Hearing Test

Take the National Hearing Test This Month - for Free!

By Charles S. Watson, Ph.D.

All this month, Duracell is sponsoring the National Hearing Test (NHT), in honor of May as Better Hearing and Speech Month. John Slattery of “Mad Men” is a spokesperson for the campaign and stars in a new Duracell commercial to raise awareness about hearing loss and the benefits of hearing aids.

The test can be taken without charge for the rest of the month, by dialing 1-844-9-DURACELL (1-844-938-7223).

The NHT is a U.S. version of the telephone-administered tests first introduced in the Netherlands in 2004 and now in use in most European countries and Australia. It measures the signal-to-noise-ratio required to identify spoken three-digit sequences in noise. Its validity was established by comparisons with pure-tone average thresholds used in traditional audiograms.

The not-for-profit screening requires about four minutes for each ear and the results are given at the end of the test as “within normal limits,” “slightly below normal limits,” or “substantially below normal limits.” Callers that fall below "normal limits" are advised to see an audiologist or a physician specializing in hearing for a complete evaluation. All callers with concerns about their hearing are similarly advised.

The test, usually $5, was offered for free during Better Hearing and Speech Month in May 2014, when it was publicized in health/science articles in several newspapers, including the Washington Post, St. Louis Post Dispatch, and the Indianapolis Star, estimated to reach 2 to 5 percent of the American population.

The 2014 data shows how we may expect the test to work this year: Over 40,000 calls were made to the test, the majority of which (32,000) were complete tests of both ears. Among the completed tests, 81 percent failed the test in at least one ear; their average age was 62.4 years, suggesting that the target audience was reached.  
Follow-up studies revealed that about 38 percent of those failing the test subsequently sought a full hearing evaluation, or planned to do so in the future.  Of those advised to purchase hearing aids after the full-hearing evaluation, 28 percent said they had done so or intended to. 

Recent studies of decision-making in relation to other health problems as well as hearing loss suggest that decision-making is a multistage process that may require many months or even years to lead to action.

So, while failing a screening test may not always lead to immediate self-referral and the purchase of hearing aids, it may significantly reduce the delay in so doing from the typical 8 to 10 years from hearing loss diagnosis to purchase of hearing aids to perhaps as few as 1 to 3 years.

The remarkable response to the NHT when it was offered as a simple, private transaction shows there to be a great many persons with hearing loss who would take a valid, convenient, and private screening test if one were available. We are hopeful that the current month’s well-publicized availability of such screening tests will effect a major change in the public’s understanding of hearing loss and actions to treat it.

Charles S. Watson, Ph.D., is a professor of speech and hearing sciences at Indiana University and co-founder of Communication Disorders Technology Inc., which developed the National Hearing Test in collaboration with Indiana University, and the VU University Medical Center of Amsterdam, with the support of grants from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

References

  • Donahue, A., Dubno, J. R., and Beck, L. (2010) Accessible and affordable hearing health care for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss. Ear and Hear, 31, 2–6.

  • Laplante-Lévesque, A., Brännström, J., Ingo, E., Andersson, G., and Lunner, T. (2015) Stages of Change in Adults Who Have Failed an Online Hearing Screening, Ear and Hear 36, 92-101.

  • Smits C., Kapteyn T.S., Houtgast T. (2004) Development and validation of an automatic speech-in-noise screening test by telephone. Int J Audiol 43(1), 15–28.

  • Watson, C. S., Kidd, G. R., Miller, J. D., et al. (2012). Telephone screening tests for functionally impaired hearing: Current use in seven countries and development of a US version. J Am Acad Audiol, 23, 757–767.

  • Williams-Sanchez, V., McArdle, R.A., Wilson, R.H., Kidd, G.R., Watson, C.S., Bourne, A.L. (2014) Validation of a Screening Test of Auditory Function Using the Telephone. J Am Acad Audiol, 18, 151-183.

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Wayne Lewis Lesser, Wayne's World, Wayne's Words

By Wayne Lesser

In 1944, I was born to loving parents. I came into a world of what I call “lesser” sound—I was born hearing-impaired. As a kid, I did not know or did not pay attention to my lesser sound. While I did have regular hearing exams, my parents never indicated to me that I might have hearing loss. In truth, my parents were unaware of my hearing loss throughout my childhood.

