Brain Fog and Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Since 2020’s pandemic, our world has been evolving. Those who had COVID-19 may have experienced cough, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue, and fever. These symptoms are well known, but research about the aftermath of COVID-19 is still ongoing. 

According to Talya Fleming, M.D., research has discovered that about 20 to 30 percent of COVID-19 survivors may experience brain fog that makes everyday tasks difficult. Brain fog may also affect one’s ability to remember and concentrate. (Can COVID-19 cause brain fog, 2021.) According to Harvard Health Publishing, brain fog is not an official medical term but a way that patients can describe how they feel when their thinking clouds. (What is COVID-19 brain fog and how can you clear it, 2021.) Brain fog may also include difficulty hearing and understanding in challenging listening environments.  

Recently, Robert M. DiSogra, Au.D., presented research that analyzed MRI imaging following COVID-19 and its long standing effects on the brain’s auditory process. The changes present in specific auditory areas could likely affect auditory processing abilities as well, meaning that brain fog may be associated with auditory processing disorder. (Is COVID-19 “Brain Fog” Actually an Auditory Processing Disorder, 2022.)

Auditory processing can be defined as “what the brain does with what the ears hear.” Significant difficulty with auditory processing is often described and diagnosed as Central Auditory Processing Disorder and can affect functionality, binaural processing, and listening in complex acoustic environments. Adults with Central Auditory Processing Disorder may hear a sound but not make sense of it. They may also have difficulty following verbal instructions, locating sounds, remembering, and staying focused. 

What should you do if you are experiencing brain fog symptoms such as difficulty hearing and understanding in the presence of background noise? 

If you are experiencing the symptoms listed above, it is important for you to discuss long standing effects of COVID-19 with your primary care physician. After, your doctor may recommend you to an audiologist for an Auditory Processing evaluation to further examine your hearing sensitivity and processing abilities. Scheduling a comprehensive hearing test is the best course of action, since the audiologist will need to first determine your hearing ability. Should results from this evaluation be within normal limits, the audiologist will likely recommend a Central Auditory Processing evaluation.

After the evaluation, if the audiologist finds auditory processing difficulties or diagnoses a Central Auditory Processing Disorder, he may recommend specific intervention. Current intervention options include but are not limited to auditory training, amplification, environmental modifications, and assisted listening devices. Intervention and recommendation options will be discussed in detail between you and your audiologist to determine the most appropriate action plan. Additional testing from other specialties such as Neuropsychology may be recommended. There is not one sure-fire way to treat Central Auditory Processing Disorder. Intervention and recommendations are individualized to meet your specific needs.

If you are experiencing concerns about your auditory processing abilities, Harbor Hearing is the clinic for you. Together we will determine any difficulties you may be experiencing and create an action plan that best fits you and your lifestyle. 

We look forward to working with you soon!

References

Budson, E. Andrew. What is COVID-19 brain fog-and how can you clear it? (2021).Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-covid-19-brain-fog-and-how-can-you-clear-it-2021030822076

DiSogra M, Robert.  Is COVID-19 “brain fog” actually an auditory processing disorder? (2022). American Academy of Audiology. Retrieved from https://eaudiology.audiology.org/products/is-covid-19-brain-fog-actually-an-auditory-processing-disorder-01-aaatier-1-ceus#tab-product_tab_overviewFleming, Talya. Can COVID-19 cause brain fog? (2021). Hackensack Meridian Health. Retrieved from https://www..org/en/HealthU/2021/08/11/can-covid-19-cause-brain-fog#.YheqVejMLIU

Hearing Aids and Safety

Hearing aids can not only improve quality of life but also your safety. Hearing aids improve safety in many ways. You need hearing when walking along busy streets to avoid passing cars. You need hearing to notice your cooking timer going off and avoid burning your dinner or starting a fire. You need hearing to answer a doorbell or respond to a security system when an intruder attempts to enter. Finally, you need hearing to recognize the calls for help of a loved one who has fallen in the house. 

