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Hearing Health Blog

Hearing Loss Affects 5 Percent of the Population!

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 5 percent of the world’s population — or 360 million people — has disabling hearing loss. Key to this statistic is the word “disabling”. Take it out, and the number of people with hearing loss soars to approximately 750 million adults — or 10 percent of the adult population.

Of course, hearing loss doesn’t need to be disabling to have a big impact on a person’s quality of life. Little things like missing a grandchild’s silly jokes, or not hearing music as clearly as you once did can affect happiness.

Treating hearing loss can help negate or minimize its many negative consequences and offers dozens of benefits that people with hearing loss may not have even thought of.

To receive help, contact us now!

You Just Got Your First Pair of Hearing Aids – Now What?

Congratulations on your first set of hearing aids! A wonderful new world of sound awaits you! Keep in mind that new hearing aids may require a short transition or adjustment period. A little effort on your part and a positive attitude will go a long way.

Success with hearing aids relies heavily on personal motivation. Learn about the care and maintenance your hearing aids require so you feel comfortable handling and wearing them daily. Getting into a new routine of wearing your hearing aids may take a little time. Be patient as you adjust to how your hearing aids sound and how they feel.

Hearing involves more than just our ears

Our brains interpret the sounds we hear. Prior to your hearing aid fitting, you were not hearing optimally. It’s likely been awhile since you heard sounds at a normal hearing level. When your hearing aids correct your hearing loss, sounds might seem unnatural at first since you aren’t used to hearing them. Be patient as you learn to adjust to hearing sounds the way you should. Your brain may need a little time to get reacquainted with the parts of speech you’ve been missing.

Practice makes perfect 

Talk with your hearing professional about activities and exercises aimed at improving your hearing. Many offer fun, interactive online games that have been clinically developed and designed to speed up the acclimation process and enhance your experience wearing your new hearing aids. With a little practice and extra training, you can improve auditory memory, attention and recognition of speech in noise.

If it takes a little while to get used to wearing your first set of hearing aids, be patient with yourself and set realistic expectations. Your new hearing aids will soon make listening easier and more enjoyable, and you’ll begin to appreciate all the benefits wearing hearing aids brings.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers WANTS to hear from you! Contact us here.

Welcome to the Team Rich!

We’re growing!!

Chicagoland Hearing is proud to announce our newest Hearing Instrument Practitioner, Rich Herstowski. Rich joined Chicagoland Hearing in August 2017. Rich brings years of expertise to the practice, and has helped thousands of patients on their hearing journey. Passionate about helping others with their hearing health, Rich finds it very rewarding helping people improve their quality of life.

Rich has been happily married for 22 years and has two sons.  When he is not working with patients, Rich enjoys spending time with family and friends.  Activities include playing golf and tennis.  Rich received his degree from the University of Iowa.

Book an appointment to meet Rich today! We can’t wait to hear from you!

Fido can hear you, but is he really listening?

We love our pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent $55.7 billion in 2013 on grooming, toys, vet visits and food for furry family members. The number is roughly $500 a year for every American household with a single pet. Homes with more than one pet spent even more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that we spend more on our pet annually than we spend on men’s clothing ($404) and alcohol consumption ($456).

Most dog owners treat the family dog like, well, family. Our dogs travel with us, we buy gifts for them, we talk to them. Many dog owners would argue that the family dog listens better than some of the humans living in their homes.

If dogs had a super power, it would be hearing

If you’re a dog owner who enjoys talking to your dog, have you ever wondered how much he really understands? We all know that dogs have a keen sense of hearing and hear better than we do. Dogs hear nearly twice as many frequencies as humans. They can also hear sounds four times further away — so what human ears can hear from 20 feet away; our dogs can hear from 80 feet away.

Even though our dogs can hear better than we can, do they understand what they’re hearing?

Two studies, one published in the journal Current Biology and the other in Science, conclude that the answer is yes! Your dog might not understand everything you say, but he listens and pays attention similar to the way humans do. The researchers discovered that dogs — like humans — respond not only to the words we say to them, but also to the emotional tone of our voices.

