With 2019 only hours away, millions of people around Australia will be converging on the major cities to get the best vanatage point to see the amazing fireworks display their city has to offer. If you've ever experienced this, time stands still and seconds last for minutes while the ever present fireworks displays pierce the night sky. Sound Amazing?
Well as far as looks are concerned, fireworks definitely look amazing. Sound is a different kettle of fish and is what this article is concerned with. In recent times, researches and Audiologist alike have raised the profile of the need to protect one's ears from excessive loud noise. If you have ever been to a rock concert you will know what I'm talking about.
In fact research shows that any sound from about 85 decibels and above will start to damage our ears. As the level of sound increases above this level, the accumulative damage occurs over a shorter period of time. In other words, 100 decibels of noise exposure will do the same damage as 85 decibels over a shorter period of time. So the question I hear you asking yourself: will the fireworks display damage my hearing?
Well firstly, if you are concerned, the easiest way to still enjoy the night's festivities is to bring along some plugs (which you can get from the chemist).
The best thing to do (too late for tonight) but to get custom ear plugs made from an Audiologist which can attenuate sound by up to 30-40 decibels across all frequencies.
The truth of the matter is yes, fireworks are loud enough to do damage to the fine structures of your inner ear including the finite number of inner and outer hair cells within the cochlear. Distance is a HUGE part to play and the greater the distance the less damage you can expect.
The World Health Organization says that hearing loss from loud noise (or noise induced hearing loss) is reaching epidemic proportions in wealthier nations and recommend that adults avoid sounds louder than 140 decibels of maximum sound pressure.
Fireworks and firecrackers can exceed 150 decibels. As we just mentioned, sounds from about 85 decibels will start doing accumulative damage although louder sounds will do instant irreversible damage to your ears.
Here are a few more tips to protect your hearing tonight:
For more information about hearing loss, please visit this website here. There is also a website that can tell you if your current lifestyle is doing damage to your hearing at knowyournoise.nal.gov.au
If you feel you have damaged your hearing due to loud noise, the best thing to do is get a thorough hearing assessment.
Stay safe and wishing everyone a healthy and awesome 2019.
keywords: noise induced hearing loss, custom ear plugs, fireworks, tinnitus, ringing ears, unsafe noise, NYE
So, you've been told that your hearing is not the best and that it is time for hearing aids. Your Audiologist has given you a breakdown of the different hearing aid technologies and styles and has selected hearing aids for you that will cost somewhere between $6000-$9000 for a pair. You silently gasp and the following questions enter your mind.
Do I really need these hearing aids?
How am I going to afford such hearing aids?
I have friends who spend this kind of money on hearing aids but they end up in the drawer. Will this happen to me?
This scenario plays out hundreds of times a day all over Australia and this article is designed to shed some light for you about the true differences in performance among the basic vs more sophisticated hearing aids and whether this difference is something that will actualise in a physical benefit for you.
It is true that not all hearing aids are created equally and for that matter, neither are we. Although we can take valuable lessons away from seeing what our family and friends have experienced in the hearing aid terrain, it is not helpful nor correct to compare the performance of someone with one type of hearing aid to someone else.
Hearing loss like any physical disability is a personal thing and effects everyone differently. Therefore you shouldn't expect to see someone perform exactly the same as someone else even if they have the identical type and degree of hearing loss.
The main factors that will impact the efficacy of hearing aids for anyone are:
Age, degree of hearing loss, type of hearing loss, how long someone has had a hearing loss without treating it, how long a person has worn hearing aids for as well as cognitive factors such as auditory processing problems.
As an example, you would expect a younger person to perform better with simpler more basic hearing aids compared to someone who is more advanced in years. This is because as we get older, cognitive factors increase meaning we become less effective at extracting useful auditory information from what we hear. This problem is of course compounded in noisier and more echoey environments.
So the question still remains. Do you need to invest in more sophisticated hearing aids which unfortunately have a high price point? The answer to this is well it depends.
