hearing loss

Could your hip implant be causing your hearing loss?

Over the years, researchers have discovered that metal hip implants can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance issues. Though the presence of any hearing loss may not be immediately apparent, after some wear or corrosion of the chrome or cobalt hip implants, individuals may experience damage in the auditory system.[i]

Let’s break it down

Now, even though the metal is localized in the hip, as time passes, small metal ions can travel into the blood stream from the hip implant and cause problems in other parts of the body, such as, the cardiovascular system, visual system, motor-sensory system, and the auditory system.[ii] As if that’s not enough, some patients have also reported issues with their psychological function and immune system.

At Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center, we take your overall health into consideration when you come in for a hearing evaluation. We take the time necessary to get a thorough health history before we even start your hearing evaluation. We believe it’s important to take all aspects of an individual’s lifestyle into consideration so we can get a more complete picture of what is truly going on. Did you know that hearing loss isn’t only caused by aging? It’s also been associated with diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and ototoxic medications.

If you have a metal hip replacement, be proactive! It’s a great idea to get a baseline hearing evaluation. That way, if changes occur over time, they can be accurately tracked. Also, if you are experiencing any signs of hearing loss, like trouble hearing in noisy environments, asking for repetition often, or having trouble with the clarity of speech, don’t delay—get a hearing evaluation now! Early detection and intervention for hearing loss is key.

Take Charge

If you have a cobalt-chromium hip implant, educate yourself on the potential long term issues, and be sure to speak to your primary care doctor if you have any concerns. And of course, we’re audiologists who are here to help! If you have any questions about hearing loss or suspect that you may be suffering from hearing loss, do not hesitate to give us a call at 303-651-1178 to schedule an appointment.

Now that you know that hip implants can cause hearing loss, what can you do? While the not all patients with hip implants experience hearing loss, it is a possibility. The important takeaway is that you can be proactive and take steps to keep your hearing health in check. Reach out to us for anything, whether to make an appointment, to set up a hearing evaluation, or for help with your hearing aids.

[i] J. B. Leikin, H. C. Karydes, P. M. Whiteley, B. K. Wills, K. L. Cumpston & J. J. Jacobs (2013) Outpatient toxicology clinic experience of patients with hip implants, Clinical Toxicology, 51:4, 230-236.

[ii] Gessner, Bradford D. MD, MPH*; Steck, Thomas BS†; Woelber, Erik MSc†; Tower, Stephen S. MD‡ A Systematic Review of Systemic Cobaltism After Wear or Corrosion of Chrome-Cobalt Hip Implants, Journal of Patient Safety: June 2019 – Volume 15 – Issue 2 – p 97-104.

COVID-19: No Impact on Hearing Loss

Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen countless headlines about how COVID-19 impacts individuals differently. From asymptomatic patients, to those who may suffer from long-term effects like the permanent loss of the sense of smell. Early on, one of those speculations had been about whether the COVID-19 virus has any effect on hearing loss, and it was largely debated. Good news: Studies show that COVID-19 has no permanent impact on hearing loss.

Researchers in Israel decided to investigate this question back during the first wave of the pandemic, when the number of patients infected with the virus was relatively small. They were trying to determine if hearing loss while infected with COVID-19 was caused by actual damage to the auditory system, or if it was more like the temporary symptoms of a common cold, with fluid clogging the middle ear. 

In this small study, investigators tested 8 asymptomatic individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 and 8 healthy volunteers who served as a control group. All participants reported no prior hearing loss. The study provided for the first time quantitative measures for hearing quality following exposure to the virus. “Our study explored whether COVID-19 can cause permanent neural or sensory damage to the hearing system. We found no evidence for such damage,” said co-author Dr Amiel Dror of the Galilee Medical Center and the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University. 

At this stage, according to Dror, their study showed COVID-19 has no impact on hearing loss. This was determined by measuring electrical data from the brainstem to test the route of the soundwaves through the ear until these electric waves were finally received in the brain. They also examined the activity of the inner ear hair cells. Based on their findings, they concluded there was no difference between COVID-19-positive subjects and the control group.

