Hearing loss affects the person who has it, everyone who interacts with them, how they walk, and their balance. It can also increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
A research team from Johns Hopkins revealed that mild hearing loss posed twice the risk for dementia, and anyone with moderate hearing loss was three times more likely to develop this condition. Those with severe hearing loss are five times more likely to form symptoms of dementia.
Hearing and Your General Health
Participants from the study who had hearing loss underwent brain scans. The results indicated that hearing loss might lead to a higher chance of experiencing brain atrophy. Isolation is common in those with difficulty with hearing, which can lead to anxiety, dementia, and depression. If you can’t hear very well, it’s more likely that you’ll withdraw from others and won’t participate in conversations as often as you used to. The combination of these issues can cause dementia.
When you experience various environments, your ears pick up subtle signals which reinforce your balancing abilities. Not being able to hear these cues can cause imbalance and falls. Processing sound can also be problematic, as listening fatigue may occur. This subconscious form of multitasking could prevent your brain’s ability to safely walk.
What are the Causes and Symptoms of Hearing Loss?
Some causes of hearing loss include:
If you notice trouble with hearing soft or high-pitched sounds, this is the earliest sign that you have damaged stereocilia - fragile hair cells which transmit sound waves into electrical signals in the ear.
Sounds that are considered soft include conversations that happen over a phone call or when there’s background noise in a noisy area like a restaurant or public park. Examples of high-pitched sounds can include women’s and children’s voices. Tinnitus is another sign of hearing loss.
4 Hearing Health and Hearing Aid Myths
There are no shortcomings if you have hearing loss and wear hearing aids. Most people who use them have found the devices to be beneficial. The ability to listen and talk to others who are patient enough to engage with you can change someone’s life. Time and perseverance are crucial during this stage.
Any range of hearing loss can happen to any person at any age. Few people use hearing aids due to various factors from lack of affordability to denial of their hearing problem. There is still some stigma to wearing hearing aids that prevent those who need them from obtaining a pair.
Myth #1: My hearing loss isn’t serious
The average person with hearing loss waits nearly 10 years before seeking help for their hearing loss. They may begin to notice that having conversations with others is becoming progressively more difficult during this time. They may also start to isolate themselves to avoid this issue, which can increase the risks of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and lead to poor overall health. Nobody but you can advocate for your health, communicate what’s wrong, and let healthcare providers know what needs to be improved.
Myth #2: Hearing aids are only for the elderly
Hearing loss can happen to anyone from a newborn to a senior citizen. Birth defects, noise-induced hearing loss, viruses, etc. can cause loss of hearing abilities. Some patients treat their hearing loss with hearing aids. Most older generations want to hide their hearing loss/hearing aids for different reasons. They may see it as a sign of aging, or a stigma that used to be associated with wearing hearing aids. The healthiest way to manage hearing loss is to figure out the best way to communicate. This can include wearing hearing aids, using an assistive listening device (ALD), utilizing a voice-to-text/caption app, using sign language, or any other form of communication. Maintaining a connection with others lets you have a healthier and happier brain.
Myth #3: Hearing aids are not stylish
Nearly everyone wears something in their ears these days. This can range from hearing aids to AirPods ™. Nobody does a double-take of your ears or notices something is in your ears. If they do, your hearing aids may be mistaken for earbuds.
Hearing aids come in different sizes and styles from completely-in-canal (CIC) to behind-the-ear (BTE). A professional fitting by a hearing instrument specialist will guarantee no feedback noises and a comfortable experience while donning them.
Myth #4: Hearing aids are tricky to use
With patience and proper guidance, adjusting to hearing aids during a trial period can be a smooth transition. Your hearing aid provider will help you through this adjustment process by giving demonstrations, training, and guidance with your devices.
If you notice any hearing loss and need your hearing tested, contact us at Northumberland Hearing Center for assistance.
Over 6 million Americans are impacted by Alzheimer’s. Raising awareness about this disease is important, even for younger generations. For Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s and dementia are always concerning. Those of a certain age are most likely worried about or know someone with some form of dementia.
Hearing Loss and Worsened Cognitive Health
Research that was published by the JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that individuals who do not receive treatment are at a 50 percent higher risk of developing dementia.
Hearing loss - and how it’s managed - can impact the way our minds function as we get older.
