Time to Take the Bull By the Horns

With October being National Audiology Awareness Month — coming after restricted access to hearing healthcare professionals due to COVID-19 restrictions — now’s a great time to go over some reasons why you should give your hearing issues some attention.

The fact is, ignoring them will not only lead to poorer hearing, but also make a host of other health issues more likely.

One of the most profound reasons, especially for those in middle age, is that poor hearing can contribute to brain atrophy. Hearing isn’t just about your ears. The auditory cortex, part of the temporal lobe, is a portion of the brain that also handles language. If there are issues with the functioning of your ears, this will have a snowball effect and lead to the performance of the auditory cortex degrading — or even switching over to other tasks (which makes hearing issues harder to deal with later).

Poor hearing can also cause issues with brain function in other ways. Alzheimer’s and dementia have both been found to be more prevalent in people with untreated hearing issues. One reason is the brain atrophy referenced above, while the loneliness that often accompanies poor hearing — which makes conversation difficult — is also a significant risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s.

This ties in with emotional health. Those with poor hearing have starkly higher rates of depression. Again, the challenge of social activities — when it’s so difficult to interact with people — is the primary driver of this phenomenon.

Poor hearing can even just make you more tired. This is known as listener fatigue and is tied to the brain pouring so much energy into interpreting the poor-quality sound it’s trying to process.

If you’ve gotten to the other side of COVID quarantine with some questions about your hearing, now’s the time to take action and “see” what’s going on.

Please, Just Turn Everything Down

It’s like something from a horror movie or an episode of The Twilight Zone. Some unknown hand has turned up the volume on the world. Everything is just too loud and there’s no way to make it stop.

Unfortunately, this is actually not fantasy for the small minority of people who suffer from hyperacusis. This is a condition that, well, makes everything too loud.

It’s not really understood why it develops, only that very many other issues can spark it. It can come on gradually or suddenly and has been associated with, among other things, exposure to excessive noise, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Lyme disease, viral infections of the head, migraines, brain injuries, and a host of other conditions.

For some reason, a variety of things can cause failures with the parts of the ear that react protectively to loud sounds, along with issues with the auditory nerve and central auditory portion of the brain.

The result is something that can make everyday life a marathon of unpleasantness and frayed nerves. It can be accompanied by pain, nausea, dizziness, and a loss of balance in an environment with excessive noise. Not any fun at all.

Unfortunately, there’s no cure. The best treatment option is sound therapy, which uses a noise generator to buffer the sound environment and train the auditory processing center to relearn its function. This usually takes six months to a year and is done under the supervision of a professional, trained audiologist.

So, for people suffering from hyperacusis, there is hope.

Beware Swimmer’s Ear

Everyone is itching to get out and do something. And swimming is one of the best ways to get some exercise, even though public pools may not be an option due to COVID-19.

But that itch to get in the water can lead to the nasty itch of swimmer’s ear, so take some precautions. And FYI, you don’t need to go swimming to get swimmer’s ear.

Swimmer’s ear is just the generic name for an outer ear infection (otitis externa). It’s when bacteria works its way into the skin lining the ear canal. Two things make this likely to happen. Abrasions in the skin that are often caused by overly aggressive cleaning of the ear (i.e., vigorously rubbing a Q-tip in there) and ears getting water-logged.

Put the two together with a wide range of common bacteria and the next thing you know your ear (or ears) itch and pushing the tragus (that lump of flesh that protects the opening of the ear canal) or tugging your earlobe is painful.

If things get worse, clear fluid might start draining from the ear — maybe even pus (yuck) — along with hearing loss and pain spreading down into the neck area (which means the infection has gotten to your lymph nodes). A fever is probably part of this too.

Not a great way to celebrate summer. And at this point, a visit to the doctor is in order.

The best way to prevent a bout of swimmer’s ear is to let your ears dry out thoroughly after they’ve gotten wet, whether from swimming, activities in the rain, or sweat. That means not popping a hearing aid back in immediately — give the ear canal some time to work its evaporation magic. Earplugs are also a great idea for swimmers.

If you start feeling an itch, there are over-the-counter eardrops that will both treat an infection and aid the evaporation process. Bottles are less than $10, so a preventive care bargain when compared to a doctor’s visit.

Masks and Hearing Aids Don’t Really Work Well Together

Everyone was hoping that COVID-19 would be less and less a part of our lives as the summer rolled on. That’s not looking too likely now.

And wearing a mask when out in public appears to be one of the keys to getting control of this newest coronavirus.

Which presents some challenges to anyone with hearing issues, especially those who use hearing aids.

The obvious fact is that hearing someone who is wearing a mask is significantly more difficult. The mask muffles their voice. And facial expressions and “lip reading” visual cues are absent.

The only real solutions are ensuring that the person you’re speaking with knows about your hearing issue — so they can try to speak more slowly and clearly — and avoiding noisy environments (which make conversations more challenging even in the best of times).

As far as wearing a mask, the first step is creating a routine that allows you to get a mask on and off without knocking your hearing aid out. Practice makes perfect.

