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Want to Keep Your Brain Sharp Even in Old Age? Take Care of Your Ears!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 4:01:53 PM Asia/Calcutta

Yes, you heard it right! Sound hearing health makes way for sound mental health. But for this, you need to take care of your hearing, and not just ignore it. Even if you think your hearing health is well and good, do consider taking proper care of it all the time. But are you sure whether your ears are doing really well? There are cases in which people think that they can hear well enough, but in reality, they may actually face certain hearing problems which are so minute that they are beyond human understanding. For example, a person might hear speech well enough, but might be unable to hear the natural sounds, such as that of leaves rustling or birds chirping, which although seem quite negligible or insignificant, but are equally important. Every sound is food to your brain!

 

Where Does the Problem Lie?

It is quite a common fact that you are going to face some kind of hearing problems as you start ageing. Studies across the world have shown that about 1 in 10 adults by the age of 40 are prone to experiencing some kind of hearing loss. However, the sad part is hearing loss occurs so slowly and gradually that you won’t even realise what you are missing until it’s too late! And worse still, many people do not bother to take proper care of their hearing or joining some hearing loss treatment programme or even wearing good quality hearing aids. There are even some who altogether deny that they are facing some kind of hearing problems.

The time when people do realise that they are facing some serious hearing problems, things already go out of hand, and they start facing various complexities in various phases, such as mental or emotional problems including depression, anxiety and even sleep disturbances. The truth is a hearing loss in most of the cases in inevitable especially as you start ageing, and you have to accept this truth. But you just can’t let it be as it is or ignore your problems, thinking that your hearing loss will go away by itself. The harsh truth is, IT WON’T! In a majority of cases, especially in those of presbycusis (hearing loss due to ageing), hearing problems are irreversible and worse still, if left untreated, they are bound to grow adverse.

But don’t worry if you have already started facing some hearing problems, there is good news for you! Hearing aids can save your hearing loss and prevent you from developing further problems, the most common being mental disbalances. So save it while you can, and prevent further damage! If you go for a proper hearing loss treatment on time and opt for good and quality hearing aids, then your cognitive decline would slow down as well. Research studies have shown that after adopting hearing aids, cognitive decline slowed down by almost 75%. So stop thinking, start acting!

 

How Do We Hear?

Before we proceed towards finding the link between hearing health and mental health, let’s try to understand the hearing mechanism of human beings in brief. The human ear comprises three main parts -

  • Outer ear - The outer ear consists of the visible part called pinna (or the auricle), a short auditory canal, and the outer layer of the eardrum, also known as the tympanic membrane.

  • Middle ear - It lies in between the outer ear and the inner ear. It comprises the air-filled cavity known as the tympanic cavity and the three small bones known as ossicles.

  • Inner ear - The inner ear consists of the snail-looking cochlea, which comprises the tiny but most important components called hair cells.

Sound signals enter the ear canal of the outer ear and strike against the eardrum, thus making it vibrate. These vibrations are transferred to the small ear bones known as the ossicles, which are then transferred to the cochlea of the inner ear. The hair cells in the cochlea are the main components which are responsible for converting analogue sound signals into electrical impulses. These converted electrical signals are then transferred to the auditory nerve which then passes this over the hearing processing centre of the brain. The brain after receiving these signals processes them and perceives them as sounds. It is only at this time that we actually perceive and ‘hear’ these sounds.

 

How will Hearing Health Affect Mental Health?

Now if these sounds do not reach your brain properly, to which it was habituated for so many days, then a time might come when your brain will altogether stop recognising them. This condition is called Auditory Deprivation. Since your brain is deprived of these sounds, it will gradually get used to this new ‘soundless’ world. This increases the risks of Dementia - a mental condition in which a person faces various psychological and emotional conditions and complexities like anxiety, depression, memory loss, forgetfulness, the feeling of loneliness and sleep disturbances. Hence, the conclusion, keeping your ears healthy, will promote a healthy mind and a sharp brain.

