message? Untreated Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline Seem to be Related

The take home message of the study was that men with mild hearing loss had a 30% increased risk of subjective cognitive decline, men with moderate hearing loss had a 42% increased risk of subjective cognitive decline, and those with severe hearing loss had a 54% increased risk of subjective cognitive decline!

 

How Does Untreated Hearing Loss Lead to Increased Cognitive Decline?

Reasons listed in the article as to why hearing loss leads to increased risk of cognitive decline include:

  1. Trouble hearing leads to increased strain: when it is hard to hear, a person will concentrate harder and use more resources from other areas to hear – this could mean the resources are no longer available for things like memory
  2. Nothing to process: when a person lacks normal hearing, there is less information for the auditory cortex (the part of the brain responsible for hearing) to process, and with this lack of ‘work’, that part of the brain can start to shrink.  Surrounding areas that support the auditory center of the brain can also start to shrink.
  3. Isolation: when it is too hard to hear at a social gathering or social activity, people may choose not to go, which leads to the entire brain not being stimulated. As a result, there is less for the brain to do, and this is also linked to parts of the brain shrinking.
There is some good news though.  Those with severe hearing loss who wore hearing aids were able to reduce future memory loss by 37%, which highlights the importance of keeping your brain stimulated (even after a deficit period) and staying engaged socially!

 

Take a listen to the segment right here:

https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1439589955686

 

Interested in reading the entire article? Read it here, as published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia:

https://www.alzheimersanddementia.com/article/S1552-5260(18)33606-9/pdf

 

If you have more questions or are interested in learning more, call The Hearing Room. We are always happy to help! Better hearing is waiting for you!

 

Oshawa: 905-571-1999

North Oshawa: 905-725-1999

Stouffville:  905-640-8999

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Why Are Hearing Aids So Expensive

Why are hearing aids so expensive? This is a commonly asked question among people with a hearing loss. How is it possible that these medical devices cost so much? In today’s blog, we hope to address this question.

The Cost of a Hearing Aid is No More than the Cost of a Cup of Coffee a Day

While hearing aids are expensive devices, the hearing aid user must only worry about the initial cost once every three to five years. Hearing aids are warrantied by the manufacturer for at least three years and are usually covered under a three-year service plan with the clinic the patient makes the purchase with. The upfront cost may seem high; however, the cost truly only boils down to what you might pay for a cup of coffee per day… no pun intended 😊. Let us break it down further. If the out-of-pocket expense for a pair of mid-level hearing aids is around $3500, and the hearing aid user wears the hearing aids for about 5 years, the cost ends up being about $2.20 per day (which includes any post warranty maintenance fees)! Most hearing aid users replace their hearing aids in the 3-5-year mark, but some people keep them longer, reducing the overall cost per day even more. This is a low expense when the overall benefits of hearing loss to emotional, social, and cognitive health are taken into consideration.

Additionally, it is important to note that many hearing clinics (The Hearing Room included) offer various financing plans for patients who may require one, or for patients who prefer to break up payments over time.

 

You Might be Losing More than Your Hearing

 

The research on untreated hearing loss and the potential health risks to the brain and other health issues is quite staggering. Research has shown that those with untreated hearing loss have higher incidences of anxiety and depression, and also report more feelings of dependence, isolation, anger and confusion as compared to those with normal hearing. The research also seems to indicate a link between dementia and cognitive decline. Not only do those with untreated hearing loss seem to have an accelerated rate of cognitive decline compared to their normal hearing counterparts, (about a 30-40% faster decline), the risk factor increased with the severity of the untreated hearing loss.  Those who have a severe untreated hearing loss are 5x more likely to develop cognitive decline or dementia as compared to their normal hearing peers.

 

Untreated Hearing Loss and Brain Tissue Loss

 

This may be surprising, but untreated hearing loss effects brain tissue and results in increased brain tissue atrophy (or brain tissue shrinkage). Research has shown that individuals with untreated hearing loss lost an additional cubic centimeter of brain tissue per year, as compared to their normal hearing counterparts. The areas of brain tissue loss were predominantly in the regions that process speech and sound. If the brain is being deprived of sound because of hearing loss, it makes sense that the areas of the brain responsible for processing speech and sound will get smaller and shrink over time due to the lack of stimulation. As the saying goes…if you don’t use it, you lose it.  When it comes to auditory deprivation, hearing loss and the brain, it appears this sentiment applies all too well.

 

Treating your Hearing Loss can Improve your Health

 

Hearing aids are expensive, but research suggests we might be in greater trouble with our overall health if we choose to avoid or delay treatment of hearing loss. Newer studies have demonstrated that in addition to hearing aids attenuating the accelerated cognitive decline exhibited by those with untreated hearing loss, they also can slow dementia by 75%! That is an astonishing statistic. If you have hearing loss but feel as if hearing aids are out of your reach due to financial restraints, talk to your audiologist. Hearings aids come in many technology levels, and it is likely that your audiologist will be able to find one that accommodates both your budget and hearing loss needs.

 

If you have more questions or are interested in learning more, call The Hearing Room. We are always happy to help! Better hearing is waiting for you!

Oshawa: 905-571-1999

North Oshawa: 905-725-1999

Stouffville:  905-640-8999

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