Brain Hearing: Auditory Deprivation

Did you know that you don't hear with your ears, but rather you hear with you brain? Your ears are the receiver of sound, in which then sends the auditory signal to the brain. The brain then processes the sound and makes sense of it. The ears deliver sound to the brain by sending electrical impulses through the auditory nerve. Your brain receives these electrical impulses and translate them into what we recognize as sound. The auditory part of your brain needs to be stimulated by sound to remain sharp. Even a mild hearing loss can be enough to under stimulate the brain. In individuals with hearing loss, the auditory pathways are not being stimulated as frequently, and can weaken. "Use it or lose it" is a saying that relates to this ideation. If hearing loss is not treated, it can lead to auditory deprivation, resulting in a sense of increased hearing loss. The average individual with diagnosed hearing loss waits an average of 7 years to seek treatment. If hearing loss is left untreated for too long, the auditory connections from your brain can be reassigned to other brain functions. As hearing loss is left untreated, even though we may be still able to hear sound, it's harder for the brain to interpret the sound. How can you prevent auditory deprivation? Get your hearing tested and seek treatment if recommended. Even if you don't appear to have hearing difficulty, it's a good idea to establish a baseline hearing test.

At Waterville Audiology, we will help you research your hearing aid coverage. We also offer affordable options, and payment plans. Call us today to schedule your hearing evaluation! -Dr. Becca Rancourt

Noise Exposure and Motorcycle Use

It's that time of year again! The sun is shining and we all want to get out of the house and enjoy the fresh air. This is also a time of year which motorcyclists are out on the road. Most riders often forget to minimize an obvious, but overlooked, risk: hearing loss! Earplugs can easily help reduce the risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Motorcyclists are among our population of Americans who are at risk for NIHL. Thirty million Americans are at risk for NIHL in the workplace, recreational settings and at home. Motorcyclists are exposed to the loud noises of the motorcycle, as well as the wind noise. At 40 mph, motorcyclists are exposed to 90 decibels of low frequency wind noise that is caused by turbulent airflow around the helmet. OSHA requires hearing protection for exposure over 85 decibels. The louder the noise is, the less time you are safely able to be exposed to the noise before it can cause permanent hearing damage.
If you ride a motorcycle or know someone that does, here are some tips:

  • Wear earplugs when riding a motorcycle. Disposable foam earplugs are inexpensive and can reduce up to 25 decibels of sound. This means that harmful levels of noise are reduced, but not enough to interfere with your ability to hear engines or surrounding warning signals.
  • Avoid high speeds, which cause excessive wind noise.
  • If you listen to music while you ride, use noise-cancelling earphones. Many people turn the volume up to drown out the engine or wine noise, however this is only causing more noise exposure.
  • Get your hearing tested! Dr. Becca Rancourt, our Audiologist at Waterville Audiology, will be able to determine your current hearing levels. If you have hearing loss, you will be educated on the appropriate steps to prevent any further damage.

If you wear hearing aids, please take them out and exchange them for hearing protection as this will help prevent your hearing loss from becoming worse. Waterville Audiology offers custom hearing protection, designed to fit your ear and your ear only. Call us today at 207-872-0320 to book your hearing test or custom hearing protection appointment!
-Becca Rancourt, Au.D. CCC-A

What causes hearing loss?

This a common question many people have. Many people believe that hearing loss happens as you get older, which can be true. However, there are also many other reasons that hearing loss occurs. Hearing loss is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease. Hearing loss can happen to anyone at any age, and for several reasons. Below are some examples of some of the many causes of hearing loss.

