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What If I Have “Total Hearing Loss” In One of My Ears? (And What is a CROS System?)

As a general rule of thumb, hearing ability in the two ears should be near equal to each other. After all, your ears are the same age. If you have a history of noise exposure it was likely the same in both ears, and if you were prescribed a medicine with a side-effect that could impact hearing, it would impact both ears similarly.

­­­But, in some patients, hearing in one ear will diverge from the other. This can result from a host of otologic issues, including viral infection of the ear, physical trauma to the ear, and of unknown origin (medically diagnosed as “idiopathic hearing loss,” which is my favorite medical diagnosis because the root meaning of the phrase “idiopathic” is that the clinicians are idiots and don’t know what happened! Ha! I don’t say that to disparage any clinicians—it’s just sometimes we can’t figure out why the patient has worse hearing in one ear).

The separation of hearing levels between the two ears can sometimes be dramatic or even complete. Unfortunately, some patients have a “dead ear” (medically defined as anacusis) with normal hearing in the other ear. In other patients, there is an “asymmetric hearing loss” which implies hearing loss in one ear and even worse hearing in the other ear.

The brain was designed to hear with two ears, and it will function best with equal hearing in both ears. Binaural (two-ear) hearing has significant benefits that include increased sound localization ability (e.g. figuring out where sound is coming from in the room) and enhanced perception of speech in noisy situations. These characteristics of binaural hearing are often referred to as the “Binaural Advantage.” If you know somebody with “lopsided” hearing loss, you will notice that she always strategizes to improve the listening environment by having the speaker(s) on her better hearing side.

While the course of treatment for individuals with significantly poorer hearing in one ear is different than the patient with symmetrical hearing loss, NeuroTechnology™ can be used to significantly enhance hearing and understanding in all listening situations.

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How Are Hearing Loss and Depression Related?

Picture this: You’re at a party, and you’re running into all kinds of people you haven’t seen in ages. However, you can’t hear what these folks are saying over the music and surrounding chatter. You keep trying to hear them, but after enough times saying “What?” or asking people to speak louder, you give up. You head home from the party early while feeling frustrated and upset, and you worry this all will happen again at the next party. So why even go?

This example shows how hearing loss can push people toward the social isolation associated with depression. This clinical disorder describes such an intense loss in one’s usual favorite activities that they experience significant impairment in their everyday life. Several studies have also correlated it with hearing loss. This correlation may seem scary, but think of it like this: Protecting your hearing means protecting your mental health.

How can hearing loss accelerate depression?

Several studies have identified a potential correlation, though not quite a cause-and-effect relationship, between hearing loss and depression:

1. JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery

A 2014 study of 18,000 adults reported in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery found that nearly twice as many people with hearing loss reported depression than those with unaltered hearing. This study is perhaps the most comprehensive to date on the correlation between hearing loss and depression.

The JAMA study found that the correlation between hearing loss and depression was stronger for those under 70 years old and women of all ages. The study suggested that the correlation is stronger for women since, after age 65, they lose hearing at higher sound frequencies than men. When hearing at these higher frequencies is lost, it becomes more difficult to distinguish environmental noise from the conversation directly in front of you.

The study also found that more severe hearing loss was correlated with more severe depression. Researchers took additional steps to account for other conditions sometimes associated with hearing loss, such as vision loss[LK1] , and found that their findings remained unchanged.

2. Ear and Hearing

Prior to the above JAMA study, a smaller 2009 Ear and Hearingstudy came to similar conclusions. The study, which surveyed 1,511 participants, found that for every 1 decibel (dB) by which a person’s signal-to-noise decreases, their likelihood of depression increased by five percent. In simpler terms, the more loudly a person with hearing loss must ask a person to speak in noisy environments, the more likely they are to develop depression.

3. Dovepress and Medicine

Most recently, in 2019, a peer-reviewed study reported in the open-access journal Dovepressfound that one in five people with hearing loss also has clinical depression symptoms. This study cited another study reported in Medicine in 2016, in which those with hearing loss experienced higher rates of depression over a 12-year period.

