Sensorineural (or permanent) hearing loss can be caused from many factors including: age, genetics, medications (like chemotherapy), and/or other health issues (such as diabetes), just to name a few.
A very common and often overlooked cause of hearing loss, is noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss!?!
Yes, that means it is possible that some noises in and around your environment could cause permanent damage to your hearing. In fact, of the approximately 30 million Americans that have hearing loss, 1 in 3 have developed hearing loss due to exposure to noise. Before we continue with more information about noise induced-hearing loss, let’s back up and talk about how the hearing process works.
Sound is funneled into the ear canal from the Pinna (outer ear) and travels down the ear canal to the eardrum.
When sound hit the eardrum it is turned into vibrations and those vibrations move the three ossicles, which are the tiniest bones in the body (the malleus, incus, and stapes). The moving vibrations continue to where they then push on the inner ear (the oval window of cochlea, to be exact), moving the fluid inside. This fluid movement inside the organ of hearing moves the hair cells, which trigger a neural pulse that travels to your brain and tells your brain you have heard something.
With exposure to noise and loud sounds, those hair cells, that are vital to our hearing system, begin to break down. In turn, sounds need to be louder to get those damaged hair cells to fire the neural pulse that travels up to the brain. This is hearing loss!
The Human ear can hear pitches of sound from as low as 20 Hz to as high as 20,000 Hz. The range of normal hearing is anything at 25 dB or softer in terms of volume. Generally, 0 dB is regarded as the threshold of hearing. Sounds in our environment vary in pitch and in loudness. Take a look at the audiogram below to get an idea of where some of our familiar sounds fall on the scale of pitch and loudness. (The letters show us where each letter of the alphabet falls on an audiogram) :
Here’s another way of viewing a loudness scale of sounds in our environment:
Keep in mind the average conversational speech takes place at about 60 decibels. Once sounds become as loud as 85 dB, they can cause permanent damage to your hearing. The louder the sound becomes, the quicker damage to our ears can occur. Take a look at these standards set by NIOSH and the CDC in 2002. The quick rule: for every additional 3 dB over 85 dB, subtract half the time before damage can occur.
Concerned for damage to your hearing from noise?
It may be time to visit the Centers For Hearing Care office nearest you for a diagnostic hearing evaluation if:
You have recently been around loud or harmful noises
Your hearing seems muffled after exposure to noise
You are currently experiencing tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Now that we have talked about the bad news, the damage,
let’s talk about the good news, PREVENTION!
Noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented and here is how:
Protect yourself from harmful sounds! A harmful sound is one that is too loud and lasts too long OR is very loud and sudden. Some examples of harmful sounds are:
MP3 players and iPods at full volume
Wearing hearing protection while you are around harmful sounds helps prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Some examples of hearing protection are:
Turning down the volume when listening to TV, music, etc. through headphones or ear buds
Simply walking away from the noise and getting yourself out of that environment
Custom made ear plugs (can be made by and purchased at your nearest CFHC office). Everyday wear especially for Musicians, Hunters and Shooters, Industrial Workers, and Police/Military.
Want more information?
Check out these great websites that have been great references for this post:
Lauren L. Thomas, AuD., CCC-A
Doctor of Audiology
Centers for Hearing Care Austintown
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There are many common health concerns linked with hearing loss. One of the biggest concerns as we age is dementia. According to a study done by Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, older adults with hearing loss have an increased risk of “dementia, falls, hospitalizations, and diminished physical and mental health overall” (Resnick, S., et al., 2014).
Dr. Frank Lin at Johns Hopkins University of Medicine makes it a point to address treating hearing loss sooner rather than later as it contributes to these other major health concerns (Resnick, S., et al., 2014).
On average, it takes a person 5-7 years after they notice their hearing loss to get hearing aids. Your choice to get hearing aids earlier in life when you need them can have a huge impact on the quality of your life going forward. This includes improving your chances of not having dementia or a cognitive decline. Better hearing also leads to a slower process of brain shrinkage, which is a normal part of aging.
