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May is Better Hearing & Speech Month

Did you know that the month of May is officially Better Hearing & Speech Month? Since 1927, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) organizes initiatives during the month of May to help promote the fields of audiology and speech language pathology. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Connecting People” and promoting hearing health allows us to do just that!

Hearing is a critical sense we use to communicate with those around us. Hearing loss can make this task difficult. There is research that shows untreated hearing loss can be linked to social isolation, loneliness, and depression. These negative outcomes don’t have to happen. Here are 3 steps you can take to be proactive with your hearing health and stay connected with your loved ones:

  1. Recognize Signs of Hearing Loss: Since hearing loss tends to occur gradually in most people, sometimes changes in hearing aren’t noticed right away. Early signs of hearing loss can include turning the volume up on the television or phone, asking people to repeat what they say, or having trouble understanding conversations in noisy environments.
  2. Schedule a Hearing Evaluation: A hearing test with an audiologist can help determine if you have hearing loss and help you find out what you have been missing. Even if you feel your hearing problems are minimal, it is helpful to have a hearing evaluation as a baseline to compare if more significant changes happen in the future.
  3. Treat Your Hearing Loss: Once a comprehensive hearing test is done, treatment options can be discussed if hearing loss is present. This may include a recommendation for hearing aids. Some types of hearing loss may need to be addressed with medical procedures or surgical devices such as cochlear implants.

Join us as we celebrate Better Hearing & Speech Month! Don’t live another day in silence and say goodbye to isolation. Stay connected with the people in your life. Hearing well is an important step in living well, so call our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule an evaluation.

Hearing Loss and Travel

For individuals with hearing loss, traveling by plane can be a particularly stressful experience. As the summer months approach and we begin to make travel plans to see friends and family, keep the following tips in mind for a stress-free and enjoyable traveling experience.

-Sign up for e-mails from your airline in order to receive written communication regarding any travel changes leading up to your flight.

– Arrive to the airport early so you have plenty of time to communicate with the agents at the check-in desk. Let them know you have difficulty hearing and request that they speak slowly and, if possible, maintain eye contact for the added benefit of lip reading.  Or better yet, check-in online.

– When going through security you are allowed to keep your hearing aids, cochlear implant or BAHA processor on. Notify the TSA agent if you have an implantable hearing device such as a cochlear implant or a BAHA. You will likely be scanned with the security “wand” rather than go through the full body scanner. This will not cause any problems with your implant.

– Once through security make sure to find a TV monitor to visually confirm your gate number and boarding time. Wait at your gate within view of the boarding door so you don’t miss your boarding time. Often there will be a monitor to display the boarding group as they are called.

– You can safely use your hearing aids, cochlear implant or BAHA on an airplane. Notify the flight attendant that you have difficulty hearing and where your seat is located in case they need to provide important safety information during the flight.

– Be sure to pack extra disposable batteries if applicable or if your device is rechargeable be sure to pack your charger in your carry-on in the event your battery unexpectedly dies.

Overall, use visual and written confirmation of information when available and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Happy travels!

Hearing Loss in the Spotlight at the Oscars

Hearing loss and the Deaf community took center stage at the 94th Academy Awards on March 27. 2022. The movie ‘CODA’ was nominated for an won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The movie ‘CODA’ is about a normal hearing teenager whose parents are Deaf and how she navigates her dreams with supporting her family. The term CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adult(s) and refers to children who are hearing while their parents are Deaf. The lives of these children have generally not been portrayed on the big screen. About 90% of children born with a hearing loss are born to hearing parents while the rate of typically hearing children born to Deaf parents is less well known.

In addition to shining a spotlight on the Deaf community with its plot, two of the film’s main actors are Deaf. Troy Kotsur, who plays Frank Rossi, was born with hearing loss.  He and co-star, Marlee Matlin, who lost her hearing in childhood, use American Sign Language throughout the movie. Troy Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor for his role. He was the first Deaf male actor to receive an Academy Award nomination, and second deaf actor/actress to receive a nomincation (after Marlee Matlin’s nomination and win for Best Actress in 1986).

Although there are many critics of the movie, the fact that hearing loss is being represented in Hollywood is a long time coming.

CODA has been released by Apple+ Streaming service.

“CODA” cast celebrate landmark wins at the 2022 Academy Awards. From left: Eugenio Derbez, Siân Heder, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Emilia Jones, Daniel Durant, and Amy Forsyth. (Google Images)

Sudden Hearing Loss

Many types of hearing loss happen gradually over a period of months or years. Sometimes, hearing loss can occur suddenly without any warning. Sudden hearing loss often affects one ear and may be accompanied by tinnitus and/or vertigo. When hearing loss occurs suddenly, it is critical to receive treatment ASAP. Sudden hearing loss is considered a medical emergency due to the time sensitive nature of receiving treatment to restore hearing sensitivity.

