Unions and OSHA Clash over Hearing Loss Rule

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Pending Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Clarifications on Hearing Loss

The gradual nature of much hearing loss is at the center of a current conflict regarding pending Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) clarifications and a group of employer organizations, including the Construction Industry Safety Coalition. The disagreement has arisen with a clarification that OSHA has proposed for its current standards, which some groups are contesting is too great a categorization shift in the way hearing loss is reported and recorded on-the-job.

 

Clarification Proposed by OSHA & Mixed Responses

The clarification states that cases of hearing loss must be recorded in employee injury and illness logs if workplace conditions have contributed to that loss “in any way”. Employer groups opposing this clarification state that the clarification broadens the reporting requirements for hearing loss far too much, overstating the impact workplace has in contributing to gradual hearing damage.

Conversely, worker’s unions such as the Laborers’ International Union (LIU) and its associated Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) agree with the proposed clarification. LHSFNA issued this statement in support of OSHA’s clarified language, citing the significant impact it may have on the construction industry:

“Hearing loss is very common in construction, yet few hearing loss cases are recorded in the OSHA 300 log. The proposed change will clarify that hearing loss must be recorded if work has contributed to it in any way, even if work is not the predominant or substantial contributor. This is an important change that the LHSFNA fully supports. It is consistent with OSHA’s compliance directives and interpretations of the standard and is particularly important in construction where chronic conditions develop over time across many different workplaces and employers. Hopefully this change will lead to greater ascertainment of hearing loss cases in construction and a more accurate view of the scope of this significant problem.”

 

Purpose of OSHA’s Clarification

OSHA’s proposed clarification is meant to rectify discrepancies in understanding workplace influence on hearing loss conditions. In one part of OSHA’s current standards (29 C.F.R. 1904.10(b)(6)), employers are not required to report hearing loss in their OSHA 300 log if a healthcare professional does not recognize workplace environment as a significant contributor to the condition. However, a more general rule enveloping OSHA’s standards, (29 C.F.R. 1904.5), states that employers must classify injury or illness as work-related if on-the-job circumstances, exposures or events contribute to a health problem or aggravate a pre-existing condition.

Current on-the-job injury reporting favors the allowances given in OSHA provision 29 C.F.R. 1904.10 (b)(6) and the proposed clarification tightens those allowances, supporting a more comprehensive analysis of hearing loss for the worker. The clarification is in alignment with OSHA’s 2012 Record keeping Policies and Procedures Manual, which clearly affirms that it is not necessary for workplace factors to be the primary cause of hearing loss for hearing loss to be diagnosed and reported as a workplace illness or injury (CPL 02-00-135).

Advocates for employers have confronted OSHA over the clarification. The Coalition for Workplace Safety, which represents a group of employers, states that the ambiguities in OSHA’s existing code are appropriate, citing a 2002 OSHA Record keeping Statement that hearing loss cannot be “presumed” by healthcare providers based on a standard of workplace noise conditions. Of course, more leeway in hearing loss diagnosis will act in the favor of these employers and their liabilities for worker’s health.

 

OSHA Guidelines & Workplace Noise

OSHA as an organization has made thorough guidelines and standards regarding the monitoring of Occupational Noise Exposure. Currently, employers must monitor the auditory health of any employee being exposed to 85 decibels or higher for periods of eight hours or longer. The nuances of gradual hearing loss should be monitored via audiograms for employees with such exposure.

Hearing loss is a widespread health problem, yet, because it is also an invisible condition, it can lead to patients delaying medical diagnosis and treatment. As the LHSFNA advises, the adoption of OSHA’s proposed clarification will make employers accountable for the effect of working conditions on hearing loss. It is suspected that workplace-related hearing loss is significantly under-reported because of current leeway in OSHA standards. 

After an extended response period, comments have closed for the proposed OSHA clarifications. News of their review and whether or not the clarified interpretation of workplace-related hearing loss will be approved should be forthcoming.

If you are concerned about your hearing abilities, the first step is to take a hearing test. At Sound Hearing Group, we provide comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings.

Contact us to schedule an appointment.

 

Researchers Find Iron Deficiency Associated with Hearing Loss

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About 20% of Americans, or 48 million people, report some degree of difficulty hearing. Although many cases of hearing loss have no known cause, scientists, doctors, and researchers around the world are learning more every day about how hearing works and the factors that may contribute to--or help prevent--this extremely common condition. The latest discovery? Iron-deficiency anemia may be linked to hearing loss.

As iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is prevalent and fairly easily treated, further understanding of the link between IDA and hearing loss may create new possibilities for early identification and appropriate treatment for those with hearing problems.

 

What is iron-deficiency anemia?

A condition in which the blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells, anemia is a common and treatable health issue. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the body's tissues. Iron-deficiency anemia is anemia that is caused by insufficient iron, the lack of which hinders the ability of your red blood cells to carry oxygen (hemoglobin). IDA may cause fatigue and shortness-of-breath, but it is easily diagnosed with a blood test, and correctable with iron supplementation.
 

 

IDA and hearing loss: how the study was carried out

A research team at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, led by Kathleen M. Schieffer, B.S., examined data from 305,339 men and women between the ages of 21 and 90 years who visited Penn State Hershey Medical Center during 2011-2015 and had information available concerning serum ferritin and hemoglobin levels (low levels of these substances indicate IDA). Of the people in the study, 4,807 had hearing loss and 2,274 had iron deficiency anemia. The researchers sought to determine whether there was an association between the two.

