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New Study Confirms Link Between COVID-19 and Symptoms of Hearing Loss, Tinnitus, and Vertigo

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Now that we have been dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic for over a year now, you have probably learned that symptoms of COVID can vary from person to person. Some people experience difficulty breathing, while others only suffer from a loss of taste or smell. Some people experience nausea or vomiting, while others have a fever and chills.

You may also know that certain viruses can lead to hearing difficulties, including measles, mumps, and meningitis. But what about the coronavirus? Could one of the varying symptoms of COVID-19 be an effect on your hearing? A new study found that yes, there is a link between COVID-19 and symptoms of hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo.

Tinnitus is the most common hearing symptom reported by those suffering from COVID-19. Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a fairly common condition on its own, with nearly 15 percent of the population (approximately 50 million Americans) experiencing some form of tinnitus. Most people who experience tinnitus also have hearing loss, which suggests a close link between the two conditions. Researchers suspect that tinnitus is one of the first signs that the hearing system has been damaged by factors like excessive noise or ototoxic drugs.

Tinnitus has been reported to be a common symptom of what is referred to as “long COVID,” which is where symptoms persist weeks or even months after the infection is gone. The exact connection between tinnitus and COVID-19 is unclear. It may be that the virus affects the auditory system, or tinnitus may be caused by stress from the pandemic.

While tinnitus is most frequently reported by those suffering from long COVID, hearing difficulties have been reported by patients of a wide age range who experienced the illness in varying degrees of severity. Hearing loss has been reported among those with mild cases that were managed as home, as well as among severe cases that required hospitalization. There have also been several reports of sudden hearing loss in one ear, accompanied by tinnitus, from patients with COVID-19.

Research has found that viruses can cause sudden hearing loss, so SARS-CoV-2 may be responsible for the cases of sudden hearing loss reported in COVID patients. However, because of the high number of COVID patients worldwide, it is difficult for researchers to determine whether the rate of sudden hearing loss is higher than normal.

Many COVID patients also report dizziness as a symptom of the disease. Dizziness may be difficult to differentiate from rotatory vertigo, which is caused by damage to the balance system in the inner ear. The best estimate from current surveys and reports is that rotatory vertigo occurs in approximately 7 percent of COVID cases.

From these reports, it is clear that COVID-19 is linked to hearing difficulties, including hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo. Further research is needed to more fully establish the connection and the true cause of these symptoms. To learn more about how COVID and hearing problems are linked, we invite you to contact our hearing clinic today. We are eager to assist you.

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Do You Have a Stubborn Loved One? Here’s How to Help Them Wear Hearing Aids.

It probably is not news to you that some people can be very stubborn and set in their ways. This can be especially true of older people who do not want to wear hearing aids—and may not even want to acknowledge that they are experiencing hearing loss. If you have a loved one who needs hearing aids and is reluctant to do so, you are not alone.
Here are some simple tips you can use to help your loved one be more willing to wear their hearing aids:

  • Highlight the positives.

It can be easy to talk about the negative effects of hearing loss, like social isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and more. But put yourself in your loved one’s shoes—would you like it if someone only discussed negative effects with you? This approach can seem very heavy-handed and can put your loved one on the defensive.
It can be much more persuasive to focus on the positive effects that hearing aids could bring to their life. Talk with your loved one about how they will be better able to enjoy music, hear the sounds of nature, communicate more easily with friends and family, and more.

  • Focus on the facts.

Instead of focusing on how hearing loss negatively impacts your loved one’s life (and your own), which can result in a very emotionally charged discussion, talk about the facts of hearing aids. Highlight features like Bluetooth connectivity, the ability to reduce background noise, and other impressive high-tech aspects of modern hearing aids.

  • Be gentle.

Take a soft approach to help your loved one wear hearing aids. Do not try to pressure them or guilt them into scheduling an appointment with an audiologist or hearing aid professional. Hearing loss can be a sensitive subject, so approach it with care. Try to understand your loved one’s feelings and work with them.

  • Address the cost.

One common concern among people who need hearing aids is the cost. Even if a person understands how hearing aids could positively affect their life, they may feel reluctant if they do not know how much they will be spending to get their hearing aids. Explain that hearing aids can range in price depending on the type and how high-tech they are. Your hearing aid professional can work with you and your loved one to find a solution that fits both their hearing needs and their budget.

  • Go with them.

Some people do not like to go to the doctor on their own. They might feel uncertain about going places alone with hearing loss because they might not hear a question from the staff, or they may feel nervous about discussing their health history. Offer to attend their appointment with them to assist them and offer emotional support.

  • Ask them why.

