What Are The Treatment Options For Tinnitus?

March 29, 2019.  “What are the treatment options for tinnitus?”  It’s a question that anyone who has tinnitus has asked of their audiologist or doctor, or done a Google search for.  Two decades ago, the doctor told me “There is no cure, so you have to learn to live with it.  My advice is to ignore it.  Don’t give it the time of day.”  He went on to say that the more I focused on it, the worse the symptoms would be, and he used the analogy of a refrigerator. “A fridge makes a lot of noise, but you don’t pay any attention to it, do you?” he asked.

He was wrong about the fridge analogy.  I don’t pay any attention to my fridge, but I ALWAYS know I have tinnitus.  But he did do me a favour in that I learned to live with tinnitus and not let it stop me from getting the most out of life.  Decades later, at the seminar on tinnitus that Dr Heidi Eaton of Argus Audiology held in Charlottetown, I was very interested to see if anything had changed in treatment options.

Dr Eaton noted that “In most cases of tinnitus there is NO CURE.”  Not what I, and everyone else in the room, wanted to hear.  She went on to say that “We try to find ways to better manage your tinnitus.  There are many successful treatments.  There are also many ‘false’ treatments.

Since tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition, Dr Eaton recommended that the first step in looking for treatment options is to look for the cause by having a “complete audiological evaluation by a qualified audiologist, who in turn can help make a referral to an ENT doctor for a medical evaluation, if it’s warranted.”  That’s exactly what happened to me, so many years ago.

Dr Eaton then summarized treatment options, cautioning that while “there are various treatments available, they do not always work for everyone.”  The list included:

·         Counselling – to reduce the stress and distraction posed by tinnitus

·         Stress Management and relaxation – since there is a high correlation between stress and an increase in the perception of loudness of tinnitus

·         Change in diet – reducing levels of salt and caffeine can reduce the perceived level of loudness of tinnitus

·         Stop smoking – as nicotine can cause an increase in the perceived level of tinnitus

·         Sound therapy – to make you aware that the perceived loudness of tinnitus is related to the quiet or noisy environment around you, which explains why tinnitus is more irritating at nighttime when you are trying to sleep!

·         Music therapy – listening to music that relaxes you and makes you happy will reduce the perceived level of tinnitus

·         Protection from loud noise – wear hearing protection as loud noise can make tinnitus louder and damage hearing

·         Support groups for tinnitus – to share experiences and useful strategies for coping with tinnitus, as well as provide emotional support

Another treatment briefly discussed was Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, used in severe cases of tinnitus.  This is similar to the fridge analogy used so many years ago by my doctor, where the “long term goal is to be unaware that the tinnitus is there except when you focus on it.”  In this treatment, “noise generators are presented into both ears at a soft enough level that the brain perceives both the noise and the tinnitus.  Eventually, over a period of 18 to 24 months, the brain may relearn a pattern that will de-emphasize the importance of the tinnitus.”  In other words,  if the treatment works, you won’t notice you have tinnitus.

Dr Eaton explained that if you have hearing loss as well as tinnitus, then “hearing aids and cochlear implants are another form of sound therapy as they amplify sound. They can be very effective in relieving tinnitus as well as helping you hear better.

Masking was another treatment option which uses an external electronic device to produce sound that hopefully will cover up (mask) tinnitus.  There are two basic types of maskers:

·         Hearing aids with tinnitus masking – a combined hearing aid with a masker for those who have both hearing loss and tinnitus

·         Commercial noise generators or even a small fan – various types of electronic devices that are “especially useful at night time when trying to sleep”.

When asked about the many medications that are advertised as being helpful for relieving tinnitus, Dr Eaton explained that “there is no single medication that works on all tinnitus patients.”  However, she also went on to say that “Certain anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications have proven quite successful for the treatment of the stress/anxiety surrounding tinnitus.”

