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Hearing Loss


Living Right: Can It Benefit Your Hearing?

Woman is protecting herself from hearing loss by being healthy outdoors.

You workout regularly and watch your diet just to stay healthy but shouldn’t that apply to your hearing too? Many people see a loss of hearing as a something that happens naturally due to aging but fail to take it into account how bad habits affect it. The hearing sense is one the most important you have and what you do now does matter if you want to keep it. Everything from eating fast food to refusing to give up the cigarettes to hitting the couch for hours at a time contributes to changes in the hearing related to aging. It’s time to make some positive choices by considering preventative measures that benefit your heart and hearing at the same time.

Regular Workouts

Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your entire body including your ears. A 2009 study conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) determined there is a connection between heart health and the gradual hearing loss associated with aging. They found that heart disease was a factor in hearing loss very late in life and failure to exercise leads to cardiovascular disease.

A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine looked at how body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and physical activity factored into the hearing equation. They were able to conclude that the better fit you are, the better your chance of keeping your hearing. Even the American Journal of Audiology identified a direct link between cardiovascular health and hearing function. With that much proof on hand, it’s clear that sitting on the couch day after day will cost you in many ways, so start a regular workout schedule or, at least, find time to take a walk most days of the week.

Balanced Diet

There is a reason mom said you are what you eat. There is a certain nutritional aspect to maintaining ear health. Omega 3 fatty acids, for instance, are deemed healthy foods good for the heart but studies show they also help protect you against age-related hearing loss. Look to get some omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon.

While you are out shopping for fish, make sure to get pick up some greens, too. Spinach, kale and asparagus are all rich in folic acid, an antioxidant that helps to reduce nerve damage including the type that keeps the ears from talking to the brain. Add some magnesium found in bananas and artichokes to your plate and you are eating your way to better ear health.

Start Eating to Prevent Chronic Disease

When it comes to what you eat, the rest of the body matters just as much as your ears. Preventing chronic illnesses like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes also protects your hearing. It might surprise you to know the kinds of foods can help fight disease like:

  • Wine – Red wine is good for the body, especially the heart, in moderation. Just be sure to keep it to one glass a day and check with your doctor before you start.
  • Cocoa – You know that good stuff chocolate is made from, a little each day will improve your brain health without blowing your diet. When you shop, look for dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao.
  • Almonds – They make an effective and efficient high-protein snack with lots of crunch to help lower cholesterol levels for better heart and brain health. Stick to just a few each day, though. They add a lot of calories to your diet.

While meal planning, find ways to cut the salt. Excess salt leads to water retention and higher blood pressure.

Sound Hygiene

Of course, don’t ignore the things that you do just for your ears when considering smart health choices. Sound hygiene refers to protecting your ears from the noise that leads to damage. Don’t wear headphones or earbuds to listen to music or talk on the phone. They introduce loud noise directly into the ear canal. By the time it reaches the sensitive mechanisms of the inner ear, it is strong enough to cause problems. If you are going out for the night to a club or to hear a band, wear ear protection to prevent the sound vibrations from causing ear trauma.

Get Quality Sleep

If you need eight hours a night, then get eight hours a night. Make an appointment with your doctor if you think you might suffer from sleep apnea, as well. Sleep apnea tends to point to underlying problems that affect the ears like poor circulation or inflammation. Research suggests that those with untreated sleep apnea develop hearing problems, especially with low and high-frequency sounds.

Learn to live right and your ears will thank you. If you already think you have a problem with your hearing, now is the time to see your doctor for a professional hearing exam and test.

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Is Really It True That My Tinnitus Seems Worse at Bedtime?

Woman can't sleep because ringing in her ears. Her tinnitus is keeping her up at night.

If you are one of the 25 million people in the U.S. with a medical condition called tinnitus, usually ringing in the ears, then you probably know that it tends to get worse whåen you are trying to fall asleep, but why? The ringing in one or both ears is not a real noise but a complication of a medical issue like hearing loss, either permanent or temporary. Of course, knowing what it is will not explain why you have this ringing, buzzing or swishing noise more often at night.

