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Category Archives: audiology

Five Unhealthy Habits That Can Harm Your Hearing


Researchers are always discovering more connections between the ears and the health of other body systems. If you’ve been looking for one more reason to drop a bad habit consider your hearing. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back!

You’ve known for many years that smoking is bad for you; it even says it directly on the box of cigarettes. One of the often-overlooked side effects of smoking is hearing loss. The chemicals produced by smoking a cigarette inhibit your inner ear’s ability to transmit vibrations. The more you smoke the more irreversible damage will be done. Second-hand smoke has the same effect on loved ones.

A study in 2010 found that moderate to high alcohol intake results in brain damage that keeps the brain from being able to interpret and process sounds. The trouble is even worse for folks with alcoholism, the central auditory cortex will become damaged, which may lead to brain shrinkage. Damage to the inner ear known as ototoxicity, is also possible for excessive drinkers. High levels of alcohol in the bloodstream create a toxic environment, which damages the hair cells in the cochlea.

Being over weight puts you at risk for a barrage of problems ranging from diabetes to circulatory trouble, to straining your heart, all of which have been linked to hearing loss. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital published a study in 2013 that found women with a higher body mass index had a 17 percent higher risk of hearing loss. The study also found that simple physical activity, such as walking for 2 or more hours a week lowered that risk of hearing loss.

Skipping the Dentist
You may not immediately think your dental health and hearing health are connected, but they certainly are. Poor dental health allows harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream, narrowing and blocking arteries that lead to the brain. This can interrupt the way the brain receives signals from the auditory nerve. Bad oral hygiene can also lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke and diabetes, which have been linked to hearing loss.

Skipping the Doctor
An annual physical can detect hearing loss, but more importantly the doctor will be able to tell you if your hearing loss is caused by something other than age. An obstruction, such as earwax buildup, inflammation or tumor can be addressed and possibly get you hearing again or stop further damage.

It is true many people lose their hearing as they age, but these five bad habits can easily speed up that process. If you take care of your body, avoid these bad habits, and protect your ears you may be able to maintain your hearing. If you think you are already suffering from hearing loss, you should not put off getting tested. The longer you wait the more damage you do. The Hearing Professionals offers a free hearing test and consultation, so you have nothing to lose, except your hearing loss.

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The Amazing Digital Gloves That Give Voice To The Voiceless


At the front of an auditorium filled with hundreds of people, a programmer from the Ukraine slipped on a pair of thick, black gloves, each dotted with flex sensors and a micro controller. A couple of feet away was a smartphone receiving signals from the gloves via Bluetooth. When the time was right, the programmer made a gesture, carefully and deliberately moving his hands and arms, before an automated female voice boomed through the speakers: “Nice to meet you.” The audience cheered.

This was Enable Talk, a pair of gloves that with the help of sensors and new smartphone software developed by a team of twenty-something programmers from the Ukraine, could change the way deaf people communicate with the world around them. Having worked on it for less than a year, they won first prize at Microsoft’s coveted Imagine Cup last week in Sydney, Australia, getting $25,000 in prize money. They’ll spend it on making their gloves say much more than just “Nice to meet you,” or “We want to see kangaroo” — among the dozen or so sign-language phrases that the gloves can currently recognize.01

There is no limit to how many gestures they can program into the software, said team member Maxim Osika during a phone interview from Sydney. “The problem is we are not native speakers,” he added. “So it wouldn’t make sense for us to accumulate the gestures.” Once they’re back in the Ukraine, Osika and his team will work with a handful of deaf students at their college and other native signers, to build a “library of standard signs” for their device.

But it won’t be easy, thanks to the wide chasm between the languages of computer code and signs. They will have to work closely with those who speak the latter if they want their device to be truly effective. “Deaf people have their own sub culture and it’s hard to communicate with them in general,” Osika admitted. Since the project project was first introduced, a few have complained on online forums that hearing people should make more effort to understand the hearing-impaired, not the other way around.

The team is pressing ahead, regardless, pushing to bring their algorithm’s recognition rate up to 99%, from the current 90%, and boost its processing speed. “One of the goals with our development is to work with people who can natively use sign language and build a library of standard signs,” he said, adding that it takes about three minutes to program each new gesture into the system, or four repetitions of the sign.01

News of Enable Talk’s win has created a ripple of excitement among other programmers, and the team has been inundated with offers of help in the last few days from around the world. “We had an engineer from France, some people from Kazakhstan, a developer from Japan, a guy from Russia,” Osika recalled. “We don’t even have time to respond to all the emails. So many pop up all the time.”

