Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hearing Loss and Mental Decline

More research seems to indicate a connection between cognitive decline and hearing loss. Cognitive decline describes how the brain's functional ability changes over time. As it ages, the brain's ability to make decisions, process information, and perform various activities begins to slow. The rate of decline can be impacted by a variety of factors including what we eat, how often we exercise, and the presence of other conditions like high blood pressure. New research is showing that how well we hear also impacts the rate of decline.

Dr. Frank Lin of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore conducted research that illustrates the following conclusions:

  • In a study of 1,984 adults aged 70-79, those with hearing loss showed a 41% and a 32% greater rate of cognitive decline over a 6 year period than those with normal hearing in two different types of testing methodology.
  • The rate of cognitive decline among hearing loss sufferers was also more rapid. Dr. Lin's research revealed a significant level of cognitive decline after a 7.7 year period in people with hearing loss. This same level of decline occurred in people with normal hearing after a period of  10.9 years.
  • Dr. Lin's research also demonstrated that the risk of dementia increases with the severity of the hearing loss. In a study involving 639 participants, more than one-third of the risk of dementia was associated with hearing loss in people over 60.
For a more detailed report on the research and the source of this information, click here.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How Music Training Improves Your Hearing

The Hearing Journal recently featured an article discussing research that demonstrates improved auditory skills and speech-in-noise recognition among those with musical training. Research indicates that certain aspects of musical training improve an individual's ability to process speech, particularly in noisy environments. Highlights of the research include the following findings quoted directly from The Hearing Journal article:

  • Young adults with even a limited period of music training in the form of lessons or participation in music activities at school have more robust brainstem responses to complex sounds than young adults who haven't had any musical experience (J Neurosci 2012;32[34]:11507)
  • Older musicians do not have the same brainstem timing delays in their speech-evoked responses that older nonmusicians do (Neurbiol Aging 2012;33[7]:1483.e1)
  • Adults age 60 to 85 without previous musical experience exhibited improved processing speed and memory after just three months of weekly 30-minute piano lessons and three hours a week of practice, whereas the control group showed no changes in these abilities (Aging Ment Health 2007;11[4]:464)
While becoming a professional musician is not possible for every individual, clearly there are real benefits to musical training. For more information on the research referenced above, click here.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

How to Listen to Your iPod and Preserve Your Hearing

Listening to music at loud volume levels through a handheld device can damage your hearing. Exposure to volume levels above 85 dBs for prolonged periods of time can lead to permanent hearing loss. The maximum decibel level of an iPod sold in the United States is 100-115 dBs. For this reason, it's important to take certain precautions to protect your hearing while you listen to music. Here are three quick suggestions to preserve your hearing and still enjoy your music!
  1. Listen to your music at 70% of the device's maximum volume level. Your handheld device probably has a volume limiting function that allows you to set the maximum volume level. Access this programming feature and limit the device's volume level.
  2. Give your ears a break after one hour of listening. The length of time that you listen to music can impact your hearing health as well.
  3. Use over-the-ear headphones instead of ear buds. Over-the-ear headphones usually introduce sounds to the ear at a decreased volume level of 5 dBs. By dampening or blocking surrounding noise, they also promote listening to music at lower volume levels. The listener does not have to adjust the volume to a higher level to compensate for the volume of environmental sounds.
For more information on how to protect your hearing and still enjoy your music, read the articles linked to below:

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How Siemens Micon Tech Provides Relief from Tinnitus

If you suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and possess a hearing loss that would benefit from hearing aids, new technology positions the audiologist to effectively relieve this condition through hearing instrument programming. Siemens Micon technology features four therapy signals including white noise, pink noise, speech noise, and high-tone noise. These therapy signals can be used to lower the perceived level of tinnitus over time. While other treatment approaches utilize sound generators to distract the tinnitus sufferer from the sounds of this condition, the Micon empowered hearing aid can "mix" these therapy signals into the hearing aid programming settings. The signals can also be introduced through a separate signal generator and adjusted accordingly. The goal of this approach is to provide customized relief from tinnitus for the hearing aid user. Siemens Micon technology is available in Ace, Life, Pure, and Aquaris hearing aids.

For more information on how Siemens Micon technology can be used to treat tinnitus, visit their website.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Apple Moving Forward with Hearing Aid Compatible Devices

The Hearing Review recently reported on a new patent application filed by Apple in early February. The application details a system that automatically detects when the user of an Apple product is wearing a hearing aid. Once a hearing aid is detected, the device would apparently switch its operating mode to adjust to the presence of the hearing aid. While little more is known, it appears that Apple is moving forward with its plans to develop hearing aid compatible devices! 

Image provided courtesy of salvatore vuono of freedigitalphotos.net

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hearing Aids and Wind Noise

The sound of wind blowing across hearing instrument microphones has been an irritant among users for some time. When wearing hearing aids outdoors, wind noise can interfere with the user's ability to understand speech and participate in conversations...until now. Modern hearing aids now feature an automatic program that lowers the level of gain according to the speed of the wind as it blows across the microphones. This feature limits the effect of wind and improves speech understanding by as much as 40%!

For more details about how this feature works, read about Phonak's advanced Speech In Wind feature.

Image provided courtesy of vlado of freedigitalphotos.net