Category Archive : Blog

Are you searching for some facts and data to finally get a loved one to have a hearing test or be fitted for a hearing aid? Talking over some of the statistics related to the frequency, causes and effects of hearing problems may at long last encourage them to make that initial appointment. Here are some basic facts and statistics to help you make your case:

  • Approximately 36 million individuals the US have some form of hearing loss, which is almost one out of every five people.
  • Over the past 3 decades, the number of Americans with hearing loss has roughly doubled.
  • More men than women experience hearing loss.
  • Roughly 13% of the population over age 65 will experience tinnitus – ringing in the ears.
  • One million Americans have tinnitus that is so intense it gets in the way of everyday life.
  • More people could really benefit from a hearing aid than actually wear one. Some estimates claim there are 4 additional people who could benefit, for every one actually using a hearing aid.
  • Ten million people have permanent loss of hearing due to noise, and 30 million more are exposed to damaging noise levels every day.
  • Approximately 26 million Americans aged between 20 and 69 are afflicted with high frequency hearing loss caused by repeated exposure to loud noise either at work or during leisure activities.
  • About 23,000 people in the United States have cochlear implants – 43% of the them children.
  • Hearing loss categorization studies state that 5% of cases are severe, 30% moderate and 65% are classified as mild.
  • People with hearing loss wait an average of approximately ten years before doing anything about it. Does that describe you or someone you love?

In addition to all of them being musicians, what do Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Ludwig van Beethoven and Jeff Beck have in common? All of these musicians experienced – as a result of playing the music they love – permanent hearing loss.

I often work with musicians who have experienced hearing damage as a result of their longtime love of playing music. When a musician is exposed to loud music they can suffer from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) which produces ringing in the ears, sometimes referred to as tinnitus. With similar ongoing exposure permanent hearing loss can result.

Not just big-name stadium rock stars are susceptible, all musicians are at risk. Players of all genres from classical, to club and small venues, even while rehearsing at home a musician can cross the threshold to overexposure resulting in NIHL. Hearing loss can occur when exposed to any sound over 85 decibels (dB) in volume for prolonged lengths of time. While 85dB may sound like a high level of sound, even rehearsal situations can produce these levels. Rock musicians and classical alike are both exposed to excessive amplitude of sound; an unamplified violin reaches 103dB and an electric guitar produces 120dB. In fact, audiologists researching hearing loss in musicians have found that overexposure to sound while rehearsing adds up to more hours than they spend on stage performing.

Musicians can take steps to protect their hearing despite this unavoidable exposure to sound that exceeds acceptable levels, even in seemingly quiet rehearsal settings. When investing in high-quality ear protection beyond what can be had from drug-store Styrofoam ear plugs, performers can trust their hearing is protected. Such earplugs were invented over 20 years ago by a company called Etymotic Research, and their design is still used by most of the manufacturers of specialized earplugs for musicians. Unlike the cheap Styrofoam earplugs that simply block sound, musician ear protection customized for you by your audiologist allows you to hear your normal full range of sound, just at a reduced volume ensuring your hearing is protected. Universal-fit musicians earplugs, starting at about $15 a pair, can be found at most stores that sell musical instruments. Whether you are a professional musician or just someone who plays for fun, I recommend a better form of protection – custom-molded musicians earplugs with the Etymotic filter in place. The custom molded earplugs will be more comfortable, will block more undesirable sounds while allowing you to hear the full range of music, and will be easier to maintain. Yes, they’re more expensive than the earplugs sold in music stores, but since hearing damage is irreversible, how much is your ability to hear the music you play worth to you?

The American Tinnitus Association defines the condition (which can be pronounced either tin-NYE-tus or TIN-ni-tus) as hearing sounds that no one else can hear. Experienced generally more often by men over the age of 50, tinnitus appears to be age-related. Tinnitus inexplicably affects more Americans in the South than other parts of the country, and an estimated 50 million Americans currently have the condition.