My kid sister followed in 1945 and was profoundly hearing-impaired. For years, my family was not aware of her hearing loss, or its severity. At that point, my family still did not know about my hearing loss, either. My mom took my sister from doctor to doctor until one said that she was hearing-impaired and needed hearing aids. She was fitted with aids at age 11.

Wayne Lesser

Wayne Lesser

My sister’s hearing aid was ugly and scary. I remember when she put it on for the first time: a one-piece unit, the size of a deck of cards, with two wires connecting the large earbuds into her little ears. My mom turned it on. At that moment, I was fooling around with the bathroom faucet, turning the water on and off. My sister turned in my direction as, for the first time, she heard the sound of running water—and smiled. It was an unbelievable and memorable experience. I still get chills remembering the event as if it were yesterday. We were the only members of our entire family to be similarly afflicted. 

 

 In sports and life, I tried to listen and hear the best I could, positioning myself to look at people's faces—even learning to lip-read by myself, so that I could understand and try to get by. Growing up, I was proud to be an all-star Little League kid, a county all-star in high school basketball, and a basketball athlete at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. I graduated with a B.A. in history in 1966, and then was accepted into George Washington University Law School. 

Law school was tougher for me as I struggled to hear. I remember many times saying I was not prepared when called on by the professors, as I could not follow the questions and discussions in large lecture classes. I was embarrassed to tell them of my hearing loss. But I made it despite all the roadblocks. I graduated in 1969, took and passed the Commonwealth of Virginia Bar Exam, and was admitted to the bars of both Virginia and the District of Columbia.    

The summer of that same year I visited San Francisco, saw the changing world, and wanted to be a part of it, including the chance to now listen to the music of the times. One of the trends in men’s fashion was wearing the hair long, so long that it covered the ears.   

In March 1970, I moved to Berkeley. I got a job selling women's clothes and met my future wife at the store. We got married in 1971 (we’re still together), and I got my first set of hearing aids. Egads, I thought. Sound—nice! Why did I wait so long to get help? Because before that I did not have the convenience of concealing them with longer hair. Yes, I suppose that as a young man I was sensitive about hearings aids, even if I did need them. But I continued to wear them and still do today. I am sure that over time there has been a gradual decline in my hearing health, but I am as “fine” as I can be with the hearing aids.

I opened my first law office in 1971, practicing law in all types of cases and causes, but primarily in civil litigation and consumer rights. I have mainly been a solo practitioner for nearly five decades. 

About five years ago, I began to ask questions about hearing aids, hearing impairment, and hearing risks, which led me to create the Sound Awareness Movement: a movement to provide information, advocacy, and product protection to slow the onset of hearing loss, protect hearing, and educate hearing-at-risk people.

The “Color of Sound™” at lessersoundapp.com grew out my desire to increase awareness of the harmfulness of noise. Too many times I’ve heard the complaint, “I hate to go to a place that is too loud.” 

I have many thoughts and ideas for potential solutions for various problems that exist for hearing-impaired people (H-I-P) and hearing-at-risk people (H-A-R-P). This is an area that has not been adequately addressed from a marketing and preventive standpoint in identifying so many otherwise harmful sound environments at work and play.

Simply stated, I am a real person who is hearing impaired. I understand the shame, silence, and fear that people with hearing loss share with our families; the ignorance of the hearing world; and the weight that is imposed upon us because of these problems. I have a strong desire and ability to address issues, advocate for solution-solving products, and provide a real face for the emerging Sound Awareness Movement™.

* This blog post is sponsored by lessersound, llc. To learn more, please visit http://www.lessersoundapp.com/

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7-Day Challenge for Better Hearing Health

By Maggie Niu

In honor of National Public Health Week kicking off April 4, Hearing Health Foundation has seven challenges for you to complete over the course of next week, all related to hearing loss and hearing prevention. Help us celebrate by completing our list of challenges below and sharing your experiences in with us in the comments.

