A study done at the University of Wisconsin reveals just how pervasive the problem of hearing loss is among hunters as well as the reasons behind it. The study indicated that men between the ages of 48 and 92 who hunted on a regular basis were much more likely to experience high-frequency hearing loss, and that the risk of hearing loss increased by 7 percent for every 5 years a man had been hunting. Most telling? Out of 3753 participants in the study, 38 percent of target shooters and 95 percent of hunters said they had not worn hearing protection at all in the previous year.
A gunshot ranges from 140 decibels to 190 decibels, which is enough to cause immediate damage. And it is not just gunshots; the whistles and quacks from loud game calls can also cause hearing damage.
Hunters who don’t use hearing protection say it is because they feel like earmuffs or earplugs interfere with the noise they actually want to hear, such as the rustling of a deer or the flapping of ducks wings. In other words, they don’t wear hearing protection because they are afraid of missing something important.
But perhaps it is important to look at exactly how hunting leads to hearing loss, as well as some science behind it. Noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, is actually one of the most common forms of hearing loss. It occurs when the sensitive hair cells responsible for transmitting sound waves to the brain are damaged due to loud noise. The bad news is that when damage occurs the cells eventually die and do not regenerate. The damage may be evident right away, and manifest itself in the form of muffled hearing or ringing in the ears (also called tinnitus) but more likely the damage builds up over time, in a slow but irreversible progression.
A number of factors play into hunting-related NIHL. Hunters in particular might notice, for example, that their hearing loss is asymmetrical, i.e. worse in one ear than in the other. That is due to a phenomenon called acoustic shadow. A right-handed shooter will shoulder the gun on the right, tucking the right ear into the shoulder and having the left ear closer to the gun barrel. This means right-handed shooters have a more severe hearing loss in the left ear because the right ear is in the “acoustic shadow” of the head.
Other factors that affect the amount of hearing loss for hunters include barrel length, bullet speed, cartridge intensity and the presence (or lack of) a muzzle brake. A muzzle brake, a piece of equipment attached to the barrel of the gun, is designed to redirect the propellant gasses in order to counter recoil and muzzle rise. Unfortunately the redirection means the noise from those propellant gasses is now forced sideways or backwards toward the shooter, which adds as much as an ear-splitting 11 decibels to the sound of a gunshot.
Equipment notwithstanding, hearing protection while hunting is an absolute necessity. Fortunately, there are a number of options available.
There are two main types of hearing protection available, and which one you choose is a matter of preference. The first is passive noise protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs. These work by muffling noise and reducing the decibel level that is able to reach the inner ears. For noise that exceeds 105 dB, such as gunshots, wearing earmuffs and earplugs together is the best bet. Both earmuffs and earplugs come with a noise reduction rating, or NRR; obviously higher is better. Some hunters, however, dislike the fact that passive hearing protection muffles not only the gunshots, but also sounds they want to hear, such as conversation with fellow hunters or the sounds of approaching animals.
The alternative is active hearing protection, also known as electronic hearing protection, which allows hunters the best of both worlds. Through a process called destructive interference, which is basically countering an incoming sound wave with an inverse sound wave produced by the headphones, the harmful noise is subdued. These high tech earmuffs come in a range of price points have the advantage of enhancing environmental sounds while at the same time decreasing the dangerous, high decibel sounds. The Walker Game Ear, for example, blocks any noise above 85 decibels but enhances regular sounds. And built in microphones in these devices even allow a hunter to pinpoint which direction a sound is coming from.
There is no question that part of the pleasure of hunting is spending time outdoors and hearing the various sounds of nature. The good news is that if you protect your hearing now, you’ll be able to enjoy those sounds of nature for years to come.
Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
Untreated hearing loss can affect family, friends and life
When someone starts losing their hearing, it can impact their life and the lives of those closest to them- family, friends and loved ones.
