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Six Ways Those With Hearing Loss Can Better Communicate

Doctor Fitting Female Patient With Hearing Aid

Those of us with hearing loss must sometimes rely on people with normal hearing to help us have better conversations and more successful interactions with the hearing world. But we must also take responsibility for stacking the deck in our own favor. By following some simple rules of thumb, we can put ourselves in a better position to hear and communicate as best as is possible. Here are my tips. Please share yours in the comments.

SIX STEPS THOSE WITH HEARING LOSS CAN TAKE TO SUCCEED WITH COMMUNICATIONS

1. Be assertive and inform others: Don’t be shy about disclosing your hearing loss. If someone does not know you have a hearing loss, there is very little chance he will think to speak extra clearly, remember to face you and not cover his mouth while he speaks. I recently attended a retreat where we all had to introduce ourselves to the group the first day. I made a point to disclose my hearing loss at that time and it worked wonders. Not only were people considerate when speaking with me, nobody got upset when I sat right by the speaker in each of the sessions.

2. Put others at ease: If you seem comfortable with your hearing loss, others will be as well. Let people know that they can ask you about it. I often joke to people saying, “If you say something to me and I don’t answer, or if I look at you like you have two heads, please don’t think I am rude, it is probably because I didn’t hear you.” I find this makes people more forgiving of a social faux pas or two, and more willing to try again to engage you in conversation.

3. Stay informed: Since context is so important in following conversations, try to stay abreast of current news and social happenings. It is easier to understand a new name (of a country or a celebrity) if you have seen it written about recently.

4. Maintain good energy: This may be easier said than done, but because hearing takes extraordinary concentration for those with hearing loss, it is important to approach communication as well rested and alert as possible. Eat healthy food, try to exercise regularly, and be sure to get enough sleep. Also, don’t be afraid to take breaks from communication if your energy is lagging.

5. Learn to ask questions in a balanced way: This one is particularly hard for me, because I like to know everything that is going on, so sometimes, I drive people crazy with questions to clarify what they said or to repeat something. I am working to get comfortable that in certain situations, I will only be able to “sufficiently” follow the conversation, rather than “fully” follow every detail. This does not apply at the doctor, or in another situation where full knowledge is imperative, but in social situations, not following every detail is probably ok some of the time. When I can scale back my clarification questions, we all enjoy the interaction more.

6. Roll with the punches: I can be sensitive at times that I am missing things, so I need to remind myself to be grateful for what I can hear. I may not catch every detail, but I can still enjoy being with others. Maintaining a sense of humor about the inevitable miscommunications is also key to more enjoyable communications.

For more ways to communicate, please visit MidLifeBoulevard.com.

Tinnitus: Ringing in Your Ears Could Mean Serious Illness

Portrait young annoyed, unhappy, stressed woman covering her ears, looking up, to say, stop making loud noise, giving me headache isolated grey background with copy space. Negative emotion reaction

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: A Peril for Musicians

Exposure to loud noise – sirens, loud music, or firecrackers – may result in permanent hearing loss, and cause tinnitus in one or both ears. According to a 2014 study published in the British Medical Journal, “noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by one-time acoustic trauma due to sudden explosions, gunfire, or firecrackers, however, it may also develop gradually by repeated exposure to loud noise.” For this reason, tinnitus is the No. 1 disability among veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

The researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology in Germany also found that musicians were “four times more likely to have some level of hearing loss and 57 percent more likely to develop tinnitus.” They reported that 58 percent of classical musicians and 49 percent of rock or pop musicians experienced noise-induced hearing loss.

So whether it’s the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or Bruce Springsteen, be sure to wear earplugs the next time you go to a loud concert to protect yourself from hearing loss and tinnitus.

To see the full list of serious illnesses associated with Tinnitus, please visit EverydayHealth.com.

Meningitis and Hearing Loss in Children

a little girl has earache on white background

Hearing loss can occur months after recovering from meningitis. Careful follow-up with hearing tests is important to prevent further damage to hearing.

Hearing loss is a common complication of childhood meningitis, a potentially life-threatening infection that occurs when the protective membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord gets inflamed. In fact, says Jose Munoz, MD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, NY, hearing loss occurs in 15 to 30 percent of kids with bacterial meningitis.