On your mark… get set…GO!

Day 1: Make an appointment to get your hearing tested!

It is important to have your ears tested at least once a year, especially if you are experiencing any buzzing or ringing in your ears or unable to hear clearly. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment: Early intervention is key for preventing further damage.

Here is a directory for audiologists from the Academy of Doctors of Audiology. It is super-easy and quick to find an audiologist close to you. Simply type in your zip code and the radius you are willing to travel and bing, you have your list of audiologists.

Day 2: Reduce the volume on personal music devices to under 70% of the maximum.

We all know that unwanted noise is a nuisance so we try everything in our power to drown it out—either by turning up the volume of the music we're listening to, or talking louder. In the long run, does it benefit our hearing health? The answer is no.

Noise-induced hearing loss can occur gradually over time by listening to loud music or being exposed to loud environmental noises. We can’t always control ambient noise, but we can control personal earphone volume. Next time you are using your earphones on a high volume, remember that you are damaging your ears!

Day 3: Plan a fundraiser to help us find a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus.

Need some ideas? See examples of past events and ideas for creating your own event. Individuals, companies, organizations, sororities, and fraternities of all sizes have joined in our efforts, and we hope you will too!

Day 4: Keep a journal of the foods you eat and note the loudness of the environment you’re in. You may be surprised at what you find.

Noise can affect many things. It can cause stress and affect our mood, but would you believe that noise can affect your palate? A Cornell University study found, "…that in an environment of loud noise, our sense of taste is compromised. Interestingly, this was specific to sweet and umami tastes, with sweet taste inhibited and umami taste significantly enhanced," said Robin Dando, an assistant professor of food science. "The multisensory properties of the environment where we consume our food can alter our perception of the foods we eat."

Day 5: Eat this! Incorporate certain nutrients into your diet for optimal hearing health.

Now we know that noise can affect the taste of food we eat, but are there foods that can help our ears? Check out these five nutrients that can prevent or delay hearing loss. 

Day 6: Use everyday technology to enhance your hearing health. 

Take control of your hearing health with the technology you use daily: download a sound level meter on your smartphone or tablet to measure the decibel levels. In our Winter 2015 Hearing Health magazine, we listed apps that were vetted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and they include: NoiSee by Noise Lab ($1), Noise Hunter by Inter•net2day ($6), and SoundMeter by Faber Acoustical ($20). These apps were cited as providing the most accurate A-weighted sound level measurements.

Other apps include: The Jacoti ListenApp, where you can test your hearing via earphones, and the LesserSound App, which allows the user to take sound readings and record the location from where the noise was recorded. 

Day 7: Share your story!

Share your story about living with hearing loss, tinnitus, or other hearing conditions and how it has affected you via our online scrapbookblog, or magazine. Inspire others who are touched by similar conditions so that we can help raise awareness about the prevalence of hearing loss and other hearing disorders as well as our research to find better treatments, therapies, and ultimately a cure.

You can share your story by emailing us at info@hhf.org. It can be on ANYTHING related to hearing loss, tinnitus, or other hearing related conditions, such as funny storiespersonal experiencestips for our readers, or hearing health. If you would like to contribute but find that you're having writer's block, email us anyway! We're HEAR to get you through it! (Pun intended.) 

These are just some tips and advice that can help your hearing and the broader hearing health community. For any additional questions please contact your audiologist, email us at info@hhf.org, or visit our website.

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World Heart Day

By the Better Hearing Institute

World Heart Day is today, September 29th. In response to a growing body of research showing a link between cardiovascular and hearing health, Hearing Health Foundation and Better Hearing Institute (BHI) are urging you to check your hearing.

Raymond Hull, PhD, professor of communication sciences and disorders in audiology and neurosciences at Wichita State University, recently completed research analyzing 84 years of work from scientists worldwide on the connection between cardiovascular health and the ability to hear and understand what others are saying. Hull’s work, which reviewed 70 scientific studies, confirmed a direct link.
 
According to Hull, “Our entire auditory system, especially the blood vessels of the inner ear, needs an oxygen-rich nutrient supply. If it doesn't get it due to cardiovascular health problems, then hearing can be affected."  
 
