Hearing is one of the five senses, as we all know. A newborn is usually tested for hearing to determine if there is any permanent hearing loss at birth. Those with normal hearing are re-examined again at school at some point. There is no regular hearing test requirements carried out after school, which means, unless someone identifies any symptom, hearing loss is not diagnosed until symptoms are noticeable.
The audiologists at Tinnitus and Hearing Center provide hearing tests in Tempe AZ and serve residents of the Phoenix metro, including Scottsdale, Chandler, Gilbert, Sun Lakes, and throughout the East Valley. If you suspect that you or a family member has a problem related to hearing, it is important to understand that there are experts who can explain and help you resolve the issues with ease.
What is the role of an audiologist and what are the different hearing tests available in a clinic?
When you attend a clinic, you will have an initial consultation with an audiologist. Audiologists are specialists in ear conditions, hearing, and hearing rehabilitation. The first step is a general screening, which involves asking questions which may reveal vital symptoms.
An otoscope is then used to check the eardrum. It is a very common device, has a conical end and is pressed against your ear. Being illuminated and magnified, the audiologist can clearly see through this device, if there is any abnormality in the eardrum. A diagnostic hearing evaluation is the next step.
This evaluation can be done for both children and adults to help identify the type and the degree of hearing loss. This may also give an insight into the cause of the hearing loss and help the audiologist determine the appropriate treatment recommendations and referrals.
Please note that these tests are completely safe and painless. They can mostly be performed even if you have other medical condition.
You will be asked to go and sit inside a soundproof booth and relax with headphones on. Usually, you will be given a button to press and follow simple instructions. Your response will be automatically recorded by a machine, and a chart will appear. Imagine an electronic cash register or an ECG machine. This chart is called an audiogram. Based on the audiogram, your audiologist will be able to decide on treatment options.
Types of hearing tests
The ear is a complex organ and is connected to the brain with a network of nerves. Any damage or alteration along the way might affect the hearing.
In our clinic, expert audiologists will conduct a combination of diagnostic tests depending on the symptoms of the patient. The aim is to find the cause and also the extent of any damage.
These tests are quick and painless, and as mentioned before, mostly involves sitting in a silent booth with headphones on.
Here is a list of some of the hearing tests:
1. Acoustic Reflex Testing (AR) — AR test measures the reflexes in the ear. It measures the involuntary muscle contractions of the middle ear, in response to sound. The middle ear is home to the three smallest bones of the human body, the ossicles. When sound reaches the middle ear, two muscles, the stapedius, and tensor tympani muscles, attached to the ossicles, contract involuntarily. On contraction, these muscles create a movement of the bones which in turn stimulate the inner ear. If the reflex action is reduced, the hearing mechanism will be impaired. This broadly means, this test will indicate if the problem lies in the middle ear.
2. Otoacoustic emissions (OAE) testing— OAE test is a quick, non-invasive method that measures the cochlear (inner ear) function. This is the test done on newborns to establish any hearing loss at birth. A small probe is placed in the ear and clicks or tones are played. The machine attached to the probe records the response of the hair cells of the inner ear. Any change from normal, in the audiogram pattern indicates that the problem lies in the inner ear.
3. Tympanometry —It is a simple and painless testing method that measures the air pressure on the eardrum. Air pressure will be abnormal if there is a build up of fluid or wax, presence of a tumor or if the eardrum is damaged.
4. Pre-tone and pure-tone testing — This test, uses air conduction to measure your ability to hear various sounds at low, mid, and high frequencies. You will hear a series of sounds through the headphones and you will be instructed to press a button every time you hear a tone. Any abnormal pattern in the audiogram chart will indicate a problem in the middle ear.
5. Speech-in-noise testing — In case of any abnormality in the previous test, a speech-in-noise (SIN) test is carried out in older children and adults. Similar to the tone-testing procedure, it determines if the person can hear speech in the presence of background noise. So in essence, this is considered as a “real world” test. It also works as part of the counseling process and helps the patient reach their hearing expectations.
5. Bone conduction testing — This test measures the inner ear’s response to a sound. A conductor is placed behind your ear which sends tiny vibrations through the bone directly to the inner ear. The experts can interpret the audiogram and the results will indicate if there is any loss of hearing.
From these tests, the experts get invaluable insight into the patients' status of hearing. Subsequently, it helps them to prescribe the appropriate treatment or hearing aid strategy.
Your audiologist will explain the test results to you, and clarify your doubts and fears. You will get help in understanding the plan for treatment and get referrals if necessary. We encourage you to ask your audiologist plenty of questions - we’re here for you to make sure you thoroughly understand the information provided and that you feel comfortable with the recommendations. We're a hearing doctor in Tempe, AZ that understands the best pathway to better hearing.
