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 job-related hearing protection products, you should look for a device that blocks twice the amount of sounds you experience daily at work. You might purchase something with an NRR of 200 if your regular noise exposure is around 100 decibels, for example. Just so you know, 100 dB is about the level of a tractor and similar equipment.
What Types of Hearing Protection Devices are Available?
When it comes to protecting your ears, the most common products are:
- Canal caps
There may be different styles 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 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.
Sound is what tethers you safely to the world even though you may not realize it. For instance, it is the sound of an alarm that tells you there is smoke in the house and a potential fire. This type of security is critical for those who do have hearing loss, especially when there is a gradual decline. How do people who can’t hear well anymore know the alarm is going off in time to get out of the house?
With about 20 percent of the people in the U.S. diagnosed with some form off hearing loss, clearly, this question has come up before. Consider some of the security issues those with hearing loss face daily and how they are handled.
About Those Smoke Alarms
So, what do they do about smoke alarms? The key is to make use of the other senses. The common high-frequency smoke alarm won’t work effectively for someone with hearing loss, especially during the night when their hearing aids are put away somewhere.
A 2009 study published in Ear and Hearing states that alarms to detect smoke and heat in a home that comes with low-frequency tones work better for those who are struggling to hear like the elderly, even more so than flashing lights which were effective only about 27 percent of the time. Bed or pillow shakers were a practical choice, as well. The study found between 80 to 84 percent of participants awoke when shaken during the night.
Access to 911
The 911 system is a lifeline to communicate with the police and EMS but how does that work if you can’t hear? There are a couple of ways to solve this problem. First, make sure your mobile phone has a GPS system. This allows an EMS operator to locate you from anywhere if you do call for help even if you can’t hear them. They can send someone to you based on your phone coordinates. You can also look into hearing aids that connect to your phone through Bluetooth technology. The right hearing aid eliminates the communication problem.
Installing landlines at home makes sense, too, and make sure to put one next to the bed for emergencies in the night. With a landline, you can dial 911 and the operator will send out a patrol to check on you whether speak or not. Contact your service provider before installing a landline, though, so you know they are 911 compliant. Some VoIP systems will not automatically transmit your address to the 911 operator.
You can take advantage of the high-tech hearing assistive devices such as a video relay system or a captioned phone. If you do opt to carry just a smartphone, buddy up with friends and family to get help if you need it. Establishing an emergency contact group means you can send a text out to them and they can call 911 for you. The more people on your buddy list, in fact, the better.
Protecting Your Home
Home alarm systems bring with them some of the same challenges as smoke alarms. They tend to emit a high-frequency sound that is tough for someone with a hearing challenged to hear. It is important to have this kind of safety equipment because you are also not going to hear someone breaking into your home, either.
Look for alarms systems designed just for the hearing impaired. Many come with bed shakers and strobe lights that warn you of a break-in. Pick a security system with a remote panic button that you can keep close to your bed for added safety, too. Make a point to tell the alarm company that you are hearing impaired when you sign up for the service. They will work with you to figure out the best way to communicate.
Take Advantage of Hearing Technology
For most people, this will mean hearing aids. See your doctor and determine if hearing aids are a practical choice for you. If so, sit down with a certified retailer to ensure you purchase quality hearing aids customized to keep you safe and improve your life.
Bluetooth compatibility is just one feature of modern hearing aids. Directional microphones reduce the level of interference, so you can focus on what is going on around you.
Finally, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Your friends, neighbors, and family are some of the most powerful safety assets you have, so be honest with them about your hearing challenges. If you are worried about your safety, sit down with them and look for solutions, so you feel more secure.
You hear plenty of talk nowadays about the challenge of living with chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, but what about tinnitus? It’s a chronic illness that has a strong emotional component because it affects so many areas of a person’s life. Tinnitus presents as phantom noises in one or both ears. Most folks describe the noise as ringing, clicking, buzzing, or hissing that nobody else can hear.
Tinnitus technically is not an illness but a symptom of an untreated medical problem like hearing loss and something that over 50 million people from the U.S. deal with on regular basis. The ghost sound will begin at the most inconvenient times, too, like when you are watching a favorite TV show, attempting to read a book or listening to a friend tell a great tale. Tinnitus can act up even when you try to go to bed.
Medical science hasn’t quite pinpointed the reason so many people suffer with tinnitus or how it occurs. The current theory is that the mind creates this sound to balance the silence that comes with hearing loss. Regardless of the cause, tinnitus is a life-altering condition. Consider five reasons tinnitus is such a challenge.