  • One reason that hearing loss can occur is noise. Injury to the hair cells located in your inner ear can result in temporary or permanent hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss can occur from a single loud noise such as a gunshot, or it can result from prolonged exposure to loud noise over time.
  • Another reason that hearing loss can occur is from trauma. Examples can include objects being inserted into the ear, a viral infection, explosion, or pressure differences such as traveling on an airplane or scuba diving.
  • Age related hearing loss is also referred to as presbycusis. Age-related hearing loss occurs in one of every three people over the age of 60 and in two thirds of people over the age of 70.
  • Hearing loss can result from the use of certain medications or drugs. This is referred to as ototoxicity. A prime example of ototoxicity is chemotherapy. Although chemotherapy's benefits outweigh the risk, individuals who start chemotherapy treatments should have their hearing monitored as it can also cause permanent damage to the inner ear.
  • Wax can cause temporary hearing loss. Earwax is a natural part of our body however, if there is too much wax built up it can act as an earplug making it difficult to hear.
  • Individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of hearing loss due to the circulatory issues from glucose overload.
  • Genetic disorders, such as otosclerosis, can cause hearing loss. Otosclerosis is a hereditary disorder that causes progressive hearing loss due to the overgrowth of bone in the inner ear.

There are many causes of hearing loss. If you are questioning if you are suffering from hearing loss, contact Waterville Audiology to schedule a hearing exam! 872-0320

-Becca Rancourt, Au.D. CCC-A

How untreated hearing loss correlates to your total health, not just your hearing!

Did you know that the average person waits seven years to seek help for their hearing problem?! Often times, hearing loss occurs gradually, and we adapt to it over time, so we feel that it "isn't that bad".

Untreated hearing loss has many negative side effects that relate to our overall health outside of hearing.

Research shows that there is a strong correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Our brain plays a major role in hearing, as sound is processed in the brain, not our ears! When hearing loss occurs, our auditory system is unable to send signals to the brain. This lack of auditory input to the brain can lead to earlier onset of cognitive decline.

Untreated hearing loss is also associated with increased risks of falling. One reason for this is that people with hearing loss have less awareness of their environmental surroundings. Our hearing plays an important role when localizing sound. When we're unable to hear these sounds or unable to localize where a sound is coming from it can be a concern for safety.

Social isolation is another concern for people with hearing loss. Not being able to understand conversation between your friends at social gatherings is tiring, and often people with hearing loss just give up and stop socializing all together. Sometimes people with hearing loss may react inappropriately to a conversation, resulting in embarrassment. The solution for most people who struggle with this is that they just stay home and do not interact with others to avoid the stress and embarrassment. This also leads to increased risk for anxiety and depression.

Do not wait the average of seven years to seek help! Call us today to schedule your appointment for a hearing evaluation and learn about a treatment option that is right for you!

-Becca Rancourt, Au.D. CCC-A

Earwax, is it normal? How do I clean my ears?

Many of us have heard the saying, "don't put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear." But the question is, how do we clean our ears then? Did you know that your ears actually clean themselves and typically don't need any extra care?

Earwax is a natural substance that our body creates to clean and protect the ear canal and eardrum. Another word for earwax is cerumen. Cerumen is secreted by glands in the skin that line the outer portion of the ear canal. Our ear canals have tiny hairs, that help the cerumen trap dust and other foreign particles that could potentially damage deeper structures, such as the eardrum.

Now, some people produce more earwax than is needed. If this happens, it could create a blockage in your ear canal, resulting in temporary hearing loss. There are many ways that people clean their ears, but there are a few ways that it can be done to ensure that the ear is not damaged more.

Back to the saying, "do not put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear." It's true, do not! Putting something such as a Q-tip into the ear canal can push wax deeper into the ear, making it much harder to get out. You may find that earwax comes out sometimes with a Q-tip, but there is a greater chance that you are pushing most of the wax further in. Also, if you push anything into your ear too far, you could cause harm to the eardrum and possibly even rupture it.

A safe way to clean your ears is to see a trained professional. Most Doctors' offices will clean ears by using water to flush the earwax out. Another way to have your ears cleaned is to see an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor (ENT) or an Audiologist to have them manually extract it using tools such as a light and a microscope.

Some individuals should have their ears cleaned regularly to prevent the wax from building up too much. At Waterville Audiology, our Audiologist, Dr. Becca Rancourt, is happy to perform ear cleanings whether it be for one visit, or routine ear cleanings. A tip to keep in mind is if you are having your hearing tested, your ears should always be clear of excessive amounts of wax to ensure an accurate hearing test. Call us today to schedule your appointment at 207-872-0320.

-Becca Rancourt, Au.D. CCC-A

The World is a Noisy Place!

