In the Loop: Get the Most out of Your Hearing with Hearing Loop Technology

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Imagine spaces as small as a city cab to a large train station to a music auditorium as being inclusive environments to those with hearing impairments. With the advent of the audio induction loop, it is possible now for many public spaces to be navigated with greater ease and clarity. Here, we take a look at the remarkable technology of hearing loops.


What is the “Loop”?

Audio Frequency Induction Loop Systems (AFILS) is known commonly as the “Loop”.

Let’s start with the environment that the loop system is a part of. Look for a label indicating that the site has the “Loop” system available. The location will be equipped with a microphone connected to an amplifier. The amplifier is connected to wires within and around the floor or ceiling of the space. It then sends out a current which generates magnetic signals. Your hearing device or cochlear implant is equipped with a telecoil that picks up the magnetic signals.

Telecoils are also available in other assistive listening devices such as the IR (Infrared) or FM systems with a neck loop. The “Loop” system is known for delivering clarity in sound and speech in otherwise highly challenging environments for people with hearing loss. It cuts out distortion and enables the user to hear speech clearly without having to fight to differentiate it from background noise.  

The flexibility of the system means environments that were once a nightmare for the hearing impaired to navigate are now much less so. From ticket booths to the corner pharmacy to pick up prescriptions to musical plays to places of worship, the Loop system is opening up a world where sounds are not a source of anguish for those with hearing loss.

The “Loop” system is gaining traction with businesses and institutions worldwide. The push for public awareness and education is making the system advantageous for those in need and for places that have to be ADA compliant.


The Advantages of Hearing Loops 

Sound Quality

The system delivers the clarity of speech despite ambient and noisy background sounds. The user can receive sound programmed to their needs and in accordance with their own personally programmed requirements. Because of the loop induction system installed in the space, the telecoil in the user’s hearing device is picked up directly! 

Across the board

One of the reasons the “Loop” is highly advocated is that communication is effectively facilitated over a wide range of public and private environments. These range from an apartment to an auditorium!


You can experience clarity of sound while dealing with ticket counters for trains, airports, and buses or getting your prescriptions at pharmacies. All you have to do is switch your device to its telecoil program based on your hearing needs and you’re ready to go!

Easy to implement

It’s not necessary to switch to headphones or earbuds used by others in public places. You have a greater level of hygiene and that is a big plus for the health of your ears.

Finally, imagine a high level of clear speech and sound being delivered to your personal hearing device that is barely noticeable to others. It makes for a more inclusive experience!

As of 2010, the ADA Standard for Accessible Design continued its advocation for more public awareness and implementation of the “Loop” in venues that are required to be ADA compliant. This means those with hearing loss can look forward to engaging in an even broader spectrum of activities that a lot of us take for granted.

Surveys have shown user experiences of the “Loop” system have been graded extremely high and that there really is a need for further public education and advocacy to both those with hearing loss and those without.


Are My Hearing Aids Equipped with Telecoils?

If you currently have hearing aids and are curious if they’re equipped with telecoils, contact us at Audiology Associates of Redding. Our hearing professionals will be able to let you know, and we’ll also take the time to explain the benefits of the loop induction system to you so that you can enjoy a more inclusive and wider range of hearing experiences. We can also inform you of programming options that will fit your needs and better serve you.


Audiology Associates of Redding

At Audiology Associates of Redding, we take pride in empowering people with the information and education to better their hearing health for their overall well-being. We look forward to your call, and our first appointment together for a healthier, happier you!




The Role of Ears in the Balance System

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Have you ever watched a gymnast on the balance beam and wondered how it is possible to do such amazing acrobatic feats while remaining on a thin elevated object? The things that gymnasts can do are truly amazing, and these feats rely on a fully integrated body with multiple sensors acting in concert.  

On the other end of the spectrum, some people have serious balance disorders that make it impossible to walk a straight line or travel without getting nauseous or faint. For those of us with functional balance systems, our bodies need to use a number of sensory organs at the same time to create a feeling of uprightness and orientation to space. Among these many sensory organs that enable us to maintain balance, the ears are a crucial piece of the puzzle.

