Seeing Movies with Hearing Loss

It’s movie time, with or without hearing loss. With October’s scary flicks and winter’s Oscar® contenders on the horizon, fall is the perfect time to find yourself at the theater.

For those worried about their hearing difficulty, here are some REM-approved tips that may help you maximize your moviegoing experience.

Tips For You

1. Movie theaters are pretty loud to begin with.

Being able to hear the movie will be a lot easier than trying to understand a conversation with a friend out in the lobby.

2. Pick your seat wisely!

The best seat, according to some experts, is in the center of the row, about 2/3 of the way back from the screen. You’re farther away from the speakers, but you’re also where the sound mix is the clearest.

3. Assistive listening devices can be very useful.

Not only that, but as of this year, theaters must offer them to anyone who needs them: “Under new rules that took effect in the summer, movie theaters must now provide closed captioning and audio description for any digital movie that includes such accessibility features. The services must be provided upon request at a person’s seat.”

If you’re curious about specifics, theater websites often have more information. AMC, for example, has everything from devices to amplify sound to caption readers to audio description/assistive listening technology. Some theaters may even have T-coil connections, allowing your hearing aid to pick up your theater’s audio stream.

Whatever the theater offers, it’s always a good idea to call before you leave to verify availability. Specific devices may differ per location and chain.

4. Watch movies at home!

Some new releases are released on-demand simultaneously to their theatrical window. Most are released shortly thereafter. Gone are the days when you had to wait 8 months to watch a new movie at home.

Home theaters are also getting better and better. There are devices available you may already have that help transmit sound from your system to your aids.

5. Plan your trip for off hours!

Movie theater audiences can be noisy, their sound cutting into the sounds you want to hear. Simply put, fewer people = less distraction.

6. Try not to worry!

Test out different theaters and different times of day, and before you know it, you’ll find your ideal combination.

If you want to make day of it, be sure to check out our blog about hearing in noisy restaurants. Enjoy the movies!

National Audiology Awareness Month

October is National Audiology Awareness Month. What does that mean? What can you do? How can you help spread awareness?

Do a Google search, and you’ll find half a dozen calls to action from a variety of different hearing education resources. The American Academy of Audiology, for example, asks hearing professionals to take charge locally and dedicate time during October 1-5 (“Public Awareness Week”) to “rally with your colleagues,” while Cochlear Americas seeks stories from the experts, hoping to inspire and teach.

Healthy Hearing, on the other hand, lays out the facts for the non-professional. They highlight the importance of not only hearing tests, but the importance of audiology assessments:

“Audiologists have a valuable and varied role in treating the hearing health of people of all ages, from the very young to the very old. They not only perform hearing evaluations and fit hearing aids, but also treat noise induced hearing loss, ear infections, trauma and damage to inner ear and eardrum due to illness or ototoxic medications.”

In line with Healthy Hearing, the NIDCD has a dedicated website to help inform the consumer, especially concerning adolescent hearing loss. This is a great resource for parents and teachers.

Finally, REM has some tips for how you can help with National Audiology Awareness Month:

  1. Spread the news about hearing loss prevention, which is a big part of any audiologist’s job.
  2. Find your favorite resources. In addition to the websites listed above, REM’s own blog — covering a variety of topics over the course of several years — might prove helpful.
  3. Encourage ear protection when exposed to loud noises.
  4. Get an app that monitors noise levels in the world around you.
  5. Realize that everyone over 55 deserves a hearing assessment*.

There’s lots you can do to help this coming October!

*The purpose of this hearing assessment and/or demonstration is for hearing wellness to determine if the patient(s) may benefit from using hearing aids. Products demonstrated may differ from products sold. Test conclusion may not be a medical diagnosis. The use of any hearing aid may not fully restore normal hearing and does not prevent future hearing loss. Testing is to evaluate your hearing wellness, which may include selling and fitting hearing aids. Hearing instruments may not meet the needs of all hearing-impaired individuals.

