Hearing Loss

Anxiety Disorders and Hearing Loss

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What is Noise Induced Hearing Loss? How Can You Prevent It?

In 2017, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) found approximately 24% of U.S. adults aged 20 to 69 displayed signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). In fact, it’s estimated that there are up to 40 million U.S adults with noise induced hearing loss. As we’re approaching April 24th, International Noise Awareness Day, we wanted to take a look at what is noise induced hearing loss? And how can you prevent it?

What is NIHL?

Noise-induced hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss. Sufferers typically have a gradual reduction in high frequency hearing sensitivity. This often happens in both ears, but not always evenly. However, it is possible for an acoustic trauma i.e firing a rifle to cause asymmetric (1-sided) NIHL. It’s also possible to experience sudden hearing loss if a sound is loud enough and causes immediate damage to your ears. The hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Accompanying symptoms of tinnitus are also extremely common.

NIHL happens because of damage to the sensitive hair cells of the inner ear, which are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain for interpretation.

The more damage to the hair cells – the greater the hearing loss.

How to Prevent NIHL

The first and most important step to preventing NIHL is awareness of the noise levels around you. Exposure to sounds above 85 dB for a prolonged period can cause damage, and very loud sounds (120 dB+) can cause immediate damage.

For context, here are some examples…

  • The humming of a refrigerator: 45 dB
  • Normal conversation: 60 dB
  • Noise from heavy city traffic: 85 dB
  • Motorcycles: 90 dB
  • An MP3 player at maximum volume: 105 dB
  • Sirens: 120 dB
  • Firecrackers and firearms: 150 dB

Be mindful of open plan offices, bars, live music venues or sporting events. Also pay attention to home machinery such as lawn-mowers and leaf-blowers.

Signs To Watch Out For

If you experience the following, it’s a sign that your environment is too loud:

  1. You can’t understand someone talking from three feet away
  2. Your ears feel “full” when you move somewhere quiet
  3. After being somewhere noisy – you hear ringing or buzzing
  4. After being somewhere noisy it’s difficult to follow conversation

If you can, move further away from the noise or give yourself quiet breaks.

It’s not always possible to avoid exposure to loud noises. There are, however, protective measures you can take such as earplugs or headphones. If you’d like to discuss hearing protection options, the team at Come Hear Hearing Center would be happy to help. Please call (864) 546-5708 for further advice, or click here to request an appointment online.

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Anxiety Disorders and Hearing Loss

Anxiety is a common and very difficult condition to live with. 19 million Americans suffer with an anxiety disorder according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Anxiety can also stem from misinformation or a fear of the unknown.

It’s common for anxiety to be connected to hearing difficulties. For example, anxiety as a result of not being able to hear someone correctly and answering inappropriately may arise before a social gathering. This may cause a person to withdraw socially. Other examples could be anxiety about safety when traveling or even just simply telling people about your hearing loss.

More and more research has highlighted how anxiety may increase as a hearing loss increases in severity.

The Research

25 studies that combined data from 17,000 people have been evaluated in this Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology review. 10 of those studies compared people with normal hearing to those with a hearing loss. 8 of them showed that anxiety was more prevalent in persons with hearing loss or tinnitus. Other findings were that anxiety was greater in those with more severe hearing loss and that symptoms were reduced following hearing loss treatment.

Anxiety Disorders  

An anxiety disorder is a persistent (lasting 6 months+) and excessive worry or anxiety. Here are some that could potentially worsen if you have an untreated hearing loss:

  • Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety – Very common in those with a hearing loss – it typically arises within 3 months of a stressor – i.e. a hearing loss diagnosis. Symptoms include significant distress which limits social and daily interactions.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Anxiety that is present more days than not about usually focused on events or activities.
  • Panic Disorder – Unexpected and recurrent panic attacks.
  • Social Phobia – Persistent fear of potentially embarrassing situations including socially.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Personality – i.e. frequent compulsion to check fully charged hearing aid batteries.
  • PTSD – i.e symptoms such as an strong emotional reactions are connected to a sound from a traumatic event.
  • Acute Stress Disorder – Symptoms start to occur within a month of a traumatic stressor. (Similar to PTSD)
  • Specific Phobia – i.e. occurring in situations where it’s difficult to hear. This leads to social isolation by avoiding the events that cause negative feelings.

If you recognize any of these symptoms, please speak to a doctor.

As we all come to understand these conditions more, it’s evident that treating a hearing loss could help reduce anxiety. But what if the prospect of coming to a hearing center and having tests triggers your anxiety? You may feel vulnerable, worried about costs and implications or uncertain about what happens afterwards.

Rest assured, the professional team at Come Hear Hearing Center are caring and experienced. We understand it can be difficult to discuss these types of feelings – but it will help us care for your needs better. So, if you are ready to claim back your social life and benefit from treating hearing loss, please call (864) 546-5708 to arrange your next appointment.

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Driving With Hearing Loss: Tips to Stay Safe

According to the World Health Organization, over 5% of the world’s population lives with some form of severe hearing loss. It’s estimated that over 40% of people over 65 experience moderate to severe hearing problems. If you’re one of the millions of people affected globally by hearing impairment, you already know the long list of challenges you’re faced with in day to day life. If you don’t have the convenience of public transportation available to you, personal vehicles may be your only means of getting around. Non-hearing impaired individuals don’t consider there are extra risks involved  and considerations that need to be made when driving with hearing loss. Whether you’re a seasoned driver or new behind the wheel, we’ve put together some tips to help you drive safely with hearing loss.