Humans and dogs listen to speech similarly

The studies suggest that humans and canines listen to speech similarly: both respond to vocalizations — what is being said — along with the emotional tone conveyed during speech, or how it’s being said.

As one of the study’s supervisors, David Reby, noted, “This is particularly interesting because our results suggest that the processing of speech components in the dog’s brain is divided between the two hemispheres in a way that is actually very similar to the way it is separated in the human brain.”

We are all “lefties” when it comes to language

In humans, the left hemisphere of the brain tackles most verbal processing — the what we say part. Speech using exaggerated, positive vocal inflection — the how we say it part — is processed in the right hemisphere.

The dogs in the study demonstrated that they listen the same way — an ability that was once believed to be unique to humans. When unfamiliar language was presented to them, their focus shifted from linguistic content to emotional content.

If you’ve ever traveled to a country and been unfamiliar with the language, you know how this works. When you’re listening to language you don’t know, you shift your focus to nonverbal cues like intonation and inflection to try to figure out clues about what you are hearing. Turns out our pups do the same thing when they hear unfamiliar speech.

You can’t fool Fido

Researchers in the second study tried tricking dogs by saying out-of-context words using positive, praising intonations (for instance, they replaced a praise-worthy “good boy!” with the word “however”). Brain scans taken during the study showed the dogs were not fooled. Researchers could tell because the left hemisphere of the brain was not activated. The findings contradict the assumption that dogs only understand the tone of our voices and have no idea what our words mean.

Good listeners make for great companions

The research is good news for animal lovers who enjoy talking to their four-legged friends. Your dog may not understand everything you say, but he is focused on both the content of conversation and the underlying emotional tone.

So, go ahead and keep talking to your dog. Just make sure you say nice things, using a nice tone of voice. Keen hearing acuity and the ability to process language similar to humans makes your dog an ideal listener and points to one reason why dogs are, indeed, our best friends!

Millie Bobby Brown Opens Up About Being Deaf in One Ear

“It was like a bug,” Brown told Variety of her desire to act. “I know this sounds crazy, but once I find something I want to do, nobody’s stopping me. If I don’t know how to sew, and I really had that passion to sew, that’s it, I’m going to sew. That’s also with acting. So here I am.”

But things haven’t always been easy for the actress. She also revealed to Variety she has never taken an acting class in her life or trained to be a singer. But she does both—while also being completely deaf in one of her ears.

She was born with partial loss of hearing in one of her ears, but eventually after years of tubes, her hearing completely faded away on that side. When she’s performing—either acting or singing—she can’t fully hear herself. In the first season of Stranger Things, Brown made use of her other senses when playing Eleven, who didn’t talk much: “You can talk with your face,” she says matter-of-factly. “It’s very easy for someone to say, ‘I’m mad. I’m sad. I’m angry.’ I have to just do it with my face.”

Acting and singing with partial hearing loss could shake a young actress’s confidence, but Brown has never let it affect her. “I just started to sing, and if I sound bad, I don’t care, because I’m just doing what I love,” she said. “You don’t have to be good at singing. You don’t have to be good at dancing or acting. If you like to do it, if you genuinely enjoy doing it, then do it. No one should stop you.”

The girl has talent. And, she’s pretty brave to open up about health struggles like this at such a young age. It’s inspiring to anyone who has gone through the same situation or, even, a similar one. According to statistics, two or three out of every 1,000 children born in the U.S. suffer from partial hearing loss – so, it’s not all that rare. It’s inspiring to have someone in the spotlight to look up to who understands the struggle some kids do face on a day-to-day basis. And, it pushes them to keep reaching for their dreams. We love you Millie! Keep doing your thing 🙂

Contact Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers
for more information if you feel like your hearing isn’t where it should be!

Glasses are cool. But why aren’t hearing aids?

If I do my job right, this column might actually change your life. More important, it might change the lives of the people you love.

But first, I need to talk about Elton John’s glasses. It was my first concert. Philadelphia Spectrum, 1972. Elton opened up with “Tiny Dancer” on solo piano. Later, during “I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself,” a character named Legs Larry Smith came out and tap danced.

