I myself have hearing loss so I can empathize with patients. I have to work at it every day, but I have found that as time has moved on I have used the techniques I have learned through my education and I can lead a normal life.
Northern California (PRWEB) October 30, 2013
As part of National Protect Your Hearing Month, Dr. Peter Marincovich stresses three components to maintaining optimal hearing: hearing loss prevention, individualized diagnostic hearing evaluations and rehabilitation (hearing solutions and learning to communicate effectively).
While aging can certainly have a negative impact on hearing for some people, the environment and other medical factors can be equally, if not more harmful to a person’s hearing. People whose work environment exposes them to loud noises such as construction workers, musicians and mechanics are more at risk for hearing damage than some others might be. Prolonged exposure to loud sounds can cause significant hearing loss, which left untreated, can affect performance of daily tasks and interrupt the ability to have conversations with others.
SIMPLE STEPS TO PROTECT HEARING
Wear ear plugs or ear muffs when exposed to excessively loud noise levels - Custom made hearing protectors are now available. Some protectors are designed to block sound equally for at all pitches, and are specifically designed for musicians. Some are designed with minimal attenuation for those who may need to hear speech more clearly while working. Other protectors are designed to be smaller and more pliable for purposes of sleeping.
Limit exposure to loud sounds - When exposed to loud sounds take frequent breaks, avoid loud concerts and follow documented permissible noise levels and exposure times.
Remove earwax properly - Do not use cotton swabs as they can damage your ear canal. Use at-home irrigation kits to soften wax when needed.
Do not smoke - Exposure to smoke has been linked to an increased risk of hearing loss
Check medications for hearing risks - Over 200 medications can potentially be ototoxic or damaging to the ear. And have your hearing tested periodically by a certified audiologist.
SELF-TESTING FOR HEARING LOSS
How do you know if the amount of sound exposure to is “too loud” or if the medication you are taking could potentially be affecting your hearing? Try these simple tests – if any of the below apply to your experience then you may be at risk for hearing loss;
- After the exposure your ears feel “plugged” or “stuffy”
- After the exposure your ears “ring” for an extended period of time
- After the exposure your hearing seems “muffled” or not distinct
KNOWING WHEN SOUND IS TOO LOUD
How do you know when you are in the presence of sounds that are too loud and potentially harmful to your hearing? The most effective measure of ‘too loud’ would be if you have to raise your voice to communicate with someone standing less than arm’s length away.
There are helpful apps that are available for download to a smart phone so you can use your phone to measure sound loudness levels. These applications are very user-friendly and let you know if you are in the range of potentially hazardous noise levels. For Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA) regulations for permissible exposure times and permissible loudness levels please check with any of our 4 office locations listed at the end of this article as sources for hearing education information.
When excessive noise or any number of other conditions have caused significant hearing loss there are now state-of-the-art options available that can improve hearing and help to keep you connected to the sounds and activities you enjoy.
At Audiology Associates, individualized diagnostic tests focus on the individual patient and the sounds and difficulties they experience. If hearing loss is a medically treatable condition, test results facilitate medical follow-up. If there are no medical and or surgical contraindications, the same test results can be part of a prescriptive hearing aid recommendation. However, it is no longer adequate to simply measure a patient’s hearing thresholds, (a patient’s ability to hear soft sounds).
Research shows us that the ear responds one way to soft sounds, another way to comfortable sounds and completely different way to loud sounds. For example, patients will often turn the TV volume up to hear the TV better and when commercials come on they seem “way too loud”. We know that the commercials are louder for everyone, but typically to someone with normal hearing they may not notice the difference whereas to someone with a hearing loss, they often seem “way too loud”. This can be disconcerting because it is expected that if someone needs soft sounds louder that they would need all sounds louder, but that is not the case.
Individualized testing is able to focus on how the ear hears soft sounds, but equally important is the measure of how a patient hears comfortable sounds- as well as loud sounds. As hearing loss develops we become less sensitive to soft sounds and more sensitive to loud sounds.
DIAGNOSTIC HEARING TESTS
I have had patients say, “I just thought everybody had tinnitus.” In many cases we are not sure what causes ringing in the ears, but in other cases it can be related to a medically treatable condition. Some of known medical conditions which can cause tinnitus include;
- Tempromandibular Jaw disorders (TMJ)
- certain medications
- ear infections
- other ear disorders
Although there is not a specific cure for tinnitus, often if it is associated with a medical condition, treating the medical condition can help resolve the problem. If unresponsive to treatment there are hearing solutions specifically designed to help patients manage their symptoms. Specifically, the pitch and loudness of the tinnitus can be measured through a type of amplifier much like a mixing board in a recording studio. In this way we are able to individually adjust pitch and loudness levels so that the amplified signal matches the pitch and loudness of the tinnitus providing valuable information on how to help the patient manage their tinnitus.
