Hearing loss the No. 1 sensory disability in the world.


People can prevent hearing loss with the proper ear protection. / Photo courtesy ARAContent.

People can prevent hearing loss with the proper ear protection. / Photo courtesy ARAContent.

Some people never had their hearing, as they were born deaf, but the majority had something happen along the way that took it from them. Infectious diseases like meningitis, measles, mumps and chronic ear infections, as well as head and ear injuries, and ageing all can contribute to hearing loss.

But perhaps the most common cause is excessive noise. Whether it’s a one-time exposure to an intense, “impulse” sound, like gunfire, or by repeated exposure to loud sounds over time, such as machinery at work, noise has the potential to rob people of their hearing.

The effects of hearing loss extend well beyond having to turn up the television. It strains a person’s ability to understand conversations, which can cause problems and misunderstandings at work and at home. Hearing loss also leads to isolation from family, friends and the environment.

“The good news is noise-induced hearing loss is preventable,” says Dr. Laurie Wells, audiologist in 3M’s hearing protection business. “So many people could be spared from it, if they just took a few easy steps.”

Wear hearing protection

The most important step to preventing hearing loss is to wear hearing protection.

“There are many great hearing protection options, but sometimes it’s a challenge to know which to choose and how and when to wear it correctly,” says Wells. “Hearing protection is now available that is comfortable, fits well, and includes options to enhance communication — like microphones and two-way radio connections for people who need them.”

Reduce the volume or increase distance

Work-related noise might be unavoidable, but many times, you can be in control of the noise around you. Whenever possible, select quieter vacuums, chain saws, leaf blowers, power tools, etc. Also, be aware that the volume controls on portable entertainment devices can exceed 110 dBA — levels that might be hazardous if you listen for many hours a day. Lower the volume and limit how long you listen to them. If you aren’t able to turn down loud sounds you encounter, take a few steps back from the source of the loud sound. Even a few feet of distance between you and a loud sound can lower the decibel levels that hit you.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

Lack of funding leading to delay in bilateral cochlear implants


Beaumont Hospital has sought funds since 2009

Beaumont Hospital has sought funds since 2009

Recent media reports have been highlighting how the lack of HSE funding is leading to a delay in children with profound deafness getting fitted with a second device.

A report in the Irish Examiner newspaper says that despite cochlear ear implants for both ears being international best practice for children with profound deafness, the HSE does not fund the double procedures.

The Report says “Beaumont Hospital has sought funds since 2009. It provided a business case for the bilateral operation — which involves implanting an electronic device in both ears — in October.  The cost of €36,000 to €40,000 for a double implant is not being provided, with patients only given implants for one ear.

While the unilateral implant greatly improves hearing for profoundly deaf children, the lack of a bilateral service means hearing is still problematic — with the issue risking speech and language, education, and social inclusion difficulties. As a result, hundreds of children are losing out at a time when the impact of their conditions can be reduced.”

Since the cochlear programme commenced in Beaumont Hospital 17 years ago, 360 children have received cochlear implants, with 10 receiving bilateral implants due to specific conditions.  Currently, there are 350 children awaiting a second implant.

A HSE spokesperson in the media report said the service was considering Beaumont’s case alongside other funding applications for next year’s health service budget breakdown, to be confirmed in January.

It’s terrible to think that children are missing out through a lack of funding, considering the money that has been wasted in this country over the past decade. Hopefully the government will look at this as a matter of urgency.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.


Don’t let your loved one’s hearing loss drive you crazy

hearing_loss“What?”  “Huh?”  Are those responses that you consistently hear from your loved one?

Hearing loss is not only frustrating for the individual with a loss, but also for their communication partners.  Hearing loss affects communication.  Communication is a two way street so when one way is affected, both parties suffer.  Constantly needing to repeat yourself is tiring, especially when it’s with someone you communicate with daily.

What Can You Do To Help:  Be Supportive and Be Involved!

Go with your loved one to their audiology appointments.  Communicate with the audiologist.  The first step in helping is understanding, and that starts with understanding the hearing loss.  You can learn so much from a good explanation of the hearing system and hearing test results.  Understanding the benefits and limitations of hearing aids and having proper expectations can prevent a lot of frustration.  An audiologist can give you tips for communicating with individuals with hearing loss. In some cases it may be necessary to assist a hearing aid user with cleaning and maintenance of the hearing aids.  This simple knowledge could save the user trips to the audiologist for basic cleaning that can be done at home.  It may prevent them from going weeks with a hearing aid that is not working properly.

