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Hearing Tips for Seniors: How to Take Care of Your Ears

Hearing loss is well-known age-related problem. There are other things that can cause hearing impairment, but you can take steps to make sure that you take care of your ears and hearing ability to prevent severe hearing loss. Most of these things are valid and relevant to people of all ages and should be practiced from as early an age as possible to get the best results. If you are already along in years, then you definitely want to follow our tips.

Avoid loud environments or wear ear protection. It often happens that men who worked in mines, on construction sites, or were in the defence forces, experience hearing problems earlier than others. This is because loud noises damage our hearing. If you are older, you need to avoid places and environments with loud noises that can further impair your hearing. At some point, loud noises may actually cause physical pain. So, steer clear or wear earplugs when you know there will be loud noises.

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Clean your ears well and carefully. Wax and fluid build-up can also cause hearing loss or damage to your inner ears. It is important to keep your ears clear without sticking earbuds all the way to your brain. A simple cleaning with a wet cloth will do. If you had a cold or feel like there may be fluid in your ears, go see the doctor and ask if you have anything to worry about. He can help get rid of fluid before it causes a problem.

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Consult your doctor when something feels wrong. People often wait too long to see the doctor when they suspect that something may be wrong. If you are already elderly and experience pain or other issues with your ears and hearing, don’t wait to see the doctor. As soon as something feels wrong, make an appointment so you can be sure that everything is fine.

Be careful with medication. Elderly people tend to have several medications for old-age ailments. Make sure that you take your prescribed medication as instructed. Also, if you have hearing problems, tell your doctor. Some prescription medication can make these problems worse. If the doctor knows, he can prescribe an alternative that won’t cause damage.

Give yourself quiet time. By the time you reach your 60s and later you have exposed your ears to so many noises and sounds. Give yourself some quiet time and relax in the silence. Your ears will be grateful and it will also do your soul a bit of good.

Follow these simple practices and you will be on the right path to saving your ears and hearing until you are old and wrinkly.

Speech-Language Pathology: What is it All About?

Speech-language pathology has to do with problems with speaking or understanding language. These types of problems can be related to hearing problems or impairment. A speech-language pathologist can treat these problems and help improve understanding and speaking skills.

It is best to get a speech-language therapist involved at a young age. They generally work with children who are having trouble with speech and language skills. Have a look at our article on signs of hearing impairment in children to learn whether your child may have a hearing problem.

Speech-language pathology can be divided into two categories of disorders: speech disorders and language disorders.

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Speech Disorders

These types of disorders have to do with the way a child speaks and produces sounds.

Articulation disorders have to do with how sounds are produced. The child may pronounce words so badly that a listener cannot understand what he or she is saying. They may struggle with spelling and people may often misunderstand them

Voice disorders have to do with problems in the actual voice. This means that there may be problems with pitch, volume, or the quality of the speaker’s voice. These problems may make it difficult for others to communicate because they get distracted by these voice faults.

Fluency disorders include problems like stuttering or saying parts of a word more than once or for too long.

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Language Disorders

These disorders have to do with how language is heard and understood as well as how language is used.

Receptive disorders have to do with problems in understanding language and processing what is being said. The meaning of what is spoken is not understood can lead to a lot of confusion.

Expressive disorders refer to problems with using language. In other words, problems with vocabulary, creating sentences that make sense or using language in the appropriate manner in different situations. These types of problems may cause social problems for children.

Cognitive-communication disorders involve problems with language due to difficulty with memory, perception, problem-solving, and attention.

Speech-language disorders can more often than not be treated and improved with the right type of therapy. When hearing impairment is involved, it may complicate things but there is always something that can be done. The key is to make sure that you pick up on any irregularities in your child’s speech and language development and his or her hearing responses.

Learn more about speech-language pathology here and here.

 

Different Types of Audio Impairment to Know About

There are different types of hearing loss or impairment based on the functions that are affected. There are four main types. The different types can be caused by different things which you can learn more about here. Today, we want to take a look at the four different types of hearing impairment and what they mean. We will also have a look at the different levels of impairment.

