Category Archives: Blog

How Cold Weather Can Impact Hearing Aids

hearing aids, different kinds

Just like extreme summer heat that often prompts sweating, which can lead to hearing aid damage, cold wintry weather can also cause hearing aid damage if proper precautions aren’t taken. Here’s some information on how cold weather and moisture can damage hearing aids, what to be aware of and how you can prevent weather damage:

Cold weather and moisture

Temperature extremes can be damaging to a hearing aid and its batteries. The cold itself is not necessarily damaging, but the condensation that occurs due to temperature change can set into the hearing aid and damage it. Even when it isn’t snowing or raining, moisture is present because extreme temperature changes are common in the winter.

For example, if you are walking outside and the temperature is 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you will almost certainly be bundled up from head to toe with a hat over your ears. But when you make it to your destination, it could be nearly 50 degrees warmer because the heat is on. Even if you take off your coat and other winter gear right away, the temperature change can form condensation on your hearing aids. And maybe you were walking quickly and your head began to sweat, which could also damage your hearing aids and batteries.

Signs of moisture and cold damage

Moisture can ruin the microphone and receiver of your hearing aids, as well as clog the earmold tubing and sound and cause corrosion. If you think your hearing aids have been damaged, here are some signs:

  • Your hearing aid cuts out during loud noises.
  • The sound fades or comes and goes.
  • Everything you hear is punctuated by static.
  • Sounds are unclear or seem distorted.
  • Your hearing aid completely stops working and then starts again. This might happen a few times.

If you think your hearing aids have been exposed to moisture, there are other things to check first, including:

  • Your hearing aid is turned on and the T-switch is in the right position.
  • The batteries. Make sure they have been inserted correctly. Also, sometimes when batteries are dying, you will see some of the same signs. Check to make sure the battery is not corroded. If it is, it will have a white powdery substance and should be thrown out immediately.
  • The battery contacts – the points where the batteries touch the hearing aids and clean them or remove moisture with a dry cotton swab.
  • The earmold, to be sure it or the sound outlet are not clogged with wax.
    The tubing frays or cracks.

If none of these things are problems, you may have moisture in your hearing aid. In behind-the-ear hearing aids, look in the earmold tubing for moisture droplets. Purchase an earmold puffer, which blows out any moisture, and consider having your earmolds fitted with a moisture dispersing tube.

For in-the-ear hearing aids, the devices are a little trickier to remove the moisture. If you don’t already have one, purchase a drying device and place your hearing aids in it immediately to hopefully dry them out and avoid damage.


While moisture is hard to avoid in extreme cold, there are some precautions you can take in an attempt to keep your hearing aids dry and safe. Here are some tips:

  • Purchase a hearing aid drying kit or dehumidifier. Remove your hearing aid batteries and store your devices in this device every night.
  • Use an umbrella in the rain and make sure your ears are covered in the snow.
    If you think your hearing aid has gotten wet, remove the battery immediately.
  • Purchase hearing aid sweatbands or spandex covers to keep them moisture-free.

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Among Youths, Secondhand Smoke May Be Linked To Hearing Loss

Cigarette and smoke close up

Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke face an increased risk of a litany of problems, including asthma, respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

And researchers at New York University’s med school say results of study they’ve conducted may add one more problem to the list: Adolescents exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to experience hearing loss.

The study’s lead author Anil K. Lalwani, an otolaryngologist at NYU, told Shots that, considering this study, parents who are smokers shouldn’t think that their smoking just affects them. “This is another piece of evidence that there’s a significant health consequence for their children — and everyone around them — from secondhand smoke,” he says.

For the study, researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey a few years back, focusing on more than 1,500 nonsmoking adolescents ages 12 to 19. Survey participants were first evaluated in their homes, then given hearing and blood tests at a medical center. They were tested for serum cotinine, a marker that points to tobacco exposure over the previous couple days at most, Lalwani says.

Researchers for the study, which appeared in the July issue of Archives of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, found that exposure to tobacco smoke exposure was linked to a two-fold increase of hearing loss risk.

In addition, researchers found a correlation between cotinine in the blood and severity of hearing loss. Furthermore, more than 80 percent of those who had hearing loss didn’t know it. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than half of U.S. children are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Lalwani says, in the future, they’re looking to determine whether the risk of hearing loss will simply go away if you eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke. But meanwhile, Lalwani recommends that adolescents who are exposed to secondhand spoke get their hearing screened.


