Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Understanding Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can happen at any age and at any time. If you think your hearing is damaged, the first thing you should do is make an appointment at Evergreen Audiology Clinic and get a hearing evaluation. We’ve been serving the people of the Vancouver, WA area for more than 20 years and we treat each client like a family member. NIHL can be temporary, but it also can be permanent. You can better discern if this is an issue facing you if you understand NIHL.

What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Every day there is sound all around us: there’s traffic, the television, household appliances and the noises from our computers, iPhones and other devices. We are so used to the beeps, buzzes and hums, they don’t even register anymore. Normally, these sounds are at safe levels and they don’t damage our hearing. Sounds can harm your hearing, though, when they are too loud or over a prolonged period of time. These sounds can cause damage to the structures in the inner ear and this will result in NIHL.

NIHL can be immediately recognized, or can take a long time to be noticed. It can be temporary or permanent and it can be in one ear or both ears. You may not realize your ears are damaged now, but in the future, you may start realizing that conversation seems muffled, especially if you are talking on the phone or trying to have a conversation in a noisy environment. However, you first realize it, you need to realize that noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented.

Who Suffers from NIHL?

Exposure to dangerous noise can happen to anyone. People of all age ranges, from children to seniors can develop NIHL. A 2011-2012 Center for Disease Control study involving hearing tests and interviews found at least 10 million adults in the United States under the age of 70 and up to 40 million adults had features noted in their hearing tests that suggest hearing loss in one or both ears from exposure to loud noise. Researchers also estimate that up to 17% of teens, age 12 to 19, have indications in their hearing tests that suggest NIHL in one or both ears.

So, What’s the Cause?

NIHL can be caused by one loud noise, such as an explosion or by continuous exposure to noise at a certain level over a period of time, such as noise generated at a factory.
Recreational activities that you participate in without ear plugs or other ear protection can put you at risk. These would include motorcycling, target shooting, hunting or snowmobiling. Listen to music on personal devices too loud can damage your ears. Going to loud nightclubs more than once or twice a week, playing in a band, or going to loud concerts can damage your ears.
Noise at home such as leaf blowers, lawn mowers or woodworking tools can be too loud.
Too loud is sound at or over about 85 decibels. Some average decibel ratings to give a point of reference would be: a normal conversation about 70, soundtrack at a movie theater about 104, motorcycles and dirt bikes about 110 as is the decibel rating of music through headphones at maximum volume or a concert.

How Does the Damage Occur?

Sound enters the outer ear and travels through the ear canal to the ear drum. The ear drum vibrates from the sound waves and send the vibrations to bones in the middle ear. The bones in the middle ear vibrate the fluid inside the cochlea and the traveling sound waves cause hair cells to ripple creating an electrical signal which the auditory nerve sends as an electrical signal to the brain. The brain translates that signal into a sound which you understand. NIHL damages the hair cells. Initially, there are enough hair cells to compensate, but as more and more get damaged, hearing loss occurs.

Can NIHL Be Prevented?

NIHL can assuredly be prevented. If you are aware of the hazards of loud noise, you can take precautions to avoid the damage. Know which sounds are above 85 decibels. There are phone apps that list those noises as well as apps that can measure sound levels. Wear earplugs or noise cancelling headphones if you are working outside with loud equipment or participating in a leisure activity that involves loud or prolonged noise. There are activity-specific earplugs and earmuffs available at hardware and sporting goods stores. And, get an annual hearing evaluation at Evergreen Audiology Clinic. Your initial hearing test can set a baseline to help us keep tabs on your hearing.


Evergreen Audiology

If you’re concerned about your hearing health, contact us at Evergreen Audiology for a consultation and hearing test. We also offer custom hearing protection to help you protect your hearing from excessive noise. We look forward to hearing from you!

Tips for Traveling with Hearing Aids

a couple travelling

There’s no reason to miss out on traveling adventures if you have hearing aids. Venues all over the world have made significant accommodations for travelers with disabilities and that includes travelers with hearing issues.