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Types of Hearing Impairment

  1. Auditory Processing Disorders – This type of impairment involves the brain’s inability to understand auditory information. In other words, the sound waves may get to the brain through the auditory nerve, but the brain doesn’t know how to interpret the speech or other sounds. It cannot work out where the sounds are coming from or what they mean.
  2. Conductive Hearing Loss – This type of hearing loss is caused by problems with the middle and inner ear structures and functioning. These two parts of the ear play the biggest role in our ability to hear and are responsible for carrying the sound waves to the brain. Causes of this type of hearing loss include ear infections, a punctured eardrum, fluid in the ear, etc. This type can be treated through surgery or certain types of hearing aids.
  3. Sensorineural Hearing Loss – This type of impairment is usually permanent and cannot be easily fixed or reversed. It is caused by the malfunction or damage of the auditory nerve or the cochlea which is a very important ear structure. The cochlea sends the sound wave information to the auditory nerve which sends it to the brain for interpretation. Damage or malfunction of these two structures means that the information doesn’t get to the brain or gets there in a strange way that doesn’t make sense. Causes of this type of impairment include aging, loud noises, genetics, and medications.
  4. Mixed Hearing Loss – This occurs when both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss is present. The conductive hearing impairment may be treatable while the sensorineural probably isn’t.

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Levels of Hearing Impairment

Mild – Mild hearing impairment or loss means that the person struggles to follow conversations in noisy situations. They have trouble isolating sounds and voices.

Moderate – Moderate hearing loss requires a hearing aid to keep up with sounds, noises, and conversations around the person. Sounds below 40 decibels are not picked up and cannot be heard.

Severe – People with severe hearing impairment cannot hear without a strong hearing aid or cochlear implant. The damage is of such a nature that lip-reading is often used to take part in conversations or understand what someone is saying or asking.

Profound – Profound hearing impairment means that there is almost no hearing ability. In some cases, even hearing aids do not help. People with profound hearing loss generally communicate through sign language and lip reading.

Hearing loss is more common than we may think and often people who can be helped or will benefit from hearing aids, do not realize it or won’t admit it. If you or someone you know are struggling with hearing ability, go see an audiologist and take precautions or actions to limit any further damage.

What Causes Hearing Impairment and Why?

Hearing impairment can happen to anyone. Some people are born without the ability to hear and others develop impairment due to certain factors that can be genetic or environmental. Hearing Center Online would like to help you understand the causes of hearing impairment. There are several different possible causes.

Heredity – The first possible cause is heredity. This means that if hearing problems or the specific cause thereof is present in the parents or grandparents of a child, he or she may inherit those problems and also develop hearing impairment.

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Infections – Infections of the middle or inner ear can cause hearing impairment. Infection may interfere with the functioning of the ear structures in such a way that it causes permanent damage. The middle and inner ear areas are where the delicate structures are found that channel the sounds to our brain and help us hear.

Fluid in the ears – When water or other fluids enter the ear it can cause damage. Water from swimming a lot can cause permanent damage. Fluids that build up due to colds can also cause damage. It is important to try and always keep your ears dry and checked for fluids after a cold.

Ototoxic drugs and chemicals – Certain medicines and other chemicals have been known to cause damage to the ears and cause hearing problems. If you already experience some problems with hearing or know that you may have a genetic condition, you should check with your doctor about prescribed and over-the-counter medications. Some commonly used medicines have been linked to causing or worsening hearing problems.

Allergies – Allergies may affect the functioning of the ear and cause hearing problems. Sinus problems may be a contributing factor. If you or your children suffer from frequent allergies, consult your doctor about the risks of hearing impairment.

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Excessively loud noises – Hearing impairment can be caused due to over-exposure of loud noises. Explosions, loud music, gunfire, etc. are all things that can cause permanent damage. People who serve in the defence forces and are around gunfire and explosions all the time may develop impairment early on. Listening to very loud music continuously can also cause impairment. It is not a myth your parents came up with. Construction workers are also at risk.

Malformation – If parts of the ear did not form or develop correctly that can cause deafness or severe hearing impairment. There can be different reasons for malformation including birth defects, substance abuse, heredity, etc. Any of the three parts of the ear can be malformed and cause problems.

Hearing impairment can result from different causes. Some are caused and others are inherent. The ones that are caused can often be prevented if you take good care of your ears. Look at our tips on caring for ears and hearing here. You can also learn more about the causes here and here. If you have any of your own stories to tell us about how hearing impairment developed, please visit our WRITE FOR US page.

