In addition to helping patients in our day to day operations, one of our big missions at Chicago Hearing Services is to be an educator about hearing health for the general public. That’s why we’re so excited anytime there’s an initiative that draws attention to this very important topic. One of the events that do the most for hearing health is ASHA’s Better Hearing and Speech month, which happens every May.
If you’re a part of an organization whose mission it is to help spread the word about hearing health, ASHA has some great resources to help you spread the word, including posters, brochures, and social media graphics. The American Academy of Audiology also has its own set of promotional materials and informational fact sheets that are very useful for educating others about a variety of hearing-related causes.
Each year, Better Hearing and Speech month is centered around a few specific topics in hearing and communication health. This year, ASHA is drawing attention to these four causes, among others:
- Early Identification of Communication Disorders in Children [doc]
- Hearing Loss in School-Aged Children [doc]
- Swallowing Disorders in Adults [doc]
- Older Americans & Falls [doc]
Finally, if you want to show off your pride in Better Hearing and Speech month, ASHA has some unique promo items to help you celebrate the cause.
Remember, there’s no better way to celebrate Better Hearing and Speech month than by taking note of the individuals in your life that may need help with communication-related issues and referring them to a professional so they can get the help they need!
Modern society has made everyday life much more convenient than it was even just a few decades ago. We are all reaping the benefits of technological advancement, but it does come with a few downsides. One of these downsides is noise pollution, which, like the light pollution that doesn’t let us see the stars in the night sky, has permeated nearly every aspect of our lives.
For years now, signs have pointed to the fact that that noise pollution may be more than just a mild annoyance. Living in a climate of constant low-level noise interjected by occasional loud noises is likely affecting our hearing health and our overall health. We’re happy researchers are finally beginning to study the effects of this and that people are finally becoming aware of it.
Over the next few years, 60% of the world’s entire population will be living in cities (up from 55% right now). These major urban centers typically have levels of background noise that can be as loud as 55-67db. Now, if you know anything about hearing loss, you might say, “OK, but hearing damage doesn’t occur until 85 dB”. That’s true, but you have to think about the fact that urban noise is constant.
We actually know very little about what that level of kind-of-loud-but-not-loud-enough-to-cause-damage noise we’re constantly being exposed to is doing to our ears, and bodies too. For example, studies have shown that nighttime noise over 65 decibels can trigger dramatic increases in blood pressure. Other studies have shown that low-level background noise can trigger stress hormones to be released. The worst part? Our ears get used to that noise, so a lot of the time we’re not even conscious that it’s happening, but it may still be affecting our health.
Aside from these effects on our general health, we have to ask ourselves that these noise levels are doing to our hearing. One 2007 study of 200,000 hearing tests found that urban dwellers had statistically higher levels of hearing loss than their rural counterparts, on average having the hearing health of a person 10 to 20 years older than them.
One of the most clear culprits is noise from passing trains — depending on how close you are to the train tracks, this level of noise typically exceeds 85dB and can actually cause hearing loss, particularly when it happens frequently throughout the day.
Even the World Health Organization has chimed in about the many health effects that background noise can have on people.
The unfortunate thing is that there’s not much we can do about this. Hearing protection all day long is not a viable solution for most people. Those who live in an urban environment simply have to deal with the noise levels. And, unfortunately, what we currently know about hearing damage is that once it takes place, there’s nothing that can be done to reverse it.
If you think that the daily levels of noise you’re exposed to may be affecting your hearing, please contact us to set up an appointment for a hearing test.
Over the past few years, people have become increasingly aware of hearing health, particularly in relation to listening to loud music. Concerts are obviously one place that has the potential for high sound levels and hearing loss, and more people than ever are now wearing hearing protection there. Another potential problem area is loud workout music that gets played either via gym speakers or in people’s headphones. Spin and crossfit classes that aim to energize their audience can be frequent culprits, and these workout classes are rapidly growing in popularity.
