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Choice Audiology

806 Mulberry Street

Loudon, TN US 37774

USA

865-324-0210

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Causes of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and How to Protect Your Hearing

 

“Are your hobbies noisy?”

“Yes, I do a lot of yard work, and I also enjoy woodworking. Will that affect my hearing?”

As an audiologist with 7 years of experience, I have tend to notice patterns in my audiograms. Noise-induced hearing loss is one of them. As you can see on the audiogram below, there is a dip near 4000 Hz. Audiologists refer to this type of hearing loss as a 4000 Hz notch. The noise-induced audiogram is at the side for reference.

You might have noise-induced hearing loss and not realize it.

Because noise-induced hearing loss develops slowly after many years of prolonged noise exposure, many people might not notice the change.

Many of my patients’ hearing loss began at a frequencies where they could still hear some speech sounds. Because of this, they might not have had difficulty understanding conversations at first. However, as exposure to noise continued over the years, their hearing worsened, severely lessening their ability to understand speech.

Common Types of Noise Exposure

The CDC provides a list of common sounds that will damage the inner ear when they are loud and prolonged. Here are a few: 

  • Gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers. They range about 80-85 decibels and can damage your hearing after 2 hours of constant exposure. 
  • Motorcycles. They range about 95 decibels and damage your hearing after about 50 minutes of exposure.
  • Sporting events. Events such as hockey playoffs or football games can reach about 100 decibels and damage your hearing within 15 minutes of exposure. When we do return to some normalcy and we are able to attend sporting events keep this in mind!
  • Personal listening devices. The maximum volume of a personal listening device can reach 105-110 and cause hearing loss in less than 5 minutes.

I’m sure you’ve participated in at least one item on the list without using hearing protection. Remember, if healthy hearing habits are not practiced on a routine basis, hearing loss can happen over time.

How To Prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Hearing loss resulting from noise is often preventable. The best ways to protect your hearing from noise damage are to:

  • Lower the volume on any personal listening devices.
  • Wear over-the-counter hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs. Make sure you are inserting your foam earplugs correctly by watching this tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eBpSctTXkY&feature=youtu.be
  • Contact our office to obtain a pair of custom hearing protection devices. You will be surprised by the functionality and durability of professionally made hearing protection. 
  • Obtain a baseline audiogram yearly from Dr. Tripp to identify shifts in your hearing that you may otherwise not notice. Having these checks done will also give you the opportunity to discuss more about your specific noise exposure and receive recommendations for your occupation or hobby. 

Why protecting your hearing is important 

The reason I wrote this article is to show you that loud environments endanger your hearing. Don’t be the person who disregards the warning, thinking; “It will be fine. It will not happen to me.” 

Despite your doubts, hearing protection is needed to preserve your hearing in noisy environments. Research has proven that wearing hearing protection will also: 

  • Decrease your chances of cognitive decline.
  • Decrease your chances of tinnitus.
  • Decrease your risk of social isolation and depression.

 

Tinnitus and Anxiety – How They Affect Each Other

During these challenging times, my patients’ overall mood has been somber. I see fewer smiles and more frustration. Many of you have expressed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your quality of life. Some of my patients have had to reschedule important procedures, others have lost insurance (making paying for medication difficult), and others are struggling to put food on the table.

Unfortunately, the ramifications of this pandemic will be long-lasting. It has caused a great deal of uncertainty and continues to cause unrest and anxiety. I know I am feeling it. Routines that used to bring comfort have seemed more monotonous or even like a burden. I know many people are feeling stressors from all sides, and stress can manifest itself in different ways.

During this pandemic, I have taken the role of educator in my community. I want to teach people about the added stress exacerbating your tinnitus (ringing in the ears). I have noticed many of my patients reporting a recent increase in tinnitus. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. Stress can cause many problems and exacerbate others.

Tinnitus, a known side effect of hearing loss, can be dealt with daily until stress levels rise and tinnitus becomes significantly worse. Besides hearing loss, stress and anxiety can also cause tinnitus.

If the patient is not considered a candidate for amplification after a thorough health history review and hearing evaluation, I counsel them regarding the snowball effect.

 

The Snowball Effect 

Tinnitus, if caused mostly by stress or anxiety, can become never-ending as the body reacts physically in other ways, causing additional problems such as insomnia, anxiety, and even depression. These other problems only intensify the tinnitus, trapping patients in a vicious cycle. To avoid this cycle, patients must find a way to relax and manage their symptoms instead of stressing and exacerbating them. Fortunately, individuals with tinnitus can follow the tips below to learn to control their stress before it causes worse problems.