 

Hearing Aids: Everything You Need to Know

Hearing aids are like small miracles for people who are hearing impaired. It is a difficult thing when you had you perfect hearing and experience the loss gradually for whatever reason. The argument can be made that those who could never hear have it easier because they don’t know what they are missing. This may not be true, but for those who are losing their hearing, it can be a traumatic experience.

In general, hearing aids cannot repair damage or make a deaf person hear. Instead, the main purpose of hearing aids is to enhance the sounds and noises by using the functions of the ear that are still there. Lets’ find out more about hearing aids.

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What is it?

A hearing aid is an electronic device that helps people with hearing problems hear and communicate better in everyday life. The hearing aid amplifies sounds and noises to make it easier to hear. The hearing aid is worn in the ear or behind the ear. It basically takes over some of the functions that the ear itself can no longer perform optimally.

How does a hearing aid work?

A hearing aid consists of three parts: a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker. The microphone picks up sounds which it converts into electrical signals. The electrical signals are sent to the amplifier which then increases the power of the signals so they can be louder or clearer. These signals are sent to the speaker which is what the person wearing the aid then hears.

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What are the different types?

There are three main types of hearing aids. They are behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, and in-the-canal.

Behind-the-ear (BTE) – This type of aid has a mold that fits in the ear and a plastic piece behind the ear. It almost looks like a hook. These aids can be used by adults with less severe to profound hearing problems.

In-the-ear (ITE) – This type of aid fits completely within the outer ear. It is smaller than the BTE devices and often has telecoils that help with hearing over the telephone. These are helpful for mild to severe problems.

In-the-canal (ITC) – This type of aid fits into the ear canal and is less visible than the other two types. It is made to fit an individual’s ear canal perfectly. ITC aids are not ideal for children because their ear canals are still growing and they will need to replace it often.

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How do you get one?

The best route to follow is to consult an audiologist and hearing aid specialist. The audiologist will be able to diagnose the severity of the impairment and make suggestions as to the best option for a hearing aid. The specialist will be able to give further guidance and advice and help you get the right type for your specific needs.

Learn more about treatments for hearing impairment here. You can also visit this website for more hearing aid information.

Which Areas of Hearing is Aided by Technological Devices?

When you don’t have hearing problems, you don’t think about the different things that you are hearing. We take for granted that we hear voices, the wind blowing, the far-off sound of a siren, or music. People who suffer from hearing loss or impairment cannot hear all those things anymore. To get a better understanding of what people with hearing impairment loses, we want to explain the four main areas of function that is part of hearing.

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1. Noises and Sounds

The first area of function involves the ability to hear noises and sounds. These include all everyday noises from the telephone ringing to a dog barking to the wind blowing. When your hearing is fine, you hear these things without needing to pay attention to it or tune in harder to do so.

2. Sound Direction

This function is very important for safety reasons. It involves the ability to hear and know which direction a warning sound is coming from. For example, can you hear where the ambulance is coming from? Can you determine which car alarm is going off? This function requires the same level of sensitivity and functionality from both ears.

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3. Hearing Speech

Hearing speech is the fourth function. It has two parts. The first part is being able to hear isolated voices and recognize them as a child’s voice or a male voice, for example. The second part involves hearing and identifying voices even when there are other voices and noises present. You should be able to ignore the background noise and identify a specific speaker. This function also requires the same level of sensitivity and functionality from both ears.

4. Recognize Voices

This involves the ability to hear and identify individual voices. For people with hearing impairments, this may be almost impossible. What it basically entails, is being able to recognize a voice as your mother or your best friend or youngest child. Every voice has different qualities in terms of pitch, musicality, tone, clarity and this function involves the recognition of those unique features.

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These are the main functions that are involved with hearing. When a person with hearing loss gets a hearing aid or cochlear implant, these functions are improved. It is not always possible to improve all of these functions and the success will depend on the severity of the impairment. Most hearing aid devices will at the very least be able to make sounds and noises appear louder so you can recognize them. When it gets to the more specific identification of voices and so on, hearing aids are not always effective.

You can read this document for more information about hearing impairment, specialists, and other interesting things regarding hearing. Also, have a look at our previous article about how the hearing process works.

