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Sounds of Spring

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When we think about spring time, a multitude of sounds come to mind. The soft chirping of birds are a sign that the long winter has come to an end. Spring showers cause tapping noises against windows and roofs. We are eager to mow our lawns and start home improvement projects using power tools. The soft springtime sounds can be missed by those with hearing loss, and there are sounds we also need to be aware of that may impact our hearing ability.
 

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, 1 in 10 Americans has a hearing loss that affects his or her ability to understand normal speech.  Although age-related hearing loss is the most common, exposure to excessive noise can damage hearing as well. It is important to recognize the noises around you and take necessary precautions to protect your ears.
 

How loud is too loud?
 

To avoid dangerous levels of sound, you first need to know what these levels are. Decibels (dB) is a measurement of sound intensity. The scale goes from 0 dB, softer than a whisper, to more than 180 dB, the noise of a rocket launch. It is recommended that you wear hearing protection at a noise level of 85 decibels.  The louder the sound, the shorter time you can be exposed to it before noise induced hearing loss may occur. 

Below are some decibel levels to keep in mind.
 

  • Whisper - 30 dB
  • Rain – 50 dB
  • Normal conversation, computer typing, sewing machine - 60 dB
  • Expressway traffic – 70 dB
  • Lawnmower, shop tools, truck traffic - 85 to 90 dB
  • Chainsaw, pneumatic drill, power saw – 100-110 dB
  • Sandblasting, loud rock concert, auto horn - 115 dB
  • Race car – 130 dB
  • Fireworks, jet engine takeoff – 150 dB
  • Shotgun – 170 dB

Tips for protecting your ears this season

Custom earplugs will provide the best protection as they are  made specifically for you.  The attenuation or reduction of harmful sound is achieved by sealing the ear but still providing sound you may require for communication.  Their benefits also include comfort and improved sound quality with less volume when using an iPod or your smartphone, as well as keeping water out of your ears when swimming.  You can purchase over-the-counter, disposable foam or silicone ear plugs at your local pharmacy, but be certain to find the right style and size to fit your ear.  

Hearing protection is applicable to all ages and needed for many occupations as well as activities people are involved in.  Visit one of the Hearing Doctors at Complete Hearing for your baseline hearing assessment, a determination of your hearing needs, and discuss your options for custom hearing protection.
 
Resources: 
The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Better Hearing Institute, Hearing Review, June 30, 2015

Hearing Health: Don’t Settle for One Good Ear

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Hearing loss is often gradual and we may begin to favor one ear over the other. Many patients will call this their “good ear.” It is important to note that hearing loss typically happens at the same rate in both ears. Having “one good ear” is a sign that a hearing evaluation is needed. True unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear) is typically something we are born with, caused by viral infections, or the result of serious head or ear trauma. It can also be a sign that the cause is beyond the ear itself.

When one ear is favored over the other, we begin to rely on that ear to do most of our hearing work, leading to the false impression that this preferred ear is offering our best possible hearing. Unfortunately, relying on one ear to carry our hearing causes fatigue and confusion, especially in challenging listening situations like crowds and noisy rooms. 

A recent study found that adults reliant on a single ear are at a disadvantage in all aspects of everyday listening and communication. Asymmetric hearing leads to challenges in our ability to recognize the direction of sounds, hear group conversation, and filtering out background noise. 

There is no need to struggle with a less than better hearing ear. The Audiologists at Complete Hearing can identify the cause of your perceived "better ear" and you get back to the conversation. 

Sources: Mayo Clinic, American Hearing Research Foundation 

 

Technology and Hearing Aids

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Hearing aid technology has changed dramatically in the past few years. Digital and wireless technology have brought hearing aid users better sound quality, feedback (whistle) control, highest rating moisture protection, Bluetooth technology, and more power in smaller devices. In addition, today’s hearing aids are small, smart, and simple to use.

