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Secretion Secrets: Things You Didn’t Know About Earwax

Earwax, known technically as cerumen, is produced by glands in your ear canal. Made up mostly of dead skin cells, earwax also contains other substances, including lysozyme, an antibacterial enzyme, fatty acids, alcohols, cholesterol, and squalene.1

In fact, earwax isn’t “wax” at all; it’s a mixture of water-soluble secretions. And although you probably don’t give your earwax much thought, it actually represents one of your body’s most ingenious protective mechanisms. Earwax isn’t simply a hygienic nuisance… far from it.

Earwax Benefits: Why Your Ears Need Wax

Your ears produce earwax constantly so that, ideally, you’ll maintain just the right amount in your ear canals. Unless you have an earwax blockage, which I’ll discuss below, it’s actually best to leave your earwax alone – don’t try to remove it with cotton swabs or other devices.

In fact, if you have too little earwax in your ear canal, your ears may feel dry and itchy. This is because earwax is there for a reason – to protect your ears and provide lubrication. It does this by:

  • Preventing dust, bacteria, and other germs from entering and damaging your ear
  • Trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria
  • Protecting the skin of your ear canal from becoming irritated by water

Your Ears Are Self-Cleaning: Keep the Cotton Swabs Out

Your ear canals are self-cleaning, and earwax is the self-cleaning agent. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF), under ideal circumstances your ear canals should never have to be cleaned.

Excess earwax should move out of your ear canal automatically, as cells there actually migrate naturally. The removal of earwax is also helped along by movements of your jaw (talking, chewing, etc.), and once it reaches your outer ear it will simply fall out or be removed when you shower or bathe. AAO-HNSF states:2

“Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that earwax should be routinely removed for personal hygiene. This is not so. In fact, attempting to remove Earwax with cotton-tipped swabs, bobby pins, or other probing devices can result in damage to the ear, including trauma, impaction of the Earwax, or even temporary deafness. These objects only push the wax in deeper, and can block the ear canal entirely.”

Your Genes Determine Whether Your Earwax Is Wet or Dry

There are two types of earwax:

  • Wet, which is sticky and yellow or brown in color
  • Dry, which is crumbly and lighter colored, grey, or tan

A single gene has been identified as the determining factor in which type of earwax you have, and your family background matters. Dry earwax is common in East Asian populations while wet earwax dominates in African and European populations. The same gene variant that leads to dry earwax is also responsible for reduced underarm body odor in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean individuals.3

Interestingly, when measuring the concentration of 12 volatile organic compounds in earwax from East Asian and white men, Caucasian earwax had more odorous compounds, which one day might be used to help detect disease.4

Earwax Might Reveal Exposure to Pollutants

Like certain other bodily secretions, earwax may be an indicator of your exposure to environmental pollutants, although there’s not much reason to measure earwax pollutants as opposed to, say, getting a blood test.

To get an idea of how much you could, theoretically, learn from analyzing earwax, consider an analysis of earwax from a blue whale. As BBC News reported, blue whales actually retain their earwax for life “recording life events similar to the way tree rings reveal arid and wet seasons during its lifetime.”5

Whale earwax has been described as “a time capsule for stress and toxins,”6with one analysis showing the whale had been exposed to several organic pollutants, including pesticides and flame-retardant chemicals, as well as mercury, and had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol released upon reaching the age of sexual maturity.7

Earwax Blockages: When to Remove Earwax

I have treated hundreds of people in my life who had cerumen impactions. Typically, this required flushing the ear with a syringe or using a dental irrigator to soften the cerumen so it could come out.

