You workout regularly and watch your diet just to stay healthy but shouldn’t that apply to your hearing too? Many people see a loss of hearing as a something that happens naturally due to aging but fail to take it into account how bad habits affect it. The hearing sense is one the most important you have and what you do now does matter if you want to keep it. Everything from eating fast food to refusing to give up the cigarettes to hitting the couch for hours at a time contributes to changes in the hearing related to aging. It’s time to make some positive choices by considering preventative measures that benefit your heart and hearing at the same time.
Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your entire body including your ears. A 2009 study conducted by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) determined there is a connection between heart health and the gradual hearing loss associated with aging. They found that heart disease was a factor in hearing loss very late in life and failure to exercise leads to cardiovascular disease.
A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine looked at how body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and physical activity factored into the hearing equation. They were able to conclude that the better fit you are, the better your chance of keeping your hearing. Even the American Journal of Audiology identified a direct link between cardiovascular health and hearing function. With that much proof on hand, it’s clear that sitting on the couch day after day will cost you in many ways, so start a regular workout schedule or, at least, find time to take a walk most days of the week.
There is a reason mom said you are what you eat. There is a certain nutritional aspect to maintaining ear health. Omega 3 fatty acids, for instance, are deemed healthy foods good for the heart but studies show they also help protect you against age-related hearing loss. Look to get some omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like salmon.
While you are at it, make sure to get your green on, too. Spinach, broccoli and asparagus are all rich in folic acid, an antioxidant known for reducing nerve damage including the kind that affects the one that connects the ears to the brain. Add some magnesium found in bananas and artichokes to your diet and you are eating your way to good ear health.
Eating to Prevent Chronic Disease
When it comes to diet, focusing on other parts of the body is just as beneficial. Preventing chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes also protects your hearing. You might be surprised what foods can help fight disease like:
- Wine – Red wine is good for the heart in moderation. Keep it to one glass a day.
- Cocoa – You know, the stuff chocolate is made from, a small amount daily will improve your brain health without blowing your diet.
- Almonds – They make a good high-protein snack with lots of crunch and help lower cholesterol levels for better heart and brain health. Limit yourself to just a few, though. They pack a lot of calories.
While meal planning, find ways to cut the salt. Excess salt leads to water retention and higher blood pressure.
Of course, there are things you need to do just for your ears when focusing on your health. Sound hygiene refers to protecting your ears from sounds that can cause damage. Avoid wearing headphones or earbuds to listen to music or talk on the phone. They introduce sound directly into the ear canal. By the time it reaches the delicate mechanisms of the inner ear, it is amplified enough to wreak havoc. If you are going out for the night to hear a band or dance, wear ear protection to prevent the loud noise from causing ear trauma.
Get Quality Sleep
If you need eight hours a night, then make you get them. See a doctor if you think you might sleep apnea, as well. Sleep apnea is often a sign of an underlying problem like will affect the ears like poor circulation or inflammation. Research suggests that those with untreated sleep apnea most likely have hearing problems, especially with low and high-frequency sounds.
Learn to live right and your ears will thank you. If you already think you have hearing problems, now is the time to see your doctor for a professional hearing exam and test.
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Each new year and every new season brings with it the stuffy nose and itchy eyes that means allergies, but does that also mean you’ll have hearing loss? It might surprise you to know there is a connection for many people. You don’t necessarily associate hearing with the immune system, after all. It is not that simple. Your hearing is a complex sense, one that can be affected by an allergic reaction. So, what should you do if your allergies affect your hearing?
An allergic reaction is part of body’s internal security plan managed by the immune system. It monitors different areas to detect intruders such as an infection. When bacteria gets in, the immune system works to fight it off. It also creates a special tag, known as an antibody, that marks this invader for future reference.
Let’s say a family member exposes you to the flu virus. If you have had the same strain before, an antibody allows the immune system to recognize it and respond. It will release histamine — the ground troops that fight off invaders — and that typically means inflammation of some kind. In the case of the flu, your sinus cavities and mucous membranes might swell in an attempt to trap the virus.