There are several types of tinnitus, and there are many different sounds that those with the condition tend to hear. Most people with the condition hear sounds that no one else can hear; this type is referred to as Subjective tinnitus. Incredibly, there are circumstances in which a doctor or audiologist can detect these sounds upon examination, this is called Objective tinnitus. Beyond these two common forms of tinnitus there are several other less common forms. These include musical hallucinations (a person hears music that is not playing), pulsatile tinnitus where the rhythmic beats of the heart are heard, and low-frequency sounds that are mistaken for real noises in the environment.

The most common symptom of tinnitus is a persistent, almost-always present, high-pitched ringing noise in one or both ears. Though this is the most commonly heard sound others hear buzzing, clicking, whistling, roaring and hissing that can increase and decrease in pitch and volume. If you have mild tinnitus, you might tend to notice it only in quiet environments, because the ambient sounds of noisy environments can mask the buzzing or ringing sounds. The position of the head can also make a difference; some tinnitus sufferers have reported symptoms intensify while lying down versus sitting or standing up. Although for most people tinnitus is more a nuisance than anything else, for some it has severe repercussions: they may suffer increased levels of stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Others have said that they have difficulty sleeping or concentrating as a result of the tinnitus.

Our specialists can quickly diagnose tinnitus by performing a simple, painless examination and hearing test. Scheduling an appointment is highly recommended, because sometimes tinnitus can be an indicator of serious disease conditions such as arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, and Meniere’s disease, or indicate more serious forms of hearing loss.

Chances are, you’ve spent enough money on your hearing aid to consider it an investment, not just a casual purchase. So far, it has performed well, allowing you to reconnect with loved ones and participate in conversations you once shied away from. However, because it is so reliable and easy, its easy to take your hearing aid for granted and not give it the care and maintenance it requires.
Hearing aids contain many tiny parts and should be considered sensitive precision instruments. Rough handling and moisture can damage the miniaturized electronics in modern hearing aids. Dust, dirt and ear wax can clog the microphone, receiver or both. But by performing a few simple care and maintenance steps, you can ensure that your hearing aid lasts and performs well for as long as its designers intended it to. This article is intended as a reminder of some Dos and Don’ts of how to maintain your hearing aid properly.

Handle with care

  • When removing your hearing aid from its packaging or temporary container, stand over soft ground so that if it falls, it falls onto a soft surface not a hard floor.
  • Keep your hearing aid away from temperature extremes – cold or hot.
  • Don’t use chemical solvents or alcohol to clean the hearing aid.
  • Don’t use hairsprays or hair gels while wearing your hearing aid, because they can clog its sensitive microphone and receiver, and in some cases damage its plastic shell.

Protect it from moisture

  • Electronic hearing aidsand their electronic components are very sensitive to moisture.
  • Take your hearing aid out before swimming or showering. Never use a soaked cloth to try to clean it.
  • Remove the hearing aid before going to sleep, and store it in a clean, dry place.
  • After bathing, always make sure that your ears are completely dry before reinserting your hearing aid.
  • Think about purchasing a hearing aid dehumidifier to prevent moisture buildup. A dehumidifier is relatively inexpensive and will combat the number 1 reason for hearing aid service or repair – moisture.
  • To use it, remove the batteries from the unit first, and then store it in the dehumidifier overnight, so that it can remove any accumulation of moisture.

Remove excessive ear wax from your ears

  • Ear wax clogging the hearing aid is the second most common cause of them having to be returned for service.
  • Ear wax is good and natural for our ears, but can be problematic for hearing aids.
  • Upon removing your hearing aid, wipe away ear wax using a soft cloth.
  • Use the brush or other implements provided with the hearing aid to remove any buildup of ear wax from its receiver and microphone areas.

Change the batteries regularly

  • Weakened batteries can reduce the functionality of the hearing aid.
  • If you allow them to run out completely, the hearing aid may have to be reprogrammed.
  • To conserve the batteries, switch the unit off at night or when you’re not using it.
  • Also remember to clean the battery contacts using a cotton swab, because dirty contacts can cause the device to malfunction.