We totally get the reason individuals and gyms usually do this: listening to loud music can help you get pumped up, creates extra energy, and may actually result in a better and more pleasant workout. But it’s ironic that the same activity that’s helping people get healthier could be detrimental to another aspect of their bodies: their hearing. I always say “people are trying to get healthy but they are hurting their ears and making them unhealthy”.
A lot of the time, it may not even seem like you’re listening to music at excessive levels, because our ears get used to sound levels over time. So, if your workout mix starts out a bit slow and then kicks in at full blast, you may not even notice that you’re turning the volume louder and louder throughout your workout. What may seem natural to you during the workout itself could be something you’d consider deafening if you were to hear it all of a sudden without the gradual ramp-up.
So, while we like to encourage our patients to work out as much as possible, here are 4 tips for protecting your hearing during your workouts:
- Set a reasonable volume level and stay there — be conscious of the fact that you may want to turn up the music as you get “in the zone”, but resist that temptation.
- In class, don’t be afraid to speak up — if you’re paying for a class, it’s OK to request the music be turned down a bit. If you don’t want to interrupt the class, you can always wait until the end and then ask the instructor to make an adjustment for next time.
- Bring earplugs — some classes do have earplugs for volume-sensitive customers, but few people take advantage of these. To ensure you’re never without, bring some with you. Earplugs are actually a great thing to keep in your car in general, because you never know when you may encounter a noisy environment.
- Educate others — it’s always easy to forget that not everyone may be as well-informed about hearing loss as you are. As you go about your workouts, if you find an opportunity to educate someone who may be at risk for hearing loss, don’t be afraid to speak up. (One way to tell? If you can hear what they’re listening to in their headphones from a few steps away, it’s too loud and probably causing hearing loss.) You may be doing them a huge favor by helping them protect their hearing.
We hope these few simple tips will help keep your ears as health as the rest of your body when you’re getting a good workout at the gym. Questions or comments? Get in touch with us!
How seriously do you take your career? Seriously enough to let it permanently damage your hearing? You may be surprised to find out a number of common careers have noise levels that regularly exceed the safe range and that could eventually lead to hearing loss. These include (but are not limited to):
- Construction worker
- Flight crew
- Factory worker
- Public transport driver or employee
- PE teacher
- Sports coach (including school)
- Ambulance driver
- Garbage man
Some particularly loud workplaces such as construction sites or factories may have employee policies on hearing protection, but most of the others do not and it’s up to the employee to bring his or her own hearing protection to work.
85dB is the level of loudness that OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has established as having the potential to cause permanent hearing loss. You may surprised to find out that this isn’t actually very loud at all. Some common occurrences that approach that level of noise are:
- Running the garbage disposal or blender
- Using a snowblower or lawn mower
- A train or semi truck passing 50 feet away
As you can see, we’re not talking about drastic levels on noise here. Doing these activities is ok, for the short period of time that you usually do them for, but if this level of sound is going on constantly at your workplace, you may be at serious risk of permanent hearing loss.
When it comes to selecting the right kind of hearing protection, you’ll want to choose something that was designed to work in the environment you work in. While the standard foam earplugs can work in a pinch, custom hearing protection tends to be more comfortable, and when you’re talking about wearing a piece of gear day-in and day-out for work, the small additional investment for customized protection is usually worth it.
Custom-molded earplugs stay in your ear better and require less adjustment throughout the day. Custom hearing protection can also come with filters, which can make it easier to hear colleagues and other safety noises, addressing one common complaint of standard hearing protection.
Chicago Hearing Services strives to provide pertinent education to professionals who are regularly exposed to noise in their working environment, as well as providing them with exceptional custom hearing protection products. Dr. Marie Vetter has extensive training and can help direct you to the best hearing protection for your particular work environment.
Have a question about workplace hearing safety, or want to invest in some custom hearing protection? Reach out to us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Vetter.
Hearing loss is always assumed to be either something that’s been there since birth, or an effect of old age. And yet, nearly 15% of school-age children aged 6-19 have some degree of hearing loss. If that number seems high to you, you’re probably asking yourself, “why is that the case?”. Some of that hearing loss is due to medical conditions or injury, but by and large, the reason is lifestyle factors.
