Have you ever had something stuck in your ear? Part of a cotton swab is probably the most common thing to get stuck in an ear. However, people have had bugs, beads, batteries, and other foreign objects stuck in their ears. In most cases, you will feel pain, discomfort, pressure, or itchiness in your ear if something is stuck. You might also notice that your hearing is muffled, or you might feel nauseated or like you need to cough.
This is what you should do if you get a foreign object stuck in your ear. If a bug is in your ear:
While it might give you the creepy-crawlies just to think about it, it’s not that uncommon for bugs to get stuck in ears. There have been cases of cockroaches, moths, spiders, flies, ticks, and other small bugs crawling into ears. If you feel like something is crawling around in your ear, or if you hear a sound that you think might be a bug, chances are good that a bug has indeed crawled into your ear and now can’t find the way out.
To remove a bug from your ear, follow these steps:
Lie on your side with the affected ear facing up.
Pour warm mineral oil or vegetable oil into the ear until it is full.
Wait for 5-10 minutes. This ensures that the bug (and any larvae) are dead.
Turn your head and allow the oil to seep out. You can gently pull on your ear to help move things around. Hopefully, the bug will fall out.
If the bug does not fall out, flush your ear with a 1:1 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water or rubbing alcohol and water.
If the bug is still in your ear, you should seek professional help. An urgent care doctor may be able to help, or you can see a hearing specialist or ENT. They will have the tools necessary to remove the insect.
If a piece of your hearing aid is stuck in your ear:
Although it is unlikely, a part of your hearing aid, such as the dome, may come off of your hearing aid and get stuck in your ear. If you remove your hearing aids and notice any pieces missing, contact your hearing specialist as soon as possible. They will be able to remove the part from your ear or refer you to someone who can. If a button battery is stuck in your ear:
Since button batteries are so small, they can get stuck in your ear. If this happens, contact a hearing specialist immediately because the battery can leak harmful chemicals into your ear. Do not put any liquids in your ear. If an earring part is stuck in your ear:
Because metal parts of earrings can perforate the eardrum, it is best to contact a hearing specialist if you have part of an earring stuck in your ear. If a piece of food is stuck in your ear:
You can try flushing out the piece of food by using the same steps listed above for insect removal, but use water or saline instead of oil. If this does not work, seek help from a hearing specialist immediately. Pieces of food can decay and lead to infection.
If you have any of these objects—or anything else—stuck in your ear, it is important to seek professional care to ensure that your ears are not damaged. To learn more about what to do if a foreign object is stuck in your ear, please contact our hearing specialist today.
Do you have hearing loss but haven’t sought treatment? Are you hoping it’s temporary and may resolve on its own? While hearing loss is often permanent, there are some ways you can help prevent your hearing loss from getting worse. Here are six simple tips for protecting your hearing, whether or not you already have hearing loss:
Wear hearing protection. Loud noises can contribute to hearing loss. If you know you are going to be around loud noises, such as machinery, lawn equipment, jet engines, or a noisy crowd at a concert or event, it is best to protect your hearing by wearing protection. Earplugs or headphones can help to block out the bulk of the noise and protect you from noise-induced hearing loss. Of course, depending on your lifestyle, you may need to use hearing protection more or less frequently. If you are around excessive noise only a couple of times a year at concerts or games, you will only need to wear hearing protection on those occasions. By contrast, if you work in a noisy environment such as at a construction site, a landscaping business, or an airport, you may need to use hearing protection on a daily basis.
Avoid noisy environments when possible. The other solution to handling noisy environments is to avoid them altogether when possible. Harmful noise levels—especially if they reach 85 decibels or higher—can cause temporary or permanent damage to your hearing. Avoiding these noisy environments altogether can help to protect your hearing.
Beware of ototoxic drugs. Certain medications are ototoxic, which means they can cause damage to the inner ear. This damage can lead to hearing loss or can worsen existing hearing loss. If you are prescribed a medication that is ototoxic, do not stop taking it without speaking with your doctor first. Ask your doctor if there are any alternative medications and possible ways to mitigate the risk of hearing damage.
