Repeated exposure to loud noise is one of the most reliable ways to end up with hearing loss. Typically, OSHA sets certain standards for how loud a workplace can be so that employees who work there on a daily basis won’t lose their hearing — there are such things as mandated level of hearing protection.
One workplace that doesn’t get a lot of attention in terms of hearing loss is the armed forces. Being an active duty military person actually increases the chances that you will eventually lose your hearing — there are currently more than 933,000 Veterans receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, and nearly 1.3 million receiving compensation for tinnitus.
The military does have standard-issue earplugs, but there are two problems with this: the nature of the military, with 24/7 service under less than ideal conditions and with a ton of stress, are not conducive to soldiers reliably wearing their hearing protection. And, the hearing protection being handed out (those who served in the military between 2003 and 2015 were issued 3M Earplugs) is not necessarily of the highest quality. The result is too many veterans with hearing loss.
What can you do about this? If you’re currently in the armed forces, about to deploy, or know someone who is, consider adding a custom level of hearing protection to help save the person’s hearing. Custom hearing protection will fit better and likely be better at cutting out external noise.
Some other things we would recommend in relation to hearing protection specifically for the military:
- Low profile — so they can fit similarly to the standard-issue earplugs and not draw attention. They’ll also fit better with other pieces of equipment like helmets.
- Tough — the earplugs will obviously be exposed to a wide range of environments and working conditions. You want something that’s not going to pick up dirt right away and become unusable. Ideally, the earplugs will be washable so they can be restored and used again.
- Replaceable — if you’re leaving on a tour of duty, we would say that you should probably bring at least 5 pairs of your custom hearing protection, to account for ones you lose, that break, or other unexpected scenarios. So, in this case, we would actually go with cheaper and more easily replaceable hearing protection, because having more sets on hand is simply better. Of course, soldiers get mail, so it’s always possible to put in an order back home for a few more sets of earplugs when you’re about to run out.
To get yourself or your loved one set up with a set of custom earplugs, reach out to us today!
New hearing technologies have made it easier for those with hearing loss to be able to work in a typical environment. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against qualified employees with disabilities. Nonetheless, those with hearing loss do have some unique challenges when applying for a job. We hope these tips will help you navigate your job hunt more successfully.
First and foremost, whether you have hearing loss or not, you should make sure that the job is a good fit for your skillset. You’ll need to be able to perform the essential duties in the job description.
After you’ve found a position that’s a good fit, it’s time to fill out an application. Applications are not allowed to ask you about disabilities like hearing loss, and you are not required to disclose that information as long as you believe you can perform the job duties.
If you get a call back for an interview, you’ll have to decide at which stage of the process you want to reveal your hearing loss. Because of the ADA, an employer is not allowed to ask you about your hearing loss, but he or she is allowed to ask you if you can perform the essential job functions with or without accommodation.
You may be forced to reveal your hearing loss right off the bat, if you need any special accommodations either for the phone interview or the in-person interview. Your hearing loss may also be immediately apparent if you wear over-the-ear hearing aids.
One good strategy is to tackle your hearing loss and any special accommodations you may need on the job right off the bat in the interview. This clears the air, and you can then move on to other topics. Inevitably, your potential employer will be wondering if you would be able to perform the job duties as well as an employee who doesn’t need additional accommodations. Your best strategy is to convince them that your experience and dedication would make you the better employee. And really, that’s not so different from anyone applying for a new position.
Doing well in the job market as a person with hearing loss is much easier if you’ve received appropriate treatment and have hearing aids designed for your particular type of hearing loss. Contact us today to schedule your next exam and a full evaluation for how we can have you hearing as well as possible!
Tinnitus is a truly strange auditory phenomenon. Usually a result of hearing loss, tinnitus manifests in a ringing noise that can be faint or loud, only there occasionally or frequently, in one ear or both. Based on its severity, people just ignore it, or they can seek treatment. Unfortunately, the best available treatment for tinnitus is cognitive therapy that helps people deal with the symptoms. There is currently no known cure.
By some measures, over 25% of Americans above 65 have tinnitus, and the total number of Americans with the condition is over 30 million. With something so prevalent, you would think that would be more conversations about the condition and its effects.
One particularly dark aspect of tinnitus is that, in severe cases, the sufferer can begin to develop suicidal thoughts. It could be the severity of the condition, the fact that there is no treatment, or some apparatus that we are not currently aware of. But those suffering with tinnitus, even mild versions of it, need to be aware of this aspect of the condition.
