Hearing

Ringing in your ears

Ringing in your ears, or Tinnitus, happens to most people at some point in their life.  It can be experienced as a brief buzzing, whining or screeching noise in the head or ears or it can be a constant presence. Tinnitus is often a sign that some hearing loss may be present.  Some people who have persistent tinnitus are helped by competing soft sounds such as a fan or nature sounds.  Others see a decrease in ringing with hearing aid use. For about 10% of the population, ringing disrupts their lives and they need greater support.  HMC’s Hearing Department can provide a wide range of services to assess your hearing, offer strategies on how to manage tinnitus, and if necessary, conduct a comprehensive assessment and provide treatment options to help improve the quality of life impacted by persistent and annoying tinnitus.
 

Risk of Falling

Untreated hearing loss has been linked in multiple studies to a significant increase in risk of falls. One theory on this is that when you have hearing loss, you are less aware of your environment, making tripping and falling more likely.  It also is thought that because you can’t hear as well, your brain is working hard on the increased demand of listening and understanding leaving fewer resources for other activities.   Gait and balance are very demanding on one’s brain and “cognitive load.”  The more we demand of our brain, the fewer resources are left for other things.
 
Even a mild degree of hearing loss triples the risk of accidental falls, with risk increasing by 140% for every additional 10 decibels of hearing loss. Fall risk reduces independence and negatively impacts an individual’s ability to age in place. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death in adults over the age of 65.  By knowing about your hearing and seeking treatment, you could be reducing your risk of falling.
 

Memory/Alzheimer’s/Dementia

Communicating when you have a hearing loss takes up lot of brain-power. It’s a bit like a computer that runs more slowly when there is a large program running in the background. When close concentration is needed to follow a conversation, a person with hearing loss has less brain power for other things like memory and maintaining balance.  
 
Do you find you are more tired after going out to a noisy restaurant or a small gathering than you used to be?  This may be due to hearing loss and the need to really concentrate on what is being said.  When we mis-hear things, we try to make sense of what we think we heard and use our memory and knowledge of events around us to fill in the blanks. That takes work and concentration. 
 
Studies have shown that early diagnosis of hearing loss and early intervention for the hearing loss  (hearing aids) slows the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as compared to those who have hearing loss and do not use hearing aids. 
 

Diabetes

Did you know Diabetes affects hearing? As blood sugars rise, there is a reaction in the ears similar to the nerve damage you feel in your fingertips and toes. This reaction leads to hearing loss.  As an organ that is at the end of the line of blood flow and has extremely small capillaries, the thickened blood of diabetics does not efficiently serve the ear, starving it of the oxygenated blood it needs.  The sensitive hair cells of the ear are damaged or destroyed resulting in hearing loss and increased difficulty understanding what people are saying.    If you have diabetes, it is important for you to monitor your hearing as well as your blood sugar. 
 

Heart Health

Studies have shown that a healthy cardiovascular system—a person’s heart, arteries, and veins—has a positive effect on hearing. On the other hand, inadequate blood flow and trauma to the blood vessels of the inner ear can contribute to hearing loss. The inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it is possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body!  If you have cardiovascular disease it is important to monitor your hearing as well as your heart, diet, and exercise.
 

Medications and Hearing Loss

Certain medications can damage the ear, resulting in hearing loss, ringing in the ear, or balance disorders. These drugs are considered ototoxic.  There are more than 200 known ototoxic medications (prescription and over-the-counter) on the market today. These include medicines used to treat serious infections, cancer, and heart disease.
 
Hearing and balance problems caused by these drugs can sometimes be reversed when the drug therapy is discontinued. Sometimes, however, the damage is permanent.
 
If you are taking one of these medications, you should monitor your hearing and balance systems before and during treatment.  Get a baseline record of your hearing before you start.  During the course of your treatment, you should have periodic hearing tests as part of the monitoring process.  This will help you identify and report any hearing changes, ringing in the ears, or balance problems you may notice.
 

Hearing Aids &
Assistive Listening Devices

Most people wait 7 – 10 years after first noticing a hearing loss before doing something about it.  As you now know from reading this folder, treating hearing loss early is critical to maintaining a healthy, active, and independent lifestyle.