Before you set out on your adventure, make an appointment at Evergreen Audiology to make sure your hearing devices are up to date and pick up any extra items you might need. We can help with extra chargers, extra batteries, custom hearing protection and perhaps care products for your hearing aids. You don’t want to miss a minute of the great sights AND sounds you will encounter traveling. Here are some suggestions to make sure you have a safe and rewarding adventure.

Do Some Advance Preparation

Before you book a hotel, see what kind of accommodations they have for people with hearing difficulties. Hotels in numerous developed countries have special amenities for people who are hard of hearing that include flashing lights for the phone and the door knocker. If you are using a tour group, the tour group director should be able to help you with specific accommodations at specific hotels as well as venues that you will be visiting.

Public sites including museums and historical venues often offer loops or other hearing assistive technology if requested. Evergreen Audiology can help you understand how these may work before you take your trip.

Venues that also might offer assistive listening devices includes theaters and performance halls. E-mail the facilities you might be going to for the most up-to-date information. In areas where English is a second language, the internet is a great resource to look for words and phrases you might see on signs that would show there is assistance for the hearing impaired. For example, asistencia auditive, means hearing assistance in Spanish in France you would see – aide auditive.

It is also helpful to do a little homework about your destination including some of the tourist areas. If you are familiar with names in the area and some history – it will be easier to follow what a guide is saying.

Use Technology

There are lots of helpful apps that you can find that are tailored to help out travelers. Rail lines as well as airlines have apps that let you download timetables and maps to your phone or your iPad. Some of these apps have alerts that let you know about delays or gate changes. Familiarize yourself with the apps and what they can do before your trip.

A number of countries have apps that give specific information about tourist areas. For instance, Great Britain has apps that give specific information for tourists needing assistance. It lists what technology, like loops, are available at sites. GoogleMaps’ app includes a feature that will let you find out when popular restaurants usually have dining openings. You can try out that popular restaurant when it is less crowded and less noisy.

Be Proactive

Tell your guides and traveling companions about your hearing loss and let them know how they can help you. You want to enjoy your trip!  Ask to be seated where you can see the guide’s face when they are talking. You can certainly ask them to speak clearly and to not to block their face with their microphone.  Bring an assistive listening device like an FM system that will let you stream the guide’s voice to your hearing aids. Pack a small pad of paper or notebook. Many times, the guides give suggestions on other places you might want to visit and it would be helpful if they jotted down directions for you.

Pack Ear Protection and Extras

Concerts or theatre performances can be loud in unfamiliar venues. Bring ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones. Remember, environmental sounds where you are going may be loud enough to disturb you. Bring extra supplies to take care of your hearing aids. Pack extra ear protection and if you will be swimming, consult us about custom ear molds.  Remember, you may need an adapter if you need to plug in your charger in the hotel or on the cruise ship.

Evergreen Audiology

At Evergreen Audiology, we believe that treating hearing loss brings significant benefits to your overall life and well-being – and that includes the joy of travel! Before heading out on your trip, schedule a visit with us to make sure your hearing aids are in proper working order. Our team at Evergreen Audiology will assist you in any way we can.

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month!

Every May, for the past 75 years, the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) dedicates an entire month to raising awareness about communication disorders such as hearing loss. For 2019, their theme is “Communication Across the Lifespan,” drawing attention to the importance of treating communication disorders from early life up to old age.

Hearing loss is an important communication disorder to tackle. Nearly 37 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, but it usually takes 7 years before they decide to treat it. ASHA sees good hearing health as an important way to the connection with those around you. We hope that the following article will help you or someone in your family put the spotlight on your own hearing health this month, and seek treatment if you feel it is necessary.

Journalist’s story of hearing loss treatment a wake-up call to other millennials with hearing loss

Adam Felman is a writer for Medical News Today who wrote recently about his experience using hearing aids for the first time. He sought treatment for his own hearing loss after researching information for a list of articles on deafness and hearing loss for the medical news site. At the time of documenting his experiences wearing the hearing aids, he had only been wearing them for 2 days, but they have already had a huge impact on his life.

“A game-changer”

He has noticed how much more connected he is with the world around him. And even in a short time, he is stunned by how they have improved his quality of life, and is excited by the prospect of wearing them for years to come: “I cannot wait to stick these bad boys in upon waking up tomorrow and seeing what else I can discover for the first time.”

