Each vowel, consonant, word ending and sound corresponds to a specific frequency, and as hearing loss occurs and certain frequencies are lost, the brain simultaneously loses the ability to interpret those sounds correctly anymore. For example, I have hearing loss between 500 Hz and 4000 Hz of hearing, with an especially noticeable loss of about 70 percent between 500-4000Hz. As a result of this I have difficulty with the following letters and sounds: d, b, i, n, o, I, a, r, p, h, g, ch, sh, t, f, th, s and h.
Now consider how many words in the English language use any of the above letters.
Hearing loss isn’t simply a loss of auditory capability, it also significantly impacts the relationship between the neurological and auditory pathways by causing the brain to forget, overtime, how to interpret certain sounds. In 2012, researchers Arthur Wingfield and Jonathan Peelle found that the loss of hair cells located on the basilar membrane in the cochlea of the inner ear in aging patients with hearing loss impacted the perception of speech. There are 12,000-15,000 outer hair cells that work to amplify sounds to cochlea and another 3,000 inner hair cells that transduce the mechanical vibrations of sound waves into neural impulses that the brain can read through the eighth cranial nerve and identify as specific elements of speech. When hearing loss occurs and these hair cells are lost, it becomes incredibly difficult to understand speech, especially in noise.
In addition to determining that hearing loss and hair cell loss harms the communication pathways between the ears and the brain, the study also recognized that hearing loss can result in poor cognitive performance, slow speech perception and listening fatigue. Below is a summary of what Wingfield and Peelle stated in the abstract results of their study:
“This is the finding that successful perception of speech that is degraded by hearing loss can draw cognitive resources that might otherwise be available for encoding what has been heard in memory, or for the comprehension of rapid, informationally complex speech as often occurs in everyday life. Our emphasis here is not on failures of perception, but rather, the effect on cognitive performance even when it can be shown that the speech itself has been successfully recognized. This type of 'effortful listening' is associated with increased stress responses, changes in pupil dilation, and poorer behavioral performance (e.g., on memory tests for degraded speech). It is thus possible that even a mild-to-moderate hearing loss can inflate the appearance of cognitive decline in the older adult – a cautionary note for the geriatric clinician/diagnostician and family members alike. This sensory-cognitive interaction is a reminder that the auditory system may be the conduit to the brain, but it is the brain that 'hears'.”
So what can you do about it? Hearing Aids and Games
The best help for better speech understanding is to combine hearing aids with auditory rehabilitation activities. Hearing aids can help improve the ability to hear various frequencies, but your brain still needs to re-learn how to interpret those frequencies. Auditory rehabilitation activities such as Hear Coach can help you to improve your speech perception and achieve better understanding.
Start your journey to better understanding today by learning more about what hearing aids can do for your lifestyle by calling us today!
This blog originally appeared on www.starkey.com.
Topics: better hearing,
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have found a link between hearing loss and mild cognitive impairment. Their study is focused on people who have a parental history with Alzheimer's. Those with hearing loss actually scored poorer on cognitive tests compared to individuals with normal hearing. By identifying and treating hearing loss it may be possible to slow the signs of cognitive decline.
A: They are both self cleaning
It’s true! Your ears can clean themselves with the help of cerumen. Cerumen, the medical term for earwax, forms in the outer one-third of your ear canal, naturally migrating out of your ear with jaw movements, such as talking or chewing, to naturally clean your ears.
Earwax is also thought to have protective, antibacterial and lubricant properties. Wax protects the ear by keeping debris away from the eardrum. Inserting ear cleaning or wax-removal tools can potentially push the wax further down the canal, thereby causing harm to the wall of your ear canal or eardrum. Removing ear wax can also make your ear canal feel dry and itchy because of the natural lubrication it provides.
Is it ever okay to clean your ears?
Despite the wide array of removal tools sold over the counter, the American Academy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) believes that under ideal circumstances your ears will never need to be cleaned: “Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that earwax should be routinely removed for personal hygiene. This is not so. In fact, attempting to remove ear wax with cotton-tipped swabs, bobby pins, or other probing devices can result in damage to the ear including trauma, impaction of the earwax, and changes in hearing. These objects only push wax in deeper, and can block the ear canal entirely.”
How to help avoid earwax build up:
If your ears tend to produce a great deal of earwax, you can help prevent build up and impaction by using a softening agent once a week. Drops like Debrox and Murine are sold over the counter and can soften wax by allowing it to come out on its own more easily. If you feel most comfortable leaving removal to the professionals, you can schedule wax removal every 6 to 12 months with your doctor or hearing professional.
NOTE: If you have tubes in your ears, a hole in your ear, diabetes, or a weakened immune system you should contact your physician before attempting to remove wax on your own.
Signs of an impaction (earwax buildup):
An excess build-up of earwax can lead to impaction and other unpleasant symptoms including pain, infection, decrease in hearing, itching and more.
• If you notice pain, fullness, or a plugged sensation in your ear you should see a professional to rule out wax impaction.
• If wax blocks your ear canal you may notice a decrease in hearing, ringing, itching, odor, or an increase in coughing.
A professional trained in earwax extraction can use suction, a curette, microscope or irrigation for removal. Manual removal may be used if the ear canal is narrow, the eardrum has a hole in it, or there is a tube in the ear drum. Individuals with diabetes or weakened immune systems should be especially careful about wax removal.
Hearing aids and earwax
Earwax can wreak havoc on hearing aids. Some hearing aid wearers report an increase in earwax production when they begin wearing hearing aids. Hearing aids can stimulate the glands in the ear canal to produce more wax and block the normal migration of wax from the ear canal. More importantly, earwax can clog a hearing aid’s microphones and receivers, impairing quality and performance. This is why cleaning and maintaining your hearing aids is so important. Your hearing care professional will demonstrate how to properly clean and maintain your hearing aids.
• This Will Make You Never, Ever Want to Clean Your Ears Again: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/21/dont-clean-ear-qtip_n_5600401.html
• Ear Wax and Care: http://www.entnet.org/content/earwax-and-care
• The truth about cleaning your ears with cotton swabs: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/01/29/truth-about-cleaning-your-ears-with-cotton-swabs.html
• You’ll Never Clean the Inside of Your Ears Again After Reading This: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/06/27/ear-cleaning.aspx#!
This blog originally appeared on www.starkey.com by Dr. Beth McCormick.
Is it really "selective hearing" or is it hearing loss? We've often heard the "selective hearing" excuse, so next time someone uses it, put them to the test. Literally.
A hearing test will clarify once and for all if their hearing loss is selective or real. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!
This cartoon and blog originally appearing on www.starkey.com.
Topics: Hearing Evaluation
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As part of May's Better Hearing Month Initiative, we back with some hearing health life hacks to keep you going.
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