Research shows that treated hearing loss dramatically decreases the risk of falling. A study by Frank Lin, M.D, Ph.D. using data collected from 2001 through 2004 concluded that people with mild hearing loss were three times more likely to have a history of falling than someone with normal hearing. Lin states that the potential reason for this risk may be the amount of cognitive load the brain is taking.

Our ability to hear enables us to communicate and be more aware of the world around us.  Millions of people with untreated hearing loss are unknowingly putting their safety and the safety of others at risk. If you or someone you know has untreated hearing loss, consider the risks of delaying or avoiding hearing aids. Getting hearing aids could be the lifesaver you never knew you needed.

Sources: 

https://pubs.asha.org/doi/abs/10.1044/2021_AJA-20-00179

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/hearing_loss_linked_to_three_fold_risk_of_falling

How Hearing Aids and Glasses Differ

I often find myself counseling patients regarding the difference between vision loss and hearing loss. Most patients feel as though amplification is an easy fix, just as their prescription eyewear.

Types of Hearing Loss

Although both glasses and hearing aids are used to improve sensory problems, they differ in several ways. With most vision loss, corrective lenses can fully reset eyesight to 20/20 by bending light waves as they enter the eye. However, hearing aids cannot always restore all lost hearing. Whether or not hearing aids can fully restore all auditory processing depends on the type of hearing loss. 

For instance, conductive hearing loss that is caused when something disrupts the transmission of sound from the outer or middle ear to the inner ear can sometimes be fully corrected through medical intervention. Examples of conductive hearing loss causes are fluid in the middle ear or perforation of the eardrum. These issues affect only the middle ear, causing no damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve, meaning that amplification may correct this issue by passing sound more easily through the middle ear.

However, sensorineural hearing loss cannot as easily be corrected and this is the most common type of hearing loss I diagnose. This type of hearing loss is caused by nerve damage from noise exposure and/or other comorbidities, and it accounts for 90% of the hearing losses in the United States, according to Healthy Hearing. These damaged cells are non-regenerative and cannot be repaired medically. Hearing aids can amplify the sound to be more audible, but they cannot fully restore all clarity.

Hearing Aid Stigmas

Another difference between hearing aids and glasses is how they are perceived. While many people see glasses as stylish, they often consider hearing aids embarrassing and ugly. However, bulky large hearing aids are a thing of the past. Newer devices are smaller and virtually unnoticeable. They are even fitted with amazing technology that makes navigating the digital environment easier and more productive. Most hearing aids come equipped with Bluetooth technology, and higher-end models track your physical health, stream music, and stream phone calls for you. Hearing aids may not be as stylish as glasses (yet!), but they can do a lot more for you!

The Hearing Loss Journey

Some patients may experience some distortion or a short period of adjustment when wearing glasses for the first time, but those symptoms typically right themselves by the end of the day. Proper treatment for hearing loss, however, is a longer and more in-depth process if done by following best practices.

When fitted with hearing aids, my patients are reintroduced to sounds that they have slowly lost over time. Did you know your brain needs time to readjust to sounds that you haven’t heard in several years? The ticking of an old grandfather clock or the tapping of hard-soled shoes may surprise patients. Your brain is slowly readjusting, and this process can be beautiful and enjoyable.

Correct Expectations

Although corrective lenses and hearing aids are different, they are equally important. If you would not try to read your favorite novel without wearing your prescription eyewear, why would you attempt to listen and carry on a conversation without your hearing aids? Amplification frees you from constantly misunderstanding people, no matter the type of hearing loss.

