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Tinnitus: What Is That Noise In My Ears?


This common affliction, known as tinnitus, affects roughly 15% of the American population. Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound when none is actually occurring. For some it is a minor nuisance but for others, a major impediment to their quality of life.

Tinnitus is not a disease, but usually the symptom of something else. It can occur as the result of a number of health and environmental conditions. These may include hearing loss, noise exposure, head or neck trauma, high blood pressure, vascular disorders, heart conditions, ototoxic medications, benign tumors (known as acoustic neuromas) and impacted earwax. In some cases of tinnitus, the cause is never determined.  Individuals most at risk to develop tinnitus are male, persons over the age of 60, active military/veterans, persons who work in noisy environments, musicians and persons with prior behavioral issues (such as depression and anxiety).

Tinnitus is most often described as a ringing in the ears, but may also take sound like buzzing, whooshing, roaring, clicking, hissing or whistling. Some tinnitus sufferers experience severe mental and emotional distress due to the tinnitus. Side effects from the tinnitus can include fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, and memory/concentration problems.

Clinically, tinnitus is categorized as being either pulsatile or non-pulsatile. Those experiencing pulsatile tinnitus—the result of abnormal blood flow in the arteries—are able to hear the sound of their own pulse or heartbeat. This type is rare. Non-pulsatile tinnitus, (ringing in the ears that is not accompanied by any sort of rhythm) is far more common.  Most cases of tinnitus are subjective in nature; that is, only the patient can hear the sounds. In rare cases another person—usually a doctor—is able to detect the ringing or other noise (objective tinnitus).

Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus itself. Unless the underlying condition responsible for symptoms is identified and can be treated, your only real course of action is learning to live with the phantom sounds. However, there are various strategies for dealing with tinnitus.  One of the most popular is white noise therapy. This principle uses random sound frequencies distributed throughout the hearing spectrum to disguise the persistent background noises. The patient learns to mask out these sounds. Electronic devices made solely for this purpose exist, though the same effect can be achieved through use of an inexpensive sound machine, an air conditioner or fan.  Since tinnitus often is a symptom of hearing loss, patients with hearing loss and tinnitus sometimes find relief by wearing hearing aids. There are also hearing aids that combine the hearing aid function with a built-in masking feature for additional relief.

Along with the above suggestions for relief, some tinnitus sufferers find relief through relaxation exercises (such as guided meditation, yoga, etc.). A healthy lifestyle with good diet and regular exercise may also offer alleviation of the tinnitus.   So if you or someone you love has tinnitus, please encourage them to call us for a complete evaluation of their ears and hearing. Call HearMD at (856) 602-4200.  Better hearing is better living – call today.

*Article adapted from Fuel Inc. tinnitus information

Why Should I Wear Two Hearing Aids?

If you suspect you have hearing loss or a hearing healthcare professional has evaluated your hearing and has determined that you are candidate for two hearing aids, are you wondering if you can “get by” with just one hearing aid?  For many years, research in the field of hearing science has found that wearing two hearing aids is definitely better than one (with very few exceptions).  After all, if you have vision loss in both eyes, you wouldn’t wear a monocle (one eyeglass lens) would you?

One of the best ways to keep your auditory system in good working order is to use it.  Wearing hearing aids in both ears ensures that both ears are being stimulated.  It allows for the optimal amount of information to be sent to the brain for better processing – especially for understanding speech.  People fit with binaural (two) hearing aids score better on word recognition and speech understanding tests.  This is not only true in quiet listening situations, but is even more evident in group and noisy situations.  Groups and noise are the most common places that people with hearing loss report the most difficulty hearing in.  Also, studies have shown that the word recognition abilities of people fitted with one hearing aid decline more rapidly than people fitted with two hearing aids.  Clinically, this is called the auditory deprivation effect.

