Can Holding In A Sneeze Cause Hearing Loss?

We’ve all heard the stories about holding in a sneeze. It’s bad for you, it can send you to the hospital, etc. But have you heard the one where it could also cause hearing loss?

Do these stories have any truth to them? Or are they just cautionary tales?

A recent article in Business Insider says that yes, physically preventing a sneeze is bad and can even cause irreparable damage. After holding in a sneeze a man showed up at an ER. Upon examination, doctors realized he had created a hole deep inside his throat.

So harm, yes. How about hearing loss? Turns out, also yes.

Howstuffworks.com has a good explanation to why this can happen.

“When you block the air’s escape route by pinching your nose or mouth during a sneeze, it forces the air into your ears. This pressurized air will travel back through the ears’ Eustachian tubes and into the middle ear, where it could cause damage, such as a ruptured eardrum.”

CNN is even on the case. They quote doctors who all agree that harm from holding in a sneeze is rare, but also that it’s a chance not worth taking. If you don’t have tissues, try sneezing into the crook of your arm.

A doctor in the first article we linked sums it up best:

“‘A sneeze is designed to expel foreign particles and irritants from your airway, particularly your nasal cavity, and is a protective reflex…let it fly!’”

Brain Training + Socialization

If you’ve been reading our blogs, you know that we at REM believe in the importance of socialization. Talking with your peers and maintaining relationships through all stages of life are important parts of mental health. If you cut yourself off from the world around you, your brain will take the cue. Think of your brain like a muscle – if you don’t use it, it will atrophy.

When we say mental health, we mean it in a couple ways. By using your brain, by having an active social life, you will not only fight feelings or possibilities of depression, but you may also have an effect on dementia. According to Psychology Today:

“…There has been accumulating evidence that socializing is good for your brain health. People who connect with others generally perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills. And, in the long run, people with active social lives are less likely to develop dementia than those who are more socially isolated.”

We’ve written about socialization and brain training in regards to hearing aids before (you can find old blogs here and here). In those blogs we get into specifics, but the main takeaway is the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing aids will not only help you hear, but also help you listen. Struggling to listen, to comprehend speech in noise, can be a burden on your brain and your mental well being. But with the ability to hear, you can practice and improve your listening skills. You can – essentially – work out your brain.

Other than hearing aids, you can use services such as LACE to help tune your comprehension. LACE is training program “designed to retrain the brain to comprehend speech up to 40 percent better in difficult listening situations.”

Always remember, the ability to hear is only the first step. You hear with your ears, but it is your brain that decodes the information. It’s up to you, and the tools at your disposal, to train your brain towards a healthier future.

The Importance of Hearing Tests, Part 3

The first step is deciding to get a hearing test. The next is the hearing test itself. The past couple weeks we’ve been talking about education. This week we’re breaking down a common audiometric assessment. For people to feel comfortable enough to get their hearing tested, its important for them to first know what’s involved.

Before

Once you go through the referral and appointment steps (see a previous blog we wrote for info), you’ll find yourself at your audiologist’s office. Here (or at home) you’ll complete a medical history form. After you are called back to see the doctor, you should then feel free to ask any questions. We recommend bringing a list. Always remember – there’s no question or concern too small.

Then the audiologist will ask some questions. Where do you have the most hearing difficulty? Where is speech in noise the most incomprehensible? Where do you feel most comfortable?

REM recommends bringing a significant other or friend along for the test. They can serve as another set of ears and sometimes provide insights to questions you may not be able to answer.

After you both discuss your particular situation, it’ll then be time for the test.

The Hearing Test

  1. Your ear canals will first be inspected for impacted earwax.
  2. The audiologist will then either place over the ear earphones or insert earphones in your ears while you are seated in an enclosed, sound attenuating booth.
  3. He or she will instruct you repeat back two syllable words, and then instruct you to signal when you hear a variety of pure tone frequencies. These help determine your hearing thresholds.
  4. You’ll then be asked to repeat monosyllabic words at comfortable intensity levels. This helps determine speech comprehension at quiet conversational levels.
  5. The audiologist will then repeat the process of having you respond to pure tone frequencies with a behind the ear receiver. Comparing results of this test with the results of the previous tests will determine the type of hearing loss you have (middle ear, inner ear, or both).
  6. Finally, you’ll be instructed to repeat back sentences presented at comfortably loud intensity levels while background noise is present. This determines your signal to noise ratio (i.e., how much louder speech needs to be to background noise in order for you to understand at least 50% of the message).

After

Easy, right? Now the audiologist will discuss your results. If you have a hearing loss, they’ll often offer recommendations including medical management and/or hearing aids or other assistive listening devices. The audiologist can even let you know if you qualify for government funds that would help pay for devices such as closed captioning telephones.