HEARING LOSS HELP
Using the latest in hearing technology, a hearing device is prescribed to each individual patient’s pitch so they can hear soft sound at a comfortable level, comfortable sounds at a comfortable and loud sounds not too loud.
When it comes to choosing the right hearing device it is important to consult with a certified audiologist. Often, hearing devices are selected and fit based on averages. These types of devices typically have to be constantly adjusted by the patient to compensate for soft and loud sounds. However, to maximally help a patient, the hearing aid should automatically compensate for varying loudness levels, so as to not be distracting from listening, providing better clarity as a result.
One of the best ways to help a patient communicate as effectively as possible is to make sure both hearing aids are matched, synched and locked, and that they work effectively together. Most hearing aids fit today require the patient to first adjust the left one then adjust the right one, making it very difficult for the patient to keep the hearing aids matched. Our unique MA5P Methodtm ensures that our patients hear maximally well.
At Audiology Associates, after a hearing aid is prescribed, it is fit for the patient matching the unique characteristics of a patient’s hearing. Each patient then enters an individualized rehabilitation process, which offers support, guidance and a communication guideline for reentering a world of active listening.
The hearing aid is only a third of the fitting process aimed at helping a patient communicate more effectively. Obviously, the device has to be a type and style appropriate for a patient’s communication needs. But after the fitting, it is equally important that we adapt the hearing aid to the patient as the patient adapts to the hearing aid.
Typically the patient’s auditory system has not heard certain sounds for many years. Just as the hearing loss occurred gradually, so does the reintroduction of new sound need to occur gradually. It is too much to give the auditory system the full complement of sound initially. We have the patient keep a journal of what they hear every day, and over a period of several months. After several visits with subsequent increases in amplification, the auditory system gradually adapts and reaches an ideal plateau.
The final third of the fitting process involves teaching the patient how to become an active listener. As part of Audiology Associates Lip Reading/ Communication skills classes we focus on listening skills as well as lip reading techniques (patients can actually learn to lip read and supplement their hearing by as much as 15-20 percent) to help the hearing impaired listener communicate more effectively with the talker.
As part of the listening skills training, there are three specific areas that we focus on: preparing to communicate, maintaining communication and repairing communication to help communication between a talker and a listener. Aspects of the training include;
- Have the talker get your attention. Make sure you know the talker is speaking to you. Attention plays a very big part in hearing better.
- Make sure the talker is speaking at a normal rate. All too often the talker gets excited about the topic and starts speaking too quickly. When you have a hearing loss, it takes a split second longer to think about and determine what was said. Even though the listener very often guesses correctly, it takes the brain that split second decipher the message and by then the talker is on to the next word or sentence, and the listener has to play catch-up.
Special Note: It is very important to solicit help from the talker in a very non-threatening way. In other words, if I just told someone to slow down, because they speak too fast they might take offense. Then the communicative situation can become confrontational. However, if you were to say, “I have a hearing loss, and I am having a difficult time understanding you, it would help me out if you could speak a little slower.” Now the talker knows you have a hearing loss and you have just told them what they can do differently to help you. It does not take long for the talker to realize that if they slow down, they only have to say things once.
Once these skills are mastered you can return to a life where you no longer miss out on conversation. Feeling isolated is a common trait of those with hearing loss and by informing those around you of your condition and working to become an active listener, communication becomes more effective.
“I myself have hearing loss so I can empathize with patients,” said Dr. Marincovich. “I have to work at it every day, but I have found that as time has moved on I have used the techniques I have learned through my education and I can lead a normal life connected to those around me.”
KEEPING PATIENTS CONNECTED
Keeping patients connected through the latest in audiology hearing loss prevention, diagnostics and rehabilitation services are essential when trying to help patients overcome hearing loss and communicate more effectively.
Audiology Associates offers comprehensive evaluations as well as an exceptional patient support network. Audiology Associates is Audigy Certified and belongs to an elite group of Audiologists across the country, which possesses the highest credentials and is among the country’s most experienced practitioners of hearing and diagnostic services, while maintaining a passion for personalized patient care.
Audiology Associates offers four Bay Area locations. Dr. Peter Marincovich spearheads the practice with a holistic approach that focuses on patient centered care and hearing loss prevention, the latest diagnostics and comprehensive rehabilitation. Having practiced audiology for almost 30 years, Dr. Marincovich and his team provide an exceptional experience by offering comprehensive services to patients in the North Bay. In addition, Dr. Marincovich volunteers his time offering outreach, support programs, free hearing screenings and hearing loss prevention services to North Bay communities. For more information about Audiology visit us at (http://www.audiologyassociates-sr.com/) or to schedule an appointment with Audiology Associates for expert hearing care, call 707-523-4740.