Tinnitus and Hearing Awareness Week

Tinnitus and Hearing Awareness Week

Hearing Awareness Week is held each year to coincide with World Hearing Day on 3rd March. Hearing loss is a significant issue in Australia, costing $15 billion each year. Hearing loss is more common than heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and affects 70% of people over the age of 70. 

Tinnitus and Hearing Awareness Week

Tinnitus can be both a cause and a side effect of hearing loss and affects around 18% of the Australian population.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of noise inside the head or ear, including ringing, buzzing, humming, hissing, roaring, or rushing, heard in either one or both ears. Occasionally, it can be the sound of music playing, particularly in older people.

For some people, tinnitus is constant, while for others, it comes and goes. It can sound to the sufferer as if it is coming from somewhere external, or it can be clear that it is from inside the head.

The noise that tinnitus sufferers can hear is not caused by any outside source but comes from a fault in the auditory system. It can be mild, causing annoyance but not interfering in everyday life. 

It can also be severe and debilitating. Tinnitus sufferers may experience poor concentration, fatigue and sleeping problems, stress, irritability, memory problems, anxiety and depression.

Causes of tinnitus

It has no single cause and can be a symptom of a number of underlying disorders. Depending on the cause it may be possible to treat or reduce tinnitus symptoms, while for others symptoms can be managed. People who have hearing loss are more likely to experience tinnitus, but it can affect anyone, of any age. Men are slightly more likely to have tinnitus than women.

Some common causes of tinnitus include:

Long-term exposure to loud noises

The ringing in your ears that you may have experienced following a loud music concert is a form of short-term tinnitus. It usually goes away within a few hours, but consistent exposure to loud noise, whether music or industrial equipment, can cause permanent tinnitus.

Age

Like other hearing problems, age can lead to tinnitus developing in later life. It tends to develop gradually as the ear’s delicate tissue degrades over time, particularly after age 60.

Infection

Ear infections can sometimes cause tinnitus. Though this is usually temporary, repeated ear infections and bouts of tinnitus may cause longer-term symptoms. It is important to have the underlying cause of recurring ear infections investigated.

Earwax 

We all need some earwax to protect the ear canal, keeping it free of dirt and bacteria. In some people, too much earwax develops, blocking the ear and sometimes causing tinnitus.

Ménière’s Disease

Though it is rare, this inner-ear disease often causes tinnitus, along with vertigo. 

Medication

Some types of medication can cause tinnitus, including aspirin, some antibiotics, cancer drugs and antidepressants.

Physical changes to the ear and head

There are a number of physical problems that can cause tinnitus. They include:

  • Eustachian tube dysfunction. The tube that connects the ear to the throat stays open rather than closing as it should. This often develops due to pregnancy or weight loss.
  • Otosclerosis (stiffening of the ear bones). This condition, which is often inherited, can cause tinnitus as the bones in the ear change and grow abnormally.
  • Temporomandibular joint problems. Problems with the joint that connects the jaw to the skull, just below the ear, can lead to tinnitus.
  • Tumours. A tumour in the head or neck can lead to increased pressure on the ear, resulting in tinnitus. An acoustic neuroma, or tumour on the cranial nerve, is particularly likely to result in tinnitus, usually in one ear.
  • Injuries. A perforated eardrum, which can result from a severe ear infection, loud noise or scuba diving, will often cause tinnitus in one ear. In addition, injuries to the head or neck can lead to tinnitus.

Treatment for tinnitus

Severe tinnitus can be deeply distressing, interfering with how you live your life, causing or exacerbating mental health problems and making it difficult to work. It is important to remember that almost all tinnitus can be effectively treated and improved, even if you have been told in the past that there is nothing that can be done.

Treating and managing tinnitus involves understanding how it works, adapting to the symptoms, and improving your psychological associations with it. The treatment of tinnitus depends on the cause, your lifestyle, your personality, and the severity of the condition. It may be that your tinnitus has a specific, treatable cause that we can identify. If it does not, then we will work out the most appropriate course of action to reduce your symptoms.

At Hearing & Audiology, we are passionate about helping people with tinnitus and know that the majority of tinnitus can be treated with the appropriate expertise and care. Our tinnitus specialists have trained with internationally recognised tinnitus experts so that the most up-to-date advancements in knowledge are passed on to you. At your appointment, we will discuss a personalised treatment and management plan with you, while providing strategies to better deal with your tinnitus symptoms. At the conclusion of all assessments, a written report will be sent to your doctor unless otherwise requested. 

