May is National Better Hearing Month and it’s a good time to look at the impact hearing loss has on Americans. Today, approximately 36 million Americans suffer from hearing loss–more than half of them are under age 65.
We know that untreated hearing loss can affect your ability to understand speech and can negatively impact your social and emotional well-being. Hearing impairment can decrease your quality of life and have a negative impact on your personal relationships, your ability to be effective at work and your long-term overall health.
To learn more, watch the video: May is National Better Hearing Month
Signs you may have a hearing loss:
• Difficulty hearing people talk in noisy environments such as a restaurant, shopping mall, in a car, or at the movie theater.
• People seem to “mumble” all the time.
• Family, friends, or colleagues often have to repeat themselves when speaking with you.
• You have trouble hearing people when they are not facing you or are in another room.
• You have trouble following conversations.
• You have ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in your ears.
There ARE ways to protect yourself from source of noise exposure
• You can wear hearing protection such as foam earplugs, earmuffs and custom hearing protection devices.
• Turn down the volume when listening to the radio, the TV, MP3 player, or anything through ear buds and headphones.
• Walk away from the noise.
• And, other than hearing protection, do not put any-
thing in your ear!
If you have any symptoms, or you are over 50 years, I recommend you have a hearing exam to determine if you need help to improve your hearing.
What do you think about when I say the word ear wax?
You are probably grossed out right? But let me set the record straight on one of the most misunderstood bodily substances!
Earwax is a naturally occurring substance in the outer ear. Ingredients for a good batch of earwax include oil and sweat mixed with dirt and dead skin cells. It’s hard to believe something so unappealing can be so important to your ears’ good health, yet being sticky and smelly is exactly why a normal amount of ear wax is beneficial. Consider these attributes:
Earwax is a natural barrier which prevents dirt and bacteria from entering the innermost parts of your ears.
It acts as a moisturizer and protective coating for your ear canal.
It acts as an insect repellant.
Usually, the body knows exactly how much earwax to produce. As long as you maintain a healthy diet, have good hygiene and move your jaw (think chewing and talking), your ears will naturally expel excess earwax, dirt and debris without any intervention.
But, when you make a habit of removing earwax, that sends a signal to your body to make more, creating an excess which can interfere with hearing, put you at greater risk for developing ear infections and other complications.
Even though earwax has its benefits, blockages caused by it can cause a conductive hearing loss. If you develop a sensation of stuffiness in your ears and suspect earwax is the culprit, do not:
use a cotton swab, hairpin or any sharp instrument to attempt to remove wax yourself. Doing this can push the wax deeper into the ear canal where it is unable to be sloughed off naturally, or you could even puncture your eardrum.
try ear candling. Besides having no proven benefits, ear candling can cause burns, wax blockage, punctured eardrums and serious injury.
While your ears are self-cleaning, there are a few things you can do to keep them clean and free of excess debris:
Wash your ears using a warm, soapy wash cloth.
If your ears are healthy and you don’t have any tubes or eardrum perforations, you can try to clear excess earwax yourself using an over-the-counter ear cleaning kit.
Have your hearing evaluated annually by an audiologist.
See a doctor immediately if your home treatments don’t help or if you experience sudden hearing loss, pain or bleeding.
For the Hearing Doctors, I’m Dr. Sheri Billing.
We’ve discussed in previous videos how you know if you are at risk for hearing loss. Once you make an appointment to have your hearing checked, what can you expect?
Hearing tests are painless and non-invasive. Most occur in a quiet, sound-treated room or enclosure designed to keep out any other noises which might affect your hearing exam scores, such as the heater, air conditioner or office environment.
You will be asked to wear headphones or soft earplugs with wires connected to an instrument called an audiometer that is used to conduct the test.
In some audiology practices, the sound-proof booth may also be equipped with specially-placed speakers used for testing infants, small children or people who need to be tested while aided with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Once in the booth, I will communicate with you and provide instructions through your headphones. I will ask you to listen to tones at different pitches and volumes and push a button or raise your hand when you hear them. You will have to focus and listen intently because you need to respond even if the tone sounds very soft and you can barely hear it. The test measures the very softest sounds you can hear at each frequency tested.