It's not uncommon in today's noisy world to experience a gradual loss of hearing. However, left undetected or unaddressed, it can become problematic to one's everyday lifestyle.
If you are unable to hear as well as a person with normal hearing, which is about 50 decibels (dB), then you may be affected by hearing loss. It can affect one or both your ears.
To give you an understanding of the decibel levels, city traffic noises are usually 85 dB and sirens are 120 dB. Regular exposure to sound levels above 75 dB might cause hearing loss.
How would you recognize hearing loss?
Newborns are usually tested after birth and the audiologists take appropriate steps. If a child is slow to learn talking or if their speech is not very clear, then their hearing should be checked.
If you, whether young or old, talk very loudly, find it hard to hear a conversation or even hear the alarm, doorbell or watch television very loudly, then you should see an audiologist.
Hearing loss has a stigma and it should not be. According to the World Health Organization, around 466 million people experience from severe loss of hearing, worldwide. Estimates suggest that the numbers will double in the next thirty years.
This means, you are not alone.
Causes of hearing loss
Besides hereditary cause, newborns may be affected with loss of hearing if they have a difficult birth or have jaundice. If the mother had complications during her pregnancy with illnesses like rubella or syphilis, or had certain strong medications, the newborn may have a loss of hearing.
Aging is one of the most common causes of progressive hearing loss. Hearing loss affects their daily life. They may find it difficult to have a conversation or even respond to the doorbell. There is a risk of older people falling into depression and memory loss because of their problems with hearing.
The other common cause of hearing loss is long term exposure to loud noise. Modern life tends to be noisy, including traffic noises, various modern gadgets and loud music. When surrounded by such loud noise, people may experience a gradual loss of hearing.
How does hearing actually work?
In the center of the hearing mechanism is the eardrum, present in the inner ear. The ear is a very sensitive and complex organ. It converts the sound wave to an electrical wave in the brain through a series of steps. The middle ear is a bony structure that vaguely looks like a snail. This structure called cochlea and the fluid inside it helps the sound wave to reach the eardrum which sits deep inside the inner ear. The vibration of the eardrum, in turn, triggers the tiny hairs on it converting it into an electric wave. This wave travels to the brain via the auditory nerve.
What causes hearing loss?
Loud noise, ear infection or putting objects in the ear like a cotton swab can injure the hair cells in the eardrum. A very loud burst of noise like an explosion may cause sudden loss of hearing. Fluid or earwax in the ear acts as a sound barrier and cause a temporary loss of hearing. Otosclerosis or growth of excess bone and Cholesteatoma, which is an abnormal collection of skin in the ear are two conditions where hearing is affected.
Illnesses like Meningitis, Meniere’s disease and certain conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart conditions, and viral infection can cause loss of hearing. The chances are higher in older people.
Use of certain medicines used for treating severe infections, heart conditions and cancer may affect hearing. These medicines known as ototoxic drugs may damage the eardrum. Otosclerosis is thought to be a heredity condition that affects hearing.
If you feel that you or a loved one might be experiencing gradual hearing loss that is becoming noticeable or problematic, we recommend contacting us at Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona to schedule a simple, quick, and non-invasive hearing test is a great idea. Our friendly audiologists will welcome you into our clinic, discuss your situation, and conduct a painless (and even fun) hearing exam.
Just as you might have an annual eye exam to measure your vision, you should have a hearing test to measure your other important sense - your hearing.
We provide hearing tests for Scottsdale AZ and Phoenix residents, and any patient in the Valley. Call us directly at (480) 831-6159 or use our convenient online scheduler to book an appointment on your computer or phone.
There are several potential drawbacks or risks that come with buying hearing aids online or in a "megamart" store. We get asked if "Costco hearing aids" are any good, and our answer is the same: there are many factors to consider, and your hearing and quality of life are at stake. While we at Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona don't have "cheap hearing aids," we do offer affordable hearing aids from the best brands on the market (in our experience) that have impressive and significant investments in research and leading technologies.
Cheap doesn't always get you what you need
In our opinion, it is best to buy hearing aids from a local provider who will be able to provide ongoing adjustments and service for the lifetime of the hearing aid (normally the purchase price includes this). Free unlimited office visits on the life of the hearing aid are offered by Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona if you purchase the hearing aid from us.
A hearing aid is a type of medical device. There are many reasons why you should not buy one online. You should get tested before you buy hearing aid so that you know what your hearing loss is. Hearing aids are also custom and must be adjusted. If you buy hearing aids online, a majority of medical professionals will not be able to program your hearing aids. It is recommended that you consult with a professional before you make a decision on any of your medical needs, including hearing aids.