But none of that is what I remember best. What has stayed with me all these years has been those stylish glasses. Spotlights flooding the stage twinkled off his rims.

Back then, I wore glasses, too. Until that moment, I had never thought of them as a fashion statement. I just thought of them as a way of existing in the world.

But of course glasses were, and are, a fashion statement. Eyewear practically defines certain people’s style. Teddy Roosevelt and his pince-nez. Iris Apfel and her signature circular specs. Mr. Peanut, rocking a monocle. In my 20s I knew a girl with perfect eyesight who even had a pair of clear glasses designed for her. “So that I look hot,” she explained, “when I take them off.

Why, I wonder, is it that devices to keep you from being blind are celebrated as fashion, but devices to keep you from being deaf are embarrassing and uncool? Why is it that the biggest compliment someone can give you about your hearing aids is “I can hardly see them”?

Hearing loss is endemic, and not just for older people. Almost one in four Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 who think they have good hearing actually have some hearing impairment. Among those in their 50s, 4.5 million people have some hearing loss. How many wear devices that would enable them to better hear the world? Less than 5 percent.

Wearing hearing aids can change your life in an instant — not to mention that of the people you love, whose actual voices you may have been unable to hear. But we don’t get help. Because coverage by insurance carriers is inconsistent. Because we don’t know where or how to get our hearing tested. Because we’re afraid of what others might think. Because hearing loss is uncool.

This needs to change. Start with insurance: Hearing aids can be expensive, but employers need to know that people who can’t hear can’t do their jobs well. Education matters, too: People who thought it was dumb for Donald Trump to look directly at the sun during the solar eclipse might think nothing of slapping on a pair of headphones and cranking their music to 11.

The first thing you can do is to get your hearing tested; this is helpful even if you don’t think you have hearing loss, so that you have a baseline reference. You can contact Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers to set up a hearing consultation today.

About 90 percent of hearing loss is “sensorineural,” usually caused by damage to hair cells in the inner ear. Sometimes it’s the result of exposure to loud sounds (like concerts at the Spectrum). That’s the kind of hearing loss I have; my inability to hear high-pitched sounds means that understanding a conversation in a crowded restaurant can be a challenge.

New technology enables wearers to focus their hearing on the person in front of them while canceling out all sound behind. You can control just how much of the world you want to amplify or cancel out by using a free app on your mobile device. And it looks good — I recently wore such a device at a party where, for the first time in years, I heard everything that everyone was saying. It completely changed the way I experienced the world.

When I first learned that I had serious hearing loss (after a lifetime of playing in super-loud bands), I called my wife on the phone, and as I told her of my diagnosis I started to cry. “I’m so sorry you have to be married to someone like me,” I sobbed.

My wife, a tolerant woman by any measure, laughed. “You really think I’d leave you because you have hearing aids?” she said.

Well, yeah, I sort of did. Because I thought it would make me seem old and undesirable. Because somehow I’d forgotten that the world has long been full of people just like me.

I always loved that song that Elton opened with at the Spectrum. I have a friend who loves it, too, although once, when we heard it come on the radio, she asked me: “Hey wait. Why is he singing, ‘Hold me closer, Tony Danza?’ ”

“It’s ‘Tiny Dancer,’ ” I explained. “Not Tony Danza. Tiny Dancer.”

“Duh, Jenny, like — I know, ” she said. “Did you really think I was deaf?”

It was a joke, of course, and she laughed. As if the whole idea was funny, as if our hearing was a gift we could never lose.

Article from the New York Times.

What is Causing This Ringing in My Ears?!

If you have ringing or hissing or buzzing in your ears, you have what medical experts refer to as “tinnitus.

Experts have tried to pinpoint an exact physiological cause of tinnitus, but the mystery remains unsolved. Exposure to loud noise, head injuries, medication, and even earwax are thought to trigger the onset or worsen existing tinnitus. The sad fact is, science and medical professionals have yet to figure out what causes ringing in the ears.

Some people, like Terry, experience tinnitus after a single exposure to loud noise. Others, like Ron, attribute their tinnitus to a lifetime of not wearing hearing protection. Still others, like, Kevin, say their tinnitus started while battling a cold and flying.