One developer was confident he could port the software to Google‘s Android platform and Apple‘s iOS, and help build a library for Japanese sign language. The programmers will start sending prototypes to partners who can help them with development.

What about patenting the device? “Actually we haven’t discussed it yet,” Osika said, before adding, “Let me just check with the other guys, what they think.” A few moments later Osika was back on the phone. “We’ll see how it goes. If someone tries to develop a device like ours, we’re not Apple or Motorola. We’re not going to sue anyone. We’re learning towards more open-source development.” The team hopes to get something to market around 2014, stick together and maybe win another grant from Microsoft.

Their device may seem like an obvious solution for deaf people, but there are only a few competing products, according to Osika, who is who is 27 and studied programming at night at the Donetsk Computer Academy while working day-shifts as a factory manager. One is the AcceleGlove (also open-source), which contains six accelerometers and sends signals to a PC; as of June this year it has ceased production because its embedded sensors are no longer available from its manufacturer.  Osika says the AcceleGlove costed around $1,200 and he’s hoping Enable Talk will cost half that amount or less. “Their functionality is nowhere near what we wanted to achieve,” he said of the competing products, none of which were wireless or had a system for recognizing full signs. “They only recognised finger gestures, or letters.”

Osika and his team mates, Anton Stepanov, Anton Posternikov and Valeriy Yasakov, are all in their mid-to-late 20s and got the idea for the glove when they noticed that a handful of deaf and hearing-impaired athletes at their college were struggling to communicate with their hearing peers.  They started their conceptual research last November and in January 2012 started building the prototype and writing the algorithms.team_1

Once their first prototype was finished, they asked a few of the deaf athletes to test it. “Many of them were so shy they didn’t want to try it,” said Osika. “Only a few brave ones wanted to engage with us.” Not only was it hard to communicate with them, there was an underlying fear, he added, that the programmers were giving them false hope. “That they’ll see a device that might possibly solve their problem but not [be finished].”

The original prototype only worked with finger recognition, or the spelling out of words. The athletes told the team to implement full hand movement recognition. Sometimes they were working through the night, other times meeting a couple of times a week. “It took us six months to get to where we are today,” he said. Now that the gloves can start translating words like “You” and “meet,” it’s time to enhance the breadth of the underlying algorithm, go back to the fellow students and deaf societies in the Ukraine, more meetings and possibly more late-night programming sessions.

“The long-term perspective is to create a company that would manufacture and sell the device,” Osika said confidently. “For now we want to focus on further development, and make our device as great as possible.”


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What Beats by Dre Are Actually Doing to Your Ears

Dr. Dre

Last week, Apple purchased Beats Music for $3 billion — the largest acquisition the company has ever made. With it, the company acquired Dr. Dre and longtime Interscope Geffen A&M Records executive Jimmy Iovine, the men behind Beats and a “sound revolution” who are actually doing irrevocable damage to our ability to appreciate music.

They aren’t alone in it. Beats is just the biggest representative of the cultural trend of constant headphone use, and the silent epidemic that has come with it.

Dre and Iovine’s headphones are engineered so that you “hear your music the way the artist would play it back” — specifically, the way hip-hop and rap artists, like Dre, would want to play it back: with a lot of bass, in the way that leads to hearing loss. For most high-quality headphone brands, that’s the sell.

Beats’ headphones have been flaunted in rap music videos and touted as expensive fashion accessories, creating a commercialized hip-hop culture that stems from the celebrity of Dre’s production history. As a result, much of Beats’ engineered appeal is in its emphasis on low, bass-heavy frequencies of the “Xxplosive” sort. It makes sense: Rap and hip-hop are often characterized by their heavy, booming bass lines. And while a human ear normally registers frequencies anywhere between 20 Hz and 20 kHz (or 20,000 Hz), the sub-bass sounds in rap songs, like a classic 808 drum kick, will range as low as 80 to 20 Hz. The lowest A on a piano, for example, vibrates somewhere around 25 Hz. In order to hear those notes, you have turn the volume way up.

