Have you ever been on a plane and you start to have problems with pressure in your ears? Where all of a sudden, your ears seem to be clogged? Someone you know may have recommended chewing gum. And while that works sometimes, you probably don’t know why. If your ears feel blocked, here are some tips to make your ears pop.
Your Ears And Pressure
Turns out, your ears are rather good at controlling air pressure. Owing to a handy little piece of physiology called Eustachian tubes, the pressure on the interior of your ears is able to regulate, adjust, and equalize to the pressure in their environment. Usually.
Irregularities in air pressure can cause issues in situations where your Eustachian tubes are having trouble adjusting. If you’re ill, for example, or there is a lot of fluid buildup in the back of your ears, you might start dealing with something known as barotrauma, an unpleasant and often painful sensation of the ears due to pressure difference. This is the same thing you experience in small amounts when flying or driving in particularly tall mountains.
Most of the time, you won’t recognize differences in pressure. But you can feel pressure, pain, and crackling if your Eustachian tubes aren’t working efficiently or if the pressure changes are abrupt.
Where’s That Crackling Coming From?
You might become curious where that crackling is coming from because it’s not prevalent in everyday circumstances. The sound itself is often compared to a “Rice Krispies” type of sound. In many instances, what you’re hearing is air getting around obstructions or obstacles in your eustachian tubes. The cause of those obstructions can range from congestion to Eustachian tube malfunction to unregulated changes in air pressure.
How to Neutralize The Pressure in Your Ears
Normally, any crackling will be caused by a pressure imbalance in your ears (particularly if you’re on a plane). In that situation, you can use the following technique to neutralize ear pressure:
- Toynbee Maneuver: This is actually just swallowing in an elaborate way. Pinch your nose (so that your nostrils are closed), shut your mouth, and swallow. Often this is a bit simpler with a mouthful of water (because it forces you to keep your mouth shut).
- Valsalva Maneuver: Try this if you’re still having problems: pinch your nose shut your mouth, but instead of swallowing, try blowing out (don’t let any air escape if you can help it). Theoretically, the pressure should be equalized when the air you try to blow out travels over your eustachian tubes.
- Swallow: The muscles that activate when you swallow will cause your eustachian tubes to open, neutralizing the pressure. This also sheds light on the common advice to chew gum on a plane; the swallowing is what equalizes the ear and chewing makes you swallow.
- Frenzel Maneuver: Okay, try this maneuver. With your mouth shut and your nose pinched, try making “k” noises with your tongue. Clicking may also help.
- Yawning: Try yawning, it works for the same reason that swallowing does. (if you can’t yawn whenever you want, try thinking about someone else yawning, that usually will work.)
Devices And Medications
There are devices and medications that are designed to manage ear pressure if none of these maneuvers help. Whether these medicines and techniques are the right choice for you will depend on the underlying cause of your barotrauma, as well as the extent of your symptoms.
Sometimes that might mean special earplugs. Nasal decongestants will be appropriate in other cases. Your situation will dictate your remedy.
What’s The Trick?
Finding what works best for you and your eustachian tubes is the real trick.
If, however, you’re finding that that sensation of having a blocked ear isn’t going away, you should come and see us. Because loss of hearing can begin this way.
In some circles, the practice known as “ear candling” is persistently thought to be a good way to minimize earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?
Do Earwax Candles Work?
Spoiler alert: No. They absolutely don’t work.
Why then do otherwise rational people persistently believe in this pseudo-science. That’s a difficult question to answer. But although the logical choice is fairly clear, understanding more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an informed choice.
What is Earwax Candling?
So here’s the basic setup: Maybe you’re not sure how to get rid of all your accumulated earwax. You know you aren’t supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not an ideal way to clean out your ears, generally speaking). So you begin searching for a substitute and discover this approach called earwax candling.
Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: You create a pressure differential by cramming the candle into your ear, wick side out. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Theoretically, the pressure differential is enough to break up any wax that might be log-jamming in your ear. But this harmful technique is not a smart means of cleaning your ears.
Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work
There are a number of problems with this practice, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. It would require a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle just isn’t capable of generating that amount of pressure. Second, generating that kind of pressure difference would call for some kind of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.
Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “procedure”. When you’re done with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break up the candle and, in the hollow, see all bacteria, debris, and wax that was in your ear. But the issue is you can find this same material in new unburned candles also. So this “proof” is really nonsense.
Earwax candling has never been proven scientifically to have any benefit at all.
So we Know Ear Candling Doesn’t Work But is it Dangerous?
What’s the harm in giving it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble whenever you get a hot candle around your ears. Look, it’s very possible that you might try ear candling and leave completely unharmed. Plenty of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards involved, and it certainly doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.
Here are a few negative effects of ear candling:
- Significant burns to your inner ear. When melted candle wax gets into your ear, it can lead to serious hearing issues and burns. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most severe cases.
- Candle wax can also clog up your ear canal once it cools. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most extreme cases, require surgery.
- You could cause serious injury when you mess around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn your house down, would you? Clearing away a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of danger and risk.
You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle
Most people will never truly have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because your ears are actually pretty good at cleaning themselves! But you might be one of those individuals who have an unusually heavy earwax production.
If you do need to clean out your ears because of too much wax, there are scientifically-proven (and effective) ways to do that properly. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Another solution would be to consult a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.
Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling isn’t effective, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in significant danger. So perhaps it’s time to put away those special candles
Realizing you should safeguard your ears is one thing. Recognizing when to safeguard your ears is a different story. It’s not as easy as, for example, recognizing when to use sunscreen. (Is it sunny and will you be outside? Then you need sunblock.) Even knowing when you need eye protection is simpler (Working with hazardous chemicals? Doing some building? You need eye protection).
It can feel as though there’s a significant grey area when addressing when to wear hearing protection, and that can be risky. Usually, we’ll defer to our natural tendency to avoid hearing protection unless we’re given information that a specified activity or place is hazardous.
In general, we’re not very good at assessing risk, especially when it comes to something as intangible as long term hearing damage or hearing loss. To demonstrate the situation, here are some examples:
- Person A goes to a very loud rock concert. 3 hours is around the length of the concert.
- A landscaping business is run by person B. She spends a considerable amount of time mowing lawns, then she goes home to a quiet house and reads a book.
- Person C is an office worker.
You might think the hearing danger is greater for person A (let’s just call her Ann). For the majority of the next day, her ears will still be ringing from the loud concert. It seems rational to presume that Ann’s activity was very risky.
The noise that person B (let’s just call her Betty), is subjected to is not as loud. Her ears don’t ring. So it has to be less hazardous for her ears, right? Well, not really. Because Betty is riding that mower all day. In reality, the damage builds up a little at a time even though they don’t ring out. If experienced every day, even moderately loud noises can have a harmful affect on your ears.
Person C (let’s call her Chris) is even less clear. Lawnmowers have instructions that indicate the dangers of continued exposure to noise. But while Chris works in a quiet office, she has a really noisy, hour-long commute every day on the train. Also, even though she works behind her desk all day, she listens to her music through earbuds. Does she need to think about protection?
When is it Time to be Concerned About Protecting Your Ears?
The general rule of thumb is that if you need to raise your voice to be heard, your environment is noisy enough to do harm to your hearing. And if your environment is that noisy, you really should think about wearing earmuffs or earplugs.
If you want to think about this a bit more scientifically, you need to use 85dB as your cutoff. Sounds above 85dB have the capacity, over time, to cause damage, so in those circumstances, you should think about wearing hearing protection.
Most hearing professionals suggest using a special app to keep track of noise levels so you will be cognizant of when the 85dB has been reached. These apps can let you know when the ambient noise is getting close to a hazardous level, and you can take proper steps.