We hope this helps. A hearing test is nothing to be concerned about, and a relationship with your audiologist can be incredibly beneficial. Consider them your “go to” person regarding your hearing health.

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 (why some people are hesitant to get their hearing tested) and Part 2 (how to spread the word).

The Importance of Hearing Tests, Part 2

Last week we wrote about why some people might be hesitant to get their hearing tested. This week we want to address what we can do about it.

A few questions some might be asking themselves:

  1. What’s the best approach to education?
  2. What are some paths already in place that can help spread the word?
  3. If a loved one, a friend, or acquaintance with hearing is reluctant to get tested, what’s a good way to let them know the benefits of a hearing aid?

Let’s go last question first. Why might approaching a love one with hearing loss be hard?

How To Let A Person With Hearing Loss Know

We covered a lot of this last week, but one thing we didn’t get into: a lot of people might not feel it’s their place to call out what appears to be a hearing problem in another. If you suspect hearing loss in a friend, or family member, or student, approaching the situation tactfully might seem pretty daunting.

Start small and work up. Consider last week’s blog. Remind people that hearing is vital to overall health, wellness, and cognitive function as one ages. Maybe even compare taking care of hearing health to going to the gym.

If you’re a teacher or educator, appealing to administration or parents might be the best route. If a friend, maybe you know someone who already has a hearing aid. Relating their story may be more persuasive than you’d think. If family, try researching the benefits of hearing devices with your loved one to simply “see what they offer.”

How To Educate as Many People as Possible

We live in the age of social media. People are sharing their stories more now than ever. Sharing a personal story could help convince others to seek out an audiologist.

Some good resources:

  1. Phonak’s Hearing Like Me and Oticon’s Healthy Hearing have accessible, story oriented blogs about hearing loss.
  2. For more technical, industry blogs, consider the ASHA leader and ASHA leader blog

Are There Any Existing Programs In Place That Can Help Spread the Word?

It’s tough going this alone. The American Speech-Lanauage Hearing Association has a list of organizations who themselves all list resources for help.

Some organizations of note:

  1. American Society for Deaf Children
  2. Association of Late Deafened Adults
  3. National Association of the Deaf (civil rights assocation for the hard of hearing) (8)
  4. American Cochlear Implant Alliance (for options outside the scope of hearing aids) (9)

All these organizations have links, research, and resources, and most offer ideas about how to reach and educate as many people as possible about the effects – personal, emotional, and social – of hearing loss.

Next week we’ll take a step back and describe in detail what a single hearing test can offer those who need hearing help.

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 (why some people are hesitant to get their hearing tested) and Part 3 (what you can expect from the hearing test itself).

The Importance of Hearing Tests, Part 1

According to a recent ASHA article, one third of adults with hearing loss do not seek treatment. That’s over 10 million people in the United States alone. For something that has profound quality of life consequences, one has to wonder why these individuals are not asking for help.

There are a few reasons people might not want to get their hearing tested.

Cost

Cost of the test, cost of the aid, and cost of maintenance are all big questions. What insurance will or will not cover is another.

Embarrassment

Many don’t like the look of hearing aids. Others might feel an aid will open the door to discrimination. If they’re not interested – or afraid of how the hearing device will look – why get tested in the first place?

Mobility

Older patients might have trouble getting around. Maybe they’re in a nursing home or rural area where access to hearing facilities is limited.

The Unknown

Some with hearing conditions might not know what a hearing test will involve, or who they should talk to. If they don’t know, it’s that much easier to stay away.

These are all very important, but very addressable, issues. Next blog we’ll show what healthcare officials or concerned family and friends can do to educate not only those who need to get tested, but also those around them.

A hearing device is a very necessary device for a lot of people. They might just not know it yet.

Don’t forget to check out Part 2 (how to spread the word) and Part 3 (what you can expect from the hearing test itself).

Helping Teachers Identify Hearing Loss

Teachers and educators are often among best positioned to help identify the presence of hearing loss in children. Spending a lot of time around kids, they’ll often notice firsthand if a child is having trouble listening or learning.

According to Healthy Hearing and the CDC, “approximately 2-3 of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable hearing loss.” Hearing loss (genetic and noise induced) in school aged children, from elementary school to high school, registers as high as 15 percent of all kids. If not treated, hearing loss can affect not only a child’s comprehension but his or her development. Hearing is closely tied with the brain, and if a child grows up untreated, everything from speech to academic achievement to social ability can suffer.

Since early intervention is so important, what should teachers look out for?