Be Part of the Team

Better hearing is an ongoing process.  Hearing loss gradually worsens over time and technology continually changes and improves.  Hearing needs to be retested and hearing aids reprogrammed.  The hearing aid user, their communication partners, and the audiologist are all on the same team, with the same goal- better hearing!

Hidden Hearing is the ideal player in this team with clinics and branches nationwide you are never far from expert guidance.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

Source: Dr Leah Mitchell – Read More >

I used to be a closeted hearing aid wearer

Hayleigh's Cherished Charms the brainchild of the brilliant 13 year old Hayleigh

Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms the brainchild of the brilliant 13 year old Hayleigh

I used to be a closeted hearing aid wearer. My hair was long enough to cover my ears and hearing devices, so I hid them. In the summer months, when it was too hot to keep my locks down, I pulled them into a ponytail…and removed my hearing aids. Why? Because I hated the way they looked on me, and I didn’t want people to see them.

One day while browsing Facebook, I saw a photo that shocked me. Someone had her hearing aids in, and they were decorated with jewelry. They looked sparkly and beautiful. The photo mentioned a company called Hayleigh’s Cherished Charms. Founded by a teenage girl with hearing loss named Hayleigh, the business makes jewelry charms that attach to hearing aids and cochlear implants.

I purchased my first ear charms last year—silver and turquoise dangling charms. When I wore my hair pulled back, people complimented my ears. No one mentioned the hearing aids attached to the charms.

This year, to celebrate having new hearing aids, I bought more charms. If you are tired of hiding your hearing aids or cochlear implants by a thick mane of hair, bling them up. Besides charms, consider adding sparkly stickers to them or colorful twists to the hearing aid tubes. Hayleigh has those, too.

Remember that the more people who see your decked out hearing devices, the more people who are made aware of your unique self. Hearing loss or not, don’t hide.

Come out of the closet.

Source: http://www.deaf-insight.com

Tinnitus – a serious issue for many sufferers

hearing-lossTinnitus is a serious health issue for those who suffer from it. Tinnitus is noises heard anywhere in the head or in one or both ears. It can be a constant ringing, buzzing or whistling in the ears, 24 hours a day.

Almost all of us experience tinnitus temporarily; perhaps for a few hours after a concert or any other occasion where our ears are subjected to noise.  Tinnitus becomes a problem when this noise persists and/or increases. Normally, the ringing in the ears will disappear, but it may also become permanent. Tinnitus is common in people over the age of 40, but is becoming increasingly prevalent in younger people, as well, because of increased daily noise levels, including those caused by the unrestrained use of MP3s, iPods and other personal stereos.

Research* found that just one in 123 tinnitus patients suffered no hearing loss. In the majority, a connection was found between the nature of their hearing loss and how they experienced the ringing in their ears. The researchers examined the degree of hearing loss in the tinnitus patients and the reasons for their hearing loss. The results were collated with the patients’ descriptions of how they experienced their tinnitus so as to examine whether there was any connection between tinnitus and hearing loss. The results indicated that patients suffering from age or noise related hearing loss generally experience their tinnitus as a constant high pitched sound. Patients whose hearing loss was caused by Ménières disease or similar syndromes experienced their tinnitus as a varied and low hum. This indicates an association between tinnitus and hearing impairment.

Associations were also found between the degree of hearing loss and the frequencies of low hearing. The frequency of the tinnitus noise as described by the study participants was mostly directly related to the measured frequencies of their hearing loss. The loudness of the experienced tinnitus also corresponded to the degree of hearing loss.

The researchers believe that various measurements of the patients’ hearing may provide a simple and indirect test on which an evaluation of tinnitus levels may be based. In the treatment of tinnitus, it is particularly important to be able to record changes in the patient’s experience of his or her tinnitus.

Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.

*Source: Characteristics of Tinnitus and Etiology of Associated Hearing Loss: A Study of 123 Patients, International Tinnitus Journal, 2002.

Can’t get a tune out of your head?

The tune which pops into your head and won’t go away is maddening enough — but imagine if the music in your head sounded as real as if the musicians were sitting beside you.

Even worse, if the music was discordant, unrecognisable as a tune.

‘It’s as if the choir is in the room with you and you have no means of making them stop,’ says Tina Lannin, a 42-year-old from London who suffered from this for nearly 30 years.