The number one reason? According to an article in the Journal of Pediatrics, 12.5% of kids between the ages of 6 and 19 have hearing loss as a result of listening to loud music, particularly through earbuds at unsafe volumes.
For parents, it can be hard to bring up the possibility of hearing loss to their children and give advice on how to avoid it. Here are some tips for talking with your child and dealing with the issue:
- Explain what hearing loss is (including the statistics above) and let them know that hearing loss can affect their academic, professional, and private lives.
- Offer to buy them a pair of over-the-ear headphones, which transmit sound much more efficiently than earbuds and therefore don’t have to be turned up as loud to get the same effect.
- Advise them to try to never exceed 75% volume on any of their devices as a safeguard against going too loud and potentially damaging their hearing
- When you’re around them, pay attention to whether you can hear the music coming out of their headphones. If so, the music is too loud.
- If they plan to attend a concert or sporting event, provide them with earplugs that can help protect their hearing. Let them know that at concerts, standing in the middle of the room tends to have the most balanced sound levels because you aren’t right in front of the speakers.
If you suspect that your child may already have hearing loss, it’s important to address the issue right away before it has a chance to interfere with their academics and social life.
Have a question about your child and hearing loss? Reach out to us today to set up an appointment!
Once your loved one has been to an audiologist, has had a hearing test done, and has been fitted with a hearing aid, you may think that everything is taken care of. And you’d be right, at least for a while.
But hearing aids are sensitive pieces of equipment and occasional adjustments are required to keep them functioning properly. Usually, this kind of check and adjustment is done during the patient’s annual visit to an audiologist. But if the person has missed their regularly scheduled appointment, his or her hearing aid may not be working to its maximum potential.
Here are five signs your hearing aid may not be working as it should be:
- The hearing aid doesn’t seem to work. Hold it in your hand—if it squeals, you know it is turning on. If this does not occur, replace the battery and wax trap. If it is still not turning on, contact your audiologist to set up a repair appointment.
- The volume isn’t loud enough. If your loved one has told you they’ve having issues with the volume, or if you notice they’re hard of hearing even with the hearing aid, there could be two potential issues: the hearing aid is malfunctioning, or their hearing has changed and the hearing aid is no longer sufficient to address it. One of the most common issues related to volume is a blockage in the receiver; once cleaned, the hearing aid should be back to normal. But if you aren’t sure how to handle that, you can simply contact your audiologist.
- There is visible damage to the tubing of a Behind-the-Ear hearing aid. If the tubing is in bad enough shape to be noticeably worn or hard and unbendable, it will likely cause technical problems soon anyway, and should be replaced by a qualified professional.
- If you are noticing your loved one is turning up the television louder than normal or if you are having to repeat things you’ve said more than usual, that is a sign that the hearing aid isn’t working as expected and should be evaluated by a professional.
- They’re not wearing it. If your loved one usually wears their hearing aid, but all of a sudden you see them without it, this could mean that they’re having some sort of issue with the device. Ask him or her about it, and suggest they go in for an exam to either have the hearing aid tuned up, or to get a new one that works better for him or her.
We hope these signs will tip you off to any potential trouble with your loved one’s hearing aids. When in doubt, just book an appointment with their audiologist, who can check the devices and make sure they’re working.
Have a question for us? Contact us today to book an appointment with Dr. Vetter.
CES (Consumer Electronic Show) never has a shortage of amazing technology to wow the masses, and CES 2018 didn’t disappoint, with over 4,000 exhibiting companies and more than 170,000 attendees from some 150 countries. In the past few years, hearing health has been one of the spheres where exciting products are being rolled out. Here are some of the exciting new developments in hearing tech we saw at the show this year.
- Rechargeable batteries are now the standard, rather than a feature.
As consumers have become used to mobile devices, portable speakers and all other sorts of everyday tools, rechargeable batteries have become the standard and this is trickling down to manufacturers of hearing devices. In the next couple of years, we will likely see the phase-out of conventional batteries in hearing aids, except in certain special cases.
