Diabetes and Hearing Loss

  • By proadAccountId-358356
  • 01 Nov, 2016

By: Sara Nagel, Au.D.

Diabetes and hearing loss are two of America's most prevalent and growing health conditions, but did you know there is a link between the two?  November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and I want to raise awareness of the link between diabetes and hearing loss.

Diabetes currently affects approximately 10% of the U.S. population, with many more falling into the pre-diabetic stage. Diabetes results in elevated blood glucose levels in the body which causes injury to the vasculature or the neural system of the body.  Over time, diabetes can result in a host of other serious medical problems, ranging from diabetic retinopathy, to kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and/or peripheral neuropathy.  The same mechanism may also be responsible for damage to the delicate blood vessels of the inner ear.  Diabetics are 50% more likely to have hearing loss than the general population, and according to the National Institute of Health, are also more likely to develop hearing loss at younger ages.  In a 2008 NIH study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 68% of 5,000 diabetics tested had high-frequency hearing loss.   

Untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression, frustration, anxiety, and cognitive decline.  It can also make it more difficult to follow conversation and lead to misinterpretation or misunderstanding.  Take the diabetic patient who might visit 4 doctors in one week yet only hears or understands 50% of instructions that were explained to him or her, including medication instruction.  Yet only about 15% of physicians currently refer their diabetic patients for hearing evaluations. 

If you or a loved one has diabetes, talk to your primary care doctor about having a hearing evaluation, especially if you have noticed symptoms of hearing loss.  Patients with diabetes should maintain good blood glucose control in accordance with guidelines from the American Diabetes Association, in order to lower risk of diabetic complications including hearing loss.  This November, commit to a better quality of life through better control of diabetes, and better control of your hearing heath! 

Hear It Here! - The Center for Audiology Blog

By proadAccountId-358356 10 May, 2017

  • Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from hearing loss.  
  • More than half of the people with hearing loss are younger than age 65.  
  • Untreated hearing loss can affect your ability to understand speech and can negatively impact your social and emotional well-being—hearing impairment can decrease your quality of life! 
  • Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States. 

  •  You have difficulty hearing people talk in noisy environments such as a restaurant, shopping mall, in a car, or at the movie theater. 
  •  People seem to “mumble” all the time. 
  • Family, friends, or colleagues often have to repeat themselves when speaking with you. 
  • You have trouble hearing people when they are not facing you or are in another room. 
  •  You have ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in your ears. 
Hearing loss is often more conspicuous than hearing aids!  May is Better Hearing Month.  If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above signs of hearing loss, see an audiologist for evaluation and treatment.  Early diagnosis and treatment typically results in the most successful outcomes.

Call The Center for Audiology at 713-255-0035, and take the first step to reconnect with friends and family, and enjoy life again!  We have offices in Houston, TX and Pearland, TX with dedicated audiologists on staff to help customize the most appropriate hearing solution for your hearing loss, lifestyle, and budget.  
By proadAccountId-358356 20 Apr, 2017
Teenage hearing loss in the U.S, is on the rise, with recent studies indicating 1 in 5 teenagers exhibiting at least a slight hearing loss.  This 30% increase in teenage hearing loss since the early 1990's is due in large part to the ever-present earbuds attached to smartphones and portable music players.

Teens are more likely to  engage in risky hearing behaviors, including listening to loud music and using lawn and power tools with no hearing protection. The findings also revealed that teens are aware of the risks, yet still choose not to protect their hearing. 

Slight hearing damage in teenage years puts teenagers at risk for accelerated hearing loss later in life.  Educating children from an early age about the risks of unsafe listening practices can save them from significant, permanent hearing loss later in life.  The good news is that with these few simple steps, teenagers (and everyone else) can modify their listening behavior and protect their hearing: 

  • Prevention:   Stop it before it starts!  Prevention is the best way to deal with noise-induced hearing loss.  Using headphones instead of earbuds keeps some of the direct sound out of teens’ ears.  Ear protection should be used consistently in loud environments like concerts, sporting events and when operating power equipment.
  • Stop future damage : If teens do experience symptoms like ringing or buzzing in their ears, they should immediately turn down the volume, wear ear protection, or see a hearing care professional.
  • Help a friend:  Teens should warn one another if they’re putting their hearing at risk. If you can hear your neighbor’s music over the headphones, it’s too loud.
  • Custom ear protection:   For teens who play in bands or shoot firearms, custom hearing protection is ideal.  Contact a hearing professional for guidance on the best custom hearing protection device for your particular needs.  