1. Tinnitus Impacts Emotional Processing
Recent information indicates that individuals who experience tinnitus also have more activity in the limbic system of the mind. The limbic system is the portion of the brain responsible for emotions. Until now, most doctors thought that people with tinnitus were stressed and that is why they were always so emotional. This new research indicates there is much more to it than simple stress. There is an organic component that makes those with tinnitus testy and emotionally fragile.
2. Tinnitus is Hard to Discuss
How do you explain to somebody else that you hear weird noises that they can’t hear and not feel crazy when you say it. The failure to discuss tinnitus is isolating. Even if you could tell somebody else, it is not something they truly get unless they suffer from it for themselves. Even then, they may not have exactly the same signs of tinnitus as you. Support groups exist, but that means speaking to a lot of people you aren’t comfortable with about something very personal, so it is not an appealing choice to most.
3. Tinnitus is Distracting
Imagine trying to write a paper or study with sound in the background that you can’t turn down or shut off. It is a distraction that many find disabling whether they’re at the office or just doing things around the home. The ringing changes your focus making it hard to remain on track. The inability to concentrate that comes with tinnitus is a real motivation killer, too, which makes you feel lethargic and mediocre.
4. Tinnitus Blocks Rest
This is one of the most critical side effects of tinnitus. The ringing will amp up when a sufferer is trying to fall asleep. It is not certain why it increases at night, but the most logical reason is that the silence around you makes it worse. Throughout the day, other sounds ease the sound of tinnitus like the TV, but you turn off everything when it’s time to go to bed.
Many men and women use a sound machine or a fan at night to help alleviate their tinnitus. Just that little bit of ambient noise is enough to get your brain to lower the volume on your tinnitus and permit you to fall asleep.
5. There’s No Cure For Tinnitus
Just the idea that tinnitus is something you have to live with is tough to accept. Though no cure will stop that noise permanently, there are things can be done to help you find relief. It starts at the physician’s office. Tinnitus is a symptom, and it is critical to get a proper diagnosis. By way of instance, if you hear clicking, maybe the sound isn’t tinnitus but a sound associated with a jaw problem such as TMJ. For some, the cause is a chronic illness the requires treatment like high blood pressure.
Lots of people will find their tinnitus is the consequence of hearing loss and dealing with that issue relieves the buzzing. Getting a hearing aid means an increase in the level of sound, so the brain can stop trying to make it to fill in the silence. Hearing loss may also be easy to solve, such as earwax build up. When the physician treats the underlying cause, the tinnitus dulls.
In extreme cases, your doctor may attempt to treat the tinnitus medically. Tricyclic antidepressants may help lower the ringing you hear, as an example. The doctor can suggest lifestyle changes that should alleviate the symptoms and make life with tinnitus easier, such as using a sound machine and finding ways to manage stress.
Tinnitus presents many challenges, but there’s hope. Medical science is learning more every year about how the brain functions and ways to make life better for those struggling with tinnitus.
Is your motto have hearing aid will travel? If so, you probably already have a game plan in mind each time you take a vacation. If this is your first time hitting the road with a hearing aid, though, try to remember that planning ahead is the best way to protect and maintain the device while you travel. Consider some travel tips that will ensure you and your hearing aid stay safe and have a great time on your next vacation.
Travel is Chaotic
No matter how well you organize your trip or even how you get from place to place, travel is chaotic. That is true whether you are on a road trip, take a plane with your family or are riding the rails. Chaos breeds stress, and, when you are stressed, it’s easy to miss important details like how to care for your hearing aid.
Before you leave, develop a list of all the stuff you need to take with you and make sure extra batteries for your hearing aid is on the top of it. If your hearing aid comes with rechargeable batteries then bring along an extra charging station in case yours gets lost along the way. If you are traveling and are required to check your luggage carry batteries or that extra charger on you in case your bags get lost.
While you are making your list, think about what else you will need to maintain your hearing aids. How about:
- The cleaning kit
- A hairdryer to use in case they get wet
- Additional domes and wax guards
Pack a few of Bluetooth accessories in your luggage, too. They are a big help if you should lose or damage your hearing aid on the road. The mic on a Bluetooth device can help you talk to people in a pinch.
