Subjective and Objective Tinnitus

What is tinnitus? Tinnitus is noise (non-external) that you can hear in one or both of your ears. It often presents as a ringing or buzzing and may be constant or intermittent — coming and going — sometimes without cause. Professionals break down the affliction into 2 categories: subjective and objective tinnitus. An easy way to distinguish between the two is by determining who can hear the described noise. If it’s only the patient, then it’s subjective. If others can hear or measure the sound (often through hearing instruments), then it’s objective.

Effective management often depends on the type of tinnitus you have.

Subjective Tinnitus

The vast majority of tinnitus sufferers have subjective tinnitus, ringing in ears that can often be managed, but not fixed.

There are many treatment options for subjective tinnitus. Many doctors recommend limiting the intake of caffeine or alcohol and reducing stress. Auditory habituation or tinnitus retraining therapy is another method and involves a device or hearing aid that produces a low-level sound alongside the ringing in order to desensitize your own, possibly ingrained reactions to sound. This is similar to acoustic therapy, which – through the use of hearing aids or sound generators – masks any annoying tinnitus sounds.

Objective Tinnitus

Objective tinnitus is “usually produced by internal functions in the body’s circulatory (blood flow) and somatic (musculoskeletal movement) systems.” This type can both be heard by your hearing care specialist and can often be cured in its entirety. For those whose “buzzing, ringing, whistling” is caused by a buildup of earwax or a punctured eardrum, the path to clear sound is often as simple as fixing the underlying problem.

Objective tinnitus is rare, seen in less than a single percent of all recorded cases.

What To Do About Tinnitus

1. Don’t panic. Try not to get frustrated. Your reaction — and approach — to tinnitus can greatly affect how much it bothers you down the road. Mindset is important.

2. Talk to your audiologist. Especially if you notice a new or worsening ringing or buzzing. If it’s a symptom of another problem or not, whether it’s subjective or objective tinnitus, it’s best to get any symptoms checked by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Blog update: This was one of REM’s first blogs, published a few years ago, on the effective management of tinnitus. We have updated this article with the most up-to-date information.

 

COVID and Hearing

As has become clear, nothing is easy with COVID-19. Even with vaccines widely available, the current wave of infections will inevitably result in more cases of what is known as long-haul COVID. So, what’s the relationship between COVID and hearing?

Long COVID

What has become clear over the last year and a half is that a small minority of people who get infected do not simply “get over it” — no matter the treatment they receive. Instead of their symptoms wrapping up after the acute phase of the disease has run its course—usually, about two weeks—these unlucky folks, about 10 percent of those infected, have symptoms that linger.

For those who required hospitalization, a recent study published in The Lancet found that about half were still feeling the effects a year later. Fatigue, muscle weakness, and shortness of breath are the most common signs of long-haul COVID.

COVID and Hearing

For those affected, are further hearing issues a problem? Can those who contracted COVID and then recovered be plagued with issues that may include bouts of tinnitus and vertigo, and (for some) sudden onset hearing loss? According to Healthy Hearing, the jury’s still out. Maybe, but much more research is needed.

But some say it’s possible. One theory is that such ear-related problems are rooted in the havoc that COVID can wreak on the body’s circulatory system. There is now a syndrome identified as coronavirus blood clots, which can be especially problematic in the kind of tiny blood vessels that are crucial to ear function.

This may be the root cause of why tinnitus—a persistent ringing in the ears that is not associated with actual sounds—has (anecdotally) been reported to have gotten worse for many after getting COVID.

At this point COVID long haulers are the focus of a tremendous amount of medical research and, hopefully, treatments will eventually be developed. If you think your hearing loss has gotten worse – due to COVID or not – it’s best to speak with an audiologist or hearing specialist immediately.

Positivity, Aging, and Hearing Loss

As you grow older, it’s important to stay positive about hearing loss. Why? Because negative feelings – about aging, about health – can affect your hearing, says a recent article on Medicine News Today. Hearing and brain function go hand in hand. When one is affected, so is the other.