By proadAccountId-358356 04 Apr, 2017
Hidden Hearing Loss- what is it and how does it impact your life?

More and more people are discovering that although they hear well in quiet or one-on-one situations, they have increased trouble hearing conversation  in background noise.  Routine hearing testing may show normal sensitivity to the different test frequencies!  Hidden hearing loss is the term used to describe this condition.   A likely cause is damage to the ear from repeated noise exposure over time.   This damage affects the connection of the nerve cells with hair cells of the of inner ear.   

The effects of hidden hearing loss can be reduced by improving the signal-to-noise ratio in the environment whenever possible.  This can be accomplished by lowering background noise, or by boosting the speech you are trying to hear via an assistive listening device such as an FM system.  Various smartphone apps can turn your smartphone into a remote microphone which can then equalize target speech sounds to your preference and send them to your ears  via ear buds or headphones wired or paired via Bluetooth with your smartphone.  The best thing you can do is protect your ears from damage (or further damage) by consistently using hearing protection whenever you are exposed to loud noise.  
By proadAccountId-358356 24 Feb, 2017
If you are a  hearing aid user who depends on your hearing aids, a non-working hearing aid can spell trouble.  This is especially true if your hearing aid stops working or does not sound right just before an important family gathering, business meeting, or important doctor appointment where it is critical for you to hear!  Following are some easy, at-home solutions you can try to get your hearing aid working again: 

A) Check your battery
B) Make sure your hearing aid is turned on/battery door is completely closed
C)Visually inspect your wax filter, ear mold sound opening, or ear mold tubing for blockage caused by wax.  Replace your wax filter or clean the sound opening of your earmold if blockage is found
D) If none of the above help, contact us for help.  Your hearing aid may have an electronic failure and require service.  

A) Visually inspect your wax filter. Even if partially clogged, your hearing aid can sound weaker than normal. 
B) If your hearing aid has tubing, visually inspect the tubing for blockage, cracks, or beads of moisture.  Run vent or tubing cleaner through tubing to clear blockage, or use ear mold blower to blow moisture out of tubing. 
C) Try a different hearing aid program.  You may have accidentally switched to a different program with lower amplification. 
D)Consider whether your hearing may have changed.  We recommend annual re-evaluations to monitor your hearing and adjust your hearing aids accordingly.  Schedule a hearing test if it has been a while since your last evaluation.  Our audiologists can adjust your hearing aids precisely for your new hearing levels.  

A) Make sure your hearing aids are inserted correctly.  Try removing and reinserting your hearing aids.  If you wear receiver-in-the ear hearing aids, the thin wire should be flush against the side of your face and ear canal entrance.  
B) Turn down the volume.  If your hearing aid is set too high, it is more likely to feed back. 
C) Visually inspect your ear mold tubing for any cracks.  Sound may be leaking out of your hearing aid and causing feedback. 
D) You may have wax buildup in your ears.  Ear blockage will cause the amplified sound to bounce back, causing squealing or whistling.  Your audiologist or ENT physician can safely remove wax buildup from your ear. 

A) Visually inspect the battery and/or the battery contacts in your hearing aid.  If your battery looks corroded, discard it, clean the battery compartment and battery contacts, and replace with a new battery. 
B) Check your program setting.  You may have accidentally switched to the telecoil setting (if you have one) in your hearing aid.  If you are not in an environment with a hearing loop, you may pick up electro-magnetic signals from other appliances or fluorescent lighting which may sound like static in your hearing aid. 
C) If you suspect your hearing aid may have gotten wet, store the hearing aid overnight in a dehumidifier to remove moisture buildup from the hearing aid. 