By the end of the study, Schieffer and her team had established a tangible link between hearing loss and IDA; they published their findings in the online journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery on December 29, 2016.  
 

Key findings:

  • The risk for hearing loss was nearly two and a half times as high in those with anemia.
  • The risk for sensorineural hearing loss, the type associated with nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain, was 82 percent higher in those deficient in iron.
  • There was also an increase in risk for conductive hearing loss, caused by a problem in the ear canal, eardrum or bones of the middle ear--though this risk was insignificant.
  • The odds of having combined hearing loss (conductive and/or sensorineural loss, deafness or loss due to unknown causes) were increased by more than two times in adults with IDA.

 

How does iron-deficiency anemia contribute to hearing loss?

The exact reason for the link between the two remains unknown, but animal studies have provided some clues. In these studies, it was found that low levels of iron may reduce blood flow to the inner ear, affecting the cochlea ganglion--a collection of nerve cells that transmit sound to the brain. The authors of the study note that blood is supplied to the cochlea of the ear by only one artery, and that low hemoglobin levels may result in “ischemia” or an inadequate blood supply to this area.

 

What does this mean for people with anemia?

For the time being, the authors of the study say that it is too soon to tell definitively if anemia causes hearing loss. More research is needed, and they aren’t yet recommending that those with hearing loss get blood tests for anemia. The findings only show a possible connection between the two.

Still, Schieffer and the other researchers want to undertake more research to understand if treating the blood condition might help to improve or prevent hearing loss, especially since IDA is so common and treatable. "An association exists between IDA in adults and hearing loss. The next steps are to better understand this correlation and whether promptly diagnosing and treating IDA may positively affect the overall health status of adults with hearing loss," the authors said.

The results look the most promising for those with sensorineural hearing loss -- usually considered a permanent condition. If iron deficiency anemia is strongly associated with sensorineural loss, there is hope that further investigating the link between the two might lead to improvements in hearing in the not-too-distant future.  

 

Are you concerned about your hearing? Have you noticed a change in your hearing abilities? The first step toward better hearing health is scheduling a hearing test. Contact us at Sound Hearing Group today.

 

 

Hearing Loss - A Common Injury Among Veterans

Captain Mark A. Brogan, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (2005-2007), suffers from noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.

“I was injured by a suicide bomber at close range, on April 11, 2006, while leading a foot patrol in Rawah, Iraq,” he told to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). “My hearing was substantially damaged. My first hearing test was not till a few months after my injury. The test results showed that my right ear had been perforated and sustained severe to profound damage and the left severe…The inner ear was so damaged that my vestibular system was damaged and my balance and dizziness were horrible.”

Captain Brogan’s experience with hearing loss is one of many among veterans. Since the early 2000s, service people have reported both hearing loss and tinnitus after returning from combat zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. Statistics show that approximately 60% of all veterans returning from combat zones have reported cases of hearing loss and tinnitus.

Because hearing loss is one of the most common military service-related injuries and it dramatically affects the lives of our veterans, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has substantially contributed toward hearing loss research. In fact – it was after World War II that hearing loss was first explored in depth.

 

Exposure to Dangerous Decibels & Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when we are exposed to dangerous levels of noise, whether in short bursts, singular events, or over a long period of time. For members of the military – as well as 60% of the American workforce – noise-induced hearing loss is a leading occupational hazard.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises that sound louder than 85 decibels, for 8 hours, is the safe limit. Any sounds that exceed 85 decibels in the workplace – whether it is carpentry, dentistry, factory work – could potentially cause permanent hearing loss. Additionally, the louder the sounds, the less time it takes to harm your hearing.

Hearing specialists tell us that exposure to dangerous levels of sound could permanently damage our inner ear hair cells, which are responsible for receiving amplified sound waves and translate them into neural signals to send to the brain. Due to exposure to loud noise, hair calls could be permanently damaged and do not regenerate. This leads to sensorineural hearing loss.

What could be done to protect the hearing of the members of our military?

 

Combating in Hearing Loss – A Report from the Podcast 99% Invisible

Roman Mars, host of the podcast 99% Invisible, reported in 2016, “The US Marine Corps buys a lot of foam earplugs. Visit any military base and you’ll find them under the bleachers, at the firing range, in the bottoms of washing machines…they are cheap and effective at making noise less noisy.”

Earplugs could reduce noise by 30 decibels, which is a significant amount – especially when noise levels in combat zones greatly exceed the safe upper limit of 85 decibels. Though they are not the best option, Mars says, “In a military situation, a reduction of 30 decibels is especially helpful with a steady grinding background din such as the thrum of a Blackhawk helicopter.”

However, even with this knowledge of hearing loss and the protection generic earplugs provides, many members of military prefer not to wear them for one simple reason: “they miss other important (softer) noises happening around them.” And this is particularly important for members of the military who must be on alert in their surroundings.

Dr. Eric Fallon, interviewed for this report, tells us, “The noise environment of the modern battlefield can change very quickly. Service members need hearing protection that allows them to hear quiet noises and protects them when things get loud. In a combat situation, soldiers depend on their hearing to help them figure out what to do when things escalate quickly on the ground. A routine patrol, for instance, may suddenly come under fire without warning.”