Keep earwax buildup under control. Earwax (also called cerumen) can build up in your ears and cause hearing difficulties. Your ears usually push out excess earwax, but sometimes buildup can occur that leads to a blockage. Talk to your hearing specialist if you believe earwax buildup might be causing problems with your hearing. You can also remove excess earwax at home (as long as you do not have an eardrum perforation) by gently softening the earwax with drops of warm olive oil, almond oil water, or a commercial earwax removal solution.
Don’t forget to consider total wellness. With your body, everything is connected. Hearing loss often does not only affect your ears. It may be linked to other conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, dementia, and more. Although the exact connection between these conditions is still being researched and may not be clear in your situation, keep total wellness as your goal. Talk to your hearing specialist about how your hearing health can affect your overall health and you can promote overall wellness.
Take advantage of technology. You don’t have to live with untreated hearing loss. Thanks to technology, you can manage hearing loss through the use of hearing aids. Wearing hearing aids can help you hear sounds you wouldn’t be able to on your own—helping you enjoy social situations, hear conversations, and listen to the sounds of nature. In addition, using hearing aids can help you preserve the hearing you have. If you would like to learn more about how to protect your hearing, even if you already have hearing loss, we welcome you to contact our hearing specialist today. We are eager to assist you.
Have you ever had a head injury? You may know that a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause symptoms like memory loss, confusion, and headaches. However, a head injury can affect your hearing and balance as well. How does a traumatic brain injury affect your hearing and balance?
The force of a traumatic brain injury can damage or dislodge the delicate bones of the inner ear, disrupt parts of the brain responsible for auditory processing, or rupture the eardrum. These issues may result in a persistent ringing, buzzing, or hissing sound in one or both ears. Some head injury patients also report experiencing hyperacusis, which is an extreme sensitivity to sound. Traumatic brain injuries may result in hearing loss or difficulty hearing in one or both ears.
Furthermore, head injuries that affect the inner ear may disrupt the vestibular system, which is made up of tiny fluid-filled canals that send messages to your brain about the head’s position. If the vestibular system is affected, you may experience symptoms like dizziness, spatial disorientation, difficulty finding footing or judging distances, or a feeling that you or your surroundings are in motion. Is hearing loss caused by a head injury permanent?
Fortunately, most cases of hearing loss caused by a TBI are not permanent. These cases of hearing loss typically resolve themselves within a few months. As the brain heals from the injury, the auditory processing system recovers as well. If the head injury causes a bone fracture or displacement that affects your hearing, corrective surgery usually resolves the issue.
Occasionally, hearing loss caused by a traumatic brain injury is permanent. This may occur when irreparable damage occurs, such as severe damage to the cochlea. Thankfully, this is rare. How can you treat a traumatic brain injury?
Head injuries should be treated by a medical professional as soon as possible. Head injury brings a risk of hematoma (bleeding in the brain), so imaging will be necessary to evaluate the damage. If the injury to the ear is physical, such as a displaced bone, this is usually apparent in a CT or MRI scan. Neurological causes of hearing loss can be more difficult to diagnose, but an audiologist can identify these issues through a critical evaluation.
If you experience a head injury, be sure to see a physician right away for medical treatment. If you notice any changes to your hearing or equilibrium following the TBI, schedule an appointment with an audiologist as soon as possible as well. Hearing professionals are trained to assess situations like this and recommend any treatment options. How can you prevent hearing loss related to head injury?
To prevent head injury, be sure to wear a helmet when you participate in potentially hazardous sports or recreational activities, such as football, horseback riding, cycling, or skateboarding. Always wear your seatbelt when you are driving or riding in a vehicle. In icy conditions, hold onto railings and step carefully to avoid losing your footing. Be careful when entering or exiting the shower or bathtub; many people fall on slick bathroom tiles every year.
Prevention will always be the best way to avoid hearing loss and balance problems related to head injury.