“People’s feelings about getting older influence their sensory and cognitive functions. Those feelings are often rooted in stereotypes about getting older and comments made by those around them that their hearing and memory are failing.” If negative feelings about growing older can influence how one hears in day-to-day life (and vice versa), it makes sense that a good attitude could have the opposite effect.

Why is that?

Because the clearer your thoughts – the more honest you are about your situation – the more likely you’ll take the proper steps to help your hearing.

What should you do?

When there is so much social stigma attached to aging, how can one maintain an optimistic view of the future?

  1. Don’t jump to the worst possible conclusions. Hearing loss is often a normal part of the aging process, and there has never been a better time than the present to optimize hearing function. Today’s sophisticated technology offers efficient and effective solutions to once problematic hearing difficulties. If you notice trouble hearing sound in noise, meet with an audiologist to discuss a plan.
  2. Eat healthily and try to maintain a healthy weight. Physical fitness is a big part of keeping your mind sharp.
  3. Realize that advances in hearing technology are always being made. Take the Oticon More™ hearing aid, for example. The More line comes with a deep neural network that learns and evolves over time.
  4. Socialize! Socialization is important! If you’re having trouble hearing or feeling down for any reason, don’t lock yourself away. Keep on talking to people, interacting with them. Isolation is the worst thing for your brain.

Keeping your mind occupied and your thoughts positive is a worthwhile, important, and attainable goal. The potential benefits can help make your future even brighter.

The Sounds of Summer Are Back

For many folks, the possibility of hitting the summer music festival scene—currently inching from longing to reality—is one great aspect of the COVID vaccine rollout. Gigs are being scheduled and artists and roadies are getting back in the saddle—or at least the tour bus.

But don’t let the era of Zoom meetings and binge-watching let you forget that live music can be loud—and thus a threat to your hearing.

If the bands you want to see are going to crank up the volume then there are a couple of things you can do. Not lingering too close to any speakers is an obvious one, while “stepping out” during extended exposure to noise—the kind that a summer music festival offers—is a good strategy. A little rest offers your ears the chance to recover.

The best strategy is to use some decent earplugs. There are plenty of cheap options—though you do get what you pay for.

Regular exposure to loud situations—because you’re an avid concertgoer or work in a loud environment—might make investing in some high-end earplugs a good idea. Hearing health professionals can create custom-made earmolds that are designed to drastically cut down on the decibel level your ears have to deal with while not ruining sound quality (all while being comfortable and unobtrusive).

Don’t assume this is an issue just for the boomers. The fact is that one-fourth of Americans ages 18 to 44 already report some hearing loss. And not protecting your ears from noise exposure is a perfect way to end up dealing with serious hearing issues in the not-too-distant future.

 

Hearing Aid Summer Accessories

The summer vacation is back! With lockdowns being lifted, it’s time to hit the road again. But if you depend on hearing aids to make your daily life—especially interactions with strangers—more positive and fulfilling, then you’ll want to make sure that everything stays in working order while you’re away from home (finally). So, what hearing aid summer accessories will you need?

There are the obvious things to remember, like spare batteries or the recharging unit—since a hearing aid without electricity is just an earplug. The obvious is easier to forget than you might think.

Hitting the beach, a national park, or any other outdoor activity will also mean that your hearing aid may be exposed to more dirt, grime, and moisture than usual. So don’t forget the cleaning kit for the end-of-the-day tune-up, the dehumidifier for the overnight drying out of a unit that’s been exposed to the elements, and extra wax guards and domes that you might want to use to provide extra protection on your trip.

And if it’s been a while since you’ve been out in a crowd, don’t forget the Bluetooth external microphone that may have come with your hearing aid (the one that wasn’t too useful on Zoom calls). It can really help out in an unfamiliar room with a great deal of ambient background noise (like a Vegas casino room, say).

A vacation with a better hearing experience will be a better vacation. If you use a hearing aid, make sure you have everything you need to keep it working its best for you.

Summertime Localization and Outdoor Activities

Since it’s summer, odds are you’ll find yourself outside more than usual, and whether you’re going to street festivals, fairs, amusement or water parks, you’ll want to be aware of your hearing aid’s localization features.

What is localization?