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Women Who Eat Fish Twice Weekly Cut Their Risk Of Hearing Loss

Grilled salmon and asparagus

Are you finding it tougher to follow conversations in a noisy restaurant? Or does it seem like people are mumbling when you speak with them?

These are two questions commonly used to screen for hearing loss, which affects more than one-third of people over age 65, according to the National Institutes of Health.

So, what to do to cut the risk?

Women who eat fish regularly have a lower risk of developing hearing loss compared to women who rarely or never eat fish, according to a study published Wednesday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Women who ate two or more servings of fish per week had a 20 percent lower risk of hearing loss, according to Dr. Sharon Curhan, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and co-author of the study.

And though she and her colleagues had a hunch that certain types of fish may be more protective than others, it didn’t turn out that way. “Eating any type of fish — whether it’s tuna, dark fish [like salmon] or light fish was a associated with a lower risk,” Curhan told Shots.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish are linked to a range of health benefits, including cutting the risk of heart disease, depression and possibly, memory loss.

“Omega-3 antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and vitamin C have been the focus of a growing body of evidence showing potential hearing benefits,” says Dr. Gordon Hughes, program director of clinical trials for the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which funded the study.

The findings come by way of the Nurses’ Health Study — yes, that huge, long-term research study that includes more than 100,000 nurses.

The nurses were aged 27 to 42 when they started completing detailed surveys about what they ate and drank. And they were also asked whether they had a hearing problem and, if so, at what age they first noticed it.

The blood flow to the inner ear needs to be very well-regulated and “higher fish consumption may help maintain adequate cochlear blood flow,” Curhan says. This could help protect against hearing damage.

Curhan and her colleagues are not the only researchers to document a connection between fish consumption and hearing. In an Australian study of about 800 men and women, those who ate fish had a lower incidence of hearing loss

And it looks like lots of people have an opportunity for improvement. Curhan points out that only one-third of Americans eat fish once a week, and almost half eat fish only occasionally or not at all.


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Untreated Hearing Loss in Adults—A Growing National Epidemic

woman suffers from hearing impairment, hard of hearing, hearing loss, acoustic or ear problem, deafness with text space


The statistics are alarming. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 36 million Americans have a hearing loss—this includes 17% of our adult population. The incidence of hearing loss increases with age. Approximately one third of Americans between ages 65 and 74 and nearly half of those over age 75 have hearing loss (NIDCD, 2010). Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic health condition facing older adults (Collins, 1997). Unfortunately, only 20% of those individuals who might benefit from treatment actually seek help. Most tend to delay treatment until they cannot communicate even in the best of listening situations. On average, hearing aid users wait over 10 years after their initial diagnosis to be fit with their first set of hearing aids (Davis, Smith, Ferguson, Stephens, & Gianopoulos, 2007).

Our population is aging. According to the Administration on Aging (2011, para. 1), “the older population will burgeon between the years 2010 and 2030 when the ‘baby boom’ generation reaches age 65.” In 2009, people over 65 represented 12.9% of the population; by 2030, they will represent 19.3%. The population of individuals over 65 is expected to double between 2008 and 2030 to a projected 72.1 million (Administration on Aging, 2011, para. 2).

Age-Related Hearing Loss
Hearing loss in adults has a number of contributing factors, including age, genetics, noise exposure, and chronic disease (e.g., diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and heart disease). Age-related hearing loss or presbycusis is generally a slow, progressive hearing loss that affects both ears equally. Presbycusis begins in the high frequencies and later affects the lower frequencies. One of the first signs of hearing loss is often an inability to hear and understand speech in noisy environments. Because of this slow progression, adults with presbycusis do not readily acknowledge their hearing loss, considering it a normal sign of aging. As audiologists, we are not surprised to hear that the spouse or significant other has been frustrated by the hearing loss long before the individual with the hearing loss even acknowledges it. It is this insidious nature of presbycusis that allows many adults to ignore their hearing loss for years or decades.

Impact of Hearing Loss
The impact of hearing loss is not simply measured in decibels. Hearing loss is an individual experience, and how the individual copes will depend on a great many factors, including early versus late onset, the progressive nature of the loss (gradual vs. sudden), the severity of the loss, communication demands, and personality (Kaland & Salvatore, 2002). Regardless of the combination of these presenting factors, hearing loss has been linked to feelings of depression, anxiety, frustration, social isolation, and fatigue.

