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October is National Protect Your Hearing Month!

Although most people tend to see audiologists after they have already started noticing hearing difficulties, audiologists also strive to educate the public on protecting their hearing. Back in July, we posted a blog about the different types of hearing protection. Many of these you can buy over the counter, but some custom-made devices need to be fit by an audiologist.

The American Academy of Audiology agrees with OSHA standards in regards to which levels of sound, and for how long, can damage your ears permanently. For instance, repeated or length exposure to sound above 85 decibels (dB) can damage hearing. Average conversation is usually around 60-65 dB, jet engines are typically around 150 dB, and those lawn mowers that people are using without hearing protection are around 85 dB, which is the level at which damage can start. Other recreational activities have high levels of sound that can damage your hearing: shooting a gun (140-175 dB depending on the firearm), concerts (can reach 120 dB), action movies in a theater (100 dB).

According to the American Academy of Audiology, there is an easy way to remember the main ways to protect your hearing: EARS.

The four main ways for protecting your hearing are:

  • E – earplugs
  • A – avoid loud sounds
  • R – reduce the level of sounds
  • S – shorten time in loud environments

If you have been exposed to this type of noise, even if it was years ago, there is a good chance you have some hearing loss. To schedule a hearing test or an appointment with one of our audiologists to discuss custom hearing protection, call our office at 904-399-0350.

Learn more from the American Academy of Audiology at audiology.org

Hearing Aids Make an Appearance on Team USA

Although COVID took a larger than expected spotlight during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, pushing the games back a full year into 2021, for audiologists, there was a special player on Team USA that caught our attention.

That player is David Smith, the 36 year old middle blocker of Team USA Men’s Volleyball. Including Tokyo, David has seen three Olympic games. With his 6-foot-7 stature, you may not be able to see, but David Smith wears hearing aids.  David was born with a severe to profound hearing loss and worn hearing aids since the age of 3. He currently wears a set of Oticon Dynamo hearing aids.  David’s hearing aids are powerful enough that he can hear many things, including the softer voices of his children, but he also relies heavily on lip reading, especially on the noisy volleyball court.

In a recent interview, David thanks his parents for keeping him involved in sports. He states that his hearing loss was less of a barrier in areas where he could watch and learn from others. He says “it was definitely a confidence booster”. Even as he plays overseas, he has become a role model for children with hearing loss, referencing a few children who wore his jersey at every game they attended. David hopes others with hearing loss see that they can achieve anything they want, even making it to the world’s biggest sporting event.

David Smith (Source: https://www.teamusa.org/usa-volleyball/athletes/David-Smith.org)

More information about David can be found at the links below:

Simone Biles and “The Twisties”

If you have been following the Tokyo Olympics this Summer, you have likely heard about American gymnast Simone Biles suffering from a case of what she calls “the twisties,” causing her to withdraw from several Olympic events. But what exactly are “the twisties” and what does that have to do with ears? Gymnasts describe it as losing control of their body mid-trick and losing sense of where they are in the air. The sensation is not only disorienting, it’s dangerous and can lead to serious injury.

The human brain uses three sensory systems to stay upright: the vestibular (or inner ear) system, the visual system, and the somatosensory (or proprioception) system. While in motion, like when a gymnast is performing a skill, the brain receives input from these three systems and compares them to an “internal model” of what the move should feel like based on past experiences. Essentially, gymnasts and other athletes tirelessly train so that they can perform complicated movements easily and with “muscle memory”. However, in certain situations, such as the Olympics, athletes may try to compensate for increased psychological stress by trying to consciously control movements that were previously automatic. The brain then loses the ability to initiate learned motor sequencies, resulting in what we now know as “the twisties.” 

As it turns out. “the twisties” is fairly common in the sport of gymnastics, as more and more current and former athletes are speaking out about their experiences with this condition. More information on the science behind “the twisties” and Simone Biles performance at the Olympics can be found online in the coming weeks. 

Welcome to Our New Audiology Extern

My name is Isabella Hillerby and I am the JHBI Audiology Extern for the 2021-2022 year. I completed my undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Nevada, Reno in my hometown.  I attended the University of Oklahoma for my Doctorate of Audiology Program and will be graduating in May 2022.  

JHBI has been an incredible placement for me in my first few months here–I have learned so much more than I thought possible and love coming to work each day. The team here at JHBI is full of wonderful mentors, patient advocates, and kind individuals. I am grateful for the opportunity to be working with our patients over the next year through their hearing and balance healthcare journey. 

