Tagged: noise exposure

What Causes Tinnitus?

August 8, 2016

Tinnitus itself is not a disease process but a symptom of an underlying issue. A number of health conditions can cause or worsen tinnitus, an annoying ringing, buzzing or hissing sound that occurs in the ears of nearly 50 million Americans. In many cases, an exact cause is never found. If you experience tinnitus, you shouldn’t worry. Very rarely is tinnitus caused by something that is dangerous to your health. Understanding what tinnitus is and what could possibly cause it or exacerbate it can help alleviate some of the stress and irritation that most tinnitus sufferers report experiencing.

A common cause of tinnitus is damage to the inner ear hair cells of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped cavity in the bone of the skull just behind the ear that resembles a snail shell and contains nerve endings essential for hearing. These tiny, delicate hairs sit in a fluid and move in relation to the pressure of sound waves through the fluid. This movement triggers an electrical signal through the auditory nerve that travels from the ear to the brain. The brain then interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside the cochlea are bent or broken, they can produce random electrical impulses to the brain, which are then interpreted as sound. This sound is what we call tinnitus.

Other causes of tinnitus include middle ear problems, chronic health conditions and injuries to or conditions that affect the auditory nerve or the hearing center of the brain.

Common causes of tinnitus
In most instances, the exact cause of tinnitus is unknown. There are some health conditions, however, that are known to cause tinnitus:

Exposure to loud sounds: Long-term noise exposure on the job is a leading cause of hearing loss, especially in men. Loud noises from industrial equipment, construction sights and from the use of firearms by our military are common sources of noise-related hearing loss. Personal music players, such as MP3 players or iPods can cause noise induced hearing loss over time as well. Tinnitus can also occur with short-term exposure to loud noise. For instance, you may experience a ringing in the ears after attending a loud concert. This type of tinnitus usually goes away within hours while long-term exposure to loud sound can cause permanent damage.
Excessive earwax: Earwax protects your ear canal by trapping dirt or other intruders and by helping to slow the growth of the bacteria and fungus that naturally occur in the ear. When too much earwax accumulates, however, it can be difficult for the ear to rid itself of the wax, which occurs naturally with time. Excessive wax accumulation can cause hearing loss and a low pitched ringing or roaring in the affected ear.
Changes in the bones of the middle ear: Stiffening of the joints between the bones of the middle ear, the smallest bones of the body, is called otosclerosis. This stiffness happens gradually and may affect hearing as well as cause tinnitus. This condition, often referred to as arthritis of the middle ear tends to run in families.
Age-related hearing loss: Accumulation of birthdays happens to the best of us. For many people, hearing worsens as those birthdays accumulate. Hearing loss in the high frequencies is the most common cause of tinnitus. The medical term for hearing loss due to the aging process is presbycusis.
Stress: It is suggested that stress increases pressure on the nerves that run up the back of the neck, increasing the likelihood of tinnitus. The exact source is unknown but increased tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders is common in those who are exposed to situations of excessive long-term stress.

Less common causes of tinnitus
Some causes of tinnitus are less common and in most cases, the causes of the tinnitus are a more important focus than the tinnitus itself.

Meniere’s disease: This disorder of the inner ear balance system causes an excessive accumulation of fluid in the inner ear. The tinnitus experienced by those with Meniere’s disease is often described as a low-pitched roar.
Jaw disorders: The temperomandibular joint (TMJ) juts up into the ear canal when the mouth is opened widely. In some instances, disorders of this joint can cause ringing in the ears.
Traumatic injury to the head or neck: Most commonly caused by sudden trauma, injuries to the head or neck can cause neurological disorders that can affect the organs of the inner ear or the auditory nerve itself. In some instances, traumatic injury can cause dysfunction in the area of the brain that processes sound. These type of injuries most commonly cause ringing in only one ear.
Tumor: An acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous tumor that develops on the auditory nerve, can cause tinnitus in the ear that has the tumor.
Blood flow issues: With the aging process, it is not uncommon to develop a buildup of deposits, called plaque in the major blood vessels of the body. If a buildup happens close to the middle or inner ear, the blood vessels lose the ability to flex or expand optimally with each heartbeat. This can cause blood flow to become more forceful, making it easier for the ear to detect the beats. This type of tinnitus is called pulsatile tinnitus.
Medications: Take a look at the side effects of most prescription medications and you might be surprised at how many have the possible side effect of tinnitus. In general, a physician isn’t as concerned with causing tinnitus as treating the symptoms of a disease or condition. Generally speaking, the higher the dose of a medication, the worse the tinnitus becomes. Often the unwanted noise disappears when the medication is stopped. If you experience tinnitus, talk to your doctor about other alternatives. If your curious about the medications you are currently taking, visit drugwatch.com for the side effects associated with the most commonly prescribed medications.