A Few Examples
Your phone might not be with you wherever you go even if you do get the app. So we may formulate a good standard with a couple of examples of when to safeguard our hearing. Here we go:
- Exercise: You know your morning spin class? Or maybe your daily elliptical session. All of these cases may call for hearing protection. The loud volume from instructors who use loud music and microphones for motivation, though it might be good for your heart rate, can be bad for your hearing.
- Every day Chores: Even mowing the lawn, as previously mentioned, requires hearing protection. Chores, like mowing, are probably something you don’t even think about, but they can result in hearing damage.
- Listening to music with earbuds. OK, this doesn’t call for protection but does require caution. Whether your music is going directly into your ears, how loud it is playing, and how long you’re listening to it are all things you need to give consideration to. Noise-canceling headphones are a smart choice to prevent needing to turn the volume way up.
- Commuting and Driving: Do you drive for Lyft or Uber? Or perhaps you’re taking a subway after waiting for a while downtown. The noise of living in a city is bad enough for your ears, not to mention the added damage caused by turning up your music to drown out the city noise.
- Using Power Tools: You know you will require hearing protection if you work all day in a factory. But what if you’re simply puttering around your garage all day? Most hearing professionals will recommend you wear hearing protection when using power tools, even if it’s only on a hobbyist level.
A strong baseline may be established by these examples. If there is any doubt, however, wear protection. In most cases, it’s better to over-protect your ears than to leave them subject to possible injury in the future. Protect today, hear tomorrow.
You could have a common reaction when you first notice that ringing in your ears: pretend everything’s good. You go through your day the same way you always do: you do your shopping, you cook dinner, you attempt to have a discussion with your partner. In the meantime, you’re attempting to force that ringing in your ear out of your mind. Because you’re convinced of one thing: your tinnitus will go away on its own.
You begin to worry, though, when after a few days the buzzing and ringing is unrelenting.
You aren’t the only one to ever be in this position. Tinnitus can be a tricky little condition, sometimes it will disappear on its own and sometimes, it will stay for a longer period of time.
The Condition of Temporary Tinnitus
Around the globe, nearly everybody has had a bout of tinnitus because it’s quite common. In almost all circumstances, tinnitus is essentially temporary and will eventually go away on its own. A rock concert is an excellent example: you go see Bruce Springsteen at your local stadium (it’s a good show) and when you go home, you realize that there is ringing in your ears.
Within a few days the kind of tinnitus associated with damage from loud noise will commonly disappear (and you chalk it up to the price of seeing your favorite band on stage).
Of course, it’s exactly this type of noise damage that, over time, can cause loss of hearing to go from temporary (or acute, as they say) to chronic. Too many of those types of concerts and you could wind up with permanent tinnitus.
When Tinnitus Doesn’t Seem to be Getting Better by Itself
If your tinnitus continues for over three months it’s then referred to as chronic tinnitus (but you should get it examined by a specialist long before that).
Something like 5-15% of people globally have recorded signs of chronic tinnitus. The exact causes of tinnitus are still not very well understood though there are some known connections (such as loss of hearing).
When the causes of your tinnitus aren’t obvious, it often means that a fast “cure” will be unidentifiable. If your ears have been ringing for more than three months and there’s no recognizable cause, there’s a good chance that the sound will not go away on its own. In those situations, there are treatment options available (like cognitive behavioral therapy or noise-canceling devices) that can help you control symptoms and preserve your quality of life.
It’s Important to Know What The Cause of Your Tinnitus is
When you can recognize the fundamental cause of your tinnitus, dealing with the condition quickly becomes much simpler. As an example, if your tinnitus is produced by a stubborn, bacterial ear infection, treatment with an antibiotic will usually solve both problems, bringing about a healthy ear and clear hearing.
Here are some likely causes of acute tinnitus:
- Loss of hearing (again, this is often associated with chronic tinnitus)
- A blockage in the ear or ear canal
- Eardrum damage (such as a perforated eardrum)
- Meniere’s disease (this is often associated with chronic tinnitus, as Meniere’s has no cure)
- Chronic ear infections
The Big Question…Will my Tinnitus Ever Subside?
