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Hearing Loss

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You Can Stop Cleaning Your Ears: 5 Ways Ear Wax Keeps Them Healthy

Picture of woman using a swab to clean her ears.

Good news for your hectic morning to-do list: cross ear cleaning right off! Your grandmother, the box of swabs in your bathroom, your hearing care professional and the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) all agree on one important thing: Swabbing as an ear cleaning ritual is unnecessary and can even cause hearing loss—so stop doing it. Check out these 5 reasons why leaving that ear wax alone is a better idea than you ever knew:

1. Your Ears Can Already Clean Themselves Just Fine

Cerumen (the technical name for ear wax) is actually your ears’ very own cleaning substance. It grabs dirt and debris before it can get trapped deeper inside your ear canal. But it doesn’t stop there. Your daily talking, chewing and yawning activities physically move the ear wax out of your ear canal so all you have to do is wipe the excess away during a shower. Voila! Finished!

Using a pencil, swab, fork, key, finger, chopstick or any other pointy object for ear wax removal will negate your ears’ self-cleaning process, pushing used ear wax deeper into the canal where it can get impacted and lead to injury and hearing loss.

2. Ear Wax for the Win

Although nobody ever wants to pop an ear wax flavored Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans jellybean, cerumen (scientific-speak for ear wax) has all kinds of health properties that help keep your ears healthy. Ear wax has several health benefits aside from moving the dirt out of your ears. It protects your ears against viruses, fungal infections, bacteria, and even insects! It also moisturizes and conditions the skin inside of the ear canal, keeping it healthy and supple.

Cerumen is a fascinating recipe of long-chain fatty acids, cholesterol, alcohols, sebum, sloughed off skin cells, enzymes and other chemicals that are produced by special glands inside your ears. Your ears concoct this special recipe to keep your ears clean and infection free. In fact, average cerumen is slightly acidic—which inhibits fungal and bacterial growth. Yay ear wax!

3. Swab Cleaning Hurts Hearing

When you swab, jab or dig around for ear wax removal, you inadvertently push soiled ear wax further down into your ear canal where it’s harder to remove and can cause some level of hearing loss. It may even become impacted and have to be removed professionally. If you’ve been doing this for years, schedule an appointment with your hearing care professional.

On the other hand, some people do actually make excess ear wax, and some people make too little. Sometimes the chemical composition of the ear wax isn’t ideal—it may be too dry or too wet, making it hard for the cerumen to do its job correctly. Either way, it’s still a bad idea to use anything bigger than your elbow for ear wax removal. If you have any concerns about your ears’ cerumen production, again, please schedule an appointment with your hearing care professional.

Now, if you need to wear hearing aids, you do need to pay attention to ear wax buildup and proper ear cleaning because sometimes that can impact ear wax into the ear canal. But still—no swabs! That’s why it’s so important to follow your hearing care professional’s recommendations on gentle ear washing and regular cleaning of your hearing aids to keep the balance right and your hearing healthy.

4. Other Ear Cleaning Injuries to Avoid

Nearly 12,500 American children sustain ear cleaning injuries each year for which they need a doctor’s visit. Sometimes the well-meaning parents do it under the false impression that ear cleaning is as necessary as teeth brushing. But often the kids do it themselves. These ear injuries range from tympanic membrane (ear drum) tears to cuts and lacerations along the ear canal.

And before you can ask, “But how about ear candling? Is that OK?” The answer is an emphatic NO. We’re not sure what ancient person came up with the idea of shoving a hollow cone into the ear and then lighting it on fire, but it was a bad idea from the beginning, and here’s why:

  • It’s been proven ineffective for ear cleaning and can actually make ear wax impaction worse.
  • It causes burn injuries to the face, ears, hair, etc. – even burns that go all the way to the ear drum and middle ear.
  • It’s also been known to puncture the ear drum.

So no ear candling for you!

5. Clean Your Ears Like This Instead

All you really need to do is gently dab your ears dry with a towel after your daily shower and hair washing routine. Normally, this is entirely sufficient for healthy ear cleaning. But if you have any concerns about your ear health, excess ear wax, impaction, ear injury or hearing loss, schedule an appointment with your hearing care professional today for appropriate care – and be a little more thankful for that hard-working cerumen!