Though I miss the mountains and snowy weather from back home, Jacksonville and northeast Florida has quickly become my favorite place to live.  My free time is spent exploring Jacksonville–paddle boarding along the coastline, hiking through Hanna Park, finding new favorite local brunch places–and spending time with my new kitten! I love all activities ocean related and am looking forward to becoming scuba certified by the end of the summer. I can’t wait to see what this next year has in store for me.

Better Hearing and Speech Month

May was designated as the Better Hearing and Speech Month by the American Speech-Language-Hearing  Association (ASHA)  in 1927.  The goals of Better Hearing and Speech month is to bring awareness to hearing and speech deficits, educate the population on how these issues effect the community, and empower individuals to take action if they suspect they have a speech or hearing deficit.

Hearing loss is the third most common health issue in the United States, effecting one in every eight people over the age of 12.  Difficulty communicating with others can lead individuals to be withdrawn, negatively impacting them both socially and emotionally.  The primary goal of an audiologist, when working with these patients, is to provide the tools they need to maintain an active lifestyle and minimize the effect of their hearing loss.  The National Institute of Health (NIH) developed a short questionnaire* to see if you could benefit from having your hearing evaluated by an audiologist.

NIH QUESTIONNAIRE:

  1. Do you feel frustrated when talking to members of your family because you have difficulty hearing them?
  2. Do you have difficulty hearing or understanding co-workers, clients, or customers?
  3. Do you feel restricted or limited by a hearing problem?
  4. Do you have difficulty hearing when visiting friends, relatives, or neighbors?
  5. Do you have trouble hearing in the movies or in the theater?
  6. Does a hearing problem cause you to argue with family members?
  7. Do you have trouble hearing the TV or radio at levels that are loud enough for others?
  8. Do you feel that any difficulty with your hearing limits your personal or social life?
  9. Do you have trouble hearing family or friends when you are together in a restaurant?

If you answered “YES” to three or more of above questions, feel free to contact our clinic at (904) 339-0350 to schedule an appointment with a provider.  Together you will develop an individualized plan to improve your hearing healthcare.

*Adapted from: Newman, C.W., Weinstein, B.E., Jacobson, G.P., & Hug, G.A. (1990). The Hearing Handicap Inventory for Adults [HHIA]: Psychometric adequacy and audiometric correlates. Ear Hear, 11, 430-433.

Why Do Masks Make Hearing So Difficult?

One of the biggest changes that has occurred due to COVID -19 has been the need to wear a mask when in public. The positive side to wearing a mask is the proven decrease in transmission of COVID-19. The downside? The inability to read lips and watch the facial expressions of those around us. Many people have reported that their hearing has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic. While it’s certainly possible that a person’s hearing can decrease over time, what may also be happening is the sudden inability to lip read.

Most people use facial cues to understand spoken language but those with even mild hearing loss rely on watching peoples’ mouths to help “fill in the blanks” in conversation. This skill is even more helpful when in a noisy environment and the background noise drowns out speech. You may not have realized how helpful lip reading can be or how often you use it until it is no longer available.

The brain utilizes several pieces of information to understand speech. A large portion is from the hearing system but it also gathers information from the context of the conversation and from visual cues, or lip reading. The masks effectively remove one of these pieces of information which forces you to rely more heavily on your hearing and the context. For those with hearing loss the brain is left with even fewer pieces of information to understand speech.

Hearing aids can help amplify speech to make it easier to understand what others are saying but it will not alleviate the difficulty associated with the inability to watch people’s mouths. Just keep in mind that the use of masks is temporary and once you have access to lip reading again, in combination with hearing aids, you will be able to more easily talk with friends and family.

For more information call our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule a hearing evaluation.

Updates in Cochlear Implant Technology

At Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute we work with all three of the FDA approved cochlear implant manufacturers. One of those manufacturers, Advanced Bionics, has recently released their newest sound processor. Below you will find a video introducing the new device!

If you are interested in discussing this new technology, you can sit down and chat with an Advanced Bionics representative in our office! Reach out to Karalee Kowar at Karalee.Kowar@advancedbionics.com to reserve a spot!