As a better solution to foam earplugs, Dr. Fallon recommends tactical communication and protective systems (TCAPS). These simultaneously protect hearing of service members while also delivering sounds they need to hear. The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs are looking into further research to support the use of TCAPS in the military.

 

Veterans Addressing Hearing Loss

If you are a veteran and are experiencing hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing of the ear), contact us at Sound Hearing Group today. We provide comprehensive hearing testing, and if a hearing loss is detected, our team will provide customized hearing aid fittings to meet your needs.

 

What to Do if You Lose a Hearing Aid

Those of us who wear hearing aids know that it would be pretty difficult to lose a hearing aid without noticing it almost immediately. If you experience hearing loss and treat it with hearing aids, then you’ll know the power of these tiny devices. Hearing aids keep us connected to the world around us, from the slightest rustle of a leaf or a blaring car horn.

So, if things have all of sudden begun to sound a bit dull and you have to ask people to repeat themselves, you may reach for your hearing aids to adjust the volume – only to find that they aren’t there.

As with all big ticket electronic purchases, you may at first panic. Hearing aids are sophisticated little devices, customized specially to fit your ears and your hearing needs. But if you take a moment to take a breath and collect yourself, chances are you’ll be able to trace your way back to your hearing aids

 

Where Did You Last Have Your Hearing Aids In?

Normally, people do not take their hearing aids out and put them back in over the course of a day – unless there is a reason to. If your hearing aids ran out of batteries, you may have taken them out to put in a fresh pair of batteries. If you were at the gym and exercising, you may have taken them out and placed them in your locker. If you were at a restaurant and it began to rain heavily, you may have taken them out and put them in a safe dry place before going outside.

In all of these instances, there is a major reason to take out your aids. Hearing aids should not be exposed to moisture of any kind, as moisture could seriously damage the electrical components of your aids. Chances are, you’ve taken out your aids pre-emptively to protect them, and you’ve placed them in a safe and dry carry case.

Check your bags or your vehicle. Call the gym or the restaurant or wherever it was you were last. There are many good Samaritans out there who will hang on to them for you until you return to pick them up.

 

Ask Your Loved Ones for Help

Being disconnected from sound that you’re used to can be disconcerting. As you begin your search for your hearing aids and retrace your steps, ask a loved one to help you. They may have an easier time making phone calls on your behalf. If you have to drive around from place to place, it may be safer to have someone with full hearing capabilities take the wheel.

If you’re just at home, having an extra pair of eyes to help you search for your aids can’t hurt.

 

Call Us at Sound Hearing Group

If you are unable to locate your hearing aids, give us a call at Sound Hearing Group. Depending on the manufacturer, your hearing aids may be eligible for a free replacement within the first year. Additionally, if you’ve got insurance on your aids, contact your insurance company to file a claim.

As a side note – if you haven’t yet – it might be a good idea to add your hearing aids to your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance. This will protect your belongings that may get lost. Another note, if you are storing your hearing aids at home, it is important to keep them in a place that is safe and not accessible to children or pets. These little devices may look like fun toys or morsels to kids and animals – and you don’t want them to get their hands or mouths on your aids!

 

Preventing the Loss of Hearing Aids

There are steps you can take to prevent the loss of your hearing aids. If you find yourself removing and re-inserting your aids regularly throughout the day, make sure to carry a safe case to place them in. Put your contact information somewhere on this case, so that if it is misplaced, someone can contact you.

If you’re running or hiking with your aids in, considering using hearing aid clips. These ensure your aids won’t disconnect and tumble away. Another thing to keep in mind is the fit of your aids. Visit us at Sound Hearing Group to make sure your hearing aids fit you snugly and securely – this prevents them from slipping out.

Always store your hearing aids in a safe, dry location. Following a routine with your aids is an excellent way to keep track of where they are.

 

Do you have questions about hearing aid care and maintenance? Give us a call today at Sound Hearing Group. We’re here to help!

 

How Your Smartphone Can Save Your Hearing

There are Ways Your Smartphone Can Help Prevent Hearing Loss

Your smartphone does a lot for you – navigates you through cities, connects you to your social networks, helps you de-stress with games, and even deposits checks into your bank account for you!

Well, now you can add another item to the list: your smartphone can save your hearing. You may be wondering how that’s the case, when the advent of small personal electronics has been linked to rising rates of hearing loss in younger populations.

Lately, you may see many people plugged into their smartphones with earbuds or headphones. Though a constant stream of loud music and media could lead to hearing loss, there are ways your smartphones can help you to prevent it too.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is a form of hearing loss caused when your ears have been exposed to high levels of noise over an extended period of time. In some instances, noise-induced hearing loss has been caused by one-time exposure to very loud noise, such as a gunshot or a firecracker.

Hearing specialists measure sounds in decibels. They tell us that sounds at 85 decibels are okay to experience for a period of about eight hours. After this, you may be at risk for permanent hearing loss. Additionally, as the decibel level rises, the amount of safe exposure time begins to shrink. This means if you’re listening to sounds at 115 decibels, you may be permanently damaging your hearing after just 15 minutes of listening.

All sounds have a decibel measurement. In terms of common sounds we experience, 115 decibels is what we’d experience at a live rock concert. The blast of a jet engine is measured at about 120 decibels. Conversely, a normal conversation is about 65 decibels.