The greatest risk, which is something you should be concerned about, is your overall hearing health. Without proper evaluation and testing, you will not know why you have suffered a hearing loss. Without that knowledge, you easily could mask serious problems that could potentially put your health at risk. It could potentially be an undiagnosed medical problem that is causing your hearing loss that could even result in death. Even if you don't have a medical issue that has to be addressed, a hearing aid that is improperly adjusted could damage your auditory system, and lead to even more hearing loss. You should take your hearing aid device purchase very seriously and realize that hearing sciences training is necessary for treating hearing loss properly. I recommend that you find a reputable local audiologist (us, preferably :) ) who can treat your loss properly and who is available for future adjustments and follow-up. When it comes to your hearing health, you definitely get what you pay for.
With hearing aids, it is important to allow your brain to adjust to being able to hear sounds again. If it is the first time you have used hearing aids, be aware that often they will need to be set lower and adjusted several times until you are accustomed to hearing sounds accurately and comfortably according to your preferences (and everyone is different).
You can't just take your hearing aids and be done
It is important to have a good service program with an actual audiologist so that they can be programmed properly for your specific hearing loss, and help you make the adjustments to them. To ensure they are working properly, you need to visit your audiologist regularly for checkups and cleaning. When you purchase hearing aids online or from a supermarket bulk store, chances are you won't be getting service from experts that are necessary when you buy hearing aids.
The following are a couple of "regrets" we hear from customers that bought hearing aids online:
1. Sound is really personal. If you had visited an audiologist instead and gone through the process with them, you might have picked out a different hearing aid than the one you bought online.
2. When you purchase through an internet provider, you can only buy instant fit CRT aids. You might need custom aids or custom tips.
3. Although they might suggest having an audiogram with the hearing aid, what about Real Ear Measurements, over-all levels, feedback, and more? Just sending a hearing aid and audiogram to a patient is not an actual fitting.
It is essential for hearing aids specifically be programmed for the person's individual ear that is based on an audiometric test. Therefore, the first issue is to ensure that the hearing aids are programmed using a current hearing test.
While there are numerous places online that sell hearing aids, some do this without the manufacturer's permission. One manufacturer sent a letter out that stated it wouldn't honor the warranty for any of the hearing aids that were sold through a specific company (second risk).
Although mild hearing losses may be accommodated through an initial fitting, a majority of hearing losses need to be fit by programming the hearing aid below the loss followed by the hearing aid amplification being increased over time (and over several different office visits) as the person's brain continues to accommodate the increased hearing level.
This is not done by online companies themselves. Some contract with a local provider to do the initial fittings and a certain number of follow-up visits. There are other online companies that don't provide any local service.
That leads to the third risk, and it is a major one. Hearing aids all need periodic maintenance and readjustment in order for the patient to get the best results. Even if some initial support is provided by an online company, usually it is not for longer than the first year. You are completely on your own after that and will need to find someone who is willing to work on your hearing aids that they didn't sell to you. That means you will have to pay for each office visit from that point forward. That can cost up to $150 per visit as a single fee and as much as $1,500 to $2,000 for lifetime services. Even warranty-covered repairs require that a licensed dealer send the hearing aid to the manufacturer so it can be refitted. After the hearing aid has been repaired it is then returned, but you will then have another office visit to pay for.
Here are more reasons to avoid cheap hearing aids.
Guest post by Scott Novak - patient of Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona
In Part 1 of this article (found here), I mentioned an elderly couple that I approached on my bike that didn't hear me. As you might have noticed, I theorized several reasons why that man might be resisting getting hearing "assistance." Since then, I started thinking more about the possible association with hearing loss and simply being elderly.
When I turned 42, I noticed my eyesight getting blurry when I would read printed material or the computer. Okay, I thought, I'm probably going to need glasses. There's a certain "resistance versus resignation" to getting older that I think we all struggle with. We can't fight Father Time though, as much as we try. Perhaps admitting to a hearing loss is also admitting to getting older, and even to one's own mortality.
So why not take every opportunity to maximize the enjoyment of every day? Every minute? Why do some people resist going to a hearing doctor (an audiologist) and explore options for hearing aids, but are perfectly fine going to an eye doctor and paying for glasses? We talked about that in the last article, but I wanted to explore the idea of the hearing loss stigma a little more, and found some interesting research.
The Impacts Caused By The Hearing Loss Stigma
Despite how prevalent hearing loss is (around 20 percent of Americans report that they have hearing loss to some degree), the stigma still persists. Whenever people are ashamed of having a hearing loss, they might refuse to acknowledge their problem. There was another study that Southall, Gagne, and Jennings conducted where participants experience a high level of stress when attempting to conceal or deny their hearing loss. Both professionally and personally they were afraid of being labeled and put off going to see an audiologist.
Even after they visit a doctor, an individual may reject hearing aids since they are afraid of looking old, and feeling inferior or ashamed, or view hearing devices as being signs of weakness and being handicapped. Unfortunately, failing to seek treatment may cause long-term effects.