In summing up her presentation, Dr Eaton’s tips stressed these important tips:

·         Keep busy to take the concentration off tinnitus

·         Avoid silence, especially if you have trouble sleeping at night

·         Eat well and have a healthy lifestyle

·         Recognize the importance of a self-help group

·         Make sure your family and friends understand tinnitus and what you are dealing with

·         Question your doctor and pharmacist about tinnitus side effects in any medication prescribed for you

Lastly, Dr Eaton explained that research into tinnitus is ongoing, particularly with so many current military members who have tinnitus and hearing loss.  I look forward to learning more in the coming years!

Would you like to help build our knowledge of the effects of tinnitus and coping strategies?  Here is a questionnaire to help you get started.  (Tinnitus questionnaire)  You will help others by sharing your own unique story.

If you haven’t read the two previous articles in this series on tinnitus, you can see them here: Is the Water Running Or Is It Tinnitus? and What Will INCREASE Your Tinnitus Symptoms?

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  The Ross Family Concert at Shore Shore United Church in Tryon, April 7, at 2:30 pm. Sharing a blend of Acadian and Scottish, this high-energy trio offers an afternoon of entertainment sure to raise your spirits. Auction viewing and bidding begins at 1:45 pm. Advance Tickets $12, at the door $15. For tickets call Bev 439-2352 or Cindy 658-2863.

Spring session of Level 1 Speech reading classes begin Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and run for 10 weeks.  Two sessions are offered with speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee: a day class 1-3 pm, and an evening class 7-9 pm. Level 1 covers information to help people better understand hearing loss. Focus is on the most visible consonant shapes of speech.  There are many exercises and class interaction to work on improving your awareness and ability to interpret.  Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice! But don’t worry.  As Nancy says, “We also try to have some fun!” Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.

Interested in Level 2 Speech reading?  The spring class is completely full.  If you want to add your name for the next session, and you’ve taken Level 1, please send us an email.

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

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What Will INCREASE Your Tinnitus Symptoms?

March 25, 2019.  In the previous blog posting, a brief explanation on tinnitus and some of its causes was given, based on a recent seminar presented by Dr Heidi Eaton of Argus Audiology.  (See Is the Water Running Or Is It Tinnitus? )  Tinnitus affects 15 to 17% of the population.  If you thought you were alone in having tinnitus, think again.  It affects 15 to 17% of the population, including many famous people over the years.  (For a brief list, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_tinnitus )

One of the more fascinating parts of the seminar came when Dr Eaton explained that there were factors that INCREASE a person’s tinnitus symptoms!  What?  I made sure I was paying very close attention!

Edvard_Munch,_1893,_The_Scream,_oil,_tempera_and_pastel_on_cardboard,_91_x_73_cm,_National_Gallery_of_Norway

Does ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch illustrate how frustrating tinnitus can be? (Photo credit: By Edvard Munch – National Gallery of Norway, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69541493)

There are 3 major dimensions of tinnitus distress,” Dr Eaton explained.  “Auditory, attention, and emotion.”  In other words, tinnitus can affect your hearing, your ability to pay attention, and your emotional well-being.  The “exacerbating factors”, as Dr Eaton described them, play a role.  These factors include:

·         Stress, particularly excessive stress

·         Lack of sleep or fatigue

·         Noise exposure

·         Sodium levels, ie salt

·         Caffeine

·         Alcohol and or nicotine

·         Overexertion or strenuous exercise

So, your dietary choices affect your tinnitus.  Hmmm… maybe I should switch to decaf to reduce my caffeine level!  After learning that high or low blood pressure can cause tinnitus, sodium levels as a factor is not a surprise.

An August 2012 article in the journal ‘Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics’, entitled ‘Emotional Exhaustion as a Predictor of Tinnitus’ by Sylvie Hébert, Barbara Canlon, and Dan Hasson (see https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230598682_Emotional_Exhaustion_as_a_Predictor_of_Tinnitus) reported that a study indicated that ‘emotional exhaustion — or the feeling of being drained due to chronic stress — was a strong predictor of symptom severity’.