The wax can effectively eliminate most of the sound coming to that ear making one nearly deaf on one side. It’s estimated that more than 12 million people a year suffer from impacted earwax. This accumulation of earwax may cause your ear canal to become blocked, leading to the following symptoms:8

  • Earache, fullness in the ear, or a sensation the ear is plugged
  • Partial (reversible) hearing loss, which may be progressive
  • Tinnitus, ring, or noises in the ear
  • Itching, odor, or discharge
  • Coughing

If you do experience a buildup of wax, you can easily remedy the situation at home by using either water, oil, or ear drops to soften the wax to help it migrate out on its own, or you can use ear irrigation to flush the wax out. Acceptable liquids that you can use for this purpose include:

  • Coconut oil
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3% available in most grocery stores)
  • Carbamide peroxide
  • Olive oil

It’s worth noting that using plain sterile water, or a sterile saline solution, to soften earwax works just as well as oil or over-the-counter ear drops. However, I normally find that high-pressure irrigation of the ear canal with a syringe is necessary to remove troublesome wax. This should only be done by a professional as if done improperly it can damage your ear drum.

Additionally, you should NOT irrigate your ears if you have diabetes, a perforated eardrum, a tube in your eardrum, or if your immune system is weakened. If you suffer from a more serious impaction or you can’t get results at home, you may need to get the earwax removed by a physician who can manually remove the wax using microsuction, an otoscope, and appropriate instruments.

Ear Candling Is Not Recommended

Ear candling involves putting a hollow cone-shaped device or “candle,” typically made of linen or cotton soaked in wax or paraffin, in the ear canal, and lighting it on fire. The person undergoing the procedure lies on his or her side. A paper plate or other collection device is placed above the ear, and the candle is inserted through a hole in the plate into the ear canal. The candle is lit, and trimmed as it burns down.

After the candle burns down and is removed from the ear, a cotton swab is used to clean visible wax from the ear, and oil is sometimes applied as a finishing touch. Proponents and practitioners of candling maintain the procedure removes wax and other impurities from the ear. The process by which this purportedly happens is as the smoke moves down the candle into your ear and back out again, a vacuum is created that pulls out wax and other debris from your ear into the hollow candle.

However, research published in the journal Laryngoscope measured this pressure and concluded that no negative pressure was created.9 The same research also revealed that no earwax was removed during candling, and that candle wax was actually deposited in some test subjects’ ears. Additionally, serious injuries may result from ear candling, including external burns, ear canal obstruction with candle wax, and even a perforated eardrum. Remember, earwax has been designed by nature as a cleaning mechanism for your ears. For most of us, the wax moves through the ear canal and eventually makes it to the outside, taking any dirt and other accumulated matter with it. Typically, only earwax that has reached the opening of your ear should be removed.

You May Be Deficient in Omega-3 if You Have Frequent Earwax Buildup

Prevention is the best way to treat this problem. Frequent excess buildup of earwax can oftentimes be traced back to an omega-3 deficiency, so the remedy is quite simple: take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 supplement. Once you’ve cleared out any excess buildup or impaction, making sure you’re getting sufficient amounts of omega-3 will normally prevent a recurrence. If the earwax buildup does return, it’s a clue that you may still have a serious omega-3 deficiency.

 

Concert-Goers: 3 Ways to Protect Your Hearing (And Still Enjoy Music)

I spend about 75% of my waking hours listening to music. I have my headphones in as I walk to work, I play music in my office and spend many nights out at shows in venues that range from small basements to giant amphitheaters. Recently, I started wondering how my fan-dom was actually affecting my hearing. In the past, I’ve worn basic foam earplugs when I remembered to bring them (which, honestly was only about 50% of the time) but they sometimes muffled the sound to the point where I ended up taking them out.

What’s the safest way to listen to music without ruining it?

To get some answers, I visited Audiologist Dominick Servedio. Dr. Servedio explained that the decibel levels at many concerts hover around 120dB (to get an idea of what that means, the weakest sound possible is 0dB and the loudest is 194 dB, as per the House Research Institute). Most hearing loss is cumulative, though he said he has seen cases where one extremely loud exposure led to a decreased sense of audio perception.

Keep reading for Dr. Servedio’s headphone suggestions and for three ways to protect your hearing.