Untreated hearing loss can result in lower signal quality inside of the brain (which can be held to higher cognitive load), behavior changes, social disengagement, changes in the brain's structure, and health problems like anxiety, fatigue, depression, and dementia.
Fighting the Stigma
How can we effectively fight the hearing loss stigma? Education is the key. By educating the public (including individuals with hearing loss) about the various challenges involved with hearing loss as well as the benefits that treatment can provide, empathy can be fostered which can lead to a more positive outlook for hearing health.
Finally, if you are suffering from hearing loss, don't allow the stigma to hold you back. You might feel as if a hearing aid makes you look old, but it actually will help you in many ways in maintaining your youth. After all, young people who have excellent hearing do not continuously ask other individuals to repeat themselves constantly. They don't respond in conversations inappropriately because they are unable to hear the other part of the conversation. They don't disconnect socially because they are struggling to hear the conversation.
These days, hearing aids are very effective and can help you maintain your mental faculties, your social life, and maybe even your career. Modern hearing aids are also very inconspicuous and small, so you won't have to worry that you will stand out in a crowd. If you really want to hide the fact that you are suffering from hearing loss, then check out the discreet styles such as receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids. Also, search for a hearing aid that comes with an inconspicuous remote, to allow you to not draw attention to yourself whenever you are wanting to press the program button or change the volume. There are some devices that connect to a smartphone, which makes them technologically savvy and very convenient. Whenever you need to use your hearing aid's control center, it will just look like you are using your cell phone.
Get a dang hearing test already!
If you have been procrastinating having a hearing test, you are not alone. Most people wait, on average, almost seven years from the time when they first notice there is a change in their hearing before they actually seek out help. Seven years worth of strained relationships at work and at home, missing out on so many of the sounds all around you, and risking health problems that are associated with hearing loss.
Keep in mind that it is critically important to treat hearing loss for your future and current health. Rather than hiding your struggles, help to reverse the hearing loss stigma by using hearing devices and helping to encourage other people that you know to go see an audiologist.
I'm so glad that I listened to my wife and scheduled a hearing test with Dr. Allen and Amy Rohe. Not only were they knowledgeable about their craft, but hey were just genuinely kind people, so the hearing test and conversation about options was very casual and friendly. I was able to try a pair of hearing aids for a week or so, and Dr. Rohe actually let me try a few other pairs until I got the set that I loved. Who does that? Having those options and such an enjoyable interaction is plenty to highly recommend Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona.
If it's any consolation, my wife is happier that she doesn't have to repeat herself all the time, and I'm happier knowing that I can hear most any conversation now. And that, to me, is priceless.
If you're interested in hearing aids in Tempe or the surrounding Phoenix metro, it's worth a call to Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona: (480) 831-6159 or use their convenient online scheduler so you can book online and see what times are available.
Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona, LLC
2034 E. Southern Avenue, Suite I
Tempe, AZ 85282
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Guest post by Scott Novak - patient of Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona
While riding my bike the other day, I rode up behind an elderly couple on the sidewalk. I rang my bicycle bell, and while most people hear it and move aside, there was no response. I rang again as I got closer - still nothing. After one more try without movement, I shouted "on your left please," and the woman grabbed the man's arm and said "move over honey," to which he grumbled and seemed oblivious to anyone behind him or that he heard a thing.
Now there's someone who obviously has hearing loss.
I started wondering if he knew that he was "hard of hearing," and if he did, why didn't he do anything about it?
Is it because he didn't want to seem "old" by getting hearing aids? If anything, his befuddled reaction made him seem like an old person way more than a little hearing aid on his ears.
Maybe they're costly? I get that - not everyone has a few thousand dollars to spend. And some people - my Mom, for instance - just simply won't pay any medical expense "unless insurance pays for it." Hey, I understand being frugal, but we're talking about suffering through every day not being able to hear well. You want to talk about "quality of life?" A few dollars a day toward hearing everything is worth it. To me, at least.
Then I started thinking about how it's perfectly fine for people to wear glasses on their face, but somehow it's "weird" to have a tiny, near-invisible device tucked behind your ear. So it's fine if your eyes start failing due to aging, but unacceptable if your ears start failing? How is that fair? They're sensory organs on your head - they should get equal respect, right?
And think about it - can you imagine the world we'd live in if people resisted getting their vision corrected? Lots of bumping into things, I'd reckon...
Is it stubborn pride? Resisting that your body is aging? Maybe not admitting that you could use a little help? Maybe distrust of technology?
So why the stigma? Why the resistance to hearing aids, hearing loss, and hearing testing? I decided to look into it further.