In his article “The Binaural Advantage” on BetterHearing.org, well-known audiology researcher Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D lists numerous other advantages to wearing binaural hearing aids.  Here are a few:

  • Better ability to tell the direction of sound (called sound localization)
  • Wider hearing range (people can hear at further distance with two ears than one ear)
  • Better sound identification (many words sound alike and with two hearing aids, sounds are more distinguishable)
  • Listening is more pleasant and it is less tiring to hear (a result of less strain to hear)
  • Feeling that hearing is more “balanced” (also known as the stereo effect)
  • Better sound quality (by increasing your hearing range from 180 degrees to 360 degrees)
  • Higher rate of hearing aid satisfaction with two hearing aids than one hearing aid

So, just as you need two eyes to see your best, you need two ears to hear clearly.  If you suspect that you or a loved one has hearing loss or needs hearing aids, please do not hesitate to contact us at HearMD at 856-602-4200 for a complete hearing evaluation and consultation.  Let our experienced hearing healthcare professionals and ENT physicians guide you on your journey to better hearing for better living.  

Hearing Loss Linked to Increased Risk of Falling

There are many health and personal safety issues related to hearing loss which include cognition, social issues and medical issues but now there has been another risk identified – falls.

A study done in recently at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institute of Aging found that untreated hearing loss can significantly increase the risk of falls for older people. Falls are a huge public health problem and results in billions of dollars each year in health care costs.  This finding may help researchers address the issue of falls more effectively and develop new ways to prevent falls.

Dr. Frank Lin found in his study “Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States” that even when they accounted for other factors related to fall risk (age, sex, race, cardiovascular disease and vestibular function), the risk of falling tripled in people with only a mild 25 decibel hearing loss.  They also found that for each 10-decibel decrease in hearing, the risk for falling increased by 140 percent.

So why does this risk of falling increase so dramatically with hearing loss?  Researchers speculate a few reasons.  One is that people who cannot hear well do not have an overall accurate awareness of their environment and where they are relation to other people and things around them.  Another theory is that gait and balance are very cognitively demanding.  If the brain is overwhelmed by the cognitive load of not hearing well, it only has a limited amount of resources to relegate to balance.

So what can be done to decrease the risk of falling in relation to hearing? Another small study at Washington University of St. Louis then looked at whether wearing hearing aids could help improve balance or lack of hearing aids could make it worse.  They determined that hearing aids did make a positive difference.  Participants were able to maintain their balance longer with hearing aids turned on than when they were turned off.  It was a small study, but the results indicated that sound information alone, independent of the vestibular (balance) system, may play more important role in maintaining balance than was previously thought.

Keeping older adults from falling and the importance of good balance in older people is often underestimated.  Falling is the lead cause of accidental deaths in adults over age 65 in the United States (CDC findings).  Also, in 2009 alone, there were 2.2 million non-fatal injuries reported in emergency departments across the United States, costing approximately $30 billion dollars a year.

So if you or someone you know has hearing loss and/or balance issues, please do not hesitate to call us at HearMD.  We will perform a complete audiological evaluation to determine your hearing status and offer a treatment plan if needed.  Call today to schedule your appointment at 856-602-4200.  Remember – better hearing is better living.

Noise-Canceling Headphones: Are They Safe?

The use of headphones or earbuds to listen to music from portable listening devices has skyrocketed in the last decade. When used correctly at safe listening levels, they will not do harm to your hearing. Unfortunately, many people are using them incorrectly and permanently damaging their hearing with these devices. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 50% of young people (ages 15-35) are listening to music from personal listening devices at levels that are unsafe (100 decibels or more). The structures of the ear are very sensitive and can start to show damage after as little as 14 minutes at noise levels of 100 decibels or more. Due to headphone use and other exposure to dangerously loud noise, approximately 12% of children ages 6-19 have noise-induced hearing loss and about 26 million adults (ages 20-69) have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss (in the U.S.).

Safe listening practices are important for people of all ages, but are especially important for children and young people. Noise-cancelling headphones can help. Some young people not only listen to headphones for the music, but as a way to “block out” noise in their surrounding environment. But most headphones are not designed to “block out” noise and therefore the volume is cranked up to unsafe levels. This is especially true for earbud-style speakers in particular. Earbud-style speakers are also notoriously poor at transmitting the bass of the music efficiently, which may cause users to also turn it up to hear better.