It can be difficult to watch an active, engaged family member or friend change into someone different- especially in social settings. You may begin to feel frustration at having to repeat yourself, adjust the TV volume or raise your voice. These feelings are common.
Hearing loss can be overwhelming for both you and your loved one. Your family member may not realize the extent of their hearing loss and its impact on others. In fact, if often takes years for most people to acknowledge their hearing loss and take action.
If a loved one you know is experiencing signs of hearing loss, know that you are not alone. Together, we can help, so your loved one can continue to live a rich, active and fulfilling life, unaffected by hearing loss.
Treating hearing loss is important
It is common for people to disregard their hearing loss for five to seven years. By putting off the inevitable, it becomes harder to rectify the problem.
When the hearing nerves and the areas of the brain responsible for hearing are deprived of sound, they atrophy (weaken) making improving hearing, through the use of a hearing aid much more difficult. So the longer you wait, the longer it will take to hear well again.
How you can help a loved one hear better
Do you suspect someone in your family is experiencing hearing loss? Here are a few ways you can offer your support:
One of summer’s greatest pleasures is a trip to the local farmers’ market. Strolling among the stalls laden with colorful, crispy, crunchy fruits and vegetables is a feast for the senses. Yes, your local farmer’s market is overflowing with summer’s bounty. But did you know that a trip to the farmers’ market can benefit your hearing?
Summer produce picked ripe and sold at its peak offers an unparalleled dose of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that promote good hearing health. Because locally grown produce doesn’t have to be shipped across the country, it doesn’t lose valuable nutrients in transit; it is often sold within 24 hours of being picked. Farmers’ markets offer another benefit as well: they give you a chance to shop in an environment free of the background noise, reverberation and canned music common to supermarkets and warehouse stores. For those with hearing loss, face to face conversations with vendors in a pleasant environment can turn food shopping from an unpleasant, stressful task into an enjoyable experience.
Once you arrive at the farmers’ market, you might be overwhelmed by all of your options. Don’t worry - we have put together a shopping list to steer you toward the produce that offers the most benefit to your hearing health.
Spinach: For a great start to healthier hearing, grab a bunch of this leafy green vegetable. But this isn’t the canned spinach of your youth; fresh spinach is high in potassium, one of the most important nutrients when it comes to healthy hearing. Lack of potassium has been linked to poor hearing and is thought to be a contributor to presbycusis, or age related hearing loss. Other potassium-rich foods you might find at the farmers’ market include potatoes, tomatoes and melons.
Broccoli: As you peruse the offerings at the farmers’ market, look for the broccoli next. Broccoli is chock full of folate which is vital to maintaining healthy blood flow to the inner ear. Not a fan of broccoli? You can still get a healthy dose of folate if you choose the asparagus, fennel, squash or collard greens.
Red bell peppers: Sweet and crunchy, red bell peppers can be enjoyed raw for snacking, as part of a veggie tray or tossed into a stir fry for color. They offer a healthy dose of vitamins A and C, which the body needs to fight free radicals that can contribute to hearing loss.
Artichokes: If you are lucky enough to live in an area that produces artichokes, look for them at your farmer’s market. Artichokes are high in magnesium, which can reduce the effects of tinnitus, prevent hearing loss and reduce sensitivity to noise.
Sweet potatoes: The potassium and alpha lipoic acid contained in sweet potatoes promote the health of the mitochondria in the inner ear, support nerve system function and fight free radicals that damage all aspects of health, including hearing.
Fresh herbs: Forget about the plastic boxes of herbs sold at the supermarket. Instead, take advantage of the summer months to grab bundles of fresh herbs like basil, cilantro or flat leaf parsley grown locally. Fresh herbs added to your dish not only pack a flavor punch, they are a great source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that is thought to be helpful in preventing damage to hair cells in the cochlea.