The problem is the immune system is far from perfect. Sometimes harmless substances like dust or pollen get an antibody in error. Once flagged, they will always seem like a threat. That’s an allergy. For allergy sufferers, this means everytime you come in contact with this allergen — that’s the dust or pollen — there is an immune system response. By definition, an allergy means you are hypersensitive to something that is harmless to most people.
Seasonal Allergies and Hearing Loss
Each year millions of people in this country suffer from seasonal allergies, and they might notice a change in their hearing. Hearing relies on the ability of sound to reach a nerve in the inner ear to be translated into something the brain can understand.
The allergic response almost automatically means swelling and congestion and that can interfere with that process. A change in fluid pressure prevents sound from traveling to the inner ear, for example. You might notice pressure or a sense of fullness in the ears when that happens. The body produces more earwax in response to an allergy, too, creating a buildup that blocks sound.
The Skin and Allergies
Sometimes the allergic response includes a skin reaction like swelling and an itchy rash. The ear has a considerable amount of skin that can be affected. Typically, skin reactions occur on the outer ear, known as the pinna. They can also cause problems inside the ear, though. The ear canal is covered with skin that can swell and itch enough to close the passage and prevent sound waves from moving forward.
Allergies and the Middle Ear
The middle ear is the area most often affected by allergies. This region contains tubes that allow fluid to drain and control the pressure inside the ear. An allergic reaction closes the tubes allowing fluid and pressure to build, and that makes it hard to hear.
How to Recognize Allergy-Related Hearing Loss
If you are prone to allergies, these symptoms will be familiar:
- Itching inside the ear canal
- Chronic ear infections
- Fullness inside the ear
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
When combined with the conductive hearing loss, these are signs of an allergy.
Any time your hearing changes suddenly, though, it is worth considering seeing a doctor, especially if you don’t usually have allergies. Your hearing loss might be the first sign of a chronic medical problem like high blood pressure or diabetes. If allergies are a way of life for you, however, then treating them is probably all it will take to get your hearing back.
Hearing aids cost money, so you might ask, do you really need them? It’s common to put the expense of a medical device before the possible health problems it might prevent. The answer to the question does one need hearing aids to prevent hearing loss is a complicated one, too, because hearing itself is complex. There is a certain use or lose it factor when it comes to your ears. Consider some reasons hearing aids are an important part of maintaining your hearing, and, how not getting them comes with risks.
The Complexity of Hearing
Sound goes into the ears in waves that are amplified as they pass through to the inner ear. Some forms of hearing loss get in the way of the process. For people with this type of hearing problem, the answer is no, hearing aids won’t slow that progression. Hearing aids will improve the transmission of sound but not prevent the initial decline. Damage to the delicate mechanisms of the ears like the hair cells will happen whether you wear hearing aids or not.
Your hearing is about more than just sound levels, though. Another critical factor in effective hearing is how you interpret of distinctive sounds like speech. Voice recognition systems on mobile devices and computers improve with each word you say. In many ways, the human brain does the same thing. After all, newborns don’t understand language right away. The learn words through listening to repetition. The more often they hear a word, the more likely they are to recognize it. That’s also why not having hearing aids matters when it comes to hearing loss.
The Concept of Use It or Lose It
Most forms of hearing loss are gradual, in other words, you start losing some sounds before you even know there is a problem. Hearing loss tends to start with hard letters like S, F or T. As you listen to words, the sound of hard letters drops off. What was once the word stop might now sound more like op or something close to it.
Over time, the nerve that recognizes these different words loses its ability to understand them because certain sounds are missing. That’s how the use it or lose it principle works. An infant understands the word mommy only after it’s repeated many times. That same child will lose the appreciation of the word if people stop saying it. After a few months, mommy would be just another meaningless noise to figure out.
The point is that sound interpretation suffers without the right stimulation. That interpretation is done by the auditory cortex in the brain, and, like most things related to brain function, it needs exercise. Brain training exercise is quite popular right now. Their goal is to work the part of the brain responsible for creating short-term memory because keeping it fit helps help fight off dementia. Sound interpretation works the same way.