There are a few styles of headphones that may help these issues. They may better “protect” your hearing along with allowing you to hear your music at safe listening levels. One option is noise-isolating headphones, which creates a seal around the ear to make a physical barrier between the ear and outside sounds in the environment. Another option which is growing in popularity is noise-cancelling headphones. They work by using inverse sound waves to cancel out the incoming sounds from the environment. They work best at canceling out low-frequency sounds like the rumble of traffic or engines but are not as efficient at blocking higher-frequency sounds like conversations.

If you don’t choose to invest in one of the above types of headphones, there are some “rules” to follow to ensure safe listening to any kind of headphone (including noise-canceling). Most experts recommend not listening at more than 85 dB for no more than 8 hours a day. Practically, that translates into never listening to music at more than 60 percent of the device’s maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes continuously (known as the “60/60 rule”). On most personal listening devices, you can also go under the “Settings” and set a maximum volume. This is especially helpful for parents to ensure that their children are not listening too loudly.

It is possible to enjoy music through headphones. Just keep the volume down at a safe level and be aware of any change in your hearing. For more advice on which noise-canceling headphones might be a worthwhile investment, please see this link: https://www.reviews.com/noise-canceling-headphones/.

If you have any further questions or if you suspect a hearing loss, please don’t hesitate to call HearMD at (856) 602-4200 to make an appointment or to speak to one of our hearing healthcare professionals. We are committed to better hearing through better living by providing individualized comprehensive hearing healthcare services in South Jersey.

Risky Listening: Hearing Loss in Children

By Deborah Burke, M.Ed., CCC-A

Hearing loss rates are rising in children and young adults.  Studies show that young people today are generally more sensible in regards to their health than previous generations except for the protection and preservation of their hearing.  Approximately 12% of all children ages 6-19 have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss and a CDC survey of adults in their 20’s found that about 20% of them have measurable hearing loss.

Teens and young adults are especially at high risk for hearing loss.  Activities of their daily life are now potentially causes of hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). This age group is more likely to attend concerts or loud sporting events, use lawn equipment (without hearing protection) and to use headphones/earbuds to listen to music at excessive volume levels which can cause permanent hearing loss.  The World Health Organization (WHO) found that over 50% of young people ages 15-35 listen to music from personal audio devices (usually phones) at volumes that are unsafe (100 decibels or greater).  The structure of the ear (hair cells in the inner ear) are very sensitive and can start to show damage after as little as 14 minutes at noise levels of 100 decibels or more.  Even sounds at 85 decibels have the potential to affect hearing sensitivity (such as lawn mowers, hair dryers, some vacuums).  The resulting hearing loss usually starts in high-frequency region of hearing and can cause the diminishing ability to hear speech “clearly” – especially in situations with background noise such as classrooms, social situations and work meetings which are so crucial to young people.  The majority of noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible and with continued exposure will worsen with time and aging.

Safe listening practices are important for all ages but especially crucial for children and young people.  Be aware that childhood noise risks can include things like noisy toys, band class, shop class, firecrackers, motor bikes, arcades and even movie theaters. When around noise,  please provide your child with hearing protection.  Hearing protection earmuffs or foam earplugs can be purchased at any pharmacy or home improvement store.  Earplugs are very portable can easily be carried in your pocket/bag when attending concerts.  Also, when listening to music through headphones/earbuds, the style of the headphone/earbud is irrelevant.  All styles, even “noise-cancelling” headphones, can destroy your hearing.  When listening to headphones/earbuds, apply the “60/60” rule.  Do not listen to the device at more than 60% of full volume and take a break after 60 minutes of continuous listening.

If you think your child or someone you know may have a hearing loss, please do not hesitate to set up an appointment with one of our HearMD staff for a complete audiological evaluation.  Living with untreated hearing loss will decrease one’s quality of life, relationships and career/academic success.

