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Are Hearing Loss and Vision Loss Related?

Take a second to imagine your grandparents or some of your oldest relatives. You’re probably filled with love at the thought of seeing them and interacting with them, but the challenges of speaking with them may also come to mind. Namely, our oldest family members often can’t hear or see as well as we can.

In fact, many older people experience both hearing and vision loss. This concurrence has led some scientists to investigate whether these two types of sensory loss are related. Certain syndromes can indeed cause this simultaneous sensory loss, and both hearing and vision loss can have similar consequences. Learn more with the below guide to how hearing and vision loss do and don’t overlap.

How are vision loss and hearing loss similar?

Hearing loss and vision loss are similar in that roughly one in every five adults age 75 or older experiences both. Hearing loss and vision loss may also lead to two similar types of life changes if you’re experiencing them:

  1. Decreased ability to socialize. Seeing and hearing difficulties are known to make those experiencing them less social, as conversations are challenging if you can’t hear what’s being said or perceive body language. Additionally, vision loss can be especially devastating if you have hearing loss and rely on lip-reading. Without full vision, you may struggle to accurately read lips and understand conversations.
  2. Increased risk of dementia. The lack of brain stimulation that accompanies withdrawal from social life is also a risk factor for dementia. This correlation makes both hearing loss and vision loss potential dementia causes. It could also mean that hearing and vision loss can lead to other types of cognitive decline. However, research points more strongly to hearing than vision as related to cognitive decline.

Hearing loss and vision loss have similar consequences. But are they related?

Although hearing loss and vision loss can have a similar impact on your life or the life of your loved one, there’s no scientific evidence suggesting that one can cause the other. However, certain genetic conditions can cause deaf-blindness. The vision loss associated with these conditions does not cause the hearing loss associated with them or vice versa.

Which genetic conditions cause combined hearing and vision loss?

The genetic condition that most commonly causes simultaneous hearing and vision loss is Usher syndrome. This condition causes roughly half of all genetic deaf-blindless cases. It usually manifests as moderate to profound hearing loss at birth (it does not typically develop in adulthood). Its initial visual symptoms include night blindness and, over time, the loss of peripheral vision. Eventually, only central vision will remain, resulting in a narrow field of sight.

Fortunately, Usher syndrome isn’t common. Experts estimate its prevalence as at most 17 in every 100,000 people, or 0.017 percent of the population. Other deaf-blindness genetic disorders, all of which are less prevalent than Usher syndrome, include congenital rubella syndrome, CHARGE syndrome, retinopathy of prematurity, and Norrie disease.

How to address hearing loss and vision loss

Ophthalmologists are best qualified to address vision loss, whereas audiologists like us at I Love Hearing are your go-to for hearing loss. We always recommend that, if you’re concerned about hearing loss, you contact one of our audiologists for a hearing test. You won’t experience any pain, as hearing tests are non-invasive, fast, and straightforward. You’ll simply listen to sounds and speech, then respond accordingly.

If we detect hearing loss, we’ll recommend that you get professionally-fitted hearing aids, as they’re the best way to bridge the gap that hearing loss leaves behind. Plus, at I Love Hearing, we’re not just a team of audiologists happy to test your hearing no matter your age. We’re home to hearing aid specialists who have decades of experience finding exactly the right hearing aids for anyone’s needs.

Here at I Love Hearing, we’re experts in building and sticking to a thorough treatment plan no matter the extent of your hearing loss. We’ll also test and fit your hearing aids so your hearing is restored from the get-go. Plus, if you bring someone with you to your appointment, we’ll offer a free hearing test for that person too!

Contact the New York audiologists at I Love Hearing to schedule a hearing exam and keep your ears sharp no matter your age. In our hands, your hearing loss will have minimal impact on your life – and with your hearing restored, you can move onto addressing your vision loss too.

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How Are Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline Related?

Cognitive decline, which includes memory loss, dementia, and other types of impaired brain functioning, impacts millions of adults in the U.S. each year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in 9 adults in the U.S. self-report subjective cognitive decline. That’s when someone notices confusion or memory loss in themselves. That doesn’t include the caregivers and loved ones who notice cognitive decline among their friends and family members.

Hearing loss, which one in every eight people experiences, can accelerate or worsen cognitive decline. To be clear, hearing loss doesn’t trigger cognitive decline – it’s only accurate to say that a correlation exists between the two. This correlation may be strong enough that protecting your hearing now can also help maintain your brain functioning later in life. Here’s everything you should know about hearing loss, cognitive decline, and preventing both.