Your loved one might be feeling stubborn about wearing hearing aids for a reason that is completely different from what you assume! The best way to find out why they are being stubborn is to ask them. Be sure to make clear that you will not be judgmental or dismissive of their concerns. Listen attentively and respond with care to address their worries.
If you would like more ideas on how you can help your loved one wear hearing aids, or if you need to schedule an appointment, please contact our hearing professional today. We are eager to care for you.

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How Does Hearing Loss Affect Men and Women Differently?

Hearing loss doesn’t discriminate—it can affect anyone of any age or any race. But does hearing loss affect men and women equally? According to the latest research and surveys, yes. This data shows that more men than women are affected by hearing loss—with rates of hearing loss being nearly twice as high in men than in women.
Although no one knows all of the reasons why men experience hearing loss more frequently than women, audiologists have hypothesized a few explanations for this difference. Here are some reasons men may experience hearing loss more than women:

  • Workplace noise

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a common type of hearing loss. One study found that men may experience NIHL at nearly three times the rate of women. Experts suggest this difference may be tied to workplace noise.
While careers and industries of all types are open to both men and women, some careers are male-dominated. These include several types of jobs that may have high levels of noise, such as military careers, construction sites, factory or manufacturing work, farming, flight crew, or emergency workers and first responders like policemen, firemen, and ambulance drivers.

  • Medication use

Certain medications, known as ototoxic medications, are known to cause hearing loss. It is believed that men use ototoxic medications at a higher rate than women, which exposes them to a higher risk of hearing loss. Ototoxic medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, certain antibiotics, certain cancer drugs, and more.

  • Seeking help

Although men appear to experience hearing loss at a greater rate than women, both genders suffer from hearing loss. Another difference exists, however, in how men and women handle hearing loss. Women are more likely than men to seek professional care for their hearing loss.
In addition, women are often more willing to admit to their friends and family that they suffer from hearing loss. This can lead to better hearing solutions for living with hearing loss day-to-day, such as choosing restaurants with lower noise levels, friends and family speaking more clearly, and other accommodations for the person with hearing loss. Because women are more likely to seek treatment and ask for help, they typically experience fewer negative social effects and have a higher quality of life.

  • Differences in hearing loss

Another difference between men and women who experience hearing loss is how the hearing loss manifests itself. Men are more likely to lose the ability to hear higher frequencies first, while women are more likely to have difficulty hearing lower frequencies. While both of these issues can cause long-term problems, men may experience more negative social effects because they can hear fewer high-frequency sounds, including higher-pitched voices.
So, what does this mean for you? If you work in a noisy environment, be sure to use appropriate ear protection to avoid hearing loss. If you use ototoxic medications, speak to your doctor about whether another medication option is available that will not endanger your hearing. Men can also learn to better recognize the symptoms of hearing loss and seek professional treatment when necessary.
To learn more about how men and women experience hearing loss differently, we invite you to contact our hearing professional today.

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Is There A Connection Between Hearing Health And Heart Health? Yes!

You may have heard the phrase, “Nothing happens in a vacuum,” before. But have you heard the entire quote? In full, the quote from Khaled Hosseini says, “Nothing happens in a vacuum in life: every action has a series of consequences, and sometimes it takes a long time to fully understand the consequences of our actions.” This thought applies to just about every action and choice in life—where you decide to go to school, who you choose as your friends, who you choose as your partner, and what you do at work every day.
However, have you ever applied this idea to your health? It remains true even there. Every part of your body and its health affects the rest of your body and your overall health. For example, if you injure your knee, you might not be able to run or cycle for a period of time. Without regular cardio exercise, you might gain weight. If it goes on long enough, this may even cause a decline in your cardiovascular health. In addition, if you favor one leg due to the injury, the other may develop additional strength to compensate for the weakness. A knee injury affects much more than only your knee.
All of that seems pretty easy to understand. What about when the link seems a little more complicated? At first glance, that may be the case when you hear that heart health and hearing health are connected. How could your heart affect how well you hear?
According to the latest research, it may all come down to blood flow. If your arteries are stiffened or narrowed (a condition called arteriosclerosis) due to high cholesterol, your blood flow will be constricted. High blood pressure (hypertension) can also damage blood vessels. Your hearing health also depends on blood flow. The delicate hair cells in the cochlea play an essential role in translating the noises your ears collect into electrical impulses that your brain can interpret as recognizable sounds. These hair cells depend on good circulation. Poor circulation can deprive these hair cells of the necessary oxygen, which leads to damage or destruction. Since these hair cells do not regenerate, the hearing damage is permanent.
Studies have confirmed that cardiovascular health is connected to hearing health. A study published in 2010 followed participants for 60 years. The findings showed that impaired cardiovascular health negatively impacts both the central and peripheral auditory systems, especially in older adults. Another analysis, published in 2017, found that cardiovascular disease and its risk factors (like high blood pressure) are associated with an increased risk of hearing loss.
Fortunately, studies have found some good news, too. Although sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, you may be able to preserve your remaining hearing through exercise, which can improve your cardiovascular health. A 2009 study conducted at Miami University discovered that participants with higher cardiovascular fitness levels (assessed by riding a stationary bicycle) had better hearing, particularly among those 50 and older. In 2017, a larger study found that people who were more physically active showed lower triglyceride levels. Since high triglyceride levels are associated with hearing loss, this is good news for those participants’ hearing health.
So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your hearing health is only affected by noise levels or other factors that may seem obvious. The truth is that your heart health impacts your hearing health, too. Adopting an exercise routine could improve both! To learn more about how you can protect your hearing health as well as your cardiovascular health, and for more information about how the two are connected, we invite you to contact our hearing practice today.