To book an appointment with one of our tinnitus specialists, call (08) 9388 8003.

3 Signs Your Child May Need A Hearing Test

3 Signs Your Child May Need A Hearing Test

As a vital human sense, hearing plays a significant role in the way we interact with the world around us, particularly when we’re growing.

Hearing is vital to your child’s development as it will shape the way they learn, focus, and communicate with others. If your child is having difficulties with their hearing, they will feel locked out from the world which will stunt their personal progress.

3 Signs Your Child May Need A Hearing Test

If you have concerns about your child’s hearing abilities but you’re unsure whether to take action, here are three definitive signs that your child might need a hearing test.

1) Saying “What?” More Frequently

One of the most prominent signs of hearing loss or difficulties is asking people to repeat themselves frequently.

If your child is asking “what?” more often than usual when you are talking to them (or they’re requesting that you repeat your sentence or instructions a lot), it may not just be a case of ‘selective listening’—it could be because of hearing difficulties.

Has this become a familiar behaviour? It might be time to book your child a hearing test.

2) Attention & focus-based issues

If your child has problems focusing their attention for extended periods of time or they find it difficult to hold a conversation on a specific subject, they could be finding it difficult to process sounds.

Naturally, younger children will zone out or bounce from one thing to the next, but if you feel that a lack of attention is getting in the way of your child’s development, booking a hearing test might be the first step in helping them.

3) Louder speech & louder volume

Has your child started talking at louder volumes than usual? And, do they play music or watch television at a higher volume than usual?

If you’ve answered yes, this may be a sign of hearing challenges—and it will require immediate attention. While your child might be experimenting with speech and sound, if they are experiencing audio-based issues, a hearing test will help you get to the root of the cause.

For your reference, here are other possible signs of child hearing issues:

  • Responding to you sometimes and not others.
  • Falling behind in certain areas of education.
  • Looking at your face intensely when you’re speaking.
  • Moving one ear forward or leaning in when they are listening to someone speak.

There are several reasons for hearing loss and many subtle signs that your child may need a hearing test. If you have any concerns at all, booking a hearing test is without a doubt, the best course of action.

As a leading hearing specialist in Perth with Subiaco, Duncraig, Geraldton & Karratha, we’ve helped countless people tackle a range of hearing issues. Our specialist staff and cutting-edge equipment and highly-trained audiologists will guide your child through every step of the journey.

We are official members of professional bodies, Audiological Society of Australia, Australian College of Audiology and Independent Audiology Australia—and with over 30 years of professional experience, you can count on us.

For more information about our cutting-edge hearing healthcare services, please call (08) 9388 8003. Or book an appointment at one of our Perth branches today—we look forward to meeting you.

What You Need to Know About Earwax

What You Need to Know About Earwax

Ear Wax

If you’ve noticed that your ears feel full and your hearing is duller than it used to be, earwax could be to blame.

Everyone has earwax, also known as cerumen, and everyone needs it. It protects and lubricates your ear canal, stopping dust, water and anything else damaging from getting in. Without earwax, your ears, and hearing, would quickly become damaged.

But you can have too much of a good thing, and too much earwax can lead to mild deafness, a feeling of fullness in your ear, ringing in your ear, or an earache. If you wear hearing aids, the wax build-up can cause your hearing aid to whistle.

How much earwax should you have?

Everyone produces different amounts of earwax. If it’s not causing hearing loss or pain, then you probably don’t have too much (though always get it checked out if you’re worried.)

Earwax is produced in the outer part of your ear canal and naturally moves out of your ears as they clean themselves. This leads to the gunk that you might be able to see outside your ear. It could be sticky and yellow-brown in colour, or it might be dry and grey. Either is completely normal.

If you can see earwax outside your ear, that’s a good thing. It means your ears are doing their job of cleaning out old and excess wax. Simply clean away any wax you can see outside your ears, and leave the wax inside your ear to do its job.

Ear Wax

When should you worry about earwax?

Wax becomes a problem if it can’t make its way out of your ear. If there is wax stuck in your ear, this could be because you have narrow or bendy ear canals, or because your body has started to produce too much wax and your ears can’t clean it out fast enough.

When this happens, many people reach for the cotton buds. Never do this – it will just push the wax further in and compact it, potentially damaging your ear and hearing.

What can you do about earwax?

  • Use wax-softening drops or oil twice a week (or according to the instructions on the box).
  • Limit ear cleaning to the outer ear only.
  • Treat any associated inflammatory skin conditions.
  • Get excess wax removed professionally.

