Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month 2021

HEARING LOSS AND DEMENTIA


“I used to worry about my dad. I live out of state and call home weekly. On the phone, Dad didn’t seem like himself. He was aloof and sometimes unresponsive. I used to worry that he wasn’t following me on the phone or participating at family gatherings because of memory loss, dementia, or something else. But surely enough, once he could hear well, he was back to his old self. He smiled, laughed, and engaged in conversation just like he used to. Hearing aids were a game changer. They literally brought him back to life.”

 

During hearing aid consultations, family members often express concerns about hearing loss and the implications it can have on cognition and/or dementia. When individuals aren’t able to hear properly, they may seem disengaged, unresponsive, or they may respond inappropriately. Whether these changes in behavior result from hearing problems or reduced brain function is sometimes difficult to determine.

 

Hearing loss is one of the most common problems in the aging community. The prevalence of hearing loss increases with age, affecting 40% of people over 50 years old and roughly 71% of people over 70 years old. Untreated hearing loss can lead to difficulties when communicating and laxed participation in normal daily activities and social engagements. Withdrawal from these activities can ultimately lead to isolation, loneliness, and cognitive decline. 

 

Hearing loss has been identified as potentially the most modifiable risk factor for dementia. One study found that age-related hearing loss is associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline and an increased risk of developing dementia. In addition, the likelihood for developing dementia increases with the severity of the hearing loss (Slade 2020). 

 

WHERE DOES THE BREAKDOWN BEGIN?

 

So where exactly does hearing breakdown begin? The most common form of hearing loss seen in the aging community is formally known as “sensorineural” hearing loss. This hearing loss is either “sensory” or “neural” in nature. Sensory indicates that the hearing loss is caused by damage to the small sensory hair cells that are housed in the cochlea, the organ of hearing. The “neural” portion refers to the neurons that send the auditory message along the hearing nerve to the brain. 

 

When the cochlea is not functioning properly, it is less effective at decoding and relaying signals to the hearing nerves. This compromised signal results in diminished neural activity. Both sensory and neural changes disrupt the brain’s ability to comprehend speech properly. This lack of input and change over time can alter how the brain allocates its resources. Think of the saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!” I often explain to my patients that hearing is not just an “ear” thing, it’s an “ear-to-brain” connection!  

 

THE EAR-TO-BRAIN CONNECTION

 

As we age, connections between brain cells can become lost or damaged. This disconnection is often referred to as cognitive decline. Research in hearing loss and cognitive decline has gained significant momentum over the past few years. Many studies continue to investigate the correlations and causal relationships between hearing loss and dementia. However, such study proves challenging since the brain and auditory systems are both quite complex. Even so, researchers have discovered evidence suggesting that changes are taking place at the level of the brain when hearing loss is present, particularly in the aging population (Slade et al. 2020).

Interestingly enough, research has demonstrated changes at the level of the brain in individuals with sensorineural hearing loss. One study that performed imaging on older adults to assess the brain’s activity while listening to sentences of varying speech rates found that individuals with sensorineural hearing loss experienced changes in brain activity while listening to faster talking rates than slower and simpler talking rates. Additionally, the study discovered reduced grey matter volume in the hearing portion of the brain–the portion responsible for processing information (Peele 2011)! Overall, people with hearing loss should focus on complex tasks because they are more profitable for the brain. In the real world, this equates to increased hearing effort, aka listening fatigue, when placed in those challenging listening environments. THINK: restaurant, large family gatherings, auditoriums, airports, etc.

Another study explored the association between hearing loss and dementia in the general population. They discovered that hearing loss is associated with significant increased risk of dementia, especially in patients aged 45 to 64 years. Their findings suggest that implementing early hearing protection, screenings, and hearing aids may help reduce this potential risk factor for dementia (Liu 2019).

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

 

So, what can you do to help yourself or your family members?

  • Schedule a hearing test! It will NEVER hurt to have your hearing evaluated to establish a baseline. If we detect hearing loss, we can discuss options for moving forward. 
  • If you use hearing aids, wear them whenever you are awake. Keeping the brain stimulated, even in quiet situations, is important. The brain needs to hear all sounds to stay sharp and active–this includes the sink running, newspaper rustling, and feet stepping on the floor.
  • Stay up to date on screenings and re-evaluate your hearing every one to two years. Hearing loss can happen gradually, and your brain might not know what it’s missing!
  • If your family member struggles with dementia or Alzheimers, please know many hearing solutions can improve communication. Reach out to us. We can walk through various hearing technologies or accessories that will suit the needs of your loved one.

 

Since hearing loss is a modifiable age-associated condition linked to dementia, the Lancet International Commission on Dementia, Prevention, Intervention, and Care has estimated that treating hearing loss may decrease the risk of dementia by nine percent. [Practice name] empowers patients and advocates that they treat hearing loss sooner rather than later!

 

During Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, we want to shed light on such a prevalent health topic. Experiencing Alzheimer’s, dementia, or any brain injury can be extremely challenging for our patients and their loved ones. At [Insert Practice], we have the patience, compassion, and empathy to walk through these challenges with you. Our goal is to ensure you and your loved ones are heard while helping you hear your best. 

 

REFERENCES

 

Liu, Chin-Mei, and Charles Tzu-Chi Lee. “Association of hearing loss with dementia.” JAMA network open 2.7 (2019): e198112-e198112.

 

Peelle, Jonathan E., et al. “Hearing loss in older adults affects neural systems supporting speech comprehension.” Journal of neuroscience 31.35 (2011): 12638-12643.

 

Slade, Kate, Christopher J. Plack, and Helen E. Nuttall. “The Effects of Age-Related Hearing Loss on the Brain and Cognitive Function.” Trends in Neurosciences (2020).

Uchida, Yasue, et al. “Age-related hearing loss and cognitive decline—The potential mechanisms linking the two.” Auris Nasus Larynx 46.1 (2019): 1-9.

Better Speech & Hearing Month May 2021

Better Hearing & Speech Month at The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic

 

Hello, Better Hearing and Speech Month! At The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic, I am passionate about educating my patients on the importance of hearing health. One of the simple ways I can do this is by sharing who I am and the types of problems we help our patients solve! Do you know what an audiologist is?