Inflammation around the brain caused by meningitis can damage the nerve that travels through a narrow passageway between the ear and brain, leading to hearing loss. “[The inflammation] can kill the nerve that transmits what happens in your ear to your brain,” Dr. Munoz explains.

The first 24 to 48 hours of illness is critical for successful reversion of the hearing loss caused by meningitis, according to a study from the Archives of Diseases in Childhood. If a child receives a dose of steroids at the beginning of meningitis treatment, the risk of hearing loss can be reduced, Munoz explains. As with most conditions, “early diagnosis [of meningitis] is likely to lead to a better outcome,” he says.

Hearing loss can develop later, after recovery from the infection. As a result, children who have had meningitis should undergo regular hearing tests to detect any possible problems caused by the infection.

Follow-Up Care for Meningitis-Related Hearing Loss

All children with meningitis are tested as soon as they’re well enough, says Mindy Schmelzer, AuD, an audiologist who also works at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center. If they pass the hearing test, they’ll probably be tested every three months for the first year, says Dr. Schmelzer. If there’s no change in their hearing at the end of the year, it’s unlikely the infection will cause hearing loss in the future.

If a child does have hearing loss during that first test, there’s the possibility that the hearing loss could be progressive, Schmelzer says. In that case, the child will be tested every three to four weeks for the first six months, then every other month for another six months, she says. After that, the child will need hearing tests every six months until age 18. The child will also need to see an otologist, a doctor who specializes in ear problems, who will look for physical changes in the inner ear.

For older children, the hearing test involves playing sounds through earphones and asking the child to report the sounds he or she hears, Munoz says. In younger children, audiologists may use a method involving an electronic device that puts sounds in the ear and an electrode on the scalp that detects whether the sounds are being transmitted, he says.

Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss at Home

In the meantime, it’s a good idea to look for symptoms of hearing loss in your child at home. Call your child’s doctor if you notice that your child doesn’t respond when you call his or her name or fails to react to loud noises, such as a door slamming. Even newborn babies will jump at the sound of a loud noise.

Hearing Loss Treatments

If hearing loss is partial, your child may need a hearing aid, Munoz says. If the hearing loss is more profound, you may have to consider a cochlear implant.

Hearing loss is a common complication of meningitis; but with early meningitis diagnosis and treatment your child can make a full recovery, with little to no permanent hearing loss.

For more information on Meningitis and hearing loss, please visit EverydayHealth.com.

Hearing Loss With Rheumatoid Arthritis: Is There a Link?

Man with hand on ear listening for quiet sound or paying attention

There’s some concern over hearing loss with RA, but are you really at an increased risk? Find out what’s known to date and how to protect your hearing.

Rheumatoid arthritis often affects more than your joints, with heart disease, osteoporosis, kidney issues, and even gum disease among the conditions it can lead to, according to the Arthritis Foundation. But there’s also concern that hearing loss should be on that list.

The Arthritis Foundation reports that over the years, a few studies have found a higher risk for hearing loss in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It’s called sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).

However, a Mayo Clinic study published in the journal Laryngoscope in 2006 did not find increased hearing loss when comparing 29 people with RA to 30 age-matched people who didn’t have RA. The people with RA were more likely to feel that their hearing was decreased, but these complaints were not confirmed by hearing tests. The researchers theorized that the increased sense of hearing loss may have been caused by the stress of living with RA.

“Most rheumatologists are not aware of any increased risk of hearing loss in RA,” says Stacy Ardoin, MD, an associate professor of rheumatology at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “It is not something that we would routinely screen for. There have been some conflicting studies, but they have involved small numbers of patients.”

“At this point,” she says, “I would say the jury is still out on RA as a cause of hearing loss.”

Medication and Hearing Loss With RA
One explanation for hearing loss with RA could rest with some medications used to treat RA rather than with the disease itself. Researchers found, for instance, that women who took ibuprofen six or more days a week had a 24 percent increased risk for hearing loss, compared with women who did not take ibuprofen frequently. The finding, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2012, is considered significant because ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) frequently used to treat RA. Also, a study done two years earlier on men and published in the The American Journal of Medicine found that their hearing, too, was impacted by NSAID use.