Noise exposure is a constant in our busy societies. The World Health Organization recommends no higher than 85 decibels, over a period of 8 hours.  How realistic is this?  Here are some examples of common sounds we are exposed to:

Leaf blowers were cited in one article as “a danger to your hearing as they operate between 90 and 115 decibels (dB), depending upon the model; damage begins at 90 decibels (dB)”.  (See https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/11/28/gas-powered-leaf-blower-triggers-hearing-damage.aspx). Personally, I really dislike leaf blowers.  While the operators use hearing protection (usually) for themselves, they expose everyone around them to this noise pollutant. We get exposed to them several times a week during our winter vacation. The sound is so loud it comes through even a closed window several stories up!

I was surprised that excessive exercise can increase tinnitus symptoms, not that it would ever be a factor in my case. While low-impact aerobics and yoga can relieve tinnitus symptoms, a research study by Dr. Michael I. Weintraub of the New York Medical College suggests that exercises that involve “jarring movements and a lot of jumping” should be avoided because it could cause “the otoconia, calcium crystals in our ears, to be jarred out of their normal places, causing inner ear problems. High-impact aerobics, running, basketball, football, soccer and volleyball should be done in moderation, if at all.” (See https://www.livestrong.com/article/308626-exercises-that-worsen-tinnitus/)

Now we have an idea of what tinnitus is, what can cause it, and what aggravates it.  How do you treat it?   The story of tinnitus will continue in the next blog posting.

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  The Ross Family Concert at Shore Shore United Church in Tryon, April 7, at 2:30 pm. Sharing a blend of Acadian and Scottish, this high-energy trio offers an afternoon of entertainment sure to raise your spirits. Auction viewing and bidding begins at 1:45 pm. Advance Tickets $12, at the door $15. For tickets call Bev 439-2352 or Cindy 658-2863.

Spring session of Level 1 Speech reading classes begin Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and run for 10 weeks.  Two sessions are offered with speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee: a day class 1-3 pm, and an evening class 7-9 pm. Level 1 covers information to help people better understand hearing loss. Focus is on the most visible consonant shapes of speech.  There are many exercises and class interaction to work on improving your awareness and ability to interpret.  Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice! But don’t worry.  As Nancy says, “We also try to have some fun!” Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.

Interested in Level 2 Speech reading?  The spring class is completely full.  If you want to add your name for the next session, and you’ve taken Level 1, please send us an email.

IMG_7060 Lisa Gallant

Lisa Gallant

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Is the Water Running Or Is It Tinnitus?

March 23, 2019.  The other night I woke up suddenly to the sound of water running.  Did we leave a tap on by mistake? I nudged my husband.  “I hear water running!”  He groggily sat up and listened. Unlike me, he has supersonic hearing.  “You’re imagining things.  Go back to sleep.”  Reassured, I did.

Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing noises or sounds in one or both ears, or in the head. 

You may be wondering why I believed my husband when he said he didn’t hear water running.  It’s because I have tinnitus.  Tinnitus, more commonly referred to as a ringing in the ears, is the sensation of hearing noises or sounds in one or both ears, or in the head, which don’t have an external source.  An example of what is meant by ‘external source’?  While I thought I heard running water, the tap was actually shut off.

Some of the noises people with tinnitus hear are: ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping, whistling, or other sounds. The noise can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in loudness. Although sometimes it can be annoying to work my way past the noise, I have over two decades of experience with it and am largely successful at blocking out the noise. My life is made easier due to my very techie husband.  For example, he’s programmed electronics like the phone and my tablet so that there is no mistaking the sound from them.

This incident reminded me that last year we’d had a seminar with Dr. Heidi Eaton of Argus Audiology in Moncton on tinnitus, which I’d never gotten around to writing about.   Now that tinnitus was on my mind, it was a good opportunity to delve more into this condition.

In her seminar, Dr Eaton explained that tinnitus affects “about 15 to 17% of the general population.  Of that percentage, more than 30% are over the age of 65.