50 million Americans deal with tinnitus

What we do know is that tinnitus is too common, affecting 1 in 6 Americans. Tinnitus usually accompanies hearing loss, although hearing loss is not believed to be caused by tinnitus. The reverse is also true: Tinnitus is not caused by hearing loss, even when the two are present together.

We also know that however it started, whatever it sounds like, and regardless of whether the tinnitus is mild or severe, each and every tinnitus sufferer wants the same thing — relief.

Is there a way to stop the ringing in your ears?

Unfortunately, a tinnitus cure is something else science and medical professionals have yet to figure out. But while there is no cure for tinnitus, there are effective treatment options available.

Specially designed hearing aids with tinnitus technology are becoming more popular, as they are proven to help. They deliver a customizable sound stimulus that can soothe the annoying sounds associated with tinnitus and provide relief. You can find more information about this tinnitus treatment option by clicking here.

You don’t have to continue to suffer from tinnitus. Contact Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers today to discuss coping and treatment methods that can work best for you.

5 Halloween Safety Tips For Children With Hearing Loss

Halloween marks the most exciting night of the year for many children. Decked out in their new princess or superhero costumes, kids fill the streets in a hurried effort to amass buckets full of treats. Unfortunately, Halloween can also be a dangerous holiday for children. This is especially true to children who have hearing loss.

The following 5 tips will help children with hearing loss enjoy a fun and safe Halloween night.

  1. Check Hearing Aids

Check hearing aids before you leave to ensure they are functioning properly. Take extra batteries in case you need to change them during your time out.

  1. Make Sure Costumes Fit Properly

Avoid costumes that include masks, hats, scarves or other accessories that could dislodge hearing aids, cover the hearing aid microphones or obstruct your child’s vision. Costumes and accessories should fit well to maintain optimal hearing and avoid blocked vision, trips and falls.

  1. Stay Close

Children under the age of 13 should be accompanied by an adult. Keep an eye out for potential dangers that may be overlooked with the added excitement of trick or treating. Children with hearing loss may not be able to hear if a car is idling, and may unknowingly walk in front of cars assuming they are parked with the engine off. Always use sidewalks and crosswalks and encourage children to walk rather than run between houses.

  1. Walk in a Group

Children that can safely trick or treat without adult supervision should stay with a group of at least three other children. Establish a plan and outline the route the children will take before they leave. Make sure each child in the group is familiar with the route. Agree on an arranged meeting place to check in with them and make sure you know when to expect to have them home.

  1. Wear Reflective Clothing and Bright Colors

Give the children flashlights and apply reflective tape to costumes and treat bags to help pedestrians and drivers see your children. Wearing brightly colored costumes will make keep children visible.

Following these simple tips will help kids and parents enjoy a memorable and most importantly, a safe Halloween night! 


Hearing Troubles? Here is How Video Games Can Help!

Understanding speech and sound in loud environments is not always easy, and when you throw in hearing loss issues brought about by age or other factors, things only get more complicated.

Hearing loss, a common problem among the old, is usually tried to be fixed by using hearing aids. But as it stands, even these devices have their limitations. Hearing aids can help amplify sound, but this doesn’t necessarily help you distinguish between words when there’s a lot of background noise. However, that could soon be a thing of the past as a recent research has found a far easier, and more interesting way to end hearing troubles across the globe.

According to a report published in CNN, a team from Boston’s Harvard Medical School has developed a computer game that trains the brain to better understand words in noisy situations. After playing the game a few hours per week for two months, elderly people who had hearing loss were able to correctly identify 25 per cent more words spoken in noisy conditions.

The game has been created after 13 years of research to improve people’s hearing in real life.

Explaining what prompted them to invent the game, the team’s head, Daniel Polley said, “Not hearing can lead to social isolation and we know that social situations are a real lifeline to your emotional health. If your social world gets cut off that can lead to a broad spectrum of cognitive decline as you age.”

Interestingly, this new game that promises to improve your hearing works in a very different way than you would imagine. The audio game does not focus on the ear to help you hear better, but rather, trains the brain to better process signals received from the ear to improve hearing.

