Beat the Blues with a Hearing Test

Need to boost your mood? Check your hearing.

Here’s why: Hearing loss is linked to a greater risk of depression in adults of all ages, especially in 50 to 69 year olds. But studies show treating hearing loss can boost quality of life.

People with hearing loss who use hearing aids are less likely to feel down, depressed or hopeless, research from the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) shows — and they get more pleasure from doing things.

Luckily, the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. And tremendous advances in technology — even in just the last couple of years — have made today’s hearing aids better than ever, motivating many to get a full hearing test from a hearing healthcare professional.

Sleek, cutting-edge, present-day hearing aids allow people to hear more clearly the richness of sounds and conversation from all directions while filtering out background noise. Many sit discreetly and comfortably inside the ear canal, out of sight. And many are wireless, so they can stream sound from smartphones, home entertainment systems, conference-room speakerphones, hearing loops and other electronics — directly into your hearings aid(s) at volumes just right for you. Some are waterproof, and others are rechargeable.

So if you’ve been fighting the doldrums, make sure it’s not unaddressed hearing loss that’s been weighing you down. Get a hearing test at Peninsula Hearing Center. And be inspired by these five ways that treating hearing loss may help put some spring back in your step:

  • Keeping a positive outlook: People with hearing loss who use hearing aids are more likely to be optimistic and feel engaged in life, BHI research suggests. Many even say they feel more confident and better about themselves.
  • Getting out and enjoying life: People with hearing difficulty who use hearing aids not only get more pleasure from doing things, but are more likely to exercise and meet up with friends to socialize, BHI research reports. Most even say it has helped their overall quality of life.
  • Cultivating relationships and social connections: Using hearing aids can have a positive effect on your relationships and ability to participate in group activities. In fact, people who wear hearing aids are more likely to have a strong social network.
  • Communicating effectively: Using present-day hearing aids can help people with hearing loss in their overall ability to communicate in most situations. Most who bought their hearing aids within the past five years say they’re pleased with their ability to hear in the workplace; at home with family members; in conversations in both small and large groups; when watching TV with others; in lecture halls, theaters or concert halls; when riding in a car; and even when trying to follow conversations in the presence of noise.
  • Maintaining a can-do attitude at work and at home: BHI research shows that those with hearing difficulty who use hearing aids are more likely to tackle problems actively. And most hearing aid users in the workforce say it has helped their performance on the job. In fact, earlier BHI research found that using hearing aids reduced the risk of income loss by 90 to 100 percent for those with milder hearing loss, and from 65 to 77 percent for those with severe to moderate hearing loss. People with untreated hearing loss can lose as much as $30,000 in income annually, the study found.

Contact the Peninsula Hearing Center for a checkup and beat the blues!

Hearing and your Heart

Your heart is the prime mover in your body. A healthy heart is the cornerstone of a healthy life. Many studies have tied the health of your ears to the health of your cardiovascular system. Your ears can be a window into the overall health of your heart.

The connections between heart and hearing health are significant, as cardiovascular disease can affect your ability to hear and understand speech. Diminished hearing can be caused by restricted blood flow to the inner ear. A restriction of blood supply to your ears can cause permanent damage: Depriving the hearing organs of oxygen can compound other damaging factors, including noise, smoking, and certain types of drugs.

The connection between heart and hearing
The association between heart health and hearing health is related to blood circulation in the body. Circulatory problems can affect any number of bodily processes, particularly in the most delicate areas of the body — like the cochlea, the delicate inner-ear organ responsible for sending sound signals to the brain. Conditions that restrict blood supply to the cochlea can starve the inner ear of necessary oxygen and permanently damage hearing.

Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease causes hardening of the arteries, which affects your circulation and, in turn, could damage your hearing. Research suggests a link between hearing loss and cardiovascular disease may be due to the inner ear’s sensitivity to circulation. The disease causes hardening of the arteries, which affects your circulation and, in turn, your hearing.

If you have a history of heart disease, it’s important to have a baseline hearing evaluation to monitor changes in your hearing throughout the course of the disease. Also, if you have diabetes — particularly Type 2 — you are at a greater risk of heart disease and stroke, making you vulnerable to hearing loss.

High blood pressure can lead to problems in the sensitive cochlea. Because of the cochlea’s tiny size, the veins and arteries carrying blood through the organ are among the tiniest in the body — and therefore important to protect in order to preserve healthy hearing.

David R. Friedland, M.D., Ph.D., professor and vice chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, believes that “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.”

If you have diabetes, use tobacco, or have hypertension, Dr. Dena urges you to schedule a regular hearing checkup. Your health is our primary concern.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss — Can It Be Prevented?