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Face Coverings Highlight Hearing Loss

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us all a new accessory to wear out in public: the face mask. Some people see the face mask as simply a tool to help prevent the spread of the virus. Others see it as a fashionable accessory that can be personalized to their tastes. And for some people, wearing a face covering has made hearing problems more obvious.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. However, people with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before seeking professional help. Many of these people use lip and speech reading to help them understand any words or phrases they could not hear well. They could also use facial expressions and cues to pick up on the overall message of the speaker. In short, these people with hearing loss would adapt as best they could until the problem became severe enough that they had no other option than to seek help.
In the age of COVID, however, people living with hearing loss can no longer rely on lip and speech reading or visual cues; these are all hidden by face coverings. Even transparent face masks can pose some degree of difficulty for those who read lips. In addition, wearing a face mask tends to muffle the volume of sound and affect the pitch range of speech, making it even more difficult for someone with hearing loss to understand what is being said.
While those with mild to moderate hearing loss could have hidden or ignored their condition for a period of time prior to COVID, in today’s environment, they can no longer “get by” with adaptations. Audiologists around the world have seen an increase in patient visits as people with hearing loss come to the realization that they must seek help in order to function in a world where everyone wears a face mask.
Even people who have previously sought professional help and now use hearing aids have found that they need additional help at this time. Hearing aid professionals have noted that many people who use hearing aids have come in for adjustments so they can better hear and understand people who speak while wearing a face mask. While they may have previously thought that their hearing aids worked well enough, the challenges posed by face masks have highlighted areas for improvement.
If you suspect that you may have hearing loss, or if you have noticed increasing difficulty in understanding speech when people are wearing face masks, we encourage you to visit your hearing healthcare professional. A simple hearing evaluation can determine whether you have hearing loss, and your hearing professional can recommend the treatment that is best for your specific needs and preferences.
If you already use hearing aids and still experience difficulty hearing while using a face mask, you can also benefit from speaking with a hearing aid professional. To learn more about how we can help you hear better, we invite you to contact our office today.

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Ford Hearing Aid & Audiology is Proud to Support the Hearing Health Foundation

As the holiday season ends, we’re reminded of all the things we’re thankful for. Not only are we grateful to support our patients with their hearing concerns, but we appreciate the opportunity to help others in need. It’s not just the immediate people around us that can benefit from generosity; you can make a difference in the world no matter where you are.
At Ford Hearing Aid & Audiology, we are a proud supporter of a variety of charities and noteworthy causes. This winter, we’ve extended our reach to support the Hearing Health Foundation. We’re committed to the welfare of others and are grateful that we can encourage this fantastic organization and the important work they’re doing.
Our staff thanks you for the gift you give us daily – being able to help you with your hearing needs. It’s what makes our job truly special.
Season’s greetings!

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Ford Hearing Aid & Audiology is Happy to Support the American Red Cross

As the holiday season ends, we’re reminded of all the things we’re thankful for. Not only are we grateful to support our patients with their hearing concerns, but we appreciate the opportunity to help others in need. It’s not just the immediate people around us that can benefit from generosity; you can make a difference in the world no matter where you are.
At Ford Hearing Aid & Audiology, we are a proud supporter of a variety of charities and noteworthy causes. This winter, we’ve extended our reach to support the American Red Cross. We’re committed to the welfare of others and are grateful that we can encourage this fantastic organization and the important work they’re doing.
Our staff thanks you for the gift you give us daily – being able to help you with your hearing needs. It’s what makes our job truly special.
Season’s greetings!

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3 Ways Untreated Hearing Loss Can Hurt Your Health

It is estimated that approximately 37 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss.  Many of those 37 million are untreated.  It may be for financial reasons, a reluctance to receive treatment, a fear of doctors or other personal reasons, but the truth is it can be a bigger problem than it may appear to be.  Living with more limited hearing may seem like a simple choice between the normal volume on the TV and turning it up a few notches, but left untreated, hearing loss can have much more serious consequences than missing some of the conversation. 
 
