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Coping With Tinnitus In The Workplace

For millions of people around the world, work is a place of accomplishment, social interaction, and even self-identity. Our jobs contribute to who we are as people and affect our day to day lives, hopefully for the better. But for 32% of Americans struggling with varying degrees of tinnitus, their time in the workplace can be negatively affected by this common condition. According to a 2018 Tinnitus Hub survey, tinnitus is affecting more employees and their jobs than ever, drawing attention to an often overlooked problem and the massive economic impact tinnitus can have on your paycheck and health.

38% Of Respondents Are Struggling

Analyzing the data received from 1,800 respondents, the Tinnitus Hub survey had found that 38% of those who answered reported tinnitus has negatively affected their work prospects. Over 17% had reported that their tinnitus has stopped them from pursuing career progression, while 11% reported that they are struggling and thinking about giving up employment altogether. Most alarming, over 9% had said they have stopped working due to their tinnitus. Unfortunately, these numbers highlight the physical and mental barriers that many face in the workplace, making it harder to be productive or pursue new opportunities. Regrettably, these numbers are not surprising. Research has linked tinnitus to depression, anxiety, and mental health complications, with over 33% reporting severe depression associated with their tinnitus in some studies.

How Tinnitus Can Affect You At Work

There are multiple complications stemming from tinnitus that many of us face, including fatigue, depression, and anxiety. However, according to the Tinnitus Hub survey, respondents reported that difficulties with concentration were the biggest problems affecting them in the workplace. Survey participants reported that tinnitus negatively impacted their concentration mildly (41%), moderately (33%), and even severely (20%), with only a small minority reporting no concentration issues. Though tinnitus can cause fatigue, this trouble in concentration differs from listening fatigue that those with hearing loss experience. The constant ringing from tinnitus requires the brain to force the bothersome buzzing into the background, allowing other sounds and actions to be focused on instead. When one has to consistently block out sounds to concentrate on simple tasks, it can be difficult to focus on duties or be hopeful about future job prospects.

Work Environments May Contribute To The Problem

For some, their work environment may actually contribute to their tinnitus symptoms. Certain professions expose workers to dangerous volumes that may exacerbate or even cause tinnitus. Construction, manufacturing, and military service can expose workers to volumes exceeding 85 decibels, which can be harmful to your hearing health, but even environments with lower volumes can be detrimental. Those suffering from tinnitus often struggle with hyperacusis, a debilitating condition that makes patients hypersensitive to even typical levels of sound, like an office environment or phone calls. This can cause ear pain or spikes in tinnitus, making it difficult to perform or concentrate in common work environments.
If you are struggling with tinnitus in the workplace, seek out medical advice from a hearing health professional about treatment options and tips on how to cope. Sometimes, your tinnitus symptoms can be eased by changing medications or with assistive listening devices. Don’t lose hope when it comes to achieving your professional goals.

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Disclosing Your Hearing Loss To Your Employer

Hearing loss is a concern in the workplace. Estimates suggest that 60% of workers in the U.S. have some degree of hearing loss, and there is a tremendous need for education and services to address this growing problem. If you have a hearing loss, the first step you can take is to inform your employer about your hearing loss.

When to Discuss Your Hearing Loss

All employers in the U.S. must provide accommodations for workers with hearing loss per the law. Even so, hearing loss remains a barrier for applicants and workers who have difficulty with communication. A recent survey is considering when is the best time for an employee to discuss their hearing loss with their employer. The responses vary:

  • 11% say during the job application process
  • 33% think disclosure during the job interview is best
  • 14% of the respondents feel like it is appropriate upon receipt of the job offer
  • Only 3% believe the first day of the job is appropriate
  • In the first few months of the job say 12%
  • 5% think you should never reveal the hearing loss

22% of the people responding indicate that hearing loss disclosure is appropriate if it interferes with their job duties.