But a mask with a tie string — as opposed to elastic ear loops — might make this easier (though the knot does have to be retied periodically to keep the mask snug). The other option is using a mask holder, which cinches up the elastic bands behind your head (avoiding the ears completely). They can be purchased with easy-to-use buttons — or improvised with s-hooks or even large paperclips.

Finally, hearing aid providers may have some clever tricks they can share with you as we all come to terms with living with COVID-19.

Drinking Does Not Help Your Hearing

It’s widely known that excessive drinking — especially chronic alcohol consumption — can lead to any number of health issues. And one of them is definitely degrading hearing, both over the short- and long-term.

Something to maybe think about on St. Patrick’s Day.

The first part of this is a no-brainer. There’s actually a specific part of your brain — the auditory cortex — that is dedicated to transforming the electrical impulses it receives from the ear into what you recognize as “hearing.” And needless to say, too much alcohol throws off brain function. Enough alcohol in the bloodstream and it seeps into that corner of your brain.

A more long-lasting concern is alcohol-drenched blood that can damage the tiny auditory hair in the cochlea, which is where the electronic signals sent to the auditory cortex originate. These hairs do not regenerate, so when damage occurs it’s permanent (which is why aging is often accompanied by hearing loss). This part of the inner ear is very dependent on healthy blood flow — and alcohol does not help.

As with too much alcohol in the brain throwing things off in the short-term, the same can happen in the inner ear. Alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow (and decreases blood pressure). All of this can throw off the balance of the inner ear. This can cause tinnitus, which is an incessant ringing. And, since your balance is controlled by the inner ear, it can literally throw off your balance. They don’t call it falling down drunk for nothing.

One other St. Patrick’s Day tip. Watch out for cocktail deafness. This is when alcohol consumption makes a loud environment not seem all that loud — or at least worthy of concern. For hours and hours. And waking up with damaged ears can be one result.

Flying Tips For Your Ears

Leaving on a jet plane can be stressful. Not just emotionally — the old John Denver song captured that — but physically too. And your ears are on the frontline.

Ears can actually be damaged by changes in air pressure that flying entails. This is known as barotrauma, which is usually a result of the eardrum being drawn inward. In extreme cases, the eardrum can break or tear. Thankfully, it’s usually only ear “popping” that is experienced when fluid relocates suddenly to equalize pressure within the ear.

In addition, it is sometimes overlooked in the excitement of flying that airliners are loud — even from the inside.

That’s obvious enough from the outside when a plane is taking off or landing, but the fact is that noise can hit 105 decibels — enough to cause problems — inside a plane’s cabin at takeoff. Even when cruising at altitude the noise level will be in the 85 decibels range. These are above the norm of everyday life.

So, being an airline passenger means being in a high noise environment. Therefore, precautions are called for.

Along with gum to deal with the ear-popping, bring some earplugs as well. There are even flying-specific models. They incorporate pressure equalization capabilities, making the ascent and descent less jarring for your inner ear while protecting you from the high-decibel noise.

If you’re bringing a device — smartphone, tablet, laptop — with you, then adding a set of noise-canceling headphones will allow you to drown out the external noise while streaming in the music, podcasts, or dialogue that you actually want to hear.

Even before you get to the airport, there are things you can do. Booking your ticket in advance has benefits, including a better chance to pick your seat. The front of the plane is farther from the engines, so seats near the nose are quieter. Same with aisle seats as opposed to window seats. It might be a matter of only a few decibels, but it’s something.

Hearing Self-test

Hearing loss doesn’t discriminate. It affects any age, gender, or race, and you may have an increased risk based on a medical condition or you daily level of noise exposure.

Roughly 38 million Americans are currently living with hearing loss and in most cases, symptoms gradually develop, so it may take a while to notice that anything is wrong.

Difficulty hearing in loud situations, muffled sounds, or ringing in your ears all may be indications of hearing loss. Sound familiar? Take the quick self-test below to see if your ears are functioning properly, or if you should seek in-depth testing from our staff in Cortland, New York.

Check yourself or someone you know with these questions.

    • Do people seem to mumble, making it hard for you to understand them?
    • Do you have difficulty following certain women’s and children’s voices?
    • Do you notice that you are favoring one ear over the other?
    • Do you have difficulty following conversations while riding in the car?
    • Do you turn up the volume on the TV, radio or stereo?
    • Do you find it difficult to follow conversations in a crowded room?
    • Do you find yourself asking others to repeat themselves?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, we urge you to contact our office for a consultation.

If you think you have experienced hearing loss, please consider visiting our office. We will conduct a thorough hearing assessment. This online hearing test can also help you to gauge your hearing health.

When taking our Hearing Self test please note that (3) is Strongly Agree and (0) is Strongly Disagree.

  • To be answered by a family member

What does this mean?
Score Analysis
0-5 Your hearing is good
6-9 Suggest a hearing evaluation
10 and Above Strongly recommend a hearing evaluation

If you scored above 5, we suggest that you receive a hearing evaluation. If you’d like to receive more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact us.

Hearing Aid Technology

Smart technology is everywhere – from your watch, to your coffee maker. Now, thanks to recent developments, your hearing aids have now entered the “smart” world. Check out the top benefits of the latest smart hearing aids.