The truth is more common sense than you might think. To know why your tinnitus increases as you try to sleep, you need to understand the hows and whys of this very common medical problem.

What is Tinnitus?

To say tinnitus is not a real sound just adds to the confusion, but, for most people, that is true. It’s a noise no one else can hear and does not happen of a real sound close to your ear. The individual lying next to you in bed can’t hear it even if it sounds like a tornado to you.

Tinnitus alone is not a disease or condition, but a sign that something else is wrong. It is typically associated with significant hearing loss. For many, tinnitus is the first sign they get that their hearing is at risk. Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so they do not notice it until that ringing or buzzing starts. This phantom noise works like a flag to warn you of a change in how you hear.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of medical sciences biggest conundrums. Doctors do not have a clear understanding of why it happens, only what it usually means. It is a symptom of a number of medical problems including inner ear damage. The inner ear contains many tiny hair cells designed to move in response to sound waves. Tinnitus often means there is damage to those hair cells, enough to keep them from sending electrical messages to the brain. These electrical messages is how the brain translates sound into something you can clearly comprehend like a car horn or person talking.

The current theory about tinnitus has to do with the silence or a lack of sound. The brain works hard to interpret sound through these messages, but when they don’t come, it is confusing. To compensate, your brain fills that that lack of sound with the ringing or buzzing noise of tinnitus.

The need for feedback from the ears does explain a few things related to tinnitus. For one, it tells you why that sound is a symptom of such a variety of illnesses that affect hearing from a mild ear infection to age-related hearing loss. It also explains why the volume goes up at night for some people.

Why Does Tinnitus Get Worse at Night?

Unless you are profoundly deaf, your ear picks up certain sounds all day long even if you do not realize it. The ears hear faint noises like music playing or the TV humming even if there is no comprehension of the sound. At the very least, you hear your own voice, but at night, it all stops.

At bedtime, the world goes silent and that lack of noise creates confusion in the brain in response to it. The brain only knows one thing to do when that happens – create noise even if it’s not real.

In other words, tinnitus gets worse at night because it’s too quiet. Creating sound is the solution for those who can’t sleep because their ears are ringing.

How to Create Noise at Night

If you can believe that ear ringing does get worse at night because there is not enough noise to keep the brain busy, the answer to the problem is clear – make some. For people suffering from tinnitus, all they need do is run a fan in the room. Just the noise of the motor is enough to quiet the ringing.

Manufacturers do make a device designed to help those with tinnitus get to sleep, as well. The white noise machine plays environmental sounds like rain falling or wind blowing to fill that empty space. The soft sounds can soothe the brain without distracting it from the main object – to fall asleep.

Can Anything Else Increase Tinnitus?

It’s important to keep in mind that the lack of sound is only one thing that can cause an upsurge in your tinnitus. It tends to get worse when you are under stress and certain medical problems can lead to a flare-up, too, like high blood pressure. If introducing sound into your nighttime routine doesn’t help or you feel dizzy when the ringing is active, it’s time to see the doctor.

The Little-Known Difficulties of Single-Sided Deafness

Man suffering from single-sided hearing loss is only experiencing one half of the world because he can't hear the other.

Age-related hearing loss, which concerns most adults sooner or later, will be lateral, that is, it affects both ears to a degree. As a result, the average person sees hearing loss as a binary — someone has healthy hearing in both ears or decreased hearing on both sides, but that ignores one particular kind of hearing loss completely.

A 1998 study thought that around 400,000 children had a unilateral hearing loss due to trauma or disease in the moment. It is safe to say this number has increased in that last two decades. The truth is single-sided hearing loss does occur and it brings with it complications.

What’s Single-Sided Hearing Loss and What Causes It?

As its name implies, single-sided hearing loss indicates a decrease in hearing just in one ear.In intense cases, deep deafness is potential.

Reasons for premature hearing loss differ. It can be the result of trauma, for example, someone standing next to a gun fire on the left might end up with profound or moderate hearing loss in that ear. A disease can lead to the problem, as well, for example:

  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Measles
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Meningitis
  • Mastoiditis
  • Mumps
  • Microtia

Whatever the cause, a person who has unilateral hearing must adapt to a different method of processing audio.