Disclosing Your Hearing Loss

Managing a hearing loss at work is challenging. Research shows that it is best to inform others of your hearing loss. When the subject of hearing loss arises, those with hearing loss tend to respond in different ways. Some people are forthright about their hearing loss and have no problem discussing it in detail. Some employees prefer not to talk about their hearing loss and continuously ask others to repeat themselves or speak up. Finally, some workers are willing to disclose their hearing loss and propose a communication strategy before beginning a conversation.
There are multiple ways for employees with hearing loss to handle it at work. Most researchers suggest a multi-disclosure approach that involves letting others know of your hearing loss. The co-workers will respond by speaking clearly and slowly, and it lets others know that your hearing loss does not define you.

Accommodations

When you disclose your hearing loss, there are accommodations you can request to make your work environment more accommodating.

  • Work area. When discussing hearing loss with your employer, make it clear that you wish to be as productive as possible.
  • Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are an option. Determine which system works best for you, check the price, and have your employer purchase one.
  • Telephones. You are permitted to have a hearing aid compatible (HAC) telephone at your place of work. You are also entitled to a captioned telephone service.
  • Emergency notification systems. Lights on fire alarms, vibrating pagers, and other emergency assistive devices should be put into place when you accept your new job.

If you are having challenges with your hearing, take the necessary steps to have the proper accommodations put into place. Everyone should get a hearing evaluation from a hearing healthcare professional regularly to diagnose a possible hearing loss and receive treatment.

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Why More People Should Be Wearing Hearing Aids (And Why They Choose Not To)

Hearing aid technology has seen miraculous advancements since their bulky predecessors of the 1970s, with new devices performing more like supercomputers than listening devices. Utilizing artificial intelligence, smartphone capability, and even reading your brain activity, some hearing aids are truly out of this world, helping millions across the globe bring sound back into their lives. Though the technology is impressive, studies continue to show that many choose to forgo hearing aids altogether, even when they can directly benefit. Whether you have obvious hearing loss or still aren’t sure, health experts are indicating that more Americans should be wearing hearing aids.

Hearing Loss is Extremely Common

Whether it is profound or mild, many Americans have hearing loss; 48 million in fact! Hearing loss is not an adult-only problem either, as every 2 to 3 children out of 1000 are born with a detectable level of hearing loss. Unfortunately, the estimates continue to grow. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 900 million people may suffer from hearing loss by 2050 across the globe. This is an alarming statistic, as hearing loss comes with many challenges, risks, and quality of life issues for those affected. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to increased risk of dementia, accidental falls, depression, and hospitalizations, making this common impairment a public health concern.

Why Some Decide Against Hearing Aids

Though technology and treatment options have become more advanced, a big percentage of hearing loss cases still go untreated. Various surveys have found that many struggling with hearing loss will wait years before purchasing hearing aids even though their hearing loss is known, some as long as 15 years! Why is this? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer.
Research indicates that stigma plays a large role in the decision-making process of whether to wear hearing aids. A 2009 study published by Dr. Margaret Wallhagen of the University of California San Francisco found that many patients associated hearing loss with aging or being handicapped. “Some people feared that wearing a hearing aid would make them appear unattractive.” explains Dr. Wallhagen, “They worried about the technology drawing attention to their ears and emphasizing their hearing loss.”
Cost is another worry for many. Though most indicate satisfaction with their device after purchasing, many patients believe they may not be worth the price before making the commitment.

What Experts Are Saying

Using hearing aids has been proven to minimize the risks involved with hearing loss and can truly improve the lives of patients. “Instead of worrying about ‘looking old,’ realize that hearing aids are a gift for you, your family, your friends, and everyone else you interact with,” says Dr. Steven Rauch, an otologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear, “They make everyone’s lives better.”
If you are struggling with hearing loss and have concerns, speak to a hearing health professional to learn about affordable and effective treatment options. Hearing aids will not only protect your health in the long term but will allow you to hear the things that matter to you today.