This part of the test is called pure tone audiometry.
Speech audiometry is another component of most hearing tests, and it uses recorded or live speech instead of pure tones. The speech portion of the exam evaluates the softest speech sounds (threshold) you can hear and understand. I will then ask you to repeat back words that are presented at a level well above threshold to see how well you can understand them accurately. Some audiologists use speech sounds to determine your most comfortable listening level and the upper limits of comfort for listening.
If necessary, I might perform tympanometry and test your acoustic reflexes. For these tests, a soft plug that creates pressure changes and generates sounds will be placed in the ear. This will determine how well your eardrum is moving and will measure the reflexive responses of the middle ear muscles.
If you think you can benefit from a hearing exam, call us for an appointment: 630.752.9505. I’m Dr. Sheri Billing for the Hearing Doctors.
For most of us, holiday travel can be stressful. But imagine traveling in today’s climate with a hearing impairment or hearing aids. Fortunately, with a little planning and some knowledge, your trip will be smooth sailing and stress-free!
First, before you leave, go thru this pre-travel checklist to prepare for any unforeseen circumstances you may encounter on the road:
1. Replacement batteries or charger
2. Extra tubing, soft domes, audio shoe, sport clip, or other attachable accessories
3. Dehumidifier for drying hearing aids (if not using a charger with a drying function)
As you encounter airport security, it’s important to know how TSA will treat your hearing aids. Some patients find it easier to carry medical documention with them to show the security guard. TSA has a downloadable notification card just for that purpose.
According to the latest TSA guidelines, you should notify a security officer that you are wearing hearing aids before screening begins. You do not have to remove your hearing aids during screening but, if your hearing aids set off the walk-through metal detector you may be subject to additional screening.
And, don’t worry — X-rays, walk-through metal detectors, full-body scanners, and hand-held detection devices will not damage your hearing aids.
Once you are on the plane, you are not subject to the same rules regarding the use of portable electronic devices as everyone else. The FAA exempts such devices as hearing aids and pacemakers because they don’t give off signals like cell phones that might interfere with aircraft controls.
I hope this has been helpful. To make an appointment with the Hearing Doctors, call our office at 630.752.9505
I’m always amazed when I see the reaction of my new patients to the new technology available in today’s hearing aids. Many people think they are doomed to wearing a bulky, uncomfortable hearing aid.
Fortunately, they are happy to learn that today’s hearing aid hardly resembles the device your parents or grandparents might have worn.
Watch this video on new hearing aid technology to learn more!
Micro technology has allowed manufacturers to create small, intimate hearing aids that are not as conspicuous as their predecessors. Let’s take a look at two of the newer models available:
-24 hours of use from a 3-hour charge (fully charged)
-30 min charge (if they’ve forgotten) gives them 6-hours use
-IP 68 rated
-1,500 charge cycles with one battery (just over 4 years)
-Battery replaced anytime it’s in for repair
-Repair charges are standard out of warranty
-Long press turns the aids on/off: on-single blink, off-double blink
Experience unmatched performance in a tiny package. Moxi™ Now is the smallest hearing aid in its class, yet delivers a powerful punch. Built to match your active lifestyle, Moxi Now offers amazing comfort, automatic adjustments, intuitive functionality and natural sound with exceptional speech understanding.
Choose from 12 colors to fit your personal style. Can be used for a wide variety of hearing losses.
For today’s patient, it’s important to have options that fit your needs and lifestyle. Newer hearing aids like Moxi the new Phonak hearing aid are so tiny, only your closest friends and family will know you are evening wearing it!
Click here to watch the video and learn more: Hearing loss may put you at risk for depression, dementia
If you’re on the fence about getting your hearing tested, new research might convince you to make an appointment with an audiologist.
First, research has demonstrated that people with unmanaged hearing loss experience a decline in their cognitive skills far earlier than those with normal hearing.