The perceived volume of noise heard can range from barely noticeable to severe and debilitating.”  About 4 to 5% of the population really suffers, which means that “more than 250,000 Canadians are severely affected by tinnitus.

I was surprised to learn three new things about tinnitus:

·        It is more common in men than in women

·       While it is associated with hearing loss, not everyone with tinnitus has hearing loss, and not everyone with hearing loss has tinnitus

·        It is a SYMPTOM, not a DISEASE!

Dr Eaton then gave a brief summary of some of the most common causes of tinnitus:

·         Noise exposure (the leading cause of tinnitus!)

·         Aging of your hearing system

·         Ear disease (such as an ear infection)

·         Ménière’s disease (an inner ear disorder characterized by episodes of feeling like the world is spinning (vertigo), tinnitus, hearing loss, and fullness in the ear)

·         Medication (you won’t want to miss our upcoming meeting on April 16 to learn more!)

·         Head or neck injury, such as a whiplash or concussion

·         Acoustic neuroma (a benign tumour that develops on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain)

·         Ear wax buildup

·         TMJ disorder (the temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull. If injured or damaged, it can lead to a disorder called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome)

·         High or low blood pressure

·         Diabetes

·         Vascular disorders

·         Allergies

·         Thyroid dysfunction

ds00365_im00193_ww5r606t_jpg

Per this Mayo Clinic diagram, tinnitus can be caused by broken or damaged hairs on auditory cells, turbulence in a carotid artery or jugular vein, TMJ issues, and problems in the auditory processing pathways of the brain. (Photo credit: Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156?mc_id=us&utm_source=newsnetwork&utm_medium=l&utm_content=content&utm_campaign=mayoclinic&geo=national&placementsite=enterprise&cauid=100721)

Noise exposure is the leading cause of tinnitus.” 

Dr Eaton stressed that “Noise exposure is the leading cause of tinnitus and is very preventable with the use of hearing protection.”  In an interview with BBC2 last year, musician Eric Clapton noted that “….The only thing I’m concerned with now is being in my Seventies and being able to be proficient. I mean, I’m going deaf, I’ve got tinnitus…” (See https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/eric-clapton-im-going-deaf-w515334.)

Aging rockers aren’t the only ones affected.  While industry has made improvements to hearing protection for workers and farmers, loud noises outside of the workplace can be a problem.  A recent article from New Zealand discussed the alarming number of children with hearing loss and tinnitus. (See https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/lifestyle/2019/03/generation-deaf-how-new-zealand-s-alarming-headphone-habits-are-ruining-our-hearing.html)

Now that you know what tinnitus is, and what can cause it, you’re probably interested to know more.  What affects the intensity of tinnitus?  How do you treat it?   The story of tinnitus will continue in the next blog posting.

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  The Ross Family Concert at Shore Shore United Church in Tryon, April 7, at 2:30 pm. Sharing a blend of Acadian and Scottish, this high-energy trio offers an afternoon of entertainment sure to raise your spirits. Auction viewing and bidding begins at 1:45 pm. Advance Tickets $12, at the door $15. For tickets call Bev 439-2352 or Cindy 658-2863.

Spring session of Level 1 Speech reading classes begin Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and run for 10 weeks.  Two sessions are offered with speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee: a day class 1-3 pm, and an evening class 7-9 pm. Level 1 covers information to help people better understand hearing loss. Focus is on the most visible consonant shapes of speech.  There are many exercises and class interaction to work on improving your awareness and ability to interpret.  Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice! But don’t worry.  As Nancy says, “We also try to have some fun!” Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.

Interested in Level 2 Speech reading?  The spring class is completely full.  If you want to add your name for the next session, and you’ve taken Level 1, please send us an email.

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Those Annoying Tinny Computerized Voices!