The thing to keep in mind is that suicidal thoughts come and go, and feeling that way for a period of time does not mean you will feel the same way forever. The best thing you can do is to get professional help — from a qualified audiologist who may be able to recommend treatment for the tinnitus specifically, but also from a person qualified to deal with those thinking about self-harm.
This is something that is important to know for friends and relatives of those who may suffer from tinnitus. It’s a good idea to check in with your loved one on occasion about the severity of their symptoms and to see if they are getting any treatment or considering talking to a professional. In addition to this, it’s a good idea to check in with them about their mental state. You may have to press here a bit to see if they are willing to open up, but it’s really worthwhile to do this.
Do you or a loved one suffer from tinnitus? The best thing you can do is come in for an exam so you can start treating your tinnitus and get on with your life. Get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment!
While hearing aids are great for resolving hearing issues of most people with hearing loss, they are unfortunately insufficient for helping certain more severe cases. In these situations, a cochlear implant may be able to help. But not many people are aware of the benefits of cochlear implants—by one estimate, only 5% of U.S. adults who might benefit from a cochlear implant have one.
What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant works differently than a hearing aid as it is implanted in your ear. An electrode array in the cochlear area of the inner ear stimulates the auditory nerve. Unlike hearing aids, which simply amplify the signal in order to work with damaged parts of the ear, the cochlear implant bypasses the parts of the ear that are damaged and goes straight for the auditory nerve and sends an electric signal directly to the auditory nerve, which helps with clarity and with more nuanced types of hearing such as speech recognition.
A microphone and transmitter sits on the outside of the ear, collecting sound from the environment and sending it to the transplant in the inner ear.
Who is a Good Candidate
There are two main factors that make someone a good candidate for a cochlear implant: moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears, and limited benefit from binaural amplification such as that provided by hearing aids. Candidates can be as young as 12 months of age. For adults, even those with moderate hearing loss can be good candidates as long as they have Limited benefit from amplification defined by preoperative test scores of ≤ 50% sentence recognition in the ear to be implanted and ≤60% in the opposite ear or binaurally.
What does a Cochlear Implant Sound Like?
Learning to hear again with a cochlear implant is a process. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine website, “Initially, the most commonly reported sound qualities are described as “mechanical,” “robotic,” “cartoonish” and like people are “talking with marbles in their mouth.” Some patients will only “feel” the stimulation when it is first turned on.”
Over time, as your brain learns to get used to the new input, the inputs get normalized and everything starts to sound much more normal. Usually, this adjustment process takes between six and twelve months. And, let’s not forget, any amount of residual “weirdness” in the hearing process pales in comparison with the alternative, which is not to be able to hear at all.
There’s one bit of good news for patients who are good candidates for a cochlear implant: unlike hearing aids, which are typically not covered by health insurance, cochlear implantation is covered for appropriate candidates by most private health insurance plans, and Medicare and Medicaid.
Think you or a loved one might be a good candidate for a cochlear implant? It all starts with a hearing test, so contact us today to schedule your hearing appointment!
Trouble distinguishing speech in a crowded room is one of the classic early signs of hearing loss. And, believe it or not, even with all the recent advancements in technology, helping those with hearing loss distinguish speech in a crowded room is still a challenge. Dubbed as the “cocktail party problem” (based on one of the classic settings where it usually occurs) this is one of the next frontiers hearing aid manufacturers are working on.
Recently, scientists may have discovered some technology that can help with the cocktail party problem. Using a new technology called “auditory attention decoding” (AAD), which monitors both the listener’s brainwaves and the sound around him or her, the device then triangulates which voice or sound in the room the person is focused on and gives extra amplification to it.
Apparently, the device is able to take all the different audio sources and separate them into different streams. Then, it looks at the person’s brainwaves, which would be trying to decode one particular audio signal. When the device finds a match between an audio signal and what the person is actively trying to listen for, it amplifies that signal.
Cocktail party problem aside, this seems like a pretty important achievement in hearing technology in general, in that it’s able to take direct input from the user about what features of the environment to amplify. It’s amazing to think that a user could be in a room with a hundred different people, but would be able to select exactly which of these people he or she wants to amplify.
Unfortunately, this technology will not be hitting store shelves anytime soon. The study involved technology that is surgically implanted and is not portable. Practical application of these findings will be at least five-to-10 years off. And yet, that’s not such a long time either, for truly groundbreaking improvement in hearing science.