The Problem with Earbuds & Headphones

With the ubiquity of earbuds and headphones, a rise in hearing loss has been detected among younger populations, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO has estimated that approximately 1.1 billion young people in developed countries are at risk for hearing loss. A lot of this has been attributed to the danger posed by earbuds and headphones.

Earbuds are positioned deep in your ear canal, and sit in close proximity to the eardrum. This placement creates noise conditions that are comparable to being enclosed in a coal mine, while drilling. Imagine how unpleasant that noise is – and you’ll understand how much damage earbuds pose to your hearing. This is due to the fact that earbuds do not cancel out external noises, which means that people tend to turn up the volume while listening to music in order to drown out other sounds.

Headphones do not pose as high a risk as earbuds, but they also are not healthy for your ears. Of all the choices, hearing specialists recommend noise-canceling headphones. These are better at canceling out external noises, which means volumes do not reach too high a volume on the headphones.

How Your Smartphone Can Help Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Have you ever wondered, how loud is too loud? You’re at a wedding and the speakers are blasting music. You’re in a restaurant with a minimalist design, and it sounds like the reverb of conversations is just bouncing off the walls.  If you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable with the noise in your environment, chances are the noises are too loud.

If you want a specific measurement for it, which could help you gauge how long you should remain in an environment with that level of noise, there’s an app for it!

For both Android and Apple operating systems, you can find apps for sound meters or decibel meters. Often times, these apps are free. Simply download this app and when you find yourself in a questionably loud situation, try out the meter! The reading will let you know the loudness of the sounds you’re experiencing.

The danger posed to your hearing is a combination of a number of factors. There’s the decibel level, and then there’s the amount of time you are exposed to it, as well as the size of the space and your distance from the sound. Obviously, if the sounds are very loud, you’re in a small space for a long period of time, and you’re right next to the speaker, you’ll be at higher risk for hearing loss.

Your sound meter app can help you determine the measurement of noise, but you’ll have to decide when it’s time to move or to go! The awareness of the decibels you are experience will alert you – which could, over time, save your hearing.

A recent study has found that hearing loss rates are actually lower now than in the last decade. This is due, in part, to raising awareness about hearing loss and the use of protective hearing devices, such as earplugs or custom made ear molds. Paying attention to the decibels of your environment also plays a key role.

Have questions about hearing protection and noise-induced hearing loss? Contact us at Sound Hearing Group today!

Tips for Adjusting to New Hearing Aids

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Advice on How to Transition to Wearing Hearing Aids

Have you just been fitted for new hearing aids? Welcome to a whole new world of clear sounds! Whether you are new to hearing aids or you’ve just upgraded to a new pair, there is a period of transition to get used to the experience of hearing aids.

Most people wait awhile before they get their hearing tested – about seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing. During this time, untreated hearing loss alters the way we access and receive sounds. Eventually, you’ll get used to missing certain sounds.  

As such, when we first put in hearing aids, the sounds we’ve been missing will be clear again, which may be overwhelming. Here, we provide some advice and tips for adjusting to new hearing aids.

Start Slowly with a Few Hours a Day

Unlike eyeglasses, with which you can see clearly and wear all day immediately, hearing aids take a bit of time to adjust. Our sense of hearing is linked to directionality, our ability to locate sounds from different directions. Hearing aids come with noise cancellation features, and speech recognition and focus features. These features help us to hone in on sounds around us, and they can be disorienting at first.

When you are first fitted for your aids, begin wearing them for a few hours a day. Your brain must re-train to hear these sounds, which may require a bit of effort.

Wear Your Aids in Quiet Spaces

Because sounds are more clearly amplified now with your hearing aids, it may be overwhelming to take them out on the town. Wear your hearing aids for a few days in your bedroom, then move to other parts of the house. Get used to the experiences of sounds in different spaces with different acoustics in your home.  

Don’t Turn Down the Volume

Though it may feel like everything is very loud, try not to readjust the volume on your aids! Your hearing specialist will have worked out the best level for your hearing abilities. The reality is, you are now accessing sounds that you haven’t heard in a while, so it will be a strange experience Rather than turning down the volume, allow your brain to get used to the variety of amplified sounds you are experiencing.

Practice Listening to Your Own Voice

It may seem strange to hear your own voice, believe it or not! The experience of having aids in your ear could make your own voice louder in your head. Get used to the sounds of your own voice by reading a book aloud to yourself while you’re wearing your hearing aids.

Practice Conversation with Small Groups

Speech recognition is a challenge that is addressed with the use of hearing aids. If you remember a time before you were fitted for aids, you may recall how it sounded like people were mumbling and you had a difficult time following conversations. With hearing aids, speech sounds are much clearer. Hearing aids are designed to features to specifically address speech sounds.

After you’ve had some practice with your hearing aids around the house, consider having a small group of people over. Over coffee or a meal, practice the experience of conversing with hearing aids. Ask your friends and loved ones to help you with the process, and catch up with the latest gossip and news in the process! You’ll find that conversations will be more cohesive now, and you won’t find yourself asking people to repeat themselves.

Watch TV and Movies with Captions On

To get used to visuals and audio together, watch TV and movies with captions on. This will help you check to make sure you’re getting everything. Also, keep the volume at a “normal” volume for everyone else in the room. Before your hearing aids, you may have noticed that you had the volume turned up high on the TV. Keep the volume at a level that is comfortable for your companions and practice listening with your aids.