The Benefit of Hearing Aids
Hearing aids have one job — to make sound clearer. Cheap ones do that by simply amplifying any noise. Better quality hearing aids also filter out background noises so that you can identify sounds more efficiently. What this does for your brain is reintroduce it to those elements of speech you’ve been missing and help you relearn them.
The brain benefit goes beyond just improving your ability to understand speech, though. The stress on the brain that comes with hearing loss causes damage to other regions like short-term memory. A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins found that individuals with even a minor hearing loss had an increased risk of dementia. Those with a significant hearing deficit are five times more likely to develop it.
Health is an important consideration when deciding whether or not to get hearing aids — arguably more critical than the cost. Although technically, hearing aids will not slow the progression of age-related hearing loss, having them does matter at many levels, especially when it comes to brain health and the ability to understand speech.
There are probably more than a few things you don’t know about earwax. After all, it’s kind of weird, right? Like what’s the purpose of that strange tacky substance and how it is made? Consider eight ever so interesting facts about cerumen — that’s earwax by the way — that you didn’t even know were relevant to your ear health.
1. Earwax is Not Technically Wax
Surprisingly, earwax is not wax at all. It’s just called that because it has a waxy feel to it. Earwax is made partially of skin cells. The auditory, or ear, the canal is covered with skin that renews itself regularly. It sloughs off the dead cells just like any skin, and they go into the production of earwax.
Along with the dead skin cells, it also contains secretions from the ceruminous and the sebaceous glands. The ceruminous gland is a small sweat gland that sits just outside the ear canal. The sebaceous glands are located anywhere there is skin to provide the oil that keeps it lubricated.
The exact formula of earwax consists of:
- Fatty acids
They combine with the dead skin cells to create this very necessary substance.
2. Earwax Safeguards Your Ears
It’s role is to protect the skin inside the auditory canal. It takes just a small break in that skin to cause an infection that leads to an earache. The strange texture of the earwax lubricates this skin, as well, and it is a natural antimicrobial, so it stops bacterial infections before they can start.
Earwax is similar to other protective elements on the body like nose hairs or tears. You don’t think much about them, either, but they an important part of preventing infection.
3. There are Different Kinds of Earwax
That’s right, surprisingly not all earwax is the same. It comes in two forms: wet and dry. What kind you have depends on genetics just like eye color. Wet earwax is the dominant gene, so it’s common for most people. Individuals with East Asian descent, from China or Korea, for example, usually have the recessive dry gene as do the Native American Indians. It’s a detail important to anthropologists as they track the migration of different cultures throughout the world.
4. Earwax Cleans the Ears
Yes, that is another essential function of earwax. Think of it as a conveyor belt like you see in the grocery store checkout lane. Dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria get stuck in the earwax to create the belt. When the eardrum beats or the jaw moves, the belt goes towards the opening of the ear canal, taking all that debris with it.
The movement of the jaw is responsible for loosening the wax from the wall of the ear canal so that it can be sent through the ear opening as waste.
5. Too Little Earwax a Bad Thing
Everyone has itchy ears sometimes, but it can be a sign of low levels of earwax possibly due to excessive cleaning. Earwax is natural and doesn’t need much help to clean the canal. There few reasons to try to pull it out of the ear, especially if yours are already itchy.
The itch usually means the skin that covers the auditory canal is dry because there isn’t enough earwax. It acts as a natural lubricant, so removing it will just lead to more itching. Instead, try a drop or two of mineral oil to moisten the dry skin.
6. Too Much Earwax is Bad Too
On the other hand, too much earwax might cause a temporary hearing loss. That is what happens when the wax is pushed back during cleaning with a cotton swab, end of a pencil or whatever else you might stick in your ears. Sound travels as a vibration through the canal to the inner ear. That process is disrupted when there is an earwax blockage.
7. It’s Possible to Clean Earwax Out Safely
It’s not done by shoving a cotton swab in the canal, though. There is a reason mom said not to put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.