However, this doesn’t mean that wearing hearing aids would eliminate cognitive decline. No, it won’t. Because you just cannot stop an age-related decline in cognition and mental health - it is going to happen. It’s just that hearing devices can lessen the impacts to a great extent, and reduce the intensity of the decline.

In short, when you start wearing hearing aids you get proper access to the hearing world, which you have been missing all this while. This helps your ear nerves to stay stimulated. Stimulating your ears means stimulating the sensory nerves of your ears, and hence stimulating your brain. Wearing hearing aids would help your brain to regain what it had been missing for a long time.

If you stop taking care of your ears, you will gradually start isolating yourself socially. You will start avoiding all social events and all such gatherings in which you are frequently being misunderstood or being mocked at for not understanding what people are saying or failing to get hold of the main topic in group discussions. This makes you gradually start avoiding to attend such gatherings.

Social isolation, as a result, gradually leads to anxiety and depression, which further brings other mental problems. So taking care of your ears and treating your hearing problems on time will prevent deterioration of your mental health as well as your physical well-being.

 

Impacts of an Untreated Hearing Loss

  • Social Isolation or Social Phobia - It involves persistent fear of social events or performance situations in which embarrassment may occur.

  • Depression - Due to unexpected and frustrating situations you face everty\whee due to your hearing problems, you might feel depressed because nothing is going right in your life.

  • Cognitive decline - If you continue avoiding hearing aids, you would gradually experience a cognitive decline, because your brain has stopped receiving sounds. Each and every sound is food for your brain.

  • Diminished efficiency at work, Income disparity and Financial Problems - A cognitive decline would gradually diminish your ability to work efficiently, thus reducing your income capacities, and thus affecting your financial state.

  • Impaired memory - Untreated hearing loss leads to the dysfunctioning of the inner ear and the hearing nerves, as well as the brain - which stops functioning well due to lack of sound stimulus for a long time. This results in impaired memory and forgetfulness.

  • Being misunderstood or misjudged - If you think that wearing hearing aids would make you prone to being laughed at, you would be wrong! Hearing loss is visible, not your hearing aids! If you avoid wearing your hearing devices, you would likely to reply inappropriately to others while in a conversation. As a result, there would be greater chances of being mocked at, and being misjudged.

  • Safety issues - Avoiding hearing aids might be very dangerous, especially while you are on the streets. For example, if you can’t hear the honking of a speedy car approaching towards you, you might even face accidents.

  • Forgetting what nature sounds like - You might think that you will do quite well without having to hear the natural sounds of the environment, such as the rustling of the leaves, the chirping of the birds, etc. But even these are important for your brain to stay active for long.

  • Greater chances of falling - An affected inner ear can affect the vestibular system - the second important part of the inner ear - which is responsible for maintaining the body balance.

  • Personal relationships being affected - If you don’t open up or discuss about your hearing problems, you might face frequent misunderstandings with your friends and family members.

  • Anxiety - Various types of anxiety disorders might occur due to medical illness, psychological complications or due to reasons which do not meet any criteria for any specific anxiety.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder and/or personality - Recurrent behaviours are observed which are severe enough to be time-consuming or cause marked distress or significant impairment.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder - Development of characteristic symptoms occur following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor.

  • Lack of concentration - Of course if you can’t hear well, you would not be able to follow what’s going on. Also, anxiety which is caused as a result of an untreated hearing loss is going to divert your mind from whatever you do, and hence keep you distracted almost all the time. Because you would end up thinking about what would be the consequences of every activity that you do.

  • Sleep disorders - Your affected psychological state would affect your sleep cycle and hence cause sleep disorders.

  • Diminished quality of life - All these conditions affect your quality of life.

So now you know why is it so important to treat your hearing loss problems on time and to wear good quality hearing aids. Don’t leave your hearing loss untreated. Hear better and stay healthy.

Comments | Posted in Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

Ageing and Hearing Loss

Saturday, March 2, 2019 2:01:14 PM Asia/Calcutta

It is true that hearing loss occurs in most of us as we grow older. Age-related hearing loss or presbycusis is quite a common issue these days that affects older and elderly adults, and sadly in most cases, it is unpreventable. You can only try to stay healthy as long as possible.

