Hearing Loss


When to Tell a Loved One That the Time has Come to Deal With Their Hearing Loss?

A young woman leans into an older woman to have a delicate conversation about hearing loss and hearing aids.

Hearing problems are one of those things other people usually notice before you do. In part, because a person’s family and friends know them better than they know themselves. They are the ones that see the changes and connect the dots about hearing loss the person with the problem notices the gradual decline that comes with age-related hearing loss.

It’s a difficult subject to approach with a person that you love because it is personal. They might not notice this decline or realize that they are asking you to repeat things often or missing information when you talk. It probably feels like an attack instead of your attempt to help. So, when is it the proper time to talk about it? There is no clear-cut answer to this question, but there are some obvious signs that you need to have a conversation about hearing loss.

The What Did You Say? Syndrome

It might be the first thing you will notice when this person’s hearing starts to decline. What did you say? It’s a natural response when you don’t hear something very clearly. The problem with age-related hearing loss is they still hear the sound of your voice, just not each word. When that happens, the brain makes them think you are mumbling. The fact is you’re speaking the same way you always did, it is their hearing that is different.

A person that has to say what all the time does not even know they do it, which makes it a hard thing to talk about. You can try counting the number of times you have to repeat something in a conversation. If you see a regular pattern over a week, then it’s time to say something.

When Safety Is a Problem

There is more to hearing than just comprehending speech. Individuals with gradual hearing loss lose the ability to understand specific sound frequencies, too. A traditional smoke and carbon dioxide detector uses a high pitched tone to tell you here is a problem. It’s a sound that someone with hearing loss might not hear. Those who do have this issue can compensate for it by putting in alarms that use a different frequency and that are able to flash the lights and shake the bed, as well.

Safety is a concern for the hearing challenged person that wants to drive a car, too. You need to be able to hear warning sounds like horns, for example, and the car engine running. A person trying to cross the street needs to hear warning sounds there, too. Safety is a definite issue with untreated hearing loss and one that indicates you need to take action.

When the Complaints Start Rolling In

The neighbor says the TV is too loud, for instance, TV dialogue is as hard to understand as a face-to-face conversation, but there is no one there to answer when they say, “What?” Instead, they up the volume. That doesn’t make the words any more precise though, so they turn it up more. When other people around this person start talking about high volumes, hearing loss has become a problem.

When Tongues Start Wagging

When other people start wondering about this person’s hearing and asking questions. Maybe your mom’s neighbor stops you to ask if she is having hearing problems or your uncle brings the subject up. These people are possibly noticing something that you have yet to pick up on. This is a big indicator, especially for the parent who lives alone. Friends and neighbors are their social network. They spend time together and are in a position to see what you don’t, so when they take the time to mention it, listen.

When Frustration Becomes the Norm

Struggling to hear is frustrating, especially when you don’t realize that’s the problem. That frustration can translate into cranky conversations and other shows of emotion. They may always seem on the edge of crying or yelling but not know why. It’s up to you to help them understand what is going on.

Tips for When the Time Comes

You know you need to say something but how? An age-related hearing loss is a tricky subject because the implication is you are growing old, and that’s something no one wants to hear. How you approach the topic will make all the difference, such as:

  • Make the conversation about you – Point out the things you’ve noticed and how they make you feel. If you make it about them, they will just shut down. By making it about how it impacts you, they are more likely to want to help and be less defensive.
  • Make the conversation positive – The anger factor is really just fear. It’s up to you to address those fears and provide assurance that there is a quick and painless solution like getting a professional hearing test and, maybe, hearing aids. Talk about other people who have hearing aids and how they changed their lives.
  • Make the conversation helpful – Focus on the benefits that will come with getting hearing help. They will be able to hear their favorite shows better and listen to the bird’s song. They may not even realize what they have been missing, so point out the positives.

You can make a difference in someone you love’s life by helping them come to terms with age-related hearing loss, so go ahead and reach out.

Your Earwax: What It Could Be Trying Telling You

A dog is getting earwax cleaned out of its ears while sticking its tongue out.

Is your earwax trying to tell you something about your health? Earwax is more than just the icky stuff that comes out of your ears. Cerumen, the medical name for it, has a purpose in your body. It protects the skin inside the ear canal from damage that can lead to infection. It is also a source of lubrication and helps waterproof the inside of your ear.

That’s all good stuff, but earwax also provides information about you. How it looks, the texture and smell all supply key details about what is going on inside your body. What is your earwax saying to you?