First, if you have diabetes or chronic problems with your ears, let the doctor do the cleaning for you. If you do decide to do it yourself, add a few drops of baby oil to the ear canal to soften built-up earwax and, hopefully, dislodge it. Once the wax is soft, you can use a rubber-bulb syringe to run room temperature water through the ear. When the water is in place, tilt your ear to the side and allow it to drain out.
Dry the outside of your ear with a clean towel. If you are prone to swimmer’s ear or ear infections, a few drops of rubbing alcohol will ensure all the water dries up.
8. Not All Hearing Loss is Due to Earwax
If your hearing doesn’t return once the wax is gone and the ears are clean, see your doctor. A professional ear exam and a hearing test can pinpoint that problem, so you can start to hear again even if it means you need hearing aids.
Does diet play a role in the development of tinnitus? Typically, when a doctor sees a patient complaining of ringing in the ears, the first thing they might do is order a hearing test. Tinnitus tends to signal damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear and a loss of hearing. That is not the only possibility, though.
Tinnitus itself is not an illness, but a symptom of something bigger. An underlying condition triggers this phantom noise, and the most common problem is hearing loss. Tinnitus can also be a sign of something else, though, like a change in blood sugar levels or more specifically hyperinsulinemia. Understanding how sugar intake affects your body might be the first step in controlling that annoying ringing in your ears.
What Causes Ringing in the Ears?
Tinnitus means a person hears phantom noises, typically ringing but patients also complain of:
The noise isn’t really there, but it does sound real.
There are two types of tinnitus:
- Subjective — Meaning a sound only you can hear
- Objective — A sound caused by a faulty blood vessel. The doctor may also hear this noise during an examination.
The most common of these two forms of tinnitus is subjective. It is a condition that affects approximately 40 million people in the U.S.. For 10 million people with tinnitus, the noise is loud enough to interfere with their daily activities. Most importantly, severe tinnitus can get in the way of a good night’s sleep and that affects overall health.
What is Hyperinsulinemia?
Hyperinsulinemia is the medical name for too much insulin in the blood. Insulin works a lot like a key that opens the membranes around cells to allow sugar to enter.
All cells utilize sugar (glucose) for energy. When there is too much sugar inside the cell membrane, it causes damage. This is why membranes are locked. They only open when the body determines there are high levels of sugar in the blood. To combat the high blood sugar, it produces insulin to unlock the cell membranes and pull sugar inside. The cells then metabolize the sugar to create fuel.
So, what happens to the blood when a person eats too many sweet treats? The blood sugar level rises and insulin is released in response. This is critical because too much blood sugar is harmful to tissue, specifically the veins, arteries and nerves. This is the reason individuals diagnosed with diabetes tend to have problems with the circulation in the legs and feet and don’t heal well.
In order to level out blood sugar after eating something sweet in excess, the body produces more insulin and dumps it into the blood causing hyperinsulinemia, or higher than normal blood insulin levels. It’s not just chocolate and other sweets that increase blood sugar, either. Complex carbohydrates like muffins and bread have the same effect.
Hyperinsulinemia can also occur due to a metabolic disorder that results from the insulin resistance often associated with type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is like changing the locks on the cell membranes. The insulin doesn’t work to open them to sugar or it takes much more of the hormone to get the job done.
Hyperinsulinemia is a vicious cycle. The pancreas attempts to make more insulin as it tries to regulate the level of sugar in the blood. When the cell membranes fail to open, sugar has nowhere to go and the levels keep rising. The higher the blood sugar, the more insulin the body makes.
Hyperinsulinemia and Tinnitus: What is the Connection?
At least one 2004 study found that somewhere between 84 to 92 percent of people with tinnitus have hyperinsulinemia, too. It may be related to the development of Meniere’s disease — a condition caused by changes in inner ear fluid pressure.
What medical science does know is that the inner ear needs a constant supply of oxygen and glucose to work properly. When those levels fluctuate, ringing in the ears gets worse. Over time, untreated high blood sugar levels will damage the nerve that controls how the brain interprets sound and interfere with the blood supply to the inner ear but even a little extra sugar changes the electrolyte balance of the fluid in the inner ear.