March 18, 2019.  A few weeks ago, one of our friends got on the elevator in our hotel and said “Don’t you find the voice of the elevator annoying?”  I was a bit surprised.  “The elevator talks?”  There were a few other people in the elevator, and several piped in, with the general consensus that the elevator does indeed talk, supposedly telling you what floor it’s stopped on, but no one, even the ones with good hearing, gave it a positive review.  “It’s supposed to tell you that we’re on the 4th floor, but it sounds like it says 1st floor” I was told.

I was amazed.  I’ve spent part of every winter for the past seven years in this hotel and never knew that the elevator spoke!  Next time I was on the elevator by myself I listened carefully.  Our friend was correct.  It does talk, but what comes out is indeed gibberish.  Luckily, each floor is identified with a number as soon as the elevator door opens.  A digital screen appears inside the elevator, and just outside the elevator the floor you are on is marked with a number and in Braille. You wouldn’t have a clue which floor you were on if you depended on the elevator voice itself.  Unfortunately, I have a habit of tuning out gibberish.  I’m quite sure that the very first time I used that elevator, so many years ago, I couldn’t understand it, and tuned it out.  Over the years, I forgot that it had an annoyingly tinny voice that made no sense whatsoever.  I thought it was just me.  It wasn’t.

 

Digital readout on left, giving an indication of the floor the elevator is on.  On the right, as you come out of the elevator, the floor number is marked, including in Braille.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

I was reminded of that elevator when I read about upset customers who were forced to use a store’s self-checkout, against their will.  One of the customers, who the reporter described as ‘hard of hearing’ said that “I hate these new blasted self-checkouts, because they talk to you and I can’t figure out what they’re saying.” (See https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/shoppers-drug-mart-superstore-self-checkout-loblaw-1.5056800)  It was déjà vu for me as I had no idea that the self-checkouts spoke. Mind you, I’ve only tried it out twice.

One time I wanted to buy a birthday card for my husband before he found me and caught me buying his card.  The staffed checkout line was so long that I got lured to the self-checkout.  One item.  How difficult could it be?  It was a pain in the you know what, and if the machine spoke to me, I didn’t hear it. Meanwhile my husband had gone through a newly opened staffed checkout line and was waiting for me, perfectly aware of my surprise purchase.

The other experience was in a grocery store. There are two grocery stores near our hotel, both big chain stores.   One is a large store with a large number of cash registers, only one of which is ever in operation, and several self-checkouts.  The other store is smaller, has several staffed checkout registers, and no self-checkouts.  We were in the larger store, and the one staffed checkout line was very long.  My husband got impatient and went to the self-checkout.  We keep track of the prices, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that the self-checkout wasn’t registering the discounted prices.  There was a button to push for assistance, and by the time it was straightened out, it took us longer than if we had waited in the other line.

We now shop at the smaller store, with no self-checkouts. Hmmm…maybe if I get a robot to do my grocery shopping, it can go to the self-checkout and they can chirp away to each other.  It’s a shame that the tech geniuses can’t come up with a computerized voice that is actually understandable.

So now I’m curious. How many of you can hear and understand the computerized voices that are everywhere these days?   In your car?  The answering machine on your phone?  When you call a business and get put on hold?

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  The Ross Family Concert at Shore Shore United Church in Tryon, April 7, at 2:30 pm. Sharing a blend of Acadian and Scottish, this high-energy trio offers an afternoon of entertainment sure to raise your spirits. Auction viewing and bidding begins at 1:45 pm. Advance Tickets $12, at the door $15. For tickets call Bev 439-2352 or Cindy 658-2863.

Spring session of Level 1 Speech reading classes begin Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and run for 10 weeks.  Two sessions are offered with speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee: a day class 1-3 pm, and an evening class 7-9 pm. Level 1 covers information to help people better understand hearing loss. Focus is on the most visible consonant shapes of speech.  There are many exercises and class interaction to work on improving your awareness and ability to interpret.  Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice! But don’t worry.  As Nancy says, “We also try to have some fun!” Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.

Interested in Level 2 Speech reading?  The spring class is completely full.  If you want to add your name for the next session, and you’ve taken Level 1, please send us an email.