If you have tinnitus, talk to your doctor or hearing healthcare provider. He or she will make sure to pursue every avenue to determine what is causing the ringing in your ears. Although tinnitus is not often curable, talking with your healthcare provider can start you down the right path toward finding a solution or, in the least, increasing your understanding of what may be causing it and what you need to do to relieve the stress and irritation that tinnitus often causes. Call today and make an appointment for a tinnitus evaluation. We’ll be happy to help.

Musicians Earplugs

April 6, 2015

If you are a musician, more likely than not you believe that protecting your hearing is of utmost importance. With any amount of hearing loss, the fidelity of the sound of any instrument may change. But, there’s just something to be said about experiencing the music in its full form, unhindered by a volume dial or a set of earplugs. In a way, it’s a “catch 22.” Many audiophiles (music lovers) like to have the volume at a high level in order to experience the music to its fullest. But by having the volume turned up, you may be placing your hearing in jeopardy.

An easy solution, besides turning the volume down, is to wear earplugs. There are many different brands of earplugs that can be purchased over-the-counter and there are several different types of custom-made earplugs, as well. But ordinary earplugs change the sound quality of the music. The goal of wearing earplugs is to shut out as much sound as possible. By doing so, earplugs significantly decrease the high frequency sounds, which means that you hear mostly the mid and low frequency sounds. The high frequency sounds are the most important for the clarity of speech. As a result, decreasing the high frequencies can cause voices to be difficult to understand and music can sound distorted, as if you were listening under water.

The type of sound you can experience with Musicians earplugs can solve this issue. Musicians earplugs reduce the volume of the music without distorting the sound. It’s as if you have a built-in volume control. The nuances of the music are left intact. And so is your hearing. When the sound is turned down, you can still experience the music to its fullest without causing damage to the very delicate hair cells of the cochlea in the inner ear. Such damage can be permanent.

Here’s the great part about Musicians earplugs…

Musician playing violin isolated on blackMusicians earplugs are not just for musicians! Suppose you like to enjoy music at concerts but you don’t play an instrument or you live or work in a very noisy environment. Musicians earplugs decrease sound without interfering with your ability to understand conversational speech or distorting the music you love to listen to. Instead, the full range of the sound is unhindered; it’s just at a softer volume level. The softer volume level is the key to protecting your hearing for years to come.

Musicians earplugs have filters with varying levels of decibel (volume) decrease. Whether you need a lot of protection from noise or just want sounds to be decreased slightly, there is a choice of filters to fit your listening needs. Musicians plugs can be custom molded to your ears, as well, allowing for comfortable long-term wear.

Whether you are a music lover who is concerned about protecting your hearing or just want your world to be slightly less noisy, Musicians earplugs offer an inexpensive way to enjoy your world on your terms. Call our office to make an appointment for a free consultation today.

Facts and Myths about Hearing Loss

March 16, 2015

Do you know that over 32 million Americans suffer from hearing loss? Do you know that only a small percentage of those with hearing loss actually do something about it? The first step is having a hearing test. People often express that they feel intimidated or that they are worried by the thought of having to “take the test.” Having a hearing test is really pretty easy, though. In fact, it’s not a “test” at all. You can’t be “wrong” when you have your hearing checked. You either hear or you don’t. In fact, if you think about it, it’s really your hearing healthcare provider’s test. He or she has to figure out how you are hearing…or not hearing in some cases. All you will need to do is indicate when you are hearing something. Then, leave it up to your provider to figure out what you are hearing and what you aren’t. A hearing test is the first step toward improving your quality of life. And that’s a fact.

There are several other common misconceptions besides the idea that a hearing test is difficult that prevent people from taking that first step and making an appointment for a hearing test.

Myth #1:  If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would have told me.

Fact: Your doctor is concerned about all of the working systems of your body. However, if you happen to be seeing your doctor for a specific ailment, it’s unlikely that your hearing will come up in conversation. It’s also true that most people hear fairly well in a small, well-lit and quiet room. Your doctor may not recognize that you are having difficulty with your hearing. So, in many cases, if the fact that you aren’t hearing well isn’t brought up by you, it’s unlikely that your doctor will recognize that you are having difficulty hearing in other situations (like groups or restaurant situations). If you feel that you are having difficulty hearing, ask your doctor to refer you to a hearing healthcare provider to have your hearing checked. He or she will then report back to your doctor with the findings.

Myth #2:  Hearing loss only affects people who work in noisy conditions or those over 65.

Fact:  Hearing loss is the most common birth defect. In fact, 3 children in every 1000 born in the US have an “educationally significant” hearing loss. There are many different causes of hearing loss besides prolonged noise exposure and the aging process. Hearing loss can really occur at any age. In fact, according to the Better Hearing Institute, 65% of people with hearing loss are under the age of 65. So, you’re not alone! Hearing loss is a common problem that has many possible solutions. Have your hearing checked today and your hearing healthcare provider will be able to tell you whether or not you have a hearing loss and whether your hearing loss requires some assistance.