‘One night, I was kept awake by what sounded like a drunken choir singing Away In A Manger.

‘Sometimes it was a rock concert, and sometimes classical music or opera.

‘At times there were singers, and at other times, just instruments. But it never sounded right.

‘Although it’s music, it’s not harmonious or structured, and usually I couldn’t recognise what it was.’

Tina is describing a surprisingly common condition, musical ear syndrome.

It is a form of tinnitus, a condition that affects one in ten of us.

But while tinnitus is usually a buzzing, ringing or whistling sound in the ear, without any obvious source, in some people it takes the form of phantom music.

Around 90 per cent of those with the condition develop it as a result of hearing loss, says Tim Griffiths, professor of cognitive neurology at Newcastle University.

Huw Cooper, consultant audiologist at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, says: ‘We see people every week who report hearing phantom music, and it’s something that may be under-reported.

‘This is because people are familiar with tinnitus as banging or ringing, but when they hear music, they don’t think of tinnitus. Instead, they worry they are going mad.’

Brain scans show they are not. In fact, their brain activity during these hallucinations is very similar to people who are listening to actual music.

However, with musical hallucinations, there is no activity in the primary auditory cortex — the area close to the ear where sound signals are normally received and then sent further into the brain to be processed, explains Professor Griffiths.

‘If someone is deaf or loses their hearing, the part of the brain that processes sound signals is deprived of stimulation.

‘In the absence of sound, the brain fills in the gaps, as it were, by turning to musical memory for stimulation.’

'Sometimes I would hear buzzing and banging, but frequently it was musical,' said Tina, who is now a professional lip-reader‘Sometimes I would hear buzzing and banging, but frequently it was musical,’ said Tina, who is now a professional lip-reader

Usually, in musical hallucinations, people hear carols and hymns, says Dr Richard McCollum, a psychiatrist at Devon Partnership NHS Trust, who recently ran an online study involving more than 500 sufferers.

Intriguingly, the American respondents to the survey typically heard their national anthem.

‘Memories laid down early in life with great frequency tend to be most deeply embedded in the subconscious,’ explains Dr McCollum.

‘It is likely to be the case that in America, the national anthem is more commonly heard, whereas for people in the UK, their deeply embedded musical memories tend to be childhood hymns and carols.’

He found musical hallucinations tend to start suddenly and intensely.

‘A typical story is the couple going to bed at night and one saying: “Can you turn off that music, please?” While the other asks: “What music?” ’

Musical hallucinations are different from ‘ear worms’ — the songs, TV theme tunes and jingles that get inside our heads and play repeatedly.

Ear worms, which affect nine out of ten of us at least once, are caused when the parts of the brain responsible for processing sound are persistently activated, for example by a catchy tune heard repeatedly on the radio, says Professor Griffiths.

In a musical hallucination, there is also persistent activity, but this takes place within the brain, rather than being triggered by external sound.

Another difference lies in the way they are perceived.

‘People with musical hallucinations initially think what they hear is real. If you have an “ear worm”, you don’t think it is real,’ says Professor Griffiths.

‘If you have an ear worm, it can seem very persistent and difficult to stop, but your brain will still receive lots of other signals through the auditory complex and this will eventually “win” over your worm.’

Tinnitus is a condition that affects one in ten of usTinnitus is a condition that affects one in ten of us

Hearing loss that triggers musical hallucinations can be moderate or severe, according to Professor Griffiths’s research.

In some cases, patients lost their hearing suddenly — for example, after a head injury.

Others had suffered very gradual age-related loss of hearing, although those with the most severe hearing loss seem more likely to develop musical hallucinations.

Tina was born prematurely, and her hearing was profoundly damaged by the noise of the incubator where she spent her first three months.

By the age of ten she developed tinnitus.

‘Sometimes I would hear buzzing and banging, but frequently it was musical,’ says Tina, who is now a professional lip-reader.

‘It could be a bit creepy. I could tell that inside my head, I was making a rough copy of songs I’d heard before.

‘But I always knew it was a part of my tinnitus.’

Why some people develop musical hallucinations after hearing loss, and many don’t, is not clear.

Professor Griffiths believes there may be other risk factors, notably high blood pressure and its effect on the brain.

The theory is  this might cause tiny strokes reducing the sound information going to the auditory cortex.

A German study of 11 stroke patients who developed musical hallucinations showed damage to the part of the brain involved in processing sound.