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Holistic Methods That May Help Ease Your Tinnitus

With around 50 million Americans reporting some form of tinnitus and 1 in 5 saying their condition is disabling, it’s clear that tinnitus is a serious problem that affects the day to day lives of many. Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus, but there are ways to ease or treat your symptoms depending on the root cause. For some, an underlying ailment such as a blood vessel condition or impacted earwax may be the cause of the bothersome buzzing, while others may choose to use medication such as antidepressants to reduce symptoms. Though medication may be a treatment option, certain medications are ototoxic and may actually worsen your tinnitus symptoms, leading some patients to prefer more holistic methods to avoid being introduced to new prescriptions. These certain adjustments to your daily life may reduce your tinnitus symptoms and increase your quality of life.

Lifestyle Changes

There are a number of changes you can make that may reduce your tinnitus symptoms that do not require supplements or medication.

  • Manage Stress. Studies have linked the onset of tinnitus to stressful events in patient’s lives, and there is a clear correlation between the severity of tinnitus symptoms and stress levels. Reducing stress may reduce the chance of experiencing tinnitus, or make your symptoms easier to cope with.
  • Avoid Possible Irritation. Some medications, stimulants, and environments are known to worsen tinnitus symptoms. Avoiding aspirin, nicotine, caffeine, and exposure to loud noises may stop the ringing from becoming more severe.
  • Drink Less, Hear More. Alcohol consumption is known to increase the severity of your tinnitus due to alcohol’s ability to dilate the blood vessels causing more blood to flow within the inner ear. This increased blood flow may change the composition of fluid in the inner ear and can have accompanying vertigo as well.

Alternative Medicine

Though there is little evidence to support alternative medicine’s treatment of tinnitus, some alternative therapies have been used to help patients with their symptoms.

  • Zinc Supplements. Research has found that some patients with tinnitus may have low blood zinc levels. A 2003 study by the Ankara Numune Research and Education Hospital in Turkey found that patients who took 50mg of Zinc daily for 2 months reported a 10 dB decrease in the volume of their tinnitus, though these results are inconclusive.
  • Vitamin B. Like Zinc, Vitamin B deficiency is more common in people with tinnitus. Though some studies have found an improvement in symptom severity following Vitamin B12 therapy, the results are not overwhelmingly significant.
  • Tinnitus has often been linked to trouble sleeping, with exhaustion leading to higher levels of stress, anxiety, and severity of symptoms. Melatonin is a hormone used to regulate sleep cycles, which may make falling and staying asleep much easier.

Seek The Advice of a Hearing Health Professional

Starting a supplement regimen or new medication without the approval of a health care provider may result in worsening symptoms. Before starting any treatment options, it is best to consult a hearing health professional who knows your unique health needs and can give you the most up to date medical advice.

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How to Better Include Children with Hearing Loss in Team Sports

Are you aware of any professional athletes with hearing loss? You may have heard of Derrick Coleman, who was the first legally deaf offensive player in the NFL. Or perhaps you watched a baseball game played by Curtis Pride, who, in 1993, was the first legally deaf player in the MLB in over 50 years.
While these athletes and others are inspiring in how they have overcome obstacles in order to succeed, the number of well-known athletes with hearing loss is sadly few. This is due at least in part to the difficulties players with hearing loss often encounter while participating in sports.
Imagine for a moment the challenges you might encounter in team sports if you are deaf or hard of hearing. You may not be able to hear the referee’s whistle to indicate that play should start or stop. You may also miss other important signals, such as the start of a race. You may not be able to understand what your coach tells you in a huddle or from the sidelines. You may not be able to effectively communicate with your teammates.
Due to these difficulties and others, children with hearing loss are often left out of team sports, or they may eventually give up and withdraw because of the challenges these sports present. This can be damaging to the child’s self-confidence, friendships, social activity, physical health, and overall development.
If you have a child with hearing loss or if you coach a team sport, it is important to know how children with hearing loss can be better included. Here are a few tips to help you include your child with hearing loss in team sports:
If you have a child with hearing loss:

  • Communicate with your child’s coach about your child’s needs and what might be most helpful to your child.
  • Ask whether trained support staff for children with sensory challenges are available. While support staff may not be available for the entire league, there may be sufficient resources to provide support staff for one or two teams.
  • Show your child’s coach or the team’s support staff how your child’s hearing device works.
  • Consider becoming a coach for your child’s team. Become involved in your child’s school sports by attending athletic department meetings and encouraging the coaches to become better educated on how to assist players with differing needs.