How can hearing loss accelerate cognitive decline?

A wide body of scientific research has shown that those with hearing loss are more likely to experience cognitive decline than those with unaltered hearing. Additionally, people who either don’t know they have hearing loss or neglect to treat it complain of memory loss more frequently than do people with full hearing.

The below four scientific studies shine an especially strong light on the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline:

  • A 2013 study reported in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine examined the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline in a sample of 2,000 seniors. The study concluded that seniors with hearing loss experienced faster rates of cognitive decline than those with full hearing.
  • A 2019 study reported in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, which is the official scientific journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, surveyed 10,000 men aged 62 and older over eight years. Among these men, the likelihood of complaints about memory function increased as hearing loss accelerated.
  • A similar six-year study that Johns Hopkins University reported in 2013 reported similar findings. Among 1,984 men and women between the ages of 75 and 84, cognition in those with hearing loss declined 30 to 40 percent more than those with no hearing loss. Participants with hearing loss experienced substantial cognitive decline 3.2 years sooner than other participants.
  • A 2014 Otology & Neurotology study found that, among a group of 4,500 seniors without dementia, 16.3 percent of participants with hearing loss developed dementia within a decade. On the other hand, 12.1 percent of participants with full hearing developed hearing loss within 12 years.

How to protect your hearing and delay cognitive decline

Some amount of cognitive decline is inevitable as we age. However, protecting your hearing can forestall your cognitive decline or lessen its pace. Some easy ways to protect your hearing now and prevent hearing loss tomorrow include:

  • Using protective devices. In more common loud sound situations such as concerts or parties, earplugs should do the trick. If you regularly work with power tools or other loud objects, earmuffs designed for hearing protection may be necessary. You can also replace your current tools with those from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Buy Quiet list.
  • Keep the volume down. When you expose yourself to quieter but still audible sounds, you minimize damage to the hair cells in your ears. Over the long term, the result is less hearing loss. To achieve this goal, keep your TV’s volume as low as possible while watching shows or movies. Same goes for listening to music, especially if you’re using headphones or earbuds in place of speakers.
  • Take breaks from loud noise exposure. Even if you’re only rarely exposed to loud noise, your infrequent exposure can still affect your hearing. That’s why you should step outside occasionally during loud events or work tasks. If your ears are ringing or your hearing is muffled after loud noise exposure, you should avoid sounds louder than conversation for 12 to 16 hours.

How to address hearing loss and cognitive decline

If the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline concerns you, then contact an audiologist for a hearing test. These pain-free, non-invasive exams are easy and quick. During your test, you’ll listen to sounds or speech, then respond as instructed. An audiogram will display your results, which will show the extent of any hearing loss you might have.

If hearing loss is detected, hearing aids will be your best solution for bridging the gap. They can also lead to a later onset of cognitive decline. A 2019 Journal of the American Geriatrics Societystudy made this observation based on data from hundreds of thousands of participants. Hearing aids may thus be your best solution for both conditions, which aren’t curable but can absolutely be lived with. And here at I Love Hearing, we have decades of experience providing exactly the right hearing aids to those who need them.

Contact I Love Hearing about cognitive decline and hearing loss

Whether you’re being proactive about a family history of cognitive decline or already feel your memory becoming weaker, it’s never too soon (or late) to take action. Hearing exams and hearing aids should be part of your solution, and at I Love Hearing, we offer both services in our four Long Island offices.

Our audiologists will perform hearing tests for anyone of any age. If we identify hearing loss, we’ll help you create and follow a robust treatment plan. Plus, if you make an appointment for yourself, we’ll perform a free additional hearing test for whoever accompanies you!

Book an appointment with I Love Hearing now to start protecting your hearing and cognition. The idea of losing your memory with time can seem scary, but in our hands, you’ll be better prepared to keep your mind sharp forever.

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Can Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Really Permanently Damage Your Hearing?

Prolonged exposure to loud sounds can make you prone to hearing loss — even exposure to some of the most common sounds many of us hear daily. The grating train or subway noises that define your commute can reach 90 decibels (dB) — significantly loud, considering that noises greater than 85 dB are harmful. Leafblowers and snowmobiles often reach 115 dB, and live music can reach 130 dB. Gunshots and sirens are typically 140 dB or greater.