- AI is making every product more customizable, including hearing devices.
It’s becoming increasingly common for hearing devices to collect data from their environment and adapt to the hearing landscape continuously rather than falling in the “set it and forget it” category. One example of this is the Oticon HearingFitness App, which won a 2018 CES Innovation Award. Available later in 2018, the app can be used the company’s with Opn hearing aids to track things like hearing aid use patterns, common listening environments, and others. The data is also merged with the user’s heart rate and sleep patterns to give patients and their audiologists a complete view of a patient’s health and lifestyle.
- Hearables are getting serious about features and vying for FDA/FCC approval.
Hearables have often suffered from being viewed as consumer-grade devices that aren’t fit for patients with real hearing loss. This year, with the deregulation of the hearing aid market, manufacturers are making an attempt to create hearables that are more fully-featured and have approval from official entities, like the FDA. One headphone manufacturer, Bragi, has teamed up with Mimi Hearing Technologies on Project Ears, a set of earbuds backed by hearing technology that will offer some unique benefits over conventional hearables.
- Hearing technology is being increasingly embraced by the masses. It’s estimated that only 20% of the roughly 48 million Americans who suffer from hearing loss are using a hearing aid for treatment. This shortage is likely an effect of lack of awareness and also the stigma that can sometimes come with wearing a hearing device. But manufacturers are trying their best to get around this problem. According to The Verge,
“Now, we’re seeing sleek, stylish hearing aids from Eargo and smart hearing aids — which can communicate with smoke alarms and doorbells — from the likes of Oticon and ReSound. The key here is that smart hearing aids and stylish ones make the tech cool, and that’s one big thing that might encourage people who need them to use them.”
Wondering what all these advances in technology mean for your own hearing health? Chicago Hearing Services is proud to offer these products. Get in touch with us so we can assess your needs and recommend a product that will best address them! Contact Chicago Hearing Services today to schedule an appointment!
Image source: www.techradar.com
Much has been said about the medical and practical downsides of hearing loss. However, one aspect of hearing loss that doesn’t get discussed that much is the isolation that happen as a result of the condition.
Those with hearing loss almost always have trouble with communication. When such a problem develops, it’s typical for those with hearing loss to slowly begin to avoid the types of interactions that showcase the problem. Sometimes, when hearing loss develops over time, the person may get used to it and begin to think “this is just how things are”, instead of realizing that their quality of life has changed for the worse.
The inevitable end of hearing loss is a person who becomes increasingly isolated but frequently doesn’t have the self-awareness to understand that the isolation is stemming from the hearing loss. They might think that isolation is a natural effect of older age, or even worse, may assume that something about their personality makes other people not want to be around them.
A series of recent studies have reaffirmed the importance of a strong social network in the overall health of the individual. So, becoming increasingly withdrawn could eventually be detrimental to a person’s physical health.
If you notice the common signs of hearing loss in a loved one, you should encourage them to get a hearing exam. Even if you don’t see any signs of hearing loss but notice that your friend or loved one is becoming increasingly withdrawn or aloof, you should ask them about the possibility of having hearing loss.
No one wants to hear that they don’t have any friends, so when broaching the discussion with a loved one, it’s important to tread carefully. Mention the idea of a hearing exam but don’t necessarily link it to the person’s social life. If they agree to the test, this can help with both their hearing loss and their social withdrawal.
The results? Again and again, we’ve seen patients who were suffering from hearing loss and were withdrawn from their community flourish once they had the appropriate hearing device and were able to communicate effectively again.
Think your loved one may be experiencing social withdrawal due to undiagnosed hearing loss, but not sure how to deal with the issue? Contact us today to set up an appointment!
About 20 percent of Americans, 48 million people, report some degree of hearing loss. By age 65, the proportion of people with hearing loss is closer to one-third. That’s why it’s so important for everyone, young or old, to have a hearing wellness plan. Hearing loss tends to happen gradually, so it can be difficult to know when it’s happening to you. To stay on top of your hearing health this year, here are 5 things to think about:
- Look for signs of hearing loss in your life.