Also, remember that hearing aids are just the device. Proper fitting, counseling on realistic expectations, and understanding active and assertive listening strategies help in the success of hearing better. And that’s what we at Chicago Hearing Services do, to ensure the best possible outcome for each one of our hearing patients. Reach out to us to schedule your hearing appointment!
It’s pretty widely known that hearing loss can’t be reversed. But can treating your existing hearing loss help prevent further deterioration? The answer to this is a complicated one. On one hand, hearing, like eyesight, runs on its own mechanism — wearing a hearing aid or eyeglasses can’t stop the deterioration of your hearing or eyesight, if that’s where things are headed, biologically speaking. But there are a multitude of other benefits of treating hearing loss that do, in a way, help things from getting worse.
For one, hearing loss has been strongly associated with the deterioration of mental faculties in older age. Treatment of hearing loss has been shown to stop and in some cases even reverse this overall deterioration. So, while not preventing further hearing loss specifically, treatment can help to save the overall quality of life of the patient, which is arguably even more important. The hearing loss treatment is simply scaled up if the patient’s hearing gets worse through the years.
But there’s a more direct way that treating hearing loss may help save your hearing. Research shows that partial hearing loss leads to understimulation of the auditory nerve, the main nerve involved in transferring sounds from the apparatus of the inner ear to the brain. So, because the input is inadequate, the patient could actually lose more underlying function in the auditory nerve — a classic “if you don’t use it, you lose it” scenario. But treating hearing loss promptly as it occurs can fix the input issues and at the very least ensure that the auditory nerve is properly stimulated and fully functional, keeping the hearing problems localized to the apparatus of the inner ear.
So, the answer to the question of whether you should treat your hearing loss sooner rather than later is a resounding “Yes!”. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!
Chicago Hearing Services is proud to announce the addition of Dr. Emily Dudley to our practice!
Emily Dudley, AuD is a recent Graduate of Pacific University’s accelerated Doctor of Audiology (AuD) program.
She grew up in Bend, Oregon and spent the last year working at a non-profit hearing and speech center in Portland, Maine. Dr. Dudley earned her undergraduate degree from Portland State University in Speech and Hearing sciences. Dr. Dudley is passionate about personalized, patient centered hearing health care. Dr. Dudley also loves working with the treatment of childhood hearing loss and American Sign Language.
Outside of the office Emily likes to read and spend time with her French Bulldog, Papi.
She will be a great addition, and we hope you will stop in to meet her or make an appointment with her.
Did you know that veterans are one of the most common demographics with hearing loss? Whether it’s live combat or one too many training exercises, the loud noises associated with live or practice ammo without proper hearing protection can lead to some level of hearing loss.
Veterans almost always qualify for hearing services through the Department of Veterans Affairs, which solves one of the most common issues relates to getting treatment for hearing loss: the cost. In 2014, nearly a million Veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, and over 1.2 million received compensation for tinnitus.
To get coverage, the veteran basically just needs to prove that the hearing loss was caused by the military service. This takes a 3 step process:
- A hearing test. The VA requires two distinct tests: a Maryland CNC test that measures speech recognition, and a puretone audiometric test that is used to measure the level of hearing loss. This exam is arranged through the VA system and is done by a highly qualified and specially trained audiologist.
- Evidence of hearing loss-related event. This doesn’t have to be too formal—basically, you need to prove that you were around loud sounds during your time in the service. This shouldn’t be very hard for anyone who underwent training, let alone active service.
- A doctor’s opinion linking the event to the hearing loss. This is again done at the appointment that is arranged through the VA system. If you want an independent opinion to provide to the VA, this is something we can help with.
The only other challenge to getting veterans the hearing help they need is just general awareness of the issue. Like many older people, veterans may just not be aware that they’re gradually losing their hearing. Or, if hearing loss is common in their social circle (which unsurprisingly can include other veterans with hearing loss). Finally, like anyone else, veterans may dread the supposed stigma associated with wearing hearing aids. Thankfully, hearing aids are becoming more and more accepted these days as the technology is making them both more discreet and more effective.
A Word About Tinnitus
Tinnitus affects about 1 in 10 American adults today, but it’s also the number-one disability among United States Veterans. Patients suffering from tinnitus hear a high pitched ringing or buzzing sound on occasion. This can vary greatly in frequency and severity, and so, many people are able to live with it quite easily while others find it debilitating. Unfortunately, there are no known treatments for tinnitus, but certain therapies are showing promise in being able to manage its occurrence.