Healthy Hearing covers some major warning signs:

  • Failure to hear his/her name called
  • Constant requests to repeat what was said
  • Worsening grades
  • Loss of interest
  • Withdrawn behavior

Also, it can be beneficial to look out for the following:

  • Difficulty taking tests with only auditory information (such as a verbal spelling test)
  • Confusion hearing differences between similar sounding words (such as “thin”,” “fin”, and “tin”)
  • A history of complaints of stuffiness in ears
  • Difficulty understanding verbal, group instruction
  • Fatigue at the end of the day

If you think a student has hearing loss, what’s the next step?

First, its always be a good idea to see if your school has annual or one time hearing screenings. These could help find issues right away. If your school doesn’t participate in these events, it might be a worthwhile idea to float past administration.

For individual students who exhibit signs of hearing impairment, the first step would be to talk to both the school and the parents, to see what help IEP or 504 plans might provide. The student will probably visit their physician, who will then most likely refer them to an audiologist. The audiologist will rule out a medically correctable hearing loss such as related to middle ear infections. If a permanent non medically based hearing loss is diagnosed, he or she might get a hearing aid that would work in conjunction with school specific assistive listening devices.

Assistive listening devices are a big help. Many hearing aid manufacturers have FM systems and bluetooth technology that assist the hearing aid in optimizing the signal to noise ratio. The teacher wears a microphone that transmits his or her voice directly to the hearing aid, and the child can comprehend speech with less effort. More efficient learning results in a more successful student.

Remember, the sooner treated, the greater chance a child can develop on a level with their peers. For newborns, there have been studies showing that the earlier a hearing impairment is addressed, the better their vocabulary and learning skills can turn out. This holds true to all areas of development, whenever hearing problems first begin to manifest, and sometimes all it takes is the attention of a teacher to get a child with hearing loss the help they need.

Events for the Deaf Community

In a hearing like me blog, Ellie Parfitt writes about Good Vibrations, the first deaf accessible music festival. “Being profoundly deaf myself,” she writes, “for the first time in my life I finally felt included at a music event.”

What set Good Vibrations apart? It wasn’t just the ASL interpreters stationed throughout the grounds, or the live captions on the big screens, but the vibrating backpacks. These backpacks – provided by Subpac – allowed hard of hearing wearers to feel the music’s pulse and bass. “It was truly the best day of my life…,” Parfitt continues. “Let’s hope this will be the start of many more to come.”

New technology and new, inclusive focus have allowed event organizes from around the world to cater and market to the deaf community. Two film festivals – one in Seattle and one in New Zealand – advertise themselves not only as deaf friendly, but as crucial community and cultural events. The Seattle Deaf Film Festival boasts a whole range of films by deaf filmmakers, actors, and crew, while the one in Wellington strives to bridge “the gap between deaf and hearing communities.”

A theme many deaf events share is one not of exclusivity, but of education. Whether a music festival, a film festival, or an artist performance like the ones of Sean Forbes, awareness is often just as important as a fun, enjoyable time. As Jenny Boyd – the Wellington festival organizer – tells a New Zealand website, “Many films have been collaborations between deaf and hearing filmmakers, and the festival gives both deaf and hearing audiences the opportunity to really experience the incredibly deaf talent and deaf culture we have in New Zealand.”

What does the future hold? Hopefully more events. And for the technologically inclined, a VR music experience for the hard of hearing is currently being developed.

If interested in looking for events closer to home, be sure to check out the DHCC events page or the meetup.com list for Deaf Community Events and Info.

2018 Hearing Goals

It’s the new year! Have you decided on your new years resolution? If not – of if you wanted to go the extra mile and tack on one or two extra – consider making 2018 the year to do something more about your hearing health.

Hearing aids are improving at a rapid rate, but if you have an older pair, you might be missing out on essential hearing technology. Size, sound processing, and comfort are just some of the ways aids are evolving, and there’s a good chance trying out a new or updated brand could produce a sudden improvement in how you hear the world around you.

A couple of examples of hearing aid technology include Phonak’s extended-wear invisible hearing aids and Oticon’s new Opn devices. The Oticon Opn hearing aids are bluetooth compatible and made with top of the line tech that mirrors brain listening strategies. Phonak also offers rechargeable aids that don’t require disposable batteries.

New hearing aids may also be able to help with issues you might have outside immediate hearing loss. If you suffer from tinnitus, many brands now include features designed to help ease ringing in your ears. Widex, for example, has their Zen program which offers tinnitus relief through fractal sounds and sound therapy.