3 Hearing Aid Cons You Really Want To Avoid

Picture of magnifying glass over the word scam

With an estimated 48 million people here in the U.S. suffering from some degree of hearing loss. It makes sense that there are scams associated with hearing aids, especially given the fact that many of the individuals in need of these devices are elderly and not a knowledgeable about technology. Current studies show that one in every three elderly people has hearing loss that would benefit from some kind of hearing device. The problem is not all hearing aids work like you might expect them to or they use a marketing tactic that is less than honest. Consider three hearing aid scams you need to avoid.

1. Forget About Getting a Mail Order Hearing Aid

Years ago, hearing aids were a one size fits all prospect. The initial hearing assistance devices were trumpet-shaped you would put up to the ear to collect sound waves and make them louder. These days, hearing aids are both better designed and more convenient. If you choose to buy mail order, you might as well get ahead and settle for that trumpet. A top of the line hearing aid is customized to the wearer’s ear – something you can’t get through the mail. They also offer add-ons that fit each person’s needs, too. Instead of hunting for something online, do your shopping at a certified hearing aid dealer and get fitted properly. The price may be more, but so is the value and most dealers have financing plans available for you to consider. A hearing aid is an investment, so make sure it is worth the price you pay by shopping in person. Buying in person also allows you to make comparisons of different brands and models to see what each one has to offer. You can only learn so much from a picture on a screen or in print. Buy a quality hearing aid from the right dealer to ensure you have a good fit, all the right features and an honest warranty.

2. Don’t Settle for a Short Trial Period

A short trial period only serves one purpose – to push users into purchasing a less than perfect device. Smart shoppers need more than just a 10-minute demo or three-day trial to really get comfortable with new hearing aids. It could be that a business that shortens or completely eliminates the trail period is getting rid of an old display model, something that was returned or a product that they have had complaints about in the past. Even if you know the brand and model you are considering, there is no guarantee that particular unit will fit right or work well. It’s too risky no matter how you look at it. A savvy hearing aid consumer understands the value of a good long trial period. Shop only with dealers selling devices they can back up with a 30 to a 90-day trial, along with an in-store demo. You’ll need that much time to try the aids in a variety of real-life situations. An experienced dealer will even extend the trial period if you need more time.

3. Don’t be Fooled by the Marketing Madness

It’s an old expression but “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” is appropriate in the hearing aid industry. There are companies that use online and print marketing to create a sense of urgency around their products.

  • Buy one get one free
  • Buy one get a free gift card
  • Today only discounts

Marketing gimmicks like this push buyers into making a purchase quickly. The hearing aids they rushed to buy may be a poor physical and lifestyle fit. There is more to picking out hearing aids than just price. For example, you’ll want a professional hearing test before you buy to provide essential information to ensure a hearing aid will work for you. It allows you to select a style that best fits your level of hearing, too. You also need time to consider adding features. Things like directional microphones or Bluetooth access sound interesting but do you really know what they are for or how they affect you personally. Take you time and do some homework. Don’t buy until you can answer these questions:

  • What is your level of hearing loss – requires a professional hearing test and medical exam
  • What different styles work best for your life – is behind the ear okay or do you want something more compact and stealth
  • What does each feature do and how does it improve your hearing life
  • What are the warranty and trial period
  • Are there any hidden fees
  • What is the average battery life

These are all critical questions that you don’t have time to answer when pushed into the sale. You are making a choice when buying hearing aids that are going to change your life. Do it right and avoid hearing aid scams.

Consider At Least 10 Things You Might Need to Know Buying Hearing Aids

Audiologist

You have made the right choice.You are finally going to deal with your hearing loss, but what comes next? As a savvy healthcare consumer, you’ll want to think about a few things before you make take the next step and buy. Hearing aids come in various brands and styles, so finding out more before you buy is just smart. They come in so many different shapes, sizes and with features that will seem confusing to you at first. Each variation changes the final hearing aid cost, too, so it’s all matters when you shop. Consider 10 things you need to think about before buying hearing aids.

1. Size doesn’t matter with hearing aids

Don’t let the compact size confuse you. Small hearing aids are compact and stealth, but the better choice for some people. It appears as if that tiny device can’t really be as effective has the chunkier ones, but the mechanisms in the small hearing aids are just as effective.

2. The top hearing aids offer more than just amplification

Hearing aids cost money, so shop for styles that provide more than just a tiny speaker. Consider the different features offered, so you know you are getting the ones are right for your lifestyle. Think about what you want to accomplish with the device, too. Start by making a list your priorities and carrying it with you when you shop. This will help you pinpoint your personal needs.