Direction of the Sound

The mind utilizes the ears nearly just like a compass. It defines the direction of noise based on what ear registers it first and at the highest volume.

With the single-sided hearing loss, the noise will only come in one ear no matter what direction it comes from. If you have hearing in the left ear, your mind will turn to search for the noise even if the person talking is on the right.

Pause for a second and consider what that would be similar to. The audio would enter 1 side no matter where what direction it comes from. How would you know where a person talking to you personally is standing? Even if the hearing loss is not profound, sound management is catchy.

Honing in on Audio

The mind also employs the ears to filter out background noise. It tells one ear, the one nearest to the noise that you want to concentrate on, to listen for a voice. The other ear handles the background sounds. That is why in a noisy restaurant, you can still focus on the dialogue at the dining table.

When you don’t have that tool, the brain becomes confused. It’s unable to filter out background noises like a fan running, so that’s everything you hear.

The mind has a lot happening at any one time but having use of two ears allows it to multitask. That’s why you’re able to sit and examine your social media account while watching TV or having a conversation. With just one working ear, the mind loses the ability to do something while listening. It has to prioritize between what you hear and what you see, so you tend to miss out on the dialogue around you while you navigate your newsfeed.

The Head Shadow Effect

The head shadow effect describes how certain sounds are inaccessible to a person having a unilateral hearing loss. Low tones have extended frequencies so that they bend enough to wrap round the mind and reach the ear. High pitches have shorter wavelengths and do not endure the journey.

If you are standing next to a person with a high pitched voice, you might not understand what they say if you don’t turn so the good ear is on their side. On the flip side, you might hear someone with a deep voice just fine no matter what side they’re on because they produce longer sound waves that make it into either ear.

People with only slight hearing loss in only one ear tend to accommodate. They learn quickly to turn their head a certain way to listen to a friend speak, for instance. For people who struggle with single-sided hearing loss, a hearing aid might be work around that returns their lateral hearing to them.

How Can I Know if I Have Hearing Loss?

A man is unable to hear or see and is surrounded by question marks.

It might seem like it’d be evident, but hearing loss tends to be slow, so how can one know if they have it? There is no darting pain to function as a danger sign. You do not collapse or make extra trips to the restroom when it happens, either. It’s safe to say the symptoms of hearing loss are somewhat more subtle than other age-related illnesses like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Even so, there are indicators if you know to look for them. It’s a matter of paying attention to the way you hear and the impact any change could be having on your life. Take the time to consider the ways you can pinpoint hearing loss for you or someone you care about.

Your Conversations are Different

The impact on socializing offers a number of the most telling indications. As an example, if the first thing out of your mouth during most discussions is “what?” That shows you aren’t understanding words easily. Asking the people you talk to tell you again what they said is something they’re very likely to notice before you do, too, so pay attention to how folks react to having discussions with you.

When speaking to a group of two or more people, you might have trouble keeping track of things. You are missing parts of what each person says, so you are not connecting the dots anymore. You can not ask everyone speaking to repeat themselves, either, so you just get lost. Over time, you hide from group conversations or stand there not understanding what’s stated, because it is just too confusing when you do.

The Little Everyday Sounds Takes Over

If all you hear these days is background noise, then it’s time to get a hearing test. This is a frequent sign of hearing loss since you’re not able to filter out sounds like a fan blowing or an air conditioner operating. It gets to the point at which you can not hear what people are saying for you because it becomes lost in the background noise.

The TV Volume Goes Up and Upward

It’s simple to excuse the need to flip the TV volume up on this tired set because of a busy area, but if it happens every day, it’s probably an indication of gradual hearing loss. When everybody else starts telling you that you’ve got the TV or computer volume up too high, you need to wonder why that is, and, probably, conclude that your hearing isn’t like it was at one time.