In the US, approximately 1 in 3 people in between the age group of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and about half of those who are of 75 years and above have difficulty hearing. Hearing impairment is ranked third in the list of chronic health conditions which affect people belonging to the age group of 65 and above.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, within the year 2025 there will be about 1.2 billion people over 60 years of age worldwide, with more than 500 million individuals who will suffer a significant hearing impairment from presbycusis, also known as an age-related hearing loss.

Presbycusis has a major impact on the quality of life of a person and is related to a significant reduction in his or her communication skills. It also affects the psycho-social aspects of an individual, such as inducing progressive isolation, possibly exacerbating anxiety-depressive status and/or accentuating possible cognitive deficits.

 

Classifications of Presbycusis

Schuknecht, et al. 1993 categorised presbycusis into four types based on pathology and audiometric findings - sensory, neural, conductive, and metabolic (strial).

  • Sensory presbycusis is defined as epithelial atrophy and loss of sensory hair cells as well as the supporting cells of the organ of Corti, which arise from the base and progress towards the apex. In this type of presbycusis, the slope of the audiogram (a graph which shows the results of the pure-tone hearing test) occurs in the high frequencies, therefore, the speech discrimination is preserved.

  • Neural presbycusis results from nerve cells atrophy in the cochlea and central neural pathway. Atrophy occurs throughout the cochlea with no sheer or dangerous drops in the high-frequency threshold in the audiogram. The speech discrimination decreases severely even before hearing loss is recorded.

  • Conductive or mechanical type arises from thickening and secondary stiffening of the basilar membrane of the cochlea with a gradual sloping high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss. Speech discrimination is preserved in this type of presbycusis.

  • Atrophy of stria vascularis results in metabolic or strial presbycusis which affect the entire cochlea and show a flat curve in the audiogram.

 

Why Do People Get Hearing Loss as They Age?

There are many factors which contribute to hearing loss as you start ageing. Although it is quite difficult to distinguish age-related hearing loss or presbycusis from other factors that might be responsible for it, yet let us take a look at the possible reasons that might cause hearing loss as you age.

  • Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) - It is caused either by long term exposure to sounds which are either too loud or which last for too long. This exposure causes damage to the hair cells present inside the cochlea of the inner ear, which are responsible for converting sound waves into neural signals, thus making them ready to be sent to the brain via the auditory nerve. Once damaged, these hair cells can never grow or regenerate. They are gone forever! Therefore the term ‘permanent hearing loss’!

  • High blood pressure or hypertension - The link between hearing loss and high blood pressure is pretty simple. When your blood pressure is high, your blood vessels are damaged, which is not limited to just one area in your whole circulatory system and thus includes your ears as well and hampering proper blood circulation. In simple words, if the blood circulation in your ears is affected, your ears won’t work well and thus leading to hearing loss problems.

  • Diabetes - High blood glucose levels can damage the small blood vessels in the inner ear, thus affecting your hearing abilities.

  • Ototoxic medications - Medications, like chemotherapy drugs are toxic to the sensory cells of your ears, thus affecting their functioning and causing hearing loss.

  • Genetics - Yes your parents hearing health matters! Some diseases like Otosclerosis, Usher Syndrome, Pendred Syndrome, which cause hearing loss are hereditary.

Apart from these common causes of age-related hearing loss, there can be cases like sudden damage to the internal structure of the outer or the middle ear due to various reasons like a serious injury. However, these conditions are very less as far as presbycusis is concerned.

Studies show that most of the older people who acquire a hearing loss have a combination of both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss.

 

Age-related hearing loss is a gradual process and often occurs in both the ears, affecting them equally. And the sad part is that in most of the cases an individual may not even realise that he or she is suffering from age-related hearing loss and that he or she has lost some of his or her hearing ability. And this realisation is generally late until there are some other damages associated with it. Of course, there are so many hearing loss treatment options, the most common being hearing aids, but you just need to take that action.