Yes! Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is completely preventable. All of us should understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health in our lives everyday.

tooloudTo protect your hearing, remember these three words: Walk, Block and Turn:

Walk away from loud sounds.
Block noise by wearing earplugs or other hearing protective devices when involved in a loud activity (Peninsula Hearing Center is your go-to place for earplugs! Ask us.)
Turn the sound down on portable music devices. Listening to an music device at maximum volume (usually around 105 decibels) for more than 15 minutes per day may cause a permanent hearing loss.
– Know which noises can cause damage (those at or above 85 decibels.)
– Be alert to hazardous noise in the environment.
– Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own.
– Make family, friends, and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise.
If you suspect hearing loss, call Peninsula Hearing Center for a hearing examination today.

Your Hearing and Your Social Life

If you think that a hearing loss will end your social life, think again.
It’s more than possible to have a happy dating life with hearing loss. Hearing aids allow you to live fully without affecting your favorite activities. If dating is one of those activities, why should you sacrifice dating for hearing loss? Your pathway to love will not be impeded. It might even be improved!

Successful dating with hearing loss is about feeling confident. Understand that nobody is perfect, and that your date could have insecurities, too. You might need a hearing aid, but perhaps your date requires reading glasses. Before exploring a new relationship, try to remember the positive qualities you have to offer a partner.Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 3.01.33 PM

While hearing loss could make certain activities that are hallmarks of the dating world slightly more complicated — such as watching a movie — there are many other options. Here are tips to make sure your date goes as smoothly as possible.

Choose a quiet spot
The popular new restaurant that received great reviews may be an exciting place to meet, but reconsider if the venue will most likely be busy and noisy. Instead, choose a small, cozy place or consider going out on a weeknight earlier to avoid the evening rush. This helps ensure less noise and fewer distractions. If you’re familiar with the restaurant, try to get a table away from the kitchen.

Talk about hearing loss
Hearing loss isn’t always a condition you can easily conceal, especially if you accidently respond in error or mis-hear. Consider telling your date about your hearing loss early so you can both relax and enjoy the rest of your evening together.

It’s okay if you stumble a bit
It’s okay to ask your partner to repeat something if you didn’t hear it. Don’t pretend you can hear clearly when you can’t. This leads to further misunderstandings. Learning that your partner is a patient communicator could be a real key to the success of an effective relationship.

Maintain eye contact
Keeping eye contact helps you understand and hear what your date is saying, and also helps boost your confidence. Eye contact builds trust, which is important when you’re meeting someone new for the first time.

Remember to relax
If you present your hearing aid as just another modern tool that helps you get through the day, your date probably won’t mind, and might be impressed that you’re able to take charge of your health in a positive manner.

Maybe the most crucial part of dating with hearing loss is to remember that you have plenty to offer, and that hearing impairment does not define who you are. A great partner will be understanding about your condition.

If you have questions about hearing loss, or want to know if you have a loss and what to do next, contact Dr. Dena Riso at Peninsula Hearing Center.

Seven Summer Activities that Can Injure Your Hearing

Summer is typically a season of fun and outdoor exuberance. But there are hazards in the summer sun, including hearing hazards. Here are seven summer activities that can cause damage to your hearing. Be aware and avoid their dangers.ducky

Fireworks displays
From Memorial Day to Labor Day in the U.S., fireworks light up the summer sky. Most fireworks have sound as high as 125 decibels, which is loud enough to damage your hearing. In addition to wearing earplugs yourself, protect your child’s hearing. The noise levels of fireworks displays can them unsafe for babies and toddlers, but if you must bring them to a fireworks show, cover their ears with inexpensive lightweight foam-filled ear cups. For older children, use earplugs.

Putting the top down and taking the convertible out for a summer ride is classic fun. But the roaring of the engine, the noise of other vehicles, and the rushing wind can put a damper on your drive when you find yourself experiencing tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) or other symptoms of hearing damage. It’s not safe to wear earplugs while driving, so roll the windows up to reduce some of the noise, and wear a hat or head covering that shields the ears.

Target shooting
With summer weather here, those who enjoy target shooting will partake in their favorite sport. It’s estimated that as many as 40 million Americans enjoy target shooting each year. Nearly all firearms create noise above 140 dB, enough to cause immediate hearing damage, and even the smaller caliber firearms are above 120 dB. Always wear your earplugs when shooting, and if possible, double up and wear earmuffs as well.