You’ll know a sound is too loud if hearing it causes ear pain or, while it blares, you can’t hear those around you. Post-exposure symptoms include ringing ears or muffled hearing. If this difficult hearing persists, you are regularly exposed to some of the loud noises described above, and you find yourself asking people to speak more loudly, slowly, or clearly, you might have noise-induced hearing loss.

The good news is that you can proactively avoid noise-induced hearing loss and address any hearing loss you already have. Although there’s no cure for hearing loss, there are easy ways to bridge the gap – learn all about noise-induced hearing loss below.

How can loud sounds cause or worsen hearing loss?

Higher-decibel (louder) sound waves carry more energy. These vibrations (all waves, whether light or sound, vibrate) carry more force when they’re more energetic. The result is that, when high-decibel sounds enter your ear, they have the potential to cause more damage. This can result in what’s called noise induced hearing loss.

This damage occurs in the hair cells lining your ear canal. These cells receive the vibrations that accompany sound waves. They also transmit these vibrations to your brain, which interprets them as sounds. The problem is that, unlike most other cells in our bodies, hair cells don’t grow back once they die. And since high-energy (loud) sound waves can damage and even destroy hair cells. These hair cells cannot grow back, so damaging them can result in permanent hearing loss.

How to protect your hearing

The notion of hearing-induced hearing loss sounds worrisome, but it shouldn’t stop you from doing your job or enjoying your hobbies. The steps you can take to reduce your chances of noise-induced hearing loss are all easy, and they change little about your daily life. They include:

  • Wearing earplugs at loud music shows or events. This step is especially easy to take if you keep earplugs on you at all times. You should also avoid standing right next to any speakers in the venue. You can buy earplugs over the counter at any pharmacy or get fitted for custom earplugs.
  • Wearing earmuffs if you work with loud devices such as power tools. You want large, bulky earmuffs that look like professional headphones. These devices are engineered to mask loud sounds. You can find them at hardware stores, and custom models are available through an audiologist.
  • Using quieter tools if possible. You can find many options on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Buy Quiet list.
  • Turn down the volume. Whether you’re listening to music in headphones or enjoying your favorite TV on speakers, you should adjust the volume so it’s just enough to hear — not that it’s blaring in your direction. Going even a tad louder can be enough to cause hearing loss.
  • Take breaks. When you pause your listening session or step back from noisy work, you reduce your exposure to loud sounds. If you find yourself consistently exposed to loud noises with no protection, you should avoid sounds louder than conversation for 12 to 16 hours afterward.

How to address noise-induced hearing loss

The journey toward restoring your hearing is hassle-free. You can start by scheduling a hearing test with an audiologist. Hearing tests are pain-free and non-invasive, and they’re also easy – you’ll just listen to sounds or spoken words, then react to them as instructed. You’ll see your results on an audiogram that shows the extent of your hearing loss.

Your hearing test can determine the extent of your hearing loss, but it can’t restore your hearing. That’s where hearing aids come in. Hearing aids amplify all sounds that enter the ear, and this volume boost bridges the gaps that hearing loss causes. Many models now offer app-controlled tools that help you adjust hearing in certain situations as needed, and they can be tuned remotely by your audiologist, avoiding making additional appointments. Plus, many hearing aid models are discreet, as these models fit entirely inside the ear or out of view behind it.

Hearing aids are available at many audiology practices, including here at I Love Hearing. Our hearing aid specialists make choosing your hearing aid and properly fitting it easy as could be.

Contact I Love Hearing about noise-induced hearing loss

Whether you spend all day working around loud noises or just love listening to live music, it’s never too soon to prevent or address hearing loss. On the latter front, we at I Love Hearing are eager to help. Visit our offices in Long Island for expert help from audiologists and hearing aid specialists who have spent decades working with all kinds of hearing loss. We’ll test anyone of any age for noise-induced hearing loss and work with you to create a treatment plan. In fact, if you book an appointment for yourself, we will test the hearing of the person who accompanies you to your appointment, free of charge!

Contact I Love Hearing now to book an appointment for your noise-induced hearing loss. Living with hearing loss can feel tough, but in our hands, you’ll once again hear the world around you in all its glory.

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Hearing Loss Types, Causes, and Solutions

Any trustworthy audiologist both understands how to treat hearing loss and knows that the biological mechanisms underlying it might confuse the average person. After all, nobody can look inside their own ear to determine what exactly is causing their hearing loss. That said, all prominent hearing loss types and causes have solutions (though not cures), so below, we’ll demystify the most common hearing loss types, causes, and solutions.