Resnick, S., et al. (2014). Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Available: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_accelerated_brain_tissue_loss_.
Written by: Crystal Lewis
Patient Care Coordinator
Centers For Hearing Care
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The phrase “hearing loss” is typically associated with the process of aging and a “sign” of getting older; however what most people do not realize is that it affects people of all ages. I was born a pre-mature twin in 1990, within the first two weeks of my life I underwent two major surgeries, battled severe jaundice and was put on heavy antibiotics and medications. We now know, or at least assume, that the medications that I was given took away my hearing, but at the same time saved my life. These medications were probably ototoxic, which means that they are toxic to the cochlea or auditory system.
I was diagnosed at 3 months old with a profound sensorineural hearing loss, which was later modified to a moderate to severe hearing loss. At just 9 months old I was fit with my first set of hearing aids and began attending the parent-infant program at Millridge Center for the Hearing Impaired (MCHI), which is a part of the Mayfield City School District. Here, my parents worked with a variety of specialists to ensure that I progressed at the same rate as my peers. My parents knew they wanted me to be a mainstream student, however throughout my elementary and middle school years I would attend speech, language and auditory therapy sessions during some of my classes. I was fit with an assistive listening device while in school, it was a box shaped device that was connected to my hearing aids by two wires and the teacher had a microphone that transmitted their voice directly to my hearing aids.
When I was in third grade I was fit with my second set of analog hearing aids, I loved them; they were in a transparent case where you could see the internal hardware. As I entered middle school I became more insecure about my hearing aids and microphone, even though the device was now wireless I still felt “weird”. Our class size grew from 100 to about 400 students and I was afraid of being an outcast and labelled in a negative way because of my hearing loss. I always wore my hair down and was shy about handing my teachers the microphone in front of a class full of people. Now I realize how silly I was because most people did not even notice I had them. Good luck telling that to a pre-teen! I continued going to speech therapy and meeting with my special education teachers despite excelling in my classes.
Once I was in high school I overcame my insecurities with the help of friends. In 10th grade with the help of a teacher who noticed how unhappy I was in the special education program I opted out of the program and the IEP I was on. I was the first person to ever do so, I was tired of getting pulled out of classes for meetings and speech therapy, of hiding the microphone in my locker during the day because it annoyed me to hear my teachers directly in my ears, and I was excelling without their constant check-ups.
I was a football student athletic trainer, varsity tennis player, sprinter on the track team, flute player in the marching band and graduated from high school with a 3.4 GPA and was accepted into Kent State University. My third set of hearing aids came at the end of my college freshman year, these were digital, and it was the first time I ever had trouble adjusting to wearing hearing aids. Technology is a fast changing field and hearing aid technology had changed drastically in the 11 years since I had brand new hearing aids. It took me a few weeks to get used to the new sounds I could hear and the clarity. Five years later and a transfer to Cleveland State University in my sophomore year, I graduated with a Bachelor in Health Sciences Pre- Physical Therapy. I am currently pursuing my Masters in Health Care Administration while working for the Centers for Hearing Care. Last fall we travelled to Minnesota for training at the corporate headquarters for Starkey Hearing Technologies, I was fit with Halo i110 with power receivers. These “Made for iPhone” hearing aids allowed me to hear phone conversations through my hearing aids, stream music, make custom settings for various locations, record lectures, and so much more. They have made having a hearing loss so much easier and I hear with such clarity now, my friends and family are very impressed with the technology.
I think one of the hardest things I have heard from someone was a customer at a previous job who noticed my hearing aids and asked me if it was my fault that I did not have my hearing. She had assumed that I lost it from listening to music too loud or something along those lines. Being judged at times does hurt, but far less people judge and notice them for me to be bothered by it anymore. Without hearing aids I would not be able to efficiently work, go to school or have a social life. I would say that my hearing loss is probably comparable to a “normal” hearing person wearing ear plugs.