If you are coaching a team that includes one or more children with hearing loss:

  • Reach out to parents and ask how you can best support their child. Express a willingness to learn.
  • Understand that each situation is different. A solution that works for one child with hearing loss may not work for another. Keep in mind that other needs may be present on the team as well, such as children with attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and more.
  • Encourage team members to ask questions to learn how to better support the player with hearing loss. Promote respectful conversations about their challenges and solutions.
  • Face the players when you speak to them.
  • If you show a video, especially one with poor audio, provide a transcript.
  • When you discuss plays on the drawing board, add clear text labels.
  • After reviewing a game or discussing other important information, provide a written note detailing what you discussed

These simple tips can play a big role in making team sports an easier and more enjoyable experience for all children.
To learn more about how to accommodate and advocate for children with hearing loss, we welcome you to contact our hearing practice today. We are eager to assist you!

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How Hearing Loss Can Change a Child’s Brain

Did you know that approximately 1.4 babies out of every 1000 have hearing loss, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14.9% of children age 6 to 19 years have at least some hearing loss?  Whether it’s due to noise exposure, genetics and injury, or something else, early detection of hearing loss is critical.
Up until now, the focus has been on those children with deafness, but new research indicates that any level of hearing loss can affect a child’s brain and development.
The risk of hearing loss
Hearing loss in children can be a whole different ball game than hearing loss in adults. This is because children’s language and social development are so deeply rooted in hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been shown to impact social interaction and development, delay language and speech, and even leave children struggling academically. Early intervention is critical in avoiding these concerns.
But, do children with mild to moderate hearing loss face the same risks or just those with severe or profound hearing loss?
The research
New research led by Dr. Lorna Halliday, now at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, suggests that any level of hearing loss could lead to changes in how the brain processes sound. This, in turn, could pose developmental risks for the child.
The research team worked with 46 children diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss. An electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to measure their brain responses while they were listening to sounds. Dividing the children into two age groups (8-12 years old and 12-16 years old), researchers compared their results with those of children with normal hearing.
The results were not surprising. Those in the younger age group showed results similar to normal-hearing children their age, but those in the older group showed less response to sounds than those of normal-hearing children their age. The team repeated the test with the younger group several years later, finding consistent results. Their brain responses changed and were less than those of normal-hearing peers.
The team believes this is not due to a change in hearing loss but a change in how the brain works to hear sound with existing hearing loss.
“We know that children’s brains develop in response to exposure to sounds, so it should not be too surprising that even mild-to-moderate levels of hearing loss can lead to changes in the brain,” says Dr. Axelle Calcus, lead author of the paper, from PSL University, Paris. “However, this does suggest that we need to identify these problems at an earlier stage than is currently the case.”
The team believes that findings like these could help change how we diagnose children with hearing loss, and when hearing loss of any level is present, how we can better support them to foster strong language and social development.
If you believe your child has a hearing loss, contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation today.
 
 

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Sonus Hearing Care Professionals is Proud to Support the Hearing Health Foundation

As the holiday season ends, we’re reminded of all the things we’re thankful for. Not only are we grateful to support our patients with their hearing concerns, but we appreciate the opportunity to help others in need. It’s not just the immediate people around us that can benefit from generosity; you can make a difference in the world no matter where you are.
At Sonus Hearing Care Professionals, we are a proud supporter of a variety of charities and noteworthy causes. This winter, we’ve extended our reach to support the Hearing Health Foundation. We’re committed to the welfare of others and are grateful that we can encourage this fantastic organization and the important work they’re doing.
Our staff thanks you for the gift you give us daily – being able to help you with your hearing needs. It’s what makes our job truly special.
Season’s greetings!