According to the Clinical Practice Guideline for Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery, sudden sensorineural hearing loss affects 5 to 27 per 100,000 people annually (about 66,000 each year in the United States). Sudden sensorineural hearing losses are often idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. Only 10-15% of individuals who experience a sudden hearing loss have had the cause diagnosed. Some risk factors or causes have been identified as:
-Infection (bacterial or viral)
-Head trauma
-Autoimmune diseases 
-Inner ear disorders

Although the cause of a sudden sensorineural hearing loss may not be known, treatment of the loss is still possible. The Clinical Practice Guideline for Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery recommends the following:
-Audiometric evaluation within 14 days of symptom onset to confirm the diagnosis
-Oral and/or intratrympanic steroid therapy within 14 days of symptom onset
-MRI to rule out retrocochlear pathologies

Patients may recover some hearing within the first two weeks–the degree of recovery varies greatly patient to patient. Although there is limited evidence-based data, early intervention and treatment often results in greater recovery of hearing sensitivity. 

If you or someone you know experiences a sudden hearing loss, please call our office at 904-399-0350 as soon as possible. 

Why is there no cure for tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a symptom commonly described as hearing a ringing, buzzing, or static-like noise in the absence of external sounds. For some, it is intermittent, but for others, it is constant and significantly impacts quality of life. 

It is widely known that tinnitus has no cure, however, there are ways to help manage it. Here, we’re going to look at why we say there is no cure, and how your audiologist can help anyway.

WHY IS THERE NO CURE FOR TINNITUS?

The first reason why there’s no cure for tinnitus is that it’s a symptom, rather than a condition. Tinnitus doesn’t have any one cause, nor does it occur in one specific way. Rather, it describes a range of experiences that can be caused by a range of issues, such as hearing loss, ear infections, excess earwax, etc.

DOES TINNITUS EVER GO AWAY?

Every person’s experience with tinnitus is different. Tinnitus can sometimes go away if the underlying problem is dealt with. For instance, if the ear canal is clogged with earwax, a professional ear cleaning could get rid of the problem entirely. But that same treatment wouldn’t work on tinnitus that’s caused by other issues, such as inner-ear hearing loss.

Most commonly, people with tinnitus learn how to habituate to it. The noise becomes so common to their brain, and with the right training, it effectively filters it out. The sound isn’t really gone, but it’s much easier for them to perceive and focus beyond it, making it have less of an impact on their quality of life.

HOW WE CAN TREAT TINNITUS

There are still plenty of treatments that can help manage both the physical symptoms of tinnitus, as well as the impact it can have on your quality of life. Here are some of the treatments your audiologist may recommend to help you habituate: 

  • Hearing aids with masking features: Tinnitus and hearing loss often co-exist. A hearing aid may help treat the hearing loss, allowing the wearer to distract away from the tinnitus. Additional masking features can play a sound that’s more accommodating and pleasant than the tinnitus.
  • Sound machines: Also known as white noise machines, these are stand-alone devices often used at night for people whose tinnitus gets worse when they try to go to sleep. As with sound masking devices, their purpose is to make it easier to distract away from the tinnitus.
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy: A type of therapy that makes use of technology such as sound masking devices and sound machines. It involves re-training the brain to regard the tinnitus as meaningless, thereby allowing the brain to more easily block it out.

TAKE THE FIRST STEP IN MANAGING TINNITUS

There may not be a definitive cure for tinnitus, but there are plenty of ways your audiologist can help treat it. We will be glad to help you learn more about tinnitus and associated management strategies. Get in touch with our clinic at 904-399-0350.

Hearing Aid Technology Update: Phonak Virto Paradise

Phonak recently released a new in-the-ear hearing aid called the Virto Paradise. Virto Paradise is a custom product, made for your ears only. It offers enhanced features, including:

  • Improved sound quality over the previous generation of Phonak hearing aids (Phonak Marvel): This results in less listening effort needed to understand conversations. The Virto Paradise is also able to distinguish between speech and music when streaming audio from a Bluetooth device, resulting in a better sound experience.
  • Universal connectivity: The Virto Paradise with a size 312 battery has universal connectivity, meaning it is able to connect wirelessly to any device (smartphone, tablet, computer) that has Bluetooth capability. The hearing aids are also able to support connections to multiple devices at once.
  • Hands-free phone calls: Phone calls can be directly streamed from an iPhone or Android smartphone with Bluetooth capability to the Virto Paradise 312 hearing aids. You can answer phone calls with the push of a button on the hearing aids, even if your phone is on the other side of the room.
  • Adjustability: Virto Paradise 312 is compatible with the MyPhonak app, which can be used to adjust volume or program options in real time. The MyPhonak app allows you to personalize the sound of the hearing aids to your own preferences.
  • Sleek custom design: Available in a range of sizes and colors, there is a Virto Paradise option for everyone. A new offering is the black color, designed to resemble ear buds.

If you are interested in learning more about Phonak Virto Paradise or any of our other hearing aid options, contact our clinic at 904-399-0350 to schedule a consultation.

Hearing Loss in One Ear; What Are My Options?