In terms of headphones and ear buds, Dr. Servedio said to be wary of devices that don’t block out outside noise very well — when there’s a lot of external interference, you’re more likely to turn your music up louder. “The damage occurs when you’re trying to drown something out,” he says. The louder the music, the greater chance of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

Here are some of the best ways to prevent hearing loss:

Look for headphones that either cover your entire ear or ear buds that fit to your ear to avoid outside noise from competing with what you’re listening to. If you’re listening to good headphones, Servedio says, you should be able to keep the volume on the lower side and still hear everything clearly. The most effective types of ’phones and plugs are those specifically molded to fit your ear canal. (Again, because they seal in, blocking outside noise). While visiting Dr. Servedio, I had molds taken of my ears (a process which only took a few minutes) that JH Audio used to make personalized In-Ear Monitors (or IEMs) and ear plugs. Many of the musicians you see performing live are wearing IEMs (see Kanye West photo, left.)
2. Always wear earplugs when you are subject to loud noise—this means at concerts, clubs and when you’re in an environment blasting loud music. Custom-fit plugs are preferable but basic foam plugs (Dr. Servedio adorably called them ’foamies’) still do a great job in blocking dBs.

Be aware of the signs of noise-induced hearing loss. A 2006 American Speech-Language Hearing Association, ear discomfort after sound exposure and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

These days, I’m sticking with my IEMs for listening to music and try and remembering to keep my custom-fit earplugs in my bag for when I go out to shows. (And I also keep some foamies at work for when I forget my customs.)

For more information on protecting your hearing, please visit TeenVogue.com.

How to Protect Baby’s Hearing

Little ears need lots of attention. Here’s how to make sure your baby’s hearing is on track.

Just after birth, your baby’s ears should be in almost perfect working order. But in some cases they’re not, and that’s why experts say we should listen up from the very beginning. If your baby has undiagnosed hearing loss, it can trip up his speech development and lead to later struggles in school if, for example, he can’t hear a teacher’s voice above the buzz of classroom activity. Learn more about spotting problems and helping your baby’s hearing.

Parents of deaf newborns rarely realize their babies are at risk.

Daniel Knowsley’s parents were told not to worry when he failed a hearing screening the day after birth. False positives — failures among hearing babies — are common, and rescreening usually brings relief. However, Daniel failed a repeat the following day and again a week later. An audiologist diagnosed severe to profound hearing loss in the baby’s left ear and moderate to severe in his right. “We were completely devastated,” says mom Cyndi of Tuttle, Oklahoma. “We had no idea he was at risk.” Daniel got his first hearing aids at 5 weeks; now 6, he’s thriving in regular classrooms.

Daniel’s parents are among the 1 in 32 people carrying a defective hearing gene. Because it’s recessive, both Mom and Dad can hear fine, but the abnormality has a 1 in 4 chance of showing up in a child. Hearing loss also occurs with some genetic syndromes, such as Down syndrome. In fact, faulty genes account for 50 to 75 percent of hearing loss in newborns.

Genetics isn’t the only risk. Prematurity, low birth weight, jaundice, and delivery problems such as lack of oxygen may also cause hearing loss. So can congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common infection that up to 80 percent of Americans get by the time they reach age 40. It feels like a mild cold and is usually harmless — but in a pregnant woman it can have devastating consequences for a growing baby, including potential hearing loss. Sidestep CMV with diligent handwashing, especially after changing diapers or wiping kids’ noses.

Have your newborn’s hearing checked ASAP, then stay attuned to signs of later loss.

All states have laws to help ensure hearing screening for all babies, although standards vary: many mandate it, but others simply require that parents be informed about screening. Some states (such as Ohio) pick up the cost, while others (like West Virginia) require insurers to do so. Be sure your baby receives the screening — ask your OB if it’ll be done at the hospital right after birth. If not, schedule it within a month.