Almost immediately, he has noticed the improvements in his balances and spatial awareness. Crucially, this has made everyday tasks much more seamless. But when he removes his hearing aids, that’s when he notices how much more draining it is without them.

“My hearing no longer feels impaired — that is, until I remove the hearing aids. Those few moments in the day without them, such as going to the gym or grabbing a shower, are now pretty draining by comparison.”

After reading so much about the stigma of hearing aids and how they discourage those with hearing loss from seeking treatment, Felman has been surprised by the outpouring of support from his family and finds. “Everyone has been congratulating me as if I’ve just become a parent for the first time,” he beams.

Social bluffing

Although hearing aids are normally the preserve of older adults, Felman is still only 30 years old. As young person still actively going to noisy places like clubs, bars and live music venues, he has had much first-hand experience of the social embarrassment of hearing loss

“I’ve forgotten what it’s like to chat with a friend at a concert or even a bar. Very often, I will have great difficulty separating conversational frequencies from noises in the environment, making it almost impossible to fully focus on what people are saying.”

As a result of these difficulties in communicating with others, Felman resorted to what many do in this situation: social bluffing. Out of the embarrassment of not being able to hear his friends, he began to switch between a series of phrases which he used to respond to friends, dependent on the tone of voice and context.


“100 percent!”

“I can fully understand that.”

“Tell me about it!”

Although these phrases might sound normal in a conversation, they didn’t facilitate further conversation and left an awkwardness in the room. Now he is armed with his devices, his ability to communicate in these places has improved drastically.

Millennials also need to take care of their hearing

Felman is fully aware of the importance of hearing as he enters his 30s. Entering a more responsible stage in his life, it is important for him to maintain his ability to communicate with others. Not taking care of this can have a detrimental effect on how he sees himself as he navigates these life challenges. He urges others to check their hearing and get help before their hearing loss becomes severe.

Rather than a device which debilitates, he sees hearing aids as an opportunity to improve connections with the world around them. Other millennials with hearing loss are urged to treat it before it becomes too severe, so that they can experience the benefits that improved hearing can offer to their quality of life.

Celebrate Better Speech and Hearing Month with Evergreen Audiology

Hearing loss affects people of all ages, but the good news is that treatment options are available! If you feel you might have hearing loss, a hearing test will go a long way towards bringing peace of mind. Schedule an appointment with us at Evergreen Audiology today!

The Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss

Many older Americans are currently feeling the effects of hearing loss. Current numbers suggest one in three people age 65 and older are affected. While hearing loss might seem like a minor inconvenience, there are a myriad of potential effects associated with the condition. Previous studies have linked to an increase in the risk of depression, dementia and even physical falls.

Unfortunately, we rarely treat it early enough. Even as people begin to notice changes in their hearing abilities, they wait an average of seven years before deciding to seek treatment. This is because unlike eyesight issues, hearing loss is considered more of an invisible condition because its effects do not immediately show themselves. But identifying and treating hearing loss early brings many benefits to an individual’s life.

Here’s what you stand to gain from treating your hearing loss early.

Earn more

A recent study of the income levels of those with hearing loss (both treated and untreated) found that “people with moderate to profound hearing loss, who did not use hearing aids, experienced household incomes $5,000 to $6,000 less than their counterparts who did use hearing aids.” No matter how bad your hearing loss gets, getting it treated can help you get ahead in your industry.

An explanation for this increase in earning power can to traced to the effectiveness of a worker when all of their senses are working properly. Hearing aids make communication easier – improving clarity in meetings and among colleagues, helping you work better in teams. They also help strengthen your cognitive abilities, which leads to higher performance on tasks (especially those which require sustained focus) as well as increased memory and productivity. 

Connect with your friends and family

Endless advice columns have taught us that regular communication is the key to any healthy relationship, from spouses, partners, family members, friends, to weak ties like acquaintances and work colleagues. When this breaks down, that’s when relationships take a turn for the worse.