If none of the above suggestions work, contact your audiologist or the friendly staff at The Center for Audiology.  We offer same-day appointments for repairs at either our Houston or Pearland locations, and can often fix your hearing aid immediately.  Should your hearing aid have to be sent to the manufacturer for repair, we offer loaner devices that can tide you over and save the day!  

By proadAccountId-358356 17 Feb, 2017

One of the first cultural shifts I experienced when I moved to Houston 18 years ago from NYC was the ubiquitous smile and nod when passing strangers in the street, often followed by a cheerful greeting, and sometimes even by an entire conversation. What a refreshing positive social connection the smile and nod can engender!

However, when the smile and nod occurs repeatedly in conversation because someone had no idea what was just said, the result can be anything but positive, and can sometimes even get you into trouble.

Seinfeld Discovers the Dangers of the Smile and Nod

In this “Puffy Shirt” episode , Jerry unwittingly agrees to wear a flouncy ruffled pirate shirt on the Today Show when he nods and says “uh huh” to a question posed by Kramer’s low-talking girlfriend.

It may seem less embarrassing to smile and nod than call attention to yourself by asking for repetition, admit you did not hear, or seek treatment for your hearing loss. However, The Smile and Nod often leads to embarrassing moments when it becomes obvious to all those around you that you did not hear what was said. Consider the following scenarios:

“What time is the meeting scheduled?” *Smile and Nod*

“So what do you do for work?” *Smile and Nod*

 “Where is your favorite vacation spot?” *Smile and Nod*

“Did you hear what I just said?” *Smile and Nod*

Avoid the Puffy Shirt

Here are three suggestions for avoiding an embarrassing “puffy shirt” episode:

1) If everyone you encounter seems to be a mumbler, or a “low talker”, consider the possibility that you may have hearing loss, and seek diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Hearing loss is usually more conspicuous than hearing aids. Properly fitted hearing devices enable you to engage in conversation with less effort, and will greatly improve the quality of your life.  If you know someone who performs the Smile and Nod often, gently suggest that he or she check their hearing. You might just be the one to start their journey to a better quality of life.

2) Be assertive and upfront about your hearing loss. This can alert people that you are not ignoring them, or mad at them, or mentally challenged; but rather, you do not hear them. Educate people to face you when speaking, speak more slowly but not more loudly, and re-phrase rather than repeat when you do not catch what was said.

3) If you do wear hearing aids, commit to regular maintenance and hearing re-checks. Even a slight change in your hearing can contribute to listening fatigue if your hearing aids are not tuned precisely for your current hearing levels. Re-calibration of your hearing aids on a regular basis helps ensure that you are part of the conversation again.

Tired of the Smile and Nod? Call The Center for Audiology’s Houston, TX or Pearland, TX locations to start your journey to better hearing today!

By proadAccountId-358356 12 Feb, 2017

Do you have difficulty making out all the dialogue at the movies? What happens when the music swells in the background, and the movie characters drop their voices? Sometimes, even the best hearing aids cannot overcome poor signal-to-noise ratios, leaving you guessing at the punch line, or wondering what twist the plot just took.

6,000 Regal Cinema screens across the United States (including Edwards Theater at Weslayan and Hwy 59) now boast availability of Sony closed captioning glasses for patrons. These lightweight glasses project captions which appear to float about 10 feet in front of the user.  The captions are synchronized with the dialogue on the screen. They also come with audio tracks that describe the action on the screen for blind people, or they can boost the audio levels of the movie for those who are hard of hearing. Simply ask for them at special services, and sit back and enjoy the show.   

- Special thanks to our special patient M.A. for this special tip! 

By proadAccountId-358356 05 Feb, 2017

February is American Heart Awareness Month, and The Center for Audiology staff is committing to taking steps to lower our collective risk of heart disease.  This is also a good time to highlight the ongoing research linking hearing and heart health.  

The American Journal of Audiology reported that impaired cardiovascular health has a negative effect on both the peripheral and central auditory system. The same study found that a healthy cardiovascular system – a person’s heart, arteries and veins – can have a positive effect on hearing. Lifestyle behaviors that affect the heart also impact hearing. A higher level of physical activity and consumption of omega-3 fatty acids have both been shown to benefit cardiovascular health and lower the risk of hearing loss.

