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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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How Hearing Loss in Children Affects School Attendance

Think back to your childhood school days. Did you love going to school, or did you attempt to manufacture excuses that would allow you to stay home from school?
Either way, it is likely that you attended school more days than not. And whether you enjoyed school or not, your early education played a big role in your future educational success and social life, as well as your success in a career.
Recently, researchers in Australia discovered one factor that can cause students to miss more school and thus affect their education: hearing loss. Researchers conducted the study in Northern Territory (NT) of Australia and specifically focused on the Year One school attendance of Aboriginal children.
In the study, researchers compared Year One attendance among Aboriginal children with normal hearing to that of the children with preventable hearing impairment. The study considered both unilateral hearing loss as well as bilateral hearing impairment. More than a third (36.3 percent) of the children surveyed had bilateral hearing loss, while over half (55.1 percent) had either unilateral or bilateral hearing loss.
Researchers found that no matter the type or severity of hearing loss, the children with impaired hearing attended fewer school days than their peers with normal hearing. As noted, this study focused on children with preventable hearing loss. The most common cause of hearing loss among these children is otitis media or an infection of the middle ear.
As part of their conclusions from the study, the researchers suggest “regular surveillance” of the children, both regarding the infection and their hearing ability. They recommend screening for hearing loss, and perhaps infection as well, during early childhood when the children enter preschool and their first year of full-time education. The study particularly recommended these measures for Aboriginal children who live in more remote areas, such as those studied in NT.
While this study was conducted in Australia and focused on the case of Aboriginal children, the findings and conclusions can be applied to children worldwide. Otitis media and other illnesses that result in preventable hearing loss are not isolated to NT. It can also be beneficial for children to be screened for hearing loss in early childhood and in school in order to identify hearing loss at an early stage and provide treatment at the earliest time possible.
By identifying and treating hearing loss, as well as preventing hearing loss when possible, these children will have a greater opportunity for success in school, education, their social lives, and their careers. As the study found that students with normal hearing were less likely to miss school days, they were present for more learning. School sets up a child for success, and even early education is important and formative.
If you believe that your child may be suffering from hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our hearing practice today. We are here to care for you and your family.

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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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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.