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Memory loss linked to hearing loss

Studies show that a person with an uncorrected hearing loss, who is trying hard to listen and make sense of what’s being said, does poorly at remembering what has been said. It appears that the brain shifts its focus, in order to comprehend real-time speech, leaving very little to remember what’s been said.  Experts call this ‘Cognitive Load’ and it can be described as similar to streaming video on a slow Internet connection, where the results are frustrating, choppy and nearly useless.

Here are ten tips to reduce your brain’s cognitive load and increase the success of your connection with friends and family:

  • Have your hearing tested if you suspect it’s not as acute as it used to be and you have increased problems understanding.
  • Maximize your hearing ability by wearing hearing aids if you have a hearing loss
  • Reduce multiple activities so you can concentrate on one thing at a time; cooking the meal while trying to carry on a conversation.
  • Try to relax. Find a quiet spot and take a break from noise when agitated.
  • It’s not necessary to understand every word that is said.  Use your eyes to pick up non-verbal visual cues to help what is being said.  And instead of asking people to repeat, ask them to rephrase.  Often times it’s only one word that makes the difference between understanding or not.
  • Trying to hide a disability is stressful. Therefore, talk about your hearing loss and explain your situation to others so that they know you might not understand everything said
  • Others don’t judge you by your disabilities but by how well you overcome them
  • Avoid being frustrated by people with soft voices in noisy environments, either find a quieter place to have a conversation. Face the directly and be close.
  • Familiarize yourself with your hearing aid controls, and which settings are best in noisy environments
  • Anticipate the chances of hearing aid failing at the worst possible time by prior proper maintenance and operating on fresh batteries

Heart Trouble and hearing loss connection

Numerous scientific studies in recent years confirm the link between heart disease and hearing health. The connection seems to come from the small but required amount of oxygen rich blood circulating through the inner ear (cochlea).

When cardiovascular health problems cause changes in the heart’s efficiency, it can be reflected in a person’s hearing health as well. A loss of hearing sensitivity can be one of the earliest symptoms of heart disease.

To potentially predict signs of heart related issues, an annual hearing check to monitor your hearing health can be considered a smart early detection system for potential heart health problems down the road.

As a result of the compelling body of evidence linking the heart and the hearing, there has become an increased collaboration among cardiologists, hearing care providers and other healthcare professionals – working together to find solutions.

There are five main warning signs of an impending cardiovascular event. Their continued presence oftentimes means that a physician should be consulted and that a person may be in danger.

The warning signs are;

  1. Chest pain
  2. Light-headedness, dizziness, and other pain
  3. Changes to your ability to exercise
  4. Heavy or labored breathing
  5. Feeling unwell or fatigued

Since you may already in trouble by the time one or more of the above warning signs manifests itself,  it is reassuring that there is something that can alert you to a heart problem much earlier? The earlier a heart problem is detected the more likely it becomes that you can take steps to avoid suffering a heart attack.

Researchers such as David R. Friedland, MD, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee have concluded that the onset of hearing loss for people even as young as their forties can be just such an early warning. This means that if you notice sounds becoming little less clear, or that the TV needs to be turned up a little louder, getting your hearing checked may be a lifesaver.

Here are 4 other facts about the relationship between your heart and your ears.

  1.  Both heart disease and untreated hearing loss are linked to increased risks of depression. However, among those with hearing loss that use hearing aids are more likely to be a more optimistic and positive outlook on life as they become more reengaged in their lives.
  2. Increased levels of exercise is beneficial for both your heart and your ears. By keeping your body active through walking, or anything that increases your physical activity you are also helping to keep blood pumping strongly through your heart as well as improving oxygen rich blood circulation to your ears.
  3. Smoking has known links to numerous cardiovascular problems and also plays a role in increased hearing loss risks as well. It is unclear whether or not the toxins in tobacco smoke affect hearing directly, however the damaging effects they have on respiratory and heart health are clear and this in turn has a negative effect on the ears.
  4. Healthy eating habits keep both your heart and hearing in better shape. Diets rich in the proper nutrients, vitamins and minerals can help our bodies and heart in countless ways, especially when combined with an exercise regimen. For example, diets containing increased amounts of antioxidants (vegetables) and omega 3 fatty acids (wild fish) can help protect skin, tissues and organs as well as strengthen blood vessels.

Remember to schedule an annual hearing screening along with your annual physical, dental checkup and eye exam, you can help protect your hearing health. If you have a hearing loss, wearing hearing aids will further protect your health and aid your happiness.

Personality changes with hearing loss, study shows

People tend to become less outgoing as they age, with a new study from the University of Gothenburg indicating this change is more apparent in those suffering from hearing loss.