While there are many possible causes of hearing loss, cardiovascular disease appears to exaggerate the impact of those causes and intensify the degree of hearing decline, says Hull. This compounded effect not only increases the difficulty a person experiences in perceiving what has been said, but also diminishes their ability to make sense of what they hear with speed and accuracy.

Could hearing loss be an early sign of cardiovascular disease?

Research is ongoing, but a number of findings suggest that keeping track of your hearing may help you monitor your cardiovascular health as well.

“The inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it is possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body,” according to David R. Friedland, MD, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

In Dr. Friedland’s own 2009 study, published in The Laryngoscope, he and fellow researchers found that audiogram pattern correlates strongly with cerebrovascular and peripheral arterial disease and may represent a screening test for those at risk. They even concluded that patients with low-frequency hearing loss should be regarded as at risk for cardiovascular events, and appropriate referrals should be considered.

More recently, a 2014-published study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison found that the risk of hearing impairment was significantly greater in people with underlying atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, than in those without vessel abnormalities, suggesting that hearing loss may be an early sign of cardiovascular disease in apparently healthy people, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The study involved a large cohort of middle-aged participants and showed that hearing loss is common in people in their forties. 

3 Heart-Healthy Reasons to Get a Hearing Test

  1. Six decades of research points to heart-hearing health link: Specifically, the study authors concluded that the negative influence of impaired cardiovascular health on both the peripheral and central auditory system—and the potential positive influence of improved cardiovascular health on these same systems—have been found through a sizable body of research.

  2. The ear may be a window to the heart: Some experts find the evidence showing a link between cardiovascular and hearing health so compelling that they say the ear may be a window to the heart. They encourage collaboration between hearing care providers, cardiologists, and other healthcare professionals. Some even call on hearing care professionals to include cardiovascular health in patient case history and to measure their patients’ blood pressure.

  3. The same lifestyle behaviors that affect the heart impact hearing. A higher level of physical activity is associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women. Another revealed that smokers and passive smokers are more likely to suffer hearing loss. And a third found that regular fish consumption and higher intake of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of hearing loss in women. Coincidence? Or does it all come back to blood flow to the inner ear? Research is ongoing.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on September 15, 2015.

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Getting a Hearing Test May Be Good for Your Memory

By the Better Hearing Institute

If you want to help your memory and cognitive performance, you may want to get a hearing test and treat hearing loss. In response to a growing body of research that shows a link between unaddressed hearing loss and cognitive function, the Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) and the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) are encouraging people to get their hearing checked by a healthcare professional in recognition of World Alzheimer’s Month in September.


According to Brandeis University Professor of Neuroscience, Dr. Arthur Wingfield, who has been studying cognitive aging and the relationship between memory and hearing acuity for many years, effortful listening due to unaddressed hearing loss is associated with increased stress and poorer performance on memory tests.
 
His research shows that even when people with unaddressed hearing loss perceive the words that are being spoken, their ability to remember the information suffers—likely because of the draw on their cognitive resources that might otherwise be used to store what has been heard in memory. This is especially true for the comprehension of quick, informationally complex speech that is part of everyday life.
 
“Even if you have just a mild hearing loss that is not being treated, cognitive load increases significantly,” Wingfield said. “You have to put in so much effort just to perceive and understand what is being said that you divert resources away from storing what you have heard into your memory.”
 
How hearing loss affects cognitive function
Our ears and auditory system bring sound to the brain. But we actually “hear” with our brain, not with our ears.
 
According to Wingfield, unaddressed hearing loss not only affects the listener’s ability to perceive the sound accurately, but it also affects higher-level cognitive function. Specifically, it interferes with the listener’s ability to accurately process the auditory information and make sense of it.
 
In one study, Wingfield and his co-investigators found that older adults with mild to moderate hearing loss performed poorer on cognitive tests of memory than those of the same age who had good hearing.
 
In another study, Wingfield and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University in St. Louis used MRI to look at the effect that hearing loss has on both brain activity and structure. The study found that people with poorer hearing had less gray matter in the auditory cortex, a region of the brain that is necessary to support speech comprehension.
 