“NSAIDs in high doses have been linked to hearing loss,” Dr. Ardoin notes. “We are not aware of any clear links between other RA medications, like biologics, and hearing loss.” However, she says that “there are so many variables that it is hard to tease out any link — it could be medications or it could just be older age.”

Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (AIED)
When you have an autoimmune disease like RA, your body’s defense system — the immune system — mistakes parts of your body for foreign invaders, like germs, and attacks them. According to the American Hearing Foundation, AIED develops when the immune system attacks the inner ear. A symptom of AIED is worsening hearing loss. You may also have dizziness and ringing in your ears, the foundation reports.

RELATED: How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Whole Body

AIED has been linked to RA as well as to other autoimmune diseases like lupus and psoriatic arthritis, according to the foundation. However, it notes that AIED is a rare cause of hearing loss, accounting for only about 1 percent of all cases of hearing loss.

“Most rheumatologists are familiar with AIED, but we don’t usually associate it with RA,” Ardoin says.

Hearing Loss Management With RA
If you have RA, getting a hearing test called an audiogram at the first sign of hearing loss is important, notes the Arthritis Foundation. Your doctor can then use that test to tell whether your hearing is getting worse over time.

If you have SNHL, your doctor may adjust your medications. If you have AIED, there are medications that may help. In some cases, the best treatment may be a hearing aid.

To protect hearing when you have RA, the Hearing Loss Association of America suggests that you consider these steps:

  • Let your doctor know about any over-the-counter drugs you take, as some can cause SNHL.
  • Let your doctor know about any ringing or roaring sound in your ears or any dizziness. These can be symptoms of inner ear disease that goes along with SNHL.
  • Avoid any long exposure to loud noise. Noise exposure is the most common cause of SNHL.
  • Wear ear protection if you’re working around loud noise or using noisy equipment, like a lawn mower.
  • Keep the volume down when listening to music through earbuds.

The jury may still be out on how much RA raises your risk for hearing loss, but you still want to protect your hearing.

For more information regarding Hearing Loss and Rheumatoid Arthritis, please visit EverydayHealth.com.

Music and Hearing Loss Prevention: How Music May Help Ward Off Hearing Loss As We Age

Couple listening to music on headphones

Older people often have difficulty understanding conversation in a crowd. Like everything else, our hearing deteriorates as we age.

There are physiological reasons for this decline: We lose tiny hair cells that pave the way for sound to reach our brains. We lose needed neurons and chemicals in the inner ear, reducing our capacity to hear.

So how can you help stave off that age-related hearing loss? Try embracing music early in life, research suggests.

“If you spend a lot of your life interacting with sound in an active manner, then your nervous system has made lots of sound-to-meaning connections” that can strengthen your auditory system, says Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University.

Musicians focus extraordinary attention on deciphering low notes from high notes and detecting different tonal qualities. Kraus has studied younger musicians and found that their hearing is far superior to that of their non-musician counterparts.

So Kraus wondered: Could that musical training also help fend off age-related hearing loss? To find out, she assembled a small group of middle-aged musicians and non musicians, aged 45-65. She put both groups through a series of tests measuring their ability to make out and repeat a variety of sentences spoken in noisy background environments.

Turns out, the musicians were 40 percent better than non-musicians at tuning out background noise and hearing the sentences, as Kraus reported in PloS ONE. The musicians were also better able to remember the sentences than the non-musicians — and that made it easier for them to follow a line of conversation. After all, Kraus says, in order to listen to a friend in a noisy restaurant, you need to be able to recall what was said a few seconds ago in order to make sense of what you’re hearing right now.

The take-home message: If you’re an older musician, don’t stop playing. And if you gave it up, it may be time to dust off the old violin.

As for picking up an instrument for the first time in mid-life, there’s no evidence yet that it can help maintain hearing. But the world of rodents offers some hope: One recent study found that intense auditory training of older rats resulted in significant improvement in their ability to recognize high-pitched sounds. It also boosted their levels of brain chemicals crucial for hearing.

Of course, rats’ ears, though similar to humans, are not the same. More research is needed to find out if old human ears can also be taught new tricks.

For more information on music and hearing loss prevention, please visit NPR.org.

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