In general, your tinnitus will go away on its own. But it becomes increasingly more likely that you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus the longer these noises linger.
You believe that if you simply ignore it should vanish on its own. But at some point, your tinnitus may become distressing and it might become difficult to concentrate on anything else. In those circumstances, wishful thinking might not be the complete treatment plan you need.
Most of the time tinnitus is simply the body’s answer to loud noise that may be damaging over time and will subside by itself. Whether that’s chronic or acute tinnitus, well, we’ll only know over time.
Not getting enough sleep can have a damaging effect on your health and well being. There’s an unpleasant feeling to getting up groggy because you got less than seven to eight hours sleep that even several cups of coffee can’t help. So you were aghast when your loss of hearing started making you lose sleep.
Understandably so. The good news is, there’s a little something that can help: a hearing aid. It’s feasible that these little devices can help you get a better night sleep, according to the latest surveys.
How Does Hearing Loss Impact Sleep?
Even though you feel fatigued all day and are completely drained by bedtime, you still toss and turn and have a hard time falling asleep. All of these problems started about the same time you also began to notice that your radio, television, and mobile phone were becoming difficult to hear.
It’s not your imagination as it turns out. There is a well-documented connection between loss of hearing and insomnia, even if the precise sources aren’t completely clear. There are, of course, a handful of theories:
- Tinnitus can cause you to hear ringing, thumping, and humming and that noise can keep you awake at night. (Lack of sleep can also make your tinnitus worse, which then can cause stronger insomnia, it’s a vicious cycle).
- Your brain, when you have loss of hearing, strains to get stimulus where there isn’t any. Your whole cycle could be disrupted if your brain is working overtime trying to hear (it’s that “my brain won’t shut off” issue).
- Hearing loss is connected to depression, and your sleep cycle can be disturbed by chemical imbalances as a result of depression. This makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Can Hearing Aids Help Your Sleep?
According to one study, 44% of individuals with loss of hearing who don’t wear hearing aids reported being satisfied with their sleep compared to 59% sleep satisfaction among those who did wear a hearing aid. So are hearing aids a sleep aid or what?
well, not quite. If you don’t have hearing loss, a hearing aid can’t cure insomnia.
But if you are suffering from loss of hearing, your hearing aids can manage a number of problems that might be contributing to your insomnia:
- Strain: Your hearing aids will effectively lessen the burden on your brain. And when your brain isn’t constantly struggling to hear everything around you, it won’t be as likely to continue that practice while you’re trying to sleep.
- Isolation: Your less likely to feel isolated and depressed if you can hook up with people in your social network when you’re out and about. Hearing aids make building relationships smoother (sleep cycle issues that result in “cabin fever” can also be reduced).
- Tinnitus: Hearing aids might be a practical treatment for that buzzing or ringing, depending on the nature of your tinnitus. This can help you get some sleep by stopping that vicious cycle.
Achieving a Better Night Sleep Using Hearing Aids
With regards to sleep, the amount of hours is not the only consideration. How deep you sleep is as essential as how many hours you sleep. Hearing loss can prevent that deep sleep, and hearing aids, therefore, can improve your ability to achieve restful sleep.
Wearing your hearing aids on the recommended daytime schedule will benefit your sleep but it’s significant to note that hearing aids aren’t generally intended to be used at night. When you’re sleeping they aren’t going to help your hearing (for instance, you won’t hear your alarm clock more clearly). And, as time passes, wearing your hearing aids at night can diminish their efficiency. It’s using them during the day that helps you get better sleep.
Go to Bed!
Getting a good night’s sleep is a valuable thing. Your immune system, your stress levels, and your ability to think clearly will all be benefited by ample sleep. Healthy sleep habits have even been linked to reduced risks for diabetes and heart disease.
When your hearing loss begins to disrupt your sleep schedule, it’s not just a small irritation, insomnia can often become a serious health concern. Thankfully, most surveys document that people with hearing aids have better quality of sleep.