Wingfield has suggested the possibility that the participant’s hearing loss had a causal role. He and his co-investigators hypothesize that when the sensory stimulation is reduced due to hearing loss, corresponding areas of the brain reorganize their activity as a result.
 
“The sharpness of an individual’s hearing has cascading consequences for various aspects of cognitive function,” said Wingfield. “We’re only just beginning to understand how far-reaching these consequences are.”
 
As people move through middle age and their later years, Wingfield suggested, it is reasonable for them to get their hearing tested annually. If there is a hearing loss, it is best to take it seriously and treat it.
 
Hearing loss and dementia

A number of studies have come to light over the last few years showing a link between hearing loss and dementia.  Specifically, a pair of studies out of Johns Hopkins found that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults and that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. 
 
A third Johns Hopkins study revealed a link between hearing loss and accelerated brain tissue loss. The researchers found that for older adults with hearing loss, brain tissue loss happens faster than it does for those with normal hearing.
 
Some experts believe that interventions, like hearing aids, could potentially delay or prevent dementia. Research is ongoing
 
Staying connected

A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association website.
 
Interestingly, BHI research shows that people with hearing difficulty who use hearing aids are more likely to have a strong support network of family and friends, feel engaged in life, and meet up with friends to socialize. They even say that using hearing aids has a positive effect on their relationships.

For more information about hearing health and finding a healthcare professional, please visit: http://hearinghealthfoundation.org/find-a-hearing-health-professional.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on September 8, 2015.

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I Lost My Hearing in My Forties. Here's How I Handled It.

By Mary Louise Kelly

The interesting thing about going deaf is you don’t realize it’s happening. It’s impossible to pinpoint when everyone began to mumble, when you ceased hearing your own footsteps clicking down a hall.

“Is it the accents?” my husband asked when I complained that the actors on Downton Abbey spoke too fast. We started watching with subtitles. At the theater, I focused on the beauty of the sets and costumes because—though I would have denied this—I couldn’t follow the dialogue. Meanwhile, car horns and sirens dimmed. Packages didn’t arrive, yet the UPS man insisted he’d rung the bell three times. “Impossible,” I shot back. “I was home.”

My lowest moment came last spring at a reading to promote my first novel. A woman rose and recounted what I later learned was a risqué tale about a CIA spy (the book was an espionage thriller), then asked a question that had the audience in stitches. I squirmed, laughed along, and responded with what was surely a non sequitur, as I’d caught barely a word of what she’d said. In the taxi home, I thought: Enough.

Still, none of this prepared me for sitting in an audiologist’s office at age 43, being told that I suffered severe hearing loss. How severe? In one test, he stood across the room, spoke a series of words in a normal voice, and asked me to repeat them.

“Void,” he said.

“Void,” I repeated.

“Ditch,” he said.

“Ditch.”

Out of 20, I got 16. “Not perfect,” I sniffed, “but hardly severe.”

He repeated the test, now holding a sheet of paper before his face.

“Mumble,” he said.

“Um . . . repeat that one?”

“Mumble mumble.”

“Shoelace?”     

“Nope. Mumbledy mumble.”

This time, I got 6 out of 20. When I couldn’t see his lips move, I missed 70 percent of what he said. 

“How are you even functioning?” he inquired, genuinely mystified.

As a reporter, I’ve spent time on aircraft carriers, in helicopters, in war zones. For two decades, I’ve edited stories on deadline through headphones cranked too loud. But the most likely explanation for my hearing loss? Genetics. My father is hard of hearing. So are his sisters and 96-year-old mother. I’ve long known what loomed in my future—I just hadn’t expected it so early.

My first day with hearing aids, I went about my routine with a sense of wonder. It was astonishing to rediscover that pop songs had words I could sing along to. “Have been bopping to an ’80s dance mix all morning,” I posted on Facebook. “I challenge anyone to deny Debbie Gibson was a genius ahead of her time.” (To which came the inevitable reply: “You need to get your hearing checked.”)