Baseball games
In the United States, baseball is a time-honored summer tradition. In an effort to pump up the excitement, stadiums venues are louder than ever. In addition to crowd noise, mega-speakers blasting music and fireworks celebrating home runs can make watching the game a deafening experience. A recent University of Michigan study found decibel levels of major league baseball games averaged 94 decibels, but could get as high as 114 dB. At 94 dB, anything more than 30 minutes of exposure puts you at risk of damaging your hearing. Wearing earplugs can reduce the risk of hearing damage.

You might not think of a parade as being a risk to hearing, but infants and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to the noise. Parades are a favorite summertime activity for families, but the shorter ear canals of very young children can make parade noise a significant danger to a child’s hearing. Protect your little ones from all of the marching bands, sirens, and loud vehicles with simple foam-filled ear cups. And you should protect your ears with a pair of earplugs, too.

Yard work
Most equipment used for yard work measures between 80 dB and 105 dB and has the potential to damage hearing. Proper precautions can help you protect your hearing while maintaining your yard this summer. Electric equipment is quieter than gas-powered, and proper maintenance of equipment can reduce the noise level. Always wear earplugs when operating lawn equipment such as hedge trimmers, lawn mowers, or leaf blowers.

Air shows
The clear skies and comfortable temperatures of summer can create a perfect framework for the excitement of an airshow. But being close to the aerial action can be dangerous for your hearing, as well as that of your kids.
Though the aerial stunts can be breathtaking, the noise of the jet engines quickly becomes ear-splitting when pilots venture close to the ground. Young children especially are vulnerable to hearing damage since shorter ear canals cause the sound pressure entering the ear to be greater. Remember to bring ear protection for the entire family, in addition to sunscreen, water and comfy chairs.

Enjoy all that summer has to offer this year, but protect your hearing at the same time. If you are experiencing ringing or buzzing, be sure to contact Dr. Dena Riso immediately.

Rock on this summer, safely.

According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion teenagers and young adults around the world are at risk of hearing loss with to exposure to unsafe noise levels. Loud entertainment activities, such as nightclubs and concerts are part of the problem, and a new study from the Netherlands confirms it — only a few hours of exposure to loud music without hearing protection can have a long term, damaging effect on hearing.

Summer is here, and many of us will take advantage of the warm weather to see our favorite bands at music festivals. Spending the day at an live music venue is exciting, but there is a downside; with sound levels near 100 decibels (dB), there is a real risk of hearing damage.

The Netherlands study was devised as a randomized, single blind clinical trial, conducted at an outdoor music festival in Amsterdam in late 2015. The goal was to determine if the use of earplugs had an effect on temporary threshold shift (a temporary loss of hearing). Fifty-one volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two groups: 25 wore earplugs to the concert and 26 were assigned to attend the concert without any hearing protection. After the 4.5 hour concert, at which sound pressure levels averaged 100 decibels, both groups received hearing tests to determine if there was a measurable loss of hearing, and if so to what degree.concert

The study results were significant. Of the group that did not wear ear protection during the concert, 22 out of their collective 52 ears experienced a TTS at frequencies over 3 and 4 kHz, as opposed to only 4 out of the collective 50 ears of the group who wore hearing protection. And the rate of tinnitus was 40 percent in the non-earplug wearing group, as opposed to only 12 percent in the group who wore earplugs.

Results of the study strongly suggest that earplugs are effective in preventing temporary hearing loss as a result of excessively loud music levels, and their use should be encouraged. Concertgoers seeing one of the most popular bands on tour this summer, Pearl Jam, will notice a new addition among the t-shirts and other merchandise: earplugs. After taking notice of the prevalence of hearing loss among musicians and music lovers, Pearl Jam joined forces with MusiCares to provide earplugs to all attendees of their upcoming concerts for a minimal suggested donation.

“Don’t be careless and lazy at loud rock shows or cranking tunes through an old Walkman like I was thirty years ago. Wear hearing protection or you’ll end up with a ringing in both ears every night when you go to bed, or worse when you are trying to enjoy the serene quiet of an empty desert or forest, again like me,” said Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament.

If you have attended a loud concert and sounds are muffled or you are experiencing ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus), the good news is that it is most likely only temporary. But temporary doesn’t necessarily mean there is no long-term effect. It is important to allow your ears a period of quiet rest and recovery if you are experiencing TTS. During this period of time it is crucial not to expose yourself to any loud sounds. After such a period of rest and recovery, hearing should return to normal. The recovery time for a temporary threshold shift varies, and could take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Be sure to seek help from Dr. Dena if your hearing does not return to normal after a few days.