Child Audiology: Signs of Normal Hearing and Speech Development

The incidence of hearing impairment in children has increased in recent years. The main reason for this is the noisiness of our everyday environments. Our ears don’t get a break and we expose them to all kinds of loud noises constantly. A child’s hearing is very important for the development of language and speech. If you are worried that your child may be experiencing hearing difficulties, look for signs as set out here.

There are certain milestones or behaviors that you can expect from a baby or child.

From birth to 4 months your baby should:

Respond to loud sounds. If you speak loudly or door slam or thunderclaps, your baby should show a response to the noise. The response can be waking up from a nap, being startled, even crying. If they don’t, it may be a sign of hearing impairment.

Respond to familiar voices. Your baby should calm down when upset if you speak or sing to him. He should also respond with noises or smiles when he recognizes a familiar voice. People who spend time with your baby on a daily basis should have an effect when he hears their voices.

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From 4 months to 9 months your baby should:

Respond to familiar sounds. Familiar sounds can be the television, a friend visiting, a favorite toy rattling, the dog barking, etc. You should see your baby responding to these sounds with a motion towards where the sound is coming from, for example, trying to look to the source of the sound.

Smile and babble. When familiar voices and faces speak, your baby should offer smiles at this age. He should also babble in response to a conversation or just to himself when he is playing. Smiles and babbling is a normal part of the development of hearing and communication.

Show understanding of basic gestures. When you say ‘bye’ and wave, your baby should show some understanding of the concept.

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From 9 months to 15 months your baby should:

Use his voice. The speech will be very basic still at this age, but you should see signs of babbling different sounds and learning to say things like ‘mama’ or ‘dada’. He should also be using his voice to attract attention when he needs something or wants something.

Respond to a tone of voice. When you change your voice from friendly to strict or friendly to sad, your baby should pick up on the change and react accordingly.

From 15 to 24 months you should see your baby building on these simple responses and understanding. He should show understanding of stories you read or songs you sing. He should be able to say simple words and follow spoken instructions.

If your baby doesn’t show the appropriate signs for a given age, take him to an audiologist to be tested. It is important to remember that every baby develops in his own time and at his own pace. However, if you notice no responses or appropriate behavior according to the signs listed above, you should get a professional opinion.

Everything You Need to Know About Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are a treatment for hearing impairment that has helped many people hear better or perceive sound better. It is one of the medical advancements that have changed many lives since 1980. Researchers and scientists are always working on making it better and safer, but for now, these implants are the best option for both children and adults with severe hearing impairment.

How Does It Work?

A cochlear implant is a device that is implanted under the skin behind your hear through an operation. It also has an outside part that is placed behind your ear. Together, these two parts work to improve hearing for people with sensorineural hearing loss. This means that their hearing is impaired due to damage to the cochlea inside the ear. This damage is not reversible. So, what the cochlear implant does is it skips those damaged parts and goes straight to the auditory nerve.

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When the outside part picks up on sounds, it sends it as electrical impulses through the device to the auditory nerve and makes you recognize sounds.

Why Get a Cochlear Implant?

There are many advantages of getting a cochlear implant if you suffering from severe hearing impairment. A hearing aid is often not sufficient when the damage is too severe. Implants have many advantages:

  1. You can hear and understand speech again without needing to lip read.
  2. Everyday things like watching television and talking on the phone become easier.
  3. Listening to music is easier.
  4. The device enables you to hear soft, medium, and loud noises.

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Who Can Get One?

Any person who feels that their hearing impairment can be improved by a cochlear implant. Children from 1 year of age can get implants. It is a crucial time for language and speech development in children. Adults of any age can also get an implant.

It is important that you discuss your option for a cochlear implant with the right doctors and therapists. They will explain the risks and take into account your age, severity of impairment, health condition, and other factors. The operation for a cochlear implant is mostly safe, but you should consult professionals before you make a decision.

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Cochlear implants may not be the best option for everyone. As with all things, your health and personal preference will play a role. These procedures can be expensive and if your medical aid doesn’t cover it, you may not be able to make use of this option. A cochlear implant can be the answer to your prayers, but you should always do your homework and discuss it with your doctor before making final decisions.

For more information on cochlear implants, visit the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).