It is still uncertain as to why untreated hearing loss raises the risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s, but there are speculations.
1. Social withdrawal can be the result of hearing loss
The knowledge of how social isolation and feelings of loneliness increase the chance of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia isn’t news to experts in the field.
But did you know that social isolation and feelings of loneliness can get worse when you have untreated hearing loss? The struggle and inability to hear, or even getting the response “Nevermind” from people who are asked to repeat themselves, can lead to withdrawing from circumstances where you need to hear to participate.
2. Hearing loss overloads the brain
When you struggle to hear, the brain has to put extra effort into receiving and understanding what you are listening to. This takes away memory and thinking energy. Scientists call this the “cognitive load theory”.
In other words, a healthy brain starts with a limited amount of fuel. When hearing loss gets worse, you use more “fuel” to comprehend what you are hearing. As a result, you have less fuel to power you through simple tasks like the ability to remember things and make decisions.
3. The brain shrinks quicker when you have hearing loss
Hearing loss can lead to an advanced state of brain atrophy. As we age, the brain becomes smaller. Johns Hopkins researchers discovered every year, people with poor hearing lost more brain tissue than those with healthy hearing. This is most likely caused by an atrophied brain that did not receive enough stimulation.
Can Receiving Treatment for Hearing Loss Help keep the Brain Healthy?
There has not been any research that proves this theory, but two studies strongly suggest it can help.
In 2015, a 25-year study revealed that individuals who had self-reported hearing loss and were not regular hearing aid users had an increase in cognitive decline. Those with hearing loss and who did wear hearing aids regularly didn’t have any additional cognitive decline compared to their peers who had normal hearing abilities.
A study from 2017 - updated in 2020 - was just as hopeful. The Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care found that treating hearing loss from mid-life is one of the 12 things you can do that can help prevent, or slow down the onset of, dementia.
Researchers have also indicated that treating hearing loss could prevent nearly 9 percent of the 47 million cases of dementia across the globe.
What is the most Effective Treatment for Hearing Loss?
The aforementioned studies on the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline, are the kinds of awareness that we hope to inform readers about. It should encourage anyone who begins to notice any slight or significant amount of hearing loss to seek help immediately.
Wearing hearing aids is one of the most effective treatments for hearing loss. If you or a loved one notice any signs of hearing loss, please contact us at Northumberland Hearing Center to schedule an appointment.
Everyone knows that moisture is the kryptonite to any electronic. What most people may not be sure of is how much humidity an electronic device can handle.
Hearing aids, hearables (Airpods), and other small devices that are worn on our body, can be susceptible to moisture - which can harm the device. The human ear canal is one of the moistest regions of the body. Earwax and moisture can build up and overwhelm your electronics. Hair that surrounds your devices creates an environment that traps more humidity.
Have Your Electronics been Overexposed to Humidity?
The optimal ambient levels of humidity are 40-60%. This is the level that is ideal for the average human body, and for the majority of electronics. The issue at hand is when your devices are in cooler temperatures than their natural environment, condensation occurs, forming beads of water in them. If you bring an electronic device that was out in the cold and into a warmer setting, let the device adapt to the warmer temperature prior to sticking the plug into an electrical socket and switching it on. Portable devices are generally shielded from condensation, but you can still wait a few minutes before switching the devices on.
Humidity in any environment that surpasses 80% for a long period of time can lead to malfunctions for any devices, including hearing aids and hearables. This problem has seen some relief through the use of rechargeable technologies. Battery compartments are an area where moisture thrives. Rechargeable devices eliminate the need to have a battery compartment that must be left open overnight to help the moisture evaporate. The longer you have your device, the more likely it will eventually come in contact with moisture.
Use Redux to Eliminate Moisture
Redux is one of the latest technologies on hearable dehydration. It only takes 15 minutes for a Redux machine to remove 100% of moisture from one pair of hearing aids or hearables. This machine should be used immediately if your hearing devices have been in direct contact with water. It is also useful in your daily maintenance practices.
In thousands of tests, the Redux process has been proven to enhance the performance of hearing aids and hearables in 77% of cases. Moisture can render the circuitry, microphones, and speakers ineffective. Thoroughly drying out the devices will make them function as promised.