For more information about how hearing loss is related to head injuries or to schedule an appointment with our hearing professional, we invite you to contact our office today.
Are you due for your annual physical appointment? Visiting your primary care doctor on an annual basis is good practice to ensure that you receive any screenings you need, to bring your doctor up to date on any changes in your health over the last year, to discuss any needed updates to your treatment, and to prevent more serious health concerns. While you might think your annual physical is more focused on checking your heart and blood pressure, it is important to bring up your hearing as well.
Here are some important questions to ask during your annual physical appointment. By asking these simple questions, you can make certain that you receive the care you need and that your doctor is aware of any health challenges:
How’s my hearing? While age-related hearing loss is common, age is not the only factor that plays into your hearing health. You can protect your hearing by avoiding excessive noise, wearing ear protection when exposed to high levels of noise (like power tools, machinery, or lawn equipment), eating healthy, and keeping objects like cotton swabs out of your ears. It’s also important to schedule regular hearing evaluations to make sure that any hearing loss is treated promptly.
Your primary care doctor will be able to give you some guidance on what hearing services might be needed and can refer you to a hearing health professional if necessary.
Am I due for any vaccines? You might think you were done with vaccinations when you were a child; after all, receiving recommended vaccines is a big part of pediatric healthcare. However, some regular or special vaccines may be appropriate based on your age, health, and travel plans. If you need any vaccines that cannot be administered during your annual physical, the doctor’s office will be able to schedule those immunization appointments.
How’s my mental health? Your mental health and your physical health are inseparably connected. If you have noticed a change in mood, a lack of energy or drive, or a withdrawal from social activities, you may be experiencing an issue related to mental health, emotional health, or physical health—like hearing loss. Be open and honest with your doctor. He or she will be able to give you direction on where you can receive the care you need.
What health problems am I at risk for? Each person’s health risks vary. The health issues you may be at risk for depend on your age, family history, race, sex, and lifestyle. Some health risks are tied to other issues. For example, heart disease,diabetes,depression,cognitive decline, and falls have all been linked to untreated hearing loss. Your doctor can help you become aware of any health issues you are at risk for and practice prevention.
What types of exercise should I be doing? Staying active is important to the health of your heart, lungs, muscles, brain, and more. Many health problems, including hearing loss, are associated with decreased physical activity. Talk to your doctor about the types of exercise he or she recommends for you.
What is this? If you have noticed any changes in your health that you don’t understand, or if you simply aren’t sure if something is a problem (like that new spot on your skin, the ache in your elbow, or the ringing in your ears), bring it up with your doctor. Your annual physical is the perfect time to bring up anything you might have a question about. It can be helpful to write them down beforehand so you remember everything you wanted to talk about during your appointment.
Seeing your doctor regularly is a great practice for protecting your health, including your hearing health. To learn more about the importance of annual physicals and how your overall health is related to your hearing health, we invite you to contact our office today.
For a few years now, we have all been told that over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids are right around the corner. In July 2021, President Biden signed an executive order allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter. While the goal of making hearing devices more accessible is a great one, OTC hearing devices are not without concerns. Can OTC products ever compete with the knowledge and expertise of a specialist? And are home solutions a good option? Because you deserve the best hearing care available, here are six reasons to make an appointment with a hearing professional before you make your decision.
Hearing professionals have expertise. Hearing aid specialists are licensed to sell hearing aids. They have been specially trained in hearing loss and its treatment. Thanks to their specialized training, hearing professionals can ensure that your hearing is properly diagnosed, that you get the right kind of hearing aid, that it fits properly, and that it is correctly programmed.
You’ll get a better fit. Hearing aids must be custom fitted to each individual to maximize comfort and functionality. They must also be programmed to support your hearing needs and listening lifestyle. Only a trained hearing professional can fit and program your hearing aids. In addition, a hearing professional can monitor your progress over time and make any needed adjustments. It is important that you have ongoing support from a professional, especially at the beginning when you are getting used to your hearing aids.
