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Good Eating Means Good Hearing

There are a few obvious things you can do to maintain your hearing. Wear ear protection, avoid excessively noisy environments, and don’t crank up the volume when using earbuds or headphones. Basically, common sense.

But did you know that eating healthy can help your hearing, as well?

What food should you eat?

The key seems to be diets that are heart-healthy, since a strong cardiovascular system is crucial to good hearing. Strong blood flow feeds the cochlea, a key portion of the inner ear where tiny hair cells translate sound waves into the electrical signals that our brains decode as sound.

In a recent Washington Post story, the director of Boston’s Conservation of Hearing Study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Sharon Curhan, tried to make things as simple as possible: “To follow a hearing-healthy diet easily, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables … especially those rich in beta-carotene or folate: dark orange produce such as carrots or cantaloupe and leafy greens such as arugula, kale, and spinach.”

Protein should also be a regular part of the diet, especially if it comes from fish, because their omega-3 fatty acids also contribute to hearing health.

Much of this advice stems from a major study published in 2018 in The Journal of Nutrition. Entitled “Adherence to Healthful Dietary Patterns Is Associated with Lower Risk of Hearing Loss in Women,” it followed over 80,000 women from 1991 to 2013.

The consensus on diet and hearing has been building over the past decade from this study and several others that have shown what a powerful impact good eating can have on good hearing.

2022: Year of Hearing

With 2021 finished and done, we’re once again greeted with the promise of a new year. If you’re still searching for a resolution, how about approaching 2022 as your “Year of Hearing”?

2022: The year to finally make the most out of your hearing aids.

Hearing Goals

1. Catch up with new technology

Hearing technology is changing all the time, and it’s in your best interest to keep up with the latest advances.

Every month, REM holds DEMO DAYS, open to anyone who wants to participate, a good way to get hands-on access to the progress of the hearing aid industry. Want to know more about rechargeable hearing aids, for instance? Our Demo Days may be just what you’re looking for.

If your aid is old, if you’re curious about what features you may be missing, you can also schedule an appointment with your audiologist. Even if you simply have questions, it’s good to know what hearing healthcare tech is out there.

The more you know, the better you can approach your hearing path.

2. Expand your hearing aid’s reach

Assistive listening devices can help in day-to-day hearing, especially in office or classroom settings. One popular product is Oticon’s ConnectClip, an accessory that “turns your hearing aid into a wireless stereo headset.”

The ConnectClip is exciting remote-control technology, a go-between, a device that can transmit phone calls, virtual meetings, or digital audio directly to your aid. All you need is a smartphone.

There are also TV and music aid accessories, digital apps, and phone adaptors, all ready to make your digital hearing life easier. Always remember: hearing aids are a line to the world around you. Different devices can strengthen that connection.

3. Utilize all of your aid

If you’re happy with your hearing aid, be sure to talk to your audiologist about exploring all of its included features.

Take the Oticon More™, for example. The More line of aids offers you everything from smartphone connectivity to brain-like-learning programmable settings. Some aids even have tinnitus relief (utilizing Oticon’s own Tinnitus SoundSupport™ system) where you can control and adjust a range of sounds “until they give you the relief you need”.

4. Socialization

This is a big one here at REM, and something you can easily do on your own. Interaction with the people around you can help your ears and, in turn, your brain. Both are connected.

Think of your brain as a muscle, one that needs to be exercised. The stronger it gets, the more situations you allow it to work or to comprehend speech-in-noise, the more your hearing can potentially improve.

It’s not good to be all alone, and for those with hearing loss, social interaction is crucial.

REM’s resolutions

As for us at REM, we’re still here and committed to being by your side during your hearing journey. For those new to hearing loss, we want to make the transition as easy and productive as possible. For those who have been with us for years, we want to continue being of service, offering you the best in hearing healthcare.

Here’s to a healthy, hopeful, and terrific 2022!

Seasonal Tinnitus Spikes

Is there such a thing as seasonal tinnitus? Can the cold weather make that ringing, buzzing, or humming in your ears worse? Are you struggling with tinnitus spikes right now?

It’s not unusual for existing tinnitus to worsen or escalate in cold weather, even if the weather itself isn’t to blame. Cold and flu infections, added pressure on the ear, and increased rates of depression are all common occurrences during the winter months, and all can contribute to tinnitus symptoms.