 

What is an audiologist?

 

Audiologists are health-care professionals who provide patient-centered care in evaluating, diagnosing, treating, and managing hearing, balance, and auditory disorders for people of all ages. From newborn hearing screenings, to fitting hearing aids, to testing balance, our services are needed across the lifespan.

 

Where do audiologists work? 

 

Audiologists work in a variety of settings. Depending on our clinical interest, you can find a lot of my colleagues in any of the places listed below:

  • Hospitals  
  • Private practices 
  • Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) clinics
  • School settings: Educational audiology (K-12) & Universities
  • Industrial hearing conservation programs
  • Hearing Aid Chains

 

What services do audiologists provide?

 

I am trained and equipped to perform a wide variety of services. Listed below are some of the many services an audiologist can perform: 

  • Comprehensive hearing assessments ***
  • Wax removal***
  • Evaluating and providing treatment options for tinnitus (noises in the ears)***
  • Assessing and diagnosing auditory conditions such as: auditory processing disorder, auditory neuropathy, hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound), and misophonia (hatred of specific sounds) 
  • Evaluating vertigo, dizziness, and balance disorders***
  • Selection and fitting of hearing aids***
  • Verification and validation of hearing aids***
  • Candidacy assessment and fitting of implantable devices such as: cochlear implants, bone anchored hearing aids, and middle ear implants

*** These are the services that I provide at The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic.

 

What training is required to be an audiologist? 

 

Recently I’ve noticed patients expressing curiosity in my job title, “Audiologist”. In Canada, Audiologist hold a Masters or Doctorate Degree. In the U.S., an audiologist requires a doctoral level degree. This degree is not equivalent to a medical doctor (MD), however an audiologist’s education requires four additional years of education after receiving a bachelors. That’s 8 years of school! After completing my Bachelors at The University of Ottawa, I went to Wayne State for 5 years to complete my Doctorate in Audiology. There is a lot of territory I had to cover in the doctoral program: 

 

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Acoustics
  • Diagnostics
  • Clinical practicum
  • Counseling
  • TECHNOLOGY 

 

Audiologists truly never stop learning! As you can imagine, technology continues to evolve, which means audiology does too. Staying up to date on best practice includes being informed on the latest research, testing procedures, and advancements in hearing aid technology.

 

In addition to graduating from an accredited doctoral program, my colleagues and I must pass a national exam and are required to hold provincial licensure.

 

Why see an audiologist at The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic?

 

The comprehensive knowledge and training required to practice clinically speak volumes to the quality of care you will receive. With hundreds of hours in clinical rotations, audiologists are trained to help treat more than just hearing loss. For example, other conditions such as tinnitus are often co-existent with hearing loss. Audiologists are trained in managing this as well. 

 

In addition, the goal at The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic is always to provide patient centered care that is backed by evidence based practice. The objective is not to sell, but rather to improve an individual’s quality of life. There is a SCIENCE and SKILL that goes into picking the right technology for you or a loved one. When selecting hearing aids, there are many factors to consider. For example:

 

  • What is your lifestyle?
  • What areas are you hoping to see the most improvement?
  • Should you get one or two? 
  • Do you have trouble hearing in background noise?
  • Do you have tinnitus?
  • Do you have a history of ear surgeries?
  • Have you had success or trouble with a different device before?
  • Do you have vision or dexterity issues?


The list goes on…but the goal is always to help find technology that will help you thrive in your everyday life! For most, hearing is the gateway to communication, social interaction, and living your fullest life.

 

The latest MarkeTrak survey found that hearing aid owners almost unanimously agree that the hearing care professional they worked with played a critical role in their satisfaction with hearing aids. Hearing aid users reported satisfaction rates of 94% when working with an audiologist (Marketrak 10 results). They also found that patients strongly valued the quality of service during the fitting, professionalism of the audiologist, and the quality of service after the fitting. Additionally, patients reported that receiving realistic expectations and focusing on their individual needs was equally important in their success with hearing aids! 

Our primary goal at [Insert practice name] is to get you as close to 100% satisfaction as possible. [We/I] value creating a relationship with our patients and walking through your journey to hearing better with you. In light of Better Hearing and Speech Month, reach out to us if you would like to know more about how to hear your best. Our goal is to continue educating and empowering all of our patients!

References: 

Carr, K. (2020). 20Q: Consumer insights on hearing aids, PSAPs, OTC devices, and more from MarkeTrak 10. AudiologyOnline, Article 26648. Retrieved from www.audiologyonline.com

STRESS AWARENESS MONTH

STRESS AWARENESS MONTH 

 

It’s hard to believe the novel coronavirus began sweeping the nation almost one year ago. In the blink of an eye the entire world was turned upside down. Shelves went bare in grocery stores, businesses closed, jobs were lost, and social distancing became the “new normal”. Many people were forced to find creative solutions to work from home while also caring for their family. All of these factors created the perfect storm for life to feel very heavy and stressful

 

During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. This number was previously lower, averaging about 1 in 10 adults who reported the same symptoms in 2019. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) in July 2020 found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

 

TINNITUS & STRESS 

 

Clinically, more patients seem to be reporting an increase in tinnitus (noises in the ears) since the pandemic started. However, this isn’t surprising, considering stress is known to have an effect on tinnitus. With all of the additional burdens and stress people are facing, it’s no coincidence their tinnitus decided to resurface. 

 

At the present moment, there is no formal data that suggests contracting the coronavirus leads to hearing loss or tinnitus. However, many studies have demonstrated that tinnitus is exacerbated by factors such as stress, lack of sleep, and unhealthy diet. Heavy alcohol consumption or large quantities of caffeine are also thought to negatively impact tinnitus.  Additional daily worries with managing the family, job security, and interpersonal relationships have increased stress and negative feelings. Not to mention anxieties about contracting the virus or spreading it to someone you care about. Throughout the pandemic, it’s safe to say many people have found themselves relating to at least one or several of these factors mentioned.