Several studies have documented the impact of untreated hearing loss. An often cited survey was commissioned by the National Council on Aging in 1999 (Kochkin & Rogin, 2000). This nationwide survey of nearly 4,000 adults with hearing loss and their significant others showed significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other psychosocial disorders in individuals with hearing loss who were not wearing hearing aids. This survey looked at the positive benefits of amplification and showed that hearing aid use positively affected quality of life for both the hearing aid wearer and his or her significant other. These findings were consistent with the findings of a large randomized controlled study which found that hearing loss was associated with decreased social/emotional, communication, and cognitive function in addition to increased depression for subjects who were unaided as compared to those who received hearing aids. These conditions were improved after hearing aids were fit (Mulrow et al., 1990).

More recently, Dr. Frank Lin and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University found a strong link between degree of hearing loss and risk of developing dementia. Individuals with mild hearing loss were twice as likely to develop dementia as those with normal hearing, those with moderate hearing loss were three times more likely, and those with severe hearing loss had five times the risk. While this study could not definitively conclude that early treatment with hearing aids would reduce the risk of dementia, there was a positive correlation between degree of hearing loss and risk of dementia (Lin et al., 2011).

Hearing loss is an invisible handicap. Although it is increasingly prevalent with age, hearing loss is often ignored during the diagnosis and treatment of cognitive and memory disorders in elderly patients (Chartrand, 2005). The comorbidity of hearing loss and cognitive disorders makes it even more important to determine hearing status prior to any diagnostic protocol. This would undoubtedly lead to more appropriate diagnosis and treatment as well as significantly better outcomes for individuals with cognitive impairments. Vision impairment is another common comorbidity affecting between 9% and 22% of adults over 70 (Saunders & Echt, 2011). Researchers using longitudinal data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Institute on Aging analyzed the relationship between vision impairment and hearing loss on quality of life in older adults, and they concluded that both hearing loss and vision impairment have a negative impact on health, social participation, and daily activities, and those individuals with a combination of both hearing loss and vision impairment (i.e., dual sensory impairment) experience the greatest difficulty (Crews & Campbell, 2004). The implication is that when both sensory systems are impaired, the individual is less able to compensate.

Benefits of Treatment
As Gagné, Southall, and Jennings (2011) pointed out, in their study of why individuals delay in seeking hearing health services because of stigma, “In order to live well with hearing loss, one must recognize and accept hearing loss. Specifically, many people must overcome the misplaced shame and poor self-esteem that they may experience” (para. 2). The fitting of hearing aids needs to be part of a larger treatment program that includes the individual and his or her significant other(s). Research has shown improved quality of life and overall satisfaction when significant others receive support and education regarding hearing loss and communication strategies (Kramer, Allessie, Dondorp, Zekveld, & Kapteyn, 2005). Group and individual audiologic rehabilitation programs that are tailored to the individual’s communication needs have been shown to help create feelings of acceptance and confidence that lead to earlier acceptance and improved benefits from carefully fit technology (Chisolm, Abrams, & McArdle, 2004). Rehabilitation approaches that provide holistic treatment and take into consideration other age-related changes such as vision impairment, cognitive decline, and manual dexterity are needed to meet the needs of our expanding older population (Saunders & Echt, 2011).

Looking Ahead
Healthy People 2020 has outlined several goals that relate to improving hearing health outcomes for adults. Specifically, the initiative calls for an increase in the number of adults over 70 who use hearing aids and hearing assistive technology as well as the number of adults ages 20–70 who have had a hearing evaluation in the past 5 years (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011). The impact of untreated hearing loss cannot be ignored. Early and careful evaluation and treatment show great promise in mitigating the consequences of hearing loss on long-term health and quality of life. With the U.S. population rapidly aging, a health care system that recognizes the importance of early identification and treatment is critical. Educating consumers regarding the importance of seeking treatment early for themselves and their loved ones will have to be part of the equation. Indeed, changing perceptions regarding hearing loss is critical to increasing the number of individuals who ultimately benefit from early management. Audiologists who fit hearing aids must implement aural rehabilitation as part of their patients’ plan of care to help ensure that individuals who ultimately seek hearing services are treated in a holistic, evidence-based manner that takes their psychosocial, physical, and communication needs into consideration. Additionally, ongoing research and advocacy regarding the efficacy of early identification and management of hearing loss may help encourage better funding for hearing aids as well as important aural rehabilitation services.


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DJ Rocks Despite Hearing Loss

sound mixer

Robbie Wilde thumbs through his iPhone as the sounds of voices and clinking glasses bounce all around him. His eyes never leave the phone’s screen.

