Balancing Act (part 2)

As we discussed in the last blog post, our balance system is made up of our inner ear and what we see and feel. This week, we will discuss what happens if something goes wrong.

What Causes Balance Disorders?

balance disorders and treatment in spanish fork utah

Countless things can cause balance disorders: medications, head injury or a change in the inner ear. The most common changes in the inner ear are displacement of structures in the inner ear (positional vertigo), inflammation of the inner ear (labyrinthitis), change in fluid volume in the inner ear (Ménière’s disease) or inflammation of a nerve in the inner ear (vestibular neuronitis).

 

These disorders can cause anything from short episodes of dizziness to an intense sensation of spinning (vertigo). The feelings that you are going to fall, lightheadedness, blurred vision and confusion usually also occur. Vertigo is often the most incapacitating of these symptoms, as it can last anywhere from a few minutes or for more than a few hours.

Balance Testing

In order to treat these symptoms, your trusted Spanish Fork audiologist will work with you to figure out the cause.

 

Physical Exam Test

The first phase of testing will be a physical exam. Your audiologist will watch you walk in a straight line and then ask you to turn quickly; this will measure your balance and movement control. Your head and eye movement will be assessed; this can be done by measuring how fast you can switch your gaze from one object to another or how long you can keep your gaze fixed on an object while moving your head back and forth. To test how well your cerebellum (part of your brain that controls balance and movement) in functioning, your doctor will ask you to move your arms and legs in a specific way or reach out and touch objects with your finger.

Hearing Test

A hearing test will be performed next. If you are experiencing some hearing loss it is a good indication that your balance issues are stemming from a problem with the inner ear. In addition to treating your balance disorder, your trusted Spanish Fork audiologist will provide you with the best hearing aids for your type and degree of hearing loss.

Eye Movement Test

The last round of testing will be of your eye movements. This lets your doctor know if you are having trouble seeing clearly while moving or if objects appear to be moving when they are not. A nystagmography measures how well you can follow objects with your eyes. Electrodes (ENG) or infrared video (VNG) are used to measure your eye movements. A posturography is used to measure how well you are able to maintain your balance while standing on a moveable platform in a room full of walls displaying moving patterns. This test is able to isolate specific sensory information so your doctor can try to pinpoint where the problem is coming from. Imaging such as CAT scans and a MRI may be performed in order to make sure all the structures and nerves inside your head are functioning normally.

 

As you can see, figuring out what is causing your balance disorder is complicated. This is why your trusted Spanish Fork audiologist is the best person to see if you are experiencing any of these problems.

 

Balancing Act (part 1)

balance system treatmentHow Your Balance System Works

Have you ever wondered how you balance? Seems simple enough; if you get up out of bed you stand up and then just stay standing up. Turns out, nothing is as simple as it seems (tell that to my seven-year-old self who was sure gymnastics would be as easy as the Olympic gymnasts made it look). In order to balance, there is a complicated group of things working together inside your body to keep you standing upright.

As your Spanish Fork audiologist explains it, your balance system relies on your inner ear as well as how your brain processes what it sees and feels. Seems simple; your eyes tell your body what it sees (are you standing straight up or hanging upside-down) and your sensory system, such as your skin, muscles and joints, tells your body what it feels (are you falling through space or are you leaning against the wall).

The Inner Ear’s Role in Balance

Now onto the inner ear’s part in all this. While it is easy to assume the ear’s only role is to aid in hearing, it actually plays an important part in the balance system. The inner ear contains three semicircular canals filled with fluid called endolymph. Each semicircular canal lies at a different angle and is responsible for a different movement: up-and-down, side-to-side and tilting from one side to the other.

Each and every head movement causes the fluid inside the canals to also move. When the fluid moves, it triggers the small hairs that line the canals (called cilia) to move as well, which then send an electrical impulse to the brain. The brain processes these impulses and determines how your body is moving.

The semicircular canals are helpful if you are moving, but what happens when you are not? That’s where the utricle and the saccule come in. The utricle and the saccule are a group of sensory nerves located within the inner ear. The utricle is sensitive to changes in horizontal movement (the tilt of your head). The saccule is sensitive to the change in vertical acceleration, such as going up in an elevator.