Hospitals will use one or two tests, each no longer than 10 minutes. One test probes the ear for damage or blockage, and another measures brainwaves in response to sound. If you’re advised to see an audiologist about a suspected problem, don’t delay. “The brain develops fast in the first 12 to 18 months, and sensory input plays a big role,” says Betty Vohr, MD, medical director of the Rhode Island Hearing Assessment Program. “If hearing isn’t stimulated for a prolonged period, babies don’t learn language.” Addressing the problem by 6 months with, say, hearing aids helps keep language skills almost on par with those of peers.

Every well visit should include a hearing check, but you can also keep tabs by tallying baby’s first words. She should babble or imitate voices by 12 months, use single words by 18 months, and say at least 10 words by 2 years, says Gordon Hughes, MD, program director of clinical trials for the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).

Of course, it’s hard to track the word count of a rapidly growing vocabulary, so take notice if your child constantly uses the words “huh?” or “what?” Here are other red flags: “A child who studies your face for more information, sits close to the TV, or switches a phone back and forth between ears may be struggling to hear better,” says Joy Peterson, manager of audiology at the Center for Childhood Communication at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Plugged Ears

A child who’s acting up may have plugged ears.

“Fluid trapped behind the eardrum is the most common cause of reversible hearing loss in children,” says Joshua Gottschall, MD, chief of pediatric otolaryngology at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. “Parents are often surprised and feel guilty when they find out that what they thought was a listening or behavior problem is actually a hearing problem.” Many times, fluid builds up even when there hasn’t been an ear infection: “The child feels fine, so it goes unchecked until there’s a problem with delayed speech.”

When your child does have an ear infection, it usually clears quickly and causes no lasting damage to hearing. (Meningitis, a source of permanent deafness, is now rare, thanks to the pneumococcal vaccine.) But sometimes fluid remains months after the pain and fever subside, and a child misses out on a long stretch of key listening opportunities.

Consider ear tubes if fluid has stayed put for at least 3 months.

Don’t assume a suddenly inattentive child has developed selective hearing — it could be muffled hearing. The same goes for a kid who begins talking more loudly. Even if there are no signs of ear pain, like irritability or sleeplessness, see your pediatrician, who can check for fluid in the middle ear and perhaps refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (called an otolaryngologist or ENT). Then sit tight. By three months, 90 percent of fluid resolves on its own. In the meantime, let teachers and caregivers know your child’s hearing may be impaired for a while.

Fluid that remains longer than three months might be there to stay and can affect language skills, a situation that may call for tympanostomy tubes. Tiny and inserted into the eardrum, these allow air to flow in and fluid to flow out; they usually fall out naturally after about 14 months. The procedure is so common that parents often refer casually to kids “getting tubes” — but it requires surgery and carries all the usual drawbacks, including anesthesia risks. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery recommend reserving tubes for fluid that hasn’t budged for three or four months straight.

In a recent study, however, researchers found that 75 percent of 682 kids who received ear tubes in New York City hospitals had fluid for less than a month and a half. “This is much earlier than experts deem necessary,” says study author Salomeh Keyhani, MD, assistant professor of health policy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “The risks and benefits should be balanced. If the child could get better on her own, why do surgery?” Dr. Keyhani speculates that parents take a pediatrician’s referral to an ENT as mandate for surgery. Be sure to discuss the necessity of tubes with all doctors involved.

Noise

Household noise can be deafening.

Convinced that the overwhelmingly loud crowd sounds at kiddie hangouts like Chuck E. Cheese must be truly deafening? Actually, they’re harder on the nerves than the ears. “Noise levels can seem higher due to the annoyance factor,” says pediatric audiologist Lisa Hunter, PhD. “Chuck E. Cheese’s would rate high on noise annoyance but is unlikely to damage hearing unless kids regularly go there for eight hours a day.”