It is safer to choose a hearing professional. Evidence shows that choosing a one-size-fits-all solution or programming your own hearing aid can actually be harmful. This is because using a hearing device with a volume that is too loud can further damage your hearing. Furthermore, an ill-fitted hearing aid can lead to earwax buildup, which may cause infections. Choosing a hearing professional can help to ensure that your hearing aid is properly programmed and fitted so you can avoid these problems.
You can receive support for tinnitus and balance. For many people, hearing loss occurs alongside tinnitus, which is a ringing, clicking, or buzzing sound in the ears. While researchers do not yet fully understand this condition, anything that is known falls under the realm of hearing professionals. Additionally, the inner ear governs the body’s equilibrium, so balance issues are often diagnosed and treated by hearing professionals. Seeing a hearing professional will ensure that you receive the care and support you need for tinnitus and balance, as well as hearing loss.
You’ll build a patient-provider relationship. As noted above, hearing loss may be associated with other conditions. Because it is a complex condition, hearing loss can also be caused by various factors, from age or noise exposure to disorders. A hearing professional can diagnose and treat many hearing-related conditions, creating an ongoing relationship with you as their patient.
Invest in your hearing health. One of the benefits of OTC hearing aids is that they tend to be more affordable than custom-fitted ones. However, seeking treatment from a hearing professional is a better investment in your health. Our hearing professional will be with you every step of the way, from diagnosis to choosing a hearing aid to fittings and adjustments. Hearing professionals can also provide affordable solutions so you can treat hearing loss at a price that works for you.
To learn more about the benefits of seeing a hearing professional for your hearing aids, we welcome you to contact our office today. We look forward to caring for you!
If you have hearing loss, you may feel like your family members don’t understand your hearing challenges. You may feel that they never will understand your challenges unless they experience the same challenges for themselves. However, there is more to the story. While you certainly face challenges due to hearing loss, so do your partner and other family members. Here are a few insights into what both parties may be thinking.
They notice your hearing loss even when you don’t acknowledge it.
Many people experience hearing loss for years before they acknowledge it and get hearing aids. And even when you do get hearing aids, you may be inclined to keep them in the drawer instead of wearing them. In the meantime, your family deals with listening to an overly loud TV, repeating themselves until you understand, and hoping you heard important information. The truth is that wearing hearing aids can help both parties, but the one with hearing loss must acknowledge that first.
You get annoyed when they say “never mind.”
It’s a common scenario: A family member is telling a joke or recounting a story, and because of your hearing loss, you miss the punchline. But when you ask them to repeat what you missed, they say “never mind.” This is frustrating for you, of course, and you may feel hurt or angry. It is also annoying for your family member, who missed out on sharing a moment or a laugh with you.
You ask your partner to change how they talk to you. Due to hearing loss, you may ask your partner to not speak to you with their back to you or from another room, to speak slower or louder (but not too slowly or loudly), and to make direct eye contact when they speak to you. While these changes are necessary for you to better understand your partner, it can be frustrating to them. After all, these changes are completely different from how they have spoken to people with normal hearing their entire lives.
You may bluff when you don’t understand what they say (and they probably know). If a family member says something and you don’t quite understand, you may bluff rather than ask them to repeat themselves. In many cases, your family member can tell you are bluffing—and that’s annoying to them. It also places them in a tough spot because you may feel embarrassed if they call you on your bluff.
You won’t confirm important information. If your partner gives you critical information, such as where and when to meet, they may ask you to repeat it back to them to confirm that you heard correctly. This may feel insulting and you may resist doing so. However, if you misheard due to hearing loss, it causes even more confusion and upset.
You tune out when you cannot hear—and your partner doesn’t know what to do. Because of your hearing loss, you may find yourself tuning out in situations when you cannot understand very well, such as social events or conversations. This leaves your partner wondering what their role should be. Should they repeat everything to you, or leave you be? Should they speak up for you, or let you advocate for yourself? These situations are rough for all involved.