Tinnitus Spikes

Any increase in the level of noise you’re familiar with can be a tinnitus spike, whether that’s in volume, intensity, “tone, pitch, or sound.” It may come and go, last for a short time, or increase (steadily or off and on) permanently.

What causes spikes? Just about anything that causes tinnitus: lack of sleep, additional or unexpected stress, certain foods and medications, maybe even sudden weather or temperature changes (from warm to cold, or from cold to warm).

Tinnitus and Cold Weather

Why does cold weather affect tinnitus so much? There’s no definitive answer. But lifestyle changes have a lot to do with it. In the winter, you may be more sedentary than usual. Maybe you drink more caffeine or alcohol (both common tinnitus triggers). Shorter days may mean heightened anxiety or depression.

A more direct consequence could be weather-caused congestion. Just as many physicians believe spring and summer allergies are a big influence on tinnitus, head and sinus congestion due to viral infections can also change the equilibrium in or pressure on your ears.

Tinnitus Management Techniques

Tinnitus spikes or not, there’s a lot you can do to help the ringing in your ears. At home, treatment can include:

1. Limiting known causes (caffeine, alcohol, aspirin, salt)
2. Managing stress and sleep. Sometimes a good night’s sleep is the best thing you can do.
3. Exercising, meditating, or yoga

For severe cases, hearing aids, sound and behavioral therapies, or medication all offer paths to relief. According to the American Tinnitus Association: “Tinnitus is overwhelmingly connected to some level of hearing loss. Augmenting the reception and perception of external noise can often provide relief from the internal sound of tinnitus.”

CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, in particular, has been known to be an effective treatment. CBT is a popular behavioral therapy that, in essence, encourages you to disassociate any tinnitus occurrences with negative thoughts or emotions. It’s a “gradual exposure to an uncomfortable situation,” allowing the sufferer to face, understand, and work with their affliction without letting it control their life.

There’s a lot of information out there about tinnitus. Trying to figure out the best treatment options — or even what kind of tinnitus you have — may at first seem overwhelming. But don’t worry! If you notice a buzzing, humming, or ringing in your ear, if your existing tinnitus spikes, or if your self-care techniques at home aren’t working, be sure to contact your audiologist as soon as you can. There’s a lot you — and others — can do to help.

Managing a Hearing Aid Thanksgiving

After last year’s COVID holiday wipeout, family get-togethers are coming back strong. For those with hearing issues or new hearing aids, that might mean—once again or for the first time—dealing with the challenge of a loud, crowded holiday. Though this can make family fun difficult, there are a few steps you can take to make this hearing-aid-Thanksgiving easier.

Where to Sit and Stand

Remember that old real estate cliché: location, location, location. Where you plant yourself in a room can be crucial. Try to avoid being in the center of things. At dinner, shoot for the end of the table. That will cut down on the amount of sound you’re dealing with on either side, which can be disorientating and overwhelming.

The same goes for the football game in the living room. Stay away from the TV—more specifically, its speakers—and aim for the edges of the gathering. Just be aware, the farther away from a conversation you are, the more difficultly you may have listening in. As we wrote in a past blog, the hardest part of new social situations is the unknown. You’ll often find yourself simply (pardon the expression) playing it by ear.

Go Easy on Yourself

All this can be tiring. So, another good strategy is taking a break from the hubbub. A walk around the block right before or after dinner will clear your head and give your ears a rest. If need be, you can also find a quiet room for some downtime. Give yourself a chance to recharge!

Others are There to Help

Your hearing aids are there to assist you! If new, they may take some getting used to, but remember not to get frustrated. Some aids may even come with programmable settings for different environments. These settings, if properly used, can be very helpful.

Also, there’s no shame in letting those around you know what’s going on! If you’re new to hearing aids, politely broach the topic, ask those present if they wouldn’t mind speaking to you a little slower and maybe away from the crowd. This will make things easier for everyone—especially you.

And most importantly, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Enjoy the time with those around you.

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.

 

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.

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 a tiny brush. Your audiologist can provide you with specific options.

3. Use alcohol-free wipes or a dry microfiber cloth. Always check with your audiologist about any products you’re unsure of, and be careful to not get the aids wet. Oticon has a good breakdown of how to clean different types of aids.

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. HearingLife has a helpful tutorial.

Still Having Issues?

You might just need to change the battery or adjust the volume. If you’re having difficulty getting the right levels, sometimes the simplest solution is the best 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.