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

 

Middle Ear Transplants? Fact or Fiction?

March 16, 2019.  Lately, when I read about some of the advances to improve hearing health, I’m left wondering whether what I’m reading is:

a)      Science fiction

b)      A joke or some kind of ‘fake news’

c)      Amazingly true

My reaction to an article about using 3D technology to design a middle ear for a transplant was no different! A hospital in South Africa did just that, printing out 3 bones from the middle ear to transplant into a 35 year old man whose ear had been damaged in a car accident.   This operation restored his hearing!

These three small bones of the middle ear, collectively called ossicles, work together to receive, amplify, and transmit the sound from the eardrum to the inner ear. The ossicles are the hammer (malleus), anvil (incus), and the stirrup (stapes). Did you know that the stirrup (stapes) is the smallest named bone we have?

Blausen_0330_EarAnatomy_MiddleEar

Diagram of the Middle Ear. (Photo credit: Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29025010)

So what are the implications of this transplant?  A spokesperson at the hospital where the transplant was performed explained that “This may be the answer to conductive hearing loss, a middle ear problem caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic diseases.”  Wow! (See https://www.health24.com/Medical/Hearing-management/News/steve-biko-hospital-conducts-worlds-first-ever-middle-ear-transplant-20190314)

If you’ve lost your hearing due to a condition affecting the middle ear, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this ground breaking surgery.  And we’d welcome input from medical professionals who may have more information than was available in the article.  Is middle ear transplant surgery coming soon to a hospital here in Canada?

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  The Ross Family Concert at Shore Shore United Church in Tryon, April 7, at 2:30 pm. Sharing a blend of Acadian and Scottish, this high-energy trio offers an afternoon of entertainment sure to raise your spirits. Auction viewing and bidding begins at 1:45 pm. Advance Tickets $12, at the door $15. For tickets call Bev 439-2352 or Cindy 658-2863.

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  If you would like to register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

 

A Link Between Hearing Loss and Your Heart?

March 12, 2019.  A few years ago I read a book, ‘Scotland’s Inventors – How Scotland Invented Everything’, by Callan Anderson (See https://www.amazon.com/Scotlands-Inventors-Scotland-Invented-Everything-ebook/dp/B00E51N5BG).  At first I thought this was a joke, but quickly realized that the book explained Scottish connections to inventions and schools of thought.  ‘Who knew?’ was my reaction.

I was reminded of this book as new information keeps coming out on the link between our hearing and the physiology of our body.  The most recent is a link between hearing loss and heart disease.  What?  My mother had a heart condition and I spent many years traipsing to cardiologists with her over the years.  Not once did one of her cardiologists discuss her hearing, although it was obvious to each one that she had hearing loss!  They discussed her other medical conditions and diet, but hearing health?  Not once.  So I read the articles discussing a link with both great interest and scepticism.

So what’s the link? Our inner ears have a lot of blood vessels.  Per a study by Dr. David Friedland, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and other researchers, any change, such as injury to the blood vessel and impaired blood flow, can affect your hearing.  This suggests that any change in low-frequency hearing can be an indicator that there is risk of cardiovascular disease!  An audiogram may provide a hint that the person may be at risk for a heart condition! (See https://aberdeenaudiology.com/2019/02/13/heart-disease-and-hearing-loss-2/  and https://hearinghealthcenter.com/blog/the-link-between-heart-issues-and-hearing-loss/ and https://www.enttoday.org/article/low-frequency-hearing-loss-may-indicate-cardiovascular-disease/)

Another study, done at the Bionics Institute medical research facility in Australia, has found that tracking heart rate can be an early indicator of hearing loss. In this study, researchers found that sound levels directly affect heart rate.  A significantly lower heart rate was recorded when lower level sounds were played, while an increased heart rate occurred for higher level sounds.  The conclusion was that combining heart rate information with brain responses was an objective, and more accurate and effective, method of detecting hearing loss, particularly in infants.  (See https://www.timesnownews.com/health/article/tracking-heart-rate-can-help-detect-hearing-loss-early/375460)

We’d love to hear from audiologists and cardiologists to get their input on this link between heart health and hearing loss.  And of course we want to hear about your experiences, particularly if you have both a heart condition and hearing loss.