As you go in for a hearing aid consultation, remember to have realistic expectations. Don’t worry though, I make sure to counsel all my patients about realistic expectations. Hearing aids might not restore all missing sounds, but they will make a difference in your life if you are living with untreated hearing loss! Hearing loss causes insecurity and fear of embarrassment, making social interactions difficult for my patients. It can even lead to cognitive decline. If you are experiencing hearing loss, reach out to Harbor Hearing. We are more than happy to schedule an appointment with you and begin you on your miraculous journey toward better hearing! 

https://www.aarp.org/disrupt-aging/stories/solutions/info-2018/hearing-loss-impacts-boomers-millennials.html
https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/50276-Common-causes-of-sensorineural-hearing-loss
https://www.tri-cityaudiology.com/hearing-aids-news/theres-not-as-much-stigma-about-wearing-hearing-aids-nowadays/

Finding Optimism in the Diagnosis 

February is known for Valentine’s Day but did you know that February 3rd is National Optimist day? Optimism can be described as a reflection of hope and positivity during hard times. Finding optimism during challenging times can be hard, and maintaining positivity can be stressful when facing adversity. 

How does one find optimism when given a diagnosis they were not expecting? 

Personally, I often try to find the good in all hard situations that I or my patient’s can not change. I also know that support, after receiving a hearing loss diagnosis, is exactly what Harbor Hearing aims to achieve. Supporting and creating a community for those who experience hearing loss and finding positivity during the diagnosis process. 

Those who have hearing loss usually find participating in conversations difficult. They may also feel isolated during family events or embarrassed as they ask for conversations to be repeated. Despite these challenges, some people are apprehensive of having their hearing tested, as the hearing loss diagnosis can be overwhelming and raise questions about lifestyle changes. 

Despite fear that may arise with a diagnosis of hearing loss, there is good news. There is something that can be done to help. At Harbor Hearing, appropriate intervention options can be discussed. Depending on type and severity of hearing loss, one intervention option could be hearing aids. 

How do we find optimism in hearing aids? 

Hearing aids are not just devices given to you; they are individualized and programmed for you. These devices are not one size fits all, rather programmed to meet your specific needs and goals.  Hearing aids come in different styles, colors, and features; to allow the devices to become part of your everyday life. In addition to finding an intervention option that fits you, research has also found that hearing aids are associated with a variety of improvements in your wellbeing. 

Hearing aids can improve:

  • Communication in relationships
  • Self-esteem and confidence in communication 
  • Ease in communication
  • Participating in small and/or group settings
  • Combat auditory fatigue and cognitive load
  • Promote sense of control

It’s time to take control over your hearing loss and feel empowered about the intervention process. Along with your audiologist, you can choose which intervention best fits with every aspect of your lifestyle.

Intervention options such as hearing aids will overall provide benefits to your life. The best part is you are not alone; Harbor Hearing is here for you. Let’s work together to explore and enhance optimism amidst the diagnosis.

Sudden Idiopathic Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Our ability to hear is something we often take for granted. We don’t understand the wonder of hearing until the sounds around us are taken away. Although hearing loss is generally gradual, it can sometimes be sudden. If you experience a sudden loss of hearing, a number of factors might be at play. You should always treat the problem as a medical emergency. 

What is Sudden Hearing Loss? 

Officially known as sudden idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss, sudden hearing loss is a rapid, unexplained reduction in hearing that typically occurs in one ear. The exact cause of idiopathic sensorineural hearing loss is unknown. It can occur at any time, but it most commonly occurs in the morning after a person wakes up. 

This type of hearing loss may occur with a loud “popping” sound, or it may be accompanied by other ear-related symptoms, including tinnitus or a feeling of fullness in the ear. Roughly 1 in 5000 people will experience sudden hearing loss. It can occur at any age, although it more commonly affects people in their forties and fifties. 

Sudden hearing loss is often treated by corticosteroids, taken either orally or through direct injection into the eardrum (intratympanic). These steroids can fight illness, reduce swelling, and decrease inflammation in the inner ear. Steroids can be prescribed by a physician, but any intratympanic injections must be administered by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat physician). Steroids are most effective when taken immediately after experiencing sudden hearing loss, but chances of recovery decline if treatment is not administered within two to four weeks. 

Even with timely treatment, some hearing may not fully recover. If hearing loss persists, hearing aids may be recommended depending on its severity. If you or someone you know has experienced sudden hearing loss, call an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat physician right away. Timely treatment is crucial, and sudden hearing loss should always be treated as a medical emergency. 