At Chicago Hearing Services, we’re proud to serve a large number of veterans. If you’re a veteran and are experiencing hearing loss, or if you know a veteran who you think shows the classic symptoms of hearing loss, please get in touch with us to schedule an appointment! We will do everything we can to help you hear better, and we swear, once you hear the difference, you’ll wish you had come in for a hearing test and treated your hearing loss much earlier!
A recent article on healthyhearing.com drew some interesting parallels between hearing loss and rare health disorders. By one estimate, as many as 30 million Americans currently live with a disease that is considered rare (there are about 7,000 of these diseases). Many of them are autoimmune or linked to genetic causes.
What’s really interesting is that over 400 of these diseases are associated with hearing loss as well.
Some of these disorders with a hearing loss component include:
- Mondini dysplasia – babies with this disorder have one and a half coils in the cochlea instead of the normal two and as a result have profound hearing loss. This could be the case in one ear or both.
- KID syndrome, Donnai-Barrow syndrome, and Wildervanck syndrome – also feature hearing loss in infants.
- Krabbe disease – babies can hear fine right out of the womb, but usually develop hearing loss in the first six months.
- Alport syndrome – takes longer to affect the hearing, as long as late childhood or early adolescence.
- Usher syndrome – can lead to three different types of hearing loss, depending on the onset and severity of symptoms. It is also accompanied by vision loss and balance issues.
- Auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder – involves a failure to transmit signals from the inner ear to the brain, resulting in, among other things, mild to severe hearing loss.
- Waardenburg syndrome – features hearing loss in 80+% of patients.
- Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada disease – causes inflammation of melanocytes which are present in the inner ear, leading to mild to severe hearing loss.
- Cogan’s syndrome – another autoimmune disorder that can affect the structure of the inner ear and lead to hearing loss.
Occasionally, it will be the discovery of hearing loss that tips parents off to the presence of the other disorder. But more frequently, hearing loss may go unnoticed while parents are dealing with a more obvious and rare disorder.
It’s not a given that these disorders will affect hearing from birth. So, a baby could pass its hearing screening at birth, only to have its hearing deteriorate later on. Parents of children with a rare disorder should do regular hearing tests because even when dealing with a serious disorders, something as simple as correcting one’s hearing could have a dramatic impact on the patient’s quality of life.
If you have a friend or loved one who suffers from one of these disorders and you suspect they might be experiencing hearing loss, get in touch with us to schedule a hearing test!
Hearing aid technology has certainly come a long way over the past few years. Hearing aids are smaller, more foolproof, and work significantly better than they did in the recent past.
But there’s another very exciting development — the integration of hearing aids with the very powerful technologies available in the mobile devices we carry around with us every day.
And we’re not talking about just using the bluetooth functionality to make a phone call and put it through to your hearing aid, as helpful as that is. The integration of these devices can also collect data from the user on an ongoing basis and has much promise for learning more about how hearing correction works, what environments it faces, and how it can be better.
Think about it this way: Self-driving cars have recently gone from science fiction to a definite reality. To perfect their algorithm, self-driving cars continuously collect data from the environment. All the different situations a certain car faces can be used to improve its operation in the future, and this happens on an ongoing basis. Data is even shared between cars so that every electric car can learn from situations that one car has been in.
The same thing may soon be happening with hearing aids. Indeed, Apple recently announced that it will be adding hearing aid integrations to its HealthKit ecosystem of apps. Apple has been taking steps to add more and more integrations to HealthKit, calling it “modern storage for high-frequency health data types” and “how to bring an entire new dimension of health to your users with new support for hearing health”.
How exactly this will take shape is not certain, but the gist of it is that very valuable data about a hearing aid wearer’s experience will now be stored so that the patient and his or her audiologist can benefit from analyzing it. Sometimes, in cases like this, it’s not even certain where the data might lead—it’s necessary to collect it first, then process it and see what comes out of it on the other end.
Some of these integrations have already existed via apps by the hearing aid manufacturers. For example, with some hearing aids audiologists are already able to download data about their functionality. However, the game changer here is the ubiquity of the Apple HealthKit system, and just how many adopters there are likely to be.
It’s uncertain where all this will go, but it’s virtually guaranteed that hearing patients everywhere will reap the benefits.