Myth #3:  My hearing loss is too severe to be treated.

Fact:  With the rapid advancement in hearing technology, very few individuals will be unable to find a solution for improving communication. More and more people with severe and profound hearing losses are finding that there is an array of available options for assistance and amplification available today that can be of benefit. Never give up! Hearing is vital to an active and fulfilling lifestyle. Give us a call if you are curious about what’s available. We’ll be glad to help.

The best way to treat your hearing loss or help someone suffering from hearing loss is to take the first step and make an appointment for a hearing test.

Is My Hearing Loss Due to Noise Exposure?

March 9, 2015

Logically, it makes sense: those who have worked around high noise levels for many years and have trouble hearing must have a hearing loss that is caused strictly by noise exposure at work, right?

In actuality, other factors can play a role in how much hearing loss a person will have over the course of their lifetime. For example, certain health factors can make one person more susceptible to injurious noise than another. Smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure, for instance, can increase the amount of hearing loss suffered from over exposure to noise. The accumulation of birthdays, a.k.a, getting older, can also be a factor in the amount of hearing loss a person may have. Genetics can also play a part. So, the cause of one person’s hearing loss will depend on many different factors. This is also why two people can work in the same company for the same length of time doing similar jobs and have very different hearing losses.

When hearing loss is due to an over-exposure to noise, a very predictable pattern of hearing loss as well as a predictable degree of hearing loss will emerge. The amount of loss a person will experience is based on how loud the noise was during the actual exposure itself and how long the exposure lasted. Long- term studies have been completed with the help of individuals who experienced up to 40 years of sustained noise exposure and with varying levels of noise exposure. The people involved with the studies had a hearing test every year. The results provided a means of determining the pattern, type and severity of hearing loss that is typical of long-term noise exposure based on the number of years that noise was experienced and the loudness of the noise itself. Researchers found that hearing loss from over exposure to noise causes a predictable and progressive loss of hearing as long as the person continued to be exposed to that noise without the protection that proper earplugs or ear muffs provide.

Interestingly, once someone stops working around noise, the progression of the hearing loss can stop all together. If hearing loss keeps progressing after a person leaves the noisy job, the change is not from the past noise exposure, it’s from the other factors of health and lifestyle.

If you think you have hearing loss due to noise exposure, there are two things to do right away: First, make sure to invest in good ear protection. Using ear protection in any instance of loud noise will make sure that you do not experience more hearing loss due to noise exposure. Second, make an appointment for a hearing evaluation. Because hearing loss due to noise exposure can progress over time, you may be unaware of how much you may be missing. We’ll be glad to test your hearing and make suggestions on how to best protect your ears from further damage and make suggestions for better hearing, too.

How Much Sound Is Too Much Sound?

January 19, 2015

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can happen at any age. Researchers estimate that 10 million Americans suffer from permanent hearing loss caused by noise. Loud sounds can cause long-term damage to the tiny sensory hair cells called cilia (pronounced silly-uh) in the cochlea, which is our hearing organ. In some cases, those exposed to loud noise may only experience a temporary loss of sensitivity to sound. In other instances, either by repeated noise exposure or by a one-time excessively loud exposure to sound, a permanent hearing loss will occur.

Permanent hearing loss caused by loud noise exposure not only makes it difficult to hear, but speech can sound unclear as well, making it difficult at times to have a conversation with friends or family. Additionally, loud sounds can cause ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears, which is called tinnitus. Tinnitus can be annoying to those who experience it and unfortunately, it is permanent in most cases of NIHL.

So, how much is too much?
Once sounds reach 85 decibels (about as loud as a gas-powered lawn mower), exposure to the sound without ear protection can only last for approximately 8 hours without it causing damage to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea. Each time the sound is increased by 3 decibels, the amount of time that someone can safely be exposed to that sound without fear of permanent damage is cut in half. By the time the sound reaches 100 decibels, the safe exposure time limit is about 15 minutes. 100 decibels is about as loud as a chainsaw.

Protect your ears
So, what can you do about it? Start by having your hearing tested. It’s always a good idea to have a baseline in order to monitor any changes to your hearing that might happen in the future. And, you may be unaware of how much you may be missing already. Second, make sure to invest in good ear protection. Using ear protection in any instance of loud noise will make sure that you do not experience more hearing loss due to noise exposure. Your audiologist can make a suggestion about which of the different types of custom hearing protection products designed for a variety of noisy environments are best for you.

Call us today to schedule your hearing exam. We’ll be glad to test your hearing, make suggestions on how to best protect your ears from further damage and make suggestions for better hearing, too. We care about your ears and are glad to help in any way we can.