You can talk to your partner, but they cannot respond. You may not be able to understand your partner in certain scenarios, such as when you are driving and cannot look at them, when you have a headache, or when you have auditory fatigue. In these cases, you can still speak to your partner, but they cannot respond to you in a way that you will understand. This can lead to frustration on both sides.
You feel grief over your loss, and so does your partner. You will experience the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) as you come to terms with your hearing loss—and so will your partner. You will mourn things differently. You will feel saddened that you cannot hear as you once did or that you cannot participate in social situations. (Thankfully, these issues can largely be solved with hearing aids!) Your partner will mourn the way they once communicated with you, the intimate late-night conversations in bed, the whispers during movies, and other shared experiences that are now much more challenging.
Coming to terms with hearing loss and its effects can be difficult for you and your family members. For both parties, patience and communication are key. For more information about how to better navigate hearing loss with your family, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today.
Do you struggle with migraines? Do you have ringing in your ears? If so, you are not alone. A new study has found an association between migraines, hearing loss, and tinnitus.
First, let’s briefly review each of these conditions. A migraine is a type of headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation. Migraines are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Some migraine attacks last hours, while others last for days. Migraine pain can be severe enough to interfere with daily life.
Hearing loss occurs when you cannot hear as well as a person with normal hearing. Common symptoms include muffled sounds and speech, difficulty understanding words, frequently asking others to speak louder or more clearly, needing to turn up the volume on the TV or radio, withdrawing from conversations, and avoiding social situations.
Tinnitus occurs when you hear ringing or another sound in your ears, yet an external sound is not present. Although ringing is the most common term used to describe tinnitus, the condition may also present itself as a sound like buzzing, humming, hissing, roaring, or clicking in the ears.
The recent study, based in California, examined nearly 13,000 subjects. The data was collected from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey database. Researchers used data from 1999-2004, as the survey questions from those years included a question regarding migraines. All of the participants were aged 18-65 and 52.9 percent were female.
Of a total 12,962 participants between 1999-2004, 2,657 reported suffering from migraines. Those with migraines tended to be women, slightly older, have a high body mass index (BMI), and have experience with neck pain. A total of 2,344 people reported subjective hearing loss, and 2,582 responded that they had tinnitus. Researchers found that those who suffered from migraines were more likely to also experience subjective hearing loss or tinnitus. Of those who reported subjective hearing loss, migraines were reported in 24.5 percent. The percentage of overlap was even higher among those with tinnitus; 35.6 percent of participants who reported tinnitus also reported migraines.
Furthermore, researchers found that those who suffered from migraines were more likely to experience subjective hearing loss or tinnitus than those who did not have migraines. Subjective hearing loss, tinnitus, and neck pain were all more common in migraine-sufferers than non-migraine-sufferers. Among participants with migraines, a higher proportion of those with tinnitus also had subjective hearing loss than those without tinnitus. In addition, a higher proportion of migraine-sufferers with subjective hearing loss also had tinnitus compared to those without hearing loss.
Currently, researchers do not yet fully understand the connection between these conditions. However, they believe it may be possible that the otologic effects of migraines may increase the risk for hearing loss and tinnitus in migraine-sufferers. Further research needs to be done to determine whether migraine prevention and treatment may help prevent the associated hearing loss and tinnitus.
To learn more about the link between migraines, hearing loss, and tinnitus, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to care for you.
Summer will be here before you know it! Whether you’re planning to spend your summer by the ocean, in the mountains, or somewhere in between, this season can bring new challenges for keeping your hearing aids safe and clean. Here are some activities and hearing aid care to keep in mind so you can enjoy summer and enjoy properly functioning hearing aids.
Keep your hearing aids dry.