Noise pollution is a feature of our increasingly crowded world and many people have already experienced dangerous hearing conditions. How can you tell if your hearing has been affected?

Think about how your ears reacted when you have been in situations where there was a lot of noise. Did you experience ear pain, a feeling of having your ears plugged, needing to shout for others to hear you, or experience temporary buzzing or ringing in your ears? If so, chances are you have experienced hearing damage.

How does hearing damage happen? Inside of your inner ear, there a small hair cells that help conduct the noise that constitutes your hearing. Injury to these hair cells comes from exposure to loud noise that can be sudden or prolonged. This can result in temporary and permanent hearing loss. To prevent noise induced hearing loss, you should familiarize yourself with dangerous decibel levels.
Any sound that is over 85 decibels (dB) exceeds what is considered the "safe" range. Any sound louder than 85 dB has a higher chance of causing permanent damage to your ears.
Here are some examples of dB levels in our everyday world:

  • Rainfall = 50 dB
  • Average conversation between two people = 60 dB
  • Vacuum cleaner = 70 dB
  • Alarm clock = 80 dB
  • Motorcycle = 90 dB
  • Lawn mower = 90 dB
  • The highest setting on your personal listening device can be between 105 and 120 decibels!

Hearing loss should be addressed before it spirals into other issues such as depression, and brain atrophy. If you have experienced dangerous sound levels and want to find out if you have hearing damage, you should visit our Audiologist at Waterville Audiology. When you are ready, call Waterville Audiology at 207-872-0320 to find out if your hearing has been damaged due do noise exposure.

-Becca Rancourt, Au.D. CCC-A

The Passing of the Maine Hearing Aid Law

Some of you may have heard about the recent passing of the legislation H.P. 39 - L.D. 38, "An Act to Require Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aids for Adults". This law states that private insurance companies in the State of Maine have to offer hearing aid coverage, of up to $3,000 per hearing impaired ear. The passing of this legislation has led to many Maine residents experiencing improved quality of life. This insurance benefit for hearing aid coverage has allowed many patients across the State of Maine to hear the sounds of life once again. Our goal at Waterville Audiology is to educate Mainers on the passing of this law, so they too can seek treatment for hearing loss. There are some restrictions in place regarding this law. For example, if an employer is based out of state, the insurance policy would be exempt from this law. Also, any Federal insurances such as Medicare are also exempt from this law.

Currently, the average person with hearing loss waits approximately 7 years to seek treatment for their hearing loss. One of the major reasons for the delay in treatment is the cost. The cost of hearing aids has been a major barrier to better hearing for many patients, as hearing aids can cost up to $2,000 to $4,000 per hearing aid.

Waterville Audiology would like to thank James Handy, State Representative, for his sponsorship to pass this legislation. Waterville Audiology interviewed James, and he discussed his personal experiences with hearing loss, including family members who have needed treatment, and the financial barriers that were in place, along with the consequences of untreated hearing loss. During campaigning door to door in 2016, James heard from multiple people who experienced the isolation that hearing impairment can impose on a person. He soon realized it was not just him that was experiencing these feelings, but this was a very widespread problem across the State of Maine. James indicated that during the course of working the bill through the legislation process, many individuals expressed to him how this bill would result in life changing experiences for Maine people with hearing loss.
In the interview with James, he touched on how untreated hearing loss can cost people their jobs and deny individuals the opportunity for promotions. The following bullet points are some of his many motives for sponsoring this legislation:

  • "Employers don't hire employees who can't hear and respond to interview questions
  • Without hearing aids, interviews are often unsuccessful
  • Employers don't keep employees who can't her well enough to communicate through telephones.
  • Employers tend to not assign employees to lead projects or be in significant roles in teams when they know the person will not be able to hear well enough to be in the team.
  • [Individuals with untreated hearing loss, (without the use of hearing aids)], cannot get the opportunities that result in career advancement.
  • In this day of Go To Meetings and Zoom, employers are aware of the cost of employing people who will potentially need ongoing and expensive accommodations."

Waterville Audiology is here to support you through navigating your insurance benefit. Call us today, as we are happy to help you through the process to hear the sounds of life again.

-Becca Rancourt, Au.D. CCC-A

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