Strawberries: As you make your rounds, grab a couple of pints of strawberries. Not only are fresh, in-season strawberries remarkably better than what you find in the supermarket, they are also a great source of vitamin C, which protects the hair cells in the cochlea and reduces the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Strawberries are also high in antioxidant phytonutrients known as phenols, which protect us from disease and promote good health.
Blueberries: Known as a superfood, these beauties live up to this name by providing a boost of antioxidants that is second to none. Antioxidants fight free radicals in the bloodstream which can cause tissue and nerve damage in the inner ear and lead to hearing loss.
Cherries: Take advantage of cherry season while you can, because especially in northern climates, cherries are here and gone before you know it. Packed with potassium as well as vitamins A and C, cherries are a delicious way to get the nutrients your body needs while protecting your hearing health.
Peaches: Iconic symbols of summer, peaches are also an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C which defends against the free radicals than can have a negative effect on hearing as we age.
Still have room in your reusable market tote? Don’t skip the meats, dairy and eggs. Numerous studies have shown that insufficient levels of B12, the valuable nutrient found in these foods, has been linked to hearing loss. Some larger farmers’ markets feature vendors offering items such as grass-fed beef (even higher in B12) and farm fresh, pastured eggs. But be sure to purchase meat and eat eggs in moderation, as high cholesterol is another contributor to hearing loss.
Even just getting outside in the fresh air and sunshine to shop your local farmers' market will give you a healthy dose of vitamin D, which has anti-inflammatory properties and strengthens the bones in the inner ear. For good hearing now and in the future, a healthy diet is a great place to start.
If you've noticed any changes in your hearing, visit a hearing healthcare provider like one of the consumer-reviewed centers here to get help sooner rather than later.
Contributed by Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
When you think of Independence Day, the first thing that comes to mind is probably fireworks. After spending the day swimming, playing and barbecuing, many of those in the United States will soon be heading out to ooh and aah over a display of colorful and exciting pyrotechnics. But whether you are watching a professional fireworks show or have purchased your own fireworks, hearing loss is a real risk.
Why are the fireworks so loud in the first place? It all comes down to the chemical reaction that happens after the fuse is lit. The burning gunpowder releases hot gas that expands rapidly; when the gas expands to the point that it runs out of room within the firework, the resulting explosion causes a blast wave. The vibrations from that blast wave have the potential to cause permanent damage to the delicate hair cells of the inner ear.
Yes, fireworks are exciting, but the problem is the excitement is often measured by the “loudness factor." For some people, the louder the better. And those loud explosions have the potential to reach levels between 150 and 175 decibels. When it comes to fireworks, the World Health Organization recommends the maximum safe decibel level for adults is 140 decibels, and for children only 120 decibels. Infants should not be exposed to fireworks at all; an infant’s ear canal is much smaller than an older child's or an adult's, so the sound pressure entering the ear is greater. What might not sound that loud to an adult actually sounds up to 20 decibels louder to an infant.
The bottom line is that that hearing loss can occur from exposure to any sound over 85 decibels, so it makes sense to take steps to protect your hearing this Fourth of July.
One way is to maintain a safe distance from the fireworks display. The farther you are from the sound, the less harmful the sound is to your ears, so your distance from the sound of the fireworks can make all of the difference in terms of decibel level and hearing safety. A distance of around 500 feet will still give you a great view of the fireworks, but without the sound pressure that can damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear.
Where you view your fireworks can also affect your hearing. Experts recommend attending a community fireworks display rather than setting off your own fireworks at home. Not only are fireworks dangerous and best left to trained professionals, but there is usually a roped off area located a safe viewing (and listening) distance away from the fireworks show.