Co-author Dr Eyal Sela of the Galilee Medical Center and the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ilan University concludes, “This study proposes that the COVID virus does not cause extensive neurological damage but is rather spotty, mostly affecting the sense of smell. Moreover, the hearing impairment among some patients is mostly transient and secondary to fluid buildup in the middle ear, as for the common cold, and therefore likely passes once the acute disease is over.”

It’s important to remember that science and research is ongoing, ever-changing, and always being updated. The researchers are currently conducting a much more comprehensive study with hundreds of patients, including persons who had been severely ill and even ventilated. Let’s hope their results continue to show no permanent hearing loss due to COVID-19—we’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear more!

For now, know that all of us here at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center are here to provide you with the hearing support you need. Whether you need to be fitted with new hearing aids, an earwax cleaning, or have questions, reach out! Give us a call to make an appointment or to ask us any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

The Link Between Hearing Impairment and Diabetes

As you may know, many health conditions—like hearing impairment—are linked to each other in some way, and knowledge of these connections is vital in helping diagnose, treat, and manage certain conditions, like diabetes. Until recently, hearing loss had not been linked to diabetes in any way. But that has finally changed. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has recognized hearing loss as being more common in people with diabetes. With this recognition, the ADA has now added audiology to its table on referrals for initial diabetes care management in its recent updated Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2021 published in the January 2021 edition of Diabetes Care, the organization’s magazine.

For audiologists everywhere, this is big news. In fact, the inclusion of the link between hearing impairment and diabetes is a significant victory not only for hearing healthcare as a whole, but specifically for the executive director of The Audiology Project, Kathy Dowd AuD. The Audiology Project promotes audiology-based medical management for chronic diseases, and in recent years, they focused much of their effort on educating stakeholders in diabetes about the links between the disease and hearing loss.

The ADA document addresses the link between hearing impairment and diabetes twice in their document, below is an excerpt:

Hearing impairment, both in high-frequency and low- to midfrequency ranges, is more common in people with diabetes than in those without, with stronger associations found in studies of younger people. Proposed pathophysiologic mechanisms include the combined contributions of hyperglycemia and oxidative stress to cochlear microangiopathy and auditory neuropathy. In a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) analysis, hearing impairment was about twice as prevalent in people with diabetes compared with those without, after adjusting for age and other risk factors for hearing impairment. Low HDL cholesterol, coronary heart disease, peripheral neuropathy, and general poor health have been reported as risk factors for hearing impairment for people with diabetes, but an association of hearing loss with blood glucose levels has not been consistently observed. In the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial/Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (DCCT/EDIC) cohort, time-weighted mean A1C was associated with increased risk of hearing impairment when tested after long-term (.20 years) follow-up. Impairment in smell, but not taste, has also been reported in individuals with diabetes.

This sort of knowledge is crucial in helping all of us in the health care industry to provide the best in care. If you believe you are suffering from hearing impairment, whether you are diabetic or not, we can help! Reach out to us to ask any questions, book and appointment, or to schedule a time for hearing aid maintenance. As always, our goal is to help you in any way we can.

Toys May lead to Hearing Loss in Children

Wow! It’s almost impossible to believe the holidays are upon, and yet, here we are, it’s December! Many of us celebrate the holidays with gift-giving, and this year shopping may be a little different. With COVID-19 still keeping us primarily at home, many will have to stick to online shopping to get gifts for their loved ones.

Hearing Loss in Children

Though it’s difficult to believe, there are certain toys out there that are too loud, and they run the risk of damaging your child’s hearing. That’s why the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) recently tested and released a list of 2020’s hottest toys to avoid. These are toys that reach a sound level of 85 decibels (dB) or higher. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 85 dB is the maximum volume a child should be exposed to for no more than eight hours a day. Sounds louder than 100 dB can lead to hearing loss in children in less than 15 minutes. With online shopping on the rise, it’ll be harder and harder for parents to test toys out before their purchase, but the ACDHH is here to help. Read on for a list of toys they recommend as well as those to avoid.

Did you know?

