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Hearing Loss

Periodic Exercise Key to Stemming Hearing Loss and Improving Balance

Start moving!

Want to keep your hearing and protect yourself from falls? Get out there and start moving! Physical activity will do wonders for you, especially if your hearing isn’t what it used to be.

According to a recent Brigham and Women’s Hospital study, researchers found a strong link between obesity and hearing loss in females. Women whose Body Mass Index exceeded 40 had a 25% higher risk of hearing loss than those with BMIs under 25, with daily activity helping lower the potential by as much as 17%, the research concluded.

“We often think of hearing loss as an inevitable part of the aging process, but these findings provide evidence that potentially modifiable risk factors, such as maintaining a healthy weight and staying physically active, may help in the prevention of hearing loss or delay its progression,” said lead author Sharon Curhan, M.D., according to a BWH press release.

Outdoor exercise can be a challenge

But it’s not all that easy, especially if you’re already hard of hearing. Daily exercise outside a gym can prove difficult, especially if you live in a highly trafficked area, where you need to be fully aware of your surroundings to stay out of harm’s way. So, running, walking, and even hiking without a workout partner could put you in harm’s way.

Getting hit by a car, for example, would more than counteract the beneficial effects you gain from exercise. Biking presents yet another hazard, especially for those with balance as well as hearing impairments, which tend to go hand-in-hand as you age.

Even going to the gym presents challenges for the hearing-impaired. The excruciatingly loud music that blares during exercise classes makes it difficult to hear what your instructors are saying and could leave your hearing worse off. What’s the point of sweating to the oldies if you aren’t doing it right and could inadvertently injure yourself?

A new concept

Fear not, readers. A gym in Nashville, Tenn., has just the workout regimen for aspiring deaf and hearing-impaired gym rats, according to a recent USA Today story.

Of course, there’s no loud music and shouting. At Bridges, a center for the hearing impaired in middle Tennessee, the instructors use sign language to issue their commands and visual clues to inform their clients of what to do next, services unheard of at a normal gym. From squats to leg lifts to lunges, they help those with complete or partial hearing loss go through the paces and learn how to use the machines and lift weights correctly to achieve the best results.  In addition to weight training, they also offer Zumba and yoga.

Hopefully the Bridges concept will spread nationwide, or at least raise awareness that the deaf and the hearing-impaired can benefit greatly from physical activity in maintaining a healthy weight and improving balance, which is as important to well-being, especially as you get older.

Hearing loss increases risk of falls

Even mild hearing loss nearly triples your risk of falling once you’re past 40 years of age, according to 2012 Johns Hopkins University/National Institute on Aging study. That skyrockets by an additional 140 percent for every 10 decibels added. The majority of people who suffer injuries because of falls are older and hence more likely to have hearing loss and probably balance issues as well.

Workouts geared to strengthening the core — through pilates or weight-lifting with supervision or even aquatic aerobics (provided your head is above water) — can help improve balance as well as reduce belly fat, a key predictor of heart disease, help alleviate lower back pain, and correct posture. It also improves athletic performance, a perk that all age groups could benefit from.

If you’ve been a runner all your life and can’t bear to part with it, consider learning how to safely use a treadmill or similar cardio machines and do it with a buddy. You don’t need to have perfect hearing to operate them, but if you don’t learn how to control the speeds, you could easily go flying off, especially if you have balance problems in addition to hearing loss.

So, get your heart beating. It’s good for your overall health and outlook on life, and it’s also good for preventing accidental falls and further hearing loss.

Categories
Hearing Loss

I Was Asked to Bring a Companion to My Appointment. Why?

This is something that a lot of our patients ask, and I’m more than happy to clarify. When any of our patients schedule, we always ask that they bring a spouse, significant other, or a close family member to the appointment for a variety of reasons:

• There is a lot of information to go over. We pride ourselves in how much we know about hearing loss, and we like to pass that information on to our patients. When you come in, our AudigyCertified™ audiologists are going to give you all of the information they can to help you, and having a loved one with is great because it’s an extra set of ears to listen.

• Emotional support. Finding out you have a hearing loss is hard, and having a support system at the appointment with you can be exceptionally helpful.

• A different perspective. You might have questions when you come in, and that’s fantastic! But this might mean that your companion also has questions, and we want to answer those as well.

• You might not know you’re not hearing certain things. I f you do have a hearing loss, you might not know what you’re not hearing. Bringing someone who is close to you and familiar with your hearing experience gives us another point of view!

• Hearing aids are a big decision! Hearing aids aren’t something you can just pick up on your weekly trip to the mall. Like all medical decisions, hearing aids are a big deal. A lot of our patients prefer to consult with their spouse or significant other before making the decision to purchase, and sometimes they have questions. By bringing them to the appointment, they can get all of the information that you get, and you can make an informed decision together.

There are many reasons to bring a loved one with to your appointment, but it’s not a requirement. Sometimes there are extenuating factors and loved ones aren’t able to make it, and we understand that. If you’re not, we are still more than happy to see you! If you are able to bring someone with you, they are more than welcome to come. We love answering questions, and we’re sure your loved one has a few!