If you intend to sit as close to the action as possible, or if you are determined to create your own fireworks display, protect your hearing and that of your children. Inexpensive foam earplugs can be found in drugstores and pharmacies, and work well for adults; earmuffs (basically foam-filled cups that cover the ears) are better for small children because earplugs sometimes don’t fit and can be a choking hazard.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, more than 200 million pounds of fireworks were purchased for personal use in 2014; double the amount in 2000. If you are planning your own fireworks display, the good news is you can customize your selection for reduced noise. All fireworks come with a noise rating, so selecting quieter fireworks will not only preserve a good relationship with your neighbors, it will protect your hearing as well. Quieter fireworks include fountains, wheels, falling leaves and comets. While not completely silent, they crackle and whistle instead of creating a loud, explosive boom. All are created for spectacular visual display but less noise. If you buy fireworks, your fireworks provider should be able to direct you to those that are lower on the noise rating scale.
What to avoid? Rockets, mines and any fireworks that have many blasts strung together tightly. These fireworks are created to make as much noise as possible.
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 30 million people in the U.S. are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Exposure to noises such as loud fireworks can result in:
If you think you have noise-induced hearing loss after attending a fireworks display, be sure to see a hearing care professional. And don’t worry; you can still be patriotic this Fourth of July while protecting your hearing from the eardrum-shattering booms. Protecting your hearing now will enable you to enjoy the sounds of the fireworks for years to come.
Contributed by Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
June 28, 2016
By Sarah Bricker on Jul 1, 2015
Summertime is upon us and that means sunny days, warm weather and lots of time spent outside! But for those with hearing aids, summer can present some problems.
Hearing aids can be damaged when exposed to heat or moisture. Sweat and water are the two biggest enemies of hearing aids during the summer, and sharp temperature changes can cause condensation and an increased propensity to sweat. All of these are damaging to your hearing aids and may prevent them from working properly.
Damage could result in distorted or weak sound quality, reduced battery life and inconsistent functionality.
1. Take out your hearing aids when exercising outside, if it is raining or if the weather is extremely warm.
2. At night, open the battery door to allow dry, fresh air to move through the hearing aid and relieve moisture.
3. Keep you hearing aids in a protective case and out of direct sunlight when you are not wearing them.
4. Avoid storing hearing aids in humid places such as in glove boxes, dashboards, or other environments where heat and moisture can build up.
5. Remove your hearing aids before showering, swimming or any activity in which you will or could be exposed to water.
6. Sunscreen has oils that can damage hearing aids, so apply lotions or sprays completely before putting on your hearing aids. Be sure that the sunscreen is fully rubbed in or dry before putting your hearing aids back on or the oils will seep into open seams and microphone ports or vents.
Summer should be fun not stressful. Follow our tips above for a worry-free summer that’s full of sounds and sunshine. Have questions about how to care for your hearing aids? Call us at (651) 528-7868.
There’s a noise in your ears that no one else can hear – a buzzing, ringing or whooshing sound that won’t go away — and it is driving you crazy. Is it a disease you wonder? Or a symptom of something serious? And – will it ever go away?
Most of us have experienced this condition, especially after a night enjoying the music of a favorite band or an afternoon cheering for the home team at the local stadium. If the ringing and buzzing doesn’t go away after a few hours however, it’s time for a trip to your hearing healthcare professional. Their examination can help reveal whether or not you have a condition known as tinnitus and whether it’s a symptom of another medical issue or is so chronic it classifies as a disease all by itself.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus (pronounced ti-NIGHT-us or TIN-i-tus) is the sensation of a ringing or buzzing in the ears even when there is no external sound present. You might hear the noise sporadically or constantly, and it may be loud or barely noticeable. Sometimes it’s worse — especially when there isn’t any background noise, such as when you are trying to fall asleep in a quiet room.
According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), more than 50 million people suffer from some form of tinnitus. While most people consider it a minor annoyance, more than 12 million with severe cases find it disruptive to their personal and professional relationships. Many of these individuals with chronic cases of tinnitus are veterans. In fact, tinnitus is the single largest category for disability claims in the military. Hearing loss is the second.
Tinnitus as a symptom
Most hearing health professionals believe tinnitus is a symptom of another condition or illness, such as:
Tinnitus as a disease
In other cases, tinnitus is so chronic and debilitating it can cause other health problems including stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression and even thoughts of suicide. While it isn’t curable, it can be managed, even in these extreme situations.