How Our Bodies Keep Balance

In one basic sense, our skin, muscles, and joints respond to the sensory stimuli of the world and send that information back to the brain for orientation and balance. We have all had the experience of being knocked off balance by something or tripping, and our bodies sense the ground or other objects to distribute bodily weight and grasp on to something for balance. Slipping on a patch of ice is a great example of the utility of skin, muscles, and joints in the re-orientation process after losing balance. Though one foot may move in a way it does not expect to do, the other can plant itself on steady ground, shifting weight in that direction to avoid a total collapse.

The eyes also play an important part in the process. Visual cues are used to balance the body and brain, and the eyes have to do extra work to avoid blurred vision when we quickly move or reorient. The eyes are important to a sense of equilibrium while riding in a car or boat, and disturbances in that visual connection can lead to motion sickness. The eyes are even necessary to keep a feeling of balance while moving relatively slowly, such as walking or jogging. If we move too quickly with our eyes closed, we can have the experience of disorientation or even vertigo.

In addition to these important sensory organs in the development of balance, our ears may be the most vital.

Our Ears & Balance

A tiny organ in the inner ear, known as the vestibular system, enables our bodies to connect with our brains to maintain balance. This fragile system is made up of three semi-circular canals and two pockets, called the otolith organs, and this system constantly sends sensory information to the cerebellum about the position of the body in space. Without a functional vestibular system, our bodies can feel completely out of whack. This system is particularly important in measuring changes in head position. Something as simple as nodding or shaking the head moves fluid inside the inner ear to stimulate the tiny hairs in the vestibular system. When these hairs are moved even slightly by the fluid stimulus, the brain will receive subtle information about bodily position in space. With that information in use, the brain is able to respond by telling the body what to do in response.

Protecting the ears can be an important behavior to maintain a good sense of balance and overall equilibrium. If the ears have a buildup of earwax, or cerumen, they can affect the ability of the vestibular system to properly respond to changes in bodily and head orientation.

Keep the ears clean in a safe way will make sure you are able to balance and move through the world without trouble. However, damage to the inner ear can also have an effect on equilibrium. If the vestibular system is damaged by debris, excess fluid, or even an attempt to clean the ears too deeply with a cotton swap, equilibrium can be damaged. Ears should be cleaned only in the exterior with a clean, soft cloth or cotton swab, but be sure not to insert anything into the ears. Tempting as it may be, you may be doing more harm than good. If regular cleaning of the outer ear seems to be insufficient to remove earwax, see a hearing specialist for professional assistance.

Audiology Associates of Redding

At Audiology Associates of Redding, we provide comprehensive hearing health services – and that includes keeping your ears healthy. If you suspect you may have impacted earwax, visit us for a hearing test and consultation.

Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

Talking about Hearing Loss: Why Your Disclosure Method Matters

We understand that it is not easy telling others about your hearing loss. Often, many people go out of their way to do just the opposite, feeling the information is too personal or embarrassing.  However, studies are finding that disclosing your hearing loss can be beneficial to making conversations and communication easier.


Three Disclosure Methods

A recent Duke University study focused on the disclosure methods of 337 people with hearing loss. The gathered data showed that there are three main strategies people use when navigating their hearing loss and author Jessica S. West, M.P.H codified them as follows:

Nondisclosure: phrases that do not disclose hearing loss. “Can you please repeat that?”

Basic disclosure: phrases that disclose hearing loss through the term, a label, or details about the condition. “I have partial deafness. Can you speak more loudly, please?”

Multipurpose disclosure: phrases that disclose hearing loss and provide information to facilitate communication. “I wear hearing aids to help with my hearing loss, but it also helps me to read your lips when we talk.”

These findings help healthcare providers better equip their patients with information for addressing hearing loss accommodation. It also prevents social isolation felt by those with disabling hearing loss or deafness and other communication disabilities.


Benefits of Disclosure

All of these methods offer benefits for effective communication, but multipurpose disclosure may be most advantageous in many situations. Though it discloses more personal information about your hearing loss, it simultaneously sets up a system of support and accommodation for effective communication going forward. It is the fastest and most direct approach of the three methods.

Communicating effectively is the common denominator for all of these methods. Perhaps not every situation requires multipurpose disclosure, but a basic disclosure of hearing impairment brings attention to any conversation. These methods also bring visibility to the hearing impaired and deaf community, which is a population of approximately 48 million in the US alone.