Noise is the number one cause of hearing loss in children. Nearly 15 percent of children between the ages of 6-19 have some degree of hearing loss. Loud noises can increase fatigue, decrease a child’s ability to pay attention, and reduce short term memory. It’s not a great combination. That’s why the ACDHH spent time this year examining this season’s most popular toys, chosen at random, to provide parents with guidance this holiday season. Each dB measurement was taken as if the child placed their ear next to the speaker. If your shopping list includes toys for the children in your life, you may want to consider turning down the volume on these toys:

Toys to Avoid listed in highest dB order:
  1. Leap Frog Scrub and Play Smart Sink: 103 dB
  2. Vtech Turn & Learn Driver: 101 dB
  3. Fisher Price Sing & Learn Music Player: 98 dB
  4. Leap Frog 100 Animals Books: 98 dB
  5. Nickelodeon Baby Shark Musical PlayPad: 98 dB
  6. Jada Police Hero Patrol Lights & Sound 95 dB
  7. Leap Frog Fridge Phonics: 94 dB
  8. Vtech Helping Heroes Fire Station: 93 dB
  9. Adventure Force Mighty Dragon: 92 dB
  10. Leap Frog 100 Words Book: 92 dB
  11. Vtech Peppa Pig Learn & Discover Book: 91 dB
  12. Vtech Brilliant Baby Laptop: 90 dB
  13. Vtech Magic Star Learning Table: 89 dB
  14. Fisher Price Leave a Message Smart Phone: 89 dB

The ACDHH also created a list of toys they encourage parents to purchase (the list is not all-inclusive).

List of Safe Toys under 85dB listed by age:
  1. Leap Frog Learn & Groove Caterpillar Drums: 80 dB
  2. Leap Frog Pick Up & Count Vacuum: 78 dB
  3. Vtech Care for Me Learning Carrie: 75 dB
  4. Vtech Drop & Go Dump Truck: 75 dB
  5. Vtech Bright Lights Soccer Ball: 70 dB
  6. B. Toy Critter Clinic: No sound
  7. Melissa & Doug Ice Cream Counter: No sound
  8. Melissa & Doug Dust Sweep Mop: No sound

When buying toys for your children, it’s important to think about how the child will use the toy. More often than not, children may choose to hold the toy close, versus at arm’s length, which can be risky. Another consideration is what other sounds may be present at the time of play. Perhaps there’s a television on, other children they’re playing with who are yelling, or other loud toys they may not be interacting with. All of these sounds can add up, and ultimately lead to hearing loss in children.

If you’d like to conduct your own decibel test, there are a few applications you can download on your smartphone to test sound levels of toys you’re considering purchasing or already bought:

A few suggested dB testing apps from a healthyhearing.com report:
  • Apps for both Android and iOS
    • Decibel X
    • SPL Meter
    • Too Noisy Pro
  • Apps for iOS only
    • NIOSH Sound Level Meter
    • SPLnFFT Noise Meter
  • Apps for Android only
    • Sound Meter Pro
    • Sound Meter and Noise Detector

Simple test methods to ensure toys won’t hurt young ears: 

  • Use ‘try-me’ buttons on the toys when available
  • Hold the toy as close to your ear as your child would and ask yourself if the toy is too loud
  • Hold the toy eight inches away from your ear (approximately the length of your child’s arm), and if you must speak at a higher volume above the sound effects, it’s too loud

How to keep the volume down on loud toys:

  • If the toy has volume control, ensure it’s always set to the lowest level
  • Put waterproof tape or super glue over speaker to mute it
  • Put tape over volume control to prevent your child from increasing the volume to unsafe volume level

As always, our priority is your well-being. If you think your child may be suffering from hearing loss, or perhaps you, be sure to make an appointment with us. We’re practicing all social distancing safety measures, and are here to help with all your auditory needs. Give us a call to set up an appointment, or to ask any questions. We’re here for you!

Surgical Masks and Hearing Loss: COVID-19

Wow! It’s December already, and though we’re past 8 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still learning something new each day. We wanted to share new data that shows how surgical masks degrade speech quality, affecting those with hearing loss the most. Recent studies show mask use can render speech close to unintelligible for many patients with hearing loss.