Dr. James Henry, a research scientist at the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research at the VA Medical Center in Portland, Ore. has developed five progressive treatment protocols to help veterans with chronic cases of tinnitus manage their condition. In a 2013 post published by Psychology Today, Dr. Henry describes his five-step Progressive Tinnitus Management Program. While levels one and two deal with getting patients to hearing healthcare providers and treating any detected hearing loss, level three focuses on showing patients how to use sound, relaxation exercises and diversion activities to manage their tinnitus. Dr. Henry said 95 percent of those attending the level three workshops succeed in managing their tinnitus.
Additionally, several hearing aid manufacturers, such as Oticon, have developed hearing solutions with tinnitus relief features to be used in tandem with tinnitus management programs.
Whether you suspect your tinnitus is a symptom of a larger issue or something isolated, it needs to be evaluated by a hearing care professional and other medical professionals to determine if there is something causing it and how to best treat it. The first step is to seek treatment from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician or hearing healthcare professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus. In the meantime, avoid substances such as alcohol, smoking and drinking caffeinated beverages, which can exacerbate your condition. Get plenty of rest and relaxation. Finally, it’s also important to maintain a positive outlook and find a support group with people who understand what you are dealing with.
Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
June 1, 2017
Technology takes care of so many things for us today, it’s often difficult to realize that it occasionally needs a little assistance from us to work effectively. Smartphones are only intelligent when their battery is charged. Your car’s GPS gives you great directions, as long as you enter the destination information correctly. Hearing aids can amplify sound, but they can’t teach others how to effectively communicate with you.
Speak up if you can’t hear
Just because you wear hearing aids doesn’t mean you’ll be able to hear everything someone says to you. Teenagers have a bad habit of mumbling and covering their mouth or hiding their face when they speak. Family members take short cuts by shouting questions from another room. And some people talk so fast, it’s difficult to follow what they say.
Asking for people to repeat themselves is much better than responding to what you think they said. If they don’t know you can’t hear well, they might think you weren’t listening well, even though you’re smiling and nodding in agreement.
Ask people to get your attention before they speak
...especially if they’re speaking directly to you. If your back is turned when they begin giving instructions or making a request, you may miss important details. If you don’t respond, they may think you’re ignoring them.
Explain that you’ll hear much better if they get your attention by tapping you on the shoulder or making eye contact before they begin to speak.
Ask people to look at you when they speak
Depending on the severity of your hearing loss, you may still do a little lip reading during conversations. That’s okay. Even if you don’t, voices project much better when someone is facing you directly than when their head is turned -- or when they’re whizzing past you in a hurry to get somewhere else.
While we’re on the subject, you might also explain there’s no reason for them to shout. Your hearing devices make the necessary amplifications, and shouting may actually serve only to distort sound. You just need the extra visual help facial expressions, eye contact and lip reading bring to the conversation.
Tell others what you need
Contrary to what your internet news feed might suggest, modern science is still light years away from actually reading your mind. All kidding aside, instead of leaving things to chance, practice politely asking for accommodations which put you in the best listening environment for your hearing loss. This might include:
Model good hearing health
You already know how important it is to schedule regular appointments with your hearing healthcare professional. As such, sharing your personal journey as you advocate for effective communication is a perfect way to encourage loved ones to practice good hearing health care, too.
Contributed by Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
May 30, 2017
By Jerry Zhou, Hearing of America
Most people know that you should visit your primary care physician once a year for a physical exam. Dentists recommend that you get your teeth cleaned twice a year and a full routine exam once a year. If you wear glasses, you get your vision tested at least every two years to see if you need adjustments to your prescription.
But do you know how often you should get a hearing test?