The Medicine study agreed with the JAMA study that the correlation between hearing loss and depression weakens after age 70. Nevertheless, the above studies all provide ample reason to protect your hearing now – and, by extension, your long-term mental health.

How to protect your hearing and avert potential depression

Many, if not most, people will experience a small amount of hearing loss over time. Keeping that amount as small as possible through hearing protection can be key to warding off depression. You can preserve your hearing through the following methods:

  • Protective devices. Earplugs work great when you’re at a concert or event and the music is so loud it’s literally hurting your ears. For work with power tools and other loud devices, high-quality soundproof earmuffs are necessary. Alternatively, you can consult the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Buy Quiet list to find less noisy equipment.
  • Lower volume levels. Yes, it’s nice to hear your favorite songs in full detail, but high volume levels can damage your ear canal’s hair cells. This damage is a primary cause of hearing loss, so keep the volume down when you’re listening to music or watching TV. This lower volume is important when using speakers and absolutely crucial when using headphones.
  • Breaks. The easiest way to protect your hearing is to simply remove yourself from environments with loud sounds. That means taking breaks when you’re working with power tools. It can also mean stepping outside for a few minutes at the club or during a concert. If you’re left with muffled hearing or ringing ears after loud noise exposure, you should spend 12 to 16 hours avoiding sounds louder than conversation.

How to address hearing loss and depression

If you’re concerned about how your hearing can affect your mental health, there’s never a bad time to schedule a hearing test with an audiologist. Hearing tests are painless and non-invasive, not to mention brief and easy. All you’ll do is listen to speech or sound, then follow your audiologist’s instructions on how to respond. You’ll see your results on an audiogram, which shows the degree of hearing loss you may or may not have.

If your test uncovers hearing loss, your audiologist will recommend hearing aids. These devices restore your hearing to its former levels more than any other method available. No, they can’t cure or reverse hearing loss – nothing can – but they come closer than anything else. Plus, here at I Love Hearing, we’re experts in hearing aid use and pairing those with hearing loss to the devices best for them.

Contact I Love Hearing about hearing loss and depression

Whether you’re acting early to preserve your mental health or have already noticed your hearing declining, I Love Hearing is here to help you hear. Our hearing exams and hearing aids can be part of your treatment and prevention plans, and you can get both at our four Long Island locations.

Our audiologists are happy to conduct hearing tests for people of all ages. If we observe hearing loss, we’ll work with you to develop a treatment plan you can follow without issue. Plus, if you book an appointment for yourself and bring someone with you, that person gets a free hearing test too!

Contact I Love Hearing now to protect your hearing today and your mental health in the long run. Aging into depression can seem worrisome, but with our help, you’ll hear the world in all its glory and experience its joys through even your oldest years. Schedule your appointment today.

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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.

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Ototoxicity And Hearing Loss: What You Need To Know

Most medications come with the potential for side effects, hearing loss among them. Unfortunately, some medications that treat conditions ranging from chronic kidney failure to cancer and even malaria can damage your hearing temporarily or permanently. This damage occurs via a phenomenon called ototoxicity.

What is ototoxicity?

Ototoxicity occurs when medication or an environmental contaminant causes damage to the inner ear. Ototoxic drugs can lead to hearing and balance disorders such as vertigo, tinnitus (ringing sounds in your ears), total loss of balance, or mild to severe hearing loss.

The symptoms of ototoxicity can be temporary or permanent. If your symptoms disappear after you stop taking ototoxic medications (as is often the case), you can safely assume your symptoms were temporary. If not, your symptoms may be permanent. If that’s the case, there are treatment options available to help you manage these symptoms.

Which medications cause ototoxicity?

Several medications are known to cause temporary or permanent ototoxicity, but many ototoxic drugs are not known to doctors or patients just yet. That’s because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not analyze substances’ effects on inner ear function or structure as part of its approval process. As a result, some medications may reach the market and seem entirely safe until audiologists observe correlations between certain drugs and hearing loss.