By day two, I was on sensory overload. Starbucks left me near tears—I’d had no idea frothing milk made such a racket. I jogged in Rock Creek Park and for the first time in years didn’t jump every time cyclists whizzed past, because I could hear them coming.

The doctors can’t say whether my hearing has stabilized or will worsen. And hearing aids are an imperfect solution. The experience is different from, say, getting glasses and instantly being able to see. It takes time for the brain to adjust, to relearn the pathways it once knew. You almost never recover all that has been lost.

But you do learn to savor small triumphs. The other day, the UPS driver rang my doorbell and I heard him—and tipped big. I still can’t watch TV without subtitles. But at a play recently, the curtain rose and I slumped in sheer relief at being able to follow the words. Not every line, but enough. I’m holding onto that theater program, a memento of a pleasure once dimmed, now mine once more.

Mary Louise Kelly is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. She has spent two decades reporting on national security and international affairs for NPR and the BBC. As NPR’s intelligence and defense correspondent, she covered wars, terrorism, and rising nuclear powers. Kelly has also anchored NPR programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” She has taught national security and journalism at Georgetown University. Kelly’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Politico, and others. She is the author of two novels: Anonymous Sources and The Bullet.

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Men's Health and Hearing Health are Linked

By Laura Friedman

Hearing health affects so many aspects of a man’s life that routine hearing tests should be part of a healthy lifestyle. Hearing Health Foundation and Better Hearing Institute (BHI) which are encouraging hearing tests during Men’s Health Month in June and Men’s Health Week (June 15-21). Addressing hearing loss can help men safeguard their wellbeing and quality of life. And new research shows that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids enjoy a better overall quality of life and are more likely to be optimistic, have a strong social network, tackle problems actively, and feel engaged in life. At the same time, an increasing number of studies are showing a link between hearing loss and other health conditions.

Men are more likely to suffer from hearing loss than women. But luckily, the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. In fact, most people who currently wear hearing aids say it not only helps their overall ability to communicate effectively in most situations, but it also has a positive effect on their relationships. Most hearing aid users in the workforce even say it has helped their performance on the job.

Other research shows that addressing hearing loss can help protect your earnings. One study showed that the use of hearing aids reduced the risk of income loss dramatically—by 90-100% for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 -77% for those whose hearing loss was severe to moderate.

What’s more, people with hearing difficulty who use hearing aids get more pleasure in doing things and are even more likely to exercise and meet up with friends to socialize!

Men who want to maintain a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle should know that new technological advances have revolutionized hearing aids in recent years. Today’s hearing aids can automatically adjust to all kinds of sound environments and filter out noise. Many are virtually invisible, sitting discreetly and comfortably inside the ear canal. Some are even waterproof, and others are rechargeable. Best of all, many are wireless, so you can stream sound from smartphones, home entertainment systems and other electronics directly into your hearing aid(s) at volumes just right for you.

5 Men’s Health Motivators for Getting a Hearing Test:

  1. Your hearing may say something about your heart. Cardiovascular and hearing health are linked. Some experts say the inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it’s possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body.

  2. Hearing loss is about twice as common in people with diabetes. Studies show that people with diabetes are about twice as likely to have hearing loss. When broken down by age, one study showed that those 60 and younger are at greater risk.

  3. Addressing hearing loss may benefit cognitive function. Research shows a link between hearing loss and dementia, leading experts to believe that interventions, like hearing aids, could potentially delay or prevent dementia. Research is ongoing.

  4. Hearing loss is tied to sleep apnea. Research shows that sleep apnea is significantly associated with hearing loss at both high and low frequencies. Findings suggest that sleep apnea is a systemic disease and is associated with an increased risk of hearing loss, along with a number of diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

  5. Hearing loss is tied to depression. Studies show that hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of depression in adults of all ages, but is most pronounced in 18 to 69 year olds. Research also shows that the use of hearing aids reduces depressive symptoms.

BHI and HHF are encouraging men of all ages to take a free, quick, and confidential online hearing check at BetterHearing.org to help determine if they need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional.

The content for this blog post originated in a press release issued by The Better Hearing Institute on June 3, 2015. 

