Author Archives: shirley

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How Hearing Aids Help Keep Your Brain Fit

The single most important thing you can do to maintain brain fitness as you age is to stay mentally engaged through an active social life. Healthy hearing plays a central role in helping you to connect with the people and the world around you. When hearing loss interferes with your ability to engage socially, you are at greater risk of cognitive decline than people with normal hearing. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your hearing, keep your brain fit and slow down the accelerated cognitive decline linked to hearing loss.

Think brain first

What is the connection between hearing health and your brain? Hearing starts in the brain. Your brain and your ears work together, with the brain doing the heavy lifting. The brain processes and interprets the sounds your ears detect. It’s in your brain that sound waves become sounds you recognize. Your brain uses information from your two ears to orient you by figuring out which direction sound is coming from. These processes help you focus on conversation and separate out unwanted noise.

When you have hearing loss, the sound signals your brain receives from your ears is compromised. Your brain doesn’t get the sound information it needs to make sense of sound and has to exert more energy to fill in the gaps. The extra effort needed to keep up with conversations can leave you feeling tired and frustrated. You may begin to withdraw and avoid the social connections that are so important to brain health.

Avoid risks of untreated hearing loss

Many studies have shown a link between untreated hearing loss and isolation, depression and a host of other health issues. If you have hearing loss, you are also more likely to experience problems with thinking and remembering than older adults with normal hearing. Researchers have also found a correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. If you have hearing loss and don’t use hearing aids, you have a higher risk of accelerated cognitive decline.

Take action to address hearing loss

When you actively wear hearing aids to address hearing loss, you reduce your risk of cognitive decline. That is what researchers concluded in a major study involving nearly 4000 volunteers over a 25-year period. In the study, people with hearing loss who used hearing aids and were socially active experienced cognitive decline at a rate similar to those without hearing loss. The researchers believe that the ability to hear better helps improve mood, increase social interactions, and enable more participation in brain-stimulating activities. 

Wear your hearing aids every day

Hearing aids can only help you stay socially engaged if you keep them on your ears, not in the drawer. Take advantage of this easy and proven way to stimulate your brain. Like any exercise, the mental give-and-take of social interaction will help keep your brain fit and slow down the cognitive decline linked to hearing loss.

Don’t wait

Are people mumbling more than they used to? Are you having difficulty hearing conversations? Does your family complain about the volume on the TV? It may be time for a hearing check-up.
The simple act of scheduling an appointment with your local hearing care expert may be one of the important steps you take to keep your brain fit. If a hearing loss is detected, there are many modern, discreet hearing solutions available – far more than even 10 years ago. Today’s hearing solutions preserve as much natural sound and detail as possible so that your brain receives the information it needs to make sense of sound.

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Don’t fur-get your pets when it comes to hearing health.

Even though we’re not in the business of animal health – just like their people parents, these furry members of the family can experience hearing difficulties too, so we thought we’d share some tips with you.

Carry on reading to learn what you can do to make sure your pets have optimum hearing health.

Avoid excess noise

As one of the most preventable causes of hearing loss in humans, loud sounds can also be a problem for the beloved pets in your household. Excess noise can go hand in hand with hearing damage, anxiety, fear, and even trauma. Limiting noise exposure helps support their hearing health and overall wellness.  

Consider hearing protection

If hightailing it to a quieter space isn’t an option for your pooches during fireworks or other super-loud situations, hearing protection is another approach that could help. Earplugs and earmuffs made especially for pets help deaden intrusive sounds.  

Know the signs

If your pooch or kitty doesn’t react in the usual way to your voice, squeaky toys, the doorbell, or other sounds, hearing loss may be the culprit. Behaviours such as reduced activity, excess barking, loud meowing, and sound sleeping even through the loudest noises may also indicate a problem.  

Schedule regular check-ups

Comprehensive vet exams may include not only a check of your pet’s eyes, nose, mouth, legs, heart, skin, weight, and joints but also their ears. It’s a good time to discuss any changes you’ve noticed in their response to commands or other sounds and gain tips on proper nutrition for optimal hearing health.  

Address problems early

Early intervention on a suspected hearing condition could make the difference in your fur baby’s quality of life. Not all hearing loss is preventable for example, a congenital problem, irreversible damage from injury, or another challenge. In this case, working closely with your veterinarian may help moderate the problem.    