The landmark study at John Hopkins University reported that people with a mild degree of hearing loss were twice as likely to develop dementia as those with normal hearing.
Those with moderate hearing loss were three times more likely, while the probability increased to five times for those with severe hearing loss.
Researchers theorized that the brain must expend more energy and time analyzing and processing sound, thus affecting your ability to think, reason, and remember.
Second, a survey of hearing impaired adults over age 50 by The National Council on the Aging found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia and were less likely to participate in organized social activities, compared to those who wear hearing aids.
Audiologists see this in our practices all the time—patients who come in on anti-depressants experiencing feelings of isolation, loneliness and even paranoia–can see improvement in their mental health after being outfitted with a hearing aid.
Hearing loss is no longer considered a harmless and inevitable consequence of aging—left untreated, it can be dangerous to your mental health. But affordable treatment is now available and it can be life changing.
Summer noise can put your hearing at risk
For most of us, summer means vacations, the beach and outdoor activities and barbecues.
But when I think of summer, I think about all the loud noises my patients are exposed to that put their long term hearing health at risk.
Watch this video to learn more: Summertime noise exposure
Exposure to fireworks, outdoor concerts, loud noises from parades and even loud lawn and garden power tools can gang up on your hearing health.
There are, however, ways you can protect yourself, and your children from unnecessary loud noises from these common outdoor activities.
Ear plugs. Most audiologists provide custom ear protection that you can wear while you are engaging in these activities. (show example). Many drug stores also sell these.
Keep a safe distance from noises. At the 4th of July Parade, try to encourage kids from sitting too close to those firetrucks to avoid exposure to those blaring sirens.
Avoid swimmer’s ear. If summer means more time in the water, that means a higher risk you may come down with what’s called swimmer’s ear, or a swelling in the inner ear from too much moisture. To avoid this, after swimming, tilt your head to drain water from each ear and gently wipe the outer ear with a towel. Do not use cotton-tipped swabs to clean ears as these may do more damage.
I had my Comcast ad re edited with some new stills and a new ending. Check it out here or if you see it during daytime TV watching, let me know what you think!
Watch the video: Online hearing exam video
Despite the widespread use of technology to order food, find a parking space or help sell your car. There’s an app for everything now right? In fact, you can even get your hearing tested online. Yes, that’s right…
But under the category: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” let’s take a closer look at those online tests:
Most tests use a survey or ask you to listen to audio files of tones or spoken words. One test may ask you to pick out a series of words from background noise ….another may focus on comparing tones at different frequencies. Most tests will give you immediate results, or email them to you soon after the test.
All well and good….but let’s talk about what these tests can and cannot do ok?
Online tests can give you an indication of whether or not you have hearing loss…They are a good way to see if your hearing has returned to normal after being in a stressful situation, like a concert or sporting event. They can also provide access to hearing health information that can help you conserve your hearing with the help of a referral to an audiologist, like me.
However, online hearing tests are not a substitute for a proper hearing test done by a hearing health professional….to their credit, most online hearing websites do emphasize this.
These tests cannot diagnose your hearing problem or determine if you need a hearing aid. You may have conductive hearing loss from excessive ear wax or a tumor that impairs your hearing.
Online hearing tests are also only as good as your technology—if you have an old computer with faulty speakers, that may affect your online test results. If you were wearing headphones, were they fitted properly? Also, if you are calibrating your own computer equipment, you may be subjecting the test to a higher degree of human error. Most online tests do mention this and most also recommend you visit a qualified, licensed, professional audiologist to get a true reading.
So my take home message is: if you are going to see an audiologist anyway, why not just call me at 630.752.9505 and make an appointment?
Credited to: By Wyatt Myers | Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
While many causes of hearing loss are noise-induced, others can be quite surprising. Because their effects are cumulative, protect your ears by minimizing your exposure to all of them.
There are many health problems in life that you just can’t prevent, but hearing loss is one condition over which you do have some control.
Sheri Billing, AuD, doctor of audiology and president of The Hearing Doctors in Wheaton, Ill., says you can change whether or not you let noise damage your ears.