The clear link between hearing health and heart health is a powerful reminder that Hearing Care is a critical part of Health Care.  Make a hearing check part of your regular physical exams. If you already suspect that hearing loss may be affecting your day-to-day activities, schedule a more thorough hearing evaluation. In a single office visit, the audiologists at The Center for Audiology can typically evaluate hearing health and if there is a need, work with you to select and trial a hearing solution.

 The Center for Audiology is among the hearing health professional network  participating in “At the Heart of It. . .We Put People First”, a national campaign sponsored by Oticon, Inc. to raise awareness of the link between heart and hearing health. During February and March, a portion of the proceeds from every Oticon Opn™ hearing aid fitted by The Center for Audiology will be donated to the American Heart Association to fund life-saving research.

 Opn's revolutionary technology improves the ability of the user to understand multiple speakers, even in noisy environments.  Opn improves your ability to understand speech by up to 30%*, so you don't have to work as hard to understand, leaving more mental energy to remember what you hear.

 For more information on  heart and hearing health and Oticon Opn hearing solutions, contact The Center for Audiology at 713-255-0035.  


*Le Goff et al. 2016, Opn Clinical Evidence White Paper, Oticon, Inc.

By proadAccountId-358356 31 Jan, 2017
Even a mild hearing loss can make it difficult to enjoy everyday listening activities, including watching your favorite shows on tv.  Fortunately, many options exist to improve the listening experience of watching tv even if you have hearing loss.  Here are our favorites: 

1. Direct TV Audio Streaming to Hearing Aids -  Many new hearing aid models offer direct Bluetooth connectivity.  This allows audio to stream wirelessly from smartphones, music players and TVs directly into both hearing aids with crystal clear sound quality, no discernable time delay, and frequency response and volume that is precisely calibrated to your hearing loss.  Streaming distance is approximately 30 feet, so you can walk around the room, or even into another room, and continue to hear music or audio through your hearing aids as clearly as though your ear is up against the streaming source. Talk to your audiologist to find out which hearing aid manufacturers offer this feature that expands hearing aids into marvelous multi-function devices. 

2. Hearing Aid Streamers - Many hearing aids that don't offer direct connectivity can still wirelessly interface with a tv via an audio streaming device worn around the neck which receives the signal from the tv, and transmits it to both hearing aids.  The Oticon Streamer, Phonak ComPilot, and the Widex ComDex are examples of hearing aid streaming devices.  

3. Loop Systems-  A hearing loop system connected to the tv can offer wireless transmission to hearing aids equipped with a manual telecoil.  This can be a helpful solution to use with older model hearing aids that may not have Bluetooth capabilities.  The loop system delivers clear sound into the hearing aids, effectively turning the telecoil-equipped hearing aids into wireless headphones while reducing background noise and the effects of distance from the tv.  Speak to your audiologist to see which loop system might be best for you. 

4. Wireless TV devices -  There are many wireless tv devices that work without hearing aids.  These are best for people with borderline hearing loss who are not quite ready for hearing aids.  A base plugs into the tv which also serves as a charging station for the wireless headset.  The wireless headset has a volume control and tone control which the user can set to his/her preference while leaving the tv volume at a level comfortable for other family members.  Infrared systems require the user to be in line of sight with the tv, while radio-frequency devices maintain good audio quality even if the user turns his head away from the tv.  

5.   Home Theater Sound System-   One home theater sound system designed specifically for those with hearing loss is the Hypersound TM  System.  Specialized speakers generate a highly directional, narrow beam of audio to a targeted listener in a specific spot, delivering an immersive, 3D-like audio experience.  Sound output can also be programmed to a user's hearing loss for an improved frequency response personalized for the user.  

If you live in or near the greater Houston, TX or Pearland, TX areas, and want to demo one of the above devices to improve your listening experience while watching tv, call The Center for Audiology at 713-255-0335.  Drs. Shiane Lubin, Sara Nagel, and Cristina Vallejo offer expert hearing evaluations and consultations to determine the best hearing solutions for your specific hearing needs.  