The real danger may be in your child’s own playroom. Some really rattling rattles and shrieking squeaky toys exceed 100 decibels (dB), according to a study done in the United Kingdom. Rockin’ Guitar Elmo might look innocent, but he’s potentially harder on hearing than a motorcycle roaring by. “A noisy toy is usually safe if used at certain distances, but it’s risky when it’s held to the ear, which many children do,” says Hamid Djalilian, MD, associate professor of otolaryngology at the University of California, Irvine, where researchers tested the decibel levels of several toys when held up to the ear or 10 inches away (see “Hearing Hazards in Your Home”). Noises of 85 dB and up can damage the tiny sensory cells in the inner ear, according to the NIDCD, and damaged cells don’t grow back. Elmo held against the ear registers at 98 dB (but a safer 82 dB at 10 inches), well above a passing motorcycle (90 dB). Pop star-inspired dolls may belt tunes at 105 dB, and transformer toys are even louder.

Preschoolers may not be into MP3 players quite yet, but lots of them use handheld video games with headphones, and experts believe today’s literally plugged-in kids are particularly prone to hearing loss. About 12.5 percent of kids ages 6 to 19 have some level of noise-induced hearing loss, a number considered epidemic. “That suggests hearing loss is starting in toddlers and preschoolers,” Dr. Djalilian says. “These kids will have significant hearing problems when they reach their 40s and 50s.”

Hit the mute button — or at least lower the sound.

“Noise-induced hearing loss is completely preventable,” Peterson says. “If something’s too loud, turn it down, walk away from it, or block it out.” Apply these strategies to a blaring television, a jackhammer on the path of your usual stroll, or an earsplitting concert. “Earmuffs marketed for NASCAR fans work well,” she says. These come in both adult and baby sizes.

Do a sound check on toys: hold them against your ear, then about a foot away. If it’s too loud for you, it’s too loud for your child. Teach children to keep noisy toys away from their ears, and turn off the sound frequently to let ears recuperate.

The Baby Whisperer

Only an audiologist or otolaryngologist can truly assess your baby’s hearing. But there’s one at-home check parents can try for babies 6 months and up, says Hunter. Have one parent capture the baby’s eye with a toy while the other stands about a foot away from behind and whispers the child’s name.

“If your baby turns toward the source of the whisper, that’s a good sign,” Hunter says.

Oh, That Waxy Buildup

Earwax isn’t pretty, but it serves a purpose. It’s a natural lubricant that gathers up dust and foreign bodies, protecting the ear from the injury and infection. Never push anything into the ear — not even a cotton swab. “I’ve had several patients who went deaf because of cotton swabs,” says pediatric audiologist Lisa Hunter, PhD. “They’re like ramrods if the baby jerks.” If your child produces an excess of earwax, a pediatrician or an ear, nose, and throat specialist should clear it out.

Hearing Hazards in Your Home

Toys can be louder than your noisiest appliances. Here’s how toys (when held close to the ear) and common household items rate.

  • Vacuum cleaner, hair dryer: 70 Decibels
  • Dishwasher: 75 Decibels
  • Washing machine: 78 Decibels
  • Lawn mower, blender: 85-90 Decibels
  • LeapFrog Learning Lily: 90 Decibels
  • Little People Dump Truck: 92 Decibels
  • High School Musical Hip Pop Dance Jammer: 96 Decibels
  • Bob the Builder Deluxe Talking Tool Belt: 96 Decibels
  • Tonka Lights and Sounds Hummer: 97 Decibels
  • Tickle Me Elmo: 100 Decibels
  • Hannah Montana Holiday Pop Star: 105 Decibels
  • Transformers Optimus Prime Voice Changer: 110 Decibels

For more information on your baby’s hearing, please visit Parents.com.

Top 10 Things You Need Before Buying hearing Aids

Have you finally decided it’s time to stop missing out on the important sounds of your life and take action to correct your hearing loss? That’s great! According to the Hearing Review, people with hearing loss wait an average of seven years to get help. That’s a lot of missed punch lines, important details in business meetings, sweet sentiments from a loved one, cheerful bird songs and laughter from grandkids.