What’s Up, masks?

The COVID-19 virus has definitely had an impact on clinician-patient communication, especially fo those with hearing loss. In fact, the trajectory of hearing loss and the infection fatality by age distribution tell a very important story, one we may not have thought of. Many of the people who have fallen victim to the virus and have been hospitalized are older adults, which coincidentally means many of them suffer from hearing loss. These patients tend to be unaccompanied by family members, are frail, have a variety of chronic conditions, and are likely there without any hearing assistance. 

Therefore, their struggle to understand speech is further exacerbated by the use of masks, which of course are a necessity to help minimize the spread of the virus. Surgical mask use presents two challenges for patients with hearing loss when it comes to speech comprehension:

1: The patient can’t facilitate comprehension by lip-reading
2: The healthcare provider’s voice is muffled and distorted

The data we’re referencing comes from a study that focused on how masks distort sound.

How Does a Surgical Mask Impact the Speech Signal?

The study used a GRAS head and torso simulator to play white noise through an artificial mouth, with a mask on, and the output acoustic signal was measured by a microphone 2 meters away. There were 4 different masks used for this study:

The study found that all surgical masks types essentially worked as a low-pass filter. This means the masks ended up reducing high frequencies spoken by the wearer, with the decibel (dB) level of attenuation ranging from 3-4 dB for a simple mask, to close to 12 dB for the N95 masks. Basically, mask use led to speech quality degradation, especially when in combination with room noise/reverberation and the absence of visual cues, and it renders speech close to unintelligible for many.

Addressing the Issue

Because of this, the use of effective communication strategies becomes more important than ever. Here are a few ways that patients with hearing loss and their physicians can bridge the gap to ensure communication is functioning at its best:

  • Speak Slowly
  • Be sure to obtain each other’s attention
  • Reduce any noise when possible
  • Rephrase when not understood
  • Do not shout, over-emphasize, or exaggerate your words

We know surgical masks have an effect on patients with hearing loss when attempting to comprehend speech, and that’s a real challenge. As always, we’re here to help. If you feel you’re experiencing hearing loss, need help with your hearing aids, or have any questions, give us a call and set up and appointment. Here at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center, we’re dedicated to helping our patients every step of the way.

Hearing Health and Cognitive Screenings

All of us at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center are dedicated to improving your hearing health. Did you know? There is a connection between hearing health and cognitive function? That is why we have started incorporating Cognivue Cognitive Screenings as part of our offering. Though it may seem unrelated, there is increasing evidence that age-related hearing loss is linked to a more rapid progression of cognitive decline and incidental dementia.[1]

Hearing Loss: Impact

Studies have shown that long-term hearing deprivation of auditory inputs can impact cognitive performance by decreasing the quality of communication, which leads to social isolation and depression, and can facilitate dementia.[2] In fact, limited cognitive skills from aging may reduce the cognitive resources available for understanding speech, especially when background noise is present. [3]

There are 3 fundamental processes that people need in order to hear well and understand speech.

  1. The ear serves as a connection between the acoustic environment and the brain. It detects, codes, and sends the signal along.
  2. The central auditory system then modifies and analyzes the signal.
  3. Finally, the brain (this is the cognitive process) enhances perception, understands the content received, and stores the information.

Studies have shown that efferent top-down and afferent bottom-up processing is critical to speech perception [4], making the link between audibility and cognition that much more vital. This process works in both directions, both from top-down to bottom-up. Here’s how:

Top-Down Processing—Cognition:

  • The brain emphasizes certain aspects of the incoming signal, allowing for improvements in perception
  • The brain works to compensate for poorly understood bottom-up sensory cues
  • Cognitive Factors help with: attention, listening effort, memory, multi-sensory integration, and prediction in helping code/understand sounds

Bottom-Up Processing—Audibility:

  • The ear engages in additional processing to refine the signal, and extracts important elements that are used for higher level processing
  • Sounds are initially coded by the ear, before it’s sent through the auditory system
  • Neural signal passed up through auditory system

How do we Conduct Cognitive Screenings?

