Hearing loss and the holidays

Too often, people with hearing loss withdraw socially and experience sadness—even symptoms of depression—during the holidays.

If you’re hosting a holiday party or Thanksgiving this year, consider these 4 tips to help ensure that your friends and family stay involved in the festivities:

  1. Be attentive: Stay vigilant if you see that a family member or friend is quiet at a holiday dinner or party. Maybe they’re having trouble hearing and need your help in bringing them back into the conversation.
  2. Turn down the volume: Loud background music or the roar of the TV can make it especially hard to hear at the dinner table.
  3. Speak clearly: Do your best to speak slowly and at a comfortable volume without mumbling or slurring your words.  Project your voice, but don’t shout. It’s best not to chew gum, smoke, or put your hands to your face while speaking. Also avoid Interrupting, which makes it harder to follow a conversation.
  4. Face the person: Facing the person you are speaking with makes it easier for them to hear the words but also to see your mouth and facial expressions. It’s also a good idea to get their attention before speaking by saying their name or gently touching their hand, arm, or shoulder.

To make an appointment with the Hearing Doctors, call us at 630.752.9505.

Navigating your next doctor’s appointment

For most people, making a doctor’s appointment is a simple procedure.  But if you have hearing loss or hearing impairment, it can be a real challenge.  If you follow these four steps, you’ll ensure your next doctor’s appointment goes smoothly:

1. Get to know your doctor’s hospital or office

When registering with a new primary care physician, take time to get to know where they work. Most hospital and doctor’s offices have an online presence and many offer online appointment booking, cancelation, and medication repeat prescription ordering. Look around the practice and see how patients are called for their appointments. Even if you are familiar with where you are going, do take the extra time to really make yourself aware of the way everything is done.

2. Be visible

One mistake many people with hearing loss make is to attempt to fit in and not draw attention to themselves. Unless the staff is aware of your hearing problems, standard procedure is to assume that you have perfect hearing.  Make certain that you inform the staff at reception that you are hard of hearing.

3. Be ready to explain

Unless your health care professional is an audiologist or an ear, nose and throat physician, they may not be knowledgeable about hearing loss. Most medical professionals assume that hearing aids completely compensate for what deaf and hard of hearing people can’t hear.  Make sure your doctor’s office, including the receptionist and nurses, know you have hearing loss.

4. Know your rights

As a person with hearing loss you have the same rights as any other person. This means that doctors, nurses, and their staff have an obligation to ensure that you are able to attend any and all appointments with the same level of care and personal needs awareness as any other patient, regardless of their individual condition or challenges. It is not asking for preferential treatment, it is having accessibility to what is needed.

To make an appointment with the Hearing Doctors, call us at 630.752.9505.

People with diabetes are at risk for hearing loss–know your risks!

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and during this time, it’s important to focus on the link between diabetes and hearing loss.

To learn more, watch my video Diabetes and hearing loss

A recent study found that hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as it is in those who don’t have the disease. Also, of the 84 million adults in the U.S. who have prediabetes, the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher than in those with normal blood glucose.

Right now we don’t know how diabetes is related to hearing loss. It’s possible that the high blood glucose levels associated with diabetes cause damage to the small blood vessels in the inner ear, in much the same way in which diabetes can damage the eyes and the kidneys. But more research needs to be done to discover why people with diabetes have a higher rate of hearing loss.

In the meantime, if you or a loved one has diabetes, be on the lookout for telltale signs of hearing loss such as:
• Frequently asking others to repeat themselves.
• Trouble following conversations that involve more than two people.
• Thinking that others are mumbling.
• Problems hearing in noisy places such as busy restaurants.
• Trouble hearing the voices of women and small children.
• Turning up the TV or radio volume too loud for others who are nearby.

If you notice any of these signs, seek out an audiologist immediately for a hearing exam. Or, call us at 630.752.9505.

You might be surprised to learn about these common causes of hearing loss…

Surprising Causes of Hearing Loss
There are many known risks for hearing loss and exposure to noise, of many kinds, is one of the leading causes. But you might be surprised to learn just how many common, everyday noise exposures you encounter in and around your own house! Knowing what these are and learning to take prevent measures, may very well spare your hearing in the future.