As research findings on hearing problems and their link to quality of life continue to grow, many common themes are coming to light showing just how problematic untreated hearing loss can be.  Here are three ways untreated hearing loss can hurt your health: 
 
Less Social Interaction 
It’s no secret these days that social interaction can play a positive role in health.  Studies have shown that quality relationships can help reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being, and even reduce your risk of death.  Relationships are often cited as the most important thing for happiness.  Unfortunately, hearing loss can have a negative impact on these relationships, especially when that loss goes untreated.  Sometimes it’s a breakdown in communication within relationships, sometimes an avoidance of social situations for fear of confusion or appearing rude, but withdrawing from those quality relationships can damage health now and down the road. 
 
Increased Risk of Depression 
With less social interaction and increased isolation due to hearing loss, there is believed to be a higher risk of mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.  According to one report on the Consequences of Uncorrected Hearing Loss, “Several studies have shown that uncorrected hearing loss gives rise to poorer quality of life, related to isolation, reduced social activity, and a feeling of being excluded, leading to an increased prevalence of symptoms of depression.”  As hearing problems continue to go untreated, these feelings can compound increasing the risk of physical health problems too. 
 
Cognitive Decline 
Some of the most interesting research into untreated hearing loss in recent years has been its impact on the brain.  It is believed that the negative effects are two-fold: 

  • When there is hearing loss, the brain must work harder to listen.  According to research findings, this increased effort requires extra resources from the brain, leaving less for other cognitive functions. 
  • While the cause is not yet fully understood and may be related to the harder working brain, some research is pointing to a link between untreated hearing loss and an increased risk of dementia.   

It’s hard to deny that hearing loss, when left untreated, can pose serious consequences to overall health beyond less clarity of sound. 
 
If you believe you or someone you know is affected by hearing loss, seek treatment to help prevent physical and mental concerns in the future.  Work with an audiologist to find the best solutions for your needs.  Discuss the best hearing aids to help improve your quality of life. Don’t let hearing loss impair your health! 

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There’s an App For Hearing That

The last ten years have brought about significant improvements in hearing aids, thank goodness.  Gone are the tan, clunky analog models incapable of the finesse needed to separate speech signals from useless background noise.  Today’s hearing aids rely on digital platforms with programming flexibility for better personalization and the added benefit of being lighter, smaller and sleeker. 
The digital age opened the door for the current round of amazing features of the modern hearing aid including signal amplification for clearer calls and advanced speech recognition bolstered by directional microphones and high-speed processing. 
Like all things in our digital age, modern hearing aids can, of course, be linked to a smartphone.  Similar to using a Bluetooth, the smartphone can send audio directly to a hearing aid.  There’s also an app to allow the phone to act as a specialized remote to eliminate the traditional around-the-neck remote.  Subtle volume adjustments can be made right from the phone. 
Another benefit to the smartphone-aided hearing aid is that the phone can become a microphone to mitigate the challenges presented by multiple conversations in a busy setting, like a crowded restaurant.  The phone can be placed in front of the person speaking and the conversation can flow easily over pasta and wine.   
A smartphone’s tracking and analytics capabilities can also be leveraged by a hearing aid wearer to maximize the wireless hearing aid experience.  A lost hearing aid can be located if it’s within a reasonable distance.  If it’s not close, or if the battery has died, the phone can tell you the GPS coordinates of the hearing aid’s last location.  On the analytics side, the phone keeps records of hearing aid usage and adjustments that can then be shared with a hearing healthcare provider to help craft custom treatment plans. 
How much technology to use is a personal decision made across several buying platforms like TVs, computers, and household appliances to name just a few.  More high-tech usually means higher pricing and faster battery drain and that is true with hearing aids, too.  Another consideration is the relationship you have with your smartphone.  If you are an active smartphone user and have your phone with you constantly, smartphone-enabled hearing aids may seamlessly fit in with your lifestyle.  However, if you use your smartphone occasionally, or only for emergencies, there are better choices for you. 
When researching options, make sure to ask about these features: 

  1. Telecoil Technology – Telecoils are wireless antenna available in most hearing aids.  They can link into sound systems for more amplified sound. 
  2. Background Noise Suppression – Since background noise is a lower frequency sound it can be separated and suppressed. 
  3. Directional Microphones – More focused than a traditional omnidirectional microphone, a directional microphone is sensitive to sound coming from the area directly in front of it. 

It’s a hyper-connected world and you can enhance your connection to the things that matter to you with proper hearing healthcare.  Schedule a hearing evaluation today to get started.