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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.

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

The Relationship of COVID-19 and the Ear

There are many viruses that can impact the ear, and recent reports have shown that the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus can be added to that list.

Respiratory issues are one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19; however, it is known that it is not the only. Some patients may notice a decline in some of their senses or even a complete loss of their sense of smell and taste. The resolution of these symptoms can occur by the time the virus alleviates or can also linger for a few weeks to months.

Hearing is another sense that is sometimes affected by the virus. Recently, researchers have found that the tissue contained in the human ear contains proteins that are susceptible to being targeted by the COVID-19 virus, which can lead to hearing loss, ringing/buzzing in the ears, and/or balance issues.

This is not to say that if you have the virus that it would definitely impact the ear. Some patients have reported an onset of hearing loss, tinnitus, and/or balance issues alongside the onset of the virus. Many times, these symptoms may resolve within 7-14 days as the virus resolves, but some patients may have lingering effects, depending on the severity of the virus (just like the loss of smell and taste).

If you have experienced an onset or increase in hearing loss, onset or increase in tinnitus, and dizziness or balance issues, it is important to see an otolaryngologist to evaluate your symptoms.   

Hearing Help for Africa

Hearing Help for Africa is nonprofit organization founded in part by Dr. Green in 2010. Hearing Help for Africa aims to treat ear related conditions and provide training and support for physicians and clinical staff in Jos, Nigeria. Through annual mission trips and remote assistance Dr. Green and his staff has been able to perform surgeries, leads educational seminars and provide remote programming to improve access to care for those with hearing loss in Jos.

One individual, Ben Babson, is instrumental in providing everyday support and care for the patients in Jos. He has a passion for Audiology and is currently enrolled in a Master’s program through the University Isabel I de Castilla, based in Spain. As part of his education, he is required to obtain further hands-on training in all areas of Audiology with a focus on hearing aids, cochlear implants and diagnostic testing. Ben has recently arrived in the United States where he will complete rotations at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance, ENT Specialists of North Florida and Hearts for Hearing in Oklahoma.

We are excited for this opportunity for Ben as it will allow him to continue to serve and support his patients and further the mission of Hearing Help for Africa. Welcome Ben!

Back to Basics: Understanding Your Hearing Test

After your initial appointment with Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute, you will leave with a graph depicting the results of your hearing test. There are a lot of symbols and colors, but what do they all mean?

The graph you received is called an Audiogram. The audiogram shows two things: Pitch and Volume.

  • Across the top of the graph is pitch. The left side is low pitch, the right side it high pitch, kind of like a piano keyboard.
  • Down the side of the graph is volume.  The top is very soft, the bottom is very loud.
  • You will also see the degrees of hearing loss as shaded sections ranging from NORMAL hearing to a PROFOUND hearing loss. The further down the graph, the more hearing loss is present.

On your print out of the audiogram, there will be O symbols for the right ear and X symbols for the left ear.  You may also see these color coded as red for right and blue for left.

  • These symbols correspond to the softest sound you can hear at each of the pitches when we had you in the sound booth.  You hear everything BELOW the symbols.
  • The graph example below shows that the patient hears in the NORMAL in the low pitches and SEVERE in the highest pitches.
  • The lower pitch sounds generally correspond with the Vowels of speech, which give volume
  • The higher pitch sounds generally correspond with the consonants of speech, which give clarity.
  • For patients with more hearing loss in the higher pitches, they will generally HEAR that someone is talking but may not UNDERSTAND exactly what is being said.

Below this graph will test your speech understanding. We test two aspects of speech.

  • The first is your Speech Reception Threshold or SRT, which measures the softest level of speech in which you can repeat words
  • The second is your Word Recognition Score. This is a percentage of how many words you repeated correctly at a comfortable volume. We use this to test optimal performance understanding speech WITHOUT the presence of noise.

All of these components are reviewed during your appointments with us at JHBI.  We use the combination of how soft you are hearing tones, combined with your speech understanding, to determine if you would benefit from hearing aids or implantable devices.

We like to repeat your hearing test once per year, sooner if you feel necessary, to monitor any changes in hearing and word understanding. If you think your hearing has changed, or think you would benefit from hearing aids, please give our office a call to schedule an appointment.