Frequencies that are often “felt” through stereo systems are what Beats and other high-end headphones aim for — that’s the way the artist produced it in the studio. But sometimes, those bass-heavy details can be too much. While Beats can recreate the feel of a tight, punchy bassline, a boomier backdrop, like Wu-Tang’s “C.R.E.A.M,” has the tendency to overpower and weaken a song’s mid-tones, things like guitars and voices. So in addition to having louder bass from the get-go, listeners often turn up headphone volume in order to hear those higher frequencies, and consequently “feeling” the bass affects our ears even more. Deeper bass means louder playback, especially when we’re listening to the sort of hyper-compressed, ear-fatiguing music that is associated with mainstream pop and hip-hop. And it’s nothing new that prolonged exposure to loud music, especially through headphones, causes hearing loss.

It’s considered safe listening to music at 85 decibels or lower. Crank your Beats all the way up to their 115-decibel peak (the kind of volumes you might reach when on a loud train) and you could experience severe hearing loss after just 15 minutes of listening every day. When our ears are frequently exposed to high decibels, the inner ears’ hair-like fibers, called stereocilia, which are responsible for activating frequencies of particular sounds, can be permanently damaged over time. This can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, which is often ignored, or tinnitus — aka that buzzing in your ears after a night of loud music. Even though that buzz may be gone by the morning, its damaging effects can linger.

And we may just keep turning it up. While many have already anticipated a deafness epidemic, it seems increasingly likely. In 2010, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 1 in 5 U.S. teens already suffer from hearing loss, and 1 in 20 have “mild or worsening” symptoms. So if Beats is leading a sonic revolution, it’s worth remembering: Sometimes revolutions end badly.



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Introducing La Belle: The Worlds Most Popular Eyeglass Hearing Aid

Last year the Better Hearing Blog brought you an article about a group of Virginia Tech students who developed NuWave, a pair of glasses that transforms sound waves into vibrations. After we posted the article, our in-box was flooded with emails asking when and where NuWave would be available.labelle_hoerbrille_3_300dpi

Why was the article about NuWave so popular? The answer is simple: The fact is that only one in five people who would benefit from wearing a hearing aid actually wear one because of the stigma of wearing a hearing aid. The hearing industry has failed to address this problem.

For people who don’t like the idea of wearing a hearing aid who want a more discreet solution to their needs, the LaBelle could provide the answer.labelle_click_system_300dpi

  • The La Belle comes from Bruckhoff, a German company who are experts at putting almost invisible hearing aids onto the arms of glasses. For those who do not already wear glasses, Bruckhoff offers a selection of men’s and women’s frames to choose from.
  • La Belle is suitable for people suffering from mild to severe hearing loss as well as people with conductive hearing loss.knochenleitungshoerer-la-belle-bc-06_300_dpi
  • The La Belle glasses contain a high quality digital hearing aid, with nothing in the ear or visible to other people.

With La Belle, Bruckhoff has developed a unique hearing aid system that simply clicks onto the frame of their adapted glasses. No matter if you’re nearsighted or farsighted, you can attach La Belle to your driving glasses, your reading glasses or even your sunglasses.labelle_mister_300dpi

Prices for these amazing hearing instruments start around $1,600, dependent on the model selected. Once you have your hearing tested and you place your order, the adapted glasses can be manufactured in about four weeks. But don’t go running to your audiologist just yet – La Belle is available in over 20 countries … but not in the United States.

For more information on La Belle, visit their website.

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Fighting Fires and Hearing Loss

Urgent need for hearing prevention programs, according to an American study.

Exposure to high levels of noise is common for firefighters. Daily work in the fire services includes being surrounded by noise from fire sirens, alarms, communication devices, audio equipment in cabs, engine pumps, rotary and chain saws and ventilation fans. firefighters

An American study of 425 American firefighters shows that more than 40% have signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as a result of their line of work. In addition, reported use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) was only 34%.

Effective hearing loss prevention programs, better work practices and HPDs like ear muffs and ear plugs, should therefore be implemented to reduce NIHL in firefighters.

Longer exposure, worse hearing. Firefighters are exposed to harmful sources of noise in their line of work. Such exposure to high noise levels may contribute to hearing problems, like NIHL.

According to the American survey, firefighters with longer years of work in fire services demonstrate significantly worse hearing. Also, firefighters who used HPDs less were more likely to experience hearing loss.2608

Hearing protection devices (HPDs). With firefighters being exposed to harmful noise levels, they risk damaging their hearing and the risk of NIHL is severely increased.

To prevent hearing impairment among firefighters, it is recommended that effective hearing loss prevention programs are implemented as well as better work practices. Also, firefighters are urged to make better use of HPDs to ensure better hearing health.