For more information, you can visit HearMDllc.com or call us today at 856-602-4200 to start on the path to better hearing for better living.

Don’t Cut Your Hearing Short

Summer is now in full swing which often means more time outside, maybe even spending your Saturday doing yard work. While a chore like mowing the lawn may seem common and harmless, the loud sounds produced by a lawn mower can be dangerous to your ears and should not be taken lightly.

Sound is measured in decibels. Anything over 85 dB (like heavy traffic) can cause damage after eight hours. Sounds over 100 dB (like a motorcycle or loud speakers) can cause damage after 15 minutes. And sounds over 120 dB (a jackhammer) can cause immediate damage.

A gas-powered lawn mower clocks in around 100 dB. If you use this tool for longer than 15 minutes without any hearing protection, you could permanently damage your hearing. While it would be easy to let your grass grow out of control, or pay for a lawn mowing service, there is a very simple solution. Earplugs.

Disposable earplugs made of foam or silicone are readily available and can help you block the potentially damaging loud sounds. Custom ear protection crafted from ear-molds will perfectly fit the unique contours of your ears, guaranteeing a snug, proper fit and dependable protection. If you plan to keep up your curb appeal and mow your lawn regularly, be sure to protect your ears to ensure you hear every compliment your lawn attracts.

For more information on how to protect yourself from potentially harmful sound this summer, visit HearMDllc.com or call us at 856-602-4200.

Head Phone Misuse: Protecting Your Children’s Hearing This Summer

School is out for the summer. That means kids have three months with lots of spare time.  With an increase in downtime comes binge watching and music listening, often times with the use of headphones.

While headphones can keep your kids quiet and spare you from getting the latest Taylor Swift song stuck in your head, there are risks to you children’s hearing health that come with the misuse of headphones.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Personal music players are often linked with noise-induced hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud noises and is unfortunately permanent.

In order to prevent this type of hearing loss, it is important to understand when a sound is too loud. Sound is measured in decibels. Anything over 85 dB (heavy New jersey traffic) can cause damage after eight hours. Sounds over 100 dB (motorcycle) can cause damage after 15 minutes. And finally, sounds over 120 dB (jackhammer) can cause immediate damage.

Researchers have been studying how personal music players relate to hearing loss. A 2010 study found that a pair of standard earbuds paired with an iPod set to its maximum volume produces an average sound level of 96 dB. This is higher than what is legally allowed in a workplace.

One study found that 25 percent of those who use personal music players are exposed to daily noise that is loud enough to cause damage. Another study found that 90 percent of all adolescents listen to music using earbuds; almost half listen at a high-volume setting.

How to Protect Yourself

The best way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is to simply turn the volume down.

Experts suggest implementing the 60/60 rule. This rule states that you should listen to music at 60 percent of the volume for 60 minutes a day. Researchers have concluded that this volume for this length of time will not cause any harm to your hearing.

Below is a list of suggestions to help you protect your children from noise-induced hearing loss:

  • Replace in-ear, bud-style headphones with over-the-ear models.
  • Set a sound limit. Many new music players allow parents to set a listening limit which is password protected.
  • Purchase kid-safe headphones. These headphones are designed especially for children and have a lower-than-normal maximum volume level.

For more about protecting you children’s ears this summer or other related information, visit HearMD.com or call (856) 602-400 to schedule an appointment.

Protect Your Hearing for a Lifetime

May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month

HearMD Offers Simple Steps To Protect Your

Hearing for a Lifetime

With more than half of Americans who experience noise-induced hearing loss not working in noisy jobs, the spotlight turns to what Americans are doing in their leisure time. May 1st marks the beginning of Better Hearing & Speech Month—a time to assess lifestyle habits that may be contributing to hearing loss as well as schedule a hearing evaluation for anyone with concerns about their hearing.

