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Why is Hearing in Noise So Difficult?

One of the most commonly reported challenges people face with their hearing is understanding speech in background noise. Noise can vary depending on the environment. Sometimes it might be multiple people talking at once, like at a party. It may also be ambient noise such as music from a speaker or dishes clanking at a restaurant. Regardless of the type of sound, extra background noise makes it more difficult to understand conversations with others.

Many people don’t realize that a lot of our hearing ability comes not just from what the ears pick up, but how our brain processes the sound information from our ears. Hearing in noisy places is more challenging for a couple of reasons:

  • Audibility – we have to be able to hear all the sounds of speech in order to easily understand it. Extra noise can overpower soft speech sounds.
  • Focus – noisy environments tend to be busier. If there are distractions present, it decreases our ability to concentrate as effectively as we can in quiet.
  • Memory – in order to understand speech, our brain has to process sound and remember the information. Busier environments compete for the brain’s attention in focusing and remembering speech.

The good news is that hearing devices can address the concerns listed above and make it easier to understand in noisy places. Although in most cases it is not possible to completely eliminate all background noise, hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can make a big improvement in speech understanding, both in quiet and in noise.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can optimize your hearing in noisy environments, contact our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule a hearing evaluation.

Hearing Aids Make an Appearance on Team USA

Although COVID took a larger than expected spotlight during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, pushing the games back a full year into 2021, for audiologists, there was a special player on Team USA that caught our attention.

That player is David Smith, the 36 year old middle blocker of Team USA Men’s Volleyball. Including Tokyo, David has seen three Olympic games. With his 6-foot-7 stature, you may not be able to see, but David Smith wears hearing aids.  David was born with a severe to profound hearing loss and worn hearing aids since the age of 3. He currently wears a set of Oticon Dynamo hearing aids.  David’s hearing aids are powerful enough that he can hear many things, including the softer voices of his children, but he also relies heavily on lip reading, especially on the noisy volleyball court.

In a recent interview, David thanks his parents for keeping him involved in sports. He states that his hearing loss was less of a barrier in areas where he could watch and learn from others. He says “it was definitely a confidence booster”. Even as he plays overseas, he has become a role model for children with hearing loss, referencing a few children who wore his jersey at every game they attended. David hopes others with hearing loss see that they can achieve anything they want, even making it to the world’s biggest sporting event.

David Smith (Source: https://www.teamusa.org/usa-volleyball/athletes/David-Smith.org)

More information about David can be found at the links below:

How Does Sound Therapy Help My Tinnitus?

Key Concepts of Sound Therapy:

  1. The sound must be relaxing and pleasing to the listener
  2. The sound should be non-significant (nature sounds or white noise)—music with or without vocals has a pattern that tends to draw the brain’s attention which prevents habituation
  3. The sound must be played a volume level softer than the tinnitus—the brain cannot habituate to something it cannot hear

Sound therapy is used in all tinnitus management strategies to help habituate our brains to the presence of tinnitus. When tinnitus becomes noticeable and annoying, our brains tend to perseverate on the sound and pushes us into fight or flight mode, which ultimately makes our tinnitus more bothersome and heightens the fight or flight response further. This cycle often continues into a downward spiral. One of the best ways to stop the cycle is to teach our brain the tinnitus is non-threatening. For example, if you moved into a new house that backs up to the railroad tracks, your first few nights of sleep are going to be interrupted whenever the train passes. With more exposure, eventually your brain learns to habituate to or tune-out the train and your able to get a full night’s worth of sleep. Sound therapy works in a similar way. By providing a relaxing sound at a volume softer than the tinnitus, the brain learns to focus less on the tinnitus and begins to relax. Eventually, your brain no longer relies on the sound therapy to relax away from the tinnitus and is able to do it on its own. This process takes time, patience, and dedication but provides relief to many tinnitus patients.

If you have questions about sound therapy and other tinnitus management strategies, contact our office to schedule an evaluation.

Sporting events and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

With August comes the start of a new school year, and also the beginning of football season. While many people enjoy the atmosphere of game day, they don’t always recognize that sounds could be loud enough to damage their hearing. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 40 million U.S. adults may have noise-induced hearing loss. The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. The chart below shows the average decibel levels for many common sounds.

Source: The American Academy of Audiology

As the chart shows, sporting events such as football games can reach levels of 110 decibels or more! Exposure to this level of noise over several hours can be damaging to your hearing. The Guinness world record for the loudest NFL crowd noise was set by the Kansas City Chiefs fans in 2014. The roar of the crowd was measured at an ear-shattering 142.2 decibels!

Even smaller scale sporting events can have noises loud enough to damage hearing. It’s a good idea to bring a pair of earplugs with you, just in case sounds reach loud levels. If you are concerned you may have noise-induced hearing loss, you should schedule a hearing evaluation with an audiologist to learn more about your hearing. We only get one pair of ears, so it is important to protect your hearing as much as possible.  