 

Many people find coping with tinnitus to be very challenging. There are products sold on the internet that make claims to “get rid of tinnitus”, but many of these supplements are not evidence based or clinically proven to work.  In fact, some of the most important strategies to help manage tinnitus come from retraining your brain and learning to manage stress…which is certainly easier said than done!

 

LESS STRESS, PLEASE!

 

So what can be done to help reduce stress? April is Stress Awareness Month, and who doesn’t benefit from strategies to keep our mental and emotional health in tip top shape? Listed below are some ideas suggested by the CDC to help cope with stress:

 

  • EAT HEALTHY: Nourish the body with wholesome, healthy foods. Avoid large quantities of alcohol or caffeine. 
  • EXERCISE: Spring has sprung (hopefully in your area!), so get outside and move your body. Sunshine and fresh air do wonders for the mind. Exercise boosts energy levels and releases endorphins that can help improve your mood.
  • TAKE A BREAK: Hit pause on those social media platforms that keep you mindlessly scrolling. Give yourself permission to take a break from negative or biased media sources.
  • BE MINDFUL: Practice yoga, stretch, or meditate! Some of these things may not come naturally at first, but practice makes perfect. 
  • UNWIND: Find an activity or hobby you enjoy. Learning a new skill can be a positive, fun outlet.
  • STAY CONNECTED: Check in on family and friends with phone calls, texts, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. Technology is a blessing and a wonderful way to stay connected, especially during times of social distancing.
  • SEEK HELP: Do not be afraid to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Seek help and guidance from a trained professional if needed.

(CDC 2019)

 

Let’s kick stress and jump into the spring season feeling refreshed! Implementing simple self-care steps can seem small and insignificant, but truly make a difference. By creating healthy habits we can positively influence our mental and emotional well being.  If you feel burdened by stress or are suffering from tinnitus, please contact our office. Our job is to walk through this with you and help provide solutions to improve your quality of life!

 

References: 

 

Baigi A, Oden A, Almlid-Larsen V, Barrenas ML, Holgers KM. (2011) Tinnitus in the General Population With a Focus on Noise and Stress – A Public Health Study. Ear & Hearing. 32(6):787-789.

 

Canlon, B., Theorell, T., & Hasson, D. (2013). Associations between stress and hearing problems in humans. Hearing Research, 295, 9–15.

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Stress and Coping. Accessed on February 24, 2021.

Marshall D. (2020) Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty. Accessed on February 24, 2021.

Nirmita Panchal, Rabah Kamal, and Feb 2021. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” KFF, 10 Feb. 2021, www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/. 

Pan T, Tyler R, Ji H, Coelho C, Gogel S. Differences among patients that make their  tinnitus worse or better. Am J Audiol. (2015) 24:469–76. doi: 10.1044/2015_AJA-15-0020

Vindegaard N, Benros M. COVID-19 pandemic and mental health consequences: systematic review of the current evidence. Brain Behav Immun. (2020) 89:531–42. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2020.05.048

 

HEARING AND VISION

“Will wearing hearing aids interfere with my glasses?”

 

One of the most common questions patients ask me during a hearing aid consultation is, “Will wearing hearing aids interfere with my glasses?” I understand. Wearing one extra thing every day is a scary thought. After the rise of COVID-19 in 2020, we were all graced with yet another accessory–the facemask. Fortunately, hearing aids do NOT interfere with wearing your glasses. In fact, many patients wear both comfortably, mask included!

 

HEARING LOSS AND VISION LOSS

 

Hearing loss and vision loss are among some of the most common health conditions that our patients face. Nearly 38 million North-Americans experience some form of hearing loss, and one in three people in Canada and the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss. Noise exposure, aging, and genetics are just a few of the various factors that can lead to hearing loss.

 

Similar to hearing loss, vision loss also increases with age. Nearly 12 million North-Americans older than 40 experience a form of vision impairment, according to the CDC. Some of the most common causes of vision loss include macular degeneration and vision complications from diabetes, glaucoma, and age-related cataracts. Patients who experience vision loss face difficulties such as limited side vision, sensitivity to light, and reduced depth and color perception. These issues severely reduce one’s ability to perform everyday tasks.

 

THE EFFECTS OF HEARING LOSS AND VISION LOSS

Living with hearing loss can be exhausting! Adding vision loss is worse. Adding a mask that covers the mouth is inconceivable. During the pandemic, I’ve noticed now more than ever how much patients must strain their ears to hear what is spoken. With masks covering our mouths, many of the lip-reading cues we all rely on are out the window. I can tell when someone is leaning in, hyper-focused, trying to comprehend every word. Living with hearing and vision loss truly fatigues the brain. When the brain does not have adequate access to important speech sounds, it must work even harder to process what little it’s receiving. Hearing loss can significantly and negatively affect a person’s quality of life by causing embarrassment and social withdrawal or by making understanding speech and listening in noisy environments more difficult. 

If you couldn’t read street signs or if you noticed the words on a page were fuzzy, would you seek help? In my experience, many patients are well aware of their vision loss and have taken the appropriate steps to treat it. However, for whatever reason, hearing loss is a different story. Many people are hesitant to address their hearing problems because they feel embarrassed or even old. 

Generally, hearing loss tends to be a slow, gradual process. Many patients share initial comments such as, “Well, they mumble,” or “That restaurant was extremely noisy,” or “That person is so soft spoken,” when, in reality, those may be the early signs (years prior) that slight changes are happening to the auditory system! Most patients do not show up for a baseline hearing test until their hearing has regressed to a point at which they are extremely bothered by it or their family and friends are noticing. 

 

WHO CAN HELP?

 

Primary Care Physician: If you are experiencing hearing loss or vision loss, the first step is to consult your family doctor or primary care physician. They can evaluate your concerns and refer you to specialists to have your hearing and/or vision evaluated. 

 

Optometrist: A doctor of optometry can evaluate your vision and provide a rehabilitation program that addresses your needs. A wide variety of rehabilitation options are available to help people with low vision live and work more effectively, efficiently, and safely.

 

Audiologist: An audiologist or doctor of audiology can evaluate your hearing and balance related problems. An audiologist can perform a comprehensive hearing test, explain the results, and provide recommendations for hearing aids if they will benefit you.

