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Hearing Loss and the Holidays

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Untreated hearing loss has been linked to loneliness, isolation, depression, and a general dissatisfaction with communication in personal relationships. The holidays have also been shown to increase depressive symptoms for many people, especially those experiencing declining health. The intersection of these two factors can often lead those experiencing a recent change to their hearing to be hit hard with holiday melancholy. 

Even when surrounded by the support of family and friends, people experiencing hearing loss may have an impaired ability to actively participate in conversations that lead to deeper connections. They may feel cut off and isolated when surrounded by the people that love them most. They might feel a sense of sadness or even embarrassment about their condition.

If you are experiencing hearing loss or suspect that a loved one may be experiencing difficulty hearing, there is hope for improving hearing in the demanding hearing scenarios presented by the holidays so that you can truly enjoy yourself. 

Wear The Right Hearing Aids
It may be tempting to not wear hearing aids or turn hearing aids off at noisy gatherings if you’ve experienced a hearing aid that simply makes all sounds louder. The right hearing aid can filter unwanted noise so you can focus on the conversation. Try a modern digital device that filters background noise, enhances speech, and amplifies sounds in a more natural way.

Appoint a Wingman
Recruit a person close to you to help you be more involved with conversations in environments or with people where you may struggle to hear. This person can repeat things you do not hear or understand, and fill you in on any of the details you may have missed.

Create a Conversation Corner
A cozy, quiet nook in the corner of a noisy room, away from the clamor of kitchens or other work spaces, can help eliminate distracting sounds. This refuge will allow you to focus on having meaningful conversations rather than filtering through a variety of noises. 

Get Centered
When it comes to seating yourself for dinner, choose a spot near the center of the table to maximize your chances of hearing the table’s conversation from a preferred angle. Put the noise behind you. The person you are talking with should have their back against a solid surface like a high back booth or a wall. Engage in conversation with the people sitting closest to you as people at the ends of a larger table may be inaudible. 

Have the Difficult Conversation
If you suspect a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, it can be a difficult conversation to have even outside of a challenging listening scenario. Approaching the topic before the holidays can help your concerns be heard and understood in a less threatening way. You can also help create a better listening environment during the party by engaging your loved one in quiet conversation, turning down any background music, and encouraging everyone to hold off on noisy activities like doing the dishes while trying to have meaningful conversation.

Hearing Loss During Cold & Flu Season

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Can the cold and flu season affect your hearing?

Head colds and congestion can cause fluid to build up in your sinuses and ears making hearing more difficult during the illness.

The most common type of hearing loss during a cold or the flu is a conductive hearing loss. The fluid in the middle ear makes it hard for the eardrum to vibrate and for sound waves to travel through the ear. Fluid buildup can decrease your ability to hear by 24 decibels making sound muffled or indistinct. This type of hearing loss is usually temporary, and your hearing will return in a time frame of a few days to a few weeks.  It is possible, however, in some cases for it to take months for your hearing to completely return to pre-illness levels.

Sometimes the congestion can lead to infection. This will require antibiotics to address the bacteria and help eliminate the fluid buildup. 

Tinnitus can also begin or increase when you have a head cold or the flu. Tinnitus can sound like thumping, pounding, or a high pitched squeal. 

Although it is rare, longstanding infectious fluid can lead to permanent, sensorineural hearing loss. Viral infections can also play a role in sudden sensorineural hearing loss where inflammation causes the blood supply to the ear to be disrupted. It is important to see a physician within the first 48 hours of experiencing a sudden hearing loss so steroid treatment can be initiated.
 
What to do:
1. Avoid getting sick. Wash hands often. Decrease time spent with people who might be sick.
2. Rest.
3. Consider a decongestant to alleviate some of the fluid buildup.
4. Drink lots of fluids.
5. Stay on top of changes. If things don't improve in 14  - 21 days or you're experiencing pain, make an appointment with your physician to see if there's anything more serious happening.