What Does This Mean For People Who Love Those Holiday Cookies?
Certainly, modern consumers understand that the simple sugars found in cookies and candy not a good for the body. Now, they add hearing problems and tinnitus to the list of reasons to manage sugar intake. For most people, the tinnitus that might come from the occasional sweet treat is harmless. If you do overindulge, there might be a funny noise in your ears. If you already suffer from tinnitus, though, the noise will get much worse.
These days, people are no longer patients, they are healthcare consumers who take charge of their personal health management. Illnesses like heart disease or diabetes are not just a normal part of getting old, either. With this awareness, people develop an understanding of why diseases happen and how to prevent them. So what about hearing loss? Is a little hearing decline seen as a problem similar to high blood pressure or blood sugar? What is minor hearing loss and why does it happen?
What is Mild Hearing Loss?
A gradual loss of hearing is something people try to ignore until it becomes more prevalent, but is that the right choice? With hearing loss, how bad does it have to be before a person really pays attention and asks questions like is there anything I can do to prevent it? Like most things, lifestyle plays a big role in the age-related hearing loss. It starts slow and builds over time, so it’s easy to miss.
Mild hearing loss is defined as a loss of sound recognition 26 to 45 decibelsas measured on a professional hearing assessment tool called an audiogram. For many, this is how age-related hearing loss it begins. An audiogram is a graph that marks a patient’s audible threshold as it relates to certain sounds levels. A person at the beginning stage of hearing decline might experience mumbled-sounding conversations every once in awhile. Almost like the ear becomes blocked occasionally, so the sound is dampened.
Why Mild Hearing Loss Matters?
The mild hearing loss does affect your life even if you don’t know it. During conversations, hard sounds become softer or disappear completely. When your boss tells you there is an office meeting at five o’clock, it sounds like:
There i an oice meeing at ive o’oo
Specific words may seem mumbled, so you begin mumbling “what” back more than you care to admit. That trend will wear on just about everyone’s nerves eventually. Even a slight decline in your hearing can interfere with your fun. Maybe you start misunderstanding what the characters on your favorite TV show say and bet frustrated as you lose track of what going on in the story.
You’ll start looking for ways to fill in the blanks caused by your hearing loss, like putting on headphones or using earbuds. Those quick fixes only add to your problem, though. The drastic increase in sound waves as they enter the ear canal may damage the delicate mechanisms within adding to your hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Your Sense of Self
As you become more conscious of your hearing problems, you can begin to see yourself as broken or damaged. Many individuals automatically equate hearing loss with aging. Denying it exists is more comfortable than facing the loss and seeking treatment for it like getting hearing aids.
While it is easy for you to pretend there isn’t a problem, it’s more difficult for your friends and family to ignore. Pointing out that you have a hearing issue leads to conflict, especially when it first starts. You want to fight the obvious, but they see the effects of the condition like the volume going up on the TV every night, the misunderstood communications and the potential safety hazards that arise with hearing decline. For you, it’s just a reminder of how the problem changes the way you see yourself.
What to Do About Mild Hearing Loss?
The first step is to see a doctor. Hearing loss is complex. An ear exam might show the problem isn’t with the mechanisms of the ear but due to a wax blockage or some other fixable condition. Hearing loss can also be a sign of a chronic medical issue such as diabetes or high blood pressure. For some, mild hearing loss is the first indication of those severe conditions.
The next step is the get a professional hearing test. Even if your mild hearing loss is resolved, a hearing test at this stage works as a baseline for future exams. In five years, you can have another test to see if there really is a decline. That will give you a chance to take steps to prevent further escalation of your hearing loss if possible.
So, should you be concerned about the mild hearing loss? In a word, yes, any loss of hearing is significant. It can indicate a medical problem and, eventually, change the quality of your life.