Types of hearing loss

The three primary types of hearing loss are:

1. Conductive hearing loss

  • What it is:Conductive hearing loss is hearing loss that occurs when the outer or middle ear is damaged or blocked, thus stopping the conduction of sound to the inner ear.
  • How it’s caused: Many conditions can result in blockages that cause conductive hearing loss, including excessive ear wax, a narrowed ear canal, ear infections, and fluid buildup.
  • How it’s treated:Temporary conductive hearing loss is typically treated medically or surgically. Permanent conductive hearing loss may require hearing aids.

2. Sensorineural hearing loss

  • What it is: Sensorineural hearing loss occurs in the wake of damage to the ear’s hair cells or auditory nerve. The result is less information about audio volume or clarity for your brain to process.
  • How it’s caused:Sensorineural hearing loss is commonly just age-related hearing loss, though exposure to loud noise can cause it as well. In fact, just one instance of exposure to extremely loud sounds can be enough to cause sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Less commonly, diseases, genetic syndromes, injuries, infections, and cancerous growths can cause sensorineural hearing loss. Ototoxic medications can also cause sensorineural hearing loss, though ototoxic hearing loss is sometimes reversible.
  • How it’s treated: Sensorineural hearing loss is often permanent, so hearing aids are the best paths of treatment. If this hearing loss is tied to a disease or infection, corticosteroids can also help to keep the hearing loss from worsening.

3. Mixed hearing loss

  • What it is: As its name suggests, mixed hearing loss contains aspects of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
  • How it’s caused: Injury or trauma most often leads to mixed hearing loss, as few other circumstances can lead to the obstruction or damaging of all parts of the ear.
  • How it’s treated: Treatment for mixed hearing loss depends on the exact amount of conductive versus sensorineural hearing loss. Surgical or medical treatments may have better outcomes for mixed hearing loss that’s more conductive. For mixed hearing loss that’s more sensorineural, hearing aids may prove more effective.

Degrees of hearing loss

Any type of hearing loss may occur to only a slight or an extreme degree. Audiologists generally acknowledge four such degrees:

  • Mild hearing loss describes difficulty hearing some soft sounds even if it’s mostly easy to understand speech.
  • Moderate hearing loss describes hearing next to nothing if someone is speaking at a typical, everyday volume level.
  • Severe hearing loss describes hearing nothing during a standard-volume conversation and only hearing some loud sounds.
  • Profound hearing loss is mostly the same as severe hearing loss, but it describes an inability to hear anything other than extremely loud sounds.

Other hearing loss descriptions

Audiologists often need just a type and degree to classify hearing loss, but sometimes, the below descriptors help too:

  • Unilateral or bilateral. Unilateral hearing loss occurs only in one ear, whereas bilateral hearing loss occurs in both.
  • Pre-lingual or post-lingual. In children, pre-lingual hearing loss occurs before the child learns to speak. All other hearing loss is post-lingual.
  • Symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical hearing loss is the same in both ears, whereas asymmetrical hearing loss is different in each ear.
  • Progressive or sudden. Progressive hearing loss worsens gradually over time, whereas sudden hearing loss occurs quickly and unexpectedly.
  • Fluctuating or stable. Fluctuating hearing loss changes in degree over time, whereas stable hearing loss remains of the same degree at all times.
  • Congenital or acquired/delayed-onset. Any hearing loss with which someone is born is congenital. All other hearing loss is described as acquired or delayed-onset hearing loss. In general, more people experience acquired hearing loss, so audiologists and hearing aid specialists are especially well-versed in treating this type of hearing loss.

What to do if you think you have hearing loss

If you think you have hearing loss of any sort, contact an audiologist for a hearing test. Audiologists such as those at I Love Hearing bring not just decades of experience to the table, but also specialty testing tools suited for all types of hearing loss and patients.

Here at I Love Hearing, we also specialize in offering and fitting hearing aids to address hearing loss (and tinnitus, which isn’t a cause of hearing loss but is surely unpleasant). We offer virtually every reputable hearing aid brand on the market, and we’ll always let you try your hearing aids out before you spend even a penny on them. We’ll work with you throughout the hearing aid choosing and fitting process to meet your individual needs. To address your hearing loss before it potentially worsens, contact us now to book an appointment in one of our four New York metro offices: Port Washington, New Hyde Park, and East Meadow on Long Island, and on the Upper East Side of New York City.

