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Types of Hearing Protection

One of the prominent causes of hearing loss is excessive noise exposure. For many patients, they have grown up hunting and target shooting, or have worked many years in a very noisy job. Unfortunately, one the damage from noise has been done, there is no way to reverse it. Instead, we ask all of our patients to use hearing protection when they are going to be around excessive noise.

There are different types of hearing protection. The one that works the best is the one that you will wear consistently and properly.

Styles:

  • Over the ear: These devices look like headphones, or are sometimes referred to as “Mickey Mouse ears” due to their bulk.  These cover the external part of the ear and block out many external sounds.
  • In the ear (non-custom): These devices are generally available at drug stores and are made of foam or plastic.  Non-custom devices fit into the ear with a tight fit and come in an array of sizes.
  • In the ear (custom): For a more secure fit, custom molded hearing protection can be made. This requires a silicone-like mold of your ear to be made, then sent to an outside company for crafting. These are typically a rubber-like material.

Types of Sound reduction: Hearing protection can be divided into two categories of sound reduction; active and passive.

  • Passive: Passive hearing protection uses the physical piece as the method of blocking the sound. These are less expensive than active hearing protection as there is no electronics within the devices. The foam hearing protection that is seen at drugs stores is a form of “passive” hearing protection. Passive hearing protection can be custom and non-custom.
  • Active: Active hearing protection uses not only the physical properties of the device, but also electronics to reduce sound.  Active hearing protection uses external microphones to analyze sounds in the surrounding area, then shut off when a loud sound is identified. Many hunters utilize active hearing protection to hear their environment, but the sound of the firearm is reduced. Active hearing protection can be custom or non-custom.

Here are some situations where Hearing protection should be utilized:

  • Hunting/shooting
  • Power tools, including lawn mowers
  • Noisy work environments – factories, mills, military, aircraft

If you are interested in custom hearing protection, JHBI can help. We are able to take custom molds and order both active and passive hearing protection.

Why Does My Tinnitus Get Worse When I’m Stressed?

Although tinnitus (or ringing / buzzing / whooshing / roaring in the ears) is often an underlying symptom of hearing loss, it can be exacerbated or even triggered by stress. A person’s reaction to tinnitus depends on how the autonomic nervous system responds to the sound itself. While many patients are able to ignore their tinnitus, for others it can cause significant stress, anxiety, and irritability when the brain subconsciously decides that the tinnitus is an “alarm”. Just like your body enters “fight or flight” mode when you encounter a genuine threat, tinnitus can trigger the same physical and emotional reaction. This makes it very difficult to concentrate or relax when you are stressed and have tinnitus.

One of the ways we attempt to combat this stress response is through relaxation exercises. Some patients report a reduction in the intrusiveness of their tinnitus with the use of these methods over time; including progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, mediation, and yoga. In addition, you may try a simple form of sound therapy: add calming sounds or white noise to your calming routines to help aid in relaxation. And of course, limiting the amount of caffeine consumed during the day and getting an adequate amount of sleep at night will also help in the long term.

For more information on tinnitus and tinnitus treatment options, contact our office to set up an individualized consultation to discuss what methods might be best for you!

How Do I Clean My Ears?

As audiologists, we often get asked “How do I clean my ears?” by patients. Many people do not know that your ear typically cleans itself! Earwax, or cerumen, is a self-cleaning agent meant to protect and lubricate your ear canal. Glands in your ear canal produce this substance to trap dirt and dust particles so they do not make their way to your eardrum. The earwax naturally migrates out of your ear with jaw movements, such as chewing or talking.  Different factors can impact how much earwax a person produces (e.g. genetics, medications).

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When a cerumen impaction occurs, it is typically due to the patient using Q-tips or other objects to clean their ears. But, in reality this typically just inhibits the natural migration of the earwax and pushes it down deeper into the ear canal! Symptoms of a cerumen impaction include decreased hearing, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), itchiness, or a plugged feeling in the ears.