The signs might be subtle, such as having some trouble comprehending conversations in a noisy environment, finding yourself turning up the TV louder than you used to before, or having occasional ringing in your ears.
You should be particularly vigilant about the state of your hearing if you’re above 50. The American Medical Association recommends a hearing evaluation as a part of your general annual physical exam starting at age 50. Just like your eyes, your hearing changes over time, so you should consider getting an annual hearing test.
- Properly maintain your hearing aids.
If you already have hearing aids, you likely have periodic appointments with a doctor to check in about your hearing. If you haven’t kept up with these for some reason, we encourage you to book an appointment soon, not only to have your hearing tested again, but also so an audiologist can examine your current hearing aids. Your hearing aids may have to be adjusted or reprogrammed, and you may be surprised by the difference that makes in your overall hearing.
- Evaluate your occupation.
There are many jobs that regularly feature levels of noise loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss. Examples include musician, construction worker, flight attendant, bus driver, dentist, bartender, and others. If you work in one of these environments, you owe it to yourself to consult with an audiologist sooner rather than later about getting some hearing protection or implementing other strategies to shield your ears from noise. Permanent hearing loss, by definition, can’t be reversed, so it’s important to do something about the risk before you start to experience problems.
- Watch out for recreational activities.
If you ride a motorcycle, go to concerts, listen to loud music at home, or shoot guns, among other hobbies, you could be doing permanent hearing damage to your hearing. If you have any hobbies that might have loud sound levels, do some research on how to practice that hobby more safely and save your hearing. Need tips? Get in touch with us!
- Watch for signs of hearing loss in your loved ones.
Hearing health is a community effort, and it’s important to pay if forward. Not everyone is great at perceiving the signs of hearing loss, so if you know more about it than your loved ones (which you should, because you’re reading this blog!), watch out for some of the commonplace signs, and if your loved one exhibits these, encourage him or her to go in for a hearing exam.
Ready to hear better this year? If you’ve noticed any signs of hearing loss in yourself or a loved one, contact us today to set up an appointment and get a hearing evaluation!
Are you a music fan? Many of us are. Going out to a great concert can be the highlight of one’s week or month. However, concerts also frequently feature high music volumes that can damage one’s hearing after repeated exposure.
One study found that 26 million Americans suffer from hearing loss that could have been prevented with appropriate hearing protection.
Concerts are (Surprisingly!) Loud
Concerts can frequently reach 120db of loudness, nearly twice that of normal daily conversation. Even just 2 minutes at 110dB can cause hearing damage—imagine what a 2 hour concert at that volume can do to your hearing.
Now imagine you’re going to one or two concerts a month at those levels. It would be no surprise if you began to develop noticeable hearing loss or tinnitus after a couple of years of these habits.
Getting with the Times
We’re happy to see that music fans these days seem to have more awareness about hearing loss, and that hearing protection is becoming increasingly “acceptable” to see at concerts (since a big part of being at concerts is about looking cool, after all).
But music fans don’t have to settle for the standard foam earplugs that make everything sound muffled. Indeed, experience with these common ear plugs may account for the skepticism some music fans have toward hearing protection.
Hearing Protection That Provides a Better Hearing Experience
New hearing protection designed specifically for music lovers features discreet earplugs with tuned filters. This results in dramatic volume reduction but enables the sound to stay true to the original, giving balanced highs, mids, and lows and allowing the fullest enjoyment for music fans.
For touring musicians, custom in-ear monitors that are made with silicone provide the best isolation and comfort. Using superb sound quality, this hearing protection gives musicians the opportunity to have a comfortable and safe environment without hindering their performance. This occurs with the help of an experienced audiologist.
If you’re a music fan or a musician looking for hearing protection, get in touch with us! We’ll help you find the hearing protection that fits you best and doesn’t inhibit the music listening experience you love.