We use the Cognivue® Thrive device. With the Cognivue® Thrive Device, we’re able to provide a 5-minute self-administered test to evaluate cognitive function. It’s a computer-based screening that involves watching a screen and moving a joystick. It’s super easy to take and is not dependent on hearing. The screening tests the following:

  • Memory
  • Visuospatial
  • Executive Function
  • Reaction Time
  • Processing Speed

About Cognivue® Thrive:

  • Based on FDA-cleared technology used by neurologists and other physicians to test for cognitive function
  • 5-minute self-administered computerized screening
  • Proven superior test-retest reliability
  • Evaluates three cognitive domains: memory, visuospatial, and executive function
  • Measures two speed performance parameters: reaction time and speed processing

Once you’ve completed the test, you then receive a report on your cognitive function:

  • Provides brain health score for each domain and performance parameter: Memory, Visuospatial, Executive Function, Reaction Time, and Processing speed
  • Informs on patient’s ability with examples of impact on daily activity

We’re very excited about the improvements in hearing health that we can achieve with the use of this device. If you’re curious about whether you have hearing loss, or if your hearing loss has impacted cognitive function, reach out to us! We’ll set you up with a test, along with tips on how to proceed with whatever results you get.

 

References:

1. Fortunato S, Forli F, Guglielmi V, et al. A review of new insights on the association between hearing loss and cognitive decline in ageing. Ipoacusia e declino cognitivo: revisione della letteratura. Acta Otorhinolaryngol Ital. 2016;36(3):155-166.
2. Lin FR, Yaffe K, Xia J, et al. Hearing loss and cognitive decline in older adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(4):293-299.
3. Loughrey DG, Kelly ME, Kelley GA, Brennan S, Lawlor BA. Association of Age-Related Hearing Loss With Cognitive Function, Cognitive Impairment, and Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis [published correction appears in JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018 Feb 1;144(2):176]. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018;144(2):115-126.
4. Rönnberg J, Lunner T, Zekveld A, et al. The Ease of Language Understanding (ELU) model: theoretical, empirical, and clinical advances. Front Syst Neurosci. 2013;7:31. Published 2013 Jul 13. doi:10.3389/fnsys.2013.00031

Face Masks and Hearing Loss: NAL Report

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our lives, and the need to wear masks has made life extra difficult for those with hearing loss. The National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) recently released a report on the many ways face masks and shields have been shown to challenge people with hearing loss. See below for the report, and as always, if there is anything we at Longmont Hearing and Tinnitus Center can help you with, reach out. We’re here to help, whether you need new hearing aids, an ear wax cleaning, or help with communication strategies.


The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the use of face masks and face shields among health professionals and the general public. The use of face masks is known to adversely impact on aspects of communication, and this has created unique challenges for the hearing-impaired community who may be put at a greater communication disadvantage than those with normal hearing.1 National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) is aware of these challenges and is working to provide innovative research and solutions. The following aspects of communication may be impacted by the wearing of face masks/face shields:

Reduced sound levels at high frequencies; amplification at low frequencies.

Medical masks essentially serve as a low-pass filter, attenuating the high frequencies (2000-7000 Hz) spoken by the wearer, with the decibel level of attenuation ranging from 3-4 dB for a simple medical mask and close to 12 dB for the N95 masks.2 Cloth masks have also been found to attenuate higher frequencies by differing amounts (above 1000 Hz) depending on their composition and weave.3  While face shields also attenuate high frequencies, they amplify low frequencies so their overall effect on speech understanding is unclear, and research is ongoing.

Reduced discrimination of speech signal amongst competing noise.

Reduced discrimination may occur in an environment with a high level of noise, such as a hospital. Those with hearing loss may suffer more from mask effects than those with normal hearing because of their increased difficulty understanding speech in noise in most situations.

Loss of visual-speech cues.

