Can Hearing Aids Help Improve Brain Function?

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. This is an important issue to us given how we rely upon or brains to process the auditory information sent from our ears in order to hear. With the links between hearing loss, memory and cognitive decline continuing to be studied, this brings to mind a question: Can hearing aids help improve brain function?

Hearing Loss and the Brain

A study carried out by John Hopkins documented that the risk of developing dementia increased with the severity of a hearing loss. They also showed how cognitive decline can be intensified by 30-40% due to untreated hearing loss.

Theories to explain this include; worsening social isolation due to hearing concerns. Over time this may cause a reduction in the brain’s ability to interpret speech and sound effectively. Also, an overload of effort required from the brain when attempting to process auditory information could result in less available energy for processing memory functions etc.

These factors could be compounded by resulting in the structure of the brain changing. That would impact the functions of those areas of the brain.

In short, John Hopkins and the Hearing Loss Association of America agree that leaving hearing loss untreated increases the chances of brain function suffering. Long term, that  could start to impact memory and potentially lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How Can Hearing Aids Help?

It’s not all doom and gloom if you have a hearing loss. The research seems to show that the problem is leaving the hearing loss untreated for a long period of time. Studies looking at the impact of hearing aids on brain function are showing encouraging results.

So, it may be possible to improve cognitive function by treating your hearing loss with hearing aids. One study looked at subjects aged 50+ who had untreated bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. Their processing speed, working memory and selective attention were tested at the start and end of the study. Results showed that after using hearing aids for 8 hours every day over a 6 month period, there were significant improvements in every test.

These findings highlight yet another compelling reason to get your hearing checked regularly. Especially given that approximately only 20% of those who could benefit from using a hearing aid actually use one! It’s concerning given that untreated hearing loss can impact all aspects of your wellbeing.

From the first time symptoms are experienced, it can take a person up to 10 years to seek professional advice. But why delay any further, take the first step to protecting your brain function and general quality of life today. Call Smithtown Sayville Hearing on (631) 993-4719 or click here to book a complimentary hearing assessment.

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Foods that Can Improve Hearing Health

“A healthy outside starts from the inside.” – Robert Urich

Foods that are rich in minerals and vitamins can have a host of benefits for your overall physical wellbeing. Calcium is important for our teeth and bones. Vitamin C helps to protect our immune system. But what you may not be aware of is that some of these play an important role in the health of your ears and hearing. In this blog, we look at foods to improve hearing.

Here are several foods that can help “boost” your hearing health:

Zinc – Found in dark chocolate, cashews, beef, dried cranberries. The National Center for Biotechnology Information state that zinc deficiency is one cause of age-related hearing loss. Correcting this could help improve symptoms of tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss.

Magnesium – Found in spinach, legumes, avocado and seafood, magnesium could help prevent or limit hearing loss. Researchers at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute have demonstrated that people treated with magnesium were protected from noise-related hearing loss. Initial beliefs are that magnesium’s ability to fight the effects of free radicals that louse noise generates works as a form of barrier that helps to protect the delicate hair cells in your inner ear. Insufficient volumes of magnesium cause the blood vessels in your inner ear to shrink, known as vasoconstriction.

Potassium – Found in bananas, potatoes, pineapple, artichokes or broccoli. Potassium helps to regulate the fluid volumes in your blood and body tissue. It plays an important role in your hearing health given the fluid in your inner ear. This is the part of your ear that translates the noises around us into electric impulses that our brain is able to interpret as sound. Your inner ear is dependant on sufficient volumes of potassium, so this is one mineral you shouldn’t skimp on!

Omega 3 and Vitamin D – Found in salmon, sardines and flaxseed oil, and are known to assist brain function. This study shows that eating two servings of fish each week can reduce your risk of age-related hearing loss by 42%. It could also reduce the risk of chronic tinnitus.

Antioxidants and Folic Acid – Found in spinach, beans, broccoli, asparagus, nuts, and liver. These could reduce the amount of harmful free radicals in your body, which have the potential to damage the delicate tissues of your auditory system.

Vitamins C and E – Found in broccoli, citrus fruits, avocado and meats. Both vitamins are excellent for your overall health, and can help reduce the risk of infections.

Along with a balanced diet, staying on top of your annual hearing assessment is important to overall ear health. If it’s time for you to book in your annual check, book today with the hearing care professionals at Smithtown Sayville Hearing services on (631) 993-4719. Alternatively, click here to request an appointment online.

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How Can Hearing Loss Make Communication Difficult?