You can do this by identifying the causes of hearing loss, such as noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus (a persistent sound or ringing in your ears), and then finding ways to eliminate these causes, whether it’s through hearing protection or simply avoidance of the noise.
“Think of noise exposure like a bucket. It continues to fill through one’s life,” says Billing. “Making changes now will have a positive impact later in life. Noise exposure is accumulative. It rarely has an instant effect on one’s hearing, but rather a gradual one.”
Strategies to Minimize Hearing Loss
There are several steps you can take to minimize your exposure to noise and maintain good health for your ears.
Strategy No. 1: Be careful around machinery. Billing says that basic yard and home machinery is a common cause of noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, and you can avoid this by simply wearing hearing protection when using lawn mowers, snow blowers, leaf blowers, shop vacuums, chain saws, power tools, air guns, and real guns. Foam ear plugs are helpful, but it’s worth investing a few dollars in a noise-canceling headset for the greatest protection.
Strategy No. 2: Protect your ears at loud concerts and sporting events. Billing says that the same strategy should also be followed when it comes to the noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus that can come from concerts and certain sporting events, particularly car races. She also adds that one noisy venue where hearing protection is often overlooked is inside an airplane.
Strategy No. 3: Follow the iPod rules. “When it comes to iPods, a good rule to live by is the 60/60 rule,” says Billing. That means you should never use an iPod for more than 60 minutes a day at 60 percent of the volume. “Also, never wear your iPod while operating heavy equipment like a lawn mower. The lawn mower is already at 90 decibels, and then placing ear buds in and turning on music makes it so that you have to turn the music up even louder to hear over the lawn mower,” Billing says.
Strategy No. 4: Set the iPod for your kids. As far as your kids’ iPod usage goes, Billing has a simple trick for regulating this as well. “You can set the internal volume of the iPod by going to Apple’s website and setting the max volume for your children,” she says. “This is a great way to make sure they never turn it up too loudly.” Apple offers a software update on its site for newer iPod models which locks in the volume and protects the setting with a pass code.
Strategy No. 5: Look for signs of infection. Infection is another common cause of hearing loss, especially among children. Be vigilant in looking for the warning signs of an ear infection, so that you can see your doctor for treatment immediately. Signs parent can look for include a child who is not responsive, sets the TV louder than normal, is pulling on the ear, has a red ear, or is talking very loudly, says Billing.
Strategy No. 6: Be careful with aspirin intake. Some medications are ototoxic, which means that they can cause damage to the ear and become a cause of hearing loss. The most common of these is high doses of aspirin. Monitor how much aspirin you take, particularly if you have a history of hearing or ear problems. If you’re worried, discuss this issue with your doctor.
Strategy No. 7: Talk to your doctor about your medications. Hundreds of other drugs, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and chemotherapy drugs, are also ototoxic. “Always talk to your doctor about all medications you are taking and how important they are to your overall health,” says Billing. “Sometimes the side effects are worse than the help they may provide.”
Strategy No. 8: Don’t put anything in your ears. The advice is the simplest and is especially important for young children. Let them know that sticking any foreign objects, such as crayons, into their ears can result in injury or infection. Even adults need to take extra precaution in this area when it comes to the use of cotton ear swabs.
Smart buying decisions: How hearing aids are a great investment
Research shows that the rewards can be substantial. In fact, identifying and addressing hearing loss has been shown to positively influence virtually every aspect of an individual’s life, helping people personally, professionally and even financially.
New technological advances have revolutionized hearing aids in recent years. Today’s hearing aids can automatically adjust to all kinds of sound environments and filter out noise. Many are virtually invisible, sitting discreetly and comfortably inside the ear canal. Some are even waterproof, and others are rechargeable. Best of all, many are wireless, so you can stream sound from smartphones, home entertainment systems and other electronics directly into your hearing aid(s) at volumes just right for you.
When it comes to the purchase of personal items that enhance your life, there’s more than one way to measure value. Here are six ways that investing in professionally fitted hearing aids—if recommended by a hearing care professional following a comprehensive hearing evaluation—could bring you a greater return on your investment than you ever imagined.