Women in the Study

The study at Duke University found women to be more open and skillful at disclosing their hearing loss to those with which they are communicating. Statistics tell us that women are twice as likely to employ a multipurpose disclosure to improve communication than their male counterparts. The women participating in the study also reported positive reactions to multipurpose disclosure saying it helped them feel supported and it helped improve communication.



Hearing loss can be a very personal disability, not easily discussed in casual company. It can be quite daunting and uncomfortable to disclose your hearing loss to new people. However, when you take on the burden of listening harder or missing out on information, you put yourself at risk for other hearing loss-related factors like hearing fatigue and social isolation.

One recommendation of the Duke University study was for hearing health professionals to better educate their patients about various disclosure methods and be open to suggest accommodations for effective communication. The hearing loss population is often ‘invisible,’ which is to say that not everyone with disabling hearing loss wears a hearing aid or other device that might offer a visual cue to an observer. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that approximately 16 percent of adults aged 20-69 who could benefit from hearing aids have never used them. Even when a hearing aid is present, it may be so discreet or hidden that a method of disclosure is still the best course.

In more complex settings like school or work, disclosing hearing loss can simplify the experience. It can make conversing easier on a large scale with many people accommodating your needs, adjusting and adapting the ways in which they communicate. Disclosing can even shift your social habits. Friends or family may suggest lunch in a park or quiet cafe rather than a busy restaurant. They may also be amenable to chatting during a nice drive rather than blasting loud music.


Audiology Associates of Redding

These are just some examples of multipurpose disclosure and their potential long-lasting benefits. No matter which method is best for you, it is important to make sure that you are on top of your hearing health and seeking treatment for hearing loss. At Audiology Associates of Redding, we provide comprehensive hearing health services and are here to help. Schedule an appointment or consultation with our team today!

Things to Consider when Selecting Hearing Aids

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If you've made the leap to treat your hearing loss and are on the path to selecting the right hearing aid then congratulations! You have just made it over a hurdle that takes the majority of people living with hearing loss ten years or more! Now you can choose the hearing aid that is right for you.  There are a lot of options out there and like with any big investment it’s best to educate yourself and start your search prepared.

The first thing you need to understand when you are looking for hearing aids is that they are not “one size fits all.”  If you’ve spent any time researching hearing aids or talking to your hearing provider at Audiology Associates of Redding, you know there are hundreds of hearing aid models to choose from. There are so many models, styles, and features (not to mention a huge range of prices), that choosing the right hearing aid for your needs can be very overwhelming. Picking the right hearing aid depends on your specific hearing loss, lifestyle, and the sounds that are most important for you to hear.

Different Kinds of Hearing Aids

It’s important to understand that, regardless of the hearing aid manufacturer, hearing aids are available at many different technology levels, but most of them fall into a basic, standard, or premium category. The different levels do not represent the quality of the devices, only the number and types of features available in each model.

Typically, as hearing aids are developed, the most advanced features are introduced into premium-level devices first—and they’re the most expensive. However, as newer or more refined features are implemented, the older features trickle down to the standard- and basic-level devices.

Your Unique Hearing Loss

Everyone hears differently, so it’s important to talk to your provider about a hearing aid that will address your unique needs. Since they know your hearing strengths and weaknesses, they can guide you toward a hearing aid that is the right fit for you. Different people need different features in order to hear optimally.

While older hearing aids only had one channel (meaning an entire range of hearing), modern hearing aids have anywhere from about 4 channels up to 24 or more channels available in some premium models. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone has to have the most channels possible. An individual with hearing loss that is the same across all frequencies may do just fine with a basic-level hearing aid that has fewer channels, because they need the same amount of amplification across the entire range of hearing. This is why it’s important to have your hearing tested by a professional before looking for a pair of hearing aids. The results from your test will determine the solution that will bring you the most benefit.


Lifestyle plays a big part in the type of hearing aid you might need and the features that will be best for you. An individual who works long hours, spends lots of time on the phone, and needs to be able to understand conversation in large meetings has different needs than the person who spends more time working at home, not needing to converse in a quieter environment. Certain features, like advanced speech enhancement or noise reduction, may make more or less of a difference to you based on the activities you participate in most. It’s best to talk to your provider about which features are more critical for your unique hearing loss, so you can make an informed decision about your hearing health. That way you won’t end up investing in a hearing aid with features you won’t use.