3. Having a hearing aid is not going to bring back your hearing

There is a real difference between the way you used to hear things and the way you’ll hear with a hearing aid. Make sure your expectations are practical. Even good hearing aids will not restore normal hearing.

4. Hearing aids can improve the quality of your life though

Maybe you won’t hear things the way you once did, but, even so, the hearing aids will make your life better. You will hear what you were missing before, understand speech without working so hard and keep those background noises from becoming uncomfortably loud.

5. You are going to need help finding the right hearing aids

A hearing aid is not something you pick up off the shelf or buy off the Internet from a big box store. Find a professional provider and let them help you select the best hearing aid for your life.

6. Get a hearing exam before buying hearing aids

This will pinpoint the cause of your hearing loss and be instrumental in finding the right hearing aids for your condition. Not all types of hearing loss will benefit from the basic hearing aid, so go into the buying process with all the information you need to make an informed decision including a professional hearing test.

7. Look for a provider that offers an in-store demo and trial period

The hearings aid cost requires you to be a smart consumer. It’s an investment, so make sure to try the hearing aids out first. The in-store demonstration ensures you know how all the features work and how to make adjustments as needed. If possible, get a trial period, as well, so you have a chance to use the devices in a real world setting to make sure they fit properly.

8. Don’t miss out on those critical add-ons

Things like directional microphones and telecoils are necessities in some careers and wireless technology means you can use phones with your hearing aid without having to resort to always using the speaker.

9. Read your contract carefully

Along with a 30 to 60 day trial period, you need to fully consider the warranty, maintenance choices and follow up appointments that come with your purchase. Ask for a written copy of the contract and read the fine print to see if there are hidden costs or nonrefundable fees.

10. Know the battery lifespan

Small, compact hearing aids require small batteries that may need replacing often. Some will last just days and that will factor into the cost. A larger unit is less stealth, but possibly more cost-efficient. Take your time when shopping for hearing aids, so you make the right choice at the right price for your budget and lifestyle.

Hearing Loss: Is It Caused by Your Job?

Man holding his ears with noises around him. Hearing Loss

Is it possible that your work environment is putting you at risk for hearing loss? This is called occupational hearing loss and it is a very common problem. Certain job types expose employees to loud noises that will cost them their hearing without the right precautions in place. Let’s review a few facts regarding occupational hearing loss and how it might factor into your job.

How Common is Occupational Hearing Loss?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states four million people in the United States work at jobs that do expose them to damaging loud noise. It’s a problem most industries face but tends to be more common in:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Carpentry
  • Plumbing
  • Entertainment

The CDC offers the example of the carpenter subject to regular noise like pounding hammers. He could have the hearing of a 50-year old at the age of 25 because of the constant exposure to this sound.

How Does Occupational Hearing Loss Happen?

An individual diagnosed with job-related hearing loss deals with loud noise repeatedly at work and, over time, it damages the delicate mechanisms of the ears. Think about what it would be like to listen to a jackhammer every morning, only this one isn’t on the street outside your window. It sits just one meter away from you all day long. The noise level of a jackhammer at that distance is around 120 dB.

The metric unit decibels measures more than how loud something is, too. Decibels also include sound pressure and intensity. In the case of the ear-damaging jackhammer, the real problem is vibrations. Sound enters the ear in waves that vibrate and anything over the 80 dB is a potential problem. If you are standing near the person using the jackhammer, you’ll probably have some temporary hearing loss at first. The person operating that jackhammer, though, will develop permanent hearing damage after constant exposure to this high decibel sound.

This hearing trauma isn’t limited to chronic loud noise, either. A onetime bang can do damage, too. Consider a firefighter standing next to a building that explodes. This person might have permanent hearing loss even though there isn’t constant exposure to sounds at that decibel level. The intense vibration created by the explosion is all it takes to cause damage.

How Can You Tell if You Have Occupational Hearing Loss?

Unfortunately, the primary symptom is the hearing loss itself. This is a problem for workers because the damage occurs without them even realizing it. By the time you suffer hearing loss, it might be too late to take steps to protect your ears. If you start to hear even occasional ringing in your ears, especially after work, then it’s time to find ear protection such as ear plugs or muffs to use while on the job.

If you think you have some occupational hearing loss, schedule an appointment for a hearing test. This is a regular requirement in some industries. They expect their workers to have annual hearing exams and tests to ensure they are not losing their hearing. In fact, it is very common for bartenders and servers who work in clubs where ear protection would interfere with their job.

