Hearing Aid use can Slow Cognitive Decline in Older Adults

It should be common sense that untreated hearing loss and the associated isolation would exacerbate cognitive decline, but a study was completed on behalf of the SENSE‐Cog WP1 group and reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol. 66, Issue 6, June 2018 provides backup data. The conclusion: “Hearing aids may have a mitigating effect on trajectories of cognitive decline in later life. Providing hearing aids or other rehabilitative services for hearing impairment much earlier in the course of hearing impairment may stem the worldwide rise of dementia.”

Note that it also says that addressing this earlier provides the best effect. Just another reason proper hearing health care is important to your quality of life. Don’t forget that changes in your hearing can also be indicators of other issues. As your Audiologist, I can help with these issues, and if necessary, direct you to other health care professionals with advanced skills in these areas.

How to Choose a Hearing Healthcare Provider

If you are new to hearing care or the hearing loss community, you may have a few questions. One of the most popular questions is: “What is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing aid dispenser?” For starters, both help people get hearing aids, so it’s easy to understand why the difference is not so clear all of the time.

Hearing Aid Dispensers

Hearing aid dealers must meet very basic requirements to receive a license that allows them to do a basic test for the purpose of selling hearing aids to adults. While there is some variance between states, most states require a high school diploma prior to taking a licensing exam to become a hearing aid dispenser. Some states require a course prior to the licensing exam, and some require a valid student dispenser certificate prior to taking the licensing exam. Hearing aid dispensers are not doctors and have limits on the testing and treatment they are allowed to provide to a patient.

Audiologists

Audiologists are highly trained healthcare professionals. As a matter of fact, audiologists are the only professionals who are university trained and licensed to specifically identify, evaluate, diagnose and treat hearing disorders. Audiologists are required to obtain a doctorate degree, pass a national exam and do a one-year externship under a licensed audiologist before they can become licensed to practice.

Audiologists use specialized equipment and procedures to accurately test for hearing loss. The audiologist is trained to inspect the eardrum with an otoscope, to perform cerumen (ear wax) removal, conduct audiologic tests, and check for medically-related hearing problems. Audiologists can advise about whether hearing aids are recommended, provide the necessary fitting services and a continuum of detailed follow-up, including verification of the hearing aid fit and programming, counseling, and instruction. Audiologists are licensed to work with all ages, from infant to geriatric.

In addition to hearing disorders, audiologists are able to assess and treat balance system dysfunctions, and are also trained in the treatment of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hyperacusis (aversion to loud sounds). They are also experts in hearing loss prevention, providing counseling and resources to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. They also monitor hearing and balance disorders that may result from the administration of ototoxic medications.

Hopefully this description will help when it is time to choose a hearing healthcare provider. Contact Berger Audiology today to schedule your hearing exam and see what Dr. Berger can do for you and your hearing.

Tinnitus Woes

Tinnitus Image from www.audioclinic.com

Tinnitus or Ringing in your ears can be an annoyance or a disability. I’ve had patients describe it in many ways. While I always treat it seriously, it often reminds me of taking my car to the mechanic and with growing embarrassment, watching the spreading of an amused grin on the technician’s face as I try and reproduce the sounds my car is making.

Trust me though, I know that Tinnitus can be more than an annoyance. I have it myself. It was one of the original reasons I started wearing hearing aids. My husband has it also and there are times that we argue about who’s Tinnitus is louder and whether he’s actually hearing mine instead of his. And as funny as that sounds, while the majority of Tinnitus is an internal sound not directly associated with your ears, some of it has a physical source that can actually be heard by others.

Image from New York Times Well Blog

While there isn’t a cure for Tinnitus yet, there are ways to manage it. If you pay attention to your diet, you may find that your Tinnitus is adversely affected by foods and drugs. Alcohol, Aspirin and Caffiene are all known to affect Tinnitus. Also foods like Salt and Saturated Fats. Even stress can add to the effect in some people. I can attest that some of those things will affect the volume of my Tinnitus.

So, while a change in diet may help, there is no actual cure at this time. Depending on the severity, hearing aids implementing masking technology can help, but even that’s not a 100% cure. Come and see me and we can discuss solutions that might be helpful for your situation. For other sources to read up on Tinnitus, try this article by Audio Clinic and this article at True Sound. You can also check out the American Tinnitus Association. You’re not alone if you are a sufferer.

In closing, just because I’m telling you the condition is common, it’s not necessarily something you should ignore. Tinnitus can be the precursor to Vestibular Disorders, TMJ, Tumors and conditions such as Meniere’s Disease. Get it checked out to make sure it’s just annoying and not something worse you need to address.

If you want to  learn more, check out the links above. But if you start Google searching, beware of spurious claims for cures.

Link to New York Times Well Blog here

Nutrition Awareness Week is March 13-17

This week is Nutrition Awareness Week which is part of March being National Nutrition Month. Who knew?

Last week I told you about a few over the counter drugs that are known to affect your hearing. Did you know that there are foods that can affect your hearing too?

According to Audicus, high levels of omega 3 fats and Vitamin D generally found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout or sardines, can have highly positive effects on hearing loss. A regular intake of antioxidants, especially in the form of folic acid commonly found in spinach, asparagus, beans, broccoli, eggs, liver or nuts, can reduce the risk of hearing loss by up to 20%. Magnesium, commonly found in bananas, potatoes, artichokes or broccoli, has been shown to provide additional protection against noise induced hearing loss. You can increase your inner ear’s resistance to the boon of age related hearing loss by keeping a healthy dose of Zinc which can be found in dark chocolate or oysters. Similar to antioxidants, Vitamin C/E  act as hearing loss supplements that keep free radicals in check and strengthen your overall immune system, thus reducing the risk of ear infections. The source is easy to find: vegetables (e.g. oranges) and fruits (e.g. bell peppers).

According to Hearingwellnessctr.com, studies confirm that hearing loss and poor nutrition go hand and hand. An Australian study reported on in the Journal of Nutrition, has shown that diets high in sugar and carbohydrates detrimentally impacts hearing. A similar study showed that diets high in cholesterol also contribute to hearing loss normally associated with aging. Cutting out sugary and cholesterol rich foods would be a good start to a hearing fitness plan, but good hearing nutrition doesn’t only take into account what a diet includes, but also what is lacking.

And according to tinnitisjournal.com, gluten sensitivity may contribute to the pathogenesis of tinnitus, though further research is needed to determine the exact role of gluten in this condition.

What does all this mean? There’s a delicate balance of fluids in your inner ear which, like the rest of your organs, can be affected by what you eat. In general, better nutrition is good for your body… which includes your ears!

Nutrition Month Image borrowed from the Gastrointestinal Society.