When you first got your hearing aids, you were probably told to keep them dry and away from moisture and excess humidity. Yet for many people, summer is all about beach days, pool time, and getting sweaty! Thankfully, you don’t need to change your summer plans just to protect your hearing aids. It is important, however, for you to take the appropriate steps to keep your hearing aids dry and safe. First, be sure to remove your hearing aids before you get in the pool, lake, or ocean. Store them somewhere safe so you won’t have to worry about them while you enjoy the water. Second, dry your hearing aids with a dry aid kit. Summer is naturally a more humid season, so this step can help remove any excess moisture. UV boxes are available as well, which are designed to both dry your hearing aids and kill any germs or bacteria lurking on them. If you don’t have access to a dry aid kit or UV box, carefully inspect your hearing aids when you take them out at night and use a clean, dry cloth to wipe away any visible moisture.
Keep your hearing aids cool.
You may be looking forward to the warm weather that summer brings—but that same warmth can be damaging to your hearing aids. A good portion of your hearing aid is made of plastic, which means heat and sunlight can be destructive to them. Your hearing aids could even melt, given enough heat! To keep your hearing aids safe, avoid placing them in direct sunlight or hot spaces. Do not leave them in the car or garage during summertime. Avoid spending time outside or exercising during the hottest part of the day (which is good practice for your health anyway). If you do need to be outside while it’s hot, wear a hat or sweatband and take breaks from being in direct sunlight.
Keep your hearing aids clean.
When you’re at the beach, the water isn’t the only thing that can pose a danger to your hearing aids. Sand, salt, and other minerals in seawater can damage your hearing aids, too. Other summertime threats include sunscreen and insect repellent. To keep your hearing aids clean, remove them before you apply sunscreen or insect repellent. Then, wash your hands before touching your hearing aids again. Be sure to store your hearing aids carefully to avoid contact with sand, dirt, dust, or grit. If you are playing sports, gardening, or enjoying other outdoor activities, try not to touch your hearing aids, especially if you have dirt or grit on your hands. Every night, it is important to wipe down your hearing aids, regardless of the activities you engaged in that day. This helps to remove any dust, dirt, sand, moisture, wax, or oils.
Keep your hearing aids secure.
If you are playing sports or enjoying being out and about during the summer, you might worry about your hearing aids falling out and getting broken or lost. One simple solution is to wear a lightweight lanyard that is specially designed to hook your hearing aids onto your clothing or glasses. This way, even if your hearing aids fall out while you’re moving around, they won’t get lost.
For more information about how you can keep your hearing aids safe during summer, please contact our hearing aid practice today.
Grief is a deep emotion. You may associate grief with serious losses like the death of a loved one or with major life changes like a divorce. However, grief can come into play when you experience loss of any kind, including hearing loss. Understanding the grieving process may help improve self-awareness and can allow you to better comprehend your emotions and reactions.
You may be familiar with the five stages of grief. They were originally outlined in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying in 1969. As mentioned previously, however, the stages of grief can be applied to how we deal with any kind of loss. You may experience all five stages, or you may skip one or two. It is also normal to experience the stages of grief in a different order than what is listed here. Stage 1 of Grief: Denial
If you have witnessed a loved one experience hearing loss, you have probably noticed the stage of denial. They may not acknowledge that they cannot hear as they once did. Perhaps they truly don’t notice that they no longer hear the birds outside or that they need to turn the volume on the TV higher than before. They may think everyone around them is mumbling, rather than acknowledging that they are experiencing hearing loss. This can be especially true for gradual hearing loss, such as age-related hearing loss.
If you are the one experiencing hearing loss, it is normal to make excuses during the denial stage. You may think, “My hearing isn’t that bad,” “I don’t need to see another doctor,” or “I’ve had a cold—my ears are simply stuffy.” For many, denial is the first stage of grief. Stage 2 of Grief: Anger
If you can no longer deny that your hearing is declining, you may move into the second stage of grief: anger. You may feel angry at friends or family members who constantly ask you to turn down the volume on the TV or encourage you to schedule an appointment with an audiologist. You may feel upset that you have to add another doctor to your list of healthcare providers or that you need to spend money on tests and devices.