Process of Hearing: The Structures and Process of How We Perceive Sound

Hearing is one of our five natural senses that aid us in experiencing and understanding the world around us. The process of hearing is quite fascinating and intricate if you look at the structures involved with making us hear sounds. In this article, we will focus on the structures of the ear that make us hear sounds as well as the process of hearing. When you understand the basic biology and functioning, it is easier to understand hearing impairment.

The Structures Involved with Hearing

When we think about our ear and how we hear most of us probably just envision the outer shell-shape part of our ear. However, this is just one part of it. Our ear actually consists of three parts.

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The Outer Ear – The outer ear is the part we always think of. It is the shell-shaped part that is also called the pinna. The ear canal also forms part of the outer ear and it ends at the eardrum. If you were to use an earbud to clear wax from your ear, you will be placing the bud into the ear canal. This should also be done very carefully to avoid causing damage.

The Middle Ear – You often hear of children who have middle-ear infection. That means that they have an infection in the actual middle part of the ear. This part of the ear is host to the three smallest bones in the body and they are responsible for helping us hear. These three bones are called ossicles and include the malleus, incus, and stapes. They help with the sound vibrations.

The Inner Ear – The cochlea is found in the inner ear. The cochlea is the last part of the process and connects with the auditory nerve that sends signals to the brain. When someone suffers from hearing impairment, it often has to do with damage to the cochlea. That is why we have cochlear implants.

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The Process of Hearing

Sound enters the ear – When a noise is made, for example, a someone speaking or music note played, the shell of the outer ear captures it and guides the sound through the ear canal to the eardrum.

The eardrum – The sound that travels to the eardrum makes it vibrate and carry the signals further into the middle ear.

The ossicles – In the middle ear, the ossicles pick up the vibrations and carry them to the cochlea in the inner ear.

The cochlea – Once the sound reaches the cochlea, it makes the hair cells move and bend which create neural signals that are picked up by the auditory nerve. The cochlea is basically the final transmitter before the signal reaches the brain for interpretation.

The auditory nerve – The auditory nerve carries the stimulus of sound to the brain where it is interpreted as a voice or a piano note. That is how we perceive sound and that is how we hear.

The process is truly amazing and delicate. It is easy to imagine that damage can occur if we don’t look after the structures involved with our hearing. You can find some tips on caring for hearing here. Also, visit the NIDCD website for more information.

Hearing Impairment: Treatment Options to Restore Hearing

Technology has made it possible for us to treat hearing impairment to a certain degree. The type of treatment depends on the cause of the hearing impairment and the severity thereof. It can also happen that no treatment is suitable or that what is available doesn’t work. However, there are different treatments available and they have helped many people hear for the first time or hear again. Technology keeps improving and more options become available to restore hearing.

The options for hearing impairment basically consist of two categories or equipment and one category of education. In other words, you can choose from hearing aids or hearing implants for the equipment or you can go with learning sign language and learning to lip read.

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Hearing Aids

A hearing aid is that thing you generally think of your grandparents wearing. It is a small device that makes sounds louder in the ear. These aids cannot repair your hearing to full capacity. It simply makes things louder and clearer so you can hear it. There are different options for hearing aids that include behind the ear, in the ear, and in the canal. These are different in sizes and where they are placed.

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Hearing Implants

If hearing aids do not work to restore some hearing, the next step may be hearing implants. For people with more severe hearing damage, implants tend to work better. The device is implanted into the person’s skull to help improve hearing. The different types include cochlear implants, bone-anchored hearing aids, and auditory brainstem implants. These devices require an operation for implantation. The choice of the device here will depend on different factors. These factors may include costs, the severity of damage, age, and other health complications.

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Sign Language

When no devices can help or when a person doesn’t want to make use of a hearing aid or implant, they can learn alternative ways of communication. Sign language is the most common option for people who cannot hear. There are different ways to learn and it is helpful when family and friends also learn. Lip reading is also a good skill to have. This is especially helpful if the person can still speak even though he or she can no longer hear clearly. By reading a person’s lips as they speak, you can determine what words they are saying and respond accordingly.

Hearing impairment is rarely completely reversible. There are many options and technology keeps giving us more options. For most people, the costs involved may delay the process or make it an impossible option. However, many people have been helped to hear for the first time through existing options.