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5 reasons to love earwax Advanced Hearing

Let’s talk earwax. Here’s 5 reasons to love the stuff!

Let’s face it – earwax – from its texture to its appearance, just has a bad name. But if you delve in a little deeper, you’ll see that it is actually quite useful stuff, so we want to give credit where credit is due.

Here are five reasons we think you should give earwax a second chance.

1. Earwax protects your ear canal and eardrum

Like many things that seem pointless (eyelashes and nose hair, for example), earwax is actually important. It keeps dust, bacteria, and other microorganisms out of your body. A natural antimicrobial, earwax also keeps infection at bay should your ear canal sustain a scrape. Finally, it keeps your ear canal lubricated so it doesn’t become dry and itchy.  

2. Earwax is self-cleaning

Your ear canal has a slight incline. Your jaw’s motion during chewing and talking keeps your earwax from settling into your skin. Put the two together, and you have the perfect self-cleaning system: Your earwax slowly travels down your ear canal, where you can gently wipe it from your outer ear if necessary.  

3. Earwax isn’t even wax

The technical term for earwax is cerumen. It comprises a few different things: Secretions from two glands combine to line the inside of your ear canal; then dead hair, skin cells, dust, and the already mentioned microorganisms become trapped in this mixture. All of it together is cerumen.  

4. Earwax is a good sign

In general, having earwax is not the sign of poor hygiene some people think it is. Everyone produces earwax, and it serves several important purposes. You will know if your earwax becomes a problem, because you’ll experience hearing loss or develop discomfort in your ear canal.  

5. Cotton swabs are not the answer!

You can revel in crossing one more thing off your daily hygiene list: cotton swabs. Again, the ears are self-cleaning. On the rare occasion you suspect you have too much earwax, don’t stick anything hard in your ear, and don’t use ear candles. There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies that are as simple as a drop or two of a solution to break up the earwax, followed by flushing your ear canal gently with water. Regular use of cotton swabs strips your ear canal of important protection and can lead to impacted earwax.

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Burger or salad? How music volume impacts your decision…

Music can be the ultimate mood setter. Faster beats ignite excitement, while slower songs help one relax. And, believe it or not, there are studies that show that makes all the difference in what we order from restaurant menus.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Sciences finds the volume of ambient music has a systemic effect on consumers’ preferences for healthy vs. non-healthy foods. That’s because volume is proven to directly impact heart rate and arousal.

Softer music has a calming effect, making us more mindful of what we order. This typically results in healthier choices, such as a salad. Louder environments increase stimulation and stress, inspiring diners to crave a greasy cheeseburger and fries, or a pizza instead.

“Restaurants and supermarkets can use ambient music strategically to influence consumer buying behavior,” said Dipayan Biswas, PhD, marketing professor at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business.”

Dr. Biswas conducted the study at a café in Stockholm, Sweden, which played various genres of music in a loop separately at 55Db and 70Db. The menu items were coded as healthy, non-healthy and neutral, the category used for items like coffee or tea. During the experiment conducted over several hours across multiple days, researchers found 20% more restaurant patrons ordered something unhealthy when exposed to louder ambient music compared to those who dined during a quieter time.

These were the findings:

55Db (295 items sold)  vs  70Db (254 items sold)

Healthy – 32%  vs   Healthy – 25%

Non-healthy – 42%  vs   Non-healthy – 52%

Neutral – 26%  vs   Neutral – 23%

While previous studies have looked at varying aspects of ambience’s impact on food sales such as lighting, scent and décor, this is the first study to look specifically at how volume dictates healthy vs. non-healthy food choices. These findings allow restaurant managers to strategically manipulate music volume to influence sales.

So next time you’re sitting in a busy restaurant, bar or café, pay mind to the noise level of the background music and take back control of your health AND your wallet!

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Social isolation, loneliness, and hearing loss during COVID-19

With the South African government implementing quarantines and physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people with hearing loss may be at risk of heightened social isolation and loneliness.

In a recent systematic review, the authors concluded that “hearing loss was associated with a higher risk of loneliness and social isolation,” adding to the body of research connecting untreated hearing loss with increased risk of depression, dementia, and falls.