Categories
Hearing Loss

Vertigo

Dizziness and vertigo are fairly common medical complaints with 20%–30% of the general population reporting symptoms at some time during their life. Dizziness can affect patients of all ages and can have many different causes. Symptoms of dizziness become more prevalent as patients age and tend to affect women more than men. In fact 2%–3% of emergency room visits are the result of dizziness.

What is vertigo?

Vertigo is the feeling of movement while remaining stationary.  It is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting, instability, or difficulty maintaining balance and falling. Vertiginous attacks can include blurred vision and difficulty speaking. Attacks may be episodic and acute or chronic. True vertigo is often associated with diseases of the ear.

Dizziness is a little vaguer, and can mean true vertigo, lightheadedness, or a balance disorder. Dizziness can also be caused by many things such as BPPVlabyrinthitis, anxiety, middle ear infections, and sinus and allergy problems.

Get a professional diagnosis

Diagnosing the cause of vertigo and dizziness begins with a visit to your primary physician. He or she is most qualified to start the process of ruling out the underlining causes such as diabetes, heart problems or inner ear disorder. The primary physician may refer you to several specialists to narrow down the possible cause. An otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) is likely to be involved as diseases of the ear are ruled out. The audiologist may be asked to perform a hearing test looking for subtle differences between your ears. They will also be the specialist asked to assess the function of the balance portion of the inner ear. The audiologist typically does this with a test called an ENG or VNG (electronystagmography study or videonystagmography study). This test is really a series of smaller tests that access the semicircular canals (the balance portion of the inner ear) and the central balance system. The results can help the physician decide how best to treat the dizziness.

Many treatments available

The good news is that once the underlying cause is identified, there are many treatments for dizziness and vertigo. The treatments may involve manipulations that allow tiny, free-floating crystals in your inner ear be reabsorbed or vestibular rehabilitation to help you adjust to changes in you balance system. Depending on the cause, there may also be surgical or medical treatments available. The key is proper diagnosis.

Our AudigyCertified™ audiologists are well trained providers of vestibular (balance) evaluation and treatment. If you or a loved one is experiencing dizziness, ask your physician if inner ear disorder should be ruled out. As with all of our appointments, you will be guided through our 4-step process. We will review our history, examine your ears, evaluate the inner ear system and review the results and possible treatment options with you. A comprehensive report will then be forwarded on to your physician.

If you are experiencing dizziness or vertigo, ask your physician if an audiological evaluation would be right for you. We look forward to being part of your professional team.

Categories
Hearing Aids

Cell Phones and Hearing Aids

Hearing loss on the rise

The number of Americans with hearing loss has doubled during the past 30 years, with recent numbers indicating 31.5 million Americans suffer from hearing difficulties, with the majority of these people (65%) being younger than 65 years of age.

Look for compatibility

Conversing on telephones/cell phones can be especially difficult for individuals with hearing loss.  There are no visual cues to follow, and often the sound is distorted or unclear. Wearing hearing aids can help improve telecommunicative success, as long as both the hearing aid and cell phone are compatible.

How it works

When using a digital cell phone, the conversation is transmitted over a wireless network using radio waves.  The radio waves emitted by the cell phone create a pulsing electromagnetic field around the phone’s antenna.  This pulsing energy can potentially be picked up by the hearing aid’s microphone or telecoil circuit and is perceived by the hearing aid user as a buzzing sound. Additionally, some magnetic interference originating from the cell phone’s electronics — like the display, backlight, keypad, or battery — can also be picked up by the hearing aid user, increasing the level of interference.

New rating system helps

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has passed regulations helping to ensure greater hearing aid compatibility with regard to wireless phones. The new rules require cell phone makers and service providers to make their phones work better for people using hearing aids and cochlear implants.  A rating tool has been implemented for both cell phones as well as hearing aids. Cell phones as well as hearing aids are marked with M or T ratings. The M-rating refers to cell phone compatibility when using the hearing aid in a standard microphone mode. The T-rating refers to compatibility when the hearing aid’s telecoil is being utilized.  A telecoil is a tiny coil of wire inside a hearing aid that will allow a hearing aid to pick up the magnetic fields generated by phones and converts those fields into sound.

The higher the combined “M” or “T” rating between the two devices, the clearer the sound will be. Cell phones that work well with hearing aids will have a microphone (M) rating of M3 or M4, and/or a telecoil (T) rating of T3 or T4.  Hearing aid manufacturers will use a similar rating system to let you know how well the hearing aid will work in the microphone or telecoil mode. Hearing aids will be rated from M1 to M4; a higher rating will mean you hear less noise and have a better connection. The rating for the telecoil will be T1 to T4, again with the higher rating yielding better performance.

When the M or T ratings are added up between the cell phone and the hearing aid, a combined rating of M4/T4 would be considered useable, or able to complete brief calls but not acceptable for regular phone use.  A combined rating of M5/T5 would be considered normal, or acceptable for regular phone use. And a combined rating of M6/T6 would be considered best,  providing highly useable excellent performance.