As with anything related to hearing, everything is fine when it is working. But what happens if something goes wrong? That is where your Spanish Fork audiologist comes in. If you are having trouble with your balance or feeling like you are spinning or falling, contact your Spanish Fork audiologist to schedule an appointment.

Come back next week for part two! We will explain everything that can go wrong with your balance system and what you can do about it.

So, You Picked Out Your Hearing Aid, Now What?

Well, you did it. You took the plunge, called the doc and had your hearing tested. With the results in hand, your American Fork audiologist recommended a pair of hearing aids to treat your hearing loss. After much deliberation over the style, additional features and price point, you and your audiologist finally settled on the right device for you. Now what?

Hearing Aid Fitting

hearing aid fitting

Now comes the hearing aid fitting, which involves programming your hearing aids and making adjustments to provide the correct levels of amplification for your particular hearing loss. Counseling is also provided in your fitting appointment to ensure you have realistic expectations. Both of these components are crucial for long-term success.

Preparing you for how hearing aids will change your life is important. Many people think that hearing aids work like glasses; all you have to do it put them on and your senses will be back to normal. Unfortunately, hearing aids take a little getting used to. If you are not properly prepared for the road ahead, you can easily become discouraged and give up on improving your hearing.

 Programing Your Hearing Aid

Next comes the actual fitting of the devices. Not only do the devices need to fit comfortably in your ear, they need to be programmed to match your degree of hearing loss. To do this the hearing aid will be placed in your ear and turned on. Your American Fork audiologist will then measure the sound coming through the device to make sure it matches your amplification needs.

 

Maintaining Your Hearing Aid

Finally, your American Fork audiologist will discuss how to take care of and maintain your devices. You will learn how to use them correctly and make adjustments for different hearing environments, insert and remove them from your ear, change the batteries and clean and care for them properly. You will also learn tips and strategies for better communication.

 

A follow-up visit will be scheduled a few weeks after your initial fitting. During this appointment, your audiologist will fine-tune and adjust your hearing aids as needed as well as answer any questions you may have. It may take a while to adjust your hearing aids to their maximum effectiveness, so additional fitting appointments may be needed.

 

You’re in the final leg of the race toward better hearing. These final few steps ensure that your hearing aids work as well as possible, which is really the whole point.

 

Concussions and Hearing Loss

Concussions and hearing loss Common Concussion Symptom: Hearing Loss

Car crashes, contact sports and falls are the leading causes of concussions in Spanish Fork. This type of traumatic brain injury is caused by a sudden acceleration or deceleration to the head.

Common symptoms include headaches, dizziness, loss of consciousness, confusion, fatigue and vomiting.

Hearing loss is another common symptom that is typically not discussed. The force required to cause a brain injury can also damage the bones in the middle ear or fracture the inner ear or cochlea. An injury to the portion of the brain that interprets or processes sound can also lead to hearing loss.

After a concussion, your trusted Spanish Fork audiologist agrees that you need to seek medical attention immediately. The following series of tests are typically performed after a patient suffers a concussion:

  • Neurological evaluation. This measures your sensory and motor responses, including your vision, hearing, balance and coordination.
  • Cognitive tests. These evaluate your ability to think.
  • Imaging tests. Those such as cranial computerized tomography (CT) or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are used to see if there is any physical injury or bleeding inside your skull.
  • Observation. This is the simplest and most important test. Completed either in the hospital or at home, your symptoms must be monitored for at least 24 hours following the concussion in order to make sure symptoms do not get worse.

 

Treating Concussion Symptoms

Most concussion symptoms can be treated with rest. Avoiding physical activity, especially anything that could lead to another head injury, is also recommended. Unfortunately, rest will not take care of your hearing loss.

Your trusted Spanish Fork audiologist will first order a series of hearing tests to confirm your type and degree of hearing loss. Once determined, your Spanish Fork audiologist will be able to create an individualized treatment plan. This plan will most likely require the use of the best hearing aids Spanish Fork has to offer.

While this may seem like a lengthy process, it is necessary for a full recovery.