“It was not surprising to learn that numerous studies show a significant connection between hearing loss, loneliness, and social isolation,” said study co-author, Jonathan J. Suen, AuD, of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Even anecdotal assumptions about a link make sense because we know that hearing loss affects our communication patterns, which therefore can impact our relationships with others.”

Physical distancing and loneliness

One concern during quarantine is that the increased reliance on remote communication technologies may be difficult for people with hearing loss.

Individuals with hearing loss lose the ability to ‘put a voice with a face,’ and the sound distortion that occurs with e-conferencing technology makes it difficult to distinguish who is talking and what they are saying.

As a result, individuals with hearing loss risk (1) being disruptive if they ask for clarification, (2) being misinformed if they misinterpret speech content, and/or (3) being disengaged if they cope by avoiding active participation in these communication forums.

Closure of audiology offices without alternatives for device repairs and adjustments puts patients at risk of abruptly abandoning the use of their hearing aids or significantly decreasing their wearing time. This could create communication, safety, and health issues more akin to acute hearing loss.

As concerns of seclusion build as physical distancing mandates are fortified, social isolation does not necessarily lead to loneliness. It’s well established that loneliness and social isolation are distinct. A recently published National Academies consensus report reinforced this concept. While the report identified sensory impairments such as hearing loss as a risk factor for loneliness and social isolation among older adults, it also asserts that someone who is socially isolated may not necessarily feel lonely.

Indeed, the current public health mandates for quarantining and physical distancing impact everyone on varying levels, but , while we also know that older adults with an acquired hearing loss already have increased risks for experiencing loneliness and social isolation, we cannot say for sure how these measures may acutely affect these risks right now.

Still, patients with hearing loss do face unique concerns. This is especially true when it comes to the facial coverings, or masks, which have been recommended to help avoid transmitting the novel coronavirus to others, as they may also affect speech reading.

Speakers and listeners also need to practice effective communication strategies, such as repeating, rephrasing, and summarizing what was heard.

When someone with hearing loss does use facial coverings, it is important to be mindful about their ear-level devices. There’s always the risk of inadvertently knocking them loose and off of one’s ear(s) when removing facial coverings.

Recommendations for Audiologists

As the pandemic continues to demand physical distancing measures, how can audiology professionals help address increased loneliness among people with hearing loss?

While remote strategies will never completely replace face-to-face professional services, hearing providers can continue to safely meet many patients’ needs. The quality of relationships is often key and not necessarily just the quantity.

Hearing providers can proactively reach out to patients by using the most basic remote technology: the telephone. Consider calling patients to simply ask, ‘How are you? Is there anything I can do to help you?’ Let them know that you are available. In addition to addressing their hearing aid device issues, your phone call may help the social isolation and loneliness that people with hearing loss are disproportionately experiencing.

Audiologists can support clients and their families through thinking creatively about how they can generate and appropriately reinforce a quality professional relationship in their own circumstances and practice settings. Some approaches for showing that you’re a professional whom your clients can count on may involve a video/phone call or even just a note sent through the post sharing that you recognize the gravity of the current public health situation and that you are available to support their communication needs in a way that is aligned with safety precautions.”

Providing extra care for hearing aids and amplification devices is vital, particularly for patients who rely on these technologies to communicate and stay connected with their support system.

The ongoing pandemic has raised our consciousness around proper handwashing and overall infection control. In line with this increased concern for proper hygiene, audiologists can encourage patients to develop helpful habits such as wiping down hearing aids or other amplification devices daily. They can encourage patients to check their user manuals for specific instructions on appropriate cleaning methods. Patients must be reminded to avoid alcohol-based disinfectants since they can dry out the silicone piece that’s inserted into the ear canal and make them brittle over time.

Audiologists can also share tips with caretakers of patients with hearing loss, such as:

  • Keep yourself well through health and sanitation precautions.
  • Teach and encourage patients to better use video chatting technology.
  • For homebound elders, keep them involved in household projects and activities.
  • Plan with the elder on how to manage interruptions in their routines and the possibility of getting sick.

And lastly, simply just catching up with patients can go a long way.

Going back to basics, simply contacting clients and their families to share that they’re on your mind because you care about their well-being can be a powerful display of social solidarity and have a profoundly positive impact. In a collective sense, we could all benefit from a little bit of that solidarity right now. We’re hear for you!

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