Hearing Loss Frequently Asked Questions
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Do I Need to Talk To An Audiologist?
By Dr. Jacki Reider, Board Certified Audiologist
Raise your hand if you’ve ever asked people to repeat themselves, experienced difficulty hearing in the presence of noise, or feel embarrassed because you misunderstand what others are saying? If your hand is in the air, then you need a hearing test! Other symptoms of hearing loss include a family history of hearing loss, a history of noise exposure or difficulty following conversations involving more than two people.
What Should I Do Now?
So, what’s the next step? First, find an Audiologist you can trust and feel comfortable with. Treating hearing loss is a process and it’s easier if your Audiologist makes the process as seamless as possible. Second, get to know your options. Your audiologist should educate you on your treatment choices and your treatment goals should be a collaboration between you and your Audiologist. Third, keep your family and friends involved in the treatment process. Hearing loss affects them too and realistic expectations should be understood by everyone. Finally, treating hearing loss means lifelong follow-up and care by your Audiologist. That is the essential to long-term success.
The Sooner You Check Your Hearing, The Better
The sooner hearing loss is diagnosed and treated, the more successful the treatment will be. Untreated hearing loss can affect many aspects of your everyday life, such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, and being socially withdrawn. Untreated hearing loss can not only affect your emotional health but if can affect your physical health as well. Some studies show that untreated hearing loss is linked to high blood pressure, heart health as well as cognitive decline. A recent study stated that those with an untreated hearing loss experience a 30 to 40 percent larger decline in thinking abilities compared to those with treated hearing loss or no hearing loss at all. Nobody wants to not hear the world around them, AND lose their cognitive function too!
If you raised your hand to any of the signs of hearing loss, schedule an audiological consultation today!
What are Cochlear Implants & How Do They Work?
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:
In order to become a cochlear implant candidate, a trial period with hearing aids programmed to your hearing loss is required. Let’s rephrase that…if hearing aids do not help you hear better due to severity of your hearing loss, the last resort is to explore sensorineural (cochlear implant) surgical options. Not to beat the dead horse, but…you MUST wear hearing aids before you can become a cochlear implant candidate.
A cochlear implant is an implanted electronic hearing device for severely to profoundly deaf adults and children who get little or no benefit from hearing aids. The implant electrically stimulates nerves inside the inner ear. Cochlear implants usually consist of 2 main components:
- The externally worn microphone, sound processor, and transmitter system which are connected by a magnet to the implanted receiver and electrode system.
- The implanted receiver and electrode system contains the electronic circuits that receive signals from the external system and send electrical currents to the inner ear.
A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify (acoustically) sounds so they may be detected by damaged ears. Cochlear implants directly stimulate (electromagnetically) the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn.
Candidacy of a cochlear implant requires both a surgical procedure and significant therapy to learn or relearn the sense of hearing. The decision to receive an implant should involve discussions with medical specialists, psychologists, and audiologists/speech pathologists. Just as with any kind of surgery, complications are always a risk factor. An additional consideration is learning to interpret the sounds created by an implant. This process takes time and practice as you are re-training the brain and auditory system to learn how to hear and process speech. Prior to implantation, all of these factors need to be considered.
What determines the success of cochlear implants?
- Duration of deafness – patients who have been deaf for a short time do better than those who have been deaf a long time.
- Age of deafness onset – those who have lost their hearing after speech and language has been developed have better success.
- Age of implantation – the younger you are implanted the better.
- Duration of implant usage – experience with the cochlear implant increases success.
- Health of cochlea – higher number of nerve (spiral ganglion) cells one has within the cochlea, the better.
For more information consult the National Institute of Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
5 Reasons Why Two Hearing Aids Work Better Than One
A very common question we get here in our Lake Oswego office is “do I need two hearing aids or one?” There are reasons why only one hearing aid may be recommended such as if you only have hearing loss in one ear, or if one ear is so bad that a one will not help on its own. Outside of this, the arguments for wearing two at a time are very strong and supported by numerous studies.
Here are five reasons why two hearing devices are better than one:
1. Better understanding of speech in background noise.
It is hard enough to hear people with a lot of background noise when you have great hearing. Imagine hearing in someone in background noise with bad hearing. Our brain uses sounds coming in from both sides to help focus on speech in difficult listening environments.
2. Better ability to tell where sounds are coming from (localization).
This is important for determining the origin of speech, as well as warning signals and other alerting sounds. We use both ears to tell the direction of sound.
3. Avoid deterioration of hearing in the unaided ear.
Wearing only one hearing device can deprive the other ear of stimulation and can cause it to further deteriorate.