When Should You Upgrade Your Hearing Aid?

upgrade your hearing aid technologyWhen is the last time you cleaned out your closet? I’m thinking there is a pretty solid chance you still have a few articles of clothing you purchased while you were in high school hanging in the back. Maybe you are waiting for the right occasion to wear your prom dress or you think that the periwinkle blue suite will someday make a comeback. While you may be able to get yourself into the old clothes and they technically still work, covering your body to make it socially acceptable for you to be seen in public, they don’t fit nearly as well as your new clothes. So, the question is… When should you upgrade your hearing aid?

 

Why Upgrade?

If you are using a hearing aid that is more than a few years old to treat your hearing loss, then you should think of it as a piece clothing. Just because it still fits does not mean you should put off buying some new duds. A hearing device with outdated technology cannot provide you with the same hearing experiencing as the newer models. The technology powering older devices just can’t compete with newer models.

Modern hearing devices offer state-of-the-art technology to help millions of people in Utah and throughout the country with hearing loss reconnect with the world around them. These devices can improve your quality of life by helping you reconnect with others.

 

We know most people are not anxious to spend a few thousand dollars every couple years, especially when their current device seems to work fine. But even though your current hearing aid seems to work, it can’t compete with a new model.

Hearing Aid Technology

New devices contain features like Bluetooth® compatibility for added versatility and ease of use. They are also more compact and comfortable than ever before. Adaptive dual microphones offer outstanding directionality and sound localization, and advanced digital sound processing and ear-to-ear internal communications allow the devices to make automatic adjustments based on the environment.

 

The modern devices analyze the type of sound being received and use advanced algorithms to accurately apply and balance amplification. Important sounds are amplified, and background noise becomes more manageable. This makes it easier for you to understand speech in noisy environments, substantially reduces feedback and creates a more natural listening experience overall.

 

The hearing devices available today can do things that the older models could only dream of. Your Spanish Fork audiologist is able to help you determine the best device for your type and degree of hearing loss. Updating your device will ensure you are able to reconnect with your friends and family and enjoy a better quality of life.

Misconceptions and The Truth Behind Hearing Aids

There are 48 million individuals in Spanish Fork and throughout the country who suffer from hearing loss. Of those individuals, almost 80 percent don’t use a hearing aid. This can be for a number of reasons. Many people incorrectly think that using hearing aids will show the world that they are old. Others may think that using a hearing aid is admitting that they actually have a problem.

hearing aids truths and misconceptions

There are also a lot of preconceived notions about hearing aids that may prevent many from seeking treatment. Below are the common misconceptions and the truth behind each.

Top 5 Hearing Aid Misconceptions

Misconception: Hearing aids will make me look older.

 

Truth:Hearing aids don’t make you look older. Want to know what makes you look older? Not being able to properly hear, understand and communicate with others. If you are concerned with the appearance of the devices, many of today’s hearing instruments are so tiny they fit into your ear canal and are virtually invisible to others.

 

Misconception: Hearing aids aren’t worth the expense.

 

Truth:Can you really put a price on improving your quality of life? Research studies indicate 9 out of 10 people with hearing devices believe their quality of life has improved. Better communication is just one of the benefits of hearing devices; users report improvements in their relationships, emotional and physical wellbeing, self-confidence, sense of humor, mental and cognitive skills and sense of safety.

 

Misconception: Buying hearing aids from an audiologist is a waste of money when you can easily buy them from a big-box retailer or online.

 

Truth:While it is no secret that hearing aids can be purchased for less from a large store or online, it is important to understand what goes into the price at an audiology office. First, your trusted audiologist will perform a series of tests in order to determine your type and degree of hearing loss. This information is used to determine the best hearing aids for you. Once the correct device has been determined, your audiologist will use an extremely sensitive computer to program the device to match your degree of hearing loss. Follow-up visits will be scheduled as well. These visits give your trusted audiologist a chance to fine-tune and adjust the devices to make sure they are working well. This is also the time they would make any necessary repairs. You will never receive their level of care at a large retail store.
BTE-hearing-aids
Misconception: The smaller the hearing aid the better.