Maybe you already have the hearing aids you love. That’s completely understandable! Getting the aids you’re comfortable with is often a long and personal process. If that’s the case, assistive listening technology might offer a good alternative to hearing help. Phonak has some good wireless mic options in their Roger line, and if you use the telephone a lot, the CapTel captioned telephone can be a big help with phone call comprehension. Used in conjunction with hearing aids, these assistive devices can often be the missing piece of the hearing puzzle.

If you have never had a hearing evaluation or you’re worried that you might have hearing loss, then resolve this year to get your hearing tested. All you have to do is talk to your primary care physician. If there’s cause for concern, he or she will then refer you to an audiologist. You can check out our blog detailing what you can expect from your first hearing test for more information.

Whatever you decide, keep in mind all these examples are only the tip of the iceberg. It is well worth pursing the websites of hearing manufacturers to see what others choices you have. A simple resolution of being informed of all your options would be a great first step for the new year.

Listening To Music With Hearing Loss

Can you enjoy music as much as you did before your hearing loss? That depends on your level of hearing loss. It also depends on how your aid processes music.

Healthy Hearing gets right to the heart of the issue: “The problem with hearing aids is that they were designed to amplify speech, not listen to music. They were not made to handle music’s diverse tonal quality and wide dynamic range.” Because of this, many hearing aid wearers often describe the process of listening to music as “unpleasant.”

While more and more aids are being shipped with premium connectivity features and complex “feedback reduction systems”, Healthy Hearing continues, the more complicated the compression system, the more processed the music will often sound. Thankfully, many aids can be configured with a music setting that temporarily disables the features that can inhibit how one can listen to and enjoy their favorite music.

But simpler might not always be better, and there is a lot of dedicated hearing technology on the market specifically designed to overcome this problem. Phonak devices such as the Phonak Sky V and Roger Pen, which can connect to your “music player, amp, or keyboard” and stream directly to your hearing aids, are popular and well regarded. Starkey’s Muse line of hearing aids, on the other hand, come built with a specific circuit designed for music receptiveness.

Outside of these options, many hearing aids also come with premium connectivity features. Oticon Opn technology, for instance, couples directly to your iPhone. Most other aids also have bluetooth streaming for a seamless music listening experience.

When considering buying an aid that’ll help you listen to music, there are many different aids and systems to consider. An audiologist can walk you through your options and offer demonstrations and trials. Most importantly – don’t get discouraged if you can’t find something right away that suits you. It may take some time to ultimately decide what sounds and works best for your needs.

Interview Tips For Those With Hearing Loss

So you finally landed that job interview you were hoping to get. It’s the night before and you prepared your notes, polished your resume, studied the history of the company. Only one problem – you have hearing loss, and you’re unsure how your potential employer will treat you. You’re unsure how to act.

What can you do?

Whether it’s a first job or you’re looking to change careers later in life, those hard of hearing often feel at a disadvantage when it comes to the employment field.

Job Hunt

Mark Bernard, in the Hearing Like Me blog, wrote about his struggle finding a job with hearing loss: “In order to make yourself marketable with your hearing loss, the question you have to ask yourself is this: ‘What would make me able to survive and be invaluable in a zombie apocalypse?’”

The very next sentence he confesses that this might be a strange conflation of circumstances, but he hits on an important point. “In society [there are certain things] that people will always need. And I think that makes a good starting point to look at your own skills and passions and see what needs you can cover for others.”

Bernard asks you to consider not only what benefits you can bring to a new job, but also what strengths your hearing loss has enabled. Turn what others might view as a disadvantage into an invaluable part of what you can bring to the table.

Interview Tips

Traditional interview advice certainly applies to all applicants — know the company you want to work for inside and out, practice answering questions in the mirror, prepare a good interview outfit, and take extra copies of your resume. For those with hearing problems though, Nail Bauman, Ph.D. – relaying advice – takes it one step further.

“You don’t want to approach your prospective employer with an attitude of ‘this is what I need because I have hearing loss… Rather approach your prospective employer from the opposite perspective.” This is in line with Bernard’s thinking. To repeat – what special skills and perspectives has your life afforded you? What, in turn, can you offer your employer?

Work Place Hearing Requirements

Though its true you want to focus on your own skills and what you can offer, not what you need, it’s also important to know your rights.

The ADA protects employees and potential employees from discrimination. This means an employer may “not take action against you (or refuse to hire you in the first place) because you have a disability, you have a history of a disability, or the employer perceives you — even incorrectly — as having a disability.” To be protected, “you must be qualified for the job and able to perform its essential functions.” The ADA also promises that the employer will provide reasonable accommodation.

The Hearing Loss Association of America lays out a few links and even an Employment Toolkit, to help those with hearing loss search for a job.