I once overheard a person telling someone that “hearing aids do not work, one of my friends tried them and they did nothing”, I could have just ignored the statement; however I used the situation to educate her and the person she was speaking with. I did not want them to potentially lose out on the great technology available should they ever have trouble hearing in the future. I approached them and said while everyone has a different experience with hearing aids, sometimes it just adjustments and trying out different technology before you find the device that helps your hearing the most. I told them that I wear hearing aids and that without them I would not be able to have a normal conversation. I got the normal response, “You’re too young to have a hearing loss”, to which I replied you are never too young. It is important to be informed about hearing loss, how to prevent it and to realize that hearing loss does not have a face. It affects everyone.
Patient Care Coordinator
Centers For Hearing Care
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Over the past 4 years, members of the Centers for Hearing Care and Rotarians from District 6650 have established a hearing mission to the Common Wealth of Dominica. This trip began in 2011 when Dr. Sheryl Figliano of the Centers for Hearing Care came in contact with Dr. Susan Kelly, professor at Ross Medical University in Dominica. They connected through a common passion of helping people. They reached out to Marvlyn Birmingham, President of the Rotary Club of Dominica at that time, to join in their efforts. We continue to work with Rotary for trips to Dominica as well as Hearing Missions Foundation which is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit affiliate of Centers for Hearing Care.
Prior to our arrival there was limited access to hearing services on the island. Our first visit to the island, we tested over 500 children and adults and fit well over 200 individuals within one week! As the team continues this annual mission, more islanders have become aware of the program and are informed ahead of time when we are coming so they know which clinic we will serve on which days. Each day we move to a different part of the island.
Clinic is started around 8am and continues until each person is seen. Sometimes our day doesn’t end until 9 :00 in the evening. By the time we arrive, a line has already formed of individuals awaiting services. Some must begin their morning at 5am and travel hours to make it to our location. Our team is then divided into groups and a triage team starts sending individuals to the appropriate station. The services we provide are hearing tests, ear cleaning, fitting of amplification and repairing hearing aids for those we have fit during missions in previous years.
Children are immediately pulled to the front of the line and are always seen first. It is very important to us to fit each child with hearing impairment with 2 hearing aids. The younger an individual is fit with the hearing aid the better their brain will adapt to the incoming sound and make sense of it. The longer a child goes with undetected hearing loss, the farther behind they fall in school and the less likely they are to catch up to their peers. In order for children to learn, they need to hear lectures, participate in conversations to learn social skills, and connect with their family members.
What makes our program successful is establishing sustainability. Since the beginning we have been training individuals on the island, chosen by their government, to work with our patients after we have departed for the U.S. Shirlina, our main technician, is able to service their hearing aids, hand out batteries, and contact us when more supplies are needed. When an individual is fit, they are given Shirlina’s contact information for help. Without sustainability, our program would be short-lived. If a hearing aid were to break, that patient would have to wait until our team returned the following year and would be without proper amplification. Having a contact on the island allows us to send them batteries when needed. For the island, a hearing aid battery can cost up to $10. With minimum wage so low, it is hard on families to purchase batteries which can leave a child without amplification during the school year.
At the end of the trip the audiology team attends Ross Medical University, a medical school on the island. There, the medical students are taught about the auditory system by both a lecture and hands-on clinic.
Our mission to give the gift of hearing to the islanders of Dominica is continually growing. Now, thanks to generous donations, the island has multiple audiometers and a screening program is being implemented in some of the schools. Considering no hearing serviced were provided prior to our arrival, this is a large step. We continue to go establish sustainability and to help the hearing program grow.
Participating in a mission trip is a humbling experience. Giving the gift of hearing to someone who could not otherwise have access is rewarding. We have seen mothers watch their children as they hear them for the first time, taught others to say their first word as they now hear their own voice. We have given children the opportunity to succeed in school and adults the ability to participate in conversation again.