Given this distinction, the below list of medications that cause ototoxicity may not be comprehensive, though the drugs listed are confirmed to be ototoxic. This list is separated by whether they cause temporary or permanent ototoxicity:

Temporary ototoxicity

  • Aspirin. This common pain medication (which can also treat heart conditions) can temporarily induce tinnitus and hearing loss, particularly at high doses.
  • Loop diuretics. These medications used to treat high blood pressure and edema due to kidney disease or congestive heart failure can cause temporary high-pitched ringing or hearing loss. Common loop diuretics include Bumex, Edecrin, Lasix, and Demadex.
  • Quinine. Unlike many other ototoxic drugs, quinine affects balance, which is connected to inner ear function, and not hearing. These substances, which are used to treat malaria or idiopathic muscle cramps, include chloroquine, quinidine, and tonic water.

Permanent ototoxicity

  • Anti-cancer drugs. Some anticancer drugs can destroy the ear’s hair cells as they kill cancer cells. Cisplatin-based chemotherapy drugs are especially notorious for leading to severe permanent hearing loss, and carboplatin-based chemotherapy drugs can lead to ear damage as well.
  • Aminoglycoside antibiotics. This class of antibiotics is used to treat conditions including cystic fibrosis. It includes amikacin, dihydrostreptomycin, gentamicin, kanamycin, neomycin, netilmicin, ribostamycin, streptomycin, and tobramycin. These antibiotics are more ototoxic if administered intravenously than by pill.

If you see a drug you’re taking on the above list, you shouldn’t immediately stop treatment. Instead, there are other actions you should take first.

What to do if you’re taking ototoxic medications

If you see any of your medications on the list above, speak with your doctor to see if you can replace your ototoxic medication with a similar prescription that has fewer or no hearing-related side effects. You should also inquire as to whether you have any risk factors that make you more susceptible to hearing loss, which can be exacerbated by ototoxic medication. These risk factors include:

  • Impaired kidney function
  • Taking several ototoxic medications simultaneously
  • Age
  • Preexisting hearing loss
  • Pregnancy
  • For anti-cancer drugs, prior exposure to head and neck radiation

Even if you lack these risk factors, you could still experience hearing or balance problems if you’re taking ototoxic drugs. Physical therapy can potentially help you with any balance problems you experience, and audiologists and hearing aid specialists can address your hearing loss.

For example, here at I Love Hearing, we’re happy to provide you with regular hearing screenings as you move through your regimen of ototoxic drugs. This way, we can catch the early signs of ototoxic hearing loss so you can work with your doctor to develop new treatment plans that lessen or avoid ototoxicity.

Ototoxicity and environmental chemicals

Though not drugs, environmental chemicals are important to know when discussing ototoxicity. Exposure to these ototoxic substances can cause permanent hearing loss. They include butyl nitrite, carbon monoxide, carbon disulfide, hexane, lead, manganese, mercury, styrene, tin, toluene, trichloroethylene, and xylene. If you suspect that you are being exposed to these chemicals at work or at home, speak with your doctor to determine next steps and decide the best way to mitigate this risk.

Treat your ototoxicity at I Love Hearing

In the case of temporary ototoxicity, you might just need to switch medications, as your symptoms should gradually subside after you stop taking ototoxic drugs. On the other hand, if you have experienced permanent hearing loss or inner ear damage, then hearing aids may be necessary. Here at I Love Hearing, we specialize in using hearing aids to address all kinds of hearing loss, including ototoxicity, and we’re eager to help all ototoxicity patients.

When you choose I Love Hearing, you get the convenience of choosing from among four different locations in New York City and Long Island. You also get access to every leading hearing aid brand and an unparalleled selection of additional hearing aid companies.

With this flexibility, you can address your ototoxic hearing loss on your own terms. Contact us today to book your appointment and return to hearing the city that never sleeps in all its round-the-clock glory!

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Tinnitus, Hearing Loss, and COVID: What We Know So Far

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Connected to Covid?