Portable Music Device Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is on the rise! For children, exposure to loud, constant noise is more prevalent than ever. A recent study, undertaken by researchers from Erasmus University, links portable music devices to future hearing problems in children. According to the ASHA Leader article that breaks down the study:

“Even using the portable music players just one or two days per week (regardless of how long they wore headphones or how high the volume setting), these children were more than twice as likely to have hearing loss when compared to children who did not use these devices at all.”

That’s a bold, frightening claim, but parents should realize there are still ways to help protect their children’s hearing. Volume level and length of exposure — despite the prevalence conclusions of the study — are still major determining factors in later-life hearing loss. Limiting time and sound level is strongly advocated. It will help!

When asking your children to turn down their music or take out their earbuds for a while, REM recommends explaining why you’re telling them to do so. Teach them good hearing etiquette early in life, lessons they can apply years down the road. Teach your children (and other adults you may know) to take care of their hearing now.

For more information about how long it takes (and how loud it needs to get) before sound causes hearing loss, you can check out one of our past blogs.

Tech Spot Update – ARIA Therapy

If your child has a condition known as amblyaudia — a disorder that prohibits the ability of the brain to process competing information from ear-to-ear — he or she might need a type of dichotic therapy known as ARIA therapy.

Amblyaudia is often diagnosed following a central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) evauation, which can reveal binaural integration weakness. This is when your child develops a dominant ear, which often suppresses incoming auditory information from the opposite ear. We often refer to this “weaker” ear as a “lazy ear.” ARIA therapy’s goal is to correct this imbalance.

ARIA therapy takes place over 4 weeks, in 4 one-hour sessions, and is performed by a licensed audiologist in a soundproof booth. After therapy, there is usually a fifth, follow-up evaluation session.

The Auditory Processing Center, located in Mississippi, agrees that treatment of amblyaudia is crucial for learning and developing children: “Following ARIA treatment children have better access to auditory signals, which will help them hear better, so they will have better access to the curriculum at school. If a child has amblyaudia, this should be treated first in order to make listening easier and maximize benefit from other types of therapy (i.e. dyslexia, speech/language therapy, or tutoring) that the child may also be receiving.”

ARIA therapy is an exciting process the audiologists at REM are proud to be able to offer our patients. Amblyaudia often goes undiagnosed, which is unfortunate, because this therapy can very well help your child become a more efficient listener, both in and outside the classroom.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact our front office, email Dr. Cory McNabb (our pediatric audiologist) directly, or check out our ARIA therapy page on our website. For more info about the actual therapy, be sure to check out this month’s newly updated Technology Spotlight.

Speech and Language Development

Speech and language development is every parent’s first concern. How your child receives, processes, and expresses information can be a huge determining factor affecting the rest of his or her life. This is one reason why hospitals give hearing tests to newborns, and why parents are encouraged to follow up with additional speech and language tests in the following couple of years.

Exposure

According to the the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), development peaks early: “The first 3 years of life, when the brain is developing and maturing, is the most intensive period for acquiring speech and language skills.”

So, during this time, expose your child to everything: sights, sounds, speech, any productive stimulation you can think of. Take note of what’s grabbing hold, and try to replicate any positive sight-and-sound environments. Developmental “…skills develop best in a world that is rich with sounds, sights, and consistent exposure to the speech and language of others.”

Speech and Language Disorders

Unfortunately, sometimes there are problems. So, what should you do if any issues present? Or how can you tell if there are issues in the first place?

Naturally this is a big topic, too big to cover in a single blog. But there are rough guidelines. The Mayo Clinic has a useful rundown by age, covering everything from speech sounds and simple word recognition (1st year), to imitation and actual speech (year 2).

If you notice anything wrong, or are worried about your child not hitting commonly accepted milestones, see your doctor! “Speech delays occur for many reasons, including hearing loss and developmental disorder,” the Mayo Clinic says, and you won’t know what can be done until you follow up.

Back to School with Hearing Loss

Summer is winding down and school is peeking out over the horizon. If you have hearing loss or communication difficulties, what can you do to prepare? Who can you talk to?