Many of those who has a close partner or family member with hearing loss can identify with the frustration of having to repeat oneself several times a day. This kind of frustration can easily build resentment and unnecessary conflict between loved ones.

High quality hearing aids are built to specifically boost these frequencies of sound that you lose though hearing loss, making it easier to connect with those around you. This reinstates the connecting between you and your family and partners, reducing frustration and helping maintain those relationships most important to you.

Keep your brain sharp

A recent study from Johns Hopkins is one of the latest to discover a potential link between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Parts of our brain reserved for processing sound are used less, and the strain of ‘filling in the gaps’ when engaged in conversations in noisy places creates a “cognitive load” that leads to exhaustion.

Hearing is as much a responsibility of the brain as it is the ears. So, when we treat hearing loss with hearing aids, this helps to reduce the load on our brains and our brains function in a healthier way. Some studies have claimed that this is what could help hearing aid wearers slow the onset of dementia later in life.

Improve your physical confidence and independence

For our safety and sense of independence, it’s important to remain physically able as we get older. But with the loss of hearing, alerts from fire alarms, car horns, doorbells, or ringing phones might be out of our auditory range. Hearing aids can help us hear these sounds and act accordingly for our safety. With the assurance gained from increased safety, hearing aid users also report feeling more confident making their way around their property and neighborhood without assistance.

Benefits multiplied

As you cycle through these benefits to hearing loss treatment, remember that the benefits don’t just apply to you. They apply to those closest to you too.

If you are the main breadwinner, treating hearing loss could help make your family more financially secure through your increased earning potential. Improving the connections with your loved ones improves their mental and emotional well-being, as well as yours. The maintenance of your physical independence though the help of hearing aids will reduce the burden of care that your family members and partner will have to shoulder. This extends to any benefits in reducing the risk of dementia that treating hearing loss appears to have.

Evergreen Audiology

Taking charge of your hearing health benefits you as well as the people around you. If you ready to feel the benefits of improved hearing health, don’t hesitate to contact us at Evergreen Audiology today for a consultation! 

Encouraging a Loved One to Take a Hearing Test

Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the individual who has it. Partners, family members and friends also feel the consequences. These groups might find themselves having to repeat things over and over, and it can be heart-breaking to see a somebody shut themselves away from the people and activities they enjoy.

There are many signs of hearing loss and your loved one may not have them all. However, exhibiting even a few of these signs could indicate that they need to get their hearing checked. Here are some of the most common indications they may need help:

  • they turn up the TV louder than others need it to be
  • they claim others mumble all the time
  • they find it tough to hear when on the phone
  • they don’t like going to restaurants because they can’t follow conversations
  • they become socially-isolated because it too much effort to go out
  • they find it hard to deal with loud noises and sometimes complains that they understand you, but other times they say that you’re shouting
  • their hearing loss leads them to be feel more frustrated than usual.

It’s understandable to want to help a loved one who is experiencing these symptoms. However, for many different reasons, the topic of hearing loss can be a sensitive one to raise. Some people think that treating hearing loss with hearing aids makes them look old, while others simply do not even notice the changes in their hearing. You will likely encounter resistance from your loved one about their hearing loss, so you’ll need to approach the conversation gently and tactfully. We offer some advice on how to best broach the topic with your loved one.

Starting the conversation

Talk to your loved one about the problems they have with hearing. Be patient, as it is normal for someone to deny they even have hearing loss at all. Hearing loss often comes on gradually and so the signs can sometimes be difficult to recognize. You can gently remind them that it isn’t normal to have to “translate” or repeat things for them so often.

You might even ask them about whether they can hear the everyday sounds around you. It is usually the higher pitched sounds that are lost first and so they may not hear the bird song around you in a wooded area, the telephone or doorbell ring for example. Making them aware of all the sounds they are missing may help them to realize that their hearing abilities have changed.

You could also talk about any safety concerns you may have. Everyday situations such as crossing the road may be more difficult or even dangerous if you are not able to hear well. This issue is amplified if your loved one routinely looks after young family members.