 

TIPS FOR LIVING WITH HEARING LOSS AND VISION LOSS

 

Many of our patients wear glasses AND hearing aids! Many styles of hearing aids are available, and the following tricks can ensure an appropriate and comfortable fit:

 

    • Color indicators → Sometimes, patients must get creative by marking their hearing aids with small stickers or nail polish to identify which device belongs in what ear. For one patient with severe visual impairment, I ordered hearing aids with two different colors for each ear. The patient found it easy to remember that, “Light is right, and dark is left.” 
    • Tactile tricks→ Some patients prefer to have additional tactile buttons to help them remove their hearing aids from the charger or to identify the position of the device in the ear.

 

  • Light indicators→ Many hearing aids are rechargeable and use blinking lights to indicate when the device is charging and when it’s ready to use.

 

  • Large-printed materials in black & white→ Print a summary of what happened at the appointment in a large-print font that is easy to read and reference as needed. 
  • CapTel phones→ Closed caption devices, such as CapTel phones, display a patient’s phone conversation in large text. The large text visually compliments what is being said, helping severely hearing impaired patients see and understand the audio they are receiving. CapTel phones are free with documented proof from a licensed professional of one’s hearing loss. CapTel phones are only available in the U.S. at the moment.

 

The month of March is “Save Your Vision Month.” In the words of Helen Keller, “Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” The combination of the two impairments can be isolating and difficult. At The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic, we aim to provide you with outstanding hearing health care that is personalized, professional, and improves your quality of life! 

 

References: 

  1. Courtney-Long EA, Carroll DD, Zhang QC, et al. Prevalence of disability and disability type among adults–United States, 2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2015;64(29):777-783. 
  2. Deal JA, Betz J, Yaffe K, et al. Hearing impairment and incident dementia and cognitive decline in older adults: the Health ABC study. J Gerontol A Biol Med Sci. 2016;glw069.
  3. Fast Facts of Common Eye Disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 June 2020,www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basics/ced/fastfacts.htm. 
  4. National Eye Institute. All Vision Impairment. National Eye Institute website. https://www.nei.nih.gov/eyedata/vision_impaired. Assessed November 28, 2016
  5. National Institutes of Health. National Eye Institute. All vision impairment. https://nei.nih.gov/eyedata/vision_impaired. Accessed January 4, 2016. 
  6. Prevent Blindness America. Vision problems in the U.S.: prevalence of adult vision impairment and age-related eye disease in America. http:// www.visionproblemsus.org/. Accessed January 4, 2016. 
  7. Rooth, Meredith Anderson. “The prevalence and impact of vision and hearing loss in the elderly.” North Carolina medical journal 78.2 (2017): 118-120.
  8. Swenor BK, Ramulu PY, Willis JR, Friedman D, Lin FR. The prevalence of concurrent hearing and vision impairment in the United States. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(4):312-313.
  9. Whitson HE, Lin FR. Hearing and vision care for older adults. JAMA. 2014;312(17):1739-1740.

Three statements that indicate you need a hearing test.

This month’s blog is going to be a little different! I have broken down some of the most common statements that individuals with untreated hearing loss report. Often when someone is suffering from untreated hearing loss they state that they don’t know if the problem is due to hearing loss, their spouses’ voices, or their environment.

 

Statement 1:

 

Eventually, I got tired of asking and just smiled politely.

 

I think we have all experienced this once or twice. The background noise in the restaurant is so overpowering that it’s hard to concentrate on the words being spoken. After asking to repeat once, then twice, it’s common for some people to give up on the conversation and just smile politely. 

 

This patient knew that they needed help because it wasn’t only happening in restaurants. It was also happening at home, in grocery stores, and at work in quiet settings. 

 

When situations like this occur, those with hearing loss will stop participating in conversations due to the level of difficulty and frustration. It is not uncommon for individuals to blame the other person for mumbling or talking to quietly. 

 

Statement 2:

It’s frustrating because I have to continuously ask her what she’s saying. So, I eventually just stop doing it and I just guess, which usually results in embarrassment or an argument.

 

Untreated hearing loss may result in embarrassment? Yes, you read that right! In an effort to continue the natural flow of the conversation many of my patients have confessed to me that they guessed what the other person was telling them, just so they didn’t have to ask for clarification. 

 

For example, “It’s windy today” may sound a lot like “It’s Wednesday today.”

 

It is not uncommon for patients with untreated hearing loss to also report that they constantly bicker with their loved ones because they thought they heard one thing but really their family was trying to tell them something else. This is one example how anxiety, depression, and social isolation can start to creep into the lives of those suffering from untreated hearing loss.

 

Statement 3:

 

Eventually we just stopped going. It’s not interesting anymore. I don’t enjoy it.

 

This one, personally, is hard for me to hear. I’ve had patients who quit attending things like bible study or choir rehearsal because they found it more frustrating than enjoyable due to their untreated hearing loss.

 

You may ask yourself, why do people wait so long to get treated or even tested for hearing loss? The reality is it goes unnoticed, sometimes for years. It’s usually their loved one or friends who notice the difficulty in communication their untreated hearing loss is causing. This is because the most common type of hearing loss is only in the high frequencies, leaving the low frequencies normal. So, for most people if their low frequencies sound normal they will pass the blame to others or the environment they are in.

 

If these statements above sound similar please contact us for more information. The first step is to have a routine hearing evaluation. We pride ourselves on counseling our patients regarding their hearing evaluation in a way that is easy to understand in a pressure free environment.

 

Three Habits for Better Hearing in the New Year

Your habits may be sabotaging your hearing. In this article, discover how implementing exercise, hearing protection, and social interaction can help maintain your hearing even as you age.

 

Exercise

The pandemic has caused several of us to forsake the gym this year. Have you heard of the “quarantine 15?” Obviously, several factors contribute to gaining 15 pounds during quarantine, but the greatest of these is lack of exercise. In 2021, let’s purpose to improve our habits and, in doing so, lessen our risk of hearing loss.

Data on risk factors related to hearing loss are limited, but several reputable studies suggest that changing our daily habits can affect our hearing. One of those studies, published by the American Journal of Medicine, states that people who participate in physical activity reduce their risk of developing hearing loss. According to the article, this reduced risk is especially true of women who walk more than 2 hours per week.