Earwax and Your Heritage

It is hard to believe but, all earwax falls into one of two categories. It is either dry, or wet and kind of sticky. How your earwax feel is a genetic trait you can use to trace your roots. According to a study in the journal Nature Genetics, it is a gene mutation that determines whether your earwax is wet or dry. Researchers investigated 33 different populations around the world and found:

  • Ninety-five percent of East Asians have the dry kind.
  • Ninety-seven percent of people from Europe or Africa have the wet, sticky kind.

The difference between these two groups boils down to one gene called ABCC11. It is the gene that manages the flow of earwax-altering molecules. At some point centuries ago, the gene changed in people in Europe and Africa as they adapted to a new surrounding. The researchers from this study hypothesized that insects lead to the mutation. The thick, wet earwax can trap insects and protect the deeper areas inside the ear canal and possibly even the brain. It is an example of the body’s natural ability to change based environmental stressors. It is a change designed to improve a species odds of survival.

Green, Wet Earwax

Green, wet earwax means one of two things:

  • You’ve been sweating.
  • You have an ear infection.

When you sweat, the water will mix with your earwax, changing the color and texture. When you have an ear infection, the earwax changes due to the body’s inflammatory response to invading organisms. Pus created by the response can mix with the earwax, and that may lead to the difference in color.

Earwax That Smells Bad

When your earwax smells terrible, pay attention because it most likely indicates a severe infection. Anaerobic bacteria, that means the organism doesn’t require oxygen to thrive, tend to emit a foul odor that can make earwax smell bad.

A bad smell can also mean an infection is causing middle ear damage. You might notice your balance is off and there is ringing or other phantom noises in the affected ear. Time to see the doctor.

In 2009, a group of Japanese scientists also linked smelly earwax to a gene associated with breast cancer. Although more studies are needed to prove this connection, it’s something you should talk to your doctor about especially if breast cancer runs in the family.

It Feels Like Your Ear is Leaking

Technically, this probably isn’t earwax, but it is easy to assume that is what is coming out. Leaky ears are an indication of disease, especially infection. Ear infections produce pus, and that might be what feels wet inside your ear. There are other possibilities, though.

Some people develop a type of skin growth inside the ear canal called a cholesteatoma. It’s similar to a cyst, but it grows inside the ear and allows stuff like earwax and other debris to build up there. When the canal fills up, the gunk can start to overflow and come out the ear. Any drainage from your ear warrants a visit to the doctor to find out what’s happening.

Your Earwax is Really Flaky

No worries, flaky earwax isn’t a sign of trouble. It is, however, a side effect of natural aging. As people get older, their body’s get a little dryer — that includes the glands that produce earwax. As a result, your ears might feel itchy. A few drops of mineral oil can ease that discomfort and soften the earwax at the same time.

What if your ears have no earwax at all? It’s rare, but it does happen. It is a condition called keratosis obturans, and it means there is a hard plug where the earwax comes out. It’s unclear why this happens, but researchers do know that the plug is made of keratin, a protein that exists in skin cells. You might feel pain in that ear and have trouble hearing. The treatment is simple, let a doctor pull the plug out. In some, the condition is chronic, and the patient requires regular medical care.

Earwax, who knew it was so complex. Take a look at yours and see if you learn anything.

Hearing Loss Restricts More Than Just Your Hearing

Hearing loss depicted as a problem that compounds by showing several cutout men toppled over on one man.

Are you surprised to learn that hearing loss is more than just your ears? Ears are the means of hearing, so the harm done to them because of aging, trauma or disease is why someone can not hear, but did you know there is more to it than that The loss of one’s hearing bleeds into many other facets of their life. It’s a dramatic change for somebody who has always had the ability to hear. Take some ways that hearing loss has a extensive effect on more than just the ears.

Earning Potential

A 2006 report published by the Australian firm Access Economics states there is a connection between earning potential and hearing. They discovered that an individual with hearing loss will possibly make about 25 percent less than the ones that do listen, but why?

There are a lot of things that could impact earnings. Somebody who works without any hearing assistance device such as a hearing aid might miss out on weighty material. They might appear for a business meeting at 4 if it was actually at 2 pm, for example. Employers tend to appreciate those with astute attention to detail, which is a challenge when you can’t hear the details.

Work environments can be noisy and crazy, too. A person with hearing loss can quickly become confused with all that sound around them. They’ll struggle to talk on the telephone, to listen to clients and to understand what coworkers are saying because in a noisy environment the desktop sounds like clicking keyboards or an air conditioner engine become conspicuous.


Some of the same problems at work become an issue at home. Hearing loss has the potential to cause conflict, particularly when the individual with the problem continues to deny it. Little things like saying “what” a lot during discussions and turning the TV up too loud irritate friends, relatives, and spouses.