References: 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Sudden deafness. National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/sudden-deafness.

6 Communication Strategies to Help Hearing Aid Users

Good communication habits are vital in any relationship but especially when talking to someone with hearing aids. By acting strategically about where, when, and how to communicate, friends and relatives can avoid miscommunication pitfalls and optimize their interactions.

A person’s success with hearing aids can be strongly influenced by using the following six strategies:

  1. Avoid talking from different rooms.
    • Talking back and forth across rooms causes poor sound quality and eliminates visual cues such as hand motions and expressions. Instead of speaking across rooms, face the person you are talking to and speak clearly and at a steady volume.  
  1. Mute the television when speaking.
    • Speaking over the television is a battle not worth fighting. Many people with hearing loss cannot listen productively when sound is emanating from multiple sources. The best option is simply pressing mute.
  1. Say your partner’s name before speaking.
    • People with hearing loss might miss the first few words spoken to them since they are not paying attention. Before speaking, say your partner’s name first.
  1. Minimize background noise when possible.
    • Background noise is one of the biggest distractions to those with hearing loss. At a social gathering, avoid distracting entertainment such as television or music by lowering the volume or just turning it off.
  1. Choose quieter restaurants with good lighting.
    • Individuals with hearing loss struggle to listen in noisy restaurants. When able, visit less crowded, quieter restaurants with good lighting. This way, the friend with hearing loss can listen with less distraction and clearly see your visual cues. Choosing to sit at a booth rather than a table can also help improve sound direction.
  1. Rephrase rather than repeat.
    • When someone with hearing loss asks, “What did you say?” consider rephrasing what you said rather than repeating it. Some people struggle to hear certain words and may understand better if you used another word or phrase.

All people, regardless of their hearing status, can benefit from using good communication strategies. I hope these strategies will help you communicate easier and more effectively.

The Who, What, Where, When and How of a Central Auditory Processing Evaluation

Who can diagnose a Central Auditory Processing Disorder? 

Only an Audiologist can evaluate and diagnose a Central Auditory Processing Disorder. Processing is a complex task; those with auditory processing concerns may be referred to other specialties for further evaluation. 

Who can be diagnosed with a Central Auditory Processing Disorder?

Any person of any age can be diagnosed with Central Auditory Processing Disorder. 

What does a Central Auditory Processing Evaluation consist of?

The first step is to receive a comprehensive hearing test to determine hearing sensitivity as your audiologist will want to evaluate if your concerns are related to a potential hearing loss. If your hearing thresholds are within the normal to near-normal range, you may be referred for a Central Auditory Processing evaluation. A Central Auditory Processing evaluation consists of a series of tests that include listening to a variety of signals including speech and tones. The variety of tests evaluates various areas in the brain where auditory processing occurs. The evaluation typically lasts for 1-2 hours for which breaks can be given as needed. The goal of the Central Auditory Processing evaluation is to determine if there are processing deficits and the nature of these differences. Knowing the type of auditory deficit allows for individualized management and to target specific needs.

Where can a Central Auditory Processing Evaluation be completed?

Central Auditory Processing Evaluation will be completed by an Audiologist who specializes in Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). These types of appointments can be completed at any clinic or office that provides these services. Should your local clinic not provide CAPD services, an appropriate recommendation to another audiologist will be made. 

When should you consider a CAPD evaluation?

Those with auditory processing differences may experience uncertainty about what they hear and have difficulty listening in challenging situations such as classrooms or busy work environments. Those with processing deficits may also struggle with reading, spelling, and following directions. Other difficulties may include, sound localization, listening in the presence of background noise, inability to isolate or identify a sound source, poor auditory memory, and a delayed responses. If you have any of these concerns, its best to schedule a comprehensive hearing test. Should results from this evaluation be within normal limits, the audiologist may recommend a CAPD evaluation.

How is CAPD treated?

Current intervention options include but not limited to, auditory training, amplification, environmental modifications, and assisted listening devices.  Intervention and recommendation options will be discussed in detail between you and your audiologist to determine the most appropriate action plan.  There is not one sure fire way to treat CAPD, intervention and recommendations are individualized to meet your specific needs.