Interestingly, hearing loss is not caused by strenuous exercise, but exercise can help maintain healthy hearing despite one’s age. As an audiologist, I counsel patients regarding the common stigmas associated with hearing loss, such as aging. These studies affirm that hearing loss isn’t always directly caused by age. 

 

Hearing Protection

Last year, a record number of people made improvements to their homes. Did you hear all the power tools running in your neighborhood? 

Everything from in-home offices to backyard decks were and still are being constructed as the pandemic sparks various home-improvement projects.

Tools such as table saws, drills, and sanders can cause hearing loss, especially if the sounds they make are long, repeated, or reach at or above 85 dBA. Before you start that new home improvement project, make sure to purchase over-the-counter hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs. 

If the over-the-counter options are not suitable, visit us to obtain custom hearing protection. You will be surprised by the functionality and durability of professionally made hearing protection. 

Interesting Facts

    • A handheld belt sander can reach up to 103 dBA, depending on the quality and condition of the tool.
    • An average table saw can reach up to 100 dBA.
    • The normal handheld drill produces between 90 and 94 dBA, and hammer drills produce in excess of 100 dBA.

 

Social Interaction 

During this pandemic, you have personally experienced social isolation. My patients have told me they haven’t interacted in-person with loved ones or friends for weeks, if not months. 

As humans, we thrive on healthy social interactions. Without them, your physical, mental, and cognitive health can suffer. According to a 2019 study led by Kassandra Alcaraz, Ph.D., MPH, a public health researcher with the American Cancer Society: “Our research really shows that the magnitude of risk presented by social isolation is very similar in magnitude to that of obesity, smoking, lack of access to care and physical inactivity.”

You might be thinking, “How can a lack of social interaction worsen my hearing?” While social isolation may not affect the level at which you can hear, it can affect your brain’s ability to process the information. Hearing is not just about your ears. Your brain plays a big role in how you process and understand sound.

As we age, our cognition can be affected by decreased social interaction. As our cognitive function declines, so does our ability to process information. For many, this change may seem like hearing loss, but what is actually happening is the loss of the ability to process the information while the function of hearing remains the same. 

Although safely interacting in [county name] may not be possible, make use of virtual communication methods this year such as Facetime or Zoom to keep your brain active and social.

 

Hearing Aids and Mobile Technology: How much can it change your life?

Streamer Solutions: “Well you could use this device that helps your cell phone talk with your hearing aids, yes you would have to wear it all the time around your neck”

 

Volume Remote: “You could use this remote control to turn up your hearing aids, yes you would have to carry it around with you”

 

TV Solutions: “Oh, we have a device that connects your hearing aids to the television, but you would need to wear this around your neck to adjust the volume”

 

These are phrases I don’t find myself saying very much anymore! All of these streaming devices were extremely popular (and still are if you don’t own a smartphone), however, smartphones now allow us to do it all in one application.

 

Hearing aids that are compatible with your smartphone allow for

– better understanding during a phone call

– better productivity

– optimizes sound while in background noise

– allows you to locate your lost hearing aid

– monitor brain and body health

– change volume and switch programs

 

Stream Audio Wirelessly*

Whether you’re on a walk, riding the bus or subway, if you have a podcast or audio book, you can enjoy hand and wire free entertainment. No need for headphones or to hold a book. Simply press play and your smartphone will stream the audio right through your hearing aids.

 

So many people have tons of books downloaded on their digital devices such as the Kindle reader. One commonality that most of them have is that they never have enough time to complete reading the books they’ve purchased. Drops make an ocean and you’ll be done with your books in no time at all.

 

Another option is to allow you phone to stream phone calls. This option is not only appealing because it’s hands free, but it also helps you understand the phone call better. When the phone call is processed through your hearing aids it reduces the background noise, streams through both of your ears, and it takes into account your hearing loss, only amplifying areas where you have hearing loss.

 

Monitors Brain and Body Health**

There is now hearing aid technology that is designed to help the wearer stay independent. With this technology falls can be detected and alert messages sent to selected contacts. Just like our smartwatches can track our steps and other movements our hearing aids can do that now too! Tracking fitness activities has shown to inspire people to continue or increase their activity. Lastly, we are all aware how social interaction can have a positive impact on our mental well-being. The smartphone applications can allow you to track your social interaction. Before our lives were changed due to COVID-19 a lot of my patients were intrigued by this feature!

 

Volume

There is no question that volume control is one of the most used features of the smartphone applications. Even though hearing aids will automatically adjust the volume on their own depending on your environment, some patients like to be able to manually adjust it themselves. Dare I say… there is a mute feature as well. 

 

Have hearing aids but struggling to understand someone with a mask on? Masks can actually decrease someone’s voice up to 12 decibels. When our patients’ hearing aids are fit we don’t account for that decrease. That is why a lot of our patients enjoy being able to make a “mask program” for themselves using their smartphone (or asking us to make it for them)! 

 

Location

Most smartphones applications also allow you to locate a lost hearing aid. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to wearing a mask and hearing aids is that sometimes the mask will remove hearing aids on accident. I’ve had a few patients lose their hearing aids this way. If they choose to allow the app to access their location they can ping the last known place they had their hearing aid.

 

Always remember that mobile technology is a tool that can help you immensely. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Our moto at The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic is to keep things simple and straightforward when using them.

 

Each hearing aid and manufacturer has different features and each type of smartphone allows for different connectivity options. If you are interested in learning more please contact our hearing instrument specialist Celina at celina@youhear.ca our our communications disorders assistant Emily at emily@youhear.ca

 

*Depending on the type of smartphone.

** Available in certain Starkey Models

 

Celina Dijkhuizen
Hearing Instrument Specialist

 

Emily Ellard
Comminication Disorders Assistant

Diabetes: How It Impacts Hearing

If you or someone you love has diabetes you are probably aware that diabetes causes small blood vessel disease. What happens is blood vessels weaken and slow the flow of blood through the body which can lead to diabetic neuropathy or organ and tissue damage.