Full disclosure: I am a 50-year old male that is a patient of Dr. Rohe's at Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona. I have tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and it became so noticeable that I decided to check for hearing loss. I'm grateful that I found Dr. Rohe; he has guided me through a journey of hearing improvement and self-awareness that I thought would be helpful to others in my similar predicament. This 2-part article is some of the information I uncovered.
How To Combat The Stigma Of Hearing Loss
Unfortunately, there is a stigma that comes with hearing loss, or a sign of disgrace that is associated with a specific person, quality, or circumstance. Sadly, this is perpetuated by the general public, by advertisers, and even some individuals who have hearing loss. This hearing loss stigma results in individuals struggling with the condition sometimes failing to seek out treatment, thinking that wearing hearing aids will make them appear feebler, weaker, or older. However, when hearing loss is not addressed, it will continue to persist, and it might result in various serious health issues, social disengagement, or cognitive decline. By waiting to seek out treatment, or maybe completely refusing to acknowledge that you have a hearing loss, you are putting both your mental and physical health at risk.
Have you been held back by the stigma that comes with hearing loss?
Although there are numerous factors involved in the hearing loss stigma, most of them revolve around three major ideas:
- Changes in self-perception
These ideas were explored by Dr. Margaret I. Wallhagen in a study that was published in 2009.
The study reported that individuals who suffer from hearing loss will sometimes view themselves in a way that is somewhat different. They may focus on the difference between their current self and former self - being disabled versus being whole, being disabled versus able, and being cognitively impaired versus smart. For example, some people didn't want to be called "handicapped" so they procrastinated going to see an audiologist. They may present they don't have the issue and attempt to hide the fact they are having a hard time hearing.
Many people also associate hearing with ageism and aging, which is discrimination or prejudice based on an individual's age. They may find it hard to relate to younger relatives or friends or feel ostracized. Also, maybe because hearing loss has a strong association with aging, many individuals will discover that hearing aids remind them they are getting old, and that is uncomfortable for all of us.
Finally, there are some people who are afraid that if they wear a hearing aid it will make them look unattractive. They are concerned that the technology will emphasize their hearing loss and draw attention to their ears.
Not all of the participants in the study by Wallhagen were influenced by the hearing loss stigma. Even those who brushed it off, still acknowledged that the stigma exists.
Many people put a lot of value on what other people think of them, and that social concern is what produces the hearing loss stigma. Stigma is a concept that isn't unique; it is just relevant within the context of relationships and how society treats and reacts to individuals who are stigmatized, since it is only within that context that we are able to experience discrimination, judgment, isolation, or rejection.
Hearing Aid Marketing Is Part Of The Problem
Hearing aids advertisements are partly to blame. They have a tendency to highlight the discreet positioning and small size of hearing aids and focus on the device's appearance. Although these acknowledgments and advertisements address perceived realities and might enhance the chance that people will decide to seek out treatment, they also have a tendency reinforce the concept that hearing loss and using hearing aids are a stigma and need to be hidden. Advertisers showcase how valuable communication is and depict individuals of various age groups in their ads. That emphasizes the benefits that are offered by hearing aids and that people of every age are affected by hearing loss.
If you are suffering from hearing loss, then the opinions of other people who are close to you (like your coworkers, friends, children, parents, partner, or spouse) can influence your decisions and thoughts concerning your hearing health. There are so many people who just don't understand the challenges that are faced by individuals who have hearing loss and how beneficial effective treatment can be, and they continue to perpetuate the stigma of hearing loss. For example, if your spouse has a negative attitude about your hearing aids, you might not want to visit an audiologist and having your hearing loss issue addressed. On the other hand, a supportive environment can help an individual with hearing loss, help them to move forward, and explore various options as well as wear their hearing aids without them feeling they are being stigmatized or judged.
There's more to this article that I'll continue later this week. In the meantime, I highly encourage you to contact Dr. Allen and Amy Rohe at Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona. They're a Scottsdale audiologist that has done wonders for my hearing loss issues, tinnitus treatment, and more. They have a convenient online scheduler so you can book online and see what times are available.
Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona, LLC
2034 E. Southern Avenue, Suite I
Tempe, AZ 85282
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World Hearing Day Puts A Spotlight On The Toll Of Untreated And Unidentified Hearing Loss
Following in the footsteps of the international call from the WHO (World Health Organization) this World Hearing Day, the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) encourages all Americans to have their hearing tested.
With the WHO's observance on March the 3rd every year, World Hearing Day draws attention to how important it is for early identification along with intervention to combat hearing loss as their focus for 2019.
Failing to get the necessary treatments often results in millions of individuals living a poorer “quality of life”. The WHO has projected that close to 630 million people around the world will experience hearing loss that is disabling by the year 2030 unless these people start taking action when it comes to the health of their hearing. By the year 2050, this number might elevate to over 900 million. In addition to this, hearing loss that goes unaddressed is linked with significant costs. At this stage the WHO has said, that hearing loss that has gone untreated imposes a global annual cost of around $750 billion.