Unleash your earning potential. Using hearing aids reduced the risk of income loss by 90-100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65-77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss, according to a Better Hearing Institute (BHI) study. People with untreated hearing loss lost as much as $30,000 in income annually, the study showed.
Maintain your cognitive function. Research shows a link between hearing loss and dementia, leading experts to believe that interventions, like hearing aids, could potentially delay or prevent dementia. Research is ongoing.
Keep you on your feet. A Johns Hopkins study showed that people in middle age (40-69) with even just mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. The intensive listening effort demanded by unaddressed hearing loss may take cognitive resources away from what is needed for balance and gait, experts have suggested.
Relieve stress and lift your mood. When people with hearing loss use hearing aids, many feel more in control of their lives and less self-critical, BHI research shows. One study found that the majority of people with mild and severe hearing loss felt better about themselves and life overall as a result of using hearing aids.
Tame that ringing in your ears. Hearing aids can help reduce the prominence of tinnitus by amplifying background sound. Just taking the focus off the tinnitus can provide relief for many people. Hearing aids also reduce the stress associated with intensive listening, which alone can help relieve tinnitus symptoms.
Strengthen your relationships. Research shows that using hearing aids can help improve interpersonal relationships. In one BHI study of people with hearing loss, more than half of the respondents said using hearing aids improved their relationships at home, their social lives and their ability to join in groups. Many even saw improvements in their romantic lives.
Addressing hearing loss really is a smart buying decision.
Article courtesy of Better Hearing Institute.
You have options when paying for your hearing aids
Patients often ask me: what payment options do I have for my hearing aid? There are several possible options, though none of them may be perfect.
1. Check your employer-based insurance to see what benefit your employer is covering.
2. Medicare will cover the hearing exam, but not the hearing aids.
3. Some private, non profit foundations like the Starkey Foundation or your local Lions Club, provide some coverage.
4. Many audiologists offer financing for your hearing aid, usually through Wells Fargo or Care Credit.
I encourage you to make an appointment with us at The Hearing Doctors and I can help you make the right decision. Visit us at www.thehearingdoctors.com or call us at 630.752.9505
Can I prevent myself from experiencing or worsening hearing loss?
Yes! Did you know that one-third of hearing loss is preventable?
Hearing loss is often created by exposure to loud noises, like an explosion or gun shot, or repeated noise, like machinery in a plant or from listening to loud music in an ear bud for an extend period of time.
Hearing loss can be prevented but it requires some work on your end:
• Beware of recreational sources of hazardous noise like firearms, firecrackers, power tools, music concerts, dance clubs, NASCAR, sporting events, motorcycles, motorboats, snowmobiles, powerboats.
• The risk for hearing loss due to exposure to noise is especially high among factory and heavy industry workers, transportation workers, military personnel, construction workers, miners, farmers, firefighters, police officers, musicians, and entertainment industry professionals.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Hearing
• If you work in an at-risk occupation, check with your employer to make sure that your jobsite has an effective program to adequately protect your hearing, meeting federal or state regulations.
• Wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, consistently when using loud equipment at work or at home. Foam earplugs are available at your pharmacy, earmuffs can be purchased at sporting goods or safety equipment stores, and specialized hearing protection is available from hearing clinics.
• Limit exposure to noisy activities at home. Monitor your listening level and how long you are listening to personal listening devices (like MP3 players, such as iPods). Encourage your children to use their headphones conservatively. Consider investing in higher quality earphones that block out background noise, to help you moderate your listening levels in noisier places. Note: being able to overhear your child’s headphones is not a good way to tell if they are listening too loud! If you can hear it, their music might be too loud, but just because you can’t hear it, that doesn’t mean the levels are ok.
• Keep an “eye” on your hearing – if you are over 50, see a hearing health professional routinely for hearing testing, or if offered through your employer, ensure you know your hearing test results and track it year-to-year.
To make an appointment, call us at 630.952.7505.