Selective hearing is a phrase that normally is used as a pejorative, an insult. Maybe you heard your mother accuse your father of having “selective hearing” when she thought he was ignoring her.
But it turns out that selective hearing is quite the skill, an impressive linguistic feat executed by teamwork between your brain and ears.
The Stress Of Trying to Hear in a Crowd
This scenario probably feels familiar: you’ve been through a long day at work, but your buddies all insist on meeting up for dinner. And of course, they want to go to the noisiest restaurant (because it’s trendy and the deep-fried cauliflower is delicious). And you strain and struggle to follow the conversation for the entire evening.
But it’s very difficult and exhausting. And it’s a sign of hearing loss.
Maybe, you rationalize, the restaurant was simply too loud. But… everyone else seemed to be having a great time. You seemed like the only one having trouble. So you start to ask yourself: what is it about the crowded room, the cacophony of voices all battling to be heard, that throws hearing-impaired ears for a loop? Why is it that being able to hear in a crowd is so challenging? The answer, as reported by scientists, is selective hearing.
How Does Selective Hearing Operate?
The scientific name for what we’re loosely calling selective hearing is “hierarchical encoding,” and it doesn’t take place inside of your ears at all. This process almost completely occurs in your brain. At least, that’s as reported by a new study done by a team at Columbia University.
Scientists have recognized for quite a while that human ears essentially work like a funnel: they compile all the impulses and then deliver the raw information to your brain. That’s where the real work takes place, particularly the auditory cortex. Vibrations caused by moving air are translated by this portion of the brain into perceptible sound information.
Because of substantial research with CT and MRI scans, scientists have understood for years that the auditory cortex plays a crucial role in hearing, but they were stumped when it came to what those processes actually look like. Scientists were able, by making use of novel research techniques on individuals with epilepsy, to get a better picture of how the auditory cortex picks out voices in a crowd.
The Hierarchy of Hearing
And the insight they discovered are as follows: there are two components of the auditory cortex that accomplish most of the work in helping you identify individual voices. They’re what allows you to sort and amplify particular voices in loud situations.
- Heschl’s gyrus (HG): The first sorting stage is handled by this part of the auditory cortex. Scientists found that the Heschl’s gyrus (we’re simply going to call it HG from here on out) was processing each unique voice, classifying them via unique identities.
- Superior temporal gyrus (STG): The separated voices move from the HG to the STG, and it’s here that your brain starts to make some value distinctions. The superior temporal gyrus figures out which voices you want to give attention to and which can be safely moved to the background.
When you have hearing loss, your ears are missing certain wavelengths so it’s harder for your brain to recognize voices (depending on your hearing loss it could be low or high frequencies). Your brain isn’t given enough data to assign individual identities to each voice. As a result, it all blurs together (which makes discussions difficult to follow).
New Science = New Algorithm
Hearing aids already have functions that make it less difficult to hear in loud environments. But hearing aid makers can now integrate more of those natural functions into their algorithms because they have a greater idea of what the process looks like. For instance, you will have a greater ability to hear and understand what your coworkers are saying with hearing aids that help the Heshl’s gyrus and do a little more to differentiate voices.
The more we find out about how the brain works, especially in connection with the ears, the better new technology will be able to mimic what takes place in nature. And that can result in better hearing success. That way, you can focus a little less on struggling to hear and a little more on enjoying yourself.
Typically, hearing loss is considered to be a problem only effecting older people – as a matter of fact, it’s estimated that around 50% of individuals who suffer from hearing loss are 75 or older. And even though it’s often totally avoidable, new research reveals an alarming number of younger people are losing their hearing.
The National Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing recently carried out research on 479 freshmen spanning three high schools and revealed that 34% of those youngsters showed signs of hearing loss. The reason? Mobile devices with earbuds or headphones connected are suspected to be the primary cause. And the young are not the only ones in danger of this.
What is The Cause of Hearing Loss in People Below The Age of 60?