But the question arises, ‘How would you know that you have hearing loss?’

There are many signs which tell you that its time that you take serious action. If you are still confused about whether you are suffering from hearing loss, here’s a simple checklist for you. Ask yourself and try to answer all of them. If you answer with an ‘Yes’ to three or more of these questions, then it’s a good chance that you are having some degree of hearing loss.

  • Do you feel embarrassed while meeting new people?

  • Do you feel that others are mumbling?

  • Do you often ask people to repeat themselves?

  • Do you often find it difficult to understand what others are trying to convey and hence feel frustrated?

  • Do you face problems while listening to the radio or the TV and hence end up raising up the volume which is too loud for others?

  • Do you have a hard time hearing while at the movies or at the theatre?

  • Do you have trouble hearing when you are at a restaurant with your family and friends?

  • Do you face difficulties in understanding speech in a noisy area?

  • Do you have difficulties in differentiating between ‘s’ and ‘th’ sounds?

  • Do you have difficulty understanding what your co-workers, clients or customers are trying to say?

  • Do you often end up arguing with your family members because you are unable to understand them?

  • Do you often avoid attending social gatherings?

  • Do you often avoid making phone calls or even receiving them, thus end up giving excuses via text messages like ‘I was not carrying my phone’ or ‘My phone was silent’, etc.?

  • Do you have a sensation of ringing in the ears or tinnitus?

 

Now that you know that you might have hearing loss (and that’s why you are reading this blog), head on to know how to fight against it.

 

How to Fight Against It?

Do not panic! The first and foremost thing that you should do is to get up from your chair at the corner of your room and step outside your house! Visit your nearest hearing clinic or a professional Audiologist and get your hearing tested. An ideal Audiologist is supposed to test your hearing thoroughly, provide you with an audiogram report and explain you the test results in details. Depending on your test results - that is the type and the intensity of your hearing loss, your Audiologist will suggest you the hearing aids (devices that are worn in the ear to enable you to hear better) which would best suit your hearing needs as well as your personal preferences.

A good Audiologist will also do a test and trial with a few hearing aids of various types and determine with which device are you responding the best. Also, he or she would also help you out in the days to come if you face any problems with your device in the future - such as reprogramming and fitting.

Keep in mind that hearing aids are not like eyeglasses, which would give you a clear vision immediately after wearing them. Hearing aids don’t just work that way. It takes time for your brain to adjust to this new hearing world which it was missing for all these days because of your untreated hearing loss.

If, however, you find that your hearing aids are not giving you many benefits even after using them for a long time, then you need to consult your Audiologist immediately. It might be that your hearing loss is so severe such as in case of a severe to profound degree of sensorineural hearing loss, then your Audiologist might recommend you to go for a cochlear implant, an electrical device that is surgically implanted inside your ear and in which you would get a permanent hearing solution, and unlike hearing aids you don’t need to change the device after using it for some years. A cochlear implant only needs to be updated from time to time.

Apart from hearing aids and cochlear implants, there are other devices as well such as assistive listening devices which include telephone and cell phone amplifying devices, smartphone apps to enhance the listening experience and closed-circuit systems like hearing loop systems (example microphones) which are found in places like a theatre, a temple or at some other public event.

Lip reading or speech reading is another option to assist hearing impaired people and to help them understand better what others are trying to convey. Lip reading involves paying close attention to lip movement as well as other body language movements and gestures.

 

The best way to avoid hearing loss problems is to prevent it. Because prevention is always better than cure!

 

How Can I Prevent Age-Related Hearing Loss?

Although at present, proper preventive measures of age-related hearing loss have not been found, yet there are certain ways following which can help you prevent hearing loss due to ageing. These are as follows -

  • Protect your ears and avoid being overexposed to loud sounds. In this way, you can prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Use earplugs or other protective wearables whenever you are near a source of some loud sound.

  • Avoid the intake of ototoxic medications until and unless you have no other option.

  • Take care of your high blood pressure and diabetic problems by consulting a good health professional.