Top 10 things you need before buying hearing aids:

Hearing test – The first thing you need is a thorough evaluation from a qualified hearing healthcare professional, like those listed our consumer-reviewed directory. The test is easy, painless and it may cost you nothing more than your time.

Priority list – Your hearing healthcare professional will do far more than just test your hearing on your first visit. You will also have a discussion about your lifestyle. Is listening to your favorite TV shows a big priority for you or would you rank being able to understand co-workers better during happy hour at the nearby bar much higher? Maybe you wish to stream music wirelessly through your hearing aids at the gym or have easier one-on-one conversations at home. Whatever your priorities, communicate them clearly to your hearing care provider so they can more easily determine which products are right for you.

Financial plan – Unfortunately, hearing aids are not covered by Medicare or most third-party payers. While many people are working to change this, hearing aids remain a major out of pocket investment in your quality of life. Help is available through financing programs, Vocational Rehabilitation if you are still working, grants and charitable organizations. Do your homework so you can make a plan to pay for your hearing aids and stay within your budget. Your hearing care provider should give you several options that will work for your hearing and your wallet.

Medical clearance – Previously, either a medical evaluation or a medical waiver was required before purchasing hearing aids. Beginning in December 2016, new FDA guidelines aimed at making it easier for consumers to buy hearing aids no longer mandate this. However, your hearing healthcare provider will refer you to a physician if they see any “red flags” that indicate you need medical attention.

Realistic expectations – Many hearing healthcare professionals think one of the most important factors in the success of their hearing aid patients is understanding that while today’s hearing aids are amazing in their technological capabilities, they still cannot reproduce natural hearing. In excessively noisy environments, even normal hearing people have difficulty hearing every word clearly, and you may also experience some challenges even with the best hearing aids.

An open mind – If you have preconceived notions about your hearing loss or what hearing aids are right for you, be ready to have those ideas challenged. Hearing aids have come a long way, technologically speaking, over the past decades, and you may be surprised to find the vast array of features and attractive styles that are available now. Your hearing loss degree or type may mean only certain products will work for you. Trust the process and the advice of your hearing care professional.

Motivation – Your hearing healthcare professional will go to great lengths to make sure you succeed with your new hearing aids, but you’ll get better results if you put some effort into the process. Being engaged, providing valuable feedback about your experiences and keeping your follow up appointments will help your provider make the right kinds of adjustments to your hearing aids so you get the most benefit.

Positive attitude – As with most things in life, you will get the most from your hearing aids and your hearing healthcare provider if you stay positive. Having a good attitude and a sense of humor can help you get through most any challenge your hearing loss presents.

Support system – Many new hearing aid wearers have been encouraged to take the leap by a family member or loved one who has become frustrated with longstanding hearing loss. Before you start the process, discuss your decision with family, friends and even co-workers. Advocating for yourself with them and asking for their support during your journey to better hearing will make you even more successful.

The right hearing care professional – Buying hearing aids isn’t like buying a typical consumer good. These are highly sophisticated medical devices that require the expertise of a professional with experience in counseling and fitting. A good working relationship is key, so be sure you feel comfortable with your provider and have a good rapport. Look for an office that keeps hours that are convenient for you so you can make your follow-up appointments easily. You can find the right professional for your needs close to home using our extensive directory complete with consumer reviews.

For more information about hearing aids, please visit HealthyHearing.com.

It’s Not Your Fault You Have Hearing Loss

Here’s some good news for those of us who have a hard time owning responsibility for our hearing loss — there’s a calendar day on which it’s perfectly acceptable to blame someone else for our problem.

The first Friday the 13th of every year is Blame Someone Else Day — a 24-hour pass during which we can point the finger at family members, inanimate objects and society in general as the cause for our befuddled hearing. What? You don’t how to pass the buck? Please — allow me….

