East Tennessee Audiology September 2019

SEPT 2019



Everyone knows the importance of their hearing and perhaps has their hearing checked from time to time. However, the proper ways to protect and maintain hearing are often overlooked. Knowing some of the best ways to protect your hearing and recognizing subtle signs of hearing loss may help you better maintain optimal hearing health. CleanYour Ears Regularly Cleaning your ears is essential. I’ve seen clients come in after six months and their ears are already packed. A clean ear is a happy ear. I always recommend heavily cleaning your ears at least two times a month. Never use Q-tips; they will only push the content deeper into your ear and block the ear canal. Instead, consider using an over-the-counter solution and leaving it in for approximately 20–30 minutes rather than the recommended 10–15, or ask your physician’s office to clean them 3–4 times a year on average. ProtectYour Hearing Anytime you’re working with power tools—or any loud equipment — I recommend using a full hearing-protection headset. Even a riding lawnmower can reduce your hearing over time. While a convenient way tomow, this machine can emit anywhere from 85–96 decibels of noise; add 7 decibels with the blades running. So, depending on the size of the yard, you could be spending anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours with 100 decibels bombarding your hearing system. GetYour Checkups Just like any other part of the body, the ears need to be taken care of. If your age range is around 50 or older, it’s recommended you have your hearing evaluated approximately every two years, much like eye exams. It’s also a good time to address any changes you’ve noticed in your hearing or maintain any treatments or hearing aid youmay be using. The sooner you get your ears checked, the better. The stigma of having hearing aids is long gone these days; people of all ages are proactively getting hearing help for a variety of conditions. Prolonging getting your hearing system evaluated can and will contribute to further hearing loss and potential cognitive decline. Recent studies have shown that 24.2 million Americans ages 20–69 who need hearing help avoid getting checked. We want our patients to understand that NOT treating hearing loss can lead to levels of auditory deprivation which is essentially losing one’s understanding of

words. Hearing, as with all of our sensory inputs, is processed by our brains and not the organs themselves. We can treat hearing loss early andmore easily; however, treating this condition in later progressed states can become very challenging for patients. Remember, as the old saying goes, “Either use it or lose it.”

Know the Signs If you have difficulty differentiating between words like“scope”and“soap,”or if you continuously feel like people are mumbling or talking softly, it could be an early sign of hearing deficiency. If you turn up the volume of the radio or TV or withdraw from conversations because you can’t understand people, you should get your hearing evaluated. It’s much easier for us to treat the onset of hearing loss early, but, when a patient has allowed their condition to progress to severe or even profound level of auditory deprivation, the help that could have been provided at an earlier stage is now no longer available or possible. HowHearing Loss AffectsYou Your brain loves information and input, and this includes the soft sounds we may take for granted. For example, when I move around the office, my slacks make a sound. I can even hear the change of the ground I’mwalking on. As you lose your hearing, you won’t hear those kinds of sounds. You’ll also have a hard time hearingmore obvious sounds, like the TV, and you’ll end up increasing the volume again and again, making others uncomfortable. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect your hearing, though. Social engagement becomes more difficult, which is risky because social isolation has long been recognized as a risk factor for cognitive decline. In fact, studies have shown a connection between hearing loss and development of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect YOU; your condition is most often harder on the spouses and loved ones around you. So, if you have questions about the signs of hearing loss or the best ways tominimize it, call us at 865-271-9721 or visit our website anytime at EastTNAudiology.com. —Shayne Harrell


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