So essentially, the hearing of the subjects didn’t get better, strictly speaking, rather, it was their ability to make sense of what they’d heard that improved.

Here’s how it works:

“If someone near you calls out at a party, that sound will pass through your ears to tiny hair cells. Each sound carries its own vibration impacting the tiny hair differently. The hair converts the sound wave to an electrical signal that goes to your brain, which then processes the sound determining if someone called out for Jen or gin.”

Why you should play video games

This, however, is just one example that highlights the benefits of playing certain video games. A research conducted by a team of German neuroscientists in 2013 had found that individuals who played Super Mario 64, a popular 3D platform game, for at least 30 minutes a day for two months showed growth in specific areas of their brains.

Another unexpected bonus of playing specific games is improved eyesight. A new study conducted by teams from the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University has found that after playing eight hours of children friendly action games, children reported up to a 50 per cent improvement in their eyesight.

All more than good enough reasons to get hooked to games if you already aren’t!

Contact Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers if you have any questions about your personal hearing loss!


Hunting and Hearing Loss

Hunting and shooting are one of the most popular past-times for men in America. But, shooting any type of firearm without the proper hearing protection can result in severe damage to your hearing, whether temporary or permanent.

A study by the University of Wisconsin found that men aged 48 to 92 who hunted regularly were more likely to experience high-frequency hearing loss, a risk that increased seven percent for every five years a man had been hunting. 

But what’s really alarming is that of the 3,753 study participants (83 percent of whom were eligible), “38 percent of the target shooters and 95 percent of the hunters reported never wearing hearing protection while shooting in the past year.”

One shot from a gun can range from 140 to 190 decibels, and can cause immediate damage to one’s hearing.

Avid hunter and writer for Outdoor News, Kristen Monroe, can attest to just how damaging a single shot can be; she’s ruptured her ear drum a couple of times. “I don’t think they all know that it really only takes one shot at the right angle to ruin your hearing and cause permanent ringing,” Monroe said of why hunters often overlook hearing protection. Monroe herself used to avoid using hearing protection because it got in the way while shooting, but said that since using SoundGear, she’s not only been able to protect her hearing but also not worry about the devices getting in the way while shooting.

So beyond the obvious use of hearing protection (a must if shooting any type of firearm), what are some tips to help protect your hearing while out hunting or shooting?

Silence That Shot!

Unless it’s illegal in your state, consider using a gun suppressor—or silencer—to help reduce the volume of a gunshot. Silencers offer some relief for your ears by helping to stabilize the loud propellant gases firearms produce when fired. It should be noted, however, that not all states allow silencers and that silencers don’t mean hearing protection can be avoided.

Take A Break

Even with the best hearing protection, long-term exposure to firearms can cause temporary or permanent damage. It may not be obvious at first, but any exposure to dangerous sounds can result in hearing damage. Over time, as the damage builds up, your hearing will decline. Consider taking breaks between rounds to help give your ears a chance to decompress. SoundGear helps reduce sounds above 95dB while enhancing conversational and natural sounds, so even when you take a break from shooting, you don’t have to take your hearing protection out. This ensures that if someone else decides to keep shooting nearby your ears don’t get hurt in the process!

Keep Them On or In!

Just because you aren’t shooting, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be wearing hearing protection. If you are out hunting with a group or standing to wait your turn at a shooting range, keep your hearing protection on or in your ears. You may not be shooting but your ears are still being exposed to harmful levels of sound. 

But I’m Using a Bow…

If you’re out hunting with a bow hearing protection may still be necessary. Often times, you aren’t the only one out hunting, and if someone close by is using a firearm, your ears are still susceptible to damage. This is one of the reasons why SoundGear is so great. Unlike other hearing protection products that muffle all sound, SoundGear only reduces sound 95dB and over. And because it amplifies other natural sounds, not only are you protecting your ears from nearby shots, you’re also giving yourself a better chance at hearing approaching game.

To best protect your hearing while hunting or shooting, check out SoundGear, digital hearing protection that enhances environmental sounds and decreases the dangerous high-decibel sounds. Learn more about SoundGear by contacting Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers today!