You’re mumbling

Yes, your teenage grandson really should stop looking at his smart phone and lift his head before he answers your question and, yes, it would be advantageous if your wife actually came into the same room before she started giving you information about your weekend plans. Go ahead — tell them, nicely of course, they’re the reason you didn’t hear what they said. It is true that it’s easier to have a conversation with someone who is standing right in front of you — and who enunciates well.

But just between you and me, did you know that speech discrimination is one of the first signs of a particular type of hearing loss known as presbycusis? According to the National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), presbycusis is age-related and affects both ears at the same time. The NIDCD says one in three individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 have some hearing loss, more than half over the age of 75 have trouble hearing. It’s one of the most common types of hearing loss affecting older adults, caused mainly by physical changes to the inner ear. Hey, parts wear out eventually, right?

If your hearing healthcare professional determines you have presbycusis, chances are good that hearing aids will improve your ability to understand speech. But, you’re on your own when it comes to improving your family’s communication habits.

This restaurant is too noisy

Honestly, I’m on your side on this one. Newer restaurants have removed many of the soft-sided accouterments of days gone by — carpeting, curtains, padded booths — in favor of a trendy industrial hardscape with high ceilings and tile flooring. While all of this might be en vogue, it’s certainly not conducive to having a good conversation with a group of friends. Between the chairs scraping on the floor, reverberation and the clatter of tableware, it can be almost impossible to hear the person sitting on the other end of the table — or in some cases, the one seated right beside you.

While we’re on the subject, you might be interested to know this is another symptom of presbycusis. A 1990 study published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website discovered that older adults, regardless of their degree of hearing loss, had more trouble understanding speech in situations where there was competing noise than did their younger counterparts.

Fortunately, depending on the type and severity of your hearing loss, individuals with this type of hearing loss usually benefit from wearing hearing aids with speech-enhancing technology. The microphones in these devices focus on speech and minimize background noise. But don’t take my word for it. A 2014 study published on the NCBI website found that hearing devices significantly improved speech understanding for older adults with moderate, age-related hearing loss.

The volume isn’t high enough

It might be the television, the car radio, the computer, or even the chimes on that new-fangled appliance that sings when the cycle is finished. If you can’t hear it, it must not be loud enough, right?

A long history of noise exposure may be the reason you feel the need to turn the volume up on your devices now since age-related hearing loss can be blamed in part on the noisy environments we grew up in. Many of us worked in noisy environments or served in the military where loud sounds were common. Loud sounds, whether they occur consistently over a long period of time or happen suddenly, such as an explosion, can kill or damage the sensitive hair cells of the inner ear. These hair cells are responsible for translating the noises our ears collect into electrical impulses and sending them along the auditory nerve to our brain, which interprets the signals as recognizable sound. Loud noise bends and breaks these hair cells so they are no longer able to send signals to the brain — and the damage is irreversible.

This type of damage to our hearing health is known as sensorineural hearing loss. A hearing healthcare professional can evaluate the damage and determine whether or not the remaining hearing can be enhanced with amplification.

But seriously…

If you recognize yourself in one or more of these situations, chances are good that your hearing simply isn’t what it used to be. And, while you’re in good company with the other 48 million Americans who report some degree of hearing loss, blaming other people or even things for the problem isn’t going to make it any better.

Untreated hearing loss is associated with a wide range of physical, mental and emotional issues ranging from circulatory problems like heart disease and diabetes to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In most cases, amplification can reduce these risks, but the average time a person with hearing loss waits to seek treatment is seven years after their diagnosis.

That statistic is hard to believe since hearing aids have become smaller and more discreet in the last ten years, all but eliminating the stigma your parents and grandparents may have felt when wearing them. Not to mention, technology that’s every bit as impressive as today’s most sophisticated computers and small enough to fit in your ear, is reason enough to see what hearing aids can do for you.

So today, go ahead and blame someone else for your hearing loss. Tomorrow? Maybe it’s time to own your hearing loss and schedule a hearing evaluation with a qualified hearing healthcare professional.

For more information regarding this post, please visit HealthyHearing.com.

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