There’s a very simple rule regarding earbud volume for teenagers and everyone else – if other people can hear your music, then it’s too loud. Your hearing can be injured when you listen to noises above 85 decibels – which is approximately the volume of a vacuum cleaner – for an extended period of time. If the volume is cranked all the way up on a normal mobile device it’s volume is around 106 decibels. In this scenario, injury begins to occur in less than 4 minutes.
Though this sounds like common sense stuff, in reality kids spend around two hours each day on their devices, commonly with their earphones or earbuds connected. They’re listening to music, playing games, or watching videos during this time. And if current research is to be believed, this time will only increase over the next few years. Studies reveal that smartphones and other screens trigger dopamine generation in younger kids’ brains, which is literally what addictive drugs do. It will be increasingly difficult to get kids to put down their screens, and their hearing may suffer as a result.
How Much Are Young People at Risk of Hearing Loss?
Clearly, hearing loss presents several struggles to anyone, regardless of age. Younger people, however, have to deal with additional problems concerning after school sports, job prospects, and even academics. The student is disadvantaged if they have a hard time hearing and understanding concepts in class because of early hearing loss. It also makes playing sports much more difficult, since so much of sports entails listening to teammates and coaches give instructions and call plays. Teenagers and young adults who are joining the workforce will have unnecessary hurdles if their loss of hearing has a negative effect on their self-esteem.
Hearing loss can also result in persistent social struggles. Kids whose hearing is damaged often end up requiring therapy because they have a harder time with their friends due to loss of hearing. Mental health problems are ordinary in people of all ages who have hearing loss because they commonly feel separated and have anxiety and depression. Mental health treatment and hearing loss treatment often go hand in hand, particularly during the important developmental stages experienced by teenagers and kids.
How You Can Avoid Loss of Hearing?
The first rule to follow is the 60/60 rule – offending devices should be at less than 60% of their maximum volume for less than 1 hour a day. If you can hear your kids music, even if if the volume is at 60%, you should ask them to turn down the volume.
Also older style over-the-ear headphones might be a better choice than earbuds. Earbuds, which are put directly in the ear, can actually produce 6 to 9 extra decibels in comparison to traditional headphones.
Throughout the day in general, you should do anything possible to minimize your exposure to loud noise. If you try to listen to your music without headphones, that is one of the few things you can control. And, see us immediately if you think you are already suffering from loss of hearing.
Tinnitus flare ups are rarely constant; it seems difficult to understand when and why these sounds occur. At times, it seems like, for no recognizable reason at all, your ears just start buzzing. As you lie in bed, you think back over your day, and there are no clear causes for this event: There is no apparent reason why, at 9 PM, ringing is taking place, no noisy music, no loud fire alarms, nothing.
So possibly the food you ate may be the reason. We don’t typically think about the link between hearing and food, but there’s a bit of research and evidence to suggest that tinnitus can be made worse by particular foods. In order to stay away from those foods, you need to find out what they are.
What Foods Make Tinnitus Worse?
Let’s just cut right to the chase, shall we? You won’t want to experience a food triggered tinnitus event so it’s important to identify which foods can cause it. Some foods to avoid may include:
High on the list of items to steer clear of are alcohol and tobacco. You will certainly want to abstain from smoking and drinking in order to lessen your chance of a tinnitus episode even though tobacco isn’t actually a food.
Your general health can be substantially affected by alcohol and tobacco especially your blood pressure. The more you drink (and smoke), the more likely your tinnitus will be to flare up.
One of the top predictors of tinnitus episodes is your blood pressure. When your blood pressure rises, your tinnitus becomes worse. That’s the reason why when you make your list of foods to stay away from, sodium needs to be at the top. Whether you love eating french fries or just put salt on everything, you’ll want to ease up a lot.
There are certain foods that you don’t usually consider to be high in sodium like ice cream. But to avoid any sudden tinnitus episodes you will want to keep track of sodium content.
It shouldn’t be surprising that you should avoid fast food if you are avoiding sodium. Most fast-food places (even the ones that bill themselves as a healthier alternative) serve food that is packed with salt and fat. And, once again, that’s going to have a substantial impact on your blood pressure and, therefore, your tinnitus. Let’s not forget the giant drinks they serve that are very high in sugar. Yes you guessed it, sugar is next on this list.