They may try to intervene and encourage this individual to recognize their hearing loss, and that leads to friction, also. It’s extremely common for people with hearing loss to detach themselves and refuse to go out and spend some time with others. They struggle to keep up with conversations, so that they so what the can to prevent them.

Mental Health Concerns

The issues at work and home take a toll on mental health over time. A 2014 study conducted by the U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders discovered a cause and effect relationship between hearing loss and depression. Their research indicates an increased risk of depression, particularly among women and individuals under the age of 70. Their risk of depression goes from 5 percent to about 11 percent with hearing loss.

A second study by the Senior Research Group indicates that the risk of mental health issues including depression, anxiety and paranoia goes up when a person with hearing loss doesn’t use hearing aids. The study participants who did not wear hearing aids reported everything from feelings of despair to sudden fits of anger more frequently than those that did wear them.

Safety Issues

Security is always a concern for the hearing impaired. Most security systems, whether it is a smoke or carbon monoxide detector or a perimeter alert, work based on sound. They emit a high-frequency noise when there’s a danger. Even people with slight hearing loss can have trouble hearing high pitched tones.

Personal security becomes a problem when a person with hearing loss spans the street or drives a car, too. Sound serves to signal problems like a car coming down the road or a horn honking.

Cognitive Functioning

Medical science has made a connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss. It’s not clear why people with hearing loss have a higher risk of dementia. The current theory is that the brain struggles to listen and to compensate, it robs other vital functions like memory.

A 2011 study conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine discovered that someone with minor hearing loss is twice as likely to develop dementia. Moderate hearing loss increases the risk by three times and a person with severe hearing impairment is five times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Hearing health is just one factor in memory loss conditions, but it is an important one.

When a person has hearing loss, it’s true there’s probably something wrong with their ears, but that’s just where it begins. The fantastic news is that getting help in the kind of hearing aids and other treatment choices lowers the chance of mental health issues, dementia and the various issues related to hearing decline.

New Hearing Aids are a Service Not Just a Device

Woman is being fitted for her first hearing aid by an audiologist

When a person goes out to purchase hearing aids, they are looking for a product to buy. With that in mind, it is typical for them to only think only about the cost of what they are getting. It’s true that a quality hearing device is costly, but you need to shift your thinking. If you consider the service you get from a hearing aid and put aside the cost factor, it starts to make more sense. You spend your life buying stuff because it provides a valuable service like a new car or a house. Both of these things will set you back, too, but you buy them anyway because otherwise, you have no transportation or roof over your head.

Buying a hearing aid introduces you to another critical service because without it, you can’t hear and that affects your ability to do important things like talk to your boss or listen to a customer. Losing that sense means you won’t hear the traffic as you drive to work or when you walk across the street. It also gets in the way of you from creating, strengthening, and maintaining the essential aspect of life, relationships.

Hearing aids are not a luxury when your hearing changes. It’s a device that provides a critical service to you. Consider some facts about hearing aids you might not know and why they are more service than a product.

What Does a Hearing Aid Do?

Let’s start with the basics. What is a hearing aid and why do you need it? A hearing aid is a device that provides amplification, but it does more than just that one thing. Modern digital hearing aids:

  • Filter out background noise
  • They increase and decrease the volume automatically through gain processing
  • They analyze the sound environment
  • They pick up conversation even in a noisy room
  • They help you determine where a sound came from

They are also self-learning, in other words, they begin to know how you hear and learn what sounds matter to you. They can use that information to improve their service. There is no more annoying feedback, either, like you used to hear coming from your grandpa’s hearing aid. Modern hearing aids include digital feedback reduction. Today’s hearing aids offer Bluetooth-compatibility, as well, so they work with computers, tablets, and smartphones. No need to take the hearing aid out to answer the phone.

Why do Hearing Aids Cost So Much?

That’s a reasonable question because if you are going to think of your hearing aid a service, you have a right to know why it costs so much. Some critical elements that go into creating your hearing aid include:

  • Advanced technology
  • Durability and long battery life
  • Personal design and fitting
  • Warranty
  • Free trials

You can buy cheap hearing aids online, but they don’t have the same technology as a quality product nor do they have all the perks of a personal fitting, trial period, or in-person assistance. You might as well just hold a glass up to your ear and hope for the best.

Things to Consider When Buying a Hearing Aid

When you buy a car or house, you do research first, right? Take that same approach when purchasing a hearing aid but keep in mind that it is a service. Start by figuring out how you will pay for this service. Does your health insurance cover hearing aids? Many don’t, but it can’t hurt to check. You can do this by directly calling your insurance provider or audiologist.

How about some kind of special funding plan? Are you a veteran, for example? The VA might pay for the hearing aid. You might also qualify for federal or state assistance, and you can look into civil organizations, too.