 

Where Do We Start? During these times, we need to be creative! 

 1.  Schedule A Hearing Evaluation

Tinnitus and hearing loss usually go hand in hand. About 90% of my patients who are diagnosed with hearing loss also suffer from tinnitus. For some of them, the tinnitus is not bothersome. For others, it is debilitating. As a doctor of audiology, I am well versed in tinnitus and tinnitus treatment.

 

2.  Reevaluate Your Social Media Time

Check how much social media you are consuming. Ask yourself, “Am I using this to create meaningful connections and relax or is this causing my stress levels to rise?”

 

3.  Reach Out

If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or alone, reach out to a friend or family member. Chances are, they are feeling lonely too—especially during this time! Although expressing your feelings can seem scary, it is the first step to releasing your negative emotions. Reaching out to a mental health professional or your primary care physician is also a good idea since anxiety is sometimes associated with other mental health disorders.

 

4.  Exercise

One way to reduce stress is to simply exercise. Exercise has been proven to help individuals relax, forget about what is bothering them, and simply enjoy life. Another good option for reducing stress is to participate in yoga and meditation sessions or get a massage on a regular basis. 

 

In Summary 

Nobody wants to have tinnitus and those who have it already certainly don’t want their symptoms to worsen. If you or someone you know suffers from tinnitus, your first step should be to find a local audiologist. Dr. Tripp is a doctor of audiology who has 10 years of experience diagnosing and treating tinnitus. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call 865-229-6230.

How to Save Money on Hearing Aids

Two of the biggest misconceptions about hearing aids that people have is that they are all the same and that you should search for the best bargain you can find. These misconceptions are dangerous because they can guide you to devices that are cheaply made and can be less effective.

Even with a smaller budget, you can still afford reliable hearing aids—it is possible! Rather than letting misinformation discourage you, take the advice of a professional. My name is Rebekah Tripp, and I have my doctorate in audiology. Here are my tips for saving money on hearing aids.

Buy from a Trusted Source

Many patients have come to my office disappointed by a device they purchased from a large retailer or from a discounted service their insurance provided. Many times, patients do not familiarize themselves with the seller, and this leads them to trust products that may not be best for them.

For you to have success with your purchase, first learn about the company and the people who will be fitting you. At Choice Audiology, we always counsel patients about their hearing loss and whether hearing aids would benefit them.

You want to work with an audiologist that you and others trust—one who will focus on your needs rather than on making a sale. The last thing I want for you or your loved one is to purchase a hearing aid that is a waste of money.

“Don't buy off the TV or the internet,” says Laurel Christensen, chief audiology officer at GN Hearing, a hearing aid manufacturer. “This is a health issue, and you do need to see a professional.”

Maximize Your Benefits

You wouldn’t believe how many people have hearing aid benefits and don’t know about them. The amount of hearing aid benefits that go unused each year is monumental. As with most benefits, hearing aid insurance benefits don’t roll over even though you've paid the premiums on your insurance all year long. If you don’t use them by the end of the calendar year, they expire.

At Choice Audiology, we have a dedicated team of experts who will help you know and understand your benefits. Just give us a call!

Use HSA, FSA, and Financing Options

Not all insurance plans or providers offer hearing aid insurance, but if you have any HSA or FSA dollars set aside, we can help you use them efficiently with no out-of-pocket cost. At Choice Audiology, we also offer CareCredit and Allegro Leasing options to make the purchase of hearing aids easier to afford.

These options can save you some serious money since traditional loans or credit cards charge a high-interest rate!

Actively Care for Your Ears

Any audiologist will tell you that the best way to save money on hearing aids is to stay vigilant about your hearing health. Many people have noise-induced hearing loss and do not realize it because it develops slowly over time. Many of my patients’ hearing loss began at a frequency where they could still hear some speech sounds. Because of this, they might not have had difficulty understanding conversations at first. However, as exposure to noise continued over the years, their hearing worsened, severely lessening their ability to understand speech.

A hearing test is very affordable and is a great way to stay on top of your health and well-being. These tests may help us to catch hearing problems early. Even if you do not have hearing loss, obtaining a hearing evaluation can still benefit you because it gives you the opportunity to discuss your likelihood of needing hearing aids in the future, especially if you are a borderline hearing aid candidate.

Is it time for your next hearing test? Call us at 865-229-6230 to set up an appointment, or schedule it yourself right now on our website! I can’t wait to meet you!

