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Can Surgery Correct Hearing Loss?

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Can surgery correct hearing loss?

Nearly 48 million Americans have some type of hearing loss that affects their ability to communicate effectively.  If you have hearing loss, you might wonder if there are surgeries that can restore your hearing.  The answer is dependent on the cause and/or location of your hearing loss.  

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is an obstruction or damage to the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from being conducted to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss may be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause.  Sometimes medical or surgical intervention can restore hearing.  Examples of causes of conductive hearing loss are wax in the ear canal or  an outer or middle ear infection.

Surgeries for Conductive Hearing Loss

PE tubes – These are placed into the eardrum to ventilate and drain the middle ear and are most commonly used for chronic middle ear infections. This happens most often in children, but many adults may also experience ear infections or pressure in the ear that benefit from ventilating the middle ear space.

Stapedectomy - This surgical procedure is used for Otosclerosis and implants a prosthetic device designed to bypass abnormal hardening of the bone tissue in the middle ear.  

Just as atherosclerosis causes hardening of the arteries, otosclerosis causes an abnormal hardening of the bone tissue in the middle ear. According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), this condition affects as many as three million Americans and typically happens when the stapes bone located in the middle ear becomes stuck in place. When this occurs, the bone is unable to vibrate and send sound through the ear, resulting in impaired hearing.

Middle Ear Implant
A middle ear implant system is an alternative to conventional hearing devices. It is designed for individuals who cannot use hearing aids for medical reasons or who are dissatisfied with other hearing devices.  They may be appropriate for Single-Sided Deafness, Skin Allergies, Draining Ears, Chronic Ear Infections

Sensorineural Hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss means the hair cells of the inner ear or the nerve pathways that connect the inner ear to the brain have been damaged. These hair cells, located in the cochlea, are responsible for translating the noise your outer ear collects into electrical impulses and then sending them along the auditory nerve for the brain to interpret as recognizable sound.  

If you’ve been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss, you're in good company. Also sometimes called "nerve deafness," this is the most common type of hearing loss affecting adults, and it can occur for a variety of reasons --  aging (presbycusis), exposure to sudden or persistently loud noise, disease and infections, head or acoustic trauma, tumors or medications.

Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent. No surgery can repair damage to the sensory hair cells themselves, but if your hearing loss is severe enough, there is a surgery that can bypass the damaged cells.

Cochlear implants

Adults and children with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss may be able to have partial hearing restored with a cochlear implant. Unlike a traditional hearing aid which amplifies sound, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged part of the auditory system to directly stimulate the auditory nerve.

Mixed Hearing Loss

This type of loss affects both the middle ear and inner ear.  Surgical options will depend on the amount of improvement that can be obtained and if hearing aids will still be needed after surgery.

Currently, surgeries for hearing loss can only correct very specific losses while people with the most common types still benefit the most from simply wearing hearing aids.

Today's devices are sleek, discreet and technologically advanced – and no invasive surgery required! If you have hearing loss, see your audiologist regularly for hearing evaluations. If hearing aids are the best option for you, don’t delay. Complete Hearing has a solution that will fit your lifestyle, personal needs and your budget. Call us today for an appointment.

 

Small Hearing Aids – Are They for Me?

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You’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss and hearing aids are recommended by your audiologist. Thanks to today’s advancing technology, you have a variety of styles and features to choose from, including some that are virtually invisible, rechargeable or can connect to your phone. Which one should you choose?

I want something discrete! 

Today's hearing aid manufacturers offer many small hearing aid options.

The most discreet small hearing aids include custom styles like completely in the canals (CIC) and invisible in the canals (IIC). Both of these types fit deep inside the ear canal, hidden in the contours of the ear. Lyric is another IIC that is extended wear, staying in your ear for months at a time with no battery to change and shares the invisibility feature you may be after.

Although social stigmas may have you leaning toward smaller, more discreet custom devices, these models aren’t suitable for everyone. How do you know if they are right for you? Here are a few pros and cons for you to consider.

Pros

Attractive and discreet

  • Invisibility.
  • No external tubes or wires.
  • Custom molded and comfortable.

Functionality

  • Easier to use telephones and headsets.
  • Less likely to pick up wind noise when you're enjoying outdoor activities.
  • They need less power to transmit sound due to their location in the ear, which means they are less likely to produce feedback (whistling).

Cons

Not a good fit for all

  • Not suitable for people with severe, more advanced hearing loss. They work best for mild to moderate losses. 
  • Don’t fit everyone’s ear canal. Those with short or differently-shaped ear canals have more difficulty wearing them as the manufacturer may not be able to make them as small as anticipated.

Small size means some trade-offs

  • If device uses batteries, they must be changed more often. According to a June 2016 article in HearingTracker.com, batteries in BTE hearing aids last between 110-135 hours while those powering smaller devices last between 61-98 hours.
  • Limited features. There isn’t enough room for directional microphones, one of the most helpful advanced technologies for hearing in background noise. 
  • Controls are harder to see and feel, and the batteries can be tricky to replace -- so small hearing aids aren’t suitable for those with vision and/or dexterity problems

What if small hearing aids aren't right for you?

If your audiologist discourages you from wearing small custom hearing aids, it doesn't mean you are destined for devices that won't suit your style.

Small hearing aids aren't the only types that can be super discreet. Inconspicuous behind the ear hearing aids called receiver in the ear (RITE) or receiver in the canal (RIC) have surged in popularity in recent years in part because they are extremely discreet when worn. They are coupled to the ear canal with a very thin, clear tube that will easily go unnoticed. The colors of the devices are designed to blend with most any hair or skin color. 