There are safe methods to help remove the earwax from your ears, if there is a buildup. Patients can place a few drops of mineral oil, a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, or commercial wax softeners into the ear over the course of a few days. If a deep impaction has occurred, softening the wax alone will most likely not remove all of the wax and the individual will need to have the cerumen extracted. Licensed medical providers have the ability to manually remove earwax. Different methods of extraction include suction, water irrigation, or curette removal. The method used varies depending on the condition of their ear and the amount of wax. Consult a physician if you believe that you have a cerumen impaction.

Superior Semicircular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome


What is superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome?

Superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome (or SSCDS) is a condition where the normal bony covering of the superior semicircular canal (one of the three balance canals that respond to angular acceleration) is missing.

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What type of symptoms do patients with SSCDS have?
Many, but not all, patients with SSCDS have dizziness. This dizziness may be brought on by loud noises, such as the clanging of dishes together, or by pressure changes, such as sneezing, coughing, or straining. Some patients report hearing their heartbeat in the affected ear and often complain of ear fullness. Many patients describe that their voice sounds louder in one particular ear as well. Other less common symptoms include hearing one’s own eye movements and hearing one’s own footsteps on certain surfaces (watch this video: Inside Todd’s Head).

What causes SSCDS?
Currently the exact cause of SSCDS is not known. It is likely that some individuals are predisposed to the thinning of bone in certain areas of the skull base, leading to problems such as SSCDS. Additionally, head trauma may play a role in certain cases of SSCDS. Not all individuals with a dehiscence of the superior semicircular canal (as might be seen on a special CAT scan and verified by certain tests) actually have symptoms.

How is SSCDS treated?
SSCDS treatment must be individualized to each particular patient. While there is no specific medical therapy for SSCDS, various surgical management options are available.

Disclaimer:
The information and reference materials included on this website are intended solely for the general information and education purposes of the reader. They are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice or to diagnose health problems. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to discuss the information presented here.

Hearing For Life: Don’t Let Hearing Loss Limit You!

On March 3rd every year, the World Health Organization celebrates World Hearing Day to help promote ear and hearing care around the world.

Hearing loss affects individuals of all ages and it is important in all life stages to have the ease of communication to keep you connected to loved ones and the world around you. Early diagnosis and treat hearing loss in a timely manner can help facilitate access to education, employment opportunities and daily communication.

In the United States, 7 out of 10 individuals who say they have trouble hearing don’t use hearing aids, according to a Better Hearing Institute (BHI) survey. Many people think that hearing aids are big, bulky, poor quality and will squeal continuously which is not the case. Today’s hearing aids are smaller and smarter than ever, incorporating automatic programming, noise adaptation, Bluetooth technology, rechargeability and wireless programming. A more recent BHI study revealed that over 90% of individuals who have purchased hearing aids are glad they did.

As hearing healthcare providers, all of us at JHBI want you to know that there are options to treat your hearing loss. At your consultation appointment, we will discuss all of your hearing health concerns and the options available to help you hear better in the environments that matter most to you.

Types of Hearing Loss

What Is Conductive Hearing Loss?
Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems with the outer or middle ear that prevent sound waves from reaching the inner ear. Problems of this area might be in the ear canal, eardrum, or in the small bones of the middle ear, as a result of infections, fluid, a perforation in the eardrum, or earwax buildup. A medical provider can treat conductive hearing loss with certain medications if it caused by an infection or a buildup of fluid. They can also help by cleaning earwax and making recommendations to help prevent further wax buildup. In some cases surgical intervention is required. A bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) is often helpful for patients with this type of hearing loss.

What Is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
When the inner ear or nerves that send the hearing signal are damaged over time, it can lead to sensorineural hearing loss. This is the most common type of hearing problem and it is most often due to damage to the hair cells that send sound signals to the brain. Aging, loud noise, trauma to the head, genetics, and certain diseases are the most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss. These hair cells cannot be repaired, so sensorineural hearing loss is usually not medically treatable. However, people with this type of hearing problem can turn to hearing aids as a means to hear better and improve their quality of life. Some types of sensorineural hearing loss are treatable, mainly if the injury is short-term. If you have a sudden hearing loss, contact your doctor immediately.