Factors linked to hearing loss that goes unaddressed varies. The majority of people that suffer from severe hearing loss come from the low and the middle-income countries, where they typically lack the access to the required interventions and services.
However, in the US, hearing loss is still a very common type of chronic health condition.
The thing that stands out the most in the United States, is a dire need for treatment and identification of hearing loss that occurs in adults, states Shari Robertson, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, 2019 ASHA President. She goes on to say that many of the adults in the US fail to seek the necessary treatments for loss of hearing, which is often caused from a perception that loss of hearing is just an annoyance opposed to an actual medical condition that is serious. Many are not aware that this condition usually affects the overall health of the person, their career success, job, mental health, social life, personal relationships, and their overall quality-of-life.
Adults in the US that are aged 70 or older that suffer from some degree of hearing loss that may benefit from a hearing aid, less than 1 in 3 (30%) have ever used these aids, states the NIDOCD (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders). And the adults between the ages of 20 to 69, only 16% of these people that can benefit from using hearing aids have used them.
The ASHA states that the public should be asking questions about the current state of their hearing, and individuals should Self-Test for Hearing Loss with these questions:
Do I Need To Have My Hearing Tested?
You should definitely see an audiologist when you answer “yes” to 2 or more of these questions:
Any person who answered yes, and/or is concerned should go for a test with an audiologist that is certified. Thankfully, we here at The Tinnitus & Hearing Center of Arizona are licensed Audiologists who specialize in all hearing conditions for all ages. We're a Phoenix audiologist clinic that sees patients for hearing loss, hearing issues like tinnitus, misophonia, hyperacusis.
And we also consult, fit, and fine tune several major brands of affordable hearing aids, so if hearing loss is a concern, know that we're in your corner. Give us a call at (480) 831-6159 or use our online scheduler.
Over the last few years, various studies have now found an association between people with hearing loss and a risk that is increased for dementia. It makes sense if you consider the result of hearing loss - isolation. If someone can't hear conversations, they tend to disengage from contact with other people. And isolation simply is NOT good for your mental health. Friends matter! Plus, communication triggers certain neurons in the brain, and when those neuronal connections aren't exercised, they stop firing.
Whether this link is a correlational or causational relationship is still under investigation, yet there is definitely a relationship that is present. Across all these studies, individuals that experienced hearing loss all showed an increase in the signs associated with cognitive decline.
There are three primary reasons as to why hearing loss might be associated with dementia. These include social isolation, a change that occurs in the natural function of the brain, and a strain that is uneven on the cognitive resources in the brain.
It is well-known that maintaining relationships with friends and family, combined with communication that is face-to-face is a significant weapon when it comes to warding off cognitive decline.
Bryan James from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center based in Chicago, states that the human brain is able to evolve in order to manage up to 150 social relationships, yet when we no longer manage a fair amount of these relationships, this portion of our brains can start to atrophy. In addition, social relationships that are healthy can lower stress that is chronic which is also linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s, and cognitive decline.
Yet you may be wondering, how is hearing loss linked to all of this? The fact is that hearing loss happens to be naturally isolating. Even when surrounded by many people in one room, an individual that has hearing loss that has gone untreated can become disconnected quickly. When a person is unable to hear what people are saying in conversations, then the conversation will quickly fade.
As time goes by, the strain linked to trying to recognize and hear every word will eventually take over the previous desire to socialize and participate in any social interactions. Hearing loss that is left untreated not only disengages a listener but will also place uneven pressure on the cognitive resources inside their brain.
The strain might not appear to be of importance, yet it lowers the capability of the brain to perform related or simultaneous tasks. Spending such a large amount of mental energy to try and hear what people are saying, regardless of whether it is unconsciously or consciously, also prevents this individual from storing these events in their short-term memory. Hearing loss interferes with not only their listening abilities but also their capabilities of processing information.
Even hearing loss that is mild has been proven to interfere with the method of storing and processing speech that is quickly communicated.
Since hearing happens to be a brain response to the auditory signals, hearing actually occurs inside the brain as opposed to the actual ears. When these signals start to weaken and become disrupted, other parts of the person’s brain try to compensate. In response, the brain starts rerouting other parts of the brain where it tries to compensate for information that is lost due to hearing loss.
Even in the instances when what has been said is comprehended successfully, as the person's hearing continues to decline further, and inabilities to hear starts to become a new normal, the brain modifies how it used to organize activities, which results in changes in the natural functions of the brain. In many of the Johns Hopkins studies, losses in hearing are linked with accelerated rates of tissue loss in the brain which could also be linked to a change in brain function as time goes by. Age is known for shrinking the brain naturally, yet hearing loss might accelerate these processes.