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Give the Gift of Healthy Hearing

By Yishane Lee

As soon as the holidays roll around every year, I try to think of ways to give and receive gifts that are truly valuable, and not merely the season’s hot toy or other things that, when it comes down to it, you don’t really, really need. (I have used last year’s immersion blender exactly once. Yipes!)

As I try to remind my kids, the season is about gift giving, not receiving, and this year, I’ll talk to my family about giving the gift of healthy hearing. An annual hearing test taken every year around the holidays is the perfect way to show your family you care, and for them to show you they care.

Why? Undiagnosed and untreated hearing loss has been shown to detrimentally affect personal relationships, as the Better Hearing Institute reports. “Research demonstrates the considerable negative social, psychological, cognitive, and health effects of untreated hearing loss with far-reaching implications that go well beyond hearing alone. In fact, those who have difficulty hearing can experience such distorted and incomplete communication that it seriously impacts their professional and personal lives, at times leading to isolation and withdrawal.”

And it’s well known that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders. The social isolation that can come with untreated hearing loss may be one reason why hearing loss has been linked to dementia, according to a 2011 study led by Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D., at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. It is also possible that whatever leads to dementia may also cause hearing loss. Or, the brain’s constant efforts to understand and interpret sounds eventually taxes the brain, leading to dementia.

I don’t mean to be such a downer in a time of holiday cheer. But since having a hearing loss can be even more challenging during the holidays, when family and friends gather and when the noise level can be even louder, you owe it to yourself and your family—and vice versa—to get your hearing checked by a hearing professional this holiday season.

If you’re really looking to give a gift that will impact a cure for hearing loss and tinnitus, consider a gift to HHF.  You can make a gift in memory or in honor of a loved one, contribute to an item on our wish list, or fundraise for a cure and ask your family and friends to donate to HHF in lieu of holiday gifts to you.

While you are doing some online shopping, consider using Amazon Smile where a portion of your proceeds will be automatically donated to HHF at no cost to you! Just register (or sign in to your Amazon account) and choose HHF as your charity of choice. Also, be sure to avoid these toxic toys—including noisy toys that have the potential to cause hearing damage over time.

Here’s hoping you and yours enjoy a happy, healthy holiday season!

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When Was Your Last Hearing Test?

By Tara Guastella

Nearly 50 million Americans experience some degree of hearing loss and tinnitus. However, on average a person will have trouble hearing for 7 to 10 years before seeing a hearing health professional.

Why do we wait so long to have a hearing test? If you had trouble with your vision, would you wait to see an eye doctor? Probably not. Many feel that hearing loss is something that only affects the elderly, but nowadays a greater number of young adults are being afflicted by hearing loss (and tinnitus). One in 5 teenagers has a hearing loss and that number will likely increase over the next two decades.

The biggest likely reason for the increase among young adults is exposure to loud sounds. Approximately 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises at work or in leisure activities.

A recent study in New York City found that young adults (ages 18 to 44) who routinely listen to loud music with headphones (defined as loud use five to seven days per week for four or more hours per day) were also more likely to have hearing loss and tinnitus. Hearing loss among adolescents has also increased more than 30 percent between 1988 and 2006. The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommends reducing the volume, limiting your listening time, and taking regular breaks when using headphones. Never listen at maximum volume.

In honor of National Audiology Awareness Month & National Protect Your Hearing Month this October, schedule an appointment with an audiologist or otolaryngologist (ENT) to have your (or a family member’s) hearing checked. You can find a hearing healthcare provider in your area here. By having a hearing test, you’re taking the first step toward making hearing health a priority and ensuring you don’t miss wonderful sounds, such as hearing your family’s voices.

The American Academy of Audiology also provides a number of resources for you to raise awareness of protecting your hearing this month. From facts sheets on different forms of hearing loss to web tools to posters, you can find a variety of resources here. Take action in your community and spread the word about the importance of hearing healthcare today.

Please share with us how you will be protecting your hearing this month in the comments below.

1 Hearing Problems and Heaphone Use in New York City; NYC Vital Signs, NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, July 2013, Volume 12, No. 2: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/survey/survey-2013noise.pdf

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