Your audiologist plays a vital role when changes in hearing occur.  Be sure to communicate your symptoms to them so that the appropriate management can be initiated.   


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Hearing and Your Marriage

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Hearing directly affects your relationships, and there's one relationship that can be affected more than any other, your marriage.

One of the biggest reasons for discord in marriage is miscommunication. We need quality communication in order to build intimacy in relationships and to solve problems or conflicts.

The person with hearing difficulties typically has a certain amount of stress from the beginning. Often, they are already feeling on edge and not their best, because they're missing out on activities or not catching all of the details in conversation. They feel increased anxiety, confusion, irritability, and could be experiencing depression. 

The spouse also can feel strain because they feel they are not being listened to. It can be frustrating to have to repeat yourself over and over or yell in order to be heard. When someone becomes defensive about their hearing difficulties or refuses to acknowledge the problem, it can build a lot of resentment. Spouses can also feel depression, frustration, and loneliness.

The ability to handle conflict or resolve tension is important in any relationship, but when one person struggles with the ability to communicate, that can put even more stress on the relationship.

Addressing and acknowledging the hearing loss will help pave the way for more effective communication. A big step will be to get tested and fitted for hearing devices, if needed. This will eliminate a lot of the stress that comes from miscommunication. It's also important to make sure that you're communicating in a well lit, low noise environment, especially for important conversations. Making sure that your lips can be read and your face seen will maximize your communication efforts.

Finally, talk to your audiologist. While they are not official marriage counselors, the doctors at Complete Hearing will give you additional communication tips to make sure that your conversations are as productive as possible. No one enjoys being misunderstood or not appreciated. Taking steps to work on your communication will help lay the groundwork for a happy and healthy relationship.

What Type of Hearing Aid is Right for You

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There are several different styles of hearing aids designed for a wide range of patients. Each one has different gain levels and offer different functionality.

Most hearing aids contain the same basic parts. They hold a small microphone which will help pick up the sounds in your environment. They also contain an amplifier or processor which helps enhance the sound that is received. Finally, the hearing aid contains a small speaker which delivers the sound down the ear canal. Each of these components is housed differently depending on the the style of the device chosen.

Whether it is a device that fits behind your ear or deep inside your ear canal, your audiologist will discuss the pros and cons to each style and find the best solution to meet your specific needs. 

Our Loud World

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While there are many causes of hearing loss, that which is caused or worsened by noise exposure is one of the most preventable. 

A decibel (dB) is a measure of sound. Sound is measured based on a scale. The lowest possible sound a human being can hear is measured at 0 dB, and the upper threshold for the human ear is 140 dB.

The sound of a falling leaf is about 10 dB.  40 dB is the sound of your living room when it's quiet. 75 dB is the sound of a busy restaurant during lunch time. Rock concerts typically register at 110 dB.

Anytime we are exposed to sounds over 85 dB, we are causing damage to the delicate structures of our inner ear. The louder the sound, the less time it takes for us to do serious damage. Eight hours of sounds over 90 dB can cause permanent damage. 

But how loud is our world on an every day basis? There are several apps for your smartphone out there that measure the decibel levels in various surroundings. One app you can try is the Decibel 10 app. We decided it take it around during our everyday lives to see exactly how loud things can be.

Decibel levels in an office building in downtown Lincoln typically hover around 60 dB. We then decided to listen to some music on the computer which brought the sound level up to 65 dB. Later in the afternoon, a stroll outside found the traffic in downtown Lincoln to vary from 80-90 dB. (Can you imagine working outdoors for 8 hours a day or in road construction?) The Mill, a coffee shop in the Haymarket, recorded decibel levels between 65-70 dB with only 20 people in side. Let's not forget Memorial Stadium. Decibel levels can run well over 111 dB during an average game.

According to the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, noises at a level of 100 dB without protection can damage your hearing after just 15 minutes.  