Auditory-visual speech, where both auditory and visual-speech cues (ie, lip, tongue, and face movements) are available, enhances speech perception.4-6 Those with hearing impairment rely more heavily on visual-speech information than those with normal hearing.7,8 Visual-speech cues help to counteract hearing difficulty experienced,6 particularly in a noisy environment.4,7 Cloth and medical masks block access to visual-speech cues including facial expressions and lip-movements. The impact of mask wearing on communication is likely to differ among people with hearing impairment depending on individual speechreading ability and reliance on auditory-visual speech. Individuals with early-onset, severe-to-profound hearing impairments have been found to have enhanced speechreading ability9 and may therefore experience a negative impact. Clearly, individuals who are totally reliant on lip-reading to communicate will experience a negative impact.10 Further research is required to explore the impact of masks on speech perception for people with hearing impairment, investigating factors such as the onset of hearing loss, degree of loss, and the use of hearing aids/cochlear implants.

Small impact on speech production.

Mask wearing has been found to have only a small impact on articulation and only minor effects on the airstream.11 Therefore, the ability to use the mouth to articulate appears to be not significantly hindered by the wearing of masks, although further research on this topic could be beneficial.

The combination of the above factors related to mask wearing, including the increased difficulty in understanding speech, room/noise reverberation, and the absence of visual cues can put people with hearing loss at a communication disadvantage in comparison to those with normal hearing.2,10

The various types of facial coverings have differing impacts on communication:

Typical masks (cloth and medical)
Both cloth and medical masks perform better acoustically than transparent masks.3 A major drawback of cloth and medical masks is the visual barrier these masks present to those in the hearing-impaired community who depend on nonverbal communication cues on the face.12-14

Transparent face masks (with windows made of plastic)
In comparison to opaque cloth masks, masks with plastic windows perform worse acoustically, reducing the high frequency sound cues that are crucial for speech more than opaque masks.3 Despite this, some studies have found that transparent masks improve speech understanding in noise by making the lips and mouth visually accessible.1 The issue of fogging of the clear plastic window (due to exhaled breath) is also a problem that manufacturers of these masks are currently attempting to overcome.

Face shields
It should be noted that a clear face shield is not considered to provide the same level of protection from infection as a face mask.15 In line with transparent face masks, face shields offer the benefit of visual input.3 Further research into the acoustic impact of face shields is needed; however NAL preliminary findings do not indicate a negative impact on speech intelligibility.16

The use of lapel microphones has been recommended to overcome some of the difficulties encountered with the use of masks. Masks tend to attenuate high-frequency sound in front of the talker, whereas microphones placed above and below the mask are less affected. To preserve visual cues without destroying high-frequency sound cues, the use of clear window masks in combination with lapel microphones has been recommended.3

For hearing aid wearers, NAL has provided a face mask program that increases gain to compensate for the reduced speech levels of a talker wearing a mask. This program can be accessed at NAL’s website at: https://www.nal.gov.au/nal-mask-adjust/.

Citation for this article:
Martin L. NAL update: Impact of face masks and face shields on communication. Hearing Review. 2020;27(10):28-29.