Since I am an audiologist I am particularly interested in what diabetes does to our inner ears. Both of our inner ears are made up of a cochlea and vestibular system.


 

Did you know that the same cranial nerve (8th nerve) innervates both the cochlea and the vestibular system? That is why I sometimes see patients with both hearing loss and balance issues. Since diabetes affects the entire neural system it is not uncommon for patients to report a disruption in the perception of hearing and balance as a whole.

 

 

 

Hearing Loss, How It Happens

 

Just like high blood glucose can damage organs such as eyes and kidneys it can also damage the inner ear. Our inner ears are extremely sensitive to blood flow and even our eardrums include a network of small blood vessels.

 

I often tell my patients a hearing evaluation is one of the easiest ways to identify if there has been any damage in the cochlea, the organ of hearing. Unlike a vision test where an optometrist can look into the back of your eye for signs of diabetic retinopathy we cannot look into your ears and visualize the inner ear, your eardrum is blocking our view!

 

If damage has occurred in the cochlea it will show up as a sensori-neural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is referred to as nerve damage that can not be regained through surgery or medication.

 

Balance, How It Happens

 

As I mentioned above diabetes also affects balance. When there is too much sugar in the blood it can affect our balance in more ways than one:

 

  • It affects the connective tissues inside the vestibular system making one feel off-balance.
  • The myelin sheath that covers the vestibular nerves are damaged which doesn’t allow our inner ear to send messages properly to our brain.
  • It can degenerate the hair cells inside the vestibular system just like it damages the hair cells inside the cochlea resulting in hearing loss.

 

As you can probably imagine we use several sensory inputs to remain balanced on our feet. One of the main inputs is our vision, can you see what is in front of you as you take a step? How about proprioceptive inputs like what your feet are telling you? If someone has a hard time feeling their feet they may be stepping on a surface that isn’t level, which will cause them to fall. Remember, diabetes affects the whole body so there are multiple systems at play when balance is an issue.

 

My Role As An Audiologist

 

Baseline Hearing Test

I tell anyone who is suffering from diabetes that a baseline hearing test is an important starting point. It is important to have a complete picture of hearing at the time of diagnosis! Therefore if any issues arise in the future we have something to compare to. 

 

Education

Another recommendation I commonly make may be diabetes education. Ask your physician about resources that are available in our area.

 

Balance Screening

Another recommendation may be a balance screening. We perform balance screenings here at The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic and if there are any concerns we can start a treatment plan.

I commonly will refer any of my patients to our occupational therapist for vestibular rehabilitation.

 

Vision Health

I will commonly ask my patients who their eyesight is if they are diabetic and having issues with balance. Make sure that you or your loved one is getting their eye exam with dilation at least once a year. As mentioned above, vision health plays an important role in balance.

 

Source:

Dowd, K. (2020). Audiology: diabetes in hearing & balance care. AudiologyOnline, Article 27259. Retrieved from http://www.audiologyonline.com

 

Hear For The Holidays 2020

We’re blessed that we can give the gift of hearing to our patients daily.

This holiday season, you can give the gift of hearing to someone you may know who can not afford hearing aids. 

It’s quite simple, all you have to do is write a short essay telling us why this person deserves to Hear for the Holidays. Click here for more information.

2020 has been a difficult year for many of us in the community. Please help us, help someone in need.

 

The Staff at The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic

Hearing Aid Batteries

I had one of my staff members go to the local stores to check out the price of hearing aid batteries. Shockingly, our prices were lower than Walmart, Shoppers and Rexall. Having three locations, we order a lot of batteries and can now get them at a lower price.

The cost of our private label batteries:

  • 40 cells for $25.00. 
  • 60 cells for $35.00.  
  • 80 cells for $45.00 (not available in size 675).

You can still buy PowerOne batteries go for $40.00 (forty battery cells).

We do not charge tax on hearing aid batteries.

Unfortunately, due to COVID19, we are not allowing customers to just walk in and purchase batteries. Please call our office to schedule a time to come in. We will bring your batteries and our debit machine to your vehicle. 

Hearing Protection

When people think of hearing protection, they automatically think about factory workers. Although we do sell hearing protection for factory workers, we also sell hearing protection for children, musicians and hunters. We can also order electronic hearing protection.

MUSICIANS PLUGS

ER9, ER15 or ER25. (Cost $220.00 plus tax)

A cast is taken of your ears and sent to the factory. The molds have special filters specific to they type of instrument that you play. We can order ER9, ER15 or ER25. 

 

HEARING PROTECTION FOR CHILDREN

BABY BANZ
Baby Banz Infant (Cost $42.00 plus tax)

  • Earmuffs designed for infants; ages 0-2
  • Adjustable
  • Foam filled cushions and padded headband ensure comfort
  • Available Colour: pink or blue
  • NRR 31
  • One (1) year warranty

Baby Banz Junior (Cost $42.00 plus tax)

  • Earmuffs designed for youth and smaller ears
  • Adjustable and padded headband
  • Soft cushion cups ensure comfort
  • Available Colour: blue, pink or black
  • NRR 31
  • Earmuffs measure 4 inches long by 3 & 1/8 inches across
  • One (1) year warranty

 

HEAR MUFFS

HearMuffs Passive Infant Toddler (Cost $30.00 plus tax)

  • Advanced infant and baby ear protection
  • Patented GrowBand™ adjusts and fits a wide range of head sizes
  • Made with non-toxic kid friendly materials 
  • Available colours: pastel blue, pink, spa green, orange or white
  • NRR 22
  • Two year warranty 

Hear Muffs Kids (Cost $30.00 plus tax)

  • Advanced hearing protection for kids
  • Made with non-toxic kid friendly materials 
  • Designed for children from 5 to 10 years of age
  • Available Colours: Blue, Green, Red or White
  • NRR 22
  • Two year warranty 

HearMuffs Active Toddler & Infant (Cost $75.00 plus tax)

  • Advanced infant and baby ear protection plus four soothing sounds
  • Sounds Mode lets child enjoy four soothing sounds – Lullaby, White Noise, Babbling Creek, and Heartbeat
  • Soothe Mode allows voices to be heard while compressing potentially harmful noises to comfortable levels
  • Maximum volume: 60 dB
  • Available Colour: White
  • Patented GrowBand™ adjusts and fits a wide range of head sizes
  • Made with non-toxic kid friendly materials
  • Designed for children from birth to 4 years
  • NRR 22
  • Two year warranty

 

ELECTRONIC HEARING PROTECTION

SoundGear Custom Fit Silver (Cost $600.00 plus tax)

These electronic hearing protection and enhancement products are for the hunter or shooter that refuses to compromise when it comes to performance and personalization. This product is custom molded to each wearer’s ear and features the most advanced 100% digital electronic hearing protection and enhancement technology on the market. Visit their website for more information.