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Disaster Preparedness For People With Hearing Loss

Natural disasters come in many types. From simple power outages to fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes, natural disasters can exact a heavy toll. Being prepared for an emergency is an essential part of staying safe during difficult times. For those with hearing loss, there are extra challenges involving getting information and communicating with others during these trying times. Here are some emergency preparedness steps for those of you with hearing loss.

Hearing Loss-Friendly Weather-Alert Radio

Continuous weather information is accessible from the National Weather Service on a nationwide network called NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). You can receive hazard information for your area by looking for NWR receivers. The receivers have specialized connectors that can work together with security systems, shakers, pillow vibrators, and strobe lights.

Receive Reverse 911 Alerts

It is possible to receive text alerts with emergency information on your smartphone. This information includes instructions for evacuating or avoiding dangerous areas during environmental disasters. By signing up for this service, you can get life-saving information much sooner than on local news or social media.

Assemble Your Emergency Kit

Pack a bag in advance that contains everything you might need if a disaster occurs. Items should include emergency preparedness items specifically for people with hearing loss.

  • A 4-week supply of hearing aid batteries
  • Battery charger for cochlear implants
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Pen and paper for writing messages
  • A waterproof container for storing hearing aids
  • Battery removal tool
  • Dry kit
  • Telephone number of hearing healthcare professional
  • Batteries for any additional ALDs you may have

If you have a hearing dog, there are a few extra items to pack as well:

  • 1-2-week supply of food and treats
  • Water for at least 24 hours
  • Collar and leash
  • Service ID
  • Copies of dog’s immunization records

Train For A Disaster

Many communities now have programs that educate and prepare citizens for potential disasters. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) programs teach necessary disaster response skills, fire safety, and medical operations. The classrooms and training environments are accessible to people with hearing loss. Some venues have assistive listening systems, while others offer amplified sound microphones or sign language interpreters.

Support Network

If you have a hearing loss and live alone, forming a support system is crucial. A small network of neighbors, friends, and family can work together during an emergency to ensure everyone stays safe and receives up-to-date emergency information. Please remember to inform your network about any health concerns, assistive listening devices, or medical supplies. This information is vital for responders who may help you during a disaster. You may consider using communication cards to communicate with rescue workers. These cards can alert a rescuer to your hearing loss and use images, symbols, and words to convey meaning.
If you have a hearing loss, it is essential that you take the time to prepare for natural disasters. Assemble a kit, sign up for alerts, and train for emergencies. Contact your hearing healthcare professional for additional tips and help for emergency preparedness.

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New Guideline Updates On What You Need To Know About Sudden Hearing Loss

As we age, we often conclude that our hearing has gotten worse over time. Age-related hearing loss is an incredibly common result of the natural aging process, and most of us understand that our hearing will depreciate as we get older. But what happens when hearing loss comes on all of a sudden without years of build-up? Sudden Hearing Loss (SHL) can be a terrifying symptom for those suffering unexpectedly. Affecting up to 27 for every 100,000 people and over 66,000 new cases in the US annually, understanding what may cause SHL, what signs to look for, and when to seek treatment can help dramatically improve your quality of life and improve hearing recovery.
For these purposes, The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) have published new updates to their SHL guidelines, hoping new information will make a difference according to Seth R. Schwartz, MD, MPH, the methodologist for this update, “Prompt recognition and management of sudden sensorineural hearing loss may improve hearing recovery and quality of life. That is the overarching objective and purpose of this guideline update.”

What Is Sudden Hearing Loss?