References

  1. Atcherson SR, Mendel LL, Baltimore WJ. The effect of conventional and transparent surgical masks on speech understanding in individuals with and without hearing loss. J Am Acad Audiol. 2017;28(1):58-67.
  2. Goldin A, Weinstein B, Shiman N. How do medical masks degrade speech reception? Hearing Review. 2020;27(5):8-9.
  3. Corey RM, Jones U, Singer AC. Acoustic effects of medical, cloth, and transparent face masks on speech signals. Champaign, IL: UUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; August 11, 2020.
  4. Bernstein JGW, Grant KW. Auditory and auditory-visual intelligibility of speech in fluctuating maskers for normal-hearing and hearing-impaired listenersJ Acoust Soc Am. 2009;125(5):3358.
  5. Fraser S, Gagné J-P, Alepins M, Dubois P. Evaluating the effort expended to understand speech in noise using a dual-task paradigm: The effects of providing visual speech cues. J Sp Lang Hear Res. 2010;53(1):18-33.
  6. Frtusova JB, Phillips NA. The auditory-visual speech benefit on working memory in older adults with hearing impairment. Frontiers in Psychol. 2016;7:490.
  7. Tye-Murray N, Sommers MS, Spehar B. Audiovisual integration and lipreading abilities of older adults with normal and impaired hearing. Ear Hear. 2007;28(5):656-668.
  8. Fernandez-Lopez A, Martinez O, Sukno FM. Towards estimating the upper bound of visual-speech recognition: The visual lip-reading feasibility database. 2017 12th IEEE International Conference on Automatic Face & Gesture Recognition (FG 2017).May 2017;208-215. Washington, DC.
  9. Auer ET, Bernstein LE. Enhanced visual speech perception in individuals with early-onset hearing impairment. J Sp Lang Hear Res. 2007;50(5):1157-1165.
  10. Chodosh J, Weinstein BE, Blustein J. Face masks can be devastating for people with hearing lossBrit Med Jour. 2020;370:m2683.
  11. Fecher N, Watt D. Effects of forensically-realistic facial concealment on auditory-visual consonant recognition in quiet and noise conditionsAuditory-Visual Speech Processing (AVSP) 2013. September 2013;81-86. Annecy, France.
  12. Mendel LL, Gardino JA, Atcherson SR. Speech understanding using surgical masks: A problem in health care? J Am Acad Audiol. 2008;19:686-695.
  13. Atcherson SR, Finley ET, McDowell BR, Watson C. More speech degradations and considerations in the search for transparent face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Audiology Today.2020.
  14. Baltimore WJ, Atcherson SR. Helping our clients parse speech through masks during COVID-19. ASHA LeaderLive. https://leader.pubs.asha.org/do/10.1044/leader.MIW.25062020.34/full/. Published June 1, 2020.
  15. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Considerations for Wearing Masks.. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html#feasibility-adaptations. Published August 7, 2020.
  16. Mejia J, Galloway J, Cooper J, Monaghan J,  Edwards B. On managing the impact of face covers on speech understanding in noise using hearing aids. In press.

 

Other Resources

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month

Though all of us at Longmont Hearing & Tinnitus Center believe every day is “Protect Your Hearing Day,” The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) has announced a public education campaign stating October is “National Protect Your Hearing Month,” and we’re thrilled! Getting educational content out to all communities is essential to ensuring everybody has the resources they need to detect hearing loss, so that they may get the treatment they need. In honor of this educational approach, we wanted to talk a little about Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) – Basics
First and foremost, it’s important to note that NIHL is preventable. NIHL can be developed by anybody, at any age. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40 million US adults ages 20 to 69 have NIHL, and a quarter of US adults who report having good-to-excellent hearing already have hearing damage in one or both ears. And it doesn’t only affect adults, children are also at risk for NIHL, that’s why it’s important for children to start healthy hearing habits at a young age.

Hearing Hazards
Not all hearing hazards are obvious, and some may even surprise you. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones—have you found yourself in any of these situations on a regular basis?

  • Auto shops
  • Construction work areas
  • Concerts
  • Military Bases
  • Airports
  • Fireworks show
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Movie theaters

Chances are, if you’re in a situation where you’re being forced to shout to be heard, then that environment is impacting your hearing in some way. It goes without saying—listening to music or other sounds at a high volume through headphones can be dangerous. Generally, the louder the sound, the faster NIHL can develop.

What Decibels are acceptable?
Sound is measured in decibels, and we now know that sounds at or below 70 a-weighted decibels (dBA) are usually safe. If you experience long or repeated exposure to sounds that are at or exceed 85 dBA, then the chances for hearing loss skyrocket.

Here are some decibel ratings for common sounds:

  • Normal conversation: 60-70 dBA
  • Lawnmowers: 80 to 100 dBA
  • Sports events: 94 to 110 dBA
  • Sirens from emergency vehicles: 110 to 129 dBA
  • Fireworks: 140 to 160 dBA

Hearing health is more important than you think. Studies found a link between hearing loss and dementia, and though more research is needed, it’s important to keep that in mind as we go about our day-to-day. You have control over this! Protect your hearing by wearing ear protection in areas that are prone to loud sounds, like concert venues or while shooting firearms. Whenever possible, turn down the volume, and most importantly, don’t ignore your ears! If you’re having trouble hearing something, make an appointment with one of our audiologists today! We’re here to make sure you get the treatment you deserve.