Recently, you may have seen some concerning headlines about tinnitus and COVID-19. These news stories may seem scary, but in reality, audiologists are still learning about the relationship between tinnitus and COVID-19. In this blog, we’ll explain audiologists’ findings to date about COVID-19 and tinnitus, and explore your treatment options if you recently developed tinnitus.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus describes the constant sensation of unpleasant buzzing, ringing, or clicking noises in the ears. It isn’t a cause of hearing loss and can’t worsen your hearing loss, but it does often make hearing significantly tougher. Approximately 25 million Americans have this condition. Learn more about tinnitus on I Love Hearing’s website.

What we know about COVID, hearing loss, and tinnitus so far

In early research into the link between tinnitus and COVID-19, stories emerged of some COVID-19 patients experiencing tinnitus and other forms of sudden hearing loss. More recent research has yet to conclusively link COVID-19 to causing or worsening tinnitus, even though COVID-19 affects other senses such as smell and taste.

That said, there are signs of a potential but weak correlation between COVID-19 and tinnitus. An October 2020 case study in the British scientific journal BMJreported the case of a 45-year-old COVID-19 patient who had no significant hearing loss prior to his infection. After surviving severe COVID-19 symptoms that required hospitalization, the patient reported tinnitus and sudden hearing loss.

Additionally, a February 2021 report in the International Journal of Audiologyfound that tinnitus comprised 14.8 percent of auditory complications among COVID-19 patients who reported symptoms that affected their hearing. Prior to this report’s publishing, a November 2020 survey of people with tinnitus in the scientific journal Frontiers in Public Health more broadly addressed potential COVID-19 and tinnitus correlations.

In this survey, researchers asked 3,100 respondents – among whom were both people who have been diagnosed with COVID and those who have not – how the pandemic affected their tinnitus. Out of 3,100 respondents, 237 said they had experienced COVID-19 symptoms, and 40 percent of these 237 respondents (around 95 people) noticed worsened tinnitus alongside their symptoms. Notably, the survey’s lead author has said that the survey should not be misread as establishing concrete connections between COVID-19 and tinnitus. That said, some audiologists believe that, since viral inflammation cases can affect the inner ear, tinnitus could indeed follow some COVID-19 cases.

Another theory is that COVID-19 upper respiratory infections can lead to middle ear infections that may result in temporary tinnitus. In fact, one autopsy of a patient who died from COVID-19 found the virus in the patient’s middle ear bones.

Although more conclusive evidence is needed to link these findings to tinnitus, some patients are still reporting this troubling symptom to their doctors and to researchers. Treatments for tinnitus are available no matter the cause.

How is tinnitus treated?

Although tinnitus has no cure, there are therapies that audiologists and hearing aid specialists can deploy to help people with tinnitus go about their daily lives. The tinnitus therapy process typically begins with audiometric testing and a complete review of the patient’s medical history. Audiologists can combine the data from these two sources with their own knowledge to pinpoint likely tinnitus causes and develop a treatment plan.

Tinnitus treatment plans could involve the use of hearing aids. People with tinnitus may find that hearing aids restore part or all of their hearing lost to the unpleasant sounds of tinnitus. They do so by amplifying sounds that enter the ear, whereas maskers emit sounds that disguise the unpleasant sounds of tinnitus without further irritating their users. Maskers are also available to emit a low frequency noise that helps cover up the persistent noises caused by tinnitus.

Outside these two treatments, you can manage your tinnitus by smoking and drinking less. You should also avoid loud noises or use noise-canceling devices when around loud sounds. Sometimes, though, these solutions on their own aren’t enough – and if this sounds like you, then you might want to see an audiologist.

Contact I Love Hearing for tinnitus therapy

Whether your tinnitus is the result of COVID-19 or anything else, we here at I Love Hearing are eager to help. We have four offices in Manhattan and Long Island, and our audiologists and hearing aid experts have decades of experience assisting people with tinnitus.

If we determine that hearing aids will best help with your tinnitus, you can try options from the vast majority of hearing aid brands. With our “try it before you buy it” policy, you can test your hearing aids in real life before putting down even a single penny. And we’re happy to test anyone for hearing loss, including tinnitus, and develop a treatment plan – just contact I Love Hearing today to book an appointment and take the first steps toward restoring your hearing.