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed. Please share your ideas by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  If you would like to register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

 

March 3 Is World Hearing Day

March 2, 2019.  Did you know that March 3 is World Hearing Day, as set out by the World Health Organization (WHO)?  The purpose is to “raise awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss and promote ear and hearing care across the world.”  (See https://www.who.int/deafness/world-hearing-day/en/)

This year’s focus is on “the importance of early identification and intervention for hearing loss. Many people live with unidentified hearing loss, often failing to realize that they are missing out on certain sounds and words. Checking one’s hearing would be the first step towards addressing the issue.

The WHO prepared a multi-country assessment of the national capacity to provide hearing care and I was curious to see how Canada stood in the rankings, so took a look at the document that summarized the results.  It was very interesting reading, even though it appeared that Canada was not one of the 76 countries (out of 154 member states) that filled out the survey.  According to the report, 360 million people around the world have disabling hearing loss, about 5.3% of the world population.   This figure includes 32 million children!

What does the WHO consider disabling hearing loss?  It “refers to hearing loss greater than 40dB in the better hearing ear in adults, and greater than 30dB in the better hearing ear in children (0–14 years).”  So this means that there are a lot more people with a lesser degree of hearing loss than are included in the figure of 360 million.

A 1995 resolution expressed “concern at the growing problem of largely preventable hearing loss in the world.”  Countries were urged “to prepare national plans for the prevention and control of major causes of avoidable hearing loss, and for early detection in babies, toddlers and children, as well as in the elderly, within the framework of primary health care.”  That was 24 years ago!

The results from those countries who responded to a survey indicated that some progress had been made:

  • 26% established a national committee for ear and hearing care in the country.
  • 40 countries reported having a plan, program, or policy to address hearing loss at the national or sub-national level.
  • 5% provide funding for a program, partly from the national government and partly from nongovernmental agencies.

While none of the countries indicated a lack of need for a hearing health program, the WHO survey suggests that hearing health hasn’t been a top priority in most countries. 78 countries didn’t respond to the survey at all! What are some of the reasons?  One reason may be due to money being allocated to health programs where those affected are more vocal about their needs.  Another reason may be that hearing loss isn’t sudden in many cases, and there are people who are unaware that they don’t hear as well as they should.  A third reason is that hearing loss is not readily visible, so hearing loss is not front and centre in people’s minds.

One of the reasons this blog and our small provincial group exist are to help build awareness of hearing loss issues and to provide information on hearing health and hearing loss issues. In January and February, Summerside’s Age-friendly Community Committee held town hall meetings to discuss “pathways to building an age-friendly and inclusive community”.  Would the events include a discussion on hearing loss, we wondered?  Would the meeting venues be accessible for those with hearing loss?

Annie Lee MacDonald contacted a member of the Age-friendly Community Committee and asked those questions.  The town hall meetings were funded with a grant from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons For Seniors Program, but no allowance in the budget had been made for accessibility tools such as real time captioning or a temporary hearing loop.  Nevertheless, the group was very interested in hearing accessibility.

Annie Lee attended the town hall meeting in Emerald.  She reported that the event was well organized and the sound system was excellent. They were really conscious of this and making sure everything was heard.”  During the meeting, Annie Lee explained that “I stressed the need for hearing accessibility and it was picked up, especially looping by Summerside, and then Shelley Cole commented on it.”  Shelley Cole is from the Seniors Secretariat of PEI, which had invited us to do a presentation to their group before Christmas.  (See Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI)It was great that the Seniors Secretariat representative supported the need for hearing accessibility!

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed. Please share your ideas by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  If you would like to register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.