It depends on how much value you put on better hearing. It depends on how often you are in situations where better hearing aids could be more effective for you. It depends on how much your hearing loss is effecting your life and whether it is either preventing you from or reducing your enjoyment of social interactions that add to your quality of life. Ultimately it will depend on all these factors but most importantly it will depend on what you value in life and your lifestyle.
Someone who spends a lot of time at home with minimal noise probably won't receive enough benefit from a more sophisticated hearing aid to warrant its expense. On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who frequently attends meetings, social gatherings, parties, dinners, restaurants, work engagements and the like, better hearing from better hearing aids in these more demanding situations is probably going to be going to be more beneficial and valuable to you.
So what will I be getting if I spend more money on better hearing aids I hear you ask? Well, what sets hearing aids apart as we move from the basic tier to the more sophisticated levels include: sound quality, performance in noise (e.g. car/restaurant), performance in echo (e.g. large solid floor hall), performance in wind/outdoors (e.g. being able to hear someone while strolling in the wind), automation (e.g. being able to select a cluster of settings or features depending on your listening environment automatically), connect-ability (e.g. smartphone, TV, remote mic), flexibility (e.g. how much customisation can occur), size (e.g. CICs, IICs and smaller RICs), usability (e.g. rechargeable batteries) and sound comfort (e.g. feedback and loud noise management). A hearing aids ability to help with tinnitus relief also improves as we move up the levels.
Only with a thorough hearing assessment including speech testing in noise and a complete understanding of where you would like to see improvements can a clinical recommendation for hearing aids be made. Ideally this should be with a University trained Audiologist who has industry experience and can skilfully match your audiological needs with the most appropriate treatment options.
At Pristine Hearing, we also recommend trials of the various hearing aid technologies so that you as a patient can truly know whether one option is going to work for you or not. We also offer an industry leading 60 day return period for all hearing aid purchases so you can have the piece of mind you deserve with such an investment.
To speak to one of our dedicated and experienced Audiologist today or to book a FREE hearing aid trial, please call (08) 6336 7170 or fill out the form below.
Hearing aids can help reduce the impact a hearing loss has on an individual's ability to communicate and engage effectively with the world around them.
Hearing aids however are no alternative to natural hearing and cannot fully bring back ones hearing to how it used to be. At the end of the day, they are an aid and just like a walking aid will not enable a person to run a marathon, the expectations that hearing aids will bring back ones hearing to normal must be discussed.
This even goes for the expensive hearing aids that claim to improve hearing in noise and more complicated or demanding environments. However, despite the inherent limitations of hearing aids, they are a useful device if one knows how to use them effectively.
This post will highlight some simple strategies and ways to get the most out of your hearing aids. Why does this matter? Well, for a lot of people, a great deal of expense both monetarily and time-wise has gone into hearing aids and wanting to hear better. Why not get the most out of this investment. Not only will you benefit, but those around you will greatly appreciate it to.
Firstly we need to ask ourselves, how do we hear? We hear with a combination of both our ears and our brain. Sound enters our body via our ear canals (for the majority of people), gets converted into mechanical energy in our middle ear via our ear drum and ossicles (3 small bones in the middle ear) which in turn creates fluid movement in the cochlear at specific locations corresponding to the frequencies present in the sound.
The cochlear then converts this mechanical energy into an electrical signal that gets sent to our brain (the auditory cortex) via our auditory nerve. It is then up to our brain to process and interpret these sounds so that they become meaningful to us.
Unfortunately, a hearing loss can occur anywhere along this pathway and can sometimes involve multiple locations. For example, a person may simultaneously have a perforated ear drum (conductive hearing loss) and cochlear damage (sensorineural hearing loss).
This will both attenuate and distort sounds entering the auditory system. Alternatively, you may have a person who has a combination of a cochlear loss and due to ageing, is unable to process sounds as efficiently in the brain. Even with hearing aids, this kind of person may still struggle particularly in noisy situations.