Localization is the ability to determine the direction and placement of sound and noise, and is important for spatial awareness, balance, and location comprehension. Those with hearing loss often have trouble with the localization of sound.

What does this mean for summer activities?

Being able to hear the world around you is an incredibly important part of staying aware and safe, and unlike at home or indoors, the sounds of an outdoor environment can be a bit more unpredictable.

If you find yourself surrounded by a lot of people, you’ll also be surrounded by a lot of sound. To someone with hearing impairment, this could be like hearing a low roar, a flat level of noise coming from no particular direction. This not only limits your interaction with those around you, but can also cause safety issues.

What can you do?

  • Be sure to talk to your audiologist about how your hearing aid processes sound in a 3D environment.
  • Before you buy an aid, research different brands. Oticon Opn™, for instance, has a lot of good localization features, including rapid noise reduction and speech clarity support.
  • If you notice an increased difficulty hearing or comprehending speech or noise in big crowds, don’t ignore it. Maybe you need another hearing assessment, or maybe your aid simply needs an up-to-date adjustment.

Don’t waste your summer worrying about noise outside.

Talking To Parents About Hearing Loss

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month. For some, it is the ideal month to get a hearing assessment or schedule that diagnostic follow-up. For others, it may be the perfect time to reach out to the loved ones in their lives — their parents, close friends, and relatives — to help give them the gift of better hearing.

Talking to parents about hearing loss – and whether they need hearing aids or not – can be hard, but the quality of life improvement a single hearing assessment can provide is worth what might be a difficult conversation. So, what should you say? How can you bring it up?

Benefits of Hearing Help

1. Hearing is all about the future. If your parents take care of their hearing now, they will benefit down the line.

2. Hearing aids will not just improve the way they hear the world, but how they experience it. They’ll interact with more sound, perceive more information, understand what people are saying to a much greater degree.

3. Their self-image will improve. They’ll be better able to reconnect with old friends and join in conversations. If they’ve been feeling left out or isolated, hearing assistance can help bring them back.

4. Hearing healthcare and devices are getting better every year. There’s no reason to think of hearing aids as obtrusive or outdated. Today’s aids are better designed and more easily connected to the devices already in their lives.

5. Hearing aids can protect against cognitive decline and can strengthen brain training, or the ability to comprehend speech against background noise.

Tips for the Talk

1. Make an event out of it. Mother’s Day is this May. Father’s Day is in June. Sitting down to talk, maybe with some brochures, could end up being a thoughtful gift.

2. Start small and work your way up. Urgency is important when dealing with hearing issues, but don’t push too hard, too fast. Being fitted for aids can be a big step in someone’s life.

3. Ask them to take an online hearing test.

4. Find a hearing center. Some offices may have open-house demonstrations and offer no-risk trials.

5. Accompany them to their appointment. Ask questions and take notes. Your personal engagement could help ease them into this new stage of life.

For Mother’s (and Father’s) Day

Helping your parents with their hearing loss could end up being a needed change in their lives. Just as they were there for you growing up, you can be there for them now, helping keep their world full of sound, meaning, and joy.

If your parents are due for a hearing assessment or need hearing aids, there is no better time than Better Hearing & Speech Month. There is no better time than the present for talking to your parents about hearing loss.

BHSM 2021

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a yearly hearing healthcare event designed to help raise awareness about auditory health, wellness, and communication disorders. The BHSM 2021 theme is “Building Connections.”

What is BHSM?

BHSM is known primarily as a hearing industry affair, a time when audiology clinics and hearing specialists can focus their efforts on getting the word out about hearing technology advances, public health information, and more. BHSM has been around since 1927, and each year focuses on a different aspect of hearing care.

This year, ASHA breaks down the month into 4 weeks:

Week 1: Untreated hearing loss in adults
Week 2: Early intervention
Week 3: The role of Speech-Language Pathologists in COVID-19 recovery (1)
Week 4: Hearing protection for children

Why is BHSM important?

BHSM is all about recognition; not just recognition of the struggles of the hearing loss community, but also their triumphs. It offers hearing care practitioners ways to reach out while allowing patients and those with hearing loss ample opportunities to pursue treatment and show the world their progress.