If your ears are blocked with wax and you’re experiencing pain or hearing loss as a result, then we recommend you get the wax removed. Wax softening drops can be very helpful, but they aren’t always able to work through particularly troublesome wax.

How we can help you with earwax

We specialise in wax removal at Hearing & Audiology.

We use advanced methods of micro-suction as well as manual extraction using specialised instruments to safely remove wax from your ears. You don’t need a doctor’s referral to book your wax removal appointment.

For more information or to speak to one of our audiologists, call us today or book your free consultation online now.

Hearing 101: The Ultimate Guide To How Your Hearing Works

Hearing 101: The Ultimate Guide To How Your Hearing Works

Ear Diagram

If you are experiencing hearing problems or any other problem with your ears, it is useful to have an idea of how your hearing works. We’ve put together a guide for you to help you understand this sensory organ better.

Physical Structure and Function

The ear is the organ responsible for hearing. Hearing is our perception of sound. The anatomy of the ear is quite intricate but is made up of three main parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.

The Outer Ear

The outer ear includes all visible parts such as the earlobe and the auricle. The auricle is the bit of cartilage covered by skin. Together the ear lobe and auricle are called the pinna.

The outer ear also consists of the auditory canal—also called the ear canal—and the tympanic membrane, which is the outer layer of the eardrum.

The special shape of the outer ear captures sound. Sound travels down the ear canal and causes the eardrum to vibrate. These vibrations move the bones of the middle ear.

The Middle Ear

The middle ear includes the eardrum and the ossicles, which are the tiny bones of the middle ear. Most of us learn the names of these bones in school:

  1. the hammer (or malleus) – a long handles attached to the eardrum;
  2. the anvil (or incus) – the bridge bone between the hammer and the stirrup; and
  3. the stirrup (or stapes), which is the footplate, and the smallest bone in the human body.

The bones of the middle ear are designed to amplify the sounds we hear.

Also part of the middle ear is the eustachian tube. It equalises the pressure between the air outside the ear and pressure within the middle ear.

The tube is normally closed but can open involuntarily when you swallow, yawn or chew. You can intentionally open it to equalize pressure in the ears when at high altitudes or when flying in a plane. When this happens, you will probably hear a soft popping sound.

The Inner Ear

The inner ear is where sound is converted into electrical signals and transmitted to the brain. The parts of the inner ear are

  • the oval window, connecting the middle ear to the inner ear
  • semicircular ducts, filled with fluid and attached to the cochlea and nerves, that send information to the brain on balance and position of the head
  • the spiral-shaped cochlea that transforms sound into signals that get sent to the brain; and
  • the auditory tube, which drains fluid from the middle ear into the throat behind the nose

The three small bones in the middle ear move the fluid in the cochlea, which causes movement of tiny hair cells within. Movement of these hair cells creates electrical impulses which are sent along the auditory nerve to the brain.

To hear, all three sections must function correctly and be working together.

What Causes Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss occurs if any of the structures of the ear are not functioning properly. Alternatively, if the part of the brain which processes sound is not working properly, sounds may become distorted or inaudible, and cause hearing loss.

hearing loss

Types of Hearing Loss

We are going to get a little technical now, but hopefully in a way that makes sense to you. The three basic types of hearing loss are called conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.

The information in this article is for general awareness only and is not intended as expert advice. We recommend that you consult an ear specialist if you experience any of the symptoms of hearing loss listed below.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound does not reach the eardrum and the middle ear easily through the ear canal. If you have conductive hearing loss, sounds will seem softer and harder to hear. Usually, this kind of hearing loss can be corrected medically or surgically.

Causes of conductive hearing loss include:

  • Fluid in the middle ear from colds or allergies
  • Ear infection (also called otitis media)
  • Poor eustachian tube function
  • Hole in the eardrum
  • Too much earwax (cerumen)
  • Swimmer’s ear (external otitis)
  • Foreign body trapped in the ear canal
  • Malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs if there is damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. SNHL is the most common type of permanent hearing loss since medical or surgical correction is not often possible.

People with SNHL have difficulty hearing faint sounds. Even if speech is loud enough to hear, it may still be experienced as unclear or muffled.

hearing

Possible causes of SNHL include:

  • Certain drugs toxic to hearing
  • Genetic or hereditary hearing loss
  • Ageing
  • Head trauma
  • Malformation of the inner ear
  • Exposure to loud noise.

Some people experience a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, called mixed hearing loss.