Watch this video to learn more: Surprising Causes of Hearing Loss

Blow dryers–hairdrying
A hairdryer near your head could be putting out 85 or more decibels of noise—the point that the National Institutes of Health says could put you at risk for hearing loss. You’d probably have to dry your hair for eight hours straight before it did any damage, but that loud part of your beauty regime could add up over time. The more you use blow dryers and the longer you use them, the more likely you are to have damage. Avoid the noise by learning the best ways to air-dry hair.

Loud music concerts
The ringing in your ears after a loud concert is a sure sign the music was too loud, but live shows aren’t the only culprit. Even the tunes coming through your headphones could damage your ears. Earbuds are typically more damaging than over-the-ear headphones because they rest deeper in your ear canal. And if you crank up the volume to drown out the noise around you, things get even riskier. You typically have to compete with the environmental noise to hear the music. Sticking with volume at or below 60 percent will keep the sound at a safe level, he says. If you can’t hear at that volume, buy sound-blocking headphones to cut out the outside noise.

High fever
As if a high fever weren’t bad enough, that elevated temperature could also damage the nerves in your inner ear, either because of inflammation or lack of oxygen. If you don’t get that oxygen to the nerves, they break down and they don’t work like they should. If you or your loved one has an elevated fever, call your doctor to determine the cause of the fever and the best remedy for it.

Your commute
Public transportation can be noisy, and sitting on a subway for half an hour to and from work could add up over time and hurt your ears. Plus, the siren of an emergency vehicle passing you on the street could be loud enough to do some damage. Don’t feel embarrassed to cover your ears when the firetruck passes by!

Exercise classes
The music blasting at your group workout class might power you through your sweat session, but it might be working your ears in a bad way. If you walk out of spin classes and your ears are buzzing, that’s an indication that you may have done damage to your ears. Download an app to your smartphone to measure the sound level around you throughout your day, especially in loud spots like the gym, he recommends. No one is telling you to stop working out, but consider using hearing protection if your fitness center is particularly noisy. Or find a gym that doesn’t rely on loud music during workouts.

Cooking appliances
Noisy appliances like blenders and coffee grinders could do damage to your ears over time. The more often you get those noisy blades going, the more trauma your ears go through. Hard-core chefs should consider ear protection, though the occasional smoothie isn’t anything to worry about. If you’re in the kitchen and cooking and using a blender all day, that’s a problem. For normal weekend chefs, not to worry. If you use it for ten seconds once a week, it probably won’t be a problem for you.

Power tools
The racket from lawn mowers, jackhammers, drills, and other power tools isn’t just a headache—it’s also a risk for hearing damage. You’ll need to protect your ears, but earplugs might not be the best choice. Putting fingers grimy from the tools so close to your ear canal could put you at risk for infection. Instead, pick up a pair of earmuffs from the hardware store. They go right over the ear, and they’re easy to take on and off.

Are your patients taking ototoxic medications?

So many of my patients who use hearing aids also take a number of medications. That’s why we do a thorough medical history with our patients to learn what medications they are taking because certain drugs and medications have been linked to hearing loss and tinnitus, too. Use of these “ototoxic” medications, if not managed properly, can result in permanent or temporary damage to the cochlea or auditory nerve:
• Aspirin and other painkillers
• Certain antibiotics
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
• Some cancer treatment medications
• Diuretics
I encourage patients who take — or may soon take — ototoxic medications to come in for frequent hearing screenings. By charting numbers on a regular basis, I’m able to detect changes more quickly and provide treatment and counseling more effectively.
If you have any questions about whether medications you are taking affect hearing loss, give us a call at 630.752.9505 or visit us at www.thehearingdoctors.com

Do you need a hearing exam? Call the Hearing Doctors at 630.752.9505

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.

Earwax: everything you’ve always wanted to know about the body’s most mysterious substance

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!

Watch the video on earwax!

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.

What to expect during your first hearing exam

Watch the video: What to expect from your hearing exam

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.

Follow these tips to make your holiday travel plans safe and smooth with your hearing aids

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:

Watch the video to learn more!

Pre-Travel checklist
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

Today’s Hearing Aids Fit Your Lifestyle–Smaller, Better Technology Offer Improvements Over Older Models

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:

Phonak
-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
Moxi Now
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!