Researchers studied 400 individuals 80-98 years old over the course of six years. Subjects were tested for mental and physical prowess every two years, including personality characteristics such as emotional stability and extraversion. Results indicated that even if emotional stability stayed the same during the study period, participants became less outgoing.

Researchers could not connect the changes to most physical or cognitive impairments, or to difficulty finding social activities. Hearing loss was the only thing linked to reduced extraversion, and use of hearing aids did not affect this link — indicating to researchers that providing support in the use of such hearing aids is key.

​​​​​​​”To our knowledge, this is the first time a link between hearing and personality changes has been established in longitudinal studies…. If the perceived quality of social interaction goes down, it may eventually affect whether and how we relate to others,” said Anne Ingeborg Berg, PhD, licensed psychologist and researcher at the Department of Psychology, University of Gothenburg.

“Our previous studies have shown that outgoing individuals are happier with their lives. It is hypothesized that an outgoing personality reflects a positive approach to life, but it also probably shows how important it is for most people to share both joy and sadness with others,” she added.

Hearing Loss leads to Fall Risk

Hearing Loss and Fall Risk studies:

This article explains the links between falls and hearing loss and was originally published in Aging Answers magazine, March 2015.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths for Ohioans age 65 and older.  Falls among older adults cost Ohio residents $646 million in 2012. Moreover, the rate of falling has been increasing.  From 2000 to 2012, Ohioans aged 65+ experienced a 167% increase in the number of fatal falls and a 136% increase in the fall death rate.  On average, 2.7 older Ohioans suffered fatal falls each day in 2012.

But there’s a ray of hope in this disconcerting data.  Most falls can be prevented.  And preventing falls is the number one thing you can do to keep your loved ones aging safe at home.

Hearing Loss and Fall Risk

Two recent studies point to a critical link between hearing loss and an increased risk of falls.

In one study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that people with only a 25 dB hearing loss (considered mild), were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling, even when adjusting for other factors, such as age and inner ear (vestibular) function.  The same study showed that as hearing loss increased beyond the 25 dB loss, so did the chances of falling.

Another study from Washington University in St. Louis showed that patients with hearing aids in both ears performed better on balance tests when their hearing aids were ON compared with when they were OFF.

Hearing Check-ups – An Easy Way to Identify Fall Risk

Although the NIH reports that 47% of adults 75 and older have a hearing impairment, the good news is that it is easy to find out how much loss is present, and that the super-majority of people with hearing loss can effectively be treated with hearing-assistive devices, especially hearing aids.

A simple step to identify and reduce fall risk is to insist mom and dad get a hearing check-up.  This easy test is non-invasive, painless, and takes less than and an hour or two if you have a convenient location to get a hearing evaluation nearby.

Some Audiologists and hearing aid fitters do not charge anything for a hearing evaluation, and will share the audiogram and other test results to help you determine if you have a hearing loss, if any exists, so be sure to ask about costs and what you can expect when you schedule.

Hearing Aids – An Ounce of Prevention

This next step is critical but by no means easy, given the ambivalence many older adults feel about hearing aids.  If the hearing loss is treatable with hearing aids or another assistive device — make sure they wear them!

While hearing aid performance continues to rise, some prices and sizes have fallen, meaning they’re more affordable and discreet than ever.  If their current aids are not working properly, demand the assistance you deserve to make sure the aids are functioning, have been fitted correctly, and proper training in use and care was provided.  Above all, help set realistic expectation since no assistive device is capable of returning hearing to a pristine state.

 Consider Home Modifications

“Fall prevention is absolutely critical to remaining safely in their homes.” says Brian Pritchard, a home modification specialist for HandyPro of Cleveland.

“That TV commercial we’ve all seen, of someone who has fallen and can’t get up, is giving people a solution that only helps them AFTER they’ve experienced an injury.  We want people to prevent falls from happening in the first place.”

Start with the basics, like installing grab bars inside and outside the bathing area, and near the toilet.  “Many people use hand towel holders for support or to pull themselves up, and are pulling them right out of the wall and down to the floor when they fall. You need something properly installed and designed to support enough weight to keep you safe”.

Final tips to reduce fall risk

  1. Get your hearing tested annually and wear your hearing aids on a regular basis.
  2. Declutter to make the home safer and install proper safety handrails and other assistive devices.
  3. Keep active.  Begin a regular exercise program and seek assistance from community fitness programs if you need help getting things kick-started.
  4. Use special precautions when venturing outside in the winter.  Ice can be treacherous and the body dehydrates faster in the colder weather.
  5. Have your health care provider review your medicines for any that may cause dizziness or fainting.

 

Caring for hearing aids, TIPS

To get the longest life out of your hearing aids, follow these tips..

Protect your hearing aids from high heat, ear wax, and excessive moisture.