Next, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and hearing test. If you don’t already know why you suffer hearing loss, find out before you spend money on a hearing aid. It might be a side effect of a medical problem like diabetes. If you treat the condition, you might not need a hearing aid.

It is also important to get a professional hearing test, so you buy the right hearing aid. A practice like ours can use your hearing test to customize the settings on any device you choose, so it best serves your needs.

Finally, meet with a specialist in person. The Internet doesn’t know what kind of hearing aid you need – that requires a personal touch. Sit down with an expert and write out what you hope to get from your hearing aid beyond just amplification. Do you want one that connects to your mobile device? Do you want the volume to adjust automatically? You are paying for this service, so get what you want from it.

Once you pick out the right hearing aid, look at the various service options. Does it come with a warranty? How about a free trial, so you know it’s the right one for you?

By seeing your hearing aid as a service – a necessary one – you’ll be able to look past the price tag towards what it can do for your life.

How to Find First-Rate Hearing Protection for Your Life

Man trying to research hearing protection online and having questions.

One in every 10 Americans lose their ability to hear due to noise pollution. Often, the damage done by noise is gradual. It is not just explosions that are the problem, but more the stuff you experience on a day-to-day basis in your home or at work. With each new day, you hear noises that you don’t realize is a problem such as the headphones you wear to listen to music or sounds at work like equipment running. Safeguarding your hearing from noise-related loss is one of the best health decisions you can make, but how do you know what products offer this protection?

Assess Your Noise Exposure Needs

It is tricky to consider different options offered for hearing protection and find the type that works for you. There are a few of things to consider such as:

  • Why you want hearing protection? Is it for your job or perhaps you need them for a sport like hunting?
  • How much does it cost? The pricing goes from really cheap to very expensive, so budget is worth thinking about.
  • How comfortable is it? If you are buying something that you will wear most of the day, then comfort is an issue.

There are also some safety concerns to keep in mind. Avoid hearing protection that gets in the way of movement or introduces blind spots. If you are looking to save your ears from work-related sounds, then have a conversation with your employer before paying for anything out of pocket. Many companies offer hearing protection as part of your benefits or at least can guide you on what right type to buy and the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) you need.

What is the NRR?

The NRR rating listed on hearing protection devices offers a critical piece of information to you. The Noise Reduction Rating determines how well the device blocks out a sound. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires manufacturers to do tests and provide rating information based on their findings. The NRR measurement is in decibels and states the maximum amount of sound that device is able to block. A hearing protection product with an NRR of 26 will block a maximum of 26 decibels.

For most occupational hearing protection devices, you look for something to block double the amount you experience on the job. You might buy a device with an NRR of 200 if your exposure is around 100 decibels. By the way, 100 dB is about the amount of noise created by tractors and other kinds of equipment.

What Types of Hearing Protection Devices are Available?

When it comes to hearing protection devices, you are typically talking about:

  • Earplugs
  • Canal caps
  • Earmuffs

There may be variations within each category and even some hybrid products out there.


Earplugs come in moldable foam that is disposable or pre-molded one-size-fits-all reusable plugs. There are pros and cons for both styles of earplugs. It comes down to personal choice for most wearers. The disposable foam plugs tend to have higher NRR ratings and will fit better in your ear canals. The downside to these plugs is cost. They are like disposable contact lenses; you have to keep buying fresh ones.

The pre-molded plugs are more economical but can breed infection if not cleaned regularly. The form doesn’t fit as well as the moldable ones, either, making them difficult to keep in place.

Canal Caps

Canal caps are like earplugs with a flexible band. They also come with moldable tips or pre-molded ends. The benefits of this hearing protection device are that you can take them out quickly and let the band hang around your neck. They work better than earplugs if you anticipate wearing them on and off throughout the day.


Earmuffs look like headphones, and some even have mics in them so you can talk to other people through a wireless connection. They are easy to wear and use, too, but tend to be heavy and can make your ears sweat. Although you may pay more for quality earmuffs initially, they last longer and will probably save you money over time.

Choosing the Right Ear Protection

Once you determine what NRR rating you need for your ear protection device, the next thing to consider is your comfort and ease of use. If you want something that is less confining, then earplugs or canal caps are probably the best choices. You might even want to get different types of ear protection for the seasons. For example, canal caps will be less cumbersome in warm weather, but earmuff will keep you more comfortable in the cold.

The key is to try the various types of ear protection and see what works best for your situation. A person who needs something for work has different criteria then a person who wants to protect their ears while they hunt or on the shooting range.


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Why wait? You don’t have to live with hearing loss.

Why wait? You don’t have to live with hearing loss.

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