Why It Is Important To Treat Hearing Loss
It is very important to understand that a loss of hearing does not automatically translate into dementia. Yet dementia is just one of the reasons why hearing loss should be treated. The correct treatment will improve the individual’s quality-of-life. When loss of hearing has been treated, the cognitive improvement of the person can be highly significant, even if the cognitive decline is not associated directly with dementia.
According to Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy from Duke University, and as was quoted by the AARP, benefits associated with treating a condition such as hearing loss is double when compared to any of the cognitive-enhancing medications currently available. It should also become an important priority when treating any of the cognitive problems linked to age. Treating loss of hearing also helps to strengthen social bonds, can restore relationships, and even make the person feel many years younger than they actually are.
Since hearing takes place in the brain, it's important that these connections stay active. If you think that someone you love is drifting into isolation due to hearing loss, please make a point to encourage them to contact us for a hearing test and possible hearing loss solutions such as hearing aids.
Contact us today for your hearing test in Tempe AZ at (480) 831-6159 or use our online scheduler.
What is a hearing aid?
Hearing aids are small electronic devices that are worn behind or in your ear. They make sounds louder so an individual who has hearing loss is able to communicate, listen, and participate in daily activities more fully. Hearing aids are able to help individuals hear more in both noisy and quiet situations. However, only around one out of five individuals who can benefit from using hearing aids actually wear them, meaning more people should be wearing them.
Hearing aids are made up of three basic parts: the speaker, amplifier, and microphone. Sound is received by the hearing aid via a microphone, which then converts the sound waves into electrical signals and then sends them over to an amplifier. The signal's power is increased by the amplifier and they are then sent via the tiny speaker to the ear.
How do hearing aids help?
Mainly hearing aids are useful in improving speech and hearing comprehension in individuals who have had hearing loss that is the result of damage to the small sensory cells (called stereocilia, which are tiny hair cells) that are inside of the inner ear. This kind of hearing loss is referred to as sensorineural hearing loss. Damage may have occured due to certain medicines, injuries from noise, aging, or disease.
Hearing aids magnify the sound vibrations that enter into the ear. The larger vibrations are detected by the surviving hair cells and converted into neural signals that get passed along into the brain. The more damage to the individual's hair cells, the more serious the hearing loss is, and greater hearing aid amplification is necessary in order to make the difference up. There are some practical limits to how much amplification can be provided by a hearing aid. Also, if the inner ear has become too damaged, then even larger vibration are not converted into neural signals. A hearing aid will be ineffective in this type of situation.
How can I determine whether I need to have a hearing aid or not?
If you suspect that you may have hearing loss and may benefit from having a hearing aid, consult with an audiologist (like us). An audiologist is a hearing health professional who can identify and measure hearing loss, and can conduct a hearing test in order to determine the degree and type of hearing loss. At Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona, we offer thorough hearing tests and screenings to check for ear diseases as well as chart your hearing performance frequency range.
Are there different styles of hearing aids?
Hearing aid styles:
- Behind-the-ear (BTE): This type of hearing aid comes with a case made of hard plastic that is worn behind your ear and connects with the plastic earmold which fits inside of the outer ear. The case that is behind the ear holds the electronic parts. Sound travels via the earmold from the hearing aid and into the ear. Individuals of all ages use BTE aids for mild to profound levels of hearing loss.
A new type of BTE aid is in the style of an open-fit hearing aid. An open-fit small aid fits completely behind the ear, with a narrow tube that inserts inside of the ear canal, which allows the canal to stay open. For that reason, an open-fit hearing aid can be a good option for individuals who experience earwax buildup, since it is less likely that this kind of aid will be damaged by the substance. Also, some people might prefer an open-fit hearing aid due to the fact that their perception of their own voice doesn't sound like it is plugged up or congested.
- In-the-ear (ITE): This type of hearing aids fit inside of the outer ear completely and are used for hearing loss ranging from mild to severe. A hard plastic case holds the electronic components. There are some ITE aids that might have certain extra features that are installed, like a telecoil, which is a magnetic small coil that enables the user to receive sound via the hearing aid's circuitry, instead of through the microphone. That makes hearing telephone conversations easier. Also, a telecoil helps individuals hear in public places where a special sound system is installed that is called an induction loop system. These can be found in numerous auditoriums, airports, schools, and churches. Usually, ITE aids are not used by young children since the casings have to replaced frequently as the ear continues to grow.
Canal aids fit inside of the ear canal and come in two different styles. An in-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids designed to fit the shape and size of an individual's ear canal. The other type is the completely-in-canal (CIC) hearing aid which is almost completely hidden inside of the ear canal. Both of these types are used for moderately severe and mild hearing loss.