Women with menopause tend to wonder if asking for hormone replacement therapy might help relieve their symptoms. In some cases, the doctor might recommend it to soften menopausal issues that are interfering with their lives. While taking hormones can dampen some of those hard to handle side effects, the treatment doesn’t come without risks. For decades, medical science has been researching the effects of replacement hormones on a woman’s system. One of the more recent studies found that taking hormones for too long might even lead to hearing loss.
What does menopause mean?
It’s a phrase referenced often but not one every woman fully understands. Put simply; menopause signals the end of menstrual cycles. It’s a normal part of the aging process but a difficult time for many ladies. When periods stop, the body produces less reproductive hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone.
That drop in hormone levels means a woman can expect some rather unpleasant side effects including:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Sleep problems
Medical professionals attempt to counteract these ugly side effects by prescribing HRT or hormone replacement therapy.
What is HRT?
Hormone replacement therapy is the medical approach to controlling uncomfortable menopausal symptoms. There are a variety of formulas used for HRT, but the standard order will include either:
- Progesterone and estrogen
- Estrogen alone
The plan is to add more essential hormones to the system and relieve the side effects that occur before, during or after menopause.
The Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy
There are some true benefits to hormone replacement therapy, but only when used short-term. For example, it can lower a woman’s risk of osteoporosis and make skin look younger. It’s not all good news when it comes to HRT, though. There are some disputed studies that indicate HRT may increase the risk of breast cancer. Long-term use raises the chance of developing heart disease, as well.
Medical science continues to find connections between hearing loss and hormone replacement therapy. Women typically have a lower risk of hearing loss as they age. In fact, men are twice as likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Of the women that do develop it, how many also undergo hormone replacement therapy?
In 2006, Robert D. Frisina, Ph.D., published a study in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences that an estimated 10 to 30 percent of women studied have hearing loss that was related to the use of one specific hormone. The study author explained there is a greater risk for women that already have minor hearing loss, as well.
This particular study was discounted by some in the medical community as being too small, though. A 2017 report published in Menopause analyzed existing data provided by the Nurses’ Health Study II to see if they could find a more significant connection between HRT and hearing loss.
The 2017 Study
The researchers involved in this study collated and analyzed data from 81,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II. At the beginning of this large-scale research project, the participants were between the ages of 27 to 44. The study followed them for 22 years with women self-reporting about their hearing and HRT use.
Of the 81,000 women that took part in the study, around 23 percent indicated some obvious hearing loss as they grew older. They all took therapeutic HRT that included either just estrogen or estrogen plus progestogen. Based on this information, the study authors decided that the use of oral HRT in postmenopausal women for a long period would likely increase their risk of hearing loss.
Does This Mean Women Avoid Hormone Treatments?
That’s a question only a physician or medical practitioner can answer. The latest research does show an increased risk of some hearing loss with HRT use, but, it’s inconclusive since not all women experienced the same thing. Hormone replacement therapy isn’t the right choice for every woman for a number of reasons. Give your doctor all the facts when discussing HRT therapy. If you suspect you already have some hearing loss, you need to mention it. Consider getting a professional hearing test to use as a baseline, too, so you can monitor your hearing as you grow older whether you take HRT or not.
It seems impossible that a tiny creature in the sea could someday be an effective treatment for hearing loss, but one group of researchers says they have all the right stuff. The Center for Hearing and Communication estimates 48 million people in the U.S. have hearing problems and many of them are elderly. Age-related hearing loss affects one in every three people over the age of 65. These are the individuals that will likely benefit from the studies being done on the sea anemones.
What is a Sea Anemone?
Sea anemones are the exotic creatures often seen in ocean-based photography. It’s a group of sea animals that get their name from a flowering plant called the anemone. Similar to the plant, sea anemones have at Medusa-like quality that consists of a columnar trunk surrounded by flowing tentacles.
These are highly predatory creatures that use their tentacles for hunting. They pull the arms in to draw in prey and then expand when it comes time to catch their next meal. The tentacles also help propel them through the water, although, they tend to remain stationary for weeks at a time.
What kind of food do they eat? The sea anemones are not picky eaters. They pull the tentacles out to catch just about any animal that comes within reach and will fit in its mouth.