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How Are Hearing Loss and Dementia Related?

Connection between hearing loss and dementia

At some point in our lives, most of us have interacted with an elderly family member who, heartbreakingly, seems unable to understand that we’re speaking to them. You may worry that this phenomenon, which is sometimes a sign of dementia, is inevitable as you or someone you love ages.

Dementia is not itself a disease or disorder but instead a prominent symptom of several conditions. It is perhaps most widely associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and the fatal genetic disorder Huntington’s disease can cause it too. Poor or entirely blocked blood flow to the brain can also result in dementia.

Hearing loss, though incapable of causing dementia, can accelerate or exacerbate dementia caused by the aforementioned conditions. While it’s true that there’s no cure for dementia, you can potentially reduce the severity of dementia by protecting you or your loved one’s hearing now. Here’s what you need to know.

How can hearing loss accelerate dementia?

In people aged 60 and above, the severity of hearing loss is strongly correlated with an increased risk for dementia. This connection may stem from the brain sharing several physiological pathways with the ear – for example, high blood pressure affects both organs. That said, neurologists and audiologists have not definitively determined the anatomical cause of this correlation.

Even without an exact cause determined, the correlation remains clear. A 12-year, 639-participant study from Johns Hopkins University revealed that the more serious one’s hearing loss, the higher their risk of dementia. According to this study, those with mild hearing loss are at twice as high a risk for dementia. Those with moderate or severe hearing loss are at, respectively, three and five times as high a risk.

Otolaryngologist Dr. Frank Lin, who led the study, has said that brain scans show a correlation between hearing loss and faster rates of brain atrophy. This factor could at least partially account for how hearing loss might accelerate dementia. Lin has also theorized that the social isolation common with hearing loss, perhaps due to struggling to hear in conversations, can prove inadequately stimulating for the brain. This lack of stimulation could exaggerate dementia.

How to control hearing loss now

Given all the above about how hearing loss could accelerate dementia, you might feel compelled to schedule a hearing test for yourself or a loved one. After all, people of all ages can experience hearing loss, whether gradual (which is common) or sudden.

No matter you or your loved one’s age, a hearing test is a great first step for mitigating dementia, especially if you have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. Getting your hearing tested is easy – just contact an audiologist’s office for a checkup.

When you or your loved one sees an audiologist, don’t be shy about discussing dementia, especially if there’s a family history of any condition listed above. The audiologist can then recommend how often you or your loved one should schedule hearing tests. Your doctor should also explain the common signs of hearing loss and what to do if they’re observed. In most cases, you’ll be advised to schedule another hearing test and consider getting hearing aids.

Most modern hearing aids are nearly invisible, so you or your loved one can enjoy a thriving social life worry-free while hearing the world in full clarity.

All these hearing-related steps can help to slow the development of dementia. That said, they aren’t a cure for dementia, nor do they guarantee prevention.

How to help those with hearing loss and dementia

Not everyone will be lucky enough to catch their hearing loss in time to forestall the onset of dementia. To make matters worse, hearing loss and dementia can have similar impacts on a person’s everyday interactions. If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia and they don’t respond to your speech, you can’t quite know if hearing loss or dementia is the culprit.

In this case, you can help your loved one by conducting regular hearing checks. If their hearing is intact, you can assume they’re experiencing dementia. You should also remove any sounds or sights that could make it harder for your loved one to hear what you’re saying or read your lips. Make sure your loved one can actually see your face – a familiar sight can sometimes temporarily break through the challenging haze of dementia.

There’s another especially strong solution for you or your loved one for either dementia or hearing loss (or both). Hearing aids amplify sounds entering the ear to make up for hearing loss, and this extra brain stimulation can occasionally break through the neurological barriers of dementia. Many audiologist’s offices, such as I Love Hearing, also employ hearing aid specialists who make choosing and fitting hearing aids hassle-free.

Contact I Love Hearing about hearing loss and dementia

Whether you’re preventing dementia decades in advance or have concerns about a loved one living with dementia now, we at I Love Hearing would be happy to help. Visit any of our Long Island offices to speak with audiologists and hearing aid specialists who have decades of experience with all types of hearing loss. We’re happy to test anyone of any age for hearing loss, including as it relates to dementia, and help you create a treatment plan. Contact I Love Hearing today to book an appointment – living with or preventing dementia can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.