Another reason to quit smoking

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This time of year, lots of people are trying to form good habits in honor of the New Year. But there is a habit that you should consider kicking to save on your hard-earned cash, but your overall health, too.

We usually associate smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke with diseases such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.

But did you know that smoking and secondhand smoke are correlated with an increased chance of hearing loss?

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, smokers are 70 percent more likely than non-smokers to suffer hearing loss, and those exposed to secondhand smoke nearly 2 times more likely to suffer hearing loss compared to non-smokers.

Cigarette smoke contains harmful chemicals that cause damage to the auditory nerve. These chemicals also affect the blood vessels all over your body, including those in your inner ear, reducing the flow of oxygen to those cells, thereby causing damage.  

The good news is that further damage can be reduced by quitting.

If you or a loved one currently smoke, have smoked in the past, or have been exposed to secondhand smoke, consider having your hearing evaluated by a hearing health care provider.

Today is the perfect day to quit smoking. Some resources to help are:

Eating better can help you hear better, too

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You heard that right.

Not only will you feel better eating all of your fruits and veggies, you’re setting yourself up for better hearing, too.

That’s according to a 2018 study in the Journal of Nutrition that found women who maintain a healthy diet can lower their risk of hearing loss by 30 percent.

For 22 years, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital followed nearly 71,000 women on three different diets.

What they found is that the women who ate the Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED) and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) were at a lower risk for hearing loss.

The AMED diet contains foods like extra virgin olive oil, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and moderate intake of alcohol, while the DASH is high in fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy, and low in sodium.

“Interestingly, we observed that those following an overall healthy diet had a lower risk of moderate or worse hearing loss,” said Sharon Curhan, MD, an epidemiologist in the Channing Division of Network Medicine at BWH, and first author of the study.

“Eating well contributes to overall good health, and it may also be helpful in reducing the risk of hearing loss.”

While researchers say more studies are needed, eating healthy has a wide range of other benefits.

Ears and Exercise: Hearing Aid Care for Active Lifestyles

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Are you thinking about getting in shape after New Years? Don’t let these common fears about hearing aids get in the way.

Quite often, patients say they don’t wear their hearing aids while they are working out, playing golf, riding a bike, playing tennis, and other physical activities. Why? I’ll tell you their reasons and explain how to overcome these perceptions.

1) I don’t wear my hearing aids when I go to the gym because I sweat a lot.

Most hearing aids have high Ingress Protection (IP) ratings. This rates the sealing effective of the device against the intrusion of moisture, dust, and dirt. Hearing aids have high IP ratings because they are made for all day, every day use. This means wearing them when you’re sweating is OK! The best tip I have for “preventative maintenance” is using a dehumidifier. Place your hearing aids in a dehumidifier overnight to remove excess moisture and prolong the components of your hearing device.

For people with extreme moisture problems (runners, football players, etc.) we recommend a Zephyr unit with a fan and dehumidifier that dries the hearing aids for 6 hours while you sleep. There is also a version with a disinfectant light if you are concerned about germs or infections (swimmers’ ear).

2) I don’t wear my hearing aids when I play golf because I can’t stand the wind noise.

Great news! There’s a program for that. Hearing aids are smart! The built-in computer chip knows how to adjust automatically in noisy or windy environments, but sometimes an audiologist needs to create a program for your specific need. With the new programming, simply push a button on your hearing aid and, the irritating wind noise is no longer an issue.

3) I don’t wear my hearing aids when I play tennis, basketball, or go running because I’m worried it will fall off my ear.

Hearing aids are meant to have a secure/snug fit and not go flying off or falling out of your ears. This should be the case whether you are sitting, running or jumping around. Proper fit is crucial to ensure the devices stay in place. If you are still concerned about losing your hearing aid, then an easy option is wearing a headband or try OtoClips. This lightweight lanyard attaches easily to the hearing aid then clips securely to your clothing. Available for behind the ear (BTE) or in the ear (ITE) models, binaural or monaural.

It is important that your hearing aids stay in your ears while enjoying an active lifestyle. If you need help ensuring your hearing aids are meeting your listening needs and fit securely, see your audiologist. We’re here for you!