1. Talk to your child. Be transparent. If your child has hearing or language issues, reassure any anxieties they may have. Share as much info as you can about any assistive listening devices or speech therapy classes currently in place to help them learn and stay on course with their fellow students.

2. Get informed! See what services your school offers, and see what else could be offered. Talk to local audiologists and speech pathologists, maybe do some research online. Possibly, you can even give your local school board some ideas.

3. Be aware of your school’s IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) and 504 plans. These can offer “formal help for K-12 students with learning and attention issues.”

4. If your child has hearing loss, allow them to try unfamiliar things. Allow them to achieve and stumble. Ellie Parfitt, who is deaf, writes on the Hearing Like Me blog: “One thing that my parents have learned from having a deaf child, is that you should encourage them to make their own decisions, choose subjects they would like to study and make sure you encourage them to try new things.” This is good advice for anyone.

For more information, check out one of our blogs from last summer. Here, you’ll be able to find info about specific devices and ideas concerning your child’s educational development.

The Genetics of Hearing Loss

Can you inherit hearing loss? As you might expect, the answer is complicated.

Because of genetic mutations that can be passed from parent to child, certain individuals may be more pre-disposed to hearing difficulty than others. Hereditary hearing loss can be seen in everything from genetic abnormalities in inner ear sensory cells to specific disorders such as Usher syndrome, Pendred syndrome, and Otosclerosis.

In some cases, genetic hearing loss can appear in newborns. About 50% of all children’s hearing loss can be due to genetic influences. According to BabyHearing.org:

“In approximately 70% of cases of genetic hearing loss, the cause is autosomal recessive. About 12 babies per 10,000 have a recessive cause of their hearing loss. Congenital hearing loss (hearing loss present at birth) that is due to one of the many recessive genes is twice as common as Cystic Fibrosis, another recessive genetic condition.”

Hereditary hearing difficulty can also manifest later in life. Anyone can experience the symptoms and effects of hearing loss at any time.

The causes and permutations of hearing disorders are very complex, and not everyone will be able to — or feel the need to — have their genes sequenced to see what could potentially be passed down to their children. That said, it’s important to know that sometimes hearing loss simply can be explained by genetics, to the fault of no one involved. So, if you notice any hearing issues in you or your child, it’s important to get them checked out right away, even if you don’t fit into any high-risk groups.

Balance and Hearing Loss

Hearing and balance are two peas in a pod. Balance is intricately connected to the inner ear, and if you have balance issues, you might have hearing loss (and vice versa). If you notice symptoms of either, it’s always a good idea to talk to your primary care physician or audiologist.

Noticing Symptoms

Why go see an audiologist if you experience dizziness or loss of coordination with hearing loss? “Hearing and balance disorders are complex with medical, psychological, physical, social, educational, and employment implications.” It often takes an audiologist — well versed in the diagnosis and treatment of not only hearing loss, but also its associated physical manifestations — to figure out the best way forward.

It’s important to not waste any time if you notice any differences in your balance. A fall due to uneven equilibrium is never ideal, especially if you’re older. It can be frustrating, costly, and even permanently debilitating. A Johns Hopkins study showed that falls are increasing among senior citizens in the US. Researcher Elizabeth Burns, at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, says that “Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among adults aged 65 and older.”

How to Help Yourself

1. If you have a hearing loss and balance problems, hearing aids can usually help compensate for your balance issues.. The more you can hear your environment, the better you’re able to interact with the world around you.

2. Though it may seem to go without saying, keep your floor clear of any refuse or piles, don’t walk around in the dark, and don’t feel ashamed to walk with a cane or walker if you need one.

Regular Hearing Assessments

It is REM’s belief — one we share with patients in a readily available handout — that regular hearing assessments** could be just what you need to decrease the risk of falls, increase your longevity, and enjoy a better overall quality of life. Please reach out and call us or your doctor for more information.