What Should You Do if You Have Occupational Hearing Loss

If you do think you have hearing issues related to work, take immediate measures to protect your ears. For some employees, that will mean changing jobs. Occupational hearing loss is progressive in most cases. You can limit the damage by avoiding loud noise in the future.

The next step is to schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist. If the hearing loss is conductive, meaning the nerves in the inner ear are intact, then wearing hearing aids will allow you to hear once again.

The best tool at your disposal when it comes to occupational hearing loss is prevention. If your job exposes you to loud noise, wear ear protection, but take precautions at home, as well. Don’t leave headphones on for long periods of time and protect your ears during recreational activities like shooting at the gun range. The things you do now will matter later in life when hearing naturally declines.

15 Ways a Hearing Aid Should Make Your Life Better and You Richer


Hearing aids are designed to improve your quality of life, but how? You probably will hear better, sure, but does better hearing mean a better life? Does having hearing aids also mean more money in the bank? If you are one of the many people out there struggling daily to hear daily you might wonder if a hearing aid can save money and make your life better. Here are 15 ways having hearing aids will make you richer and happier.

1. Grocery Store Brilliance

When you don’t hear well, your eyes do twice the work. That’s a big problem when you are trying to keep your local grocery store from over charging you, especially if the cashier is talking in the background. Hearing aids mean you can watch the scanner and know exactly how much each item costs without being rude.

2. Getting More Out of Class

You pay a fee to attend the class, but are you hearing everything that is is being said. Even if the teacher has a microphone and you miss out on discussions with other students. Now, is that money well spent?

3. The Confidence Factor

Is a strong ego the secret to happiness? At least one study conducted by the National Institute on Aging says it is a contributing factor. Self-esteem is really the basis for happiness because it means you like yourself. That’s not easy when you always feel like you are missing something important in the conversations with friends and family, verbal instructions and even the right lyrics for your favorite song. Feeling confident relies on your ability to hear in many ways.

4. The Lack of Confidence Factor

Of course, without a healthy self-esteem, you will let opportunities pass you by like the chance to get a better paying job with more responsibility.

5. What About Your Job

Is your poor hearing holding you back at work? Maybe you have trouble following oral instructions or are unable to listen to customers. Coworkers might even get annoyed with you because you ask them to repeat themselves. A 2011 study conducted by the Better Hearing Institute discovered that not getting hearing aids can cost you as much as 30,000 dollars in income each year.

6. Hearing Aids Improve Relationships

Studies show that almost 70 percent of people claim that having hearing aids improve their personal relationships. Another 81 percent stated they were pleased when a partner finally got a hearing aid.

7. Hearing Aids Enhance Friendships

Let’s face it; no one really likes to have to repeat themselves. It’s as frustrating for your friends and family as it is for you to be left out of the conversation all the time.

8. Music Means Happiness

The opposite is true, as well. When you can enjoy the music you love, you develop a feeling of loss. Listening to music isn’t just fun, either, it triggers a neurological response that makes you feel better.

9. The Joy of Live Theater

You won’t find closed captioning in a live theater show, but with hearing aids, you won’t need it. Whether you are headed out to a Broadway musically or just want to you see your grandchild star in the latest school production, you’ll a better audience member if you can hear the show.

10. The Beautiful Sounds of Nature

People tend to take things like the sweet sounds of birds and the wind blowing for granted – that’s until you no longer hear them. Hearing aids bring those sounds back into your life.

11. That Sense of Unease

What about that icky sensation that comes with not being able to hear what is going on around you? It’s a combination of uneasiness and dread. Your senses give you a feeling of security when you are moving around a room, and without your hearing, you lose that clarity.

12. You Never Played Better

Whether you are on the company bowling league or just love to spend an afternoon at the local golf course, your game will improve with the right hearing aids on the team. Better gameplay means more enjoyment and confidence.

13. The Things You Don’t Even Realize Your Missing

One problem with hearing loss is you tend to get complacent. You forget the things you are missing out on, but hearing aids change all that for you. You’ll spend the first couple days in awe hearing all the things you’ve been missing.

14. A Sense of Wellbeing

Avoiding things you know you need creates anxiety. If you are putting off getting hearing aids, it is sitting there in the back of your mind causing stress. Giving in to that need means you are doing something good for yourself and that feels good.

15. Hearing Aids Improve Cognation

The struggle to hear can take a toll on your brain and is a factor in Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Getting hearing aids will lower your risk.

Questions?

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