How to overcome the ‘stigma’ of hearing aids

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Patients (especially males!) are often very self-conscious about the look of hearing aids and feeling old.
Dr. Jane Baxter, Au.D. walks us through how she tackles this social obstacle in her office:
I handle each patient differently.
Sometimes I take a hearing aid and put it on their ear without showing them what it looks like.
I then get two mirrors and hold them up in the front and the back for them to look. 
After I ask them what they think, they say “Where is it? I can’t see it.”  
I point out that you can’t see the tiny devices that rest in the shadow behind the ear.
Their response is an emotional one, so it doesn’t help to point out that a hearing loss is much more noticeable than a hearing aid! 
Holding your hand up to your ear, asking for repetitions, answering with the wrong answer are all much more noticeable than a small device behind the ear.
There are now many invisible hearing aids and I always ask my patients to be honest and tell me if this is important to them.
Some devices sit deep in the ear canal near the eardrum.
I tell them my job is to select the best technology and style of device for them.
There is no best hearing aid for everyone.
It takes your brain time to learn and hearing aids need to be calibrated as your brain changes.
NO two hearing losses are alike, and people’s brains react to sounds differently.
The relationship with each patient allows us to customize their hearing aids just for them.
You hear with your ears but interpret and process with your brain.
It is important to measure each patient’s ability to process sound in noisy environments, sounds that are uncomfortably loud, etc. 
Schedule an appointment with us today to see if hearing aids are right for you.
-Dr. Jane H. Baxter, Au.D.

Hearing loss can have an impact on your mental health

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An obvious consequence of hearing loss is not being able to connect with loved ones and friends. 

An underlying consequence that most don’t think about is how not being able to hear correctly can affect the psyche. 

For some, being in social situations can be mildly stressful. Factor in hearing loss? You’ve just maxed out that stress level. 

Besides run-of-the-mill stress, there are more serious psychological conditions that may develop or worsen when you suffer from hearing loss.

An April 2018 article in Maruitas, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal covering midlife and post-reproductive health, found there are common central neurological, anatomical and physiological processes affected by depression, anxiety and stress and hearing loss.

Several doctors conducted a study with about 150 adults who were divided into three groups: normal hearing, mild to moderate hearing, and severe hearing loss. 

What researchers found is that the severity of depression, anxiety and stress increased with the severity of hearing impairment.

Another June 2018 study found a link between depression and hearing loss, as well as an increased risk for those psychological symptoms in women. 

The study took a look at the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2011-2012 to take a look at the correlation between hearing loss and depression. 

Those suffering from moderate to worse hearing loss are associated with depression in women ages 52–69 years. 

Those researchers also noted that hearing screenings are likely to reduce delays in diagnosis and provide early opportunities for help. 

More folks are at risk of these psychological factors that you’d think. 

That’s because more than a third of the world’s population above the age of 65 suffers from some sort of age-related hearing loss. 

It’s the third most chronic condition in the United States, and hearing loss may be connected to depression. 

Schedule an appointment today to see how we can help improve your quality of life. 

See our list of services here. 

Exploring the future of hearing aid technology

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At Pacific Hearing Service we want to educate our patients and the community about the importance of hearing health.

That’s why we held a symposium with Dr. Achin Bhowmik about how the future of hearing aid technology is more than just a hearing aid.

Dr. Bhowmik (formerly General Manager of Perceptual Computing Group at Intel) compared the past 10 years of cell phone technology.

In 2007 cell phones were just telephones. Now? They are calendars, cameras, music players, computers with Internet access, games, Tesla keys, Books, calculators, weather reports, newspapers, wallets, credit cards, radios, and so much more. 

Smartphone sales have increased 10 fold in the past 10 years whereas hearing aid sales have been flat.

The good news is that’s about to change. 

The newest hearing devices will provide exceptional hearing and also provide many benefits for tracking your health.

For example, they have sensors to detect if you fall. 911 will be called or your relative notified.

You can track your steps, exercise, and monitor ‘brain health’ by how much you are engaging in conversations with others.

The hearing device will also translate 37 languages.

Many of our patients will benefit from having a hearing device that also monitors their health.

Artificial Intelligence is only beginning to strongly influence our lives. In hearing devices, it will learn a patient’s individual listening preferences and make adaptations to help them hear more clearly in challenging environments.

Patients of all ages were engaged and asked lots of questions about how the technology works and how it will improve their lives.