The Doctors of Audiology at Complete Hearing are proud to be Lincoln’s only certified provider of the Phonak Lyric™, the world's only 100% invisible hearing aid. It delivers clear, natural sound. It is designed to be a discrete, comfortable solution that is worn deep inside your ear canal and provides you 24/7 hearing. With no batteries to change and no disruptions to your lifestyle, imagine how invisible, hassle-free hearing could change your life!

If you are looking for a wide range of hearing products that help your brain orientate to the sounds around you, distinguish speech in a noisy environment, and focus on the important sounds, Complete Hearing has a solution for you. Contact us today for an assessment and a one-on-one consultation with one of our doctors. We look forward to seeing you.

Tips for Healthy Ears in the New Year

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Resolve to have your best hearing this year! Hearing loss is too preventable to be as prevalent as it has become. Early diagnosis is key to finding solutions to slow hearing loss and prevent new hearing loss from occurring. These three tips can help you promote healthy ears in the new year!

Having your hearing checked regularly.
Make an appointment to come see us in 2018. A hearing screening should be part of your annual wellness routine. Hearing loss develops gradually and seeing us once a year can help you recognize the signs and take action to prevent further hearing loss. Remember, hearing loss is associated to other medical health concerns like depression and heart disease, and can also detract for your quality of life and relationships.

Use hearing protection around loud noises.
Approximately 18% of Americans have noise-induced hearing loss* because of loud work environments, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD.)  Noise that is loud enough that you have to shout so a nearby person can hear you can also create dangerous levels of noise for your ears. Ask one of our Doctors about custom fitted earplugs or other hearing safety devices that can allow you to hear while reducing harmful sound levels. 

Keep your ears dry.
Excessive moisture left in your ear can provide the perfect environment for bacteria to enter your ear canal, causing swimmer’s ear or other types of ear infections that can endanger your hearing. Towel off your ears after swimming or even bathing and showering. If there is water in your ear after that, tilt your head to the side and pull gently on your ear lobe to help the water find its way our of your ear canal.


Sources: National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDCD)

How To Clean Earwax

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Can earwax be a good thing?  Yes!  It helps your body eliminate dead skin cells and dirt. It also keeps the acidity of your ear canal balanced.  

Earwax is produced in the ear canal. Normally, wax dries up and falls away like dead skin cells. It is often easily removed with standard hygiene like showering and bathing. However, some people produce more wax than is necessary, which can lead to wax buildup. The longer the wax remains in the ear, the more difficult it is to remove. The likelihood of developing impacted earwax or hardened earwax can increase if you wear hearing aids.

If your ear does not migrate the wax out of your ear naturally, an over the counter ear drop will help soften and break up the wax. Be cautious about cleaning out earwax yourself. You should never stick anything in your ear with the intention of removing earwax— not even a cotton swab. Using a cotton swab can actually push the wax deeper inside where it can get stuck and cause more significant issues. Anything smaller than your elbow has the potential to damage the ear and its delicate structures.

If you feel as though ear wax may have built up and become impacted, call one of our audiologists. We can help remove hardened earwax with special tools, suction, or gentle irrigation procedures. Keeping your ears healthy is important to your overall health.

Smartphones and Hearing Aid Wearers

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Most people these days have a smartphone. Perhaps you’re even reading this on one. Far more than a simple phone, these digital devices are making a big impact in our daily lives. One example of this is the use of smartphones to support those with hearing loss.

From service apps to devices that connect your phone with your hearing aids, smartphones are providing communication resources that enhance not only your hearing but the functionality of your hearing aids as well. For example, the app Tap Tap is popular in the deaf community since it was designed to help hearing impaired people respond to their environment by alerting the user with vibrations and flashes when a loud noise has been made near them. Another example is The Ear Machineapp allows you to use your phone as a microphone for enhanced listening.