 

Truth:Hearing aids have come a long way since the ones you probably remember your parents or grandparents wearing. There are some that are so small they are implanted in the ear canal, making them practically invisible. A device this small can only help those with mild hearing loss. Since these devices are so much smaller, they typically have fewer additional features and a shorter battery life. The models that work for most people are behind-the-ear and receiver-in-the-ear. While slightly more visible, they are suitable for all types of hearing loss and let the user get more from the device. The variety of hearing aid models and styles is often overwhelming; fortunately, your trusted Spanish Fork audiologist will be with you every step of the way.

Misconception: Hearing aids can actually damage your hearing.

 

Truth:A properly fitted and well maintained hearing aid will not cause any additional damage to your hearing.

 

Don’t let your fear of the unknown get in the way of improving your hearing. Contact your local Spanish Fork audiologist to get started.

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2017 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Better Hearing for the New Year

2017 is finally upon us. Actually is has been here for a few weeks now, but I bet you are still writing 16 on any important documents. The new year is a time for reflection, looking at your life and determining where you can make improvements. If you are one of the nearly 48 million Americans in American Fork and throughout America with hearing loss, this is the time to finally do something about it.

 

Most individuals with hearing loss will wait an average of seven years before seeking help. This is usually due to the fact that they don’t want to admit they actually have a problem and they think using a hearing aid will make them feel (and look) old.

treat your hearing loss

Admitting you have a problem is the first step on your road to recovery, and the hearing aids you think make you look old are not being produced anymore. The hearing aids of your parents or grandparents’ generation are nothing like the sleek models of today. Modern devices contain features like Bluetooth® compatibility for added versatility and ease of use. Your American Fork audiologist will help you determine the correct device for your type and degree of hearing loss.

 

Before your audiologist can make a determination, you will need to complete a screening visit. This involves a series of tests in order to confirm your degree of hearing loss. The two most important tests are pure-tone and speech testing.

 

Pure-tone testing is able to determine the faintest tones you can hear at a variety of pitches. The test requires you to sit in a specially designed sound booth while you wear a pair of headphones. A variety of tones will be played through the headphones. Every time you hear a sound you will be asked to raise your hand or press a button. The results of this test will be recorded on an audiogram, which is a visual representation of how well you can hear.

 

Speech testing is used to determine how well you understand speech. The tester will read a list of words aloud. You will then be asked to either indicate if you heard each word or recite the list of words back to the tester. Your speech reception threshold (SRT) and speech detection threshold (SDT) will be measured. These results are also recorded on an audiogram.

 

Once your type and degree of hearing loss is determined, your American Folk audiologist will be able to help you decide on the right treatment. For most patients, this will be the use of a hearing aid.

 

The Importance of Speech Sounds to Your Hearing

In addition to being restorative to a person’s spirit, engaging in regular social interaction can also positively affect health. Several studies have highlighted the impacts of socialization on the body. Without it, individuals are at a higher risk of developing serious health conditions, including depression and elevated blood pressure. The health benefits of social bonds even extend to our auditory system. To better understand this phenomenon, a research team at Georgia State University conducted a study on the impacts of socially significant sounds on hearing ability.

hearing loss and sound

Using green tree frogs, which have relatively simple forms of communication, the researchers examined the consequences of social isolation on sound perception. For 10 consecutive nights, two groups of frogs, a control group and test group, were subjected to varying sounds. While the control group heard a series of random sounds, the test group heard socially important sounds—their species’ calls—just as they would in the wild.

 

Just as humans rely on speech, the species-specific calls have great significance to the green tree frog, as they facilitate social behavior. When the test group was exposed to these socially meaningful calls, they were shown to be more sensitive to these sounds than the control group.

 

The study suggests that more social interaction increases your capacity to understand social sounds. It also shows that these sounds can physically modify the ear to increase sensitivity, though the precise location of this change is unknown.

 

The research has substantial implications for socially isolated humans, such as individuals in nursing homes and prisoners, who are likely to communicate less frequently. It could also have importance for the hearing impaired community as well, who sometimes struggle to hear speech frequencies.