Hearing Needs

Another important factor to consider is the exact sounds you want to hear. For example, it would be easy to assume that someone with only a slight hearing loss, who is generally in very easy listening environments, would do well with a basic-level hearing aid. However, an individual in that same situation who plays guitar, may want a hearing aid with advanced features that provides more clarity, so they can still enjoy a favorite hobby.

Overall, there are a number of factors to consider when purchasing a hearing aid, from price to lifestyle to your specific hearing needs. That’s why a provider is so important. At Audiology Associates of Redding, we can give you an exam and help guide you to the hearing aids that are not only right for your ears, but will also fit your lifestyle.

Encouraging a Loved One to Take a Hearing Test

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Although hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States, it is often left untreated. This is due to the fact that it is considered an invisible condition, and as a result, people experiencing it tend to make listening adjustments while engaged in conversation. The consequences of untreated hearing loss are costly as it leads to not only functional impacts of communication, but also social, emotional, and other health impacts such as social isolation, depression, and even dementia. Overtime, untreated hearing loss can lead to rifts in once close knit relationships and even challenges and troubles at the workplace.

If you have recently noticed a loved one exhibiting the signs of hearing loss– turning up the volume high on the TV and phone and radio; asking you to repeat yourself often; avoiding social gatherings and interactions – you may want to bring up the issue with your loved one and encourage them to seek out treatment. Although hearing loss can be a sensitive topic, taking that first step in addressing it with your loved one is crucial in improving their hearing loss. Here are some tips for encouraging your love one to take a hearing test.

Do Your Research on Hearing Loss

Before stepping up to the plate and taking a swing at having that conversation about hearing loss with your loved one, do your research first. Learning the facts about hearing loss will give you the necessary tools to have a much more constructive conversation. Both the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) provide information on signs of hearing loss, the consequences of leaving hearing loss untreated, and the different types and causes of hearing loss. This type of knowledge will be greatly helpful in approaching how you have that conversation with your loved one.

The Importance of Picking a Quiet Time and Place

The sensitivity of talking about hearing loss with a loved one means choosing the right time and place is crucial. Those facing hearing loss may be hesitant to initially engage in such a conversation, so picking a quiet and isolated place is preferred. It’s best to have the conversation one-on-one conversation as opposed to a large group setting, as a group setting may feel too much like an intervention. Be sure to find a place that is quiet as to respect the hearing ability of your loved one. Being in overly noisy places only makes the conversation even harder for the person you’re trying to engage with.

Use “I” Statements Instead of “You” Statements

Approaching the conversations with “you” statements may push the person you’re trying to engage away further. Instead of using statements like “You are never listening” or “You are always asking me to repeat myself,” trying reframing the conversation by using “I” statements to allow the listener to see it from your point of view. You may want to try saying something like, “I’ve noticed that when we’re talking, I find that I must repeat myself often.” Framing this from a point of concern that you have takes a little bit of the pressure off of your loved one, who may already be feeling sensitive about the topic.

Listen Actively and Ask Open-Ended Questions

After you’ve shared your viewpoints and concerns about your loved one’s hearing loss, allow them the platform to speak their mind and share their thoughts. More likely than not, your loved one has already noticed the changes in their own hearing ability, but is worries or anxious about seeking treatment. Listen actively to what they share and ask open ended questions to further engage with them on this important conversation. You may find that approaching the conversation in this manner may be more constructive.

Encourage Your Loved One to Take a Hearing Test

Even though many adults haven’t gotten a hearing test since our childhood years, it is a painless and quick procedure. The most positive thing about them is that they provide a great deal of information about one’s hearing abilities. If you’re able to reach the point in conversation with your loved one about seeking treatment, share with them the research you’ve conducted about the benefits of treating hearing loss and the positive outcomes. Share with them that the first step towards hearing health is by going through with a hearing test.

Reach Out to Audiology Associates of Redding Today

If your loved one is responsive and in agreement to possibly take a hearing test, offer them support on their journey towards better hearing health. To schedule a hearing test, reach out to us at Audiology Associates of Redding today. Our team is here to help you and your loved one with comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid suggestions. Give us a call today to make an appointment!

Add an Annual Hearing Test To Your New Year's Resolutions!