Here at Complete Hearing, we’ve seen hearing aid wearers especially benefit from a new hearing technology called Oticon Opn. It is designed to connect to your smartphone and stream sound directly to your ears. Talking on the phone, listening to music, watching TV, even just living your life is so much better with the Oticon Opn. You can control the volume and switch programs on your TV with your iPhone using just a tap of your finger.

The Oticon Opn also helps provide relief from tinnitus with Tinnitus SoundSupport. You can adjust the support you need from the app on your smart phone, which can help you take control of your tinnitus by playing a wide range of relief sounds like white noise and soothing ocean-like sounds. You can adjust the sounds until they give the relief wherever and whenever you need it. You can wirelessly stream alternative tinnitus relief options, such as your favorite music, audio books, podcasts, or even relaxation guides.

If you’re interested in how devices can work with your smartphone to improve your hearing and quality of life, schedule an appointment to demo a device out of the office at no cost or obligation.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Traveling with Hearing Loss

     

 

 

Whether by plane, train, or automobile, traveling with hearing loss can present unique challenges during the busiest travel time of the year. Don’t let hearing loss stop you from enjoying the experiences and adventures of travel. Here are a few helpful tips that can simplify traveling with hearing loss.

Before You Go

When you make reservations, many systems allow you to sign up for text or email alerts so you can get important announcements about delays on your phone the day you travel.

For accommodations, ask ahead about the availability of rooms that are equipped with technology like visual or vibrating alarms and notification devices.

What to Bring

If you are a hearing aid wearer, pack spare batteries, an extra charger, cleaning tools and any necessary replacement parts in your carry-on luggage. For international travel, make sure you have the correct power adapter or voltage converter. You may also consider packing your own vibrating alarm clock if you are staying with family/friends, or your if accommodations do not provide a wake up service.

Noisy Terminals and Stations

Communicating in hectic or loud situations that require the exchange of precise information can get very frustrating, even more so if it causes you to miss a connection and delays your travel. If asking people to repeat themselves is impractical, pack a pen and paper or plan to use a notepad app on your tablet or smartphone for a surefire way to exchange information quickly.

Hearing Aids and Security

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suggests notifying a security officer if you plan to wear your hearing equipment when passing through metal detectors or body scanners. They have created discrete notification cards that you can show the agent before screening begins. You can print your own notification card and learn more about special procedures when traveling with hearing conditions at TSA.gov.

Travel by Plane

When traveling alone, inform the airline and gate staff that you suffer from hearing loss and your preferred communication method at your first opportunity. You may have signed up for email or text alerts to stay informed on flight changes while making your reservations. If not, some airlines offer apps that you can download to keep informed on your flight’s status.

Once on board, request that the flight attendant or a fellow passenger inform you of any inflight announcements. Even though most flights ask you to turn off all electronic devices, you can keep your hearing equipment turned on without fear that they may interfere in the same manner as other devices.

Travel by Train

Train stops may not be visible from your seat.  Ask your seat partner to let you know when your destination is coming up. Notify train staff of your communication preferences so that they will inform you of any announcements.

Travel by Bus

Some bus lines have travel assistance departments that you can consult while planning your trip. At the terminal, communicate your hearing loss to ticket agents and request priority seating whenever possible so that you are able to see your stop. Aboard the bus, notify the driver or any other staff of your communication preferences so that they will inform you of any announcements during the trip.

Travel by Ship

When looking into travel through a cruise ship, inform the staff of your hearing loss and preferred communication method so they will inform you of any announcements. You might ask if the theaters have assisted-listening devices (ALDs), closed-captioning, or scripts. They may also provide sign language interpretation services on request or rooms with adaptive communication technology available.

Wherever your travels may take you, plan for success by planning ahead.  

Sources: AARP, TSA.gov

 

What to do about Itchy Ears

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Itching in the ear is a symptom of anything from dried wax to a serious infection. If gently using the pad of your finger does not satisfy the urge to itch, there might be more going on.