Tips on How to Drive Safely with Hearing Loss

When driving with any sort of impairment or disability, it’s necessary for us to take extra care to keep ourselves and other drivers safe on the road. Hearing impaired driver safety requires drivers to be more vigilant, more proactive, and requires drivers with hearing loss to take some extra steps to prevent accidents. Below are some great ways to protect hearing impaired drivers.

  • EMS and other emergency vehicle sirens – One of the most pressing and worrisome concerns driving with hearing loss brings to mind, is being unable to hear when an emergency vehicle is coming up behind you. To help combat this worry, use your vision effectively. Try checking your mirrors often and keep yourself aware of your surroundings. If you’re traveling with a hearing person, ask them to assist.
  • Communicate responsibly – If you rely on lip reading, install a lip reading mirror on your dash. This will allow you to keep your eyes forward but still see what your companion is saying. If signing is your main form of communication, ask that companions sign in front of you without blocking your line of vision. Keep your phone put away so you can stay attentive with eyes forward.
  • Other driver responses – Hearing impaired driver safety is also affected in many situations by other drivers. If you are constantly aware of being an effective driver, stay vigilant, and focus on being a polite driver, this should mitigate other drivers honking at you.
  • Getting pulled over – Being stopped by officials and fearing your ability to communicate can be stressful. Consider carrying hearing impaired driver cards to hand to an officer if need be.
  • Reduce outside noise – Whether you’re severely hearing impaired or only slightly, keeping windows rolled up, stereos down, and requesting that your companions give you some quiet are great ways to help you hear important things like sirens.
  • Hearing aids – If your level of hearing impairment allows for assistance from hearing aids, consider getting some and keeping them maintained. There are also alerting systems that can be installed to assist.

Driving with hearing loss can be daunting, but it’s not impossible! Just remember, hearing impaired driver safety falls on you. To help ensure all drivers, the hearing impaired and the hearing, stay safe and without accident or injury just requires a little more vigilance on the part of a hearing impaired driver. If you suspect that your hearing has changed at all, book in a hearing assessment with the hearing care professionals at Come Hear Greenville. Call us on (864) 546-5708 or click here to Request An Appointment now.

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Can Cold Weather Hurt Your Hearing?

We are all familiar with the impacts that cold weather can have on our health. Each year we are given warnings about the increased risk of colds and flu throughout the winter months. But can cold weather hurt your hearing?

What is Surfer’s Ear?

Also known as exostosis, Surfer’s Ear is a condition caused by cold weather conditions which leads to abnormal bone grown within the ear canal. This bony growth develops on top of existing bone structures within the ear in order to produce a protective barrier.

This obstruction within the ear canal interferes with the reception of soundwaves, reducing your ability to hear properly and can lead to hearing loss. Other symptoms of Surfer’s Ear include increased risk of ear infections, ear pain, and ringing in the ear (tinnitus). Wax and water may also get trapped within the ear resulted in a ‘plugged’ sensation.

Surfer’s Ear or Exostosis does not go away on its own. The bony growth often needs removing via a surgical procedure called a canaloplasty.

How to Protect Your Ears Against Surfer’s Ear:

To protect your hearing in cold weather and lower your risk of developing Surfer’s Ear we recommend:

  • Wearing a hat, headband or ear muffs in cold weather
  • Avoiding activity in extreme cold weather conditions
  • Keeping ear canals as dry and warm as possible
  • Using earplugs or swimming caps when swimming in cold water
  • Using a wet-suit hood when participating in water sports

Hardened Earwax

Cold weather can also cause your earwax to harden. Hardened earwax can lead to blockages within the ear canal. This can then lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms. Earache, blocked sensation, tinnitus, dizziness, headaches, infections, and hearing loss are all symptoms stemming from hardened earwax.

Those who wear hearing aids are at an increased risk of hardened earwax. The presence of a ‘foreign object’ means that your ear will produce more earwax. Quite simply, more earwax leads to higher risk of blockages caused by hardened earwax.

Although tempting, do to attempt to remove the earwax using a cotton bud. Removing earwax in this way can result in the earwax being pushed further into the ear canal, worsening the symptoms.

Tips for Removing Earwax:

  • Do not over clean – This can have the opposite effect and lead to the overproduction of earwax, aggravate the ear canal and cause infections.
  • Do not use cotton buds or similar foreign objects – This can risk damage to the ear and lead to further problems.
  • See your hearing care specialist – If you start noticing any symptoms relating to hardened earwax, book an appointment with your hearing care specialist.

When it comes to those cold winter days, make sure you remember your scarf and gloves but most importantly, your ear protection. Whether you decide to wear a warm woolly hat or some trendy ear muffs, make sure your ears stay warm and dry when you next decide to venture out in the cold.

If you would like further information on how cold weather can affect your hearing, speak to one of our hearing specialists today. Call us on (864) 546-5708 or click here to Request An Appointment now.

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