About the study. The study was published in the medical journal “Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine’. 425 American firefighters from three states across the United States participated in the study, which was carried out by Dr. OiSaeng Hong, from the University of California.

Source: National Institute of Health

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Guitarist Paul Langlois Diagnosed With Sudden Hearing Loss

Paul Langlois of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip lost all hearing in his right ear.

The sentence “Let’s just see what the morning brings”, from The Tragically Hip song Wheat kings, turned out to have extra significance for one of the band’s members, namely guitarist Paul Langlois.

As the Canadian rock band, referred to as The Hip, was recording its album, Now for Plan A, guitarist Paul Langlois suddenly lost all hearing in his right ear, resulting in him becoming completely deaf on his right side.

The Hip-guitarist was diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), a relatively rare condition which involves the onset of unexplained one-sided deafness.

Early treatment for sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) may potentially save a person’s hearing. Most people recover from the condition, but about 15% have hearing loss which continues to worsen. Further treatment may involve various types of hearing aid or cochlear implants.

The “New Normal”

Being diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) left The Tragically Hip-guitarist Paul Langlois in an anxious state. He feared that his music career would be over if he lost the ability to sing in key.

Paul Langlois (far left), member of Tragically Hip, suffers sudden hearing loss.

Paul Langlois (far left), member of Tragically Hip, suffers sudden hearing loss.

A small blessing for the guitarist, however, was that the band was in the studio recording and not on the road. This allowed Paul Langlois more time to get used to and adjust to ‘the new normal’.

Musical and social adjustment

Following the diagnosis of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), Paul Langlois always plays on the right side of the stage while touring with The Tragically Hip. This means that the band is on the guitarist’s left side, where his good ear is. Paul Langlois’ condition therefore does not force him to switch the way the band lines up onstage.

With time, the guitarist has adjusted both musically and socially to the sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) in his right ear. From being anxious and worried about his musical future, The Tragically Hip-member has become more relaxed about his condition.

Source: The Calgary Herald

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How Do I Know When It’s Time For New Hearing Aids?

Do you remember when you first got your hearing aids? How nice it was not to concentrate so hard to understand a conversation? How pleasant it was for everybody else that you didn’t have to turn the TV up to such a high volume? All of the wonderful sounds you could hear again? If you’ve had your hearing aids for a few years, are you sure you’re still hearing that well?

Here are six things to consider to consider when deciding if it’s time for new hearing aids. If one or more sound familiar, it might be time to talk to one of us about your options.

  1. How old are your current aids? Hearing devices last an average of five years. Manufacturers typically stop making parts for devices after about five years and will not even service devices that are more than seven years old.cochlearimplant6
  1. Have you experienced a change in health, vision or dexterity? If you are not as easily able to clean your devices or replace batteries, it might be a good idea to change to a different model that is more easily operated and maintained.
  1. Has your hearing worsened? It is not uncommon to have patients complaining that their hearing aids don’t work as well as they used to, but after testing it’s found that the devices are fine and the hearing has dropped. Often times this can be resolved by updating the hearing aid’s prescriptive levels. But if your hearing has significantly worsened, it might be time for a stronger or higher fidelity devices.
  1. Do you want to hear your “best” or “just better”? Most people replace their hearing aids every four to five years. The hearing aids themselves will last longer, but technology significantly improves about every four years. Like other electronics, hearing aids are rapidly advancing while becoming less expensive. You can often purchase lower-priced new hearing devices with a wider frequency response and better sound quality than a premium technology pair bought just a few years ago.460143
  1. Do you have special hobbies or a unique lifestyle? Woodworking, snorkeling and horseback riding are all examples of activities that can cause trouble with hearing aids. Thankfully, today’s devices can be water, dust or shockproof. Even better, these are available at all price and all levels of technology.
  1. Do you have a new attitude about hearing aids? Most people are hesitant about getting their first pair of hearing aids. Along with considering sound quality and hearing aid dependability, new users typically consider size, style and “invisibility” of their first hearing aids. By the time the second set of hearing aids is being debated, most people have changed their thoughts and prioritize fidelity, clarity and features before invisibility.

If you are wondering if your current hearing aids are still giving you their best, we invite you to come in for a free, no-obligation test drive of new devices. We like to test and compare your existing hearing aids with new instruments. That way, we’ll all know if you’re still hearing the way you ought to with your current devices, or, if new, more modern instruments will offer a significant improvement.


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