During New York Fashion Week, Wilde, 27, passes the time with friends and management at an exclusive party in Hell’s Kitchen before taking over the turntables.

Wilde lives in a world of rhythm and bass. He just can’t hear it.

An ear infections at age 7 left Wilde completely deaf in his right ear and took away 80% of his hearing in his left one.

It would be another four years before doctors would confirm what his mother, Maria Sapeta, dreaded: Her son was deaf.

“It was heartbreaking as a mother,” she recalled. “It was probably one of the hardest days of my life. But Robbie was the one who gave me a hug and said, ‘Don’t cry.'”

Originally from Portugal, Sapeta and her husband, Emidio, then a cruise ship chef, had moved to the United States when Wilde was 5.

From childhood, he always had a “persistent personality,” Sapeta said, laughing. Unlike many other kids his age, he always finished what he started — from puzzles to cabins made from Lincoln Logs.

After losing his hearing, his grades slipped because he had difficulty understanding his teachers. Bullied in school, Wilde usually kept his deafness a secret.

When his parents suggested he attend a specialty school, he insisted on staying in public school. He worked with a speech therapist and began reading lips.

“I grew up in a way that I don’t want any sympathy. I don’t want to be treated differently,” he said. “I just tried to maneuver around, reading lips and trying to hear my own way.”

When her son announced he wanted to be a professional DJ instead of joining the family restaurant business, Sapeta was cautiously supportive.

“We could see his talent and his passion, but I kept worrying about that left ear,” she said. “Anything to stop his dreams, he didn’t want it.”

Hearing is the most important sense for a DJ, who manipulates music, scratches records and uses mixers. But Wilde was determined to succeed without his.

Always drawn to music, he discovered turntables in high school through a friend’s brother who was a DJ.

Wilde got his first shot at performing as a DJ at his father’s restaurant outside Newark, New Jersey, nearly a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since.

“I still consider it as a hobby. I really do love it,” Wilde said. “I don’t see it as a job, and that’s the best part.”

Wilde started out playing CDs before pushing himself to scratch records, something he knew he needed help with.

“It’s a hard business alone for the hearing community,” he said, “And I was like, ‘I’m hearing impaired and how’s that going to work?'”

So he paired up with two-time DMC world champion DJ and Harvard math grad Sam Zornow, aka DJ Shiftee, who was teaching at Dubspot, a DJ school and production studio in New York.

Mastering turntables is a skill that takes hours of practice to learn and can be a lifelong pursuit, Zornow said.

“It takes two years just to get bad,” he said. “And I mean ‘bad’ meaning bad.”

Still, Zornow was up to the challenge of working with Wilde. At first he didn’t know what to expect, but he said Wilde’s success has surprised him.

“On paper it should be impossible. You’re dealing with manipulating sound. Then combine that with a discipline that’s hard in general, it’s a really impressive task he’s taken on,” Zornow said. “From the beginning he believed in himself and continues to believe in himself.”

Computer giant Hewlett-Packard noticed Wilde’s skills and put him in a commercial this fall for its new touch-enabled PC, thrusting him onto the world stage.

“It’s a true story of inspiration,” said HP marketing executive Danielle Jones. “His is a profound story of someone being able to do the things that matter to them and the things that they love through technology.”

Unable to hear lyrics or complete compositions, Wilde relies on technology to see the music by using his laptop and DJ software that helps him differentiate between vocals, bass and kicks.

He also feels the vibration whether physically from a club’s speakers or through a SubPac, which resembles a seat cushion and allows him to feel the music by directly transferring low frequencies to the body.

Clubgoers and promoters dubbed him “That Deaf DJ” after he first came onto the scene in New Jersey — a moniker even he uses. But Wilde said he wants to be more than just “a deaf kid trying to DJ.”

“I want you to see me as a great DJ who happens to be deaf,” he said.

Besides, he said, some things are better left unheard.

“There’s a lot of sounds out in the world you don’t want to hear. I like it muffled,” he said. “I like who I am; I’m proud of who I am.”

Wilde has gone from working small clubs to rocking this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and Sundance Film Festival.

When he’s not behind the turntables, Wilde is in the studio producing music.

Often questioned about the severity of his deafness, Wilde used to carry around a doctor’s note and would show the back of his driver’s license indicating his hearing impairment.

When people question his abilities, he said he has only one answer: “I didn’t hear you.”


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