Practice Listening Exercises

Directionality is an important feature provided by hearing aids. To practice this experience, close your eyes and try to identify the sounds around you. Are they coming from in front or behind? Is that bird chirping to your right or left; is that car horn down the road behind you or in front of you? By practicing, you’ll have a better grasp in real-life situations of the directions of sounds.

Work Your Way Up to Wearing Your Aids All Day

The goal, eventually, is to wear your hearing aids all day. You’ll find, eventually, that your hearing aids are an essential part of your life. They keep you in the loop, connected to your surroundings, and facilitate clear communication with your friends and loved ones. As you get more comfortable with your aids, wear them for longer periods of time until you can wear them all day.

 

For more information on adjusting to hearing aids, feel free to contact us at Sound Hearing Group. If you have questions on your experience, we are here to help

5 Ways to Protect Your Hearing and Prevent Hearing Loss

Tips on how to prevent hearing loss

Here at Sound Hearing Group, hearing is our business. We provide comprehensive services to identify, evaluate, and treat hearing loss. We are committed to hearing health. And one critical element of hearing health is protecting your hearing. 

Hearing loss is currently the third most common medical condition in the United States. In some cases, hearing loss occurs gradually and naturally. But in some cases, hearing loss could be prevented. Once you’ve lost your hearing, the damage is irreversible. This is why it’s important to protect your hearing while you’ve got it! 

Here are five ways you could protect your hearing every day. 

1) Wear Custom Ear Protection, while at work and play

Whether on the job or pursuing your passions – be they music or hunting – it is important to use custom ear protection. Exposure to loud noises, on a regular basis, will eventually lead to noise-induced hearing loss. Specialists estimate that 15% of Americans have noise-induced hearing loss due to loud work or leisure environments. 

These noises are all around us, from our lawnmowers to our hairdryers, from that live concert we attended at a club or the fireworks we set off this summer on the 4th of July. If you are regularly exposed to loud sounds as a musician, consider getting musicians’ earplugs, which filter out the dangerous decibels while allowing you to hear the music. 

Custom ear protection is molded to fit your ears specifically, providing much better protection than generic foam or silicon ear plugs.

2) Turn Down the Volume!

The World Health Organization has consistently noted the rise of noise-induced hearing loss in younger populations, due to the ubiquity of earbuds and personal electronic devices. These devices have a long battery life and no cap to the volume. With earbuds, people tend to turn the volume up even high to block out the external noises of the environment. 

Hearing specialists recommend turning down the volume and adhering to the 60-60 rule: 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day. Additionally, the use of noise-canceling headphones would be a healthier alternative for your ears, as they will cut out background noise. 

3) Avoid Cotton Swabs

If you’ve got earwax buildup, your first instinct may be to reach for cotton swabs. However, cotton swabs are actually quite harmful for your ears. Earwax is naturally produced by your body and plays an important role in your ear’s health. It works as an insect repellent and ensures that dirt and bacteria do not make their way to your inner ear. Cotton swabs actually push the earwax further into your ear canal, which could cause blockage, and thus hearing loss. 

If you have excess earwax, please visit us for an evaluation. 

 

4) Stay Active and Manage Stress Levels

Did you know that your hearing health and your overall physical health are related? Certain forms of hearing loss are caused by medical conditions such as high blood pressure. Staying active and eating a diet with nutrients to support your auditory process are great for your hearing. 

If swimming is your sport of choice, however, consider getting swimmer’s earplugs. Too much water in the ear canal could lead to infection, which could adversely affect your hearing. 

 

5) Schedule an Annual Hearing Test

People with glasses get their eyes checked once a year. Most people have an annual physical from their doctors. For optimal hearing health, it is recommended that people age 50 and over schedule an annual hearing test. One in three Americans age 65+ experience some degree of hearing loss. An annual hearing test ensures that your hearing is monitored. Any changes will be detected sooner, rather than later, which will benefit you in the long run with your hearing health.

For more information on hearing and to schedule a consultation, contact us at Sound Hearing Group today! 

How to talk about your hearing loss with others

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The benefits of talking with your friends and family about your hearing loss 

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with a hearing loss, then you are in the company of some 48 million Americans. Identifying and treating hearing loss is an important of your overall health and well-being. Because hearing loss is an invisible condition, it is easy to come up with different methods to obscure the experience.

However, in a recent study, researchers found that the mode of disclosing your hearing loss greatly affects the quality of your communication. Hearing loss is now the third most common condition in the United States – 20% of the population experiences it. 

When you are discussing your experience with your friends, colleagues, and loved ones, keep in mind that your disclosure method will enhance your ability to communicate with hearing loss. 

Recent Study on Disclosure Methods

The Massachusetts Eye and Ear conducted a study on disclosure strategies to determine whether the strategies affected future communication. The study consisted of 337 participants, who took a 15-minute survey to gather information about how they let others know about their hearing loss. Results were published in the journal, Ear and Hearing.

In this study, researchers found that participants could be categorized in three main groups: non-discloser, basic discloser, and multi-purpose discloser. These three main types of disclosure lead to varying consequences on communication. 

The Three Types of Disclosure Methods

Jessica S. West, a sociologist at Duke University and an author on this study, found that there were three main methods of disclosing to others that you have a hearing loss. 

Non-Disclosure

Those who were categorized in the non-disclosure strategy avoided discussing their hearing loss completely. In situations where they are unable to hear, they will say something like “I can’t hear you. Please speak up.” Non-disclosure does not indicate to others that you are experiencing hearing loss, which means that others around you will be unable to shift their behavior to accommodate your hearing needs. 