The staff at REM have always been big boosters of Better Hearing & Speech Month. We strongly believe the best way to help people on their hearing loss journey is to make sure everyone has access to information about yearly advances in hearing technology and hearing help benefits.

If you agree with how important this month can be – to you, to the lives of many people with untreated hearing loss – there are even ways you can help extend a helping hand.

What Can You Do To Help?

ASHA has a comprehensive list of resources you can print out, share, or connect to on social media.

More importantly, you can use BHSM 2021 as an opportunity to talk to that special someone in your life who has hearing loss, one who might not be getting the help they need. Managing hearing loss can change lives for the better, and with care and attention, can help open up and revitalize the world.

Anxiety, Depression, and Hearing Loss

Anxiety and depression caused by untreated hearing loss is a subject not often discussed, but the effects of both on an aging person shouldn’t be ignored.

Depression and Anxiety

Healthy Hearing states that depression may be psychosocial in nature, that a persistent feeling of missed connections, or being out of the loop, can be disorienting and isolating. People not able to keep up in a conversation may even start to question the worth of their presence.

Anxiety is similarly affected. Like depression, stress and frustration can stem from struggling to hear in a world that may at times seem inaccessible.

What can you do?

The goal is to limit the amount of worry. Think of it this way: the more you agonize over your hearing, the more anxiety can grow into the corners of your life. Not that an anxiety-free existence is possible, mind you, but actively trying to reduce its influence can be more than beneficial to both you and your loved ones.

How to go about this? Don’t put off those hearing tests! Scheduling an appointment with your audiologist can be an important first step in your hearing recovery journey, and something as simple as showing up to your first hearing assessment can help manage your stress in a big way. To prepare, HearingLife has a very helpful list of what you can do before a routine hearing examination.

Mitigating measures are important because hearing loss can alter the brain, as can constant anxiety and depression. “The connection between depression and hearing loss may not be solely due to the damaging social effects that accompany having difficulty hearing… In other words, there are indications that the brain is actually rewired by hearing loss.”

You don’t want to fight a battle on two fronts.

Can hearing aids help?

The good news is, with new top-of-the-line hearing aids and devices (such as the Oticon More™), clarity in speech and sound can be achievable for many people. But the first step, as always, is to contact your primary care physician or audiologist to schedule a hearing test.

At-Home Maintenance

A lot of potential hearing aid issues can be solved right from the comfort of your own home, and now more than ever, it’s good to know how to routinely clean and take care of your device. At-home maintenance can save you a lot of frustration in the future.

Getting Ready to Clean

1. Set a schedule. Clean your devices at the same time every day or every other day, preferably right before bed.

2. Use tools designed for the job, such as a wax pick and tiny brush. Your audiologist can provide you with specific options.

3. Use alcohol-free wipes, or a microfiber cloth you can gently wet.

Cleaning

1. Always remove the batteries before you touch any cleaning material to the surface of your device. Then “keep the battery compartment open to dry overnight. If they’re rechargeable, dock them according to the manufacturer’s specifications.”

2. Use the wipes or cloth first. Gently run them over the surface of the aid.

3. Next, take your brush and remove any dust or debris, focusing on any nooks or crevices (such as the microphone).

4. For RITE (receiver-in-the-ear) aides, you also want to keep an eye on your wax guard. You’ll want to brush any wax off your device any time you clean, but you’ll also need to change and unclog the wax guard every month or two. For this, you’ll need other specialized tools. Hearing Life has a helpful tutorial.

Still Having Issues?

Sometimes, you might just need to change the battery or adjust the volume. If you’re having difficulty getting the right levels, it could require a simple solution.

If none of your troubleshooting works, however, you may need to talk to your audiologist. Telehealth appointments might be available. Here at REM, we’re working on getting our remote testing system up and running. Soon, we’ll be able to access your aid in your home from our office to help diagnose and fix the problem. Call your audiologist for more information.

For step-by-step video guides about cleaning and taking care of your devices and other at-home maintenance tips, you can always refer to our How-To Videos.