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It’s 2019 and we’re certain you have improving your health on that resolution checklist. Each year we all resolve to eat healthier, exercise more, or quit drinking and smoking as a way to improve our overall health. Yet rarely do we think about our hearing health as part of our overall health. Hearing loss is more prevalent than you think; close to 48 million Americans are affected by it. If you haven’t already, add hearing health to that New Year’s resolution list and be on your way to improving your hearing health this year!


Why Hearing Tests Matter

According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, people with hearing loss wait an average of seven years before seeking help. This is because hearing loss is often gradual, allowing us to make slight adjustments to our listening. Those with low to moderate hearing loss might not even be aware they have hearing loss due to this reason.

Hearing tests are important because they allow a hearing health professional to monitor changes in your hearing abilities over time and to provide early treatment if necessary. If you find yourself struggling in everyday conversations or turning up the volume on your TV, you may be suffering from some sort of hearing loss. Even if you believe that nothing is wrong with your hearing ability, getting a hearing test is important for your overall hearing health.


Understanding Safe Sound Levels

Sounds are all around us. From the moment we wake up, we are exposed to them. From your alarm clock to the honks and sirens on your daily commute, these sounds may turn into unwanted noise that impacts your hearing health. That’s why it’s crucial in knowing how loud is too loud.

Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and the higher the number, the higher the intensity. According to audiologists, the safe level is 85 decibels (dB). For example, normal everyday conversation is measured at 60 dB, and a motorcycle engine running is 95 dB. Noise above 85 dB over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing. Loud noise above 120 dB can cause immediate harm to your ears.

Hearing loss caused by noise, or Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), is the only type of hearing loss that is preventable, so it is important to take the necessary steps in protect our hearing health.


Easy Steps to Protect Your Hearing Health

If you regularly find yourself in noisy environments, you should think about taking preventative measures to mitigate any potential hearing loss. Wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, when using loud equipment at work or at home. Foam earplugs are readily available at your local pharmacy. Earmuffs can be purchased at either sporting goods or safety equipment stores. If you need more specialized hearing protection, reach out to a hearing health clinic.

In addition to purchasing protection, limiting your exposure to noisy activities helps. You can monitor your listening level on the TV or on your music device. If you’re out and about in a louder environment, stay as far away as you can from the sound source.


Healthy Diets and Lifestyle Habits Impact Hearing Health

Although the leading cause for hearing loss is most associated to unsafe levels of noise exposure, research also links hearing loss to our diet and lifestyle habits. A well balanced diet not only impacts your weight, but the vitamins consumed within your daily diet helps maintain your long-term hearing.

Harmful lifestyle habits like smoking are also detrimental to our hearing health. A study published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research analyzed eight years of health data on over 50,000 people. The findings revealed that smokers were 1.2 to 1.6 times more likely to suffer from hearing loss compared to their non-smoking counterparts. The toxins and carcinogens can destroy vital hearing components within the inner ear and auditory processing nerves in our brain.


Make an Appointment with Audiology Associates of Redding

If you’ve never set foot inside an audiologist’s office, be proactive and make that appointment to get your hearing tested today. Even your hearing is normal, it is important to establish a baseline to contrast future hearing tests and seek the right treatment. If the hearing test indicates some sort of hearing loss, our hearing health specialists at Audiology Associations of Redding will guide you and find out the best way to improve your hearing health moving forward!

What To Expect At A Hearing Test

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If you suspect you are suffering from hearing loss, tinnitus, hyperacusis, or another auditory ailment, your treatment will likely begin with a hearing test. Brief, comfortable and affordable, hearing tests inform your audiologist about your hearing condition. A comprehensive hearing examinations usually lasts 30-45 minutes, depending on which tests are required.  There are many different types of tests that work together to decipher your auditory health status. A thorough hearing test can also help define the type of hearing loss you have: conductive, sensorineural or mixed and whether it will respond best to medical treatment or hearing aids.


Consultation with Your Audiologist

To begin, your audiologist will review your personal information and health history. This healthcare professional will ask questions designed to learn more about your hearing concerns. You may be asked about your symptoms, your history to noise exposure, your family’s history of hearing loss, and the specific types of environments in which you experience difficulty hearing. Feel free to jot down notes ahead of time so that you are prepared and confident.