SoundGear Custom Fit Platinum (Cost $650.00 plus tax)

These products are for the more avid hunter or professional shooter. They come with 4 distinct memory modes (Normal, High-Frequency Boost, Telecoil, and Mute). We also offer SoundGear Custom Fit Silver products as our base model for those who may not shoot as often or professionally. Silver is just as effective as our Platinum models, but includes only one memory mode. Visit their website for more information.

Swimming Accessories

Pool season is just around the corner, and we want to remind you that we do sell a different variety of swimming accessories for your ears. Swim molds should be considered if you have a perforated eardrum, are prone to “swimmer’s ear,” or have tubes placed in your eardrum. 

BIONIX AFTER SWIM WATER REMOVAL STRIPS (20/PK): Cost $8.00 plus tax

Safe, fast and alcohol-free drying strips designed to absorb water inside the ear canal

Flared tip design eliminates the risk of over insertion

No risk of damage to the eardrum; will never directly or indirectly come in contact with eardrum

Only needs to be inserted far enough into the ear to break the surface level of the water

Wicking action of the product will remove the water on its own

Can absorb over 5x the amount of liquid an average ear canal can hold

One strip can be used on both ears

 

 

Putty Buddies Floatable (3 pairs): Cost $10.00 plus tax

Soft, colored, silicone ear plugs that help keep water out of ears

For use with the Ear Band-It

Available in combinations of red, white and blue OR green, yellow and blue

Triple the size of most other kid’s plugs

Bright colors are easy to find in the pool or bath

They float!

This is a special order item, we place orders for it every two weeks.

 

Doc’s Pro Plugs (unvented one pair): Costs:$14.00 plus tax or Leash version $16.50 plus tax

Doc’s ProPlugs are inexpensive, long-lasting, ready-to-wear earplugs designed to keep water out of an individual’s ear canal    

For use with the Ear Band-It

Made of soft, hypo-allergenic Kraton with memory that provides a watertight seal        

Quickly and easily fitted             

Designed for patients with P.E. tubes or middle ear fluid to keep water and bacteria out of the ear canal       

Perfect for swimming, bathing, concerts, recreational and light industrial use 

This is a special order item, we place orders for it every two weeks.

Ear Band It Ultra: Cost $16.50 plus tax

 

Keeps water out of ears and holds earplugs in

For use with Putty Buddies or Doc’s Pro Plugs

Ultra version has better grip, comfort, and strength than the original Ear Band-It

Made of 100% super soft neoprene with Grip-Tek™ neoprene inner lining

Helps prevent swimmer’s ear

Ideal for those with Ear Tubes and Ear Perforations

Ultra version is NOT reversible

This is a special order item, we place orders for it every two weeks.

 

 

Custom Floatable Swim Molds: Cost starting at $180.00 plus tax

These molds are made just for you. We take a cast of your ears and send it to the manufacturer where they will create custom swim earmolds. These molds completely block the ear and ear canal to ensure no water will enter. It is made from a material that is able to float above water so you will not lose them while swimming. Perfect for children and adults to protect their ears from water while swimming or in the shower. Although suitable for children, remember children are growing and these may only fit their ears for a few months.

A lot has changed in ten years

Ten years ago I decided to go into private practice. I was contemplating moving to Amherstburg and did not want to commute to work. Many of you might remember my first office location at 206 Sandwich Street South, in the blue house next to Naples. When I first opened, it was just me. My goal was to see one patient a day, then two a day. Bit by bit the office got busier and we had to move.

Our first move was to 535 Sandwich St South, in the plaza with the Drive Thru Tim Hortons. I hired Cory to help me because I could not handle the walk in patients and the scheduled patients. We got busier. I hired our communication disorders assistant Emily to lighten my case load.

While Amherstburg Audiology was growing, I had a second clinic in Essex. I tried to call it “Amherstburg Audiology & Hearing Aids – Essex Location”, but that name just never took off. In fact, people were confused and rightfully so. As we got busier in Amherstburg, Tim Hortons also got busier. Eventually we had to move again because there just was not enough parking for our patients.

It was time for a change in Amherstburg and in Essex. We then moved to our current location at 503 Sandwich St South. Better parking and new additions. I hired Marlene to handle the insurance billings and answer phone calls. I hired Celina to help our hearing aid patients. When I moved to a larger location in Essex the clinic was rebranded as “The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic”. Many changes. I hired Melissa to take on the duties of Office Manager. Sonia came on to rehabilitate our dizzy patients, Jenniffer was hired to assist Sonia and we are blessed to have Teresa and Sandra testing and treating our kid and adult hearing loss patients in Essex.

Ten years and many changes. We now have a satellite location in LaSalle. The next change will occur in Amherstburg. I am rebranding Amherstburg to be “The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic”. I’m so attached to the name “Amherstburg Audiology & Hearing Aids”, but it’s time to have a single name that represents all three clinic locations. Don’t worry, the same friendly smiles will still be there to greet you, but the name on the sign will change.

Thank you for supporting my small business. Ten years and still going. Here’s to ten more years.

 

bernice

Sudden Hearing Loss (SHL)

What is sudden hearing loss? You would know, it comes on suddenly, often over night. You will notice that you can not hear out of one ear, and usually have accompanying ringing or dizziness.