To start with, you must understand the difference between a hearing screening and a hearing test. Screenings detect your ability to hear certain sounds in certain situations. The purpose is to identify if there is possible hearing loss. They are generally a pass or fail type of exam. If you pass, it is presumed you have no hearing loss. If you fail, further in-depth testing is necessary to assess the level and type of hearing loss present.
Children have their hearing screened when they are born. Toddlers should have their hearing screened at the age of two or three. School kids are screened every year.
However, between age of 18 and 50, a hearing screening should also be part of your annual physical every three to five years. Because hearing loss often occurs gradually, it can be difficult to recognize when you have it. This is why it’s so important to have screenings performed or to schedule an appointment with an audiologist or a hearing specialist to establish a baseline hearing exam. After the age of 50, an annual hearing check should be in your routine healthcare checklist.
If you notice it is hard to understand conversations in noisy environments or if you catch yourself asking people to repeat themselves, you might have some level of hearing loss. If family members complain that you listen to the radio or TV too loud, that is a clear sign of hearing loss. It’s common for people to live with hearing loss for several years before they do anything about it, but that’s not good for your quality of life.
If you think you might have hearing loss, it’s important to seek treatment right away. Schedule a hearing test appointment with a hearing specialist near you and take control of your hearing health. The easiest way of finding a clinic that offers a free hearing test is to do an internet search for: <BF>hearing test near me<M>, and choose the place that is trustworthy with a five-star rating and helpful customer reviews.
Dementia has been in the news more recently, or maybe I am just becoming more aware. In my topics of relationships and what affects them most, dementia would be the pinnacle of a disease that tops anything on a list I can come up with. Dementia takes the personality away from those we know and love. I remember when my Grandmother started to forget us. One of my sisters went through a time when Annie (because she really did not like us to call her Grandma) called her Lucille instead of Louise. She eventually came back to Louise but this was my first experience with Dementia when I was around 12. It was a bit confusing for me to work this out from what I knew of this very strong-willed woman.
Frank Lin and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University has been conducting several long-term studies on dementia. He describes several high risk-factors for dementia, including isolation, which can be a side-effect of hearing loss. Cognitive load processing is more difficult for those with hearing loss and makes it more tiring for them to follow a conversation.
Recently, Dr. Lin has been researching whether there is a connection between hearing loss and dementia. It is unknown if such a connection could be genetic or environmental, but there seems to be an underlying pathological structure that influences both. Dr. Lin continues to follow up on this link. Earlier this year he published another study, using a long standing database showing those with a hearing loss had a “30 to 40 percent faster rate of loss of thinking and memory abilities” than those without a hearing loss. The rates of cognitive decline and hearing loss were directly related in this study.
Dr. Lin is conducting further research into how hearing aids may influence these changes in the brain. We have noted in previous posts that wearing the devices positively affects our lives. Now Dr. Lin is delving into how the use of hearing aids–along with such related issues as the follow-up by the provider, how the instruments were fit, and assistive devices–affects an individual or has an impact on cognition at all.
A few weeks ago a study was released on how Dementia affects longevity. Dementia affects so many aspects of a person’s life that research is finding that those with dementia die earlier than those without . Those who are at high risk for dementia genetically have more issues to be concerned with. I ran across an excellent article in the New York Times from the perspective of someone with hearing loss who has a history of dementia in her family. She is following Dr. Lin’s studies very closely. She, like our own Gael Hannan, is a model for those with hearing loss. They wear their devices (hearing aids and or cochlear implants) and they get out into the world, even when it is so much more challenging than it would be without a hearing loss. Katherine Bouton, an editor for the NY Times, is ever hopeful that what we suspect, namely that taking care of your hearing loss early, helps stave off dementia. Not only for a cognitive reason, but for quantity and quality of life issues as well.
By HHTM Editors
Contributed by Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing
February 29, 2016
One look at the calendar tells us spring is upon us, even if looking out our window tells us otherwise. For all of the joys spring brings us, from the first crocuses emerging to feeling the warmth of the sun on our skin for the first time in months, it also brings rain, erratic temperature shifts and seasonal allergies. All of which can play havoc with your hearing.