Basic Disclosure

People who use basic disclosure to discuss their hearing loss give some details, but not very much information otherwise. One example would be, “I am partially deaf due to an infection I had as a child.” Basic disclosure does indicate to people that you may need accommodation in conversation or other listening situations, but it does not give people details on specifics. 

Multi-Purpose Disclosure

Multi-purpose disclosure is a method that both reveals your hearing loss and gives people a suggestion for accommodation. People who are multi-purpose disclosures might say something such as, “I don’t hear as well out of my left ear. Please walk on my right side.” This suggestion indicates to people what they can do to better communicate with you.

 

Multi-Purpose Disclosure Recommended as Best Method for Communication

Researchers believe that multi-purpose disclosure is the best method for disclosing your experience with hearing loss. It serves at least two purposes: to indicate to those around you that you are experiencing a hearing loss and to make suggestions for accommodation.

“We think it is empowering for patients to know these strategies, and especially the multi-purpose disclosure strategy, are available to them,” says Dr. Konstantina Stankovic, a lead researcher on this study. “Hearing loss is an invisible disability; however, asking people to slow down or face someone with hearing loss while speaking may improve communication.”

Findings from this study have motivated researchers to develop a resource guide to help people discuss their hearing loss, so as to avoid isolation. As we all know, healthy communication is fundamental to healthy relationships. With hearing loss, there is a risk for social withdrawal, isolation, anxiety, and depression. Empowering yourself with the method of multi-disclosure is just one way to help improve communication in your interpersonal relationships. 

At Sound Hearing Group of Sun City, we offer hearing testing and comprehensive hearing aid services for those experiencing hearing loss. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please call our practice at (623) 455-8139.

 

 

Earwax: Why it's important and how to properly clean your ears!

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You Might Think Earwax is Gross – But it’s Necessary!

Earwax is perceived to be one of the grosser and seemingly unnecessary substances produced by our bodies.  There doesn’t seem to be much point of earwax other than the need to clean it out.  

But don’t pick up that cotton swab just yet!  

Medical professionals and hearing specialists will agree: there is clear evidence that earwax is useful for protecting our ears and our hearing.  Earwax plays a huge role in maintaining the health of our auditory system!  Here are a few reasons why we shouldn’t be so quick to get rid of our earwax.

The Essential Role of Earwax

Cerumen, the medical name for earwax, is comprised of sweat, oil, dead skin cells and some dirt from the environment. That may sound like a less than appealing concoction, but it’s a natural excretion from the body produced by the apocrine gland. 

The thought of what earwax is made of may be enough for many to swab it out, but here is what earwax does for your ears:

  • Earwax Acts as a Natural Barrier:

Earwax traps things like dirt and harmful bacteria from getting into our ear canals.  If left without earwax, the inner parts of our ears are at risk of infections and other damaging substances.  Earwax’s sticky composition acts like a trap for microscopic debris.  It’s important to remember that this protective layer is the part of the body’s natural defense system.

  • Earwax Is Also a Moisturizer:

Without earwax, the outer ear and canal may be prone to being dry, flaky and itchy—just like our skin if we don’t drink enough water.  The protective coating ensures that our ear canals are less likely to be susceptible irritation and, ultimately, infection.

  • Earwax Repels Insects:

It's safe to say that no one wants a bug in his or her ear.  Fortunately, the scent of earwax is a natural repellent for most insects and the stickiness also helps trap the ones that try to sneak in. 

But What About Taking Care of My Ear Health?

While earwax is healthy for ear health, you can and should clean your ears!  Earwax build up and blockages can happen if one completely ignores ear care.  So here are a few things to keep in mind to keep your ears both clean and healthy:

Things to Avoid:

1) Cotton swabs, hairpins, or other sharp instruments:  Don’t use these to clean your ears, as they are major contributors to blockages because they can push earwax back into the canal.  Earwax impactions or blockages can contribute to conductive hearing loss when earwax is preventing sound from properly reach the inner ear.  Moreover, you risk puncturing your eardrum!

 

2) Ear Candling: The popular trend of “ear candling” to remove earwax has been proven to have no real benefits.  Also, there is no evidence that it removes earwax!  Ear candling can actually cause some serious damage like burns, wax blockages, punctured eardrums and other forms of injury both mild and severe. 

These are some of the don’ts for ear care but there are other ways to help keep your ears clean and healthy!  

Here are some ear cleaning tips we recommend:

1) A warm soapy washcloth is a gentle way to wash your ears.  Also, if you let warm water run into your ears the next time you’re in the shower, it can help loosen extra earwax.  If done every now and then, this can keep ears from having too much earwax build up. 

2) Over-the-counter ear cleaning kits are also available at pharmacies if you feel you need to do a more serious cleaning at home.  Be sure to read directions thoroughly and clean your ears carefully.  Most importantly, make sure your ears are healthy and that you don’t have any eardrum perforations.  For those with hearing aids, make sure all tubes and other hearing device pieces are fully removed.  Don’t know what ear cleaning kit to buy?  Talk to your pharmacist for a recommendation!

3) Scheduling an annual hearing test and check-up with us at Sound Hearing Group is the best way to monitor your ear health!  Getting your ears checked on an annual basis can track your hearing health.  We will also be able to check your ears for blockages and safely remove them.  