Don’t expose them to direct sunlight, and never leave them in a car, especially in direct sunlight.  Avoid other locations where they might be subjected to extreme temperatures.

Avoid excessive moisture. It’s a good idea to remove them if you’ll be exercising vigorously or engaging in any other type of activity which will cause you to sweat excessively. And of course, do not wear them while bathing, swimming and in the rain wear a hat or use an umbrella to protect them.

Clean your hearing aids at night when you take them out. Wipe them with a soft, dry cloth and inspect the tube tip opening to see if any wax has accumulated. If it has, use a hearing aid brush and pick to gently remove the wax.

NEVER use any type of alcohol or cleaning solvent for cleaning, as solvents can be very harmful to the plastic material that the hearing aid is made of.

Hairsprays and hair gels can also harm the material and can cause clogging of the microphone openings. It is wise to insert the hearing aid after the hairspray dries.

If you follow these simple tips you can keep your hearing aid working properly for many years to come.

Diplomats’ Hearing Loss caused in Cuba investigated

WASHINGTON — A senior federal law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday that several U.S agencies are investigating allegations that Cuban officials directed some kind of ultrasound energy at American diplomats in the Havana embassy that left several with damaged hearing. 

Hearing Loss Audiogram

The official said the State Department’s office of Diplomatic Security is leading the investigation. The FBI has one person in Havana, a legal attaché with the American embassy, who can help. The FBI may be asked to provide technical assistance in the probe.

 ‘Acoustic attack’ in US embassy in Cuba blamed for diplomats’ hearing loss 2:31

One State Department official confirmed reports that the “incidents” involved symptoms of hearing loss. And a Cuban government official told NBC News that the Americans had complained of an acoustic “incident.”

The State Department has also left open the possibility of a third country being involved. Iran, North Korea and Russia all have a significant diplomatic presence in Cuba.

“We don’t have any definitive answers about the source or the cause of what we consider to be incidents,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday.

She said that there are a “variety of physical symptoms in these American citizens who work for the U.S. government. We take those incidents very seriously, and there is an investigation currently under way.”

Cuban officials have denied directing any actions against the diplomats and have launched their own investigation.

“Cuba has never, nor would it ever, allow that the Cuban territory be used for any action against accredited diplomatic agents or their families,” the Cuban foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday. “It reiterates its willingness to cooperate in the clarification of this situation.”

Also on Thursday, Canadian officials said one of their diplomats in Cuba was treated for hearing loss. The Canadian government is “aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and U.S. diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working — including with US and Cuban authorities – to ascertain the cause,” a spokesperson told the Associated Press.

The U.S. first learned of the health issues toward the end of 2016, more than a year after the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana.

Nauert said the Americans working in Cuba had returned stateside for “medical reasons.”

Image: An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba
An exterior view of the U.S. Embassy is seen in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters file

Two Cuban officials in Washington were asked to leave the U.S. in May as a result of the incidents.

The development threatens to set back relations between the two countries, but the U.S. embassy in Havana remains open.

The Cuban government has a responsibility and an obligation under the Geneva Convention to protect our diplomats,” Nauert said. “That is part of the reason why this is such a major concern of ours, why we take this so seriously…in addition to the protection and security of Americans.”

“What this requires is providing medical examinations to these people,” Nauert said. “Initially, when they’d started reporting what I will just call symptoms, it took time to figure out what it was, and this is still ongoing. So we’re monitoring it.”

A U.S. government official said several colleagues at the U.S. embassy in Havana were evacuated back to the United States for hearing problems and other symptoms over the past six months. Some subsequently got hearing aids, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Washington, D.C. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the alleged incidents violated international norms: “The Cuban government has been harassing U.S. personnel working in Havana for decades. This has not stopped with President Obama’s appeasement. Personal harm to U.S. officials shows the extent the Castro regime will go and clearly violates international norms.”

Washington and Havana re-established diplomatic relations in 2015 after more than five decades of hostilities, re-opening embassies in each other’s capitals and establishing a new chapter of engagement between the former Cold War foes.

President Donald Trump rolled back part of his predecessor Barack Obama’s policy toward Cuba, but has left in place many of the changes, including the re-opened U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Extend hearing aid battery life, tip

There was a recent discovery to make hearing aid  batteries last 85% longer. 

And who made this discovery?

Would you believe it was a 14-year-old boy.

His name is Ethan Manuell of Rochester, Minnesota, He learned that batteries can last up to 85 percent longer when left exposed to oxygen, after removing the adhesive tab, before being inserted into the hearing aid itself.

Zinc Air hearing aid batteries have a tab or sticker attached to the back of them.

Ethan learned that the best way to improve battery life is to remove the tab from the back of the battery , then wait five minutes before inserting the battery into the hearing aid.