Noisy Toys and How to Protect your Children’s Ears

It’s finally the holiday season and everyone is excited for good food, (socially distant) gatherings, and presents, unless that is, you have young children with noisy toys constantly playing throughout your house. Although most parents can attest to how loud their children’s toys are, you may not know just EXACTLY how loud. 

The Arizona Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) and the Sight and Hearing Association are two of many organizations that put out an annual list of noisy toys for the holiday season. There are toys on their list that have been tested and shown to have an output of 103 dB! Measurements were taken as if a child had their ear next to the speaker, which is very realistic as anyone with young children would know.  According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association and the American Academy of Audiology, 85 dB is the loudest that a child should be exposure to.  For reference, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that exposure to 90 dB for 8 hours a day is considered a “permissible noise exposure”.  The permissible time of exposure for a 100 dB sound is only 2 hours. Many of theses toys are actually labeled as educational toys.

Here are some tips for testing to see if toys are too loud:

  • Test the toys prior to buying. Many toys have a “TRY ME” button
  • Hold the toy relatively close to your own ear and see if you think it is too loud

Ways to Reduce Volume

  • If there is a volume control, make sure it is set at the lowest volume
  • Put waterproof tape or glue over the speaker to dampen the sound
  • Put tape over the volume control to prevent your child from changing the volume.

The below list was organized by The Arizona Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH):

Happy Holidays from JHBI!

Everyone at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute would like to wish you a happy holidays!


See below for a message from Dr. Green!


What a hearing test is like during COVID-19

With the introduction of COVID-19, the world has changed in many ways. Masks are the new normal and staying six feet apart is common courtesy. Businesses are shut down or have major restrictions in place. There are many new and different ways each one of us has had to change our own lives. This includes what it is currently like to get a hearing test at JHBI. Here is an example of what to expect at your next hearing test appointment at JHBI:

  1. Wearing a mask is mandatory throughout your entire appointment. Also, every staff member is wearing a mask at all times. This includes clear masks that many staff members have available for our patients who rely on lip-reading.
  2. Your temperature will be taken at check-in using a no-contact thermometer.
  3. Every patient and any person accompanying them must fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire.
  4. Seats in the waiting room are limited in order to maintain social distancing.
  5. Higher risk patients are taken to a different waiting room- for their safety.
  6. Our staff is cleaning constantly to ensure your safety!

As you can see, at JHBI we take the safety and well-being of our patients very seriously. We hope that you feel comfortable coming to our office and we hope to see you and your mask soon!

What is severe hearing loss?

What is severe hearing loss?If you think you have severe hearing loss, please consider seeing a specialist. The type of hearing loss depends on which part of the ear is damaged. Please visit Cochlear.com for more important information regarding hearing loss:

  • Sensoineural – can occur as you get older or at birth. Most people say they are able to hear, but don’t always understand what people are saying. This is due to damage of the inner ear. Depending on the amount of hearing loss, a cochlear implant can be very beneficial.
  • Conductive – when hearing loss is due to problems with the outer ear or middle ear
  • Mixed – refers to a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss
  • Single-sided Deafness – Refers to no hearing or very little hearing in only one ear and normal hearing in the other ear. This type of hearing loss can be treated with a cochlear implant or a bone conduction implant.

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A Cochlear Implant – Improved Severe Hearing Loss & Became Life Changing

St. Augustine resident, Harry Zemon, experienced severe hearing loss from two major factors in his life. First, he was in the meat business and that meant dealing with high intensity noises coming from band saws, patty makers and grinders. Pair that with a genetic defect, hearing loss for him at age 70 turned into severe hearing loss – and hearing aids were no longer helpful.

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NOW HEAR THIS: A Hearing Professional Should Be Part Of Your Personal Healthcare Team

Hearing care professionals include Audiologists, hearing aid specialists, and ENTs (Ear, Nose & Throat doctors or doctors of Otology, Otolaryngology or Neurotology). At The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute, our board-certified Audiologists and audiology assistant are specially trained in all aspects of hearing aids and amplification. These highly trained professionals have years of specific training in hearing technology and are licensed by the State of Florida.

At The Hearing Center, we offer the most appropriate and accurate state-of-the-art equipment to give you a precise read on your current hearing level with a barrage of important tests to help diagnose the cause of your hearing loss.

Also, you can depend on our Audiologists to counsel you and/or your loved one or caregiver on treatment options and equipment.

More importantly, just as you make an appointment for an annual physical, you should take responsibility for your good health and include a hearing test as part of an annual regimen. Hearing care professionals are trained to help you along your journey as you navigate the world of hearing loss and what equipment is best suited to meet your specific needs.

The key is to find out whether or not there is any underlying medical issue behind your hearing loss. It should be identified and addressed. Simply put, a hearing care professional is your best safety net for proper diagnosis and treatment. It’s smart to address any sudden hearing loss IMMEDIATELY.

Be assured, research shows that the majority of people who visit hearing care professionals say they are happy with the quality of service and the counseling they receive. Ask us about how we can better serve you. Check out our websites for further information: www.BetterHearingJax.com and www.JHBI.org.