Physical Examination

Once your audiologist understands your specific situation, a physical examination of your ears will be conducted by looking into them with an instrument called an otoscope. Using this tool, your audiologist can view your eardrum and look for issues such as a build up of earwax obstructing the ear canal or infections of the middle ear.


Hearing Tests

Here are the most common hearing tests that you can expect at an exam:

1) Pure Tone Audiometry Test

Hearing tests usually occur in a quiet, sound-treated room designed to keep out other noises, which could interfere with your hearing exam. You will be asked to wear headphones or soft earplugs with wires connected to an instrument called an audiometer that is used to conduct the test.  Your test administrator will communicate and provide instructions through the headphones. A series of tones at different pitches and different volumes will play. You will be asked to trigger a button or raise your hand when you hear them. You will need to listen carefully because it is important to respond even if the tone sounds very subtle and you can barely decipher it. The test measures the very softest sounds you can hear at each frequency tested. This part of the test is called pure tone audiometry.


2) Speech Audiometry Test

A speech audiometry test is another component of most hearing tests; it uses recorded or live speech instead of pure tones. The speech portion of the exam evaluates the softest speech sounds, or the threshold that you can hear and comprehend. You will be asked to repeat back the words that are presented at different levels to see if you can understand them accurately. Some practitioners use speech sounds to determine your most comfortable listening level.

3) Tuning Fork Test

Some audiologists use a tuning fork to assess the ability of sound to move through your ears. This is a metal device with two prongs that creates a tone as it vibrates. The tuning fork may be placed behind your ear or on your head during the test. Your doctor can tell whether there’s an issue with sound getting to your nerves or the nerves themselves based on how you hear and process the tone.


4) Audiogram

The results of your hearing tests will be recorded as an audiogram, a visual representation of your hearing abilities in frequencies and decibels. It will reveal the percentage of normal conversational speech that you are capable of hearing. Your audiologist will review your results with you, and if a hearing loss is detected, you will learn about the type, pattern, and degree of your hearing loss.  The measure of your hearing loss is calculated in decibels (dB) by using the following categories:

  • Normal hearing (0 to 25 dB HL)

  • Mild hearing loss (26 to 40 dB HL)

  • Moderate hearing loss (41 to 70 dB HL)

  • Severe hearing loss (71 to 90 dB HL)

  • Profound hearing loss (greater than 91 dB HL)


Your audiologist will make connections between the audiogram and your concerns about your hearing, so that you can begin to explore your personal treatment options.


Treating Hearing Loss

After your hearing test, your newfound knowledge of your hearing health will help to inform your treatment plan moving forward. Using the latest developments in auditory research, state-of-the-art technology, and years of education and experience, our team at Audiology Associates of Redding will be able to find an effective treatment that works for you and get you back on the road to healthy hearing!

November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month

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November is a time to come together with loved ones, friends and family as we start the winter holiday season. With the social flurry that comes with November, it isn’t a coincidence that this is also National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s Awareness promotes disease education and furthers efforts towards effective treatment and the race for a cure. Alzheimer’s disease, a debilitating form of dementia, usually occurs with advancing age and is marked by cognitive decline, memory issues and disorientation. Dementia can have a profound effect on a person’s quality of life and mobility.

Unfortunately, hearing loss and dementia are not entirely unconnected. Hearing loss isn’t just an issue with your ears. Leaving hearing loss untreated has huge ramifications for cognitive functioning and places stress on the mind. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s disease. When dementia is present, untreated hearing loss can exacerbate existing symptoms.

There is good news though - while most hearing loss is permanent, it can also be effectively treated with hearing aids. Treating hearing loss has been shown to relieve cognitive stress. Additionally, treating hearing loss helps us stay connected to the people and things we value in life. If you or a loved one is experiencing hearing issues, it’s time to schedule a hearing exam.


Hearing Loss and Alzheimer’s Disease

While the connections between dementia and hearing loss may not be intuitive, they make sense when you understand the impact that hearing loss has on the mind. Hearing loss largely affects the activity of the mind making it close to the cognitive concerns of dementia.

Permanent hearing loss is mostly rooted in damage to the sensory cells of the inner ear. Tiny hair cells become damaged throughout our lifetime. They lack the ability to repair themselves, so damaged hair cells will never regrow or reform, they simply cease to function. When a significant number of hair cells are no longer functional, it starts to manifest as hearing loss. Distinct details about sound and speech become hard to distinguish.