Boarding a Plane
If a plane is your chosen mode of transportation, plan to wear your hearing aids all the way to your destination. You should carry the case, batteries and cleaning supplies in your carry on, so they are easy to get to if you need them. When going through security, leave your hearing aids in your ears. When it comes time to go through the body scanner, tell them that you have a hearing aid in, so they don’t think you are hiding anything. If they ask you to take it out so they can examine it, you should comply but they may just let you go through with it in place.
While flying, you might find hearing is more difficult even while wearing with your hearing aid. The noise can overwhelm the device, so use other tricks to understand what is going on like visual cues. Try putting a Bluetooth device in one ear if you are struggling, too. The remote mic will pick up conversation better while you are in the air than your hearing aid.
Some Common Sense Advice
Your hearing aids are critical for vacation enjoyment, but you need to think ahead just in case they go missing or break during your trip. You need to find other ways to accommodate your hearing loss when are not wearing them, too, like at night. If you are staying at a hotel, ask about adaptive equipment designed for the hearing impaired. Some offer rooms that include lights that flash when the phone rings or in case the fire alarm goes off.
Keep detailed information with you at all times like your itinerary and emergency contacts. A written itinerary makes checking in to your hotel easier because you’ll probably be tired and understanding the clerk will be a struggle even with your hearing aid.
Research the areas you are going to visit and to see if there is a certified hearing aid retailer nearby. If something happens and you need to get your hearing aid repaired or even replaced, you will already know where to go for help.
Have hearing aid will travel? Absolutely! Don’t let your hearing loss change the way you live. There is no reason you can’t go out and experience life whatever that means to you. Go ahead and plan that dream vacation just be smart about it, so you hear every minute of the fun.
There is a complicated link between hearing and mood that tends to go unnoticed. A 2014 study conducted by researchers at The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) suggests a strong correlation exists between loss of hearing and mood disorders with both often going untreated.
What that indicates for those with some hearing loss, whether they know it or not, is that the decrease in their hearing directly impacts their mood. Keeping that in mind means it is safe to conclude that hearing enhancement devices like hearing aids might be just what you need to fight depression.
The scientists working with The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders looked at data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to find a connection between certain mood disorders and hearing loss for those participants over the age of 18. This lead to some interesting facts:
- Moderate to severe depression rates were around 4.9 percent for those with good hearing.
- Moderate to severe depression rates were around 11.4 percent for those with some hearing loss.
- The rate of depression increased as hearing declined but did not change for those already deaf.
- Women over the age of 70 found to have reduced hearing through professional hearing exams did experience depression.
- Men over the age of 70 did not experience depression despite their hearing loss.
This study allowed researchers to conclude that a loss in hearing for those over the age of 70 didn’t really factor into depression for the male population but did seem to impact the women. The young adults who reported some level of hearing loss were also more prone to depression regardless of gender.
Why Hearing Loss Can Lead to Depression
There are a number of theories out there to answer this question but the most likely one is more common sense than science. Simply put, finding yourself with hearing loss can trigger mood swings and depression because:
- Most forms of hearing loss are permanent. Once a person loses their hearing due to trauma, disease or just aging, that damage is done. The components that let you hear are very delicate and there is no proven way to fix most of them. Hearing aids provide a workable solution, but it is not a permanent one.
- Hearing loss leads to isolation. People start to avoid social situations when they have an untreated hearing loss. They might think they are too dumb to understand the conversation or maybe they are not ready to admit they have a problem hearing. Studies show that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia, as well, as depression.
- Hearing loss causes stress. A person suffering from hearing loss is suddenly unable to enjoy things the same way they used to like watching TV. Turning the volume up just irritates family members and the neighbors. They have a hard time interpreting words, as well. Sounds tend to drop out making words hard to distinguish and that stress can quickly turn to sadness and, eventually, depression.
How Hearing Aids Help
The NIDCD believes most people over the age of 70 would benefit from having hearing aids just to compensate for the age-related hearing loss. According to the institute, only one in three people who could benefit from hearing assistance actually have a proper diagnosis of the hearing loss and hearing aids. The reasons for not getting hearing aids vary from the cost to not wanting to admit there is a problem. Those people struggle to get through life, so it’s no wonder they get depressed.
A study for the National Council on Aging found that those individuals that do see a doctor, get a professional hearing test and then wear hearing aids are 50 percent less likely to become depressed.
Getting hearing aids improves the quality of life. If you know you have problems hearing, then make an appointment to see your doctor and get a hearing test. You’ll be surprised how much better you will feel once you start hearing again.
Call us today to cut through the confusion about hearing loss and hearing aids.
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