Common Deceptions About Hearing Aids and How They Limit You

“Everybody has excuses. Champions don’t use them.” 

Every time I hear this quotation, I am reminded of how much our mindset influences our lives. The top athletes in the world have had to overcome incredible obstacles—difficult training, severe injuries, and rough financial obligations—but they don’t carry these excuses to the Olympics. Each athlete knows that their hardships aren’t crutches to fall on but steps to climb. Without them, they would’ve never gotten to where they are today. 

When counseling patients about their hearing health, I attempt to pinpoint deceptive beliefs patients have about themselves—beliefs that hold them back from a better and more fulfilled life. As an audiologist, I hear many. Below is a list of some of the most common limiting beliefs that people use to convince themselves and others that their hearing loss can go untreated.

1. “Hearing aids cost too much.”

Yes, hearing aids are expensive. Without insurance benefits, they range from $2000 to more than $6000 for a pair. Unfortunately, most people don’t have insurance benefits, meaning they pay the full amount out of pocket. However, cost should not keep you from pursuing amplification.  

Consider how much your hearing is worth. How important is understanding your child or grandchild? How much would you be willing to spend to maintain those important relationships? Most people keep their hearing aids for at least five years. If you break this down, the ultimate cost for even high-end hearing aids is only $100 a month; and, if you were to purchase a less expensive model, you could be paying as low as $33 a month. 

Maybe you’d like to purchase aids, but you don’t have enough money right now. If this is the case, you can always pursue payment options. [We partner with a company that offers loans, allowing patients to pay monthly for their hearing aids.]

Unfortunately, some people can’t afford even monthly payments. In this circumstance, our non-profit, Grace Hearing Center, comes in. Grace Hearing Center works with the working poor to provide hearing aids to everyone who needs them.  

So, if cost is a concern to you, consider the options I’ve mentioned. Hearing and engaging with your family are important. Stop limiting yourself based on a deceptive belief about money and determine to seek help. Our audiologists are happy to direct you toward the best solution.

2. “My hearing’s not bad enough” or “If others would speak more clearly, I wouldn’t need hearing aids anyway.”

This is a tricky excuse to combat. Sometimes, patients with slight hearing loss are not hugely influenced by it. In this case, the benefit they might receive when wearing the aids would not be worth the cost. However, just because one’s hearing loss is not bothersome now does not mean it won’t ever be. 

People say, “I will get hearing aids when they need them;” however, if you wait until you feel that you need them, the prime time to get aids has likely passed. Get them too early, and they may not be worth the cost; get them too late, and your brain will have a difficult time adjusting to them. The trick is to get them at just the right stage–before you notice the issue in everyday life but after the point when the hearing aids will be worth the investment. Even if your hearing doesn’t seem “bad enough,” you should still have your hearing regularly eventuated.

On the other side of this coin are those who truly need hearing aids but insist that their hearing is everyone else’s fault. Since audiologists tend to speak loudly and clearly, people often respond, “If everyone spoke like you, I wouldn’t need hearing aids.” The premise of this excuse is that everyone should change what they do to make life easier for the person suffering from hearing loss. However, this line of thinking isn’t practical. If you break a leg, do you expect everyone else to pick you up and carry you around, or do you get crutches and work with a physical therapist to get better? If you’re told you have diabetes, do you expect everyone around you to change their entire diet, or do you change your own diet and exercise more regularly to strengthen your health?

The fact is, when we have health issues, it is our own responsibility to fix them and to improve ourselves. We cannot rely on others to do it for us. The same thing applies to hearing. Although others can help in small ways, they cannot carry the burden entirely. Such thinking is not practical or reasonable. Even as audiologists, we cannot keep up the “audiologist speech” at all times. We have our normal voice at home and would struggle to always maintain the loud and clear voice we use with patients. If even your audiologist can’t do it all the time, don’t expect those who aren’t trained to change their habits to suit you. Take the big step. Be responsible and do something about your hearing!