  • Get your ears checked from time to time to prevent any serious hearing loss problems in the future.

  • Avoid smoking and drinking.

So stay healthy and hear better for as long as you can!

0 Comments | Posted in Digital Hearing Aids Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

Binaural Hearing Aids: Discover the Benefits of Using Two Hearing Aids

Friday, January 25, 2019 1:22:57 PM Asia/Calcutta

Do you often ask what is the need for wearing hearing aids in both the ears? Do you know what you are missing being a single hearing aid user? Don’t miss out the joy of experiencing the wonderful world of sounds.

Read on to learn about the numerous benefits of binaural hearing aids, and how they can change your life!

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Comments | Posted in Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee

How the Winter Weather Can Affect Your Hearing?

Friday, January 4, 2019 1:54:34 PM Asia/Calcutta

We know that you were waiting for this cold season all the year. Now that it is here, you slip into those comfy garments and blankets at night. You love going for a picnic with your friends and family members during the wintertime. But amongst all these good things, do you know that the cold temperatures are not at all good for your ears?

Yes you heard it right! Read on to know more about what exactly is the relation between the winter weather and hearing problems.

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Pros and Cons of Small Hearing Aids

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 12:26:47 PM Asia/Calcutta

You have been diagnosed with hearing loss, and your Audiologist has suggested you to take hearing aids. Till then it is well and clear! But the most confusing question is, “Which hearing aid would suit me the best?!” There are so many to choose from - starting from the stylish ones, the easy-to-handle ones, the technologically advanced and smart ones to the small and completely invisible ones.

 

Pros and Cons of Small Hearing Aids

So which one should you choose?

About 80% would go for smaller hearing aids - like the ITE, ITC, CIC or the IIC - which would remain hidden in the ear, and not be seen by anybody else from outside. It is because a majority of the people are worried about what others would think, hence they deny showing their weaknesses. But often small hearing aids fail to show the expected outcomes as might have been shown by the larger ones. It is because small hearing aids often do not suit everybody! So before arriving at a solution, go through their pros and cons! These will help you choose the right hearing aid!

 

Pros

  • Very small in size, making them completely or nearly invisible

  • No external tubes or wires

  • Light-weight with custom-made sizes that fit inside your ear canal, thus making them absolutely comfortable to wear

  • Perfect for people having mild to moderate hearing loss

  • Due to their proximity to the eardrum, it needs less power for them to transmit the sound to your middle and inner ear

  • Provides much natural sound as there is no or little feedback (whistling) sounds as there is no plastic mold present. This also frees the user of the feeling of an ‘occlusion effect’ which renders in them a sensation of talking ‘in a barrel’!

  • Since these hearing aids are seated inside your ear canal, they are protected by the outer ear - thereby being shielded from the wind sounds while enjoying outdoor activities. Also due to their advantageous position, users of small and invisible hearing aids can have a better experience while using telephone and headsets! Yes, a plus point for song lovers!

 

Cons

  • Not at all fit for all - especially for people with severe to profound hearing losses. BTE hearing aids work best for these hearing loss types.

  • Associated with having dexterity issues - that is, elderly people and children, in most of the cases, are not able to handle these devices properly due to their extremely smaller size

  • Features can be limited as due to small size, they are not powerful

  • You will need to change batteries more often than those in BTE or other larger models

  • It is often difficult to see or feel the controls properly due to the tiny sizes of these hearing aids - thus often making you confused about how to change their functionalities. It makes all the more difficult for people with weak eyesight!

  • Not recommended for people with ear infections - such as in the cases where there is an excessive accumulation of earwax, or pus or other ear fluids coming out from the ear canal. This will not only damage these hearing aids, but will also ruin your hearing experience, thus making you feel uncomfortable!

Now that you are well aware of each side of the coin when it comes to small hearing aids, you can now set your preferences which will further guide you in taking the right decision. But always make sure to consult a certified Audiologist. A good decision taken now can change your entire life!

Comments | Posted in Hearing Aids By Phalguni Bannerjee
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