**The purpose of this hearing assessment and/or demonstration is for hearing wellness to determine if the patient(s) may benefit from using hearing aids. Products demonstrated may differ from products sold. Test conclusion may not be a medical diagnosis. The use of any hearing aid may not fully restore normal hearing and does not prevent future hearing loss. Testing is to evaluate your hearing wellness, which may include selling and fitting hearing aids. Hearing instruments may not meet the needs of all hearing-impaired individuals.

Diet and Hearing Health

A healthy diet is an important part of hearing health. It’s easy to understand why – a healthy diet equals a healthy body, and when you eat all the right foods and get plenty of exercise, you age better, more naturally, and maybe even slower.

So, how does hearing specifically fit into all this?

Let’s start with minerals. Minerals in food are necessary nutrients the body needs, and there are a few that are crucial to help preserve good hearing. Potassium, folic acid, magnesium, and zinc are all important to help your hearing remain its best. Check out the linked article for more information, and start paying attention to what vitamins you’re regularly consuming. You might need to add some supplements if you’re lacking in any essentials (though talk to your doctor first).

As for overall health, a recent article on the CaptionCall website cites a study: “Over the last 26 years researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, part of Harvard Medical School in Boston, have been studying women’s diets and how it relates to hearing loss.” Results showed that those with better dietary habits had a 47 percent less likely chance to experience hearing loss later in life. “Researchers note that the main relation between healthy diet and hearing loss prevention is increased cardiovascular health. Healthy diets lead to an increase in blood flow and reducing inflammation.”

So, looking beyond diet, it might be safe to conclude that a healthier heart equals hardier hearing. “The connection between hearing health and cardiovascular health has led many professionals to believe the ear may be a window into the heart,” writes Beth McCormick, Au.D., in a Starkey blog.

The body works together in ways that the medical community is still figuring out, and different studies on diet and hearing will naturally have different conclusions. That said, a healthy body is always a good thing to strive for, right?

Healthy body, healthy heart, healthy mind, healthy hearing.

Summertime Hearing Tips

Every summer, we write about how to protect your hearing and your hearing aids while outdoors, in the heat, or on vacation. This year we decided to do something a little different. After a couple protection tips, we get into the benefits of summer, and how the season can help improve your hearing health.

How to Protect Your Hearing

1. Swimmer’s ear can often lead to ear infections, caused by trapped water in the ear canal. If you notice water in your ear that’s not going away on its own, use over-the-counter ear drops to reduce moisture. If you’re already experiencing pain or discharge, a visit to the doctor is recommended.

2. Summer months often mean vacation, air travel, and unfortunately, airplane ear. Also called barotitis media, airplane ear is ear pain and a stuffed-up feeling due to the change in air pressure during the plane’s ascent and descent. Yawning, blowing your nose, swallowing, or chewing gum can help.

3. Be aware of how loud summer activities are, and how little it can take to damage your hearing. Do yourself a favor and get a phone app that monitors the sound levels around you. Many are free. You can find more info on our previous blog, Surprising Levels of Everyday Sounds.

How to Protect Your Hearing Aids

1. Do not keep your hearing aids in direct heat or sunlight (e.g., dashboard in your car).

2. Use hearing aid dehumidifiers to reduce moisture damage.

3. If going to the beach, protect your aid by putting it in a ziplock bag with a desiccant. If applying suntan lotion, be sure any doesn’t get on your device.

4. Always open the battery door at night, especially when it’s hot and humid. Humidity can have a devastating effect on your hearing device.

How the Summer Can Help You Hear

Summer is a great time to socialize with others, and if you’re a regular reader of these blogs, you know what we’re about to say — socialization is brain training and a crucial part of maintaining hearing health and wellness.

Check out some hard of hearing community events. The Hearing Loss Association of America, for example, promotes accessible theater groups that use assistive listening devices — such as captioned performances — for the hard of hearing.

Most importantly, have fun! Use the time to learn about all the hearing aids and technology you might not know about. Take advantage of the nice weather to experiment with ideal sound environments. Enjoy the improved communication skills offered by today’s devices. All of this is in the best interest of your cognitive and emotional well-being.