Itchy ears  caused by infections, psoriasis, dermatitis, allergies, and even a nervous habit are very common, but can lead to trauma to the ear canal if not properly addressed. Unfortunately, people with itchy ears use many "tools" to scratch the itch that should never be put into the ear (bobby pins, car keys, paper clips, toothpicks). Although it may produce temporary relief, it may cause abrasions to the ear canal.  

Don’t insert anything in your ear.
Never stick anything in your ear with the intention of scratching an itch — not even a cotton swab.  Anything smaller than your elbow has the potential to damage the ear and its structures.

Wax is good . . . most of the time.
Earwax helps your body eliminate dead skin cells and dirt, but a buildup of wax can make your ears itch. An over the counter ear drop designed to break up the wax might help. If not, your doctor can use special tools to safely remove the built-up wax. Again, never use a cotton swab in your ear canal. It can actually push the wax deeper inside where it can get stuck and cause more significant issues. 

Treat the symptom.
If it a simple itch from dried skin in the ear canal, ask your audiologist about over the counter drops that will help sooth the itch.  If the ear canal is infected with pain or you have drainage from the ear,  seek a medical doctor for a prescription if necessary.
Above all else, keep your ears healthy.  Nothing smaller than your elbow goes in your ears.

Hearing Loss in Public Places

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According to a study by John Hopkins University School of Medicine,  48 million, or 20.3% of all Americans, have hearing loss in at least one ear. With hearing loss being so common, many people are not even aware that their hearing is gradually declining. If you’re like them, you may be in a public space the first time you notice difficulty with your hearing. 

Hearing in public spaces can be challenging due to background noise; including traffic, music, or the mingling of several competing conversations and voices. Background noise makes it difficult to understand someone because the noise is louder than the voices you want to hear, or it distracts your attention from what people are saying. Filtering out the background noise in public spaces is difficult because it requires precise hearing from both ears.

As we age, tiny hair cells in our inner ears that translate sound vibration to our brain begin to gradually lose effectiveness or die altogether. It then becomes more difficult to hear speech or recognize sounds as clearly. While we can’t repair these cells, we can limit exposure to loud noises to limit further hearing loss.  If hearing loss is already impacting your life, talk with your doctor about a hearing aid that can manage the background noise and enhance speech or amplify sounds from the directions you need to hear. If your hearing loss becomes severe enough that a traditional hearing aid won't work, a cochlear implant may be recommended.  This device bypasses these damaged cells and stimulate the auditory nerve directly.  
 

Choose Strategies for Success

Communication strategies can be effective when used in conjunction with hearing aids, particularly in difficult listening environments. Choices can empower us to be more successful, despite the listening challenge with which we are presented:  

Choose a Plan for Success: Pick a quieter location at a less busy time.  Make reservations ahead of time to request quieter accommodations like a private room or corner table away from a kitchen or busy entrance. Look at the menu ahead of time online or call to ask about specials.

Choose a Successful Seat: Sit where there is a bright light source, so that the speakers’ faces are illuminated. Put those you want to her against a solid surface like a high back booth or wall.  It is best to have the noise sources behind you.

Choose a Successful Ambiance: The decor of an establishment can greatly influence the acoustics and sound transmission in an environment. For example, locations with carpet, plants, and sound absorbent materials on the walls can provide a better place to hear. Avoid dimly list places, or being seated in the middle of a restaurant where the sound is most likely to echo or be reverberate.  

Choose to Advocate for Yourself: Tell the people accompanying you and the staff  serving you that you are hard of hearing.  Ask that they speak slower, a bit louder, and face you directly when they talk. Ask staff to turn down loud music, or close blinds if the sun is in your eyes. Don’t feel like you have to pretend to hear better to have a good time - any conversation with you is worth having!

Choose Successful Expectations: Hearing in public space will not be as easy as hearing at home. People with good hearing have difficulty hearing in noisy places as well. Do all you can to have a successful listening experience.