When this happens, our brain tries to pick up the slack for us. While the mechanics of the ear are used to detect sound, interpreting the meaning of a sound is done in the brain. The less incoming sound signals we receive, the harder it becomes to discern that meaning. The brain working under the stress of hearing loss, devotes more resources towards understanding important noises, like speech, taking energy away from other cognitive tasks. While working harder can compensate a little bit for the hearing loss, mostly it is just challenging and exhausting mental work. Attention given to the task of hearing is taken away from other important mental jobs - like coordination and balance, encouraging the likelihood of accidents and falling.

This cognitive strain is also thought to be a major factor in why Alzheimer’s is more prevalent in people with untreated hearing loss. The effort and resources used for trying to hear create shortcomings in other areas of the brain and may put more stress on people who are already susceptible to dementia.


Hearing Loss and Isolation

Untreated hearing loss also has a role in conditions that can worsen Alzheimer’s disease. Social isolation and lack of mobility can be fed by hearing loss and lead to the symptoms of dementia deepening. Social isolation is a health issue where a person lacks connection and communication with the world around them.

Hearing loss makes it harder to connect with the world. Trouble hearing makes it more stressful to participate in social activities, even interacting with family and close friends. Anxiety and stress brought on by untreated hearing loss make it progressively harder to engage socially. By withdrawing from regular interactions and activities, a person puts themselves at risk of isolation.

The symptoms of dementia can worsen significantly if isolation and hearing loss are also involved. A person already undergoing cognitive issues can become more confused and upset when isolation is a factor. Hearing loss creates further barriers in communication.


Treat Hearing Loss

Treating hearing loss has shown to be a remarkable source of cognitive relief. In a recent French study almost 80% of patients receiving hearing loss treatment showed significantly better cognitive functioning one year later. If you or a loved one is facing hearing issues, now is the season to address your hearing health.

Your hearing is part of this season of connecting with family and loved ones and Audiology Associates of Redding can help. Contact us today to open the path to life-long hearing health.

Encouraging a Loved One to Take a Hearing Test

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Have you noticed differences in the way you communicate with a loved one? If they need you to talk louder or repeat yourself often, it could be one of the many signs of hearing loss. Hearing loss is incredibly common, but many people have problems taking the initial step to confront the issue. On average, studies have found that people ignore their hearing issues for seven years before seeking help.

While people tend to procrastinate around their hearing loss, the earlier it is treated the easier it is to manage, so encouraging your loved one to get a hearing test is always a good idea. If left unaddressed, hearing loss can greatly restrict a person’s overall health and their quality of life. Not sure where to start? Here are some tips for helping someone you care about.


Recognize the Signs of Hearing Loss

If someone is struggling with hearing loss, it is important to know what to look for. Most people with developing hearing loss can detect sound, but instead of hearing it loud and clear it may come across as distant and muffled. While they can catch that something has been said, they may struggle to understand it.

The first and most common sign of hearing loss in a loved one is in their conversational behavior. If they ask you to speak up or repeat what you said frequently, even if you are talking at a normal, clear volume, it can indicate something is wrong. Sometimes a person with hearing issues will bluff their way through an interaction - possibly giving out-of-context replies and answers to what’s been said.

Out in the world, hearing loss can restrict a person, especially in loud and busy settings. If your loved one is withdrawing from restaurants, parties, travel, and other social functions hearing issues may be responsible. Hearing issues may make them very quiet or distracted in large social gatherings.

If you watch television or listen to music or the radio, take notice of how they set the volume. Volume levels that are constantly being turned up can mean that hearing at lower volumes has become a challenge. Detecting any of these signs or multiple signs is a good indicator you should talk to your loved one about hearing loss and encourage them to get a hearing exam.


Show You Care

Talking to your loved one should be a quiet, focused conversation. Make sure you have a good indoor setting where you can have a private discussion without background noises interfering. Explain to them what you’ve observed and why you’d like them to get their hearing tested. Then, take time to listen to their perspective and feelings about hearing loss.

For many people, learning that their hearing issues are affecting other people is the reason they confront their hearing loss. Often, a person believes that their hearing issues only involve themselves and don’t have an impact on how others communicate. Of course, with hearing, it always involves more than one person. Losing the ability to communicate with someone you care about can be heartbreaking. Let your loved one know how much you value your relationship with them, and why you care about their health.