Sweets And Sugars
Candy is something that all of us love. Well, maybe not everyone, but most of us. From time to time, you’ll run into someone who sincerely prefers veggies over candy. We try not to pass judgment.
Sadly, the glucose balance in your body can be greatly disrupted by sugar. And as you’re attempting to fall asleep at night, a small disturbance to that balance can mean lots of tossing and turning. And the more you toss and turn, the more you start listening for that ringing and buzzing.
There’s an apparent reason why we saved this one for last. This is the one we’re least pleased about having to give up. But using caffeine late in the day, whether from soda, tea, or coffee, can really wreck your sleep cycle. And the less quality sleep you get, the more likely your tinnitus is to flare up.
So it’s not really the caffeine per se that’s the issue, it’s the lack of sleep. Switch over to a drink that doesn’t have caffeine in the evenings and save your caffeine for the morning.
What Are Your Smartest Practices?
This is definitely not an exhaustive list. Your hearing expert is the best place to begin when it comes to the dietary adjustments you need to undertake. Let’s remember that dietary adjustments affect everyone differently, so it might even be worth maintaining a food journal where you can track what affects you and by how much.
Going forward you will have an easier time making smart decisions if you understand how particular foods affect you. When you start tracking what you eat, and what happens to your ears subsequently, you may begin to note patterns, and that can remove some of the mystery out of your tinnitus symptoms.
If you decide on that evening of coffee, at least you know what you’re in for.
Multiple studies have confirmed that hearing loss can have an impact on your brain. (Just have a look at some of our recent blog posts.) Hearing Aids, luckily, have been shown to be able to help you restore some of that cognitive ability.
We’re not stating that you will get more intelligent just by using hearing aids. But there’s some compelling research that suggests hearing aids can improve cognitive abilities, lowering your risk for depression, dementia, and anxiety.
Your Brain is in Charge of a Large Portion of Your Hearing
To understand the link between your ears and cognition, it’s important to know that a significant portion of your hearing actually happens in your brain. It’s the brain’s job to convert sound vibrations into recognizable sound information. The parts of your brain that translate sound will suddenly have less to do when hearing starts to wane.
In combination with other factors (such as social solitude), the alterations in your brain (and hearing) can trigger the onset of specific mental health issues. In persons with untreated hearing loss, it’s not uncommon to notice an increase in the dangers of depression, anxiety, and dementia.
Your essentially “treating” your hearing loss when you’re using hearing aids. That means:
- Because you’ll be capable of coupling your hearing aids with regular screening and other treatment options, you can help keep your hearing from getting progressively worse.
- Social isolation won’t be as likely. Conversations will be easier to understand and follow, so you’ll be more inclined to engage.
- Your brain stays healthier if it continues working; your brain will be getting a more consistent workout in the parts responsible for hearing.
Hearing aids stimulate your brain and your social life and can prevent depression, anxiety, and dementia.
- Creating better awareness: Occasionally, because you aren’t aware of your environment, you may have a fall. Your situational awareness can be significantly hindered by hearing conditions. Not only can it be difficult to hear sounds, but it can also be a challenge to determine what direction sounds are coming from. Without treatment, this can end up resulting in injury or a fall.
- State of the art technology: Hearing aids have begun incorporating novel technology that is able to alert emergency contacts (or emergency services) when a person using the hearing aids experiences a fall. This can minimize long lasting injuries and complications though it won’t stop the fall itself.
- The health of your inner ear: Inner ear injury is not caused by loss of hearing alone. Notwithstanding, sometimes hearing loss and inner ear issues have a mutual cause. At times, a hearing aid is part of the treatment program for hearing loss which can also help inner ear injury.
Ultimately, when you’re using a hearing aid, you’re more likely to avoid a fall to begin with. A hearing aid helps you stay more alert, more perceptive, and more connected, maximizing cognitive abilities and general health at the same time.