Not only does regular use of the Redux process help maintain your hearing aids so they work properly each day, but the hearing aids will also have a longer lifespan. Hearing aids typically last for 4-7 years. This depends on what climate you are regularly in, how often you use them (which should be every day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you get ready for bed), and how often you use the streaming feature. Drier climates help hearing aids last longer. Some people’s ears are dryer than others, or they don’t sweat as heavily as some people. No matter how much moisture you or your environment produce, daily use of the Redux process will freshen up your hearing aids. Generally, you’ll notice improvements in their function as soon as you remove them from the machine.
Even if your hearing aids are working without any problems, Redux can still help to maintain proper function. Regularly extracting moisture from your devices will reduce the chance of complications in the future.
Moisture is a common problem for hearing aids. The Redux process is done in just 15 minutes at Northumberland Hearing Center. Contact us today to start hearing better!
Everyday sounds - from a person’s voice to an engine sound on a motorcycle - are measured in decibels. They make up power, sound pressure, and voltage.
Calculating the Strength of Sound
Sound travels through currents of energy. It’s evaluated through amplitude and frequency.
Amplitude is recorded as decibels (dB), or the measurement of forcefulness or pressure in sound. The higher amount of amplitude there is in a sound, the louder it is. In other words, it’s the volume level.
Frequency is the measurement of sound vibrations every second, and it’s recorded using hertz (Hz). It’s connected to a tone’s low or high sound. For instance, the pitch of a child’s voice is found in the high-frequency range. Hearing loss among the elderly is typically in that frequency range.
Decibels Increase Exponentially
When decibels increase by 10, that means it’s 10 times louder. When they increase by 20, that means the sound is 100 times louder.
Familiar Sounds and their Decibels
To the average person, decibel measurements can’t be easily understood unless you regularly use and are familiar with a decibel meter app.
Hearing loss can happen after frequent or prolonged exposure to at least 70 dB.
The following noises can instantly cause permanent hearing loss after one close-range exposure:
150-160 dB: After a shotgun/firearm goes off
140 dB: A jet engine as it leaves a runway/fireworks
120 dB: Concerts or the siren on an emergency vehicle
The following noises can lead to permanent noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) after constant, extensive exposure:
110 dB: Rock concerts
105-130 dB: Sports events (depending on the arena/stadium’s size and style)
105 dB: Using earbuds or headphones to listen to music at the highest volume
100 dB: The engine of a running motorcycle
90 dB: Using electric power tools or a gas-powered lawn mower
80-90 dB: Heavy traffic
It’s common for those with untreated mild-to-moderate hearing loss to struggle with hearing these faint sounds:
70 dB: Vacuum cleaner
60 dB: An ordinary conversation with another person
50 dB: A conversation with a group of people
20 dB: Rustling leaves
10 dB: Breathing
Hearing loss measurement is based on the minimum range of decibels to which a person can listen. Someone with normal, healthy hearing can hear rustling leaves or water dripping from a faucet and into a sink or on the ground (~10 dB). A person who has mild hearing loss cannot hear that sound.
Frequency and pitch are other elements of hearing loss. Generally, high-pitched hearing loss is more prevalent than low-pitched hearing loss. Here are some combinations of decibel and frequency loss.
10-20 dB: Normal hearing ability
25-40 dB: Mild hearing loss
40-55 dB: Moderate hearing loss
55-69 dB: Moderately severe hearing loss
70-89 dB: Severe hearing loss
90-120 dB: Profound hearing loss
Determining whether Your Surroundings are Too Loud
If you find yourself in a space that seems too noisy and are concerned about your hearing, try the following:
Take Precautions, and be Extra Cautious if You Already Experience Hearing Loss.
Hearing aid users should be mindful of the noise levels of their environments. Hearing aids amplify sounds, so you are still at risk of noise exposure. You can talk to your hearing instrument specialist about various programmed settings to use on your hearing aids when going to different environments.
Hearing aids that are switched off should not be worn to try and protect your hearing. If they do not comfortably fit in your ear canal, they cannot obstruct harmful noise levels when switched off. You just won’t be able to hear sounds that you need/want to hear.
For future events that you plan to attend, or loud activities that you plan to participate in, discuss which hearing protection would work best for you at your next hearing appointment.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, please contact us at Northumberland Hearing Center.