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has named May Better Hearing and Speech Month. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness about communication disorders and life altering treatments. This year’s theme is Communication Across the Lifespan. To help promote awareness, we’re looking at the 3 main ways that sensorineural hearing loss can make communication difficult.

Reduced sensitivity

This is what causes a sufferer to turn up the volume on the television or radio etc. It’s a progressive loss of the softer sounds, such as a softly spoken voice. It may initially be a close friend or family member who first notices the issue when highlighting how loud the volume is set.

High frequency loss

This makes understanding conversation very challenging. It’s more specific, with certain letter sounds within speech getting missed due to being at a higher frequency. These are typically the consonants s, t, f, p, k and the combinations of ‘th’ and ‘sh’. Female or children’s voices can also be more challenging.

Discrimination of sounds

Communicating in noisy environments can be difficult with a sensorineural hearing loss. It becomes very difficult to filter out background noise in order to distinguish conversation sounds separately. As such, it can be relatively easy to converse within quiet settings and therefore easy to dismiss a potential hearing loss just because you find noisy settings challenging.

General Tips

The above issues may all occur at the same time with varying severity. Here are some simple communication tips to help you.

  • Face the person you are talking with and make eye contact. Non verbal cues and gestures are extremely helpful when interpreting speech.
  • Make sure there is adequate lighting, this will enable you to lipread more easily.
  • Try to limit background noise and the size of the group you are communicating with.
  • In public venues look for ‘T’ coil technology etc. Consider a transcribing app or amplification products.
  • Set your hearing aid to suit the environment.
  • Be patient and open about any difficulties you have, repeat back what you heard and ask the other person to rephrase or write down what you missed.

Regular hearing assessments can highlight any changes to your baseline hearing. Seeking appropriate treatment can boost your confidence and communication abilities. At Smithtown Sayville Hearing Services, we find solutions tailored to your individual needs. Call us today to discuss any difficulties you have been experiencing (631) 993-4719 or book a consultation here.

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Life Hacks for Better Hearing

Navigating a world full of people can be difficult when you have the benefit of optimal hearing, but what about as a person with a hearing impairment? Dining out, talking on the phone…even being in public spaces can prove challenging if you’re experiencing any sort of hearing loss. With the advancement of technology and improved hearing aid devices, the world for people with hearing impairments can be improved with these life hacks for better hearing.

  • Talking on the phone. Among our tips for better hearing, communication on audio devices like telephones are an intrical part of our society. To assist with more clarity and less issues, consider utilizing headphones with a microphone built in. These types of accessories are often noise cancelling, so they cut out the ambient sounds not relevant to your conversations. You might also consider using video chat platforms like Skype or Facebook video messaging.
  • Detecting hearing impairment early. If you’re straining to hear, have ringing in your ears, or simply think something is not quite right in regards to your hearing, it can weigh heavily on you. While we always recommend seeking medical professional advice if you think you might be suffering from any sort of hearing loss, but there are apps available that can at least help reassure you. SoundCheck uses a variety of tones and exercises to determine how optimal your hearing may be.
  • Use the correct ear! Research from the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Arizona showed that our ears are not created equal. Your left ear processes music and sound more proficiently while your right ear does better with speech. So point the correct ear at the correct sound and it should help your hearing.
  • Play hearing game.– Like any part of our bodies, exercise is important to longevity and health. There are apps and other training tools like ReadMyQuips available that allow you to put your hearing to the test. From ambient noise, to focusing on background speech and other tones and sounds, flexing your “auditory muscles” can help you maintain and prolong optimal hearing.
  • Use white noise. This is one of those hearing life hacks that goes for everyone under the sun. White noise, even if you’re hearing impaired, can help deactivate your busy brain, calm your nerves and put your body and mind at ease. It’s one of those auditory life hacks that can positively affect people of all levels of hearing.
  • Music? Protect your hearing. There are lots of life hacks for better hearing that apply to enjoying music and attending music events. Utilize custom hearing protection – this will ensure you can still hear the music without obliterating your ear drums. Use the 60/60 rule; if utilizing headphones, do not exceed 60% volume for more than 60 minutes a day. Employ some good old fashioned physics perspective by applying the inverse square law. This rule of physics dictates that doubling your distance from the source of the sound reduces the strength of the sound by 75%.

If you notice a hearing impairment, obtain a hearing device. While it may not seem like a “life hack”, hearing aids and devices should be counted among one of the top tips to improve hearing. As a person with a hearing impairment, obtaining and utilizing a hearing aid can make stark improvements on your quality of life. If you’d like to discuss the options available to you, come in and meet the hearing care professionals at Smithtown Sayville Hearing services on (631) 993-4719. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation today.

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