Most people believe that hearing aids work a lot like glasses—you put them on and everything sounds like it did when you were younger. However, hearing loss is typically caused by damaged nerves. Because of this, even though we can get the sound to your ears, how your nerves will respond to the sound is beyond our control. This means that, although hearing aids can improve your hearing by making sounds clearer and more distinct, they cannot return your hearing to normal. You will still struggle at times, but the difficulty should be less frequent.

3. “Hearing aids will make me look old” or “I’m not old enough for hearing aids”

Hearing aids are worn by people of all ages – from newborns to the elderly and everyone in between. Although you are more likely to need hearing aids as you age, hearing aids in and of themselves do not indicate “old age.”  

Also, hearing aids of today are not like your parents’ or grandparents’ hearing aids. No longer are they big and bulky things that stand out obviously from twenty feet away. In most cases, others don’t even notice them. In fact, many patients who were worried about the size of their devices were amazed when their hearing aids were delivered to the office. Because new hearing aids are so discreet, they are not that noticeable, especially if someone is not looking for them.

Also, contrary to common belief, hearing aids help you seem younger. That’s right! They do the opposite of this excuse. Read the following two scenarios and decide for yourself which is more obvious: 1) while conversing with a small group of friends, you are either asking for repetition, joining the conversation in inappropriate ways, or tuning out altogether or 2) you are following the conversation effortlessly while wearing small, discreet hearing aids.  

Would your friend notice the small devices in your ears or the fact that you are struggling to follow conversations? Which one makes you look older?

4. “I don’t have room on my ears!”

Most people with hearing aids wear glasses, yet that doesn’t mean hearing aids won’t fit. During all my time as an audiologist, I have worked with very few people who truly did not have enough room behind their ears for the standard over-the-ear style hearing aids. In the age of COVID, the space behind the ears became more crowded; however, solutions can be found.

Sometimes, the solution is simply setting your glasses over your ears a little differently than you used to. Other times, it might be trying a different style mask or wearing the mask differently. In some cases, the solution may be choosing different style hearing aids (ones that are only in the ear – though this style is not always a solution since most hearing losses don’t work as well with this style). If you’re concerned about the real estate over your ear, talk to an audiologist. We’ll help you sort out the best solution to ensure great hearing without compromising your vision and other health needs.

5. “I’m too old.  I’m probably going to die soon anyway.”

Believe it or not, I hear this limiting belief all too often. It is my favorite one to identify and reframe. As someone in my 40s, I like to remind patients that none of us have any idea how long we have left to live. I could die tomorrow while a 90-year-old lives for ten more years. I ask my patients, “If you had only ten more years, wouldn’t you like to hear as best you could during that time?” Don’t allow this limiting belief to frame your life and decisions. The years of your life should be defined by quality, not quantity.

6. “I know people who paid a lot of money for hearing aids but never use them.”

There are many reasons people buy amplification but don’t use it. To be successful with hearing aids, patients must be motivated, have realistic expectations, visit experienced audiologists, and return for follow-up care. If any of these are missing, there is a good chance the aids will end up unused.

Many people get hearing aids because they want to appease a family member. This is never a good reason to get aids. Those who purchase aids for this reason are typically bitter against the product and will end not using them.  

In my first years as an audiologist, two different people with similar symptoms of hearing loss decided to get the same hearing aids. After one month, the first patient returned the aids, stating, “I hear my footsteps and the birds. These aids are driving me crazy.” The second patient stated, “I hear my footsteps! I hear the birds! I love these aids. I never knew how much I was missing.”  

Both patients had the same hearing loss and were similar in age, yet one viewed the new sounds as a blessing while the other viewed them as annoying. The main difference between them was their attitude about hearing aids.

Audiologist expertise and follow-up care are also important. Audiologists are trained rigorously in school and beneath the supervision of other expert audiologists before they help patients on their own. Audiologists who do their job correctly fit patients using Real Ear Measurements and patient feedback. It is their job to know what to change when you complain about an “echo” in your voice or say that the sound of running water is overwhelming. Of course, it is your job to tell your audiologist about these issues.