This is an exciting time for us and people with hearing loss.

Pacific Hearing Service’s humanitarian project highlighted in local paper

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In a country of 17 million people, Zambia currently has one audiologist.

As you can imagine, that fact makes it incredibly difficult for the people of Zambia to get the hearing care they desperately need.

That’s why our team of audiologists travels to countries like Zambia to provide check-ups, fit hearing aids, and diagnose hearing problems at make-shift clinics.

Our work doesn’t stop there.

The overarching goal with our humanitarian work is to eventually provide the training and resources for communities to help themselves.

That’s where Sammy Fundiwa comes in.

During one of our trips to Zambia, Sammy worked as a driver transporting our teams to clinics. He is passionate about his community and helped spread the word of our presence by translating for our teams.

Hearing care is so scarce that some people walked up to 8 miles to see our audiologists.

Sammy soon realized that once we were gone, we wouldn’t be able to treat his people.

That’s why Sammy traveled to Los Altos to receive training from our team at Pacific Hearing Service so that he could go back to Zambia ready to help.

Recently, the Los Altos Town Crier published an article about our work with Sammy.

This is a brief part of his story, and we’d love for you to read the full piece at the Los Altos Town Crier.

woman with smart phone

My hearing aid can do WHAT?

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In the world of smartphones, gadgets that do just about anything, and lightning fast internet at our fingertips, people have come to demand flexibility and control over the products that they use.

Sure, when you get hearing aids, you’d probably love to put them on and then forget about them. Automation is great for some things, but in the end, only you know how you want to experience sound.

There’s a new hearing aid product that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence that wants you to be involved in how you hear your surroundings.

Widex Evoke works in tandem with a smartphone app that puts you in charge of your listening experience (if that’s up your alley).

We’re not talking about Terminator artificial intelligence here, either.

Here’s how it works

When you get an Evoke hearing aid, it uses what Widex calls SoundSense technology that leverages the power of machine learning through a smartphone and the cloud.

In simple terms, it means your hearing aid is connected to your phone through Bluetooth where you can make choices on your hearing experience within the app.

The more you tell the app what you like, the better it gets at picking up on your preferences in new soundscapes and different environments.

Widex uses your data and everyone else’s anonymous data to create a better listening experience for everyone.

This app reduces the need for you to make those fine-tuning appointments. That means your hearing care professional can spend more time on your other needs.

What if I don’t want to use the app?

Not everyone wants to make decisions on every single sound they hear.

You can still harness the power of machine learning automatically through the device’s auto pilot mode.

Evoke can make those hearing aid adjustments that suit your needs using its built-in fluid sound analyzer.

And if you decide you’d like to make changes?

All you have to do is load up the app and select your preferences.

Learn more about this product here.

Audiologists are the experts on how to get these to work for your special needs and circumstances.

To see if this is a good fit for you, contact our office.

Yes. Kids can get arthritis, too

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No, it’s not just grandpa who has to deal with arthritis.

It is a common misconception that only “old” people are afflicted with the debilitating disease.

Nearly 300,000 children in America have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.

These children suffer from various autoimmune forms of arthritis. Their bodies’ immune system is attacking their joints, causing swelling, stiffness and permanent damage.

This condition is extremely serious, and if left untreated, it can result in loss of mobility, blindness, and even death.

To top it off, there is also a link between arthritis and hearing loss, especially with medications used in treatment.

It all comes down to early diagnoses and treatment to help kids avoid nerve damage down the road.

These children deserve our support!

Tell at least one other person that July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. You can make a difference in these kids’ lives by making a donation towards juvenile arthritis research or by sharing your support on social media using the hashtag #CureArthritis.

ear doctor

Testing challenge solved

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In order to make a decision on the best course of action for our patients, we often have to go through a series of testing.

One 14-year-old girl had severe cerebral palsy and couldn’t stand or sit.

She had been tested and fitted with hearing aids in the past, but they came in broken and were cumbersome.

Because this girl was difficult to test due to her disability, we used an Otoacoustic Emissions, which is used on newborns in the United States to screen for hearing loss.

We found that she had normal hearing which meant she hadn’t needed hearing aids.

The ones she had been wearing, in addition to being extremely uncomfortable, were actually blocking her hearing.

In addition to testing, we were able to counsel the mother about additional ways to stimulate her child.