Stop Neglecting Your Hearing Aid
We haven’t even yet dealt with the basic hearing benefits of hearing aids. So when you take that amplified hearing, factor in the mental health advantages and physical well-being, it seems like wearing these devices should be an easy choice (Pretty obvious).
The problem is that many people don’t know they have hearing loss. It can be difficult to recognize hearing loss when it develops slowly over time. That’s why it’s significant to have your hearing checked routinely. A wide range of other health problems can be exacerbated by loss of hearing.
Hearing aids will minimize the chances of physical damage while helping to delay dementia and depression. That’s a stunning combination of benefits that hearing aids provide, and they also help you hear.
Your brain develops differently than it normally would if you’re born with loss of hearing. Shocked? That’s because we normally think about brains in the wrong way. Your mind, you believe, is a static thing: it only changes because of trauma or injury. But the reality is that brains are a little more…dynamic.
Hearing Affects Your Brain
You’ve most likely heard of the notion that, as one sense wanes, the other four senses will grow more powerful to compensate. Vision is the most popular example: as you begin to lose your vision, your hearing and smell and taste will become ultra powerful as a counterbalance.
There might be some truth to this but it hasn’t been established scientifically. Because hearing loss, for example, can and does alter the sensory architecture of your brain. It’s open to question how much this is true in adults, but we do know it’s true with children.
CT scans and other studies of children with loss of hearing reveal that their brains physically alter their structures, transforming the part of the brain normally responsible for interpreting sounds to be more sensitive to visual information.
The newest studies have gone on to discover that the brain’s architecture can be effected by even moderate hearing loss.
How The Brain is Changed by Hearing Loss
A certain amount of brainpower is dedicated to each sense when they are all working. The interpretation of touch, or taste, or vision and so on, all make use of a specific amount of brain power. A lot of this architecture is developed when you’re young (the brains of children are incredibly flexible) because that’s when you’re first developing all of these neural pathways.
Established literature had already validated that in children with total or near-total loss of hearing, the brain modified its general architecture. Instead of being dedicated to hearing, that area in the brain is reconfigured to be dedicated to vision. The brain devotes more power and space to the senses that are offering the most input.
Minor to Moderate Loss of Hearing Also Causes Changes
Children who have minor to medium loss of hearing, surprisingly, have also been seen to show these same rearrangements.
These brain changes won’t produce superpowers or substantial behavioral changes, to be clear. Helping individuals adapt to loss of hearing seems to be a more practical interpretation.
A Relationship That Has Been Strong For a Long Time
The research that loss of hearing can alter the brains of children definitely has implications beyond childhood. The vast majority of individuals dealing with loss of hearing are adults, and the hearing loss itself is usually a direct result of long-term noise or age-related damage. Is loss of hearing modifying their brains, as well?
Noise damage, according to evidence, can actually trigger inflammation in certain areas of the brain. Other evidence has connected neglected hearing loss with higher chances for dementia, depression, and anxiety. So although we haven’t proven hearing loss boosts your other senses, it does affect the brain.
People from around the country have anecdotally borne this out.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Your General Health
It’s more than superficial insight that hearing loss can have such a substantial effect on the brain. It’s a reminder that the brain and the senses are intrinsically connected.
When hearing loss develops, there are commonly substantial and obvious mental health impacts. Being mindful of those effects can help you prepare for them. And being prepared will help you take steps to maintain your quality of life.
How drastically your brain physically changes with the onset of hearing loss will depend on numerous factors ((age is a significant factor because older brains have a harder time developing new neural pathways). But regardless of your age or how severe your hearing loss is, untreated hearing loss will definitely have an effect on your brain.
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“I have been with Evanston Audiology for almost eight years. During this time, the staff has always responded in a timely fashion to all my hearing needs: testing, fitting, aid changes, questions and appointments. I have been so pleased with the service, I have recommended the group numerous times to friends. They too have been satisfied with the professional advice and service.”
Tom H., Patient