Hearing: Beyond the Ears

In almost all fields of science, research is ongoing to uncover new truths and potential updates on how we understand the world around us. In audiology, that’s no different. There are a variety of hearing tests in use that are designed to see how well your ears are working. A traditional hearing test evaluates how well your ears are doing their job – collecting, amplifying, organizing, and transmitting the amplified and organized signal to the auditory nerve. But, as we know, there is SO much more to hearing than what happens in the ears!

Overview:
Once that signal hits the nerve, that’s when the magic happens. The signal travels from the ear to the brainstem, midbrain, and then the auditory cortices, criss-crossing your brain multiple times while sending information up and down that chain. What if all of the criss-crossing isn’t working as it should? Perhaps there is an unexpected pause, or a part of the brain is somehow damaged? What if processing speed is slower and we can’t keep up with what we’re hearing, like rapid conversation or lots of background noise in conversation? Or maybe our memory has been impacted and we can’t associate a sound with anything we have heard before? Well, in these cases, communication breaks down—it’s harder to learn new things, we get tired, and we may become frustrated. Sometimes the result can be depression, anxiety, social isolation, strained relationships, and possibly, cognitive decline. In more serious cases, there may be a need for a more robust test—and we now have a way to test for cognitive decline with Cognivue.

About Cognivue:
Cognivue is a quick, 6-minute computer-based screening that involves watching a screen and moving a joystick. It’s super easy to take and is not dependent on hearing. The screening tests the following:

  • Memory
  • Visuospatial
  • Executive Function
  • Reaction Time
  • Processing Speed

Test results provide insight into what happens beyond the ear AND beyond the auditory system, providing you and your Audiologist very meaningful information. Whether or not you’re experiencing hearing loss, there’s no reason not to take the test! Give us a call and we can give you more information on Cognivue, and you can even make an appointment to take the test with us!

Hearing Loss—Linked to Dementia

Epidemiological studies have uncovered a link between dementia and hearing loss. In fact, these studies show that hearing loss may be responsible for 1/10th of the 47 million cases worldwide. Published in the journal Neuron, a team at Newcastle University has put forth a new theory to explain how a disorder of the ear can lead to Alzheimer’s disease—a concept never looked at before. This new understanding may be a significant step towards advancing research into Alzheimer’s disease, preventing the illness for future generations.

Newcastle experts considered three key aspects:

  • A common underlying cause for hearing loss and dementia
  • Lack of sound-related input leading to brain shrinking
  • Cognitive impairment resulting in people having to engage more brain resources to compensate for hearing loss, which made that part of the brain unavailable for other tasks

Findings:

The Newcastle team proposed a new angle, focusing on the memory centers deep in the brain. “Mechanisms for difficult listening” is a central theme for the research group. Their work indicates that this part of the brain, typically associated with long-term memory for places and events, is also involved in short-term storage and manipulation of auditory information. Dr. Will Sedley, from Newcastle University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, said: “The memory system engaged in difficult listening is the most common site for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.” Professor Tim Griffiths, from Newcastle University’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, said: “The challenge has been to explain how a disorder of the ear can lead to a degenerative problem in the brain. We suggest a new theory based on how we use the area of the brain generally considered to be the memory center when we have difficulty listening in real-world environments.” This is a huge step in Alzheimer’s research, opening the door to new treatment possibilities (once more information has been uncovered.) For now, the researchers “propose that altered activity in the memory system caused by hearing loss and the Alzheimer’s disease process trigger each other. Researchers now need to examine this mechanism in models of the pathological process to test if this new theory is right.”

Why it matters:

Preventing hearing loss is already crucial for keeping members of the community engaged, and not feeling isolated. If this new theory proves to be true, then caring for hearing loss is more vital than we ever thought. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your body and what it’s telling you. If you’re experiencing trouble hearing, then act! Give us a call and set up and in-person or TeleHealth appointment. Let us diagnose and treat whatever we find. Together, we can ensure you’re at tip-top hearing health shape for years to come!