It is vital to protect your hearing when exposed to excessive noise. Ask one of our doctors if the noise levels in your life could be damaging your hearing and what type of hearing protection is best suited for your needs.

Hunting and Hearing Protection

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As a hunter, your hearing is essential in helping you enjoy the sport that you love. Hunting takes all of your senses to perform at high levels in order for you to be successful in the harvest. 

But while many people wear hearing protection at the range, they don't think about it for out in the field.

On average, a gun shot is 140 decibels, and that, in itself, can cause permanent damage to your hearing. One shot. And noise damage is cumulative. The more often you shoot, the more damage you are doing. 

But many hunters are resistant because of the sensation of traditional foam ear plugs. While offering noise suppression, traditional ear plugs make it difficult to truly be in tune with the world around you. That stopped-up feeling can make it be difficult to hear the wind or the whisper of movement.

The good news is that we've moved on quite a bit from the old foam ear plugs. 

The key benefit with modern custom hearing protection for hunting is that these devices still allow air flow while reducing the excess noise of a shotgun or rifle blast. These devices can take that 140 dbs (instant damage) and bring it down to a less damaging 95 dbs. (You'd have to listen to something at this volume for four hours to have anything damage your ears.)

Some custom hearing protection can actually even enhance your hearing out in the field. So not only can you reduce the extra loud sounds and protect your ears, but some devices can even pick up and amplify the sounds of the birds, the wind, or the brushing of a big buck up against a tree.

At Complete Hearing, we can mold your hunting hearing protection devices specifically for your particular set of ears, so you don't have to worry about them falling out and getting lost somewhere in the field. We can also monitor your hearing to make sure that you aren't causing damage and can enjoy many seasons for years to come.

Hunting is your passion. We want to make sure that you can enjoy it for as long as possible.
 

Hearing Loss and Dementia

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Studies show that by the time Americans reach their 70s, two thirds have some form of hearing loss. Unfortunately, their hearing loss often goes undetected and untreated. By the time they reach 85, one-third of Americans are affected by Alzheimer's disease. 

Statistics indicate that there is a possible relationship between aging, hearing loss, and dementia. 

Many studies have been conducted to explore the links, and while conclusive evidence has not yet been found that hearing loss is directly tied to dementia, it is highly correlated. This evidence indicates that this relationship should not be ignored.

In one study of cognitive decline over the period of several years, the rate of of decline was much steeper for those with hearing loss - severe enough to interfere with communication. In another study, people with moderate hearing loss were at triple the risk of developing dementia. And in an even further study, patients who were treated with hearing aids showed reduced signs of decline. All of these studies seem to indicate that being able to hear well has a direct impact on the cognitive skills of the patients.

Buy why?

Scientists believe that perhaps the resources used for cognitive functioning, rather than being used for concentration, memory or planning skills, are instead used to help the brain work harder to process sounds. With those resources being used to concentrate on hearing, it allows less opportunity for the brain to work on other processes.

A common phenomenon for both hearing loss and dementia is social isolation. This is often the case when people have difficulty following conversation or participating in a group. Scientists believe that participating in a social environment helps the brain stay engaged and active. By treating hearing loss with hearing devices, this will allow the patient to feel more comfortable in social settings and potentially reduce the risk of dementia. 

While there is no definitive link that one causes the other, what is known is how much life can be improved with the aid of hearing devices. The sooner one starts, the better. Keeping on top of cognitive functioning is important. It's wise to be able to hold onto what we have, and have it for as long as we can.

Oticon and iOS 11

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If you are an iPhone user and have recently upgraded to the latest operating system, iOS 11, you may need to make some adjustments in order for your phone to work the best with your Oticon hearing device.

First you will need to unpair your hearing aids from your phone.