Some people with epilepsy can suffer musical ear syndrome, too, just before an attack (just as perceptions, such as sense of taste, smell or hearing can change).

Brain tumours may also trigger musical hallucinations.

Tina’s hallucinations became increasingly difficult to live with.

‘I became stressed and exhausted trying to concentrate on what people were saying to me with all the background noise and music going on.’

Tina wore a hearing aid, but when she asked for help, no one seemed interested.

‘I developed my own way of coping,’ says Tina.

‘I learnt that if the music was really annoying, although I couldn’t stop it, if I concentrated hard on a song I liked better, I could change the music.’

Like Tina, most sufferers receive little help.

Indeed, Dr McCollum’s study found that only 16 per cent of people report having treatment, and just 3 per cent said their treatment was effective.

‘The one treatment known to be effective is increasing the amount of external auditory stimulation.

‘This might be something simple, such as having the radio on more often and avoiding long periods of silence,’ explains Dr McCollum.

‘And if someone has musical ear syndrome after hearing loss, it is important to maximise their hearing capacity.’

This proved the key for Tina, whose musical hallucinations finally stopped two years ago after she had a cochlear implant in her right ear.

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic hearing device.

It bypasses the damaged sections of the ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerves (a standard hearing aid amplifies sound).

The effect was profound — not only on Tina’s ability to hear but also for her musical hallucinations.

Being close to normal hearing capacity means the over-activity in the auditory network in her brain is kept in check by sound signals flowing from the outside world.

‘About four days after the implant was fitted, I woke up to complete silence,’ she says.

‘That was a joy to me, and something I had never experienced before.’

A year later, Tina had a second cochlear implant fitted in her left ear.

‘Now my musical hallucinations have gone completely. I sometimes get a bit of buzzing or banging tinnitus, but it is at a much lower noise level.

‘I’ve always loved music, and still do. Now I love piano, particularly Mozart and Beethoven.

‘It is much clearer than the music I had in my head, and is a different, enjoyable thing.’

Source Daily Mail: Read more: 

Hearing Loss and children

ENT_229_05Current technology now permits the accurate assessments of hearing in children starting within a few hours of birth. A child with undetected hearing loss may not be able to develop normal speech and language or acquire the cognitive abilities (knowing, thinking, and judging) needed for learning. Children whose hearing loss is not identified until, for example, 2 or 3 years of age may suffer from permanent impairment of speech, language, and learning.

The early identification of hearing loss permits the initiation of treatment and rehabilitation of the hearing-impaired child at a very young age. The child can then learn more normal speech skills when hearing loss is identified early and intervention begins. Hearing loss can range from a mild impairment to profound loss. Many people think that hearing is only graded as normal or deaf. They may also think that the child is hearing normally if he or she is responding to sounds and voices. However, there are many subtle gradations between normal hearing and deafness and a child’s hearing loss may not be apparent.

For example, it is common for a child with moderate hearing loss to develop speech and language and yet miss over half of what is being said. A child in this situation will have a distinct disadvantage in development and learning and will often reach a point where advancement stops unless the hearing loss is detected and treatment begins.

The stress on a child with hearing loss (and their family) can be enormous because the child does not understand why it is constant struggle to learn seemingly simple material (and the family is baffled as to why their bright child is not doing well). The degree of hearing loss often determines the impact it will have on the child throughout life. However, with early identification and treatment, the impact can be lessened.

There are a number of risk factors for hearing loss in children, so there are a number of special reasons why a child’s hearing may need to be screened or tested. Common indications for a hearing evaluation include:

  • speech delay
  • frequent or recurrent ear infections
  • a family history of hearing loss (hearing loss can be inherited)
  • syndromes known to be associated with hearing loss (for example, Down syndrome, the Alport syndrome, and Crouzon syndrome)
  • infectious diseases that cause hearing loss (for example, meningitis, measles, andcytomegalovirus [CMV] infection)
  • medical treatments that may have hearing loss as a side effect, including some antibiotics and some chemotherapy agents
  • poor school performance, and
  • diagnosis of a learning disability or other disorder, such as autism orpervasive developmental disorder (PDD).

If you’re worried about your child, talk to your GP today.


Anybody who might be concerned about their hearing, can avail of a free hearing test at any Hidden Hearing branch nationwide. You can book a hearing test free of charge at any of Hidden Hearing’s 60 clinics nationwide. Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit www.hiddenhearing.ie.