In addition, your family members may experience anger as well. They may not understand why you seem so reluctant to schedule an appointment with a hearing professional, or they may feel you are ignoring them on purpose when, in reality, you cannot hear them well.
It is important to work through your emotions, including anger. Consider journaling, talking to a trusted friend or counselor about your feelings, or exercising to relieve stress. Stage 3 of Grief: Bargaining
Once the anger has passed, you may enter the bargaining stage. In this stage, you try to create bargains to return your hearing to normal. Perhaps you promise yourself that you will always wear hearing protection when using power tools or lawn equipment. Maybe you commit to turning down the volume on your radio or TV.
The difficulty is that in most types of hearing loss, you cannot improve your hearing with these steps once hearing loss has occurred. However, there is good news: hearing aids can help you hear better. Stage 4 of Grief: Depression
You will likely feel depressed or sad at some point about your hearing loss. This is very common, especially among older adults. You have lost something valuable: your hearing. It is natural to feel sadness over this loss.
In addition, untreated hearing loss can lead to depression,anxiety, and social isolation. This is why it’s important to 1) get your hearing loss treated, and 2) maintain contact with your friends and family as you age. Stage 5 of Grief: Acceptance
Acceptance is the final stage of grief. In this stage, you accept that you can no longer hear as well as you once did and you acknowledge your physical limitations. Of course, you can always explore treatment options with your hearing professional. Many people with hearing loss see great benefits from using hearing aids. If your hearing loss is severe or profound, you may also be a candidate for cochlear implants.
Studies have shown that using hearing aids leads to an improvement in quality of life. Hearing aid wearers report higher levels of happiness and say that using hearing aids has improved their relationships with family and friends and given them a greater sense of independence. Furthermore, using hearing aids can reduce your risk of depression, social isolation, and falls.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to share it with your family as well; they will likely experience some of the stages of grief along with you throughout your hearing journey. To learn more about the stages of grief as they apply to hearing loss, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with our hearing professional, we welcome you to contact our office today.
It’s a situation we have all been in many times before: a crowded, noisy room where we are trying to listen to just one person talking. Perhaps you have experienced this at a family party, or maybe you find yourself in this situation fairly frequently at a busy restaurant. Whatever the specific situation may be, you likely found that you were able to tune out the other noises and voices in order to focus on just one speaker. While we have all experienced this situation, few of us know how it actually works. Recent research has revealed more about this process.
Edmund Lalor, Ph.D., associate professor of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has focused his research on how the brain processes stimuli like speech, language, and music. He recently conducted new research on how the brain is able to wean out or ignore other noises and focus on a single speaker in a busy environment.
Dr. Lalor and his team found that the acoustics of the attended speaker, or the one you are paying attention to, and the unattended speaker, or the one you are ignoring, are processed in very similar ways. The difference is the next step the brain takes in processing the sounds.
In the study, participants listened to two stories simultaneously and were asked to focus their attention on only one speaker. Using EEG brainwave recordings, the researchers were able to see how the brain processed the sounds. They found that the story participants were asked to pay attention to was converted into linguistic units called phonemes. The unattended story was not. Phonemes are units of sound that can distinguish one word from another. Converting sound into phonemes is the first step in understanding the story. In short, the brain heard both stories but worked to understand only one of them.
The new research conducted by Dr. Lalor and his associates is not only fascinating but also useful. This type of research is critical for developing hearing technology and assistive devices (like hearing aids) that can help people with hearing loss not only hear sounds better, but better understand the sounds they hear.
One common complaint among people with hearing aids is that they can hear noises and voices better, but because all of the noises are amplified, it is more difficult to focus on a single speaker. The study conducted by Dr. Lalor and his team helps us better understand how the brain works to focus on a single voice in a crowded room. This information can help hearing aid manufacturers and technology developers improve hearing aids and other assistive technologies.
If you would like to learn more about Dr. Lalor’s recent research, or if you would like more information about how hearing aids can help you hear better in various situations, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today. We are happy to assist you.