Vertigo in the Headlines

File:Stephen Colbert at Montclair Film 2017 (1).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Late night talk show host Stephen Colbert announced recently that he has been diagnosed with Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). He reported that when he would stand up from a seated position, everything began to spin and subsequently he would fall or sit down. This particular type of vertigo is characterized by the sensation of either yourself or the world around you spinning, and lasting for a few seconds to a few minutes. It is typically brought on by head movements such as rising from a seated position, moving you head in a certain direction, or rolling over in bed.

Symptoms associated with BPPV are imbalance, nausea/vomiting, and visual changes such as objects seeming to jump or moving side to side. Possible causes can include head injury, ear surgery, migraine headaches, transient ischemic attacks or stroke, a growth inside the ear, or a virus within the ear.

BPPV can usually be corrected with special positioning treatments done in the office and exercises at home. However, it is important not to assume that all vertigo is BPPV and to make sure any causes aside from the inner ear are ruled out first. Contact your primary care physician if you begin to experience dizziness. Once cleared, they will then refer you to a hearing and balance specialist to help determine the cause of vertigo and develop the next steps to help correct it.

Noisy Toys and How to Protect your Children’s Ears

It’s finally the holiday season and everyone is excited for good food, (socially distant) gatherings, and presents, unless that is, you have young children with noisy toys constantly playing throughout your house. Although most parents can attest to how loud their children’s toys are, you may not know just EXACTLY how loud. 

The Arizona Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) and the Sight and Hearing Association are two of many organizations that put out an annual list of noisy toys for the holiday season. There are toys on their list that have been tested and shown to have an output of 103 dB! Measurements were taken as if a child had their ear next to the speaker, which is very realistic as anyone with young children would know.  According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association and the American Academy of Audiology, 85 dB is the loudest that a child should be exposure to.  For reference, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that exposure to 90 dB for 8 hours a day is considered a “permissible noise exposure”.  The permissible time of exposure for a 100 dB sound is only 2 hours. Many of theses toys are actually labeled as educational toys.

Here are some tips for testing to see if toys are too loud:

  • Test the toys prior to buying. Many toys have a “TRY ME” button
  • Hold the toy relatively close to your own ear and see if you think it is too loud

Ways to Reduce Volume

  • If there is a volume control, make sure it is set at the lowest volume
  • Put waterproof tape or glue over the speaker to dampen the sound
  • Put tape over the volume control to prevent your child from changing the volume.

The below list was organized by The Arizona Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH):

Hearing Loss and the Holidays

With everything going on during the holiday season, it’s easy to forget that some people struggle during holiday get-togethers for various reasons. One recent online study shows that 50% of families will host at least one person with hearing loss at their holiday table. For these loved ones, the holidays can be isolating and frustrating, because they don’t feel included in the celebration.

Here are some suggestions to help you have a hearing-friendly holiday:

  1. Minimize background noise. Skip the holiday music or television in the background. Background noise can make it difficult to hear. Consider having rowdy football fans enjoy the game in a different room.
  2. Pay attention to seating. Seat the individual with hearing loss at the head of the dinner table or middle of the table, making it easier for them to see all the guests’ faces. Round tables enable easy viewing for everyone. When setting your table, try decorating with shorter centerpieces to avoid blocking sightlines.
  3. Rephrase, don’t repeat. Instead of repeating the same words, try rephrasing. It’s very likely when someone with hearing loss mentions they can’t hear you; they may be having trouble understanding a specific word or phrase. This approach draws less attention to the individual with hearing loss by keeping the conversation more natural. For those uneasy or self-conscious about hearing loss, this will be appreciated.
  4. Skip the mood lighting. A well-lit room helps those with hearing loss see the mouths and facial expressions of those speaking.
  5. Capture attention. Look directly at the person with hearing loss when speaking to them, so they can see your mouth and facial expressions. To get their attention, gently touch them on the hand, arm or shoulder, or say their name before starting to speak.
  6. Speak clearly. Be deliberate while speaking clearly. Be careful to project, but don’t shout. Keep your hands away from your face when speaking. Avoid disturbances which make following a conversation more difficult.
  7. Ask how you can help. Be respectful and discrete by taking aside the individual with hearing loss and asking if there’s anything you can do to make their visit easier. Demonstrate understanding and compassion, and you’ll be an example of the true meaning of holiday spirit.

If you’re concerned about possible hearing loss for you or a loved one, consider scheduling a consultation with one of our audiologists.