Profound hearing loss in one ear with normal or near normal hearing in the other ear is referred to as Single Sided Deafness (SSD). This type of hearing loss can occur suddenly from a viral infection or it may occur gradually over time as a result of various ear disorders such as Menieres Disease. Whatever the cause, hearing with only one ear presents unique struggles and can often lead to a decreased quality of life.

Our bodies are designed with two ears for important reasons:

  • Improved ability to understand speech amongst competing noise such as talking with a family member while the television is on in the next room
  • Localization, or knowing where sound is coming from
  • Improved access to sound; the volume naturally increases when the brain hears with two ears so decreased volume makes it more difficult to detect sound around you
  • Easier listening: when one ear is doing all the listening this places a higher workload on the brain, leading to increased fatigue and can lead to less enjoyment in conversation and willingness to participate in social activities

Often, a hearing aid does little to improve the clarity of speech for those with SSD creating frustration for hearing aid users and their families. A CROS hearing aid may be a good option for those looking for awareness of sound on their deafened side but it will not address the difficulties listed above.

A cochlear implant is a device that bypasses the damaged portion of the inner ear responsible for stimulating the hearing nerve to deliver sound to the brain in a much more effective way. With time, the brain uses this information to understand speech.

The biggest barrier for those with SSD has historically been insurance coverage. Unfortunately, despite years of clinical and anecdotal research proving the benefits of a cochlear implant for those with SSD, many insurance companies still view a cochlear implant as an option only for people with profound hearing loss in both ears. Luckily, the cochlear implant manufactures are making strides in working towards more consistent coverage of cochlear implants for people with SSD. They are doing so by applying for and obtaining FDA approval.

Med El and most recently Cochlear Americas both have FDA approval for the use of cochlear implants as treatment for adults with profound hearing loss in one ear and normal to near normal hearing in the other ear. This is exciting progress as we work towards providing greater access to better hearing for those with SSD.

If you have profound hearing loss in one ear and would like to learn more about your options please give our office a call at 904-399-0350 to schedule an appointment.

New Standards for Safe Listening Levels

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “over 1 billion people aged 12 to 35 years are at risk to having permanent hearing damage due to exposure to loud music and other recreational noise.” Exposure to loud sounds can cause hearing loss and/or tinnitus, which can become permanent with prolonged exposure. This noise exposure can come in the form of concerts, personal audio players, recreational shooting, etc. Although the organization cannot stop someone from turning up their personal music too loud, there are recommendations that can be published to help combat excess noise in public venues.  At the moment, public venues generally do not have a limit on noise levels. The release of these recommendations was timed with World Hearing Day 2022, which took place on March 3.

The recommendations include the following for public venues:

  • Limiting sound levels to 100 dB.
  • Monitoring sound levels with appropriately calibrated equipment and trained personnel.
  • Optimizing venue acoustics and sound systems.
  • Making personal hearing protection available.
  • Offering access to quiet zones.
  • Providing training information to staff and audience members.

As audiologists, it is our job to educate our patients on the importance of protecting their hearing, especially our younger patients. Here are some ways you can protect your hearing:

  • keeping the volume down on personal audio devices
  • using well-fitted, and if possible, noise-cancelling earphones/headphones
  • wearing earplugs at noisy venues
  • getting regular hearing check-ups

References:

https://leader.pubs.asha.org/do/10.1044/2022-0302-who-safe-listenting-standards/full/

https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-who-releases-new-standard-to-tackle-rising-threat-of-hearing-loss

World Hearing Day

March 3 is World Hearing Day—a World Health Organization (WHO) based campaign to raise awareness to prevent hearing loss and to promote ear/hearing related healthcare. This year, we’re celebrating “To hear for life, listen with care!”

The WHO encourages everyone to practice safe listening by using ear protection in loud environments, educates on the importance of timely care following sudden hearing loss, and reminds our patients to maintain their annual audiologic evaluations. To learn more, visit https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-hearing-day/2022

Three-Time Olympic Medalist Opens Up About Her Son’s Experience with Cochlear Implants

Elana Meyers Taylor, who made headlines competing in her fourth Olympics in Beijing, recently opened up about parenting her young son, who was born with special needs.

The five-time Olympic medalist gave birth to her son Nico at the beginning of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. After receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome, her and her husband began prepping for the various therapies Nico would need once he left the hospital NICU, which included physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and even music therapy. He was eventually diagnosed with profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, for which he received cochlear implants shortly before the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

She spoke about the procedure with Olympics.com, saying, “When Nico received his cochlear implants, the major surgery exhausted us all but none more than Nico. It was quite a process for the surgery and recovery- but Nico handled it like a champ! Definitely had to miss a few training sessions for that, but I wouldn’t take back his ability to hear through cochlear implants for anything.”

Nico has made significant progress since his activation, with his mother noting “What’s really amazing is seeing how his language has blossomed, especially as he interacts with the US Bobsled team. He waves and laughs and smiles at our teammates, and he’s getting closer to speaking (outside of mama and dada which he already says) every day and I can’t help but be extremely thankful for the US team’s role in this.”

Read the entire article here: https://olympics.com/en/news/elana-meyers-taylor-blog