If a friend, family member, or audiologist tells you that your hearing is failing, don’t make excuses! What you’re really missing out on is enjoying life–conversations and relationships that make life enjoyable and worth living!

Tinnitus Causes and Treatment

As an audiologist I was trained to identify, diagnose, and manage or treat disorders of the inner ear. One of the most common disorders I help treat and manage is called tinnitus.

Tinnitus is commonly described by my patients as ringing or buzzing in the ears that can vary from low to high-pitched. The noise can be present in one or both ears, and it may be constant or returning. Tinnitus is a common problem affecting over 50 million Americans, according to the American Tinnitus Association. It can be caused by a number of health conditions such as ear and sinus infections, hormonal changes in women, brain tumors, head injuries, diseases of the heart of blood vessels, noise-induced hearing loss, Ménière’s disease, and thyroid abnormalities. Most often, however, tinnitus is not a sign of a serious health-related issue. But, if the noise is loud or prolonged, it can affect concentration and cause emotional turmoil. Like I tell my patient’s, if you are suffering with tinnitus, it’s important to understand the causes and what you can do about it. 

The Three Most Common Causes of Tinnitus 

Hearing Loss — Ninety percent of people who have sensori-neural hearing loss also report tinnitus.  This form of hearing loss is natural and tends to be bilateral (in both ears). If you are noticing that you are unable to hear high-frequency sounds, you may have age-related hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is sometimes accompanied by tinnitus.

Noise-induced hearing loss — Tinnitus can be caused by noise-induced hearing loss. This means that your tinnitus developed after extended exposure to noisy environments. People who work in factories or at construction sites or who commonly attend loud concerts may develop this type of hearing loss. Such noisy environments can slowly damage the tiny sensory hair cells in your inner ears that transmit sound to the brain, resulting in hearing loss and ringing sounds and sensations.

Traumatic Brain Injuries — Another common cause of tinnitus is traumatic brain injury (TBI). Motor vehicle accidents, falls, and assaults can damage the brain and cause the sensation of ringing or buzzing within the ears. Even if the brain injury did not cause the tinnitus, some medications used to treat cognitive problems are associated with the development of tinnitus. This type of mild TBI most often affects active-duty service members. In fact, according to an article published by Military Medicine, U.S. military members have 32.3% prevalence from all causes and can be linked to PTSD. 

Treatment Options

Many times, those who suffer with tinnitus assume that there is nothing that can be done to alleviate their symptoms. This is not true. If you are experiencing a loud or consistent case of tinnitus, you should seek a professional assessment. Audiologists, like me, are trained to understand and recommend solutions for many hearing-related problems. 

Although no available treatment can entirely cure tinnitus, certain management techniques can be used to lessen its effects. These techniques include retraining therapy, tinnitus activities treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, and other psychologically based therapy approaches. The amplification of hearing aids may even work to reduce the ringing. To determine which treatment method works best for you, I will review your medical and psychological history as well as your lifestyle practices, including diet, sleep, and exercise. I may also have you complete a tinnitus assessment that measures your ability to match pitch and loudness to the sounds created by your tinnitus. The test also determines what sounds can be used to mask or suppress the phantom noises. Through these tests, audiologists can determine an approach to managing your tinnitus that works best for your specific case. 

The Next Step

Why suffer with tinnitus when I am right here in Palm Harbor to help lessen your symptoms? Reach out to Harbor Hearing today to set up an appointment, or schedule it yourself right now on our website! I can’t wait to meet you and help you achieve peace of mind.

 References

Clifford, Royce E., Dewleen Baker, Victoria B. Risbrough, Mingxiong Huang, and Kate A. Yurgi. “Impact of TBI, PTSD, and Hearing Loss on Tinnitus Progression in a US Marine Cohort.” Military Medicine: 839-846. https://watermark.silverchair.com.