Even though the production of earwax is considered a gross bodily function to some, it has a very important purpose!  Contact us at Sound Hearing Group for more information today, and to schedule a hearing test. 

How to Enjoy the Holidays with Hearing Aids

how to enjoy holidays with hearing aids

Tips for those attending or hosting holiday events with hearing loss

In this month of holidays, festivities and celebrations, it is a great time to catch up with the loved ones we haven’t seen in a while. When we all get together in large groups, we know the noise levels can rise. For those of us who experience hearing loss and use hearing aids, these boisterous group gatherings can become overwhelming. 

Whether you are hosting a holiday party or you are a guest who experiences hearing loss, the tips below will help you enjoy your holidays to the fullest!

If You are Hosting a Holiday Gathering

Check-In with Your Guests

As you’re putting your guest list together, be sure to consider if there are any accessibility needs you’ll need to provide at your party. Studies have found that people with hearing loss disclose their needs differently. By asking your guests if there are any accessibility needs to consider, you’re opening up a channel of communication that will eliminate some stress for them. 

Consider the Set-Ups

For people who experience hearing loss, busy and noisy environments often make communication difficult. Even with the use of hearing aids, people with hearing loss may find it challenging to focus on conversations at the dinner table, especially when multiple people are speaking. 

When setting up the dining area, consider the use of a circular table, if possible. If you do not have a round table, consider setting up small tables in a circular or U-shaped setting. This will help your guests with hearing loss read lips and facial expressions so that they can stay in the loop with conversation. 

In other parts of your house, consider setting up the social gathering area with smaller circles of chairs. When there are alternate spaces to hang out and chat, socializing becomes more manageable for those with hearing loss. Having set-ups in various rooms of the house also ensures that the noise doesn’t occur in just one common area. 

Turn Down the Music

Music is an excellent way to create a festive and lively ambiance in your home during party time. However, when the music is too loud, it could hinder conversation, especially for guests with hearing loss! Keep an eye on the volume level. Another tip is to point the speakers away from your guests, so that music remains in the background and conversations are at the forefront of your gathering. 

If You are Attending as a Guest

Notify Your Hosts

As you’re getting ready to attend holiday parties this season, take a moment to notify your hosts of any accessibility needs you may have. This could help your hosts as they set up for the party and put together a seating chart for the dining table. 

Get a Tune-Up Before You Go!

You know your hearing aids help you connect to the world around you. Before you head out for the holidays, come visit us at Sound Hearing Group for a tune-up and maintenance check. We’ll make sure that your hearing aids are in excellent working order, so you don’t miss a single conversation with your loved ones!

Find a Quiet Space

Parties can get very loud, with multiple people speaking at once and music playing. If you find yourself overwhelmed, find a quieter space to have small group or one-on-one chats. You may move to another room of the house, or pull a few chairs to the side. A well-lit area is recommended, as you may be able to read your loved ones’ expressions and lips better, to stay in the loop with the conversation. 

Pick a Dinner Buddy

A big dinner table can be overwhelming, especially when people are passing food, talking over one another, and the silverware is clanking against the plates. Before sitting down, find a dinner buddy who will keep you in the loop of the conversation. Also, position yourself with your “better” hearing side, if you have one. Even with hearing aids, a dinner table can be a challenging listening situation! 

If You are Interacting with a Loved One with Hearing Loss

Did you know that 20% of Americans experience hearing loss? Chances are, someone you’re catching up this holiday season experiences hearing loss – especially if they are over the age of 65. Hearing loss greatly affects a person’s ability with communication. Even if they use hearing aids, the background noise in a space could make hearing more difficult. 

When interacting with a loved one with hearing loss, be patient! You may have to repeat yourself, and if you do, try to speak clearly. Also, keep in mind that hearing loss can be an alienating experience in big social settings. If you know your loved one experiences hearing loss, try to catch up one-on-one in a quiet corner. 

From all of us at Sound Hearing Group, we wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season and a happy New Year!

Improve your Safety with Hearing Aids

hearing aids and safety

Improve your Safety with Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are designed to help you hear. With advanced features that amplify sounds in a natural way, they improve your overall quality of life, make conversations easy, and are changing everything you thought you knew about hearing. But hearing aids do far more than that. A global study by EuroTrak in 2015 looked at hearing aids and everyday safety. They found that hearing aids improve safety, balance, and security. In fact, hearing aid wearers reported feeling much safer when wearing hearing aids.  

Safety in the Neighborhood

Safety when you’re about and about is very important. Driving, for example, can be very unsafe for everyone if the driver is not paying attention. If you drive with untreated hearing loss, no matter how alert you are you will be missing something. Hearing warning sounds like horns or sirens will keep you safe, and picking up on where sounds are coming from means you will know how to react. Without your hearing aids, it can be very difficult to figure out where the sounds are coming from. Hearing aids will help you notice the car speeding up behind you, hear the garbage truck around the next corner, or recognize that small jingle in the background as a cyclist turning left.

Even when walking or biking, wearing hearing aids can save your life. You can hear where cars are, and will be prepared for the unexpected. You can hear the bike bell on the path behind you, or the kids shouting at you when their ball is heading straight for your knee. Wearing hearing aids will keep both you and others safe.

Safety at Home

At home, you’re constantly surrounded by subtle, important sounds. The oven timer, the smoke alarm, the phone, the doorbell or even a trespasser are all soft sounds that are easy to miss, especially if you have the TV on full volume. Living with untreated hearing loss means you’ll be missing out on these important sounds, and that can be dangerous. If you miss the alarm and forget about the cookies in the oven for a few minutes, all you have is burnt cookies. If you forget about them all together, there’s a huge risk of fire. Without hearing aids, you won’t hear the fire alarm when you’re napping, and this could cost you your home or even your life. If there is an emergency, your hearing needs to be good enough that you can pick up the phone and call for help. Not being able to hear what’s said over the phone isn’t just about struggling to hear your daughter talk about the grandkids. If you can’t hear what’s being said to you over the phone, your safety is at risk.

It’s a Balancing Act

Living with untreated hearing loss puts you at a much higher risk of falls, accidents and hospitalizations. Hearing aids actually improve your balance, making you more stable on your feet. The cells that keep you steady are in your inner ear, so when these cells (and your hearing) are damaged, you lose your stability. Hearing aids will fix this! Losing your balance or falling is a huge safety risk, especially for seniors. When your ligaments and bones are older, a fall can set you back, and put you out of commission for weeks at a time. A fall can immobilize you, cause permanent damage, and take away your freedom. Studies show that without hearing aids, you’re 3 times more likely to fall. It’s not worth the risk!

Living with untreated hearing loss isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a huge safety hazard! Come see us at Sound Hearing Group today to get fitted for hearing aids in Sun City and protect yourself. Hearing aids will give you back your independence and peace of mind, all while keeping you safe.

 

Do’s and Don’ts with Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are a big investment for most users, so it is important to follow a few simple but essential steps when cleaning and caring for them. Proper care, handling, and maintenance can extend the efficiency and life of your hearing aids, so that you can continue to enjoy the benefits of a better listening experience for a long time to come.

Today’s hearing aids are often packed with powerful features that can help open up new worlds of listening previously not possible. For this reason, users of hearing aids are using them in a greater variety of environments and situations, putting the fragile electrical components at greater risk of damage from dirt, moisture, excess temperatures and chemicals.

Establishing good habits and practices with the care and maintenance of your hearing aids is critical to getting the most from your investment. The following is a compilation of do’s and don’ts for keeping your aids performing optimally.

Do’s

  • DO clean wax and debris from your hearing aids daily, preferably at night, before storing or recharging them, so that the aids have a chance to completely dry overnight. Use the accompanying instructions and tools to clean your aids. These tools often include a dry, soft cloth, an ear hook, wax pick and wire loop. Have your hearing professional show you how to use these tools.

  • DO store your hearing devices in the case provided, away from heating vents and sunlight. Often, your aids will come with a dehumidifier case…..use it. If your device batteries are rechargeable, place them in the charging station as directed. If not, be sure to turn the aids off, and open the battery compartment for storage.

  • DO wear your hearing aids during all waking hours, following your initial adjustment/break-in period. If your hearing aids are painful or uncomfortable, contact your hearing professional right away.

  • DO check to assure that your aids are working properly when you first insert them each day. Certain models have a little signal when turned on, but others don’t. To check, insert the aids and rub your hands together beside each ear…you should be able to hear the rubbing sound.

  • DO carry spare batteries, and replace them as soon as the low-battery alert sounds, if your aids have this feature.

  • DO keep your hearing aid batteries well away from small children and pets. Both children and pets tend to put everything in their mouths. Hearing aid batteries are very dangerous if swallowed, and can result in grave internal damage or death.

  • DO protect your hearing aids from hair spray, perfumes, oils, sweat, and all other forms of moisture. Be sure to remove them at the barber shop, hair salon, spa, or the gym before sweating, showering, or swimming. Take care outdoors when there is precipitation. In case of exposure to moisture or humidity, dry the battery contacts with a clean cotton swab. Never use a hair dryer to dry them.

  • DO remove your hearing aids for X-rays, CAT, PET and MRI scans, and other electromagnetic procedures.

  • DO call your hearing professional if you have any questions or concerns about the care, fit, or use of your hearing aids.

DON’Ts

  • DON’T sleep with your hearing aids still inserted. Always remove, clean, and place them in their case for overnight storage with the battery compartment open, unless rechargeable.

  • DON’T attempt to perform repairs on your hearing aids yourself. Opening the instrument case voids the warranty on most hearing instruments. See your hearing aid professional for anything but cleaning, drying, or changing batteries.

  • DON’T store your hearing aid batteries where they can be reached by children or pets. Swallowing a hearing aid battery is a true medical emergency that can result in grave injury or death.

  • DON’T store your batteries in the refrigerator.

  • DON’T store your hearing aids for an extended time with the batteries in. They can leak, corrode, and destroy the instrument.

  • DON’T allow your hearing aids to get wet. Do not leave them in the bathroom while showering or bathing; remove them for spa and hair services, and the like. Steam can quickly cause damage to your hearing aids.

  • DON’T wear your hearing aids while using a blow dryer – at home or while receiving salon or barber shop services. The high air flow can force moisture into the fragile interior components of the instrument.

  • DON’T expose your hearing aids to excess heat. Do not leave them in your car, in a sunny window, near a stove or radiator, heating vent, or any other place where they will be exposed to excess or prolonged heat.

Keep your hearing aids in tip-top condition with good daily habits and practices, and they will serve you well for many years to come.


 

Have questions about your hearing aids? Contact us at Sound Hearing Group.