By proadAccountId-358356 08 Jan, 2017

We have known for years about auditory deprivation due to significant hearing loss. Auditory deprivation refers to changes in the brain that occur due to lack of stimulation secondary to hearing loss.  As auditory input is attenuated, other parts of the brain become more active to compensate.

Studies performed on individuals with hearing loss show increased activity in the pre-frontal and frontal cortex, responsible for executive planning and memory, as well as the visual cortex. This increased brain activity leads to more effortful hearing, and results in the mental fatigue described by so many individuals with hearing loss. Over time, this cognitive overload may contribute to the higher risk of dementia found in those with untreated hearing loss.

What is surprising is that recent research is finding these same effects in individuals with mild degrees of hearing loss. The good news is that early treatment for even mild degrees of hearing loss can prevent or reverse cross-modal recruitment, and relieve the increased brain load present with untreated hearing loss.  Our Houston, TX and Pearland TX offices have the latest hearing aid and assistive listening technology to address the effects of mild to profound hearing losses.  Call today to start your journey toward better hearing, and a better quality of life! 

For more information regarding auditory deprivation, click here for an interview with Dr. Anu Sharma of University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the foremost researchers today in the field of hearing loss and cognition, published in the 1-3-17 edition of The Hearing Review.  

By proadAccountId-358356 02 Jan, 2017

You’ve finally decided to bite the bullet and do something about your hearing loss. Perhaps you are tired of constantly straining during conversation or guessing at the punch line that you missed. Perhaps your family members or friends are frustrated at having to constantly repeat themselves for you. Perhaps you responded incorrectly (and embarrassingly) during an important business meeting. Whatever the impetus, you are ready to start your journey to better hearing. But where do you start?

Here are 3 important things to consider when seeking audiologic treatment that will help ensure a successful outcome:

1. Seek professional advice :

Only a professional can determine the cause of your hearing loss and the appropriate treatment. If your hearing loss is medically treatable as approximately 10% of hearing losses are, an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) physician can treat the underlying cause of the hearing loss via medication, surgery, or other medical treatment. These problems can range from anything as simple as wax buildup in the outer ear, to more serious conditions such as growths or tumors in the middle or inner ear.

An audiologist can treat sensorineural hearing loss that is permanent but not medically treatable.   Based on a needs assessment of your hearing difficulties, as well as a thorough evaluation that includes functional assessment such as speech-in-noise performance, an audiologist can sift through hundreds of different models of hearing aids to prescribe the one that will match your needs most effectively. Based on your unique hearing needs, an audiologist can also train you in the use of assistive listening devices that can help beyond the use of hearing aids alone. These include hearing loops and telecoils, Bluetooth accessories for the phone and TV, remote microphones, etc. Lastly, an audiologist can teach you and your loved ones effective communication strategies for maximum success with hearing aids.

2.  Hearing aid style selection:

A hearing aid that is uncomfortable or difficult to manage does not get worn. An audiologist can assist in determining the best style hearing aid for you and your needs, whether it is behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, completely-in-the-canal, or an extended-wear hearing aid. Hearing aids that are comfortable and effective do get worn, and help their users live a more engaged, active, productive, and happy life!

3. Hearing aid verification and validation :

Do not purchase a hearing aid from a provider who does not verify that the hearing aid programming is set precisely for your hearing levels. A recent Consumer’s Report found that 2/3rds of all hearing aid users sampled were provided with too much or too little amplification based on the individual’s hearing loss. A tiny probe microphone placed in the ear canal during the verification process allows the audiologist to program the hearing aid to provide exactly the correct level of amplification for soft and moderate speech sounds, as well as ensure that the hearing aid maximum output is set to safe limits which will not cause further hearing loss.

In both our Houston, TX and Pearland, TX locations, our audiologists know that there is no one-size-fits-all hearing aid. We will work with you to determine the best hearing aid solution for your particular, unique, “hearing print”.

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