The inner ear is filled with fluid, and that fluid is extremely sensitive to the sudden changes in barometric pressure that occur in springtime. When the barometric pressure drops rapidly, that means the pressure outside your ears goes down before the pressure inside your ears can acclimate. The result is a pressure imbalance, which can cause a sensation of fullness or popping in the ears. Seasonal allergies exacerbate the problem by causing narrowing of the Eustachian tube, making equalization of pressure even more difficult.
Those with Meniere’s disease, in particular, can suffer greatly during spring weather changes. Normally fluids in the inner ear circulate; problems occur when the overproduction of fluid that characterizes Meniere’s disease actually backs up under the increased pressure and causes the endolymphatic chambers to bulge. The result is discomfort, fullness and pressure along with the potential of other unpleasant symptoms such as tinnitus and vertigo.
Allergies are another unwanted accompaniment to spring. While most think of allergies as sneezing and sinus pressure, it is important to remember that the ears and sinuses are interconnected.
"People take it for granted that allergies cause sneezing in the nose and itching in the eyes. Yet they seem surprised to learn allergies inevitably affect their ears as well," said Dr. Ronna Fisher, Au.D.
Seasonal allergies affect between 10 and 30 percent of adults in the U.S. and as many as 40 percent of children, which means as many as 60 million people in the U.S. suffer from not only sneezing, itchy eyes and sinus pressure, but ear pressure as well. The warm, wet weather of spring causes trees to produce more pollen. For those who are allergic, the immune system reacts by producing antibodies. Those antibodies release a substance called histamine, which leads to increased mucus production. Unfortunately allergies also cause swelling of the Eustachian tubes, meaning they don’t open as they should. This causes the Eustachian tubes to become clogged with the excess fluid and wax, and the result is a feeling of fullness and pressure in the ears that can negatively affect hearing.
Over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants might also help relieve the problem of excess fluid if it is caused by allergies. Some other remedies that can reduce fluid build-up include exercising, eating a low sodium diet, or eating fruits and vegetables that act as diuretics; grapes, watermelon, celery, bell peppers and asparagus all offer health benefits that include reducing fluid retention.
Since continuous pressure in the middle ear could result in permanent hearing loss, if you are experiencing any changes in hearing be sure to see a hearing healthcare professional or ENT to make sure the problem isn’t something more serious.
The excess fluid build-up as a result of allergies, barometric pressure changes or inner ear conditions can not only cause a feeling of fullness or pressure, but can also cause conductive hearing loss as a result of sound being prevented from traveling to the cochlea. Another risk of excessive fluid build-up when the Eustachian tubes aren’t functioning properly is ear infections; the increased fluid provides an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.
Spring also brings challenges for those with hearing aids, as the rise in allergens and wet weather means paying closer attention to maintenance and upkeep of hearing devices. For example, increased allergens can clog microphone ports in hearing aids, so be sure to clean hearing aids regularly and replace covers of mic ports when necessary.
Along with allergens, spring is accompanied by heat, humidity, rain and extreme temperature changes. Moisture is the enemy of hearing aids, as it can build up in the tubing, damage the microphone and receiver and cause static. In addition, warm weather means more ear wax build-up, which can clog the sound openings. To make sure hearing aids stay working properly when the weather changes, be sure to wear a hat or use an umbrella when going out in the rain. You’ll also want to dry your hair and ears thoroughly after showering prior to putting in your hearing aids. Lastly, in addition to regular cleaning, use a hearing aid dehumidifier overnight or anytime your hearing aids are exposed to excess moisture.
Be sure to see a hearing healthcare professional if your hearing problems persist after the barrage of wet weather, sudden barometric changes and allergy season ends, so you can enjoy the beautiful sounds of springtime for years to come.
Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing