Everyone wants to stay youthful for as long as they can. We spend a great number of hours undertaking everything we can to stay youthful. From special diets to fad workout programs to Botox to wrinkle creams. Still, with all that time and effort, the one thing that may actually work, we tend to avoid: safeguarding our ears.
Hearing impairment is often one of those “signs of aging” that we frequently consider to be inevitable. But it’s not that simple. You can keep your hearing in great shape and help avoid damage by safeguarding and taking care of your ears. And as time goes by, strong hearing can have significant anti-aging advantages.
Hearing And Aging
When we talk about “aging” we don’t normally mean the actual passing of time. Instead, specific emotional, mental, and physical changes are indications that a person is getting older. Joint pain is a great example of this. You might relate sore knees, for example, with “getting old”. But it’s not age by itself that leads to the problem (your regular 5-mile run may have something to do with it, also).
The same is true of many kinds of hearing loss. As you get older, damage accumulates. The build-up of damage, in most cases, is the real cause of hearing deterioration. And it’s typically downhill from there. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to a number of other signs of aging:
- In some cases, issues such as insomnia and memory loss, can be triggered by the mental strain of trying to hear. And that can make you feel like you’re aging in a particularly intense way.
- The onset of mental issues, including dementia, can sometimes be hastened by ignored or unnoticed hearing loss.
- Neglected hearing loss may cause you to self-isolate from family or friends.
- Studies have shown a strong link between neglected hearing loss, depression, and anxiety.
What to do About Age Related Hearing Loss
You’re really emphasizing damage prevention when you fight the “signs of aging” in your ears. And fortunately, there are quite a few ways to accomplish that. For instance, you can:
- Wear hearing protection to work if your job exposes you to loud noise. With modern quality ear muffs, loud sounds are filtered out while voices are still able to be heard with clarity.
- Become more aware. You can still suffer harm to your hearing even if sounds aren’t painfully loud. Moderate sound for extended durations can cause damage to your ears, too.
- Steer clear of loud noises as much as possible. If you need to expose yourself to loud noise, use hearing protection. So when you go to that concert with your favorite band, be sure to use earplugs.
Your ears can be safeguarded by all of these actions. But if you want to keep your hearing in good shape you can do one more thing: schedule an appointment with us for a hearing test. Making sure you undergo hearing tests with regular frequency can help you discover hearing loss before it’s even perceptible. Even if your hearing is perfectly normal, a screening will still be able to provide a useful baseline to compare against future results.
Keep Your Hearing Healthy With Hearing Aids
The world we live in can be loud. Despite your best effort to protect your hearing, you still might eventually detect some hearing loss. You should seek out help as soon as possible if you do notice any symptoms of hearing loss. A good pair of hearing aids can help prevent some of the so-called age-related problems related to hearing impairments.
You could perhaps consider hearing aids as a facelift for your ears: something to make your ears to perform a little more youthfully. And dementia, depression, and other issues can be avoided. The example isn’t perfect, because hearing aids are essential and a facelift isn’t, but you get the idea. Wrinkle creams could help you look younger. But if you actually want to combat aging and feel somewhat more youthful, your best choice is to safeguard your hearing and deal with your hearing loss.
Have you ever seen the “Beware of Sharks” sign when you go to the ocean? It’s easy to realize that you should never dismiss a warning like that. A warning like that (especially if written in large, red letters) may even make you rethink your swim altogether. For some reason, though, it’s more challenging for people to heed warnings about their hearing in the same way.
Current studies have found that millions of individuals ignore warning signs when it comes to their hearing (there’s no doubt that this is a global problem, though this research was specifically done in the UK). Awareness is a huge part of the issue. It’s pretty intuitive to be scared of sharks. But fear of loud noise? And how do you recognize how loud is too loud?
We’re Surrounded by Hazardously Loud Sounds
It isn’t only the machine shop floor or rock concert that are dangerous to your hearing (although both of those venues are, indeed, harmful to your hearing). There are potential hazards with many common sounds. That’s because it isn’t exclusively the volume of a sound that presents a danger; it’s also the duration. Even lower-level sounds, such as dense city traffic, can be dangerous to your ears if you are exposed for more than a couple of hours.
keep reading to find out when sound gets too loud:
- 30 dB: This is the volume level you would find in normal conversation. You should be just fine around this level for an indefinite time period.
- 80 – 85 dB: An air conditioner, dense traffic, and lawn equipment are at this level of sound. This level of sound will normally become dangerous after two hours of exposure.
- 90 – 95 dB: Think of how loud a motorcycle is. 50 minutes is enough to be harmful at this volume.
- 100 dB: This is the level of sound you might experience from a mid-size sports event or an oncoming subway train (of course, this depends on the city). This volume can become hazardous after 15 minutes of exposure.
- 110 dB: Do you ever crank the volume on your earpods up to max? On most smartphones, that’s about this level. This level of exposure will become dangerous after only 5 minutes of exposure.
- 120 dB and over: Immediate pain and damage can happen at or above this level (think about an arena sized sporting event or rock show).
How Loud is 85 Decibels?
In general, you should regard anything 85 dB or louder as putting your ears at risk. The problem is that it isn’t always obvious just how loud 85 dB is. A shark is a tangible thing but sound isn’t so tangible.
And that’s one of the reasons why hearing warnings frequently go ignored, when the sound environment isn’t loud enough to cause pain, this is particularly true. Here are a couple of possible solutions:
- Download an app: There isn’t an app that’s going to directly protect your ears. But there are a number of free apps that can function as sound level monitors. Injury to your hearing can occur without you realizing it because it’s difficult to recognize just how loud 85 dB feels. Using this app to monitor sound levels, then, is the solution. This can help you develop a sense for when you’re going into the “danger zone” (and you will also discern right away when things are getting too noisy).
- Sufficient training and signage: This particularly pertains to workspaces. The significant hazards of hearing loss can be reinforced by signage and training (and the benefits of hearing protection). In addition, just how loud your workplace is, can be made clear by signage. Training can help employees know when hearing protection is needed or suggested.
If You’re in Doubt, Protect Yourself
Signage and apps aren’t a foolproof answer. So if you’re in doubt, take the time to safeguard your hearing. Over a long enough duration, noise damage will almost certainly create hearing problems. And these days, it’s never been easier to injure your ears (it’s a straight forward matter of listening to your tunes too loudly).
You shouldn’t raise the volume past half way, particularly if you’re listening all day. You need noise cancellation headphones if you are continually turning up the volume to block out background noise.
So when volume becomes too loud, it’s important to acknowledge it. Raising your own knowledge and awareness is the key if you want to do that. Safeguarding your ears, wearing earplugs, earmuffs, or decreasing your exposure, is not that difficult. That starts with a little knowledge of when you should do it.
Today that should also be easier. Particularly now that you understand what to look for.
Schedule a hearing examination right away if you think you may be suffering from hearing loss.
Even now you’re missing phone calls. You don’t hear the phone ringing sometimes. On other occasions, you just don’t want to deal with the annoyance of having a conversation with a garbled voice you can barely understand.
But you’re staying away from more than just phone calls. You skipped last week’s softball game, too. More and more frequently, this kind of thing has been taking place. You can’t help but feel a little… isolated.
Your hearing loss is, of course, the root cause. You haven’t quite figured out how to assimilate your diminishing ability to hear into your everyday life, and it’s resulting in something that’s all too common: social isolation. Trading solitude for friendship might take a little bit of work. But if you want to do it, here are a number of things you can do.
First, Acknowledge Your Hearing Loss
Sometimes you aren’t quite certain what the cause of your social isolation is when it first starts to happen. So, noticing your hearing loss is an important first step. Making an appointment to get fitted for hearing aids and keeping them in good working order are also important first steps.
Telling people in your life that you have hearing loss is another step towards acknowledgment. In a way, hearing loss is a kind of invisible affliction. Someone who is hard of hearing doesn’t have a particular “look”.
So it isn’t something anybody will likely notice just by looking at you. To your people around you, your turn towards isolation could feel anti-social. Making people aware of your hearing loss can help those around you understand what you’re dealing with and place your reactions in a different context.
You Shouldn’t Keep Your Hearing Loss Secret
Accepting your hearing loss–and telling the people around you about it–is an important first step. Getting regular hearing aid exams to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed is also worthwhile. And it might help curb some of the first isolationist inclinations you might feel. But you can overcome isolation with several more steps.
Make Your Hearing Aids Visible
There are lots of people who place a premium on the invisibility of hearing aids: the smaller the better, right? But it could be that making your hearing aid pop a little more could help you communicate your hearing loss more deliberately to others. Some people even go so far as to emblazon their hearing aids with customized artwork or designs. You will motivate people to be more considerate when conversing with you by making it more apparent that you have hearing loss.
Get Professional Help
If you aren’t properly treating your hearing condition it will be a lot harder to cope with your tinnitus or hearing loss. Treatment could look very different depending on the person. But usually, it means wearing hearing aids (or making certain that your hearing aids are properly adjusted). And even something that simple can make a huge difference in your daily life.
Let People Know How They Can Help You
Getting shouted at is never fun. But people with hearing impairment routinely deal with people who think that this is the preferred way to communicate with them. So telling people how to best communicate with you is essential. Perhaps rather than calling you via the phone, your friends can text you to plan the next get together. You will be less likely to isolate yourself if you can get everyone in the loop.
Put People In Your Path
It’s easy to avoid everyone in the age of the internet. That’s the reason why intentionally putting people in your path can help you avoid isolation. Instead of ordering groceries from Amazon, go to your local supermarket. Schedule game night with your friends. Social activities should be arranged on your calendar. Even something as basic as going for a walk through your neighborhood can be a good way to see other people. This will help you feel less isolated, but will also help your brain continue to process sound cues and identify words precisely.
It Can be Hazardous to Become Isolated
Your doing more than limiting your social life by isolating yourself because of neglected hearing impairment. Anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, and other mental concerns have been linked to this sort of isolation.
Being realistic about your hearing problem is the number one way to keep yourself healthy and happy and to keep your social life going in the right direction, recognize the truths, and stay in sync with friends and family.
Do you crank the volume up when your favorite song comes on the radio? Many people do that. When you pump up your music, you can feel it in your gut. And it’s something you can really take pleasure in. But, here’s the thing: there can also be significant harm done.
The relationship between hearing loss and music is closer than we once thought. Volume is the biggest issue(this is based on how many times a day you listen and how excessive the volume is). And it’s one of the reasons that countless of today’s musicians are changing their tune to save their hearing.
Musicians And Hearing Loss
It’s a fairly famous irony that, when he got older, classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was hard of hearing. He couldn’t hear any of the music he composed (except in his head). On one occasion he even needed to be turned around to see the thunderous applause from his audience because he wasn’t able to hear it.
Beethoven is certainly not the only example of hearing issues in musicians. In fact, a far more recent generation of rock musicians, all known for cranking their speakers (and performances) up to 11–have begun to go public with their personal hearing loss experiences.
From Eric Clapton to Neil Diamond to will.i.am, the stories all sound remarkably similar. Musicians spend a huge amount of time coping with crowd noise and loud speakers. The trauma which the ears experience every day eventually results in noticeable harm: hearing loss and tinnitus.
Even if You Aren’t a Musician This Could Still be a Problem
You may think that because you aren’t personally a rock star or a musician, this may not apply to you. You’re not playing for large crowds. And you don’t have massive amplifiers behind you daily.
But your favorite playlist and a set of earbuds are things you do have. And that can be a real problem. It’s become effortless for each one of us to experience music like rock stars do, at way too high a volume.
The ease with which you can expose yourself to detrimental and continuous sounds make this one time cliche grievance into a significant cause for concern.
So How Can You Safeguard Your Ears While Listening to Music?
As with most situations admitting that there’s a problem is the first step. People are putting their hearing in jeopardy and have to be made aware of it (especially more impressionable, younger people). But you also need to take some other steps too:
- Keep your volume in check: If you exceed a safe listening level, your smartphone might let you know. If you value your long-term hearing, you should listen to these warnings.
- Use earplugs: Put in earplugs when you attend a concert or any other live music event. They won’t really diminish your experience. But they will safeguard your ears from the most severe of the injury. (And don’t assume that using hearing protection will make you uncool because it’s what the majority of your favorite musicians are doing.).
- Get a volume-monitoring app: You are probably unaware of the actual volume of a rock concert. It can be useful to get one of several free apps that will give you a volume measurement of the space you’re in. As a result, when hazardous levels are reached you will know it.
In many ways, the math here is rather simple: the more often you put your ears at risk, the more significant your hearing loss could be later in life. Eric Clapton, for example, has completely lost his hearing. He likely wishes he started wearing earplugs a lot sooner.
The best way to lessen your damage, then, is to minimize your exposure. That can be difficult for individuals who work around live music. Ear protection might supply part of a solution there.
But everyone would be a lot better off if we just turned the volume down to practical levels.
If you take good care of them, hearing aids can keep working for years. But they quit being helpful if they no longer treat your degree of hearing loss. Similar to prescription glasses, your hearing aids are programmed to your specific hearing loss, which should be examined regularly. Here’s how long you can expect your hearing aids to last assuming they are programed and fitted correctly.
Do Hearing Aids Expire?
There’s a shelf life for pretty any product. With the milk in your refrigerator, that shelf life may be several weeks. Several months to several years is the shelf life of canned goods. Within the next few years or so, even your new high-def TV will need to be swapped out. It’s probably not surprising, then, that your hearing aids also have a shelf life.
2 to 5 years is normally the shelf life for a set of hearing aids, though you may want to upgrade sooner with the new technology coming out. There are a number of possible factors that will impact the shelf life of your hearing aids:
- Care: It shouldn’t surprise you to know that if you take good care of your hearing aids, they will last longer. This means making sure your hearing aids are cleaned on a regular basis and undergo any necessary regular maintenance. Time put into proper care will translate almost directly into increased functional time.
- Type: There are a couple of primary types of hearing aids: inside-the-ear and behind-the-ear. Five years or so will be the estimated shelf life of inside-the-ear model hearing aids as a result of exposure to dirt, sweat, and debris of the ear canal. Because they are able to stay cleaner and dryer, behind the ear models commonly last 6-7 years.
- Construction: Nowadays, hearing aids are constructed from many kinds of materials, from silicon to metal to nano-coated plastics, and so on. Some wear-and-tear can be expected despite the fact that hearing aids are manufactured to be ergonomic and durable. If you’re prone to dropping your hearing aids, their longevity will be affected despite quality construction.
- Batteries: Rechargeable, internal batteries are standard with the majority of hearing aids in current use. The shelf life of your hearing aid is dramatically influenced by the kind of batteries they use.
Normally, the typical usage of your hearing aid defines the exact shelf life. But the potential life expectancy of your hearing aids is reduced if they’re not used regularly (leaving your hearing aids neglected on a shelf and unmaintained can also diminish the lifespan of your hearing aids).
And every now and then, hearing aids should be examined and cleaned professionally. This helps make certain that there is no wax buildup and that they still fit properly.
It’s a Good Idea to Switch Out Your Hearing Aids Before They Wear Down
There might come a time when, years from now, your hearing aid effectiveness begins to wane. And it will be time, therefore, to begin searching for a new pair. But in some cases, you may find that a new pair will be practical well before your hearing aids begin to show their age. Some of those situations might include:
- Your hearing fluctuates: You should change your hearing aid circumstance if the state of your hearing changes. In other words, your hearing aids will no longer be adjusted to yield the best possible results. If you want an optimal level of hearing, new hearing aids might be required.
- Changes in technology: Hearing aids are becoming more useful in novel ways every year. If one of these cutting edge technologies looks like it’s going to help you significantly, it could be worth investing in a new pair of devices sooner rather than later.
- Your lifestyle changes: In some circumstances, your first pair of hearing aids might be obtained with a particular lifestyle in mind. But maybe your conditions change, maybe you’ve become more physically active and you need a pair that are waterproof, more durable, or rechargeable.
You can see why it’s difficult to predict a timetable for updating your hearing aids. Normally, that 2-5 year range is fairly accurate depending on these few variables.
Do you have a senior over the age of 70 in your care? You have a lot to keep track of. You aren’t likely to forget to take a loved one to an oncologist or a heart specialist because those are clear priorities. What slips through the cracks, however, are the small things, including the yearly checkup with a hearing professional or making sure Dad’s hearing aids are charged up. And those things are a bigger priority than you might suspect.
For The Health of a Senior, Hearing is Essential
More and more published research has echoed one surprising truth: your hearing is vitally important. Beyond the ability to communicate or hear and enjoy music, your hearing plays a vitally significant role. Loss of cognitive abilities and depression are a couple of mental health concerns that have been connected to neglected hearing loss.
So you inadvertently raise Mom’s chance of dementia by missing her hearing consultation. Mom might begin to separate herself if she isn’t hearing well these days; she stops going to movies, doesn’t meet with her friends for tea, and has dinner by herself in her bedroom.
When hearing loss takes hold, this type of social isolation happens very quickly. So if you notice Mom or Dad starting to get a little distant, it may not have anything to do with their mood (yet). Hearing loss may be the issue. And that hearing-induced isolation can itself eventually bring about mental decline (your brain is an organ that has to be exercised or it begins to diminish). So noticing the signs of hearing loss, and ensuring those symptoms are addressed, is essential with regards to your senior parents’ mental and physical health.
How to Make Sure Hearing Will be a Priority
By now you should be persuaded. You now realize that neglected hearing loss can result in several health problems and that you need to take hearing seriously. What measures should you take to make hearing a priority? Here are various things you can do:
- Keep track of when your parents are using their hearing aids, and see that it’s every day. So that you can make sure the hearing aids are functioning at their maximum capacity, they need to be used consistently.
- The same is the situation if you notice a senior starting to separate themselves, canceling on friends and staying inside more. A consultation with us can help shed light on the occurrence of any hearing issues.
- Each night before bed, help your parents to recharge their hearing aids (of course that particularly applies to rechargeable hearing aids).
- Keep an eye on your parents’ habits. If you notice the tv getting a little louder every week, speak with Mom about schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist to see if you can identify a problem.
- Once per year a hearing screening needs to be scheduled for anybody above the age of 55. You should help a senior parent make and keep these appointments.
Protecting Against Future Health Problems
As a caregiver, you already have a lot on your plate, especially if you’re part of that all-too-common sandwich generation. And if hearing issues aren’t causing immediate problems, they might seem somewhat trivial. But the evidence is pretty clear: treating hearing conditions now can avoid a wide range of serious issues in the long run.
So you could be avoiding costly health conditions down the road by taking your loved one to their hearing exam. Depression could be eliminated before it even starts. You might even be able to decrease Mom’s chance of getting dementia in the near-term future.
For the majority of us, that’s worth a trip to a hearing professional. It’s also really helpful to prompt Mom to wear her hearing aid more frequently. And once that hearing aid is in, you may just be able to have a nice conversation, too.
You know what it’s like to attempt to disregard a toothache? They can be quite tough. At some point, you’re absolutely begging to go see a dentist. The same thing happens when your eyesight starts to blur. You’ll probably contact an ophthalmologist when you begin to have trouble reading street signs. But the concern is, when your hearing starts to go you might not have such urgency.
And that may be an oversight. There are significant health problems (especially mental health problems) that can happen as a result of neglected hearing loss. Obviously, you can only neglect your diminishing hearing if you’re actually aware of it. And there you have the second problem.
Indications You Might Have Hearing Loss
We tend to take our hearing for granted. A high volume music event? No worry. Blasting ear pods? That’s just how you enjoy your podcasts. But your overall hearing will be significantly impacted by each of these decisions, particularly in the long run.
It can, unfortunately, be difficult to notice these impacts. Hearing loss can creep up on you incrementally, with symptoms that progress so gradually as to be effectively invisible. That’s why it’s a good idea to identify some primary red flags (and to be certain you don’t neglect them):
- Distorted or dull sounding voices from individuals near you (co-workers, family, friends)
- You have an especially difficult time hearing consonants when listening to casual speech
- You find yourself asking individuals around you to repeat themselves quite often
- When you’re in a crowded noisy situation you have a tough time following conversations
- You consistently blow the speakers in your earpods because you have the volume up too high
- Your short term memory tends to suddenly fail now and then
- You always need to crank up the volume on your devices
- You feel an unexplained sense of exhaustion or have excessive difficulty falling asleep at night
These signs, red flags, or warnings are all rather well known. At first, you will be somewhat ignorant of your symptoms, especially if they come on gradually, because your brain will instantly begin to compensate. That’s the reason why any of these warning signs should be taken seriously, which means you should schedule an appointment to see your hearing professional.
What Going to Happen if You Neglect Your Hearing Loss?
Some people are, indeed, stubborn. Or the idea of wearing hearing aids is just too undesirable. They have this fear that wearing a hearing aid is some sort of direct marker for old age (as though constantly asking people to speak up is a signifier of everlasting youth). But in reality, most modern hearing aids are practically invisible (and it’s helpful when you can hear and engage in conversations).
Still, if you neglect hearing loss it may result in several issues:
- You could have strained relationships: There’s something that occurs when you have a hard time understanding your friends and relatives: you avoid speaking with them. You quit saying hi, you quit checking in, you distance yourself. And that can hurt some of those relationships, specifically if no one has any idea that the underlying cause is hearing loss (and not because you’re mad at them).
- Your hearing may get worse: Without a hearing aid or enhanced ear protection, You’ll continue to turn up your devices. Or you’ll keep going to rock shows without any earplugs. Which means you’ll keep doing harm to your ears and your hearing will almost definitely continue to decline because of it.
- Cognitive decline and depression could result: As your relationships fray and going out becomes more difficult, you might begin to notice symptoms of depression. You might also start to experience some mental decline without the auditory stimulation your brain is used to, certain changes start to take place within your neural physiology. This can lead to long term cognitive difficulties if your hearing loss isn’t dealt with.
Hearing Loss Shouldn’t be Ignored
Clearly, ignoring your hearing loss can cause bigger and more substantial issues down the road. On the other hand, your quality of life can be substantially improved by recognizing and managing your hearing loss. When you can hear, your relationships improve and your every day life seems fuller. And increasing your awareness, either by seeing a hearing specialist or downloading a noise-monitoring app, can improve your complete hearing health.
You definitely shouldn’t neglect the health concern of hearing loss. The sooner you find the correct treatment, the happier you’ll be. Don’t wait until the proverbial toothache becomes too painful to ignore.
Is it possible to get rid of used hearing aids? Whether they were owned by a departed family member or you decided to update your hearing aids to something fancier like a cochlear implant, the answer is the same: donate your used hearing aids instead of getting rid of.
There are plenty of people suffering from loss of hearing who could use a donated hearing aid, and several institutions out there that collect and circulate those hearing aids to the individuals in need. Keep reading to find out how and why to donate pre-owned hearing aids.
Why You Should Look Into Donating Your Used Hearing Aids
- Of the overall populace, around 14% have some type of hearing loss
- 91% of adults suffering from hearing loss are above the age of 50
- 15% of school-age children suffer from some form of hearing loss
- Hearing aids would help nearly 29 million adults with hearing loss, but…
- …hearing aids are actually used by only 16% (4.6 million) of them
- The general age for first-time hearing aid users is 70, but again…
- Of those people over 70 who require hearing aids, fewer than 30% percent have ever had them
This is really worrisome. Because neglected hearing loss has been linked to multiple health issues from an increased risk of falling to cognitive decline and depression. The relevance of your hearing to your overall health is backed up by new studies coming out all of the time. These health issues can be avoided and in some cases reversed by hearing aids.
And the last compelling point is that loss of hearing can cost the average family $12,000 in earnings each year. But that expense can actually be lessened by up to 50% by using hearing aids.
It may not be feasible for families who lose $12,000 a year to afford to buy hearing aids.
For an individual in need, who can’t afford a hearing aid, your pre-owned hearing aids can have a big impact on their financial well being, quality of life, and health. It could also help a child in school that has difficulty hearing, which could affect their ability to enter into college and make a decent living when they’re older.
Donating Your Used Hearing Aids
Old hearing aids are recycled and dispensed by lots of manufacturers and volunteer organizations. Come and see us so we can guide you on the right recycling choice for you. Or give us a call.
If you can hear voices and make out some words but not others, or you can’t differentiate between a person’s voice and surrounding noise, your hearing issue might be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s ability to process signals, or both.
Brain function, age, general health, and the genetic makeup of your ear all contribute to your ability to process sound. If you have the frustrating experience of hearing a person’s voice but not processing or understanding what that person is saying you might be dealing with one or more of the following kinds of loss of hearing.
Conductive Hearing Loss
You could be suffering from conductive hearing loss if you have to continuously swallow and tug on your ears while saying with growing annoyance “There’s something in my ear”. The ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain is decreased by issues to the outer and middle ear like wax buildup, ear infections, eardrum damage, and fluid buildup. Depending on the seriousness of issues going on in your ear, you might be able to understand some people, with louder voices, versus hearing partial words from others talking in normal or lower tones.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Where conductive hearing loss can be brought on by outer- and middle-ear issues, Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear’s hair-like cells or the auditory nerve itself can block sound signals from going to the brain. Sounds can seem too loud or soft and voices can come across too muddy. You’re suffering with high frequency hearing loss, if you have difficulty hearing women and children’s voices or can’t distinguish voices from the background noise.
Have you ever been on a plane and you start to have issues with ear pressure? Where suddenly, your ears seem to be plugged? Perhaps somebody you know suggested you try chewing gum. And you probably don’t even know why this works sometimes. If your ears feel blocked, here are a few tips to make your ears pop.
Pressure And Your Ears
Turns out, your ears are rather wonderful at controlling air pressure. Owing to a useful little piece of anatomy called Eustachian tubes, the pressure on the interior of your ears is able to regulate, adjust, and equalize to the pressure in the outside world. Normally.
Inequalities in the pressure of the air can cause problems in situations where your Eustachian tubes are having trouble adjusting. If you’re sick, for example, or there is a lot of fluid accumulation in the back of your ears, you might start suffering from something known as barotrauma, an uncomfortable and sometimes painful feeling of the ears due to pressure differential. This is the same situation you feel in small amounts when flying or driving in particularly tall mountains.
The majority of the time, you won’t notice changes in pressure. But when those differences are sudden, or when your Eustachian tubes aren’t functioning properly, you can feel fullness, pain, and even crackling inside of your ears.
What is The Source of That Crackling?
Hearing crackling in your ears is pretty uncommon in a day-to-day setting, so you might be understandably curious about the cause. The crackling noise is commonly compared to the sound of “Rice Krispies”. In many cases, what you’re hearing is air moving around blockages or impediments in your eustachian tubes. The cause of those blockages can range from congestion to Eustachian tube malfunction to unregulated changes in air pressure.
Equalizing Ear Pressure
Normally, any crackling is going to be caused by a pressure difference in your ears (especially if you’re on a plane). In that situation, you can try the following technique to neutralize ear pressure:
- Try Swallowing: The muscles that trigger when swallowing will force your eustachian tubes to open, equalizing the pressure. This also explains the accepted advice to chew gum on a plane; the swallowing is what equalizes the ear and chewing causes you to swallow.
- Valsalva Maneuver: Try this if you’re still having trouble: pinch your nose shut your mouth, but instead of swallowing, try blowing out (don’t let any air get out if you can help it). Theoretically, the air you try to blow out should move through your eustachian tubes and neutralize the pressure.
- Frenzel Maneuver: If nothing else is effective, try this. With your mouth closed and your nose pinched, try making “k” noises with your tongue. Clicking may also work.
- Yawn: Try yawning, it works for the same reason that swallowing does. (if you can’t yawn whenever you want, try imagining someone else yawning, that will usually work.)
- Toynbee Maneuver: This is actually just an elaborate way of swallowing. Pinch your nose (so that your nostrils are closed), shut your mouth, and swallow. If you take a mouth full of water (which will help you keep your mouth closed) it could be helpful.
Devices And Medications
There are medications and devices that are made to manage ear pressure if none of these maneuvers help. Whether these techniques or medications are right for you will depend on the root cause of your barotrauma, as well as the extent of your symptoms.
Special earplugs will do the job in some cases. Nasal decongestants will be correct in other cases. Your scenario will determine your response.
What’s The Trick?
The real key is finding out what works for you, and your eustachian tubes.
But you should make an appointment for a consultation if you can’t shake that feeling of obstruction in your ear. Because this can also be a sign of hearing loss.