Myers, Paula J., James A. Henry, Tara L. Zaugg, and Caroline J. Kendall. “Tinnitus Evaluation and Management Considerations for Persons with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.” American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Published April 2009. https://www.asha.org/articles/tinnitus-evaluation-and-management-considerations-for-persons-with-mild-traumatic-brain-injury/.

“Tinnitus.” Cleveland Clinic. Clevelandclinic.org. Accessed August 8, 2021. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14164-tinnitus.

Spankovich, Christopher. “Tinnitus – Developing a Practical Management Protocol.” AudiologyOnline. Accessed August 8, 2021. 

“Understanding the Facts.” American Tinnitus Association. Accessed August 8, 2021. https://www.ata.org/understanding-facts.

Common Misconceptions About Amplification

Have you ever said the following: “Hearing aids are too expensive,” “Hearing aids are all the same” or “Hearing loss is normal for my age”?

These common misconceptions are dangerous since they can cause you to ignore your hearing loss or to purchase an ineffective product. 

Don’t be misinformed. Even with a small budget, you can still afford reliable hearing aids. Take the advice of a professional. 

My name is Dr. Sharon Rophie, and I have my doctorate in audiology. Below are my tips for saving money on hearing aids while choosing the right prescription. 

“Hearing aids are too expensive.”

What if I told you that you have hearing aids benefits that you don’t know about–benefits that can save you hundreds of dollars on hearing aids? The number of hearing aid benefits that go unused every year is monumental. As with most benefits, hearing aid insurance benefits expire at the end of the calendar year. Because of this, you should use them while you have them. 

At Harbor Hearing, our dedicated team of experts can help you understand your benefits. Just give us a call! 

If your insurance plan or provider doesn’t offer hearing aid insurance, you may consider using HSA or FSA dollars. At Harbor Hearing, we can help you use these dollars efficiently with no out-of-pocket costs.

Additionally, your yearly hearing evaluation is almost always completely covered. Hearing tests help patients identify hearing problems early. Even if you don’t have hearing loss, you should obtain a hearing evaluation because it gives you the opportunity to discuss your likelihood of needing hearing aids in the future.

“Hearing aids are all the same.”

Believing that all hearing aids work exactly the same can lead to the purchase of cheap and ineffective products. Many patients have come to my office disappointed by a device that they purchased from a large retailer or from a discounted service that their insurance provided.

A way to avoid this disappointment is to familiarize yourself with the company before you buy. You want to work with an audiologist that you can trust—one who will focus on your needs rather than on making a sale. The last thing I want for you or your loved one is to waste money on ineffective hearing aids.

Take the advice of Laurel Christensen, chief audiology officer at GN Hearing, a hearing aid manufacturer: “Don’t buy off the TV or the internet. This is a health issue, and you do need to see a professional.” 

At Harbor Hearing, we counsel patients about their hearing loss and explain how wearing hearing aids will benefit their lives. We also take ear measurements to ensure proper fit and great performance.  

Tip: When scheduling an appointment with your provider, ask, “Do you take real ear measurements?”

“Hearing loss is normal for my age.”

By far, this misconception is one of the most common. My patients often ask me, “Is my hearing normal for my age?” My response is always the same: “Whether you’re 5 or 105, you need to hear above 25 dB to hear all the sounds in normal speech. That standard does not change with age.” 

When patients ask those types of questions, they’re implying they don’t need amplification because hearing loss is a normal part of life. Since they see other people their age not wearing amplification, they assume that they, too, can go without it. “My hearing does not bother me,” some say.   

In my opinion, the excuse “It does not bother me” is something we tell ourselves to avoid the problem at hand. Rather than addressing the issue, we normalize hearing loss and file the problem away until it becomes a bigger issue—an issue that’s too big and problematic to fix through amplification.

The truth is that any hearing loss that impedes your ability to understand speech is a BIG problem. The longer your hearing loss goes untreated, the harder adjusting to amplification will be. 

Is it time for your next hearing evaluation? Call us at 727-781-8770 to set up an appointment, or schedule it yourself right now on our website! I can’t wait to meet you!