This will allow ample time to air-charge the battery to receive essential oxygen.

So, next time you need to change your batteries, try his trick so you can get more life out of them.

Decrease hearing loss risk, EAT MORE FISH

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a strong connection between eating two or more servings of some fish per week and a decreased risk of hearing loss.

Researchers analyzed almost two decades’ of data from 65,215 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II. In the study, women self-reported on their diet, as well as about hearing loss, among many other things.

In this prospective study among 65,215 US women, we observed a lower risk of hearing loss among women who consumed 2 or more servings of fish per week. Consumption of any specific type of fish (tuna, dark-meat fish, light-meat fish, or shellfish) tended to be associated with lower risk. In addition, higher intake of long-chain omega-3 (fatty acids) PUFAs was inversely associated with risk. These findings suggest that diet may be important in the pathogenesis of preventing or reducing hearing loss.

Evidence suggests regular fish consumption (1–2 servings per week) may protect against several diseases, such as coronary artery disease (40), sudden cardiac death (41), ischemic stroke (21), atrial fibrillation (42), cognitive decline (43), and dementia (44). The proposed benefits of fish intake may be attributable in large part to the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that fish provide. Finfish and shellfish are the chief dietary sources of the major long-chain omega-3 PUFAs, EPA (20:5n−3) and DHA (22:6n−3), often referred to as “marine” fatty acids. Intake is particularly essential for DHA, because it cannot be synthesized appreciably after infancy (45). DHA appears to be important during auditory neuro-development, and higher dietary intake of DHA in breast milk or supplemented formula during early infancy is associated with accelerated maturation of auditory brainstem response latencies (4647).

To read  the entire study click here  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/5/1371.full

What are binaural hearing aids?

Binaural hearing aids is the professional way of saying, “Two EAR hearing aids”.  

​If you have bilateral hearing loss (loss of hearing in both ears), wearing two hearing aids is very important and the best solution.

Here are a few reasons why this is:

1) Better understanding of speech: Research shows that people who wear two hearing aids understand conversations and speech significantly better than those who wear just one, especially in noisy situations.

2) Better ability to tell where sound is coming from: This is called localization, and it helps you determine where traffic sound is coming from or where your grandchildren are playing.

3) Better sound quality: When you listen to a stereo system you get great sound. Wearing two hearing aids gives you similar results and increases your hearing direction  from 180 degrees to 360 degrees.

4) Makes hearing less of a strain and tiring and listening more pleasant: You won’t have to strain to hear with your ‘good’ ear, making life much more relaxing. There have been studies that show not correcting hearing deficiency can contribute to Alzheimer’s.

​​​​​​​5) Keeps both ears active which can help reduce further hearing loss, (or loss of understanding): Research shows that if you don’t use your hearing, you lose it, or effective function. By only wearing one hearing aid, you can cause further damage to the other ear, or loss of discrimination. The use of two hearing aids helps eliminate these problems in focus for greater clarity.

So, if you have hearing loss in both ears, but you’re trying to get by with just one hearing aid (or, none at all), you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Will a hearing aid help or hurt my hearing loss?

Will a hearing aid help my hearing loss?

Most people with hearing loss can be successfully treated with hearing aids. Medical treatments and surgical procedures are helpful for only five percent of adults with hearing loss.

Hearing aids cannot cure hearing loss, but they CAN help you hear better again, may reduce further hearing loss and loss of understanding.

Hearing is a complex process that begins as sound waves with the ears and ends up in the brain where information is received, stored as memory and “decoded” into something that we understand as sound.

When you add hearing aids to boost hearing, the brain suddenly registers long-forgotten sounds. Adapting to hearing aid amplification requires time, training and patience. You are essentially retraining your brain to interpret and recognize sounds, focus on some and filter others out – just as you did previously when your hearing was normal.

Hearing aids can improve your ability to hear and communicate with the world around you, but they cannot “cure” your hearing loss – just as glasses do not “cure” your nearsightedness or farsightedness. With continued use they can help prevent the active loss of the memory of speech sounds, called REGRESSION. Just as you might forget a second language if you don’t use it, so also you will forget the sounds of speech that you can no longer hear, unless your hearing aids allow you to hear and understand them.

Hearing aids are tools to help you manage your hearing loss problem, and while they can contribute significantly to an improved quality of life, they are not perfect. Even with successfully fitted hearing aids, you might still have some difficulties hearing well in some situations. With patience you will find ways to adapt to your new hearing aids, including watching people more closely as they talk and keeping background noise to a minimum when possible.

The key to success is to consistently use your hearing aids, read aloud to refresh your hearing memory of the speech sounds that you have been missing, stay as close as practical to what you want to focus on, keep your ears and hearing aids clean and be patient as you relearn to interpret the sounds that you are once again hearing.