Defined as a “rapid-onset subjective sensation of hearing impairment in one or both ears”, SHL can manifest in three ways: Conductive Hearing Loss (CHL), Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL), or a mixture of both occurring in the same ear. CHL occurs when problems transferring sound waves through the outer ear arise, while SNHL is attributed to damaged cochlear sensory cells. Though Conductive Hearing Loss may be brought on by an abnormality in the ear canal, “eardrum”, or middle ear, both types of hearing loss can be brought on by many causes ranging from neurological disorders or infections, to head trauma or exposure to certain medications.
With many risk factors and variables involved, SHL can be a frightening condition to undertake for many patients with lifelong ramifications. If left untreated, an average of 25 to 30% of patients with SSNHL will achieve some level of spontaneous improvement, although not always back to their normal hearing level. If treatment is sought immediately, recovery rates improve to 50% or even more in some cases.

What Updates Have Been Made?

Knowing the importance of early detection and treatment, updates to the AAO-HNSF’s SHL guidelines were vital. Though the 2012 guidelines were crafted with the most current research at the time, medical science is constantly advancing, opening up room for improvement when it comes to treatment. Improvements such as addressing the need to distinguish SSNHL from CHL in patients who have shown initial signs of hearing loss, as well as clarify the need to identify “rare, nonidiopathic, sensorineural hearing loss” to help separate those patients from others who suffer from Idiopathic Sensorineural Hearing Loss (ISSNHL), a target population that this update addresses. Schwartz hopes that these updates will better suit the medical community when treating SHL, concluding “While the original guideline was a big step, this update provides an opportunity to improve diagnostic accuracy, facilitate prompt intervention, reduce unnecessary tests, and improve hearing and rehabilitative outcomes for patients.”

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Communicating Better With People Who Have Hearing Loss

You might believe that hearing aids are enough for communicating with people with hearing loss. Although hearing aids are beneficial in many circumstances, sometimes they are not enough. When talking, remember that a conversation involves two people: a speaker who sends the message, and a listener who receives the message. So, as a member of this communication pair, it is essential to communicate your message clearly to those with hearing loss. Here are a few approaches to help you do it better.

Get Their Attention

Try to gain a listener’s attention before you begin speaking. You might say the person’s name, or gently touch their arm or shoulder to gain their attention. These actions will allow the listener with hearing loss to prepare, so they do not miss the first part of your conversation.

Eye Contact

Please face the person with hearing loss and make eye contact. It is your facial expressions and body language that provide critical information to the message you are delivering. It is easy to see excitement, joy, confusion, and frustration on a person’s face.

Keep Hands Away From Face

When you are speaking, try to keep your hands away from your face. Doing this will allow you to deliver a more explicit speech while allowing your listener to pick up on visual clues by watching your mouth and face. Remember that speechreading depends on a listener being able to see your face, which improves their perception of the message.

Use Natural Speech

Try to keep your speech distinct, but do not exaggerate. There is no need for shouting, as it will only distort the message. Avoid mumbling and speak at a reasonable rate. Use pauses instead of slow speech, which will give the listener time to process your speech. Try to provide clues when you are changing subjects or state that you are changing topics.

Rephrase Instead Of Repeating

If your message is not clear, repeat it one time. If your listener is still having difficulty understanding what you are saying, try to rephrase your message differently. Make use of different words that have the same meaning. You may also ask your listener what part of the message they did not understand and repeat only that phrase or word.

Avoid Background Noise

Please try to reduce environmental noise as much as possible when communicating. Turn off the radio and television and move to a quiet place. When going out to a restaurant, request a table away from the kitchen, server station, or large groups of people.

Lighting

Good lighting on your face is essential for a person who is speechreading. When you are at a social gathering, sit where the light is good, and your face is visible. Poor lighting causes shadows on your face, and intense lighting from behind may cause difficulty from the bright light.

Consider An App For Translation

Several apps are now available that will allow you to speak into a smartphone and have your words appear on the screen for the person with hearing loss to read. Texting is another useful tool for communication.