 

Our ability to hear keeps us connected to the world around, so the maintenance of our auditory system should be a priority. In order to prevent hearing loss from impacting your life, you should use hearing protection in environments with unsafe noise levels and receive annual audiology tests to monitor your hearing. To schedule a consultation with a local Spanish Fork audiologist, we encourage you to contact our staff at 801-763-0724.

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The Truth About Children and Headphones

Audiologists are seeing a growing number of children in the American Fork, Utah area and around the U.S. developing hearing loss. Within only the last 30 years the number of people with hearing loss has actually doubled. Experts think this may be caused by the increase in popularity of personal music players.

noise induced hearing loss

Personal music players are especially troubling because they can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent type of hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises. How do you know if you are listening to something that is too loud? Sounds are measured in decibels. Listening to anything over 85 dB (heavy city traffic) can cause damage after eight hours. Exposure to sounds over 100 db (motorcycles) can cause damage within 15 minutes and any sound over 120 dB (jackhammer) can cause damage immediately.

 

A research study conducted in 2010 found that a personal music player set to its maximum volume being listened to with standard-issued earbuds produces an average sound level of 96 dB. This decibel level is higher than what is legally allowed in a workplace. Additional studies have also been conducted on this topic. One showed that about 25 percent of those who listen to personal music players are exposed to noise levels that are high enough to cause damage. Another study found that 90 percent of adolescents listen to music using earbuds and almost half of them listen at a high-volume setting.

 

If you ask any American Fork audiologist they will recommend turning the volume down; unfortunately, we all know simply telling a child this is not as easy as it sounds. Anyone listening to a personal music player should follow the 60/60 rule. This rule states that you should listen to music at 60 percent of the maximum volume for no more than 60 minutes a day. Researchers have determined that this volume for this length of time will not cause any harm to one’s hearing.

If simply telling your child to follow this 60/60 rule does not work, your American Fork audiologist has come up with a list of suggestions.

 

  • Replace your child’s in-ear bud-style headphones with over-the-ear models.
  • Set a sound limit. Many music players have a parental control option which allows you to set a listening limit. This program is often protected by a password that only you know.
  • Purchase kid-safe headphones. There are many headphones on the market designed specifically for children. These headphones have a lower than normal maximum volume level.

 

If you need any additional help figuring out how to protect your child from noise-induced hearing loss, contact your local audiologist. They will have more tips and tricks that you can use to talk to your kids about the importance of proper ear care.

 

 

Combatting Military-Related Hearing Disorders

Going into combat puts you at extreme risk for injury. Of all service-related injuries, the most common are hearing disorders. Specifically, hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Experts approximate that more than half of combat soldiers experience some degree of hearing loss due to their service. This percentage is much higher than it is among civilians, of whom 20 percent experience some degree of impairment. A loss of hearing affects more than your auditory abilities. Studies have shown that an impairment can also impact your mental, emotional and physical well-being.

military and hearing loss

In recent decades, the Pentagon has taken some initiatives to improve accessibility to hearing protection for combat soldiers. Retired soldier Stephen Carlson reported in The Washington Post that mandatory forms of hearing protection—ranging from over-the-ear headphones to noise-canceling earplugs—were provided to soldiers, but rarely used in practice. A common explanation for this practice is survivability. Soldiers fear missing commands or being unaware of their surrounds in high-pressure situations.

 

Further discussions have been held at the governmental level to determine more effective solutions. In 2013, the Office of Naval Research began an initiative to find better hearing preservation alternatives. The organization met with experts in the industry of hearing health to discuss the future of hearing protection research, which will be focused on:

 

  • Creating personalized solutions
  • Developing medical solutions to maintain auditory function
  • Measuring noise exposure in combat

 

Experts in the industry of hearing disorders have found hearing loss is not an isolated condition. When left untreated, it can lead to social isolation, depression, cognitive decline and heightened anxiety. Considering the role hearing plays in our overall well-being, these hearing loss treatment and protection initiatives could be life-changing for veterans.

 

To learn more about hearing disorders or find a provider specializing in tinnitus management, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our hearing consultants.  Our team, which includes some of the best audiologists in American Fork, are dedicated to providing innovative and patient-focused services. To learn more about our clinic, contact us today at 801-763-0724!