Sources:
https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2019/save-money-on-hearing-aids.html

Is My Hearing Good For My Age?

Myth: Hearing loss is a direct result of the aging process.

By far, this is one of the most common myths my patients believe. They ask me, "Is my hearing normal for my age?" I reply, "Whether you're 5 or 105, you need to hear above 25 dB to hear all the sounds in normal speech. That standard does not change with age."

When patients ask those types of questions, they're sometimes implying that they don't need amplification because hearing loss is a normal part of life. Since others their age do not wear amplification, they assume that they, too, can go without it. "My hearing does not bother me," they say.

In my opinion, the excuse "It does not bother me" is something we tell ourselves to avoid the problem at hand. Rather than addressing the issue, we normalize hearing loss and file the problem away until it becomes a bigger issue—an issue that's too big and problematic to fix through amplification.

The truth is that any hearing loss that impedes your ability to understand speech is a BIG problem. The longer your hearing loss goes untreated, the harder adjusting to hearing using amplification will be.

Is AGE the only reason hearing loss occurs?

Cardiovascular Disease

An interesting study by Friedland and colleagues suggested that about 85% of diagnosed strokes were associated with individuals who had a certain type of hearing loss. As we know, our inner ears are extremely sensitive to blood flow. This study shows that vascular issues may affect both hearing and cardiovascular structures.

Diabetes

Another interesting study conducted by Horikawa et al showed that people with diabetes were two times more likely to develop hearing loss and that the association between hearing loss and diabetes was stronger among people younger than 60. Many researchers believe that high blood glucose levels may damage the vessels in the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss.

Ototoxic Medications

Over 200 prescriptions and over the counter medications that are known to be ototoxic (literally meaning "poisonous to the ears") are being sold on the market today. Some well-known ototoxic drugs include aspirin, quinine, loop diuretics, certain antibiotics, some anti-cancer drugs, and some anesthetics.

Point in Case: When people are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or diabetes, do they think, "Oh, well. This is normal for my age" and avoid treatment? Probably not. No matter your age, when any cardiovascular disease or diabetes is diagnosed, it should be treated, and so should your hearing loss.

How to ensure proper hearing health?

Since age isn't a direct link to hearing loss, you should put certain habits in place today to ensure healthy hearing in the future.

Healthy hearing is a lifelong commitment, similar to dental and ocular care. Most of us carry sunglasses and floss in our cars or purses and get our teeth and eyes checked routinely. However, many of us overlook using hearing protection and ignore hearing screenings. Here's how you can change your habits to protect your hearing:

Have your hearing screened. A hearing screening performed by someone like me, a doctor of audiology, is a great place to start.

Wear hearing protection. Hearing loss can be caused by loud noises over time when healthy hearing habits are not practiced on a routine basis.

Wear hearing aids, if needed. Hearing aids have improved drastically while I've been in practice. When fitted by a professional, the direct effects of hearing aids can be amazing. For example, I have witnessed patients with amplification become more socially active and less depressed.

Form healthy habits. Participating in routine checkups with your primary care physician and heeding their recommendations will lower your risk of developing comorbidities associated with hearing loss.

Surprising Stats

  • 1 in 5 teenagers have some type of hearing loss.
  • 1 in 14 generation Xers (ages 37-48) already have hearing loss
  • 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 49-68) have hearing loss
  • 1 in 3 people over the age of 60 have hearing loss

Finishing Thoughts

Overall, I hope this article helps you better understand that age is not always directly associated with hearing loss. I also hope that you never settle for a lesser quality of life based on your age.

Hearing loss is a treatable and sometimes preventable health condition. No matter your age, you should be able to hear and participate in conversations.

Through conversations like these, we are decreasing the stigmas associated with age and reducing cognitive decline, social isolation, and depression.

Don't ignore hearing loss; reach out to Dr. Rebekah Tripp for a complete picture of your hearing.

Sources:

Friedland DR, Cederberg C, Tarima S. Audiometric pattern as a predictor of cardiovascular status: Development of a model for assessment of risk. Laryngoscope. March 2009;119(3):473-486.

Horikawa C, Kodama S, Tanaka S, et al. Diabetes and risk of hearing impairment in adults: A meta-analysis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. January 2013;98(1):51-58.

Bisht, M., & Bist, S. S. (2011). Ototoxicity: the hidden menace. Indian journal of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery: official publication of the Association of Otolaryngologists of India, 63(3), 255-259. 
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12070-011-0151-8

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) :
https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing

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