You End up Watching Their Mouth

Lip reading is a compensation technique for missing words. Gradual hearing loss begins with the loss of hard sounds. Words that contain specific letters will probably be faulty. Your mind might automatically refocus your eyes on the individual’s lips to repair the problem. Chances are you do not even understand you do it before somebody points it out or suddenly looks uncomfortable when speaking with you.

You Hear Something Strange

The constant clicking or buzzing or the sound of wind in your ears — that is called tinnitus, and it is an indication of significant hearing loss. These sounds aren’t real, but phantom sounds that only you hear. For some people, they are just annoying, but for many others tinnitus is painful. If you’ve got it, then you most surely have hearing loss you will need to handle.

Hearing problems aren’t always obvious to the person experiencing them, but it’s to others. Listen to what your loved ones are telling you about your hearing. Consider, also, other medical issues that may contribute to the problem such as hypertension or medication you have been prescribed that can harm your ears and find out if age-related hearing loss is a hereditary problem you should be worried about.

It is really like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. When you do come to that decision, visit your doctor and receive a professional hearing test for affirmation. Hearing loss isn’t the end of the world, but for many, it will mean it’s time to consider hearing aids.

How Can It Be Possible Your Seasonal Allergies Cause Hearing Loss?

Woman with allergies turned, so her ear is facing the viewer.

Each new year and every new season brings with it the stuffy nose and itchy eyes that means allergies, but does that also mean you’ll have hearing loss? It might surprise you to know there is a connection for many people. You don’t necessarily associate hearing with the immune system, after all. It is not that simple. Your hearing is a complex sense, one that can be affected by an allergic reaction. So, what should you do if your allergies affect your hearing?

Understanding Allergies

An allergic reaction is part of body’s internal security plan managed by the immune system. It monitors different areas to detect intruders such as an infection. When bacteria gets in, the immune system works to fight it off. It also creates a special tag, known as an antibody, that marks this invader for future reference.

Let’s say a family member exposes you to the flu virus. If you have had the same strain before, an antibody allows the immune system to recognize it and respond. It will release histamine — the ground troops that fight off invaders — and that typically means inflammation of some kind. In the case of the flu, your sinus cavities and mucous membranes might swell in an attempt to trap the virus.

The problem is the immune system is far from perfect. Sometimes harmless substances like dust or pollen get an antibody in error. Once flagged, they will always seem like a threat. That’s an allergy. For allergy sufferers, this means everytime you come in contact with this allergen — that’s the dust or pollen — there is an immune system response. By definition, an allergy means you are hypersensitive to something that is harmless to most people.

Seasonal Allergies and Hearing Loss

Each year millions of people in this U.S. seek treatment for seasonal allergies. The other symptoms like congestion might keep them suffering enough that they fail to notice a change in their hearing. The ears rely on sound waves reaching a nerve in the inner ear, so they can be translated into something the brain can understand and allergies interfere with that process.

An allergic response typically leads to swelling and congestion. They, in turn, change the fluid pressure and prevent sound from traveling to the inner ear. You might notice pressure or a sense of fullness in the ears when that happens. The body produces more earwax in response to an allergy, too, creating a buildup that blocks sound.

The Skin and Allergies

An allergic response can affect the skin with swelling and an itchy rash, too. The ear has a considerable amount of skin that is at risk when allergies hit. There is the skin that covers the outer ear, known as the pinna, for example. The ear canal is covered with skin that can swell and itch enough to close the passage and prevent sound waves from moving forward.

Allergies and the Middle Ear

The middle ear is the area most often affected by allergies. This region contains tubes that allow fluid to drain and control the pressure inside the ear. An allergic reaction closes the tubes allowing fluid and pressure to build, and that makes it hard to hear.

How to Recognize Allergy-Related Hearing Loss

If you are prone to allergies, these symptoms will be familiar:

  • Itching inside the ear canal
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Fullness inside the ear
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

When combined with the conductive hearing loss, these are signs of an allergy.

Any time your hearing changes suddenly, though, it is worth considering seeing a doctor, especially if you don’t usually have allergies. Your hearing loss might be the first sign of a chronic medical problem like high blood pressure or diabetes. If allergies are a way of life for you, however, then treating them is probably all it will take to get your hearing back.


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