Maximizing Speech Understanding in Noise

Listening in background noise is one of the hardest auditory tasks for individuals with and without hearing loss. The presence of background noise can “drown out” the speech we want to hear, which may cause us to misunderstand words, miss topic changes, and cause frustration. As hearing aid technology advances, so does the background noise reduction ability of hearing aids. Hearing aids are able to reduce the volume of background noise, however cannot eliminate it completely. Here are some additional tips to help maximize speech understanding while wearing your hearing aids:

  • In restaurants, ask to sit in a booth if possible. Booths are typically more closed-off from the majority of background noise than tables and often allow communication partners to be seated closer together
  • If a booth is not available, sit with your back to the noise. With our backs to noise, your hearing aids better able to increase the sound of your communication partner’s voice and decrease unwanted signals from behind you. If you sit with your back to the wall, background noise may actually be amplified by the hearing aids as the noise bounces off the wall and travels back over your devices
  • In other social situations, avoid having conversations close to walls or in the corner of the room. This helps minimize the chance of background noise reverberating from the walls and further interrupting communication
  • Ask your communication partner(s) to indicate topic shifts if possible

If you’re struggling in background noise, make an appointment to see your audiologist. They may be able to adjust your hearing aids for those specific situations and/or recommend additional technology to improve speech understanding!

Age-Related Hearing Loss

Do you ever think that everyone around you is mumbling? Most people in their advanced years don’t consider this truly “hearing loss” because it often occurs very gradually. If you are noticing changes to your hearing, the best thing that you can do is to get your hearing tested. However, while you may not notice it right away, it could surprise you to know that age-related hearing loss often goes untreated.

By the time you retire, there is a good chance that you will be dealing with some level of hearing loss, and if this is the case, you need to decide whether or not your hearing loss is affecting your quality of life. Age-related hearing loss is the type of hearing loss that often goes untreated, and understanding why can make a difference in your overall health.

What is Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Some forms of hearing loss are preventable, but age-related hearing loss is a little different. The medical term for age-related hearing loss is presbycusis, and it affects at least 60% of adults over the age of 75. This is because, as we age, the structure of our ears change, and the tiny hair cells that help conduct sound in the ear no longer work effectively. If your brain isn’t getting all of the information that you are hearing, you are going to lose sound in your environment. The problem is that most people don’t get help for their hearing loss and it then goes undiagnosed for several years, gradually decreasing quality of life and creating unnecessary hardships.

Top 3 Signs and Symptoms of Age-related Hearing Loss

  • Difficulty understanding speech and mixing up speech sounds
  • Difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise
  • Turning up the TV, phone, or radio to levels too loud for other listeners

Contact Us!

If you are ready to treat your age-related hearing loss, contact the clinic today to start your journey to better hearing!

Noisy Christmas Toys 2021

Every year, the Sight and Hearing Association tests a random selection of toys on the market for the holiday season. This year, they tested 24 toys, 19 of which tested louder than 85 decibels (dB).  This is the level where the National Institute of Occupation Health and Safety (NIOSH) mandates hearing protection.

This year’s loudest toy is well known character from the Disney movie, Moana. This model of HeiHei, the chicken, reaches levels of 109.7 dB. The screech, which the authors described as “blood curdling” and “terrifying,” reaches a level that could cause hearing damage in a matter of minutes. Testing was also conducted at a distance equal to the average arm length of a toddler and levels still reached over 90 dB.

Disney Moana Squeeze and Scream HeiHei

The Sight and Hearing Association recommends using a free sound level meter app on smartphones. Although not perfect, it will give you an idea of how loud your child’s toys are.  Even easier, if you feel like the toy is too loud for you, it is too loud for your child. They also recommend checking return policies with stores. If a loud toy enters your house this holiday season, you may be able to return it, if you can get it away from your child.

For more information, check out the Sight and Hearing Association’s website: http://sightandhearing.org/Services/NoisyToysList%C2%A9.aspx

Improving Phone Communication

One of the top areas of communication many of our patients are wanting to improve is better communication on the phone. Phone calls are one of the most difficult listening situations for individuals with hearing loss — there’s no opportunity to read lips, the signal is not always clear/consistent, and there are fewer contextual cues compared to face-to-face communication. Even with properly fit hearing aids, many patients continue to experience difficulty on the phone. Here are a few helpful tips for improving speech understanding over the phone while wearing hearing aids:

  1. Place the speaker of the phone directly on the hearing aid microphones. This allows the audio from the phone call to be processed through the hearing aids and amplified. If the phone is held to the ear in a typical fashion, the hearing aid may be acting as an earplug, making phone calls even more difficult. 

 2. Enable Bluetooth streaming for phone calls (if available). By streaming phone calls through the hearing aids, our brain is able to process the incoming speech information with two ears, thus allowing more opportunity for accurate speech understanding. 

3. Ask your communication partner to slow down and speak naturally. Slowing down rate of speech while continuing to speak in a natural manner is more beneficial than over-enunciating and raising the volume. 

Phone calls can take practice and patience. Reach out to your hearing care provider if you need further strategies or technology to improve phone communication.