How the Sea Anemone can Help the Hearing Impaired
A 2016 study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology reports that the sea anemone has tiny hair cells that allow them to sense vibrations in the ocean when catching prey. The core of these hair cells is similar to what humans use to hear.
The inner ear consists of a labyrinth structure filled with delicate hair cells that resemble what the sea anemone use to detect vibrations. The hair cells transduce the vibrations of sound into something the brain can understand. Without them, there is no way for you to comprehend what you hear.
The problem with these delicate hair cells in both humans and sea anemones is they can easily break. It is the broken hairs are lead to the kind of hearing loss that people experience as they get older. Decades of listening to sounds around you like your favorite TV show and the local band that plays every weekend takes a toll. The tiny hair cells are damaged over time and hearing gradually diminishes.
For humans, the damage to these hair cells is impossible to fix. The sea anemone, though, has a built-in system that is the key to their survival. Without the hair cells, they cannot detect prey in the area, so they don’t eat. During reproduction, the sea anemones tear their body in two and that breaks the hair cells. Afterward, they cover themselves with mucus that contains a protein to repairs tissue including the hair cells.
The Sea Anemone Study
University of Louisiana biology professor Glen Watson and his colleagues decided to look closer at the healing process of the sea anemone to see if those same repair proteins might work for different species. The researchers used mice in the study because their ears have similar hair cells — called stereocilia — that enable hearing. They destroyed the stereocilia in the test mice and then treated them with repair protein taken from a starlet sea anemone. The result was significant repair of the stereocilia.
Does This Mean Protein From the Sea Anemone Will Work on Humans?
The study shows that repair of these very delicate hair cells is possible in other animals, but mice are not humans. Mice have proteins that are related to the ones the sea anemones use for repair. Humans are not quite as lucky. The next step is to find a way to harness that same repair power either using human protein or something taken out of nature that can give people with this kind damage back their hearing.
It’s likely that a cure for age-related hearing loss is still years away. This discovery and research are important, though. It proves that some animals have the ability to repair hair cells and, with more study, it might someday work for humans, too.
When one person has a hearing problem does that qualify as a relationship killer? Perhaps that hearing loss makes it easier to ignore a spouse or partner. Who’s to say that’s not a good thing? It’s likely that yes is the answer to both of these questions at some level, but it’s also safe to say talking to each other is the key to a good relationship and that’s not easy to do when only one person hears well.
_a_e ou_t __e _a__a_e _lea_e
That’s might be what a person with poor hearing understands when their spouse asks them to take out the trash. Without good communication, even the best relationships suffer, so there is little doubt that hearing loss matters. On the other hand, getting help for that problem might just stop the fighting for good.
Aging Happily Together
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates that about 25 percent of people between the ages of 65 to 74 have some form of hearing loss. If one or more of the individuals involved in the relationship have trouble hearing, their ability to communicate is cut in half and that means tension during those golden years.
The Stress of Hearing Loss
For someone experiencing that gradual loss of hearing, their tension begins to escalate. For one thing, they never know how their loved one will deal with their inability to comprehend a question or follow a story. Tension exists when they try to deny a problem, too. It’s difficult to accept that you have hearing loss, especially when it’s aging-related. As that frustration builds, it’s bound to trigger more fights.
With hearing loss, there is so much more guessing going on in their relationship, too. Did she say 9 or 10? What channel did he want to watch? What kind of snack did she ask for? The more a person is forced to guess, the more it is likely that they will be wrong. That degree of miscommunication combined with a bit of denial takes its toll and the smallest thing mean a big battle. Add to this the man who practically screams everytime he talks or the woman that has the TV volume up high every night during the news and hearing loss becomes the root of many fights.
Depression and Hearing Loss
Along with this burden is the connection between depression and hearing loss, especially in older individuals. The loss of hearing often means a person is getting older. The sudden lack of this one sense feels like the beginning of the end of freedom, right?