Remember that hearing loss is often gradual. It is normally the people around you, rather than you yourself, who will recognise the symptoms first. Don’t be stubborn: get your hearing checked!

Take Care of Your Ears!

Taking good care of your ears is much like taking good care of your teeth and hair. It should be part of your routine. Here’s a quick checklist of what you should and shouldn’t do:

Do:

  • get your ears and hearing checked regularly
  • have a professional remove excessive ear wax or any small object stuck in the ear canal
  • use earplugs to protect your hearing in noisy environments
  • dry your ears after showering or swimming
  • stay physically active; a healthy circulation system helps keep your ears healthy.

Don’t:

  • put cotton swabs in your ear canal, or poke about with other objects
  • crank up your headphone volume
  • ignore pain or drainage from your ears — go to a doctor
  • smoke; smoking compromises the circulation system, which affects your hearing.

Importance of Ear Tests

Even if you don’t notice any reduction in your hearing ability, you should have your ears tested periodically. Loss of hearing can affect you at any age.

Early diagnosis of possible hearing problems in children is important too. This is mainly because hearing problems can cause delays in language learning, and learning skills generally.

Get in Touch

If you have any questions about your hearing or ear problems, we urge you to contact Audiologists from Hearing and Audiology or a hearing specialist near you soon.

Did you know that Hearing and Audiology gives pensioners a free hearing consultation? If you live in the Perth area, or in Geraldton, get in touch to book an appointment.

Best Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Apps For Your Ears

Best Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Apps For Your Ears

Did you know one of your best tools for dealing with hearing loss and tinnitus is probably less than a metre away? Yep – it’s your smartphone. There are hundreds of apps that are designed to enhance hearing, provide additional capabilities, or deliver relief and many of them are either free or only cost a few dollars.

With so many to choose from it’s tough to find the right app – so we’ve done the hard work for you. Below you’ll find our top picks in three categories – Hearing Enhancements, Tinnitus Relief, and Helpful Tools.

Please note: Hearing loss apps and other software are an addition to, not a replacement for, a traditional diagnosis and treatment. If you are experiencing hearing loss or other symptoms, we strongly recommend you visit your local hearing specialist.

Our Recommended Hearing Enhancement App: Petralex

Petralex is a free app which enables you to use your smartphone as a hearing aid. There are many other apps that offer similar functionality, but Petralex is a step ahead. We don’t recommend you ditch your hearing aid just yet, but this app works as a great alternative if you’ve run out of batteries or don’t wear a hearing aid and need a quick boost.

Features include:

  • 44.1 kHz sampling rate – higher than many hearing aids
  • Auto adjusts to your hearing and environment
  • Support for Bluetooth headsets

Download for free on iOS here or Android here.

Our Recommended Tinnitus Relief App: ReSound Tinnitus Relief

There are many sound therapy apps available that can help distract your brain and manage the symptoms of Tinnitus; our recommendation is ReSound Tinnitus Relief. It’s not magic: if the severity of your condition means that sound therapy is not effective then this app is unlikely to make the difference, but for everyone else this is the best option.

Features include:

  • Layer up combinations of multiple sounds
  • Adjust balance between ears
  • Includes guided meditation, deep breathing, and other activities designed to distract from Tinnitus.
  • Stream sound to your hearing aid (if you have one)

ReSound Tinnitus Relief costs US$6.99 per month or US$69.99 per year. It is available on iOS here and Android here.

Our Recommended Helpful Tool: Sound Alert

Sound Alert isn’t cheap, but it is clever. The app enables your smartphone to detect certain sounds – such as your smoke alarm – and alert you either through your smartphone or another compatible device. The app comes with some standard sounds pre-installed (mainly smoke and CO alarms), but you can also customize with specific sounds you want alerts for.

Features include:

  • Phone vibration and flashing light to alert you
  • Compatible with Pebble watch and compatible alert products (including Bellman and Geemarc products)
  • Programme 10 custom sounds

Sound Alert is available on iOS here and Android here.

Special Mention: Hearing Aid Apps

Did you know that most hearing aids now have apps that work with them? Features vary by manufacturer but usually include battery monitoring, the ability to adjust settings, including volume, using your phone, and create and switch between multiple programs. Some also enable wireless streaming.

Do you need to visit a hearing specialist? Hearing And Audiology are independent hearing specialists with more than 30 years’ experience. Contact us online today or call (08) 9388 8003 – no referral required.

Hearing Cellphone Applications – Could They Help You Hear Better?

Hearing Cellphone Applications – Could They