What Is Mixed Hearing Loss?
Some people have a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. For example, if someone has age-related hearing loss, then suffers trauma to the eardrum. If you have mixed hearing loss, your doctor can recommend which type is to be treated first in order to maximize your chances of success.

Hear for the Holidays

Whether you’re holding a family gathering at your house, or attending a get-together with friends and family, the holidays are a great time to reconnect and spend time with people you care about. But when you suffer from hearing loss, the holidays can extra stressful. Don’t let your hearing loss prevent you from enjoying the holidays this year.

Here at JHBI, we are getting ready to celebrate the holidays with better hearing! The Hearing Center is offering a special promotion on hearing aids this holiday season. Enjoy a discount off the cost of hearing aids during the month of December. To take advantage of this offer, call 904-399-0350 to schedule a consolation with an audiologist and learn about the newest technology in hearing aids!

Noise Induced Hearing Loss and Custom Hearing Protection

Exposure to loud noises is a common cause of hearing loss among the population. Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is characterized by a “gradual, progressive loss of high frequency hearing sensitivity that usually presents as a “notch” that occurs at or around 4000 Hz.” For more information on noise induced hearing loss, visit http://american-hearing.org/disorders/noise-induced-hearing-loss/ .

How can you protect your hearing? There are many ways to prevent NIHL, such as:

  • Avoid or limit exposure to dangerously loud sounds
  • Decrease the volume of music systems
  • Move away from loud sound sources when possible
  • If you must be around loud sounds, use appropriate hearing protection
  • What kind of hearing protection devices are available?


At The Hearing Center, we offer a variety of hearing protection devices. Common devices include:

1. Swim plugs are designed to prevent moisture from entering the ear canal during swimming, showering and water sports
2. Shooter’s protection is designed to protect hunters/shooters from impulse noises up to 160 dB peak SPL. These devices can be made with special acoustic filters that allow for awareness of conversation and the ability to track animals. Industrial noise protection- Some work places require workers to wear custom hearing protection due to exposure to dangerous sound levels. Employees who work in industrial factories, construction sites and around aircraft equipment are likely to be required to wear hearing protection. Specialized devices can be made that can connect to radios for those who work in jobs that require radio use.
3. Musician earpieces provide hearing protection for musicians who practice and perform in a variety of settings. Depending on the source and location of the sound, different levels of attenuators can be used in the earpieces to allow for optimal hearing protection.
4. Custom sleep plugs can be used to promote interrupted sleep.
5. Custom fit ear tips for mp3 players or other headphones are designed to have standard earphones fit into a custom fit ear tip. These earplugs help block excessive environmental noise and allow the listener to turn down the music volume.

If you believe you have a noise induced hearing loss, or are at risk of one, make an appointment with your JHBI audiologist to discuss a custom hearing protection option that is suitable for your needs!

FDA Approves Cochlear Implantation for Single-Sided Deafness

Single-sided deafness (SSD) can create difficulties for people localizing sound and listening in the noisy situations. This can lead to negative impacts on communication and socialization. SSD can be caused by viral infections, head trauma, Meniere’s Disease, or have an unknown cause. Treatment options have been limited, with cochlear implants typically reserved for people with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears.

On July 22, 2019, Med-El USA, a manufacturer of cochlear implants, announced that the Food & Drug administration approved their cochlear implant for people 5 years and older with profound hearing loss in one ear and normal to mild hearing loss in the other. Research supporting the approval shows that SSD participants had improvements in speech understanding in quiet and noise, and improvements in sound localization when they obtained the cochlear implant.

Cochlear implantation still requires certain testing and considerations, but is a step forward for the treatment of single-sided hearing loss.

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.