Avoiding Swimmer’s Ear

It’s technically referred to as acute external otitis or otitis externa, but most of us know it as Swimmer’s ear, an infection of the outer ear canal. The infection is called swimmer’s ear because it frequently develops due to water remaining in the ears after swimming. This damp environment can promote microbial growth.
EarPain23432Swimmer’s ear may also be caused by inserting your fingertips, Q-tips, or other objects into the ear. These items can abrade or damage the delicate ear canal lining, leaving it vulnerable to infections. It’s important to be familiar with the symptoms of swimmer’s ear, as it can lead to severe complications if left untreated.
Swimmer’s ear occurs because the ear’s natural defenses (glands that secrete cerumen, a water-repellant, waxy film) get overloaded. Bacteria can get established in the ears for a variety of different reasons like extra moisture or scratches to the lining of the ear canal. Activities that increase the odds of developing swimmer’s ear include swimming, especially in untreated water such as lakes or ponds, excessive cleaning of the ear canal with cotton swabs or other objects, use of ear buds or hearing aids, and some allergies.
Signs of mild swimmer’s ear include itching in the ear, slight pain or discomfort made worse by tugging on the ear, redness, and a colorless liquid draining from the ear. Moderate symptoms include increased itching and pain and discharge of pus-like fluids. Extreme cases of swimmer’s ear are accompanied by symptoms such as fever, severe pain which may radiate into other parts of the head, neck and face, swelling redness of the outer ear or lymph nodes, and possibly blockage of the ear canal. Side effects of untreated swimmer’s ear can be serious, including short-term hearing loss, bone and cartilage loss, long-term ear infections, and the spread of deep-tissue infections to other areas of the body. If you experience even the milder indicators of swimmer’s ear, it is a good idea to see Dr. Dena right away.
During your appointment, the doctor will look for indications of swimmer’s ear with an otoscope, which allows her to look deep into your ear. The doctor will also check at the same time to see if there is any damage to the eardrum itself.

Remember these 4 tips to avoid swimmer’s ear:
• Dry your ears thoroughly after bathing or swimming.
• Avoid swimming in open, untreated bodies of water.
• Don’t insert any foreign objects in your ears in an attempt to clean them.
• Contact Dr. Dena if you believe you are experiencing symptoms of swimmer’s ear.

Caring for Your Hearing Aid

Special, regular care is required to ensure that your hearing aid functions properly. Dr. Dena will show you how to check yours for best performance. Every device is different, and some, such as the in-ear Lyric, are virtually maintenance-free. Ask the doctor how you can obtain the necessary items and information for effective maintenance.

Here are some tips:

Battery check: Batteries should last from 7 to 14 days. Using your battery tester, check that batteries are at full strength so your hearing aids work at top performance. Always keep a spare set of batteries with you. Keep them in a place that’s cool and dry. Discard the batteries one at a time. Hearing aid batteries can be toxic and present a choking hazard, so handle them carefully and dispose of them properly, especially around pets and children.

earsClean regularly: Use a soft, dry cloth. Check for obvious and hidden dirt and grime. Earmolds should be removed from your hearing aids, then cleaned with a gentle soap solution. Dry them carefully — use a forced-air blower (not your hair dryer). Check to be sure they’re dry before reattaching them to your hearing aids.

Minimize moisture: For proper function, your hearing device must stay dry. A hearing aid drying container will reduce moisture from building up inside the hearing aids and will extend their life. Be sure to remove the batteries from the hearing aid before placing them in their storage containers.

Listening checks: Listen to the hearing aid every day. Using a listening tube, you can listen to the hearing aids to be sure that they sound clear and not scratchy or faint. Dr. Dena will teach you how to listen for internal feedback and intermittency.

Avoid feedback: Feedback is a whistling sound that can be heard using the hearing aid. It happens when amplified sound escapes the earmold and reenters the microphone. You won’t experience feedback if your hearing aid is securely placed in your ear. Hearing feedback could indicate that that there is too much earwax in the ear canal, or that the earmold is the wrong size and needs to be replaced.
Talk to Dr. Dena about what you should do when you experience feedback from your device. Reducing the volume of the hearing aid will minimize your feedback, but you may miss out on important sounds.

Most importantly, regular visits to Peninsula Hearing Center for hearing testing, checking performance of your hearing aid, education, and fine-tuning the device will bring you the greatest performance and best enjoyment of your hearing aids.

Contact Peninsula Hearing Center today for more information. We are your partners in good hearing health.