Talk to one of our Doctors of Audiology

If this all sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. This isn’t a decision you have to make on your own. Your lifestyle, listening environments and budgetary concerns will help determine which hearing devices are best suited for your hearing loss.  Get a personalized plan at Complete Hearing.

It all begins with a hearing evaluation and consultation.   Call us Today!

Contributions by Debbie Clason, Healthy Hearing & Dr. Sandra Miler

There’s an App for That!

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Using Your Smartphone to Measure Noise Levels

People of all ages and all walks of life are sometimes at risk for exposure to harmful noises that damage the sensitive structure of the inner ear and can cause temporary or permanent noise-induced hearing loss(NIHL).

Excessive noise from activities like live concerts, working with shop tools, operating lawn mowers, and even things you might not expect like attending parades and watching fireworks can damage these delicate hair cells. Noise exposure can result in annoying tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing loss

But, how do you know when loud is too loud?

With the help of modern technology we can now easily measure the intensity or decibel level of sounds around us. Below are some Smartphone decibel meter apps – they warn users when entering into situations that reach noise levels high enough to contribute to potential hearing loss. 

Decibel X

iOS and Android

iTunes rating: 4.5 stars

Google Play rating: 3.8 stars

FREE

This highly-rated, free app turns your smartphone into a pre-calibrated, accurate and easily portable sound level meter. It has a standard measurement range from 30 to 130 dB. It boasts many features for measuring the intensity of sound around you built into a nicely-designed, intuitive user interface. 

 

Sound Meter

Android

Google Play rating: 4.7 stars

FREE

The Sound Meter app can calibrate itself for your specific device. The interface features a gauge for displaying sound intensity levels as well as green, yellow and red indicators for safety. A potential limitation is that because maximum decibel levels are limited by some devices, you may not be able to measure sounds over 90 dB. This app is a good auxiliary option for most uses, but is not recommended if you need to measure very high noise levels. 

Too Noisy Pro

iOS and Android

iTunes rating: 4 stars

Google Play rating: 3.6 stars

$3.99

This easy-to-use app is built specifically for measuring noise levels in environments where there are groups of children. Teachers can use the Too Noisy app to keep watch on the sound levels in the classrooms and control the noise level. The interface is simple and designed so children will respond to it. Teachers and other childcare workers can adjust the sensitivity of the app, too. 

NIOSH Sound Level Meter

iOS

iTunes rating: 4.5 stars

FREE

Developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), this app is exclusive to iPhone and is a useful tool for anyone working in noisy environments. It can raise employees' awareness about the noise levels in their workplace, help them make informed decisions about their hearing health and determine when hearing protection is necessary.

 

The mobile nature of the smartphone makes it easy to take control of your health and hearing wherever you are and avoid activities or locations that may be detrimental to healthy hearing. 

If you think you may already have been exposed to too much noise and are experiencing tinnitus or hearing loss, schedule an appointment with one of our Doctors of Audiology for a hearing assessment.  We want to ensure you maintain optimum hearing for a lifetime.

Brande Plotnick, MS, MBA, Healthy Hearing
Sandra Miller, Au.D, Complete Hearing

 

Medications & Hearing Loss – Is there a link?

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Ototoxicity is the term health professionals use for medications and supplements that cause hearing loss. Although physician-prescribed medications may be effective at treating specific illnesses, some of them damage the delicate hair cells in the inner ear responsible for hearing and balance in the process.

Hearing loss from ototoxicity can be temporary or permanent. The risk for ototoxicity increases as the drug accumulates in your body. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), there are currently more than 200 chemicals and medications that cause hearing loss and balance disorders.

Antibiotics

While these medications effectively fight infections, a specific classification of antibiotics known as aminoglycosides are considered to have hearing loss as a side effect. These are mostly prescribed to treat serious infections such as meningitis when other antibiotics haven’t worked. Research scientists from the Oregon Hearing Research Center at Oregon Health and Science University believe that’s because these drugs are transported into the inner ear by a nutrient pathway that usually blocks potentially harmful elements in the blood from damaging its delicate hair cells. 

Chemotherapy drugs

Cisplatin, a platinum-based chemotherapy, is often used to treat bladder, ovarian, and testicular cancers that have spread, as well as some other forms of cancer. Hearing loss side effects for this medication range from tinnitus and vertigo to temporary and permanent hearing loss. Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University, who discovered a strong correlation between platinum-based chemotherapy and hearing loss, are currently developing ways to deliver chemotherapy to tumors without damaging hearing health.

Pain relievers

Although aspirin, acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are effective at reducing the inflammation that causes aches and pains, a study published in the March 2010 issue of The American Journal of Medicine suggests that regular use of these medications can cause hearing loss. The study, conducted by scientists at Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Vanderbilt University and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary found an increased risk of hearing loss in men younger than 60 who regularly used NSAIDs. If you’re taking daily aspirin recommended by your physician, ask about the hearing loss side effects of the medication.

Diuretics

Physicians prescribe diuretics to treat a variety of health conditions, including edema, glaucoma and high blood pressure. Sometimes these drugs cause temporary hearing loss and tinnitus, although the reasons why are not well-understood.

Be Proactive

Just because you need to take one of these medications doesn't always mean you will lose your sense of hearing. Everyone reacts to medications differently, and side effects can range from temporary ringing in the ear or hearing loss, to permanent hearing damage. It's best to be prepared with questions for your physician about hearing concerns. If they are prescribing these medications, it's because you have a health condition that requires it and your hearing health is a secondary concern.

Schedule a baseline hearing test with one of our Doctors of Audiology before taking ototoxic medications.  We will work with your physician to ensure the toxicity, if any, is identified and limited.

Contributions by Brande Plotnick, MS, MBA, Healthy Hearing & Dr. Sandra Miller, AuD

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.