Connect to other devices
Your hearing aids have the ability to connect with your Bluetooth devices. You can listen to a call, your favorite music or stream Netflix from your TV or tablet.

Anticipate and adapt automatically
Smart hearing aids use environmental cues to determine the best listening modes and microphones automatically adjusts to where sounds are coming from.

Simulate the way your brain hears
With a proper fitting, smart hearing aids are able to imitate your brain’s natural hearing process.

Continuously learn
With traditional hearing aids, manual volume adjustments are occasionally needed. With smart devices, they remember every volume adjustment you make. After a few weeks of use, they’ll learn your personal listening preferences.

Beat the wind
Utilizing smart reduction features, modern hearing aids remove the audio signal from the sound of the wind.

Continuously gather information
With traditional hearing aids, manual volume adjustments are occasionally needed. With smart devices, they remember every volume adjustment you make. After a few weeks of use, they’ll learn your personal listening preferences.

Put you in control
Smart hearing aids also let you make manual adjustments so you’ll always feel in control of your devices.

Remember, all hearing aids should help you hear better, but the most intelligent hearing aids address all of your listening needs. Talk to the staff at Cortland Hearing aids in Cortland, New York to find out what devices are right for you.

Privacy Policy

Thank you for visiting the Cortland Hearing Aids website. Cortland Hearing Aids is committed to protecting and safeguarding your privacy. We appreciate you placing your trust in Cortland Hearing Aids.

INFORMATION WE COLLECT AND HOW WE USE IT

We collect two types of information about website visitors: Personal information (things like your name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, etc.) which you have voluntarily submitted to us, and aggregate information (such as how many visitors log on to our sites, the pages they access, etc.).

In general, you can visit this website without telling us who you are or revealing personal information. You may need to provide some information to participate in certain promotions and surveys, to register with the site, or to receive information. We collect, maintain, and use personal information you have voluntarily submitted to contact you, and to respond to your comments or requests for information. In addition, we may use personal information to provide you the most helpful products and services to meet your needs and respond to your inquiries.

To better meet your needs, we may supplement the information we collect with data obtained from third parties for the same purposes.

DATA SHARING AND TRANSFER

Cortland Hearing Aids will not trade, sell, or share your personal information without your consent, unless required by law or as disclosed to you when the information is collected, except that information you provide may be used by Cortland Hearing Aids or third-party business partners to fulfill a specific request such as to fulfill a product order, to analyze your opinion of Cortland Hearing Aids, or to address a question or concern about our services. If you do provide us with your consent, we also may share your information with third parties so that they may send you offers, personalized offers and tips, or ask for your feedback on their programs.

COOKIES

Cookies help us make your visit to our website more enjoyable and meaningful. A cookie is a small text information file that your web browser places on your computer when you visit a website. This helps us to recognize you when you return to our site. We may use such technology to obtain non-personal information from you as an online visitor.

CHILDREN’S PRIVACY

We do not intentionally collect any information or market to children under 16.

LINKS TO OTHER SITES

This website may contain links to other websites. Cortland Hearing Aids does not control the privacy practices or the content of such websites. We recommend you carefully read the privacy policies of each site you visit.

YOUR ACCEPTANCE OF OUR PRIVACY PRACTICES

By using this website or any other Cortland Hearing Aids website or interactive banner ads, you accept our privacy statement and conditions posted on the website. We reserve the right to update, change, modify or remove portions of this policy at any time. Please check back for updates to our Privacy Statement.

Hearing Aids Services

You’re unique. So why go to an audiologist who gives you the same cookie-cutter service as everyone else? At Cortland Hearing Aids in Cortland, New York, our audiologist offers services to fit your life and specific kind and degree of hearing loss. One-size-fits-all is for t-shirts; it shouldn’t apply to your hearing healthcare.

We offer a variety of audiology services to fit your needs, including:

  • Hearing Evaluations
    • Our hearing evaluations are performed in a sound proof booth by a NYS licensed audiologist with state-of-the-art equipment.
  • Otoacoustic Emission Testing
    • Our audiologists typically use this test to screen infants or developmentally challenged patients that cannot give behavioral responses. It can differentiate between sensory and neural components of sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Tinnitus Treatment
    • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is often associated with hearing loss. We offer tinnitus evaluations and provide insight into the proper coping techniques.
  • Hearing Aid Evaluations and Fittings
    • Our audiologist uses several tests to determine your candidacy for amplification and select the appropriate hearing device based on your hearing loss and lifestyle.
  • Hearing Aid Repairs
    • Our experienced audiologists offer cleaning, tubing changes and minor repairs on all brands of hearing aids.
  • Custom Made Hearing Aid Earmolds
    • Noise Induced Hearing loss is the leading cause of hearing loss in the country and can be caused by noises you hear every day. At Cortland Hearing Aids, our audiologists offer a variety of hearing protection for swimming, Ipods, cell phones, and other purposes.

If you’re not hearing the way you used to, we can help, whether you need hearing aids, tinnitus relief, or to protect your hearing while you still have it. Visit our Cortland, New York location or make an appointment today.

For more information about hearing loss, visit the American Hearing Aid Associates website.