Since canal aids are small they might be hard for an individual to remove and adjust. Canal aids also have less space available for additional devices like a telecoil or batteries. Usually, they are not recommended for individuals with severe or profound hearing loss or young children since their smaller size reduces their volume and power.
At Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona in Tempe hearing aids are one of our specialties, and we encourage you to schedule a free hearing aid demonstration, with a hearing test to check your hearing loss, as well as try on a few hearing aids to see how they can improve your individual hearing. We offer a 30-day risk free trial so you can take them home and see how they perform in daily use.
Call us today at 480-831-6159, or schedule your appointment with our online scheduler and schedule your free hearing aid demonstration today.
If you didn't see your question here, know that we'll post Parts 2 and 3 again next week, and you can also call us at 480-831-6159.
Our sight and hearing are the two primary ways that we get to enjoy everything around us. The many sounds we hear are, in most cases, at safe levels that do not damage our hearing. But there is a threshold to the levels of noise our hearing can accommodate; loud sounds can be very harmful. However, even some noises can have a similar effect, even though they are not as loud but are listened to over a longer period. The impact of such sounds can range from damages to parts of the inner ear, resulting in the poor hearing to problems that worsen over time leading to permanent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Who Is Affected?
Hearing loss attributed to noise can happen to anyone. According to a national survey, 24% of American adults between the ages of 20 and 29 that have had their hearing tested will show signs of noise-induced hearing problems, including hearing loss.
How Do We Hear?
It is by understanding how we hear that we can comprehend how loud sounds can be damaging to our ears. The way our hearing is set up is through a complex system that changes the noises in the air into electrical signals that are transported by the auditory nerve to the brain so that we then understand what we hear.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) occurs when the stereocilia are damaged by loud sounds that happen over a sudden or last for too long. The stereocilia are tiny hair-like structures located on the top of hair cells in the inner ear. The damage causes these hair cells not to send signals to the brain about the sounds you hear - resulting in the hearing loss, which is permanent.
How Sound Is Measured
Sound is measured in decibels, and the units of measure start from zero which is at near total silence. It is the softest level of noise that the average young person can accommodate. A whisper is 30 decibels while the sound of a normal conversation is double that (around 60 decibels). If that level increases by 10 decibels then it is considered to be ten times more powerful. Comparatively, an ambulance siren noise is about 120 decibels which is a level that is a trillion times more intense than the softest sound that the ears can handle. That is why the ambulance sirens are painful to the ear when at close range, as is the case with any other types of noises that are of 120 decibels and above.
In short, the louder the noise, the shorter the time it would take for hearing loss to happen. The sound of a powered lawn mower is 90 decibels, while that of a firecracker can reach 150 decibels; thus the latter can damage your hearing more suddenly than the former.
Causes And Effects
Constant exposure to loud noises is likely to lead to hearing loss. For instance, a person subjected to loud sounds in a workshop or factory over a long period is at risk of developing hearing issues, including hearing loss.
Most of the activities we do every day put us at the risk of noise-inducing hearing loss. Such activities include:
Some of the cases of noise-induced hearing loss are short-lived. The hearing returns to normalcy for some people; often within 16-48 hours after the problem occurred. However, studies show that there may be some degree of long-term damage that took place even if it may not be detectable at the moment only to manifest later.
The hearing loss attributed to loud sounds does not always occur suddenly when exposure to such noises. It can build over time, and the signs go unnoticed. As the problem progress, the affected person may:
It is advisable to seek medical attention and have your hearing checked if you experience any of these signs.
Is The Condition Genetic?
While everyone is at risk of experiencing noise-induced hearing loss, some people are at a higher risk than others due to genetics. Every person has genes that they inherit from their parents. The genes are the elements that form the building blocks for who you are, and there are individuals inherently born with the risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss. Research is still ongoing to understand why this is and which genes are at the heart of it all.
Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
NIHL is preventable. You only need to invest in practical ways of protecting your hearing as you strive to enjoy listening to the sounds you love. You can do this by:
What Can I Do Next?
If you suspect that you might have hearing loss due to long term exposure to noise, or even a short term blast, such as gunshots, fireworks, sirens, etc., there are two things that we recommend:
If you are looking for hearing testing in Scottsdale or the Phoenix metro, we encourage you to contact us for a hearing test appointment.
Click here to Call Us for an appointment, or schedule online here.
If you’re looking for an audiologist in Scottsdale, Arizona, or nearby, learn more at https://www.tinnitusaz.com/scottsdale.html.
Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona, LLC
2034 E. Southern Avenue, Suite I
Tempe, AZ 85282
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Dr. Rohe is a nationally-recognized audiologist specializing in Tinnitus Therapy and other hearing conditions.