Who should you see if you have a sudden hearing loss? Make an appointment with your audiologist or family physician right away. You want someone to look into your ears to rule out a conductive hearing loss such as wax or an ear infection. If it is not a conductive hearing loss, you need to get a diagnostic hearing test with an audiologist to determine the type of hearing loss (sensorineural, conductive or mixed) and the severity of the hearing loss. Based on the audiologists test, a recommendation will be made for you to see an ear. nose and throat specialist or your family physician or nurse.

Will my hearing come back? About 50% of cases the hearing will return in part of in full. It’s imperative that you are treated appropriately within the first few days in order for medical intervention to help. The longer you wait, the lower your odds that your hearing will return. 

For more information about Sudden Hearing Loss visit the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery website.

Patient Handout Sudden Hearing Loss

Physician Handout Sudden Hearing Loss

Hearing Aid Care and Maintenance Video Links

Celina Dijkhuizen
Hearing Instrument Specialist

Below are videos direct from the manufacturer websites that will help you with the basic care and maintenance of your hearing aid(s) from home. Click on the links below to be sent to the manufacturer websites where the videos are posted. All the information, videos and trademarks are that of the manufacturer or what is otherwise stated. Unsure of the manufacturer of your hearing aid(s)? Check your invoices, accessories or the boxes given to you and there should be a logo or a name somewhere visible.

For hearing aid(s) that are Unitron or Phonak: https://www.unitron.com/content/unitron/id/en/consumer/help/tutorial-videos.html

For hearing aid(s) that are Starkey: https://www.starkey.com/support/how-to-videos

For hearing aid(s) that are Signia: https://www.signia-hearing.com/how-to-videos/

For hearing aid(s) that are Oticon or Bernafon: https://www.oticon.com/support https://www.bernafon.ca/support

For hearing aid(s) that are Widex: https://global.widex.com/en/support/maintenance

For hearing aid(s) that are GN ReSound: https://www.resound.com/en-ca/help/hearing-aids/other/videos

Footnotes Unitron.(2020). How to care for your Unitron hearing aids. Retrieved from https://www.unitron.com/content/unitron/id/en/consumer/help/tutorial-videos.html, accessed on March 18, 2020 Starkey.(2020). How to videos. Retrieved from https://www.starkey.com/support/how-to-videos, , accessed on March 18, 2020 Oticon.(2020). Oticon hearing aid support. Retrieved from https://www.oticon.com/support, accessed on March 18, 2020 Bernafon.(2020). Support: tips for new users. Retrieved from https://www.bernafon.ca/support, accessed on March 18, 2020 Widex.(2020). Hearing aid maintenance. Retrieved from https://global.widex.com/en/support/maintenance GN Hearing.(2020). Hearing aid support videos. Retrieved from https://www.resound.com/en-ca/help/hearing-aids/other/videos, accessed on March 18, 2020

COVID-19 Preventative Measures

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES BEING TAKEN AT OUR CLINICS
(1) No staff or provider has been outside of the country within the last two weeks.
(2) Staff and patients are asked to sanitize their hands prior to entering the clinic area.
(3) Patients are kindly asked to reschedule appointments if they have recently travelled, have been exposed to someone who has recently travelled, if they do not feel well, or have a common cold of flu symptoms.
(4) Furniture, surfaces and equipment are being sanitized regularly and after every use.
(5) Providing hand sanitizer in multiple locations throughout the clinic and ensuring staff are practicing proper hand hygiene and washing their hands regularly.
Our procedures for maintaining a clean environment meet or exceed those of The Ontario Ministry of Health.
We thank you for your patience as we work through the COVID-19 outbreak and we will keep you posted on any changes that may arise.
UPDATE Sunday 15-MAR-2020: We are suspending all speech and language pathology appointments effective immediately. We will tentatively resume this service 04-APR-2020.

Sandra DeKok joins The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic

 

 

We are pleased to announce that audiologist Sandra DeKok has joined our staff at The Hearing & Dizziness Clinic.

Sandra will be working with newborns, infants, children and adults at our Essex location.

To schedule an appointment with Sandra please call Melissa at (519) 961-9285 or email melissa@youhear.ca

Group Workshops

We are excited to be offering group workshops at our Essex and Amherstburg locations! There is a lot of information given to you at your hearing aid fitting appointment, which can make it a little overwhelming at times. A group workshop is an hour long session where our hearing health professionals go over details about your hearing loss, your new hearing aids and aural rehabilitation or retraining your brain to understand speech.

So what does a group workshop look like? The groups are small – usually between 3 and 4 participants, which allows us to support each person and answer any questions throughout. The hour is broken up into three sections:

1. Hearing Loss

2. Hearing Aids

3. Aural Rehabilitation

Hearing Loss

We give participants detailed information regarding how our ears work, what the participants’ hearing test results indicate, fun facts about hearing and our ears and more information about hearing loss overall. This portion of the workshop gives participants answers to the questions that they may have been pondering regarding their own hearing loss.

Hearing Aids

When people come in to pick up their hearing aids, the amount of information presented in that appointment can feel quite overwhelming. Participating in the group workshop allows hearing aid users to gain more knowledge on the care, use, features and functions of their hearing aids. Having only 3-4 participants allows us to go over information regarding each person’s hearing aids, in order to help them better understand their use.

Aural Rehabilitation

Hearing aids are only one piece of the puzzle. In order to maximize the benefit of new hearing aids, we have to work on retraining our brains to hear in difficult listening situations. Typically, we lose our hearing slowly over time and while hearing aids give us back the sounds we are missing, we still have to do therapy to retrain our brains how to process and understand these new sounds. In our group workshop, we provide a demonstration of one of the computer-based training programs that we offer. The program is called LACE and it stands for Listening and communication enhancement. We’ll go over what the program entails and how the program can benefit everyone – regardless of what type of hearing loss they may have.

Group workshops allow our patients to learn more about their hearing loss, hearing aids and different communication strategies, as well as meet other people who also have new hearing aids.

Bernice McKenzie is an approved Dr.CliffAud provider

We’re please to announce that Bernice McKenzie is part of the DrCliffAud Approved Provider Network!!

If you’ve researched hearing aids during the last few year’s you’ve most likely seen videos posted by Dr. Cliff Olson on his youtube channel. If it is ear related, he probably has a video talking about it. You can check out his youtube channel by clicking here.