What we call ear wax develops because our ear canals are lined with hair follicles and glands that produce an oily wax called cerumen. This wax coats the inner surface of the ear canal and protects it by attracting and gathering foreign debris such as dust and dirt, bacteria, and other microbes. A further reason for ear wax is to guard the delicate skin of the ear canal if it is in contact with moisture; So there is nothing abnormal or unhealthy about ear wax or the production of it.

In the majority of people, ear wax gradually makes its way to the external areas of the ear, where it either falls out or can be rinsed away when we clean our ears. In a few people, however, the glands in their ear canals make more ear wax than is normal. Because of this, the wax accumulates and may harden, obstructing the ear canal and keeping sound waves from reaching your inner ear. For that reason, the buildup of surplus ear wax is, for people of every age, one of the most common causes of hearing difficulties.

Indications of ear wax obstruction include things like earaches, a sense that the ear is closed up, a consistent ringing noise (tinnitus), and partial hearing loss, which has a tendency to get steadily worse. This type of hearing loss is known as conductive, because the sound waves are hindered from reaching the eardrum, as opposed to sensorineural, as the result of some physiological flaw. Luckily, this grounds for hearing loss is easily diagnosed and remedied.

For those who have experienced some or all of the symptoms previously mentioned, come in to our clinic in Reading, where Dr. Ed Grabarek can quickly and painlessly check to see if the cause is a build up of ear wax. If it is, an abnormal buildup of ear wax is readily treated, either at home or at the clinic.

If Dr. Ed Grabarek diagnoses you as having earwax blockage, there are things you can do at home to remove it. Don’t attempt to use a cotton swab, which can cause the ear wax to become even more compacted. Alternatively, add a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial ear drops designed for this purpose to each ear, allow them to remain in the ear for a few minutes to loosen up the wax, and then wash the loosened wax out, using body-temperature water. (Hot or cold water can cause feelings of vertigo or dizziness.) Drug stores sell small bulb-like syringes which you can use to flush the ear after the wax has been loosened, facilitating the process. Do not try to use a WaterPik or any other jet irrigator created for the teeth because the force of the spray could damage the eardrum, and don’t attempt any form of irrigation at home if you know that your eardrum has been punctured.

If this does not seem to work to get rid of the buildup of ear wax, come see us. .

Mobile phones have a history of interacting badly with hearing aids. The complex electronics in the mobile phones often resulted in interference between the two resulting in screeching, static, missed words or miscellaneous noises.Fortunately, advances in technology and new government regulations have made the question “Will this phone work with my hearing aid?” easier to answer. The labeling requirements mandated by the new government regulations make it easy to find a mobile phone that is compatible with your hearing aid.

The understand the labels, first you need to know that hearing aids can operate in one of two modes. Microphone mode is symbolized with an “M” and telecoil mode is represented with a “T”.In M mode, your hearing aid uses its built-in microphone to pick up audible sounds from the environment and amplify them so that you can hear them. Hearing aids in T mode can pick up the electromagnetic signals inside the phone.The T mode is important when shopping for a phone, because at least 60% of hearing aids sold in the U.S. have one.

Each of the two modes – M and T – have a standard sensitivity rating scale applied to them. The lowest sensitivity is 1 and the highest sensitivity is 4.No mobile phone or cordless handset sold in the United States can be sold as hearing aid compatible (HAC) unless it has a rating of at least M3 or T3.

In addition, many hearing aids (and cochlear implants) have a similar M and T rating to measure their sensitivity and their resistance to radio frequency interference. To determine the compatibility of your hearing aid and the mobile phone you are looking at buying, add together the M and T ratings for the phone and the hearing aid.If you get a combined total of 6 or more, that is thought of as excellent, a combination of hearing aid and phone that will be highly usable.If the combined rating is 5, this combination is considered normal and suitable for most regular phone use. A combined rating of 4 is considered usable for brief calls, but may not be suitable for extended phone use.

The rating system has created standards making it easier for hearing aid users to shop for a mobile phone online with confidence.If you are able to shop in a store that allows you to “try before you buy” and actually use the phone you want while wearing your hearing aid, that is of course a better idea.