So what can you do? Our brain is a muscle so the more you use it, the better it gets at doing a specific task. If hearing aids have been prescribed to you, the most important thing you can do to get the most out of them is to WEAR them as often as possible.
This will provide the hearing parts of the brain with regular stimulation to the important speech sounds required for speech understanding.
The more the brain engages with these sounds, the better it gets at extracting meaningful information from them. As an audiologist, I often get asked by people 'how often should I wear my hearing aids as I am home by myself during the day and I only really need them when I go out?'
Well, my response is that if they want to hear well with their hearing aids when they need them, they should wear their hearing aids when they don't need them. Even a few hours during the day (particularly when watching TV) will help.
The next thing to do is make sure the sound leaving the hearing aid and travelling down your ear canal is not interfered with by wax. Wax can prevent sound from clearly travelling down your ear canal and hence will reduce the effectiveness of your hearing aids.
The easiest way to manage wax is to use a few drops of olive oil in each ear once a month (some people may need to use more and apply it more often).
Hearing aid users tend to have a higher propensity of wax occlusion problems owing to the fact that they have something in their ears which interferes with the ear's natural self-cleansing mechanism. Therefore, often olive oil by itself will not be enough to clear the wax.
The safest, gentlest and most effective way to remove wax is to get a trained clinician to use gentle microsuction which is what we offer here at Pristine Hearing. This is the preferred approach used by Ear, Noise and Throat Specialists for a reason.
Wax can also get into the hearing aids so it is also important to be vigilant with cleaning them. Its a good idea to brush all over the hearing aids including the microphones which may become blocked with dust.
Some hearing aids even come with their own wax management systems in the form of wax guards which need to be changed every couple of months.
If you have not been shown how to do this, ask you audiologist next time you see them or you are welcome to be shown this by our friendly staff whenever you are available. At the end of the day, not having clean ears or clean hearing aids is like getting dental work done on your teeth but then not brushing them or keeping them clean.
Finally, the last thing needed to get the most out of your hearing aids requires some assistance from others.
Your family and friends need to understand that the best way to communicate with you is by gaining your attention first, reducing their distance to you and to make sure they are facing you when they speak.
In noise, most hearing aids are designed to focus towards the front which means to hear at your best in these situations, make sure that most of the noise is behind you and the person you want to hear is in front of you.
I have to stress here that even once all that I have said is applied, for some individuals with a hearing impairment they will still find it difficult in the more demanding listening environments like a restaurant.
Sometimes the distortional aspect of ones hearing loss (which can include auditory processing issues) is just too great for hearing aids to overcome.
More sophisticated hearing aids certainly have a greater chance at providing assistance but one does need to have realistic expectations. It may even be difficult for people with 'normal' hearing.
Some environments are just too demanding. I know I struggle hearing my wife sometimes (maybe not enough) in the car especially when travelling at fast speeds.
For some people, remote microphone systems are the only viable way to provide auditory information in the form of speech directly from the source via a remote microphone to their hearing aids when the listening situation becomes too complex.
Every patient will have different physical abilities and varying listening needs. Your Audiologist should always provide you with workable solutions that are geared at improving your hearing where you need it. Together you should see improvements with perseverance and due diligence.
And thats it!!!
I hope by reading this post, you have a greater appreciation about the intricacies of our ears and the way we hear as well as the role hearing aids can play to help reduce the impact of hearing loss. Stay tuned for our next post.
To arrange an appointment with our Audiologist to discuss ways to improve your hearing or to get the most out of your hearing aid/s, call (08) 6336 7170 or visit here.
Michael is a very thorough and experienced Audiologist who takes pride in ensuring his patients are listened to, valued, respected and achieve the best results possible. He has worked as a Senior Audiologist seeing a broad case load from young infants right up to complex adults who require more specialised audiological care and management. Apart from Audiology, Michael has a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from The University of Melbourne. When you see Michael for a consultation, you will wonder why you never saw him sooner.