Directions: 
1. SETTINGS
2. GENERAL - Make sure Bluetooth is on.
3. ACCESSIBILITY
4. HEARING DEVICES
5. Click on the screen where it says their NAME & DEVICE NAME
6. FORGET THIS DEVICE

To Re-pair your devices:

7. Press the back arrow to HEARING DEVICES. Turn HDs on/off. Wait until they turn back on and once again click on HEARING DEVICES. 
8. When a pop-up that asks if you want to pair the hearing device, click PAIR. It should happen twice if you are pairing two devices. 

A checkmark should appear next to your hearing aids if you are connected.

Click here for additional information. 

If you have questions or would like assistance, please contact our office or stop by during our walk-in hours over the lunch hour.

How to Encourage Someone to Have Their Hearing Tested

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If you have someone in your life who has shown signs of experiencing hearing loss, it's a good idea to get their hearing tested. Symptoms of hearing loss can be signs of additional undiagnosed medical conditions. The challenges are that people do not often realize that they are experiencing hearing issues. The first people to notice hearing challenges are their family members and close friends. The question then, of course, becomes how to encourage someone to get their hearing tested. Here are a few things to say to someone to encourage them to take that first step.

1. Annual hearing tests are for everyone. 

Hearing exams are no different than eye exams. Knowing your baseline is a great way to measure whether or not you experience changes. Hearing loss can often times happen gradually, and you may not notice changes. That is something an audiologist can monitor and stay on top of.

Maybe even schedule an appointment for yourself. Going with a friend always takes some of the pressure off and can make the person feel less anxious.

2. If you don't do it now, it will only get worse.

While hearing loss can't be reversed, in some instances it can be stopped or slowed with proper diagnosis and treatment. The longer someone goes without treatment, the degree of the hearing loss can worsen and cause further issues like isolation and depression.

3. Let them know how the hearing issues have been affecting you.

Many times people don't realize what an impact their untreated hearing loss has on the other people in their lives. If they realize that sometimes it's frustrating to have to repeat yourself over and over, or that not being understood is having an impact on your relationship, they may be more apt to get tested. 

4. Sometimes hearing aids aren't always the answer.

Some people who have been experience the signs of hearing loss or who struggle in certain situations actually have excess wax or other issues that do not require a hearing aid. Only your audiologist can determine what exactly is causing the hearing issues and can recommend the right treatment.

5. But if hearing loss is present, today's hearing aids are worlds apart from what they used to be.

Today's hearing devices come in many different sizes and styles depending on the patient's needs. Some are rechargeable devices that do not use traditional batteries. Some can connect with your smartphone and TV. Others are virtually invisible and aren't detectable at all. Hearing aids also come in many price ranges. With many financing plans available, there are options for everyone.

The key is getting people to get tested in the first place. We hope that the stigma of hearing loss and hearing aids can be eliminated as we start realizing how much hearing is a part of our overall health. We get our vision checked when we can't see. It's important that we treat our sense of hearing the same.

Coffee and Conversation

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At Complete Hearing, we want to make sure that you are as informed as possible about your hearing and your overall hearing health. Introducing, Coffee and Conversation, a monthly opportunity for you to find out more about educational topics concerning your hearing, hearing devices and how your hearing can affect your health and wellbeing.

Sessions will be held at Complete Hearing on the first Thursday of every month at 9:30 a.m. Because space is limited, we do ask that you make a reservation by calling us at 402.489.4418 or emailing hello@complete-hearing.com

We look forward to sharing with you and welcoming you to the conversation!
 

11/2: 10 Things to Know Before Buying a Hearing Aid

12/7: Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids: Is This a Good Solution?

1/4: Hearing Aid Maintenance

2/1: That Sound Inside My Head: Ringing, Buzzing, and Tinnitus

3/1: Hearing Protection

4/5: Caring for Those With Hearing Loss

5/3: Managing Wax Build Up Without Q-Tips

6/7: Summer Care For Your Hearing Aids

7/5: Healthy Habits to Fight Hearing Loss

8/2: Are Hearing Aids Right For Me?