About 40 million U.S. adults aged 20–69 years have noise-induced hearing loss, a form of hearing damage that results from exposure to loud noise. This could be cumulative harm that developed from exposure over time, or it could occur from one severe episode. Although completely preventable, once it occurs, it is irreversible. Far from simply being an annoyance, hearing loss can affect almost all aspects of life, including physical health, mental health, employment status and success, social functioning and satisfaction, and much more. Hearing loss can be treated through various technologies and techniques under the care of a certified audiologist, but hearing is never fully restored.

In addition to the dangers posed by listening to ear buds or headphones at too-loud volumes and for too long, noisy settings are commonplace in today’s society.  Many restaurants are specifically designed to elevate noise levels to make establishments feel more energetic. Similarly, some sports stadiums have been built with sound elevation in mind, thought to improve the fan experience and serve as a home-team advantage. Coffee shops, fitness classes, and more all make modern society a collectively loud place.

Although many people report concern about noisy environments, not nearly enough take protective steps.  Here are some simple ways that everyone can take charge of their hearing health—this month and always:

  • Wear hearing protection. Earplugs and earmuffs are cheap, portable, and (with a good fit) offer excellent hearing protection. Bring them along when you know you’ll be in a noisy setting. Better yet, keep them on you at all times!
  • Reduce exposure. Take steps to reduce your exposure to noisy settings. Visit noisy establishments during off times, consider quieter settings, and talk to managers if you find the noise level uncomfortable.
  • See a certified audiologist for a hearing evaluation. A recent government report stated that 1 in 4 U.S. adults who report excellent to good hearing already have hearing damage. Many adults don’t routinely get their hearing checked, and even those who are concerned often delay treatment for years. Postponing treatment can have serious medical and mental health repercussions in addition to reducing a person’s quality of life, so visit one of the hearing health professionals at HearMD if you have any concerns.

This advice about hearing protection goes for just about everyone, from the youngest of children to older adults, from those with excellent hearing who want to maintain it, to those who already have some hearing loss and don’t want to make it worse.  As a society, everyone needs to prioritize hearing protection.

If you would like to schedule a hearing evaluation or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact HearMD at 856-602-4200 to make an appointment at one of our 8 area locations or visit www.hearmdllc.com for more information.  Remember – better hearing for better living.

 

*Source of above Article – ASHA, Press Release: Leisure Activities Rife with Noise.  Retrieved May 3, 2017 from http://www.asha.org/bhsm/

May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month

With more than half of Americans who experience noise-induced hearing loss not working in noisy jobs, the spotlight turns to what Americans are doing in their leisure time. May 1st marks the beginning of Better Hearing & Speech Month—a time to assess lifestyle habits that may be contributing to hearing loss as well as schedule a hearing evaluation for anyone with concerns about their hearing.

To help build awareness and celebrate Better Hearing & Speech Month, Advanced ENT & HearMD have other special #BHSM offerings throughout the month of May:

  • Extended Warranties (1 additional year to current warranty) on all hearing devices purchased during Better Hearing & Speech Month.
  • FREE Hearing Screenings will be held at select offices from 10:00am to 12:00pm on May 5, May 12 and May 19. NO APPOINTMENT necessary (must be at least 6 years old). Everyone who comes in for a free screening during these times will receive an Advanced ENT/HearMD gift bag.

Social Media Contest

For 2017, the theme is “Communication: The Key to Connection.” In order to help spread the word, we will be holding a #BHSM Social Media Contest with a $100 gift card prize.

  • Here are the rules:
    • MUST Follow Advanced ENT & HearMD on Facebook and Twitter.
    • In a post, explain how Communication is a Key part of some activity or hobby you participate in (Example: As a physician, COMMUNICATING health issues & treatment options to patients is a KEY to ensure the patient can take the right steps to recover or improve their health.)
    • Use the hashtag #BHSM
    • You MUST Tag or mention Advanced ENT & HearMD in your post to be eligible to win.
    • At the end of May, we will select a winner. The more posts, the better your chances.

If you would like to schedule a hearing evaluation, contact Advanced ENT or HearMD by calling (856) 602-40