That is not a realistic assessment of the problem because people with poor hearing can still do almost anything, but, it is part of the negative thinking that goes on as one adjusts to the change. As the depression gets worse, hearing loss begins to affect relationships with the ones you love like a spouse or adult child.
If you are willing to consider that a hearing problem is potentially bad for a relationship, then getting help is the best way to save it. At some point couples must make a choice; get help from a professional or just continue to fighting. One trip to the doctor is all you need to get the ball rolling.
Getting an exam is about more than just improving how you get along as a couple, though. Hearing loss can be a symptom of a serious medical condition like heart disease, high blood pressure or even diabetes. It might also be a sign of something less serious like an ear infection or ear wax blockage. Maybe you use the fighting as an excuse to get help for someone you love, but you do it because you care. If the problem does turn out to be with the ears, then hearing aids will be like going on your second honeymoon. A survey conducted by Hear-the-World found that almost 70 percent of couples stated hearing aids improved their relationship.
Seeing hearing loss as a disability works like quicksand, keeping you stuck in one place without finding solutions and workarounds in both your personal and business life. Hearing loss is a challenge. It’s important to recognize that up front because once you do, you start moving forward to triumph over it.
In order to beat that challenge and regain control, you must adapt to the changes as they happen whether it’s a constant ringing in your ears, the struggle to fill-in missing words or figuring out how to communicate effectively with someone you love. It’s estimated that over 48 million people in this country have some level of hearing loss, if you are one of them, how can you triumph?
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Understanding your condition is an excellent place to start. There are a number of factors involved in hearing loss. A majority of people dealing with a gradual decrease suffer from presbycusis, a condition associated with aging. Presbycusis is a natural breakdown of critical nerve cells in the inner ear from years of use.
Age-related hearing loss is one of the most talked about forms, but not the only potential cause. Disease, for example, can damage the delicate mechanisms of the ear, reducing their effectiveness. Medications can also wreak havoc on the inner ears. For some people, their hearing loss is due to a congenital disability or genetic condition.
Lifestyle plays a vital role in hearing health for most of us, exposing us to a lifetime of ear-damaging noise. Everything from headphones kids wear when playing their favorite online game or listening to music to noisy environments. Loud sounds are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to gradual hearing loss.
For those with a slow decrease in hearing, it’s time to figure out what you can do now to stop the progression. Make a note of all the things that may be contributing to the problem like headphones, earbuds and those evenings listening to live music. Put down the headphones and earbuds and get ear protection for your nights out. It’s an easy fix that will make all the difference in your hearing.
Next, make an appointment with your physician for an exam and hearing test. Hearing loss can be a symptom of another illness like high blood pressure or diabetes, too. A check-up will also rule out a fixable problem like earwax blockage or infection. A professional hearing test marks your current hearing status to provide a baseline to measure any future decline.
For some people experiencing a change, the real battle is trying to deal with the ringing or clicking sound that comes with many forms of hearing loss. Tinnitus is noises that only you hear. They can be irritating enough to affect your quality of life. It presents as:
To master this challenge, you must find ways to filter out the ringing. White noise machines are effective at night, and hearing aids work well during the day. Some also have luck with meditation that teaches the brain to push away the phantom sounds.
Find Your Personal Triumph Strategy
The truth is no two people experience the same challenges with hearing loss. It’s important to figure out your personal ones and then look for solutions. It’s the little things that make a difference when it comes to enhancing communication skills, for example. Maybe try standing in front of the person you are talking to instead of to the side. A shift in position will focus the sound waves, so they enter the ear canals at almost full force.
Take the time when possible to give your ears a break from the noise. The struggle to hear is exhausting, so isolating yourself in a quiet place for just a few minutes will improve your ability to hear and understand words.
Take advantage of the tools available to you, too. In other words, look at the assistive technology products on the market like hearing aids and home safety devices such as smoke detectors that blink the lights and shake the bed.
The best tool at your disposal, though, is your ability to communicate with others even as you struggle to hear what they say to you. Talk to the people in your life and tell them what is going on. The most effective way to triumph over a hearing loss is to see it for what it is — a challenge and then develop a strategy to meet it head-on.