Written by: Dr. Elizabeth Shobel
(Hearing Missions Foundation Volunteer and Board Member)
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One patient told me that before her new hearing aids, she never realized that her cat talked to her so much. She told me “she meows at many things through the day and I was missing it all.” Now she feels like she has even more company from her pet.
Many times, the knowledge of our Doctors picking the right technology for the patient’s hearing loss makes the best stories. One patient’s job requires that she use her phone all day long. She was matched up with the new Halo to IPhone technology. She stated “This has changed my life!” “Conversations are so clear!” One more patient had lost the hearing in her left ear as a child, she was matched to technology that lets her right ear tell her brain what her left ear is hearing. Her eyes filled with tears as she told us “My daughter whispered to me in church in my bad ear and I heard her!”(Her’s weren’t the only moist eyes). Another patient has been wearing hearing aids since he was a child. His technology allows him to give a remote to someone who is speaking to a large group or in a large room and he hears directly into his hearing aids. As he said “it is like the instructor is right beside me, no matter where they are in the room.” “I have been wearing hearing aids for years, but never heard like this.”
Some of my favorite stories come from the families. One family told us their Mom is no longer the women in the nursing home that plays her TV too loud. Her hearing aids allow the TV to stream directly into her hearing aids and she can enjoy her TV shows without having others complain about the noise. A story that makes me smile every time I think of it comes after a family gathering. The family told us we had no idea how much our mother was missing due to her hearing loss until after she got her new hearing aids. We were sitting outside and she would ask “What is that noise?” We finally realized it was the crickets, then the fire cracking and finally the kids splashing in the pool. Sounds that bring pictures of summer to us, Mom had lost completely. We had no idea!
Centers for Hearing Care
Patient Care Coordinator (Liberty Office) – 6 years
Do I have a hearing loss or does everyone just mumble?
The most common type of hearing loss greatly effects clarity of speech. You can hear that someone is talking but making out exactly what was said is difficult with this type of hearing loss. Individuals with undiagnosed hearing loss have the perception that “everyone mumbles” when in fact they are experiencing symptoms of a hearing impairment. Other symptoms of hearing loss include turning up the television, asking others to repeat, difficulty hearing speech in background noise, social withdrawal, or tinnitus. If you or your loved one experience any of these symptoms, it’s essential to have your hearing evaluated. You don’t know what you’ve been missing…..
At Centers for Hearing Care, we pride ourselves in quality patient care. You are always greeted with a smile and treated as if you are a member of our family. Our locations are easily accessible and our schedules are set up to allow for extra time with patients.
During your visit, the audiologist will start by looking in your ears to determine if your hearing problem is potentially caused by conditions in the ear canal (such as wax buildup, ear infection, or foreign object).
The next step is a hearing evaluation. This evaluation, performed by the audiologist, is a painless procedure taken place in a soundproof booth for accurate test results. Throughout the test, you are instructed to listen for very soft beeps at low and high pitches. In addition, the audiologist will test your ability to understand words.
After the evaluation is complete we will explain the science of how hearing works, review the results of your test, and discuss treatment options.
It’s time to reconnect with the world. Being diagnosed with a hearing loss can be shocking for some, especially when the treatment option is to wear hearing aids. This diagnosis is commonly perceived as “getting old” or the thought of wearing a hearing aid can be embarrassing. Isn’t it more embarrassing to always ask others to repeat or inappropriately answer questions because you didn’t hear what was said? Hearing aids have come a long way in style, size, price and technology over the years. If you are a hearing aid candidate, the audiologist will take into consideration your cosmetic, financial, and technology needs to find a product that is perfect for you.
The benefits of wearing a hearing aid are endless. A research study of over 2,000 people found that individuals who wear hearing aids noted significant improvements in many areas in their life including more independence, better relationships at home, and increased attendance to social events. The best part of it all—most hearing aids are so tiny that no one even has to know you are wearing one!
It’s time to take the step towards improving your quality of life! You deserve to take the step towards better hearing. Centers for Hearing Care is here to help you.
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