Finding Solutions

The good news to share is that while hearing loss is usually irreversible, it can be treated with hearing aids and other assistive devices. Hearing aids have developed in leaps and bounds over the past several decades. Modern designs are barely noticeable when worn, slipping discreetly behind the ear or inside the ear canal. Hearing aids are also individually programmed to match a person’s hearing loss precisely and help them hear the tones and frequencies they are most challenged by.

Using hearing aids can help a person hear better and greatly improve their quality of life. Hearing aids make comprehending speech and following conversations easier and more pleasurable. They can help a person continue engaging in the social activities they enjoy and staying close with the people they love.

What’s the next step? Be there for your loved one if they need help making an appointment and talk to them about the results of their hearing test. Here at Audiology Associates of Redding, we love working with people to find hearing solutions that match their lifestyle and needs. Our comprehensive hearing testing is painless and noninvasive, and can give you or someone you care about a complete picture of any hearing issue.

What are the Signs of Hearing Loss?

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Hearing loss is extremely common, effecting about one-in-three Americans 65 and over and one-in-two Americans over the age of 75. These numbers are quite staggering. One might assume that if half the population over the age of 75 has a hearing loss, then hearing aid use would reflect similar numbers. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, studies have found that only about 30% of people who could benefit from hearing aids actually use them.

Why do so few people with hearing loss use hearing aids? One answer to this question is that many do not realize or accept changes in their hearing. The average American waits about seven years from the time they notice changes in their hearing to the time they seek treatment, meaning people are living almost a decade with untreated hearing loss on average. It is imperative to know the early signs of hearing loss to ensure you or your loved ones seek treatment as soon as hearing loss begins to present itself.

Signs of Hearing Loss

1. That obnoxious ringing in your ears. If you have started to notice an annoying ringing, buzzing or clicking in your ears, it is most likely tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying issue that causes one to hear phantom noises - most often ringing or buzzing. Tinnitus can be constant, or it can come and go. It can also be extremely distracting, or be simply a bit bothersome. However, your tinnitus presents itself, it’s a good indication that it might be time for a hearing assessment. A large majority of people who suffer tinnitus also have a hearing loss.

2. Hearing, but not understanding. This one is extremely common, and quite confusing to many. It may feel as though others are mumbling or speaking in hushed tones. This is due to the fact that with hearing loss, often the first thing to go is our ability to decipher subtle differences between sounds such as “b” and “p”. This can cause a lot of confusion in conversations and can cause one to feel like they are hearing people perfectly fine, however, just cannot quite grasp what they are saying.

3. Comments from friends and family. Often, our closest friends and family members are the first to notice changes in our hearing. If your friends and family have expressed a concern about your hearing, have complained that you are “not listening” to them or grumble that the TV volume is always too high, it may be a sign that there have been some changes in your hearing.

4. Difficulty with or withdrawing from group conversations and social situations. Another common early sign of hearing loss is difficulty holding conversations with more than one or two people at a time. This is because our brains are using extended resources to hear, and cannot switch focus as quickly and accurately as they did when our hearing was better. While some people recognize this difficulty right away, trouble with group conversations is not as obvious to others. These people tend to find themselves subconsciously withdrawing from social situations or group conversations they used to enjoy - simply because the conversations have become frustrating and difficult.

5. Frequently asking others to speak up. Think back to your last few conversations. How many times did you need to ask your communication partner to speak up or repeat themselves? Did you find yourself “smiling and nodding” because you couldn’t quite catch what they said? Of course we all need phrases repeated from time-to-time, however, if this is happening quite often, it is probably time for a hearing screen.

6. Exhaustion after social events. Straining to hear takes a toll on our bodies - a toll that can leave us feeling extremely drained. This is especially true after social gatherings with multiple people such as office happy hours, family parties or group dinners. Feeling overly exhausted after attending these types of events may be a sign of hearing loss.


Audiology Services of Redding

If you live in the Redding area and have noticed these or any changes to your hearing, reach out to our friendly staff today. We are proud to offer comprehensive hearing screens with knowledgeable, professional and caring audiologists. We look forward to an opportunity to walk with you on your journey to better hearing and an improved quality of life.