Hearing Loss and Cancer Treatments

The side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment have been well known for many years. But only recently has research addressed the risk of hearing loss and related conditions reported by many post-cancer treatment patients. Studies have related a strong link between hearing loss and cancer treatments, especially among certain chemotherapy medications.
It is important for patients to understand the risk of ototoxicity (hearing loss due to medication) when treating cancer, and its long-term implications, which could include permanent hearing loss. chemo treatment

Ototoxicity and cancer treatments
Some chemotherapy medications or radiation therapy can cause ototoxicity, which can results in temporary or permanent hearing loss, depending on the type of treatment and the extent of hearing damage.
Some chemotherapy can affect the inner ear where cochlear hair cells vibrate in response to sound waves. This damage may affect vital hearing and balance information to the brain, resulting in hearing loss, tinnitus, and/or loss of balance.
Platinum-based chemotherapy medications, such as carboplatin or cisplatin, are of primary concern regarding their ototoxicity. Other potentially ototoxic chemotherapy drugs include Bromocriptine, Bleomycin, Vincristine, Vinblastin, and Methothrexate Nitrogen mustard.

Ototoxicity in adults
Physical effects of hearing loss including balance issues and a greater likelihood of falls over time, especially in older adults. Hearing loss has also been linked to instances of dementia and cognitive decline.
Psychological effects include depression, isolation, anxiety, anger, and poor self-image.
Because of the long-term effects of hearing loss in adult cancer survivors, and the debilitating effects associated with the condition, oncologists do their utmost to avoid ototoxic exposure during treatments. When aggressive treatment is required, and the patient experiences hearing loss, it’s important to consider treatment options such as hearing aids, which can help most patients with hearing loss. As cancer treatments have become more successful, with patients living longer, hearing loss treatment is an important part of the patient’s quality of life after chemotherapy.

Talk with Dr. Dena about your hearing improvement options after cancer treatment.

Advice on Ear Cleaning

For many people, grabbing a cotton swab and diving into the ear canal is the accepted method of ear cleaning.
You may have the best of intentions, but you’re likely doing more harm than good. And although earwax may make you feel unclean, it actually has nothing to do with personal hygiene.

earwaxEarwax is vital to the health of the outer ear canal. It provides lubrication, protection, and antibacterial properties. If ears are “cleaned” too often, the absence of earwax actually may result in dry and itchy ears. The ways that many of us have been conditioned to keep our ears “clean,” may actually harmful in the long run.

Follow these helpful tips to properly clean your ears without damaging this delicate sense organ.

How to Clean Your Ears Safely
Dr. Dena will tell you, somewhat humorously, that the only thing you should put in your ear canal is your elbow. This is because your ear canals are by nature self-cleaning and should not be cleared with any foreign devices. Cleaning your ear with cotton swabs or other tools can actually cause problems by pushing earwax deeper into the ear canal. However, wax can accumulate excessively sometimes, resulting in a blocked ear canal. If this happens, clean your outer ear with a cloth and try this technique to remove the blockage:

Put a few drops of mineral oil into the inner ear to soften the wax, which will allow it to come out more easily. With the mineral oil instilled, tilt your head to the side. The cleaning process will work better if your ear canal is as close to vertical as possible. Allow the ear you’re cleaning to face upward. If you can, lie down on your side. Put some towels under your head to catch any excess solution. Allow the solution to work for 5 to 10 minutes.

After the wax has softened, use a rubber bulb syringe to gently flush out loosened earwax. Squirt lukewarm water (at body temperature—98.6°F (37°C)) gently into your ear canal.
The best time to clean ears is after taking a shower. It’s much easier because the cerumen (earwax) will be softer.

Of course, you don’t have to do it yourself: Dr. Dena Riso specializes in using safe instruments to remove excess earwax.
Also, it is important to remember that not only is the ear self-cleaning, but it also clears itself due to the body’s normal movements. Old earwax is constantly being transported from the inner ear canal to the ear opening by chewing, talking, or simply moving the jaw.

How Not to Clean your Ears
Earwax is not formed in the deep part of the ear canal. So when Dr. Dena sees someone with a build-up of wax against the eardrum, it is often because the person used foreign objects to try to clean out the inner ear. This wax blockage is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. To avoid this problem, avoid the following:

  • Do not clean your ears with bobby pins, twisted napkin corners, or any other long pointed objects.
  • Do not use cotton swabs. They will only push the wax deeper into your ear canal, and a serious blockage may result.
  • Do not use ear candles. The FDA issued a public warning in 2010 that the use of ear candles can lead to serious injuries.

If you are constantly experiencing excessive amounts of ear wax or a stuffy feeling in your ears, or have any other questions about earwax or other hearing concerns, Dr. Dena is your partner in better hearing. Call her office today.