Talk about the long-term value of treating hearing loss. Some people become socially isolated and may stop going out due to the effort required to understand others in challenging listening environments. This could lead to problems such as depression and dementia. Hearing aids help keep the brain active. It is important to keep these parts of the ear and brain working to reduce the risks of cognitive and mental conditions down the line.

When they admit they might have a problem

If your loved one is receptive to the idea they might have hearing loss, it doesn’t mean they are ready for treatment. They may express concerns about the look and performance of hearing aids. In this situation, it’s helpful to talk about how developments in technology have drastically improved the way hearing aids look and perform.

As they might have more questions you can’t answer, encourage them to do more research themselves to get their questions answered. Following this, a good first step could be taking an online hearing check which will identify any general issues and can be used a bridge to seeing a specialist. Once they are ready, offer to schedule and attend a hearing consultation with them. Let them know they have little to lose, and that you are with them every step of the way.

Helping your loved one begin their journey towards healthy hearing can help set them up for a better quality of life. If you have helped them on the right path, well done to you. Why not help them schedule a hearing consultation with Evergreen Audiology today?

Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss

If you think you might have hearing loss but aren’t ready to take action on it, you are one of many in the same situation. The average person waits seven years from the moment they first notice their hearing loss until they actually do something about it.

What can explain this length of time before treatment?  It’s not like someone with diabetes or high blood pressure would wait that long before doing something. It’s because hearing loss takes a while before its symptoms become known. These signs can be very subtle, and you might not notice you are losing your hearing.

To work out whether you might have hearing loss, here are some of the most common signs:

You turn up the TV louder than your family wants it

Family and friends are usually the first to notice some difficulty hearing, long before the individual notices themselves. It doesn’t matter if you are watching TV, listening to music, or talking on the phone. While the noise level might seem perfectly normal for you, those around you might disagree. This is a sign that your level of hearing is lower than others around you.

You find it hard to follow conversation in busy spaces and restaurants

A very common problem that people with hearing loss face is the finding it difficult to comprehend speech in noisy environments including public places, large family dinners, or even in the car. Having trouble differentiating who’s speaking to you in a noisy environment might mean is likely to be an early sign of hearing loss.

Why does this happen? Background noise in busy public places is generally low-pitched, while many consonants, such as “f” and “s,” are located in the higher registers. Those with hearing loss tend to lose their ability to hear higher frequencies first. This means that background noise will appear louder than the speech of people close by. A loss of the ability to hear higher frequency sounds also explains why individuals may find it tougher to understand the words of women and children.

You believe that others mumble

People with hearing loss will lose the ability to hear many things as their hearing loss develops, but they are not going to complain about them as they can’t hear them. They will however, notice when they don’t understand speech. This explains the popular complaint that they ‘can hear but can’t understand.’ If you feel that everyone is mumbling nowadays, it’s a sign that the problem may lie closer to home.

You get tired after socializing

For the listener with normal hearing, ear cells send clear auditory information to the brain seamlessly, helping the individual understand words perfectly and making communication effortless.

But, with the addition of hearing loss, gaps appear in the sentences understood by others. The brain has to work, think and concentrate harder than it would with normal hearing and this synergy between ear and brain is disrupted, increasing the challenges of communication and leading to listening fatigue. If you find yourself really having to concentrate and getting exhausted while doing so, it could be a sign you are losing your hearing.

Treat your hearing loss early

When hearing loss is not treated early enough, the nerve which transports sound from the ear to the brain, in addition to the part of the brain which has the job of understanding speech, are being used less frequently than they were when the hearing was normal. Known as auditory deprivation, the longer that these structures remain under-utilized, the more difficult it becomes to understand future speech and the lower the chances of success we have with hearing aids.

It is tough to restore this ability to understand speech. Therefore, we should be vigilant to the early signs of hearing loss in order to preserve our hearing. The use of hearing aids helps us use the hearing nerve and the brain regularly, so that there is less chance that they will atrophy. It really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’. Once hearing loss has occurred, we can’t reverse the damage. But we can make sure that we can still benefit from hearing aids. Don’t wait until it is too late to discover the signs that you might need them.

Are you or someone you know ready to treat a hearing loss? Don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with Evergreen Audiology today!