4. Better reception of sounds from both sides.
With only one hearing aid, you will still miss a significant portion of the speech signal when someone is speaking to you from the unaided side.
5. Wearing two hearing aids is less tiring.
Just like trying to read with only one eye is more tiring because you find yourself straining and working harder, the same is true with hearing out of only one ear.
People simply cannot hear very well with only one ear. The bottom line is if both your ears can benefit from hearing technology, you will get much better results by wearing one in each ear. If you have any questions about two hearing devices compared to one, please let us know.
When it Comes to Noise, How Loud is too Loud?
I had a patient ask me the other day if I had seen what the Seahawks were planning to do during their home opener against the San Francisco 49rs. I told him I had not. He proceeded to tell me that they were going to attempt to break the record for the loudest stadium. I know that crowds can get pretty loud, but wasn’t quite sure exactly how loud so I looked it up.
Turns out the current world record for the loudest stadium recorded a decibel level of 131.76. WOW!!! When I read this, it was like a dentist hearing that someone is going to try and break the world record for the most candy eaten. Just how loud is 131.76 decibels? Well, noise at 80-85 decibels for long periods of time can cause hearing damage. So obviously a decibel level upwards of 131 makes me cringe.
Hearing this news of the Seahawks trying to break the world record got me thinking about other noises that people are around every day that could possibly cause hearing damage and just how loud is too loud.
Here are some common every day activities and places that produce noise:
- Lawnmower: 90 decibels
- Food processor: 95 decibels
- Jackhammer: 110 decibels
- Emergency vehicle siren: 115 decibels
- Jet engine take off: 140 decibels
- Safety airbag: 170 decibels
Now that we know how loud is too loud when it comes to noises, here are a few tips (especially for the fans who will be at the Seahawk game on September 15) to protect your hearing for every day noises.
- Wear hearing protection. These include earmuffs, over-the-counter earplugs, or custom made ear plugs from an audiologist.
- Avoidance. Avoid being in environments with loud noise if you do not have hearing protection.
- Limit ear phone volume. When listening to personal audio devices, don’t listen to them with the volume more than half way up. Custom made ear molds for the audio players allow you to hear the music better at a lower volume level. Move away from the sound system if the volume level is too loud.
- Look for products that advertise a lower noise level. These can be found on appliances and tools, as well as toys for children.
As an audiologist my job and passion is to educate people on hearing loss, help prevent hearing loss, and help people hear better if hearing loss has occurred. Hearing loss due to loud noises can happen to anyone at any age so remember to take care of your ears. They are the only two you have.
If you have any questions about noise levels and exactly how loud is too loud, please let me know.
Why Do Hearing Aids Cost So Much?
- Research and development
- Marketing efforts
- Employee salaries/practice overhead costs
- Hearing aid style
- Continuing education for hearing healthcare professionals
- Quality hearing devices that are custom made for each individual person
There have been several articles I have seen where people compare the cost of hearing aids to other electronic devices like smartphones or computers and wonder why they cost so much more than these other types of electronics. As mentioned above a quality hearing device is customized to each person’s hearing needs. No one person hears sound the same. If smartphones and computers had to be customized to each person, they would certainly cost more.
Much like other electronic devices, hearing technology has significantly advanced over the past few years; current hearing models are packed with the same technologies that make our cell phones, computers, and flat-screen TVs so efficient and sleek. Needless to say, these aren’t your grandmother’s hearing aids! Digital technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade…
In fact, every couple of years the top few hearing technology manufacturers such as Oticon, Starkey, Phonak, and Siemens invest millions of dollars to make improvements in hearing aid technology. This research and development effort has improved on things such as:
- Listening in background noise
- Binaural coordination
- Feedback control
- Noise management
- Bluetooth connectivity
When hearing device companies release new products to the public they must recoup research costs in order to secure funding for future advancements in technology. This is the same with any facet of electronics innovations. The difference with hearing aid technology is that fewer people are purchasing hearing aids in comparison to other types of electronics.
Let’s take a look at the smartphone market in the United States: A recent study showed that 114 million Americans were using smartphones in July 2012. The total population of the U.S. is about 313 million.
Now let’s take a look at how many people have and are using hearing technology: About 17 percent of the adults in the Unites States (about 53.2 million) report some degree of hearing loss. Only 1 in 5 of those people who could benefit from hearing devices actually has them (about 10.6 million). That is quite a small market compared to the smartphone market.
Yes, hearing aids can be expensive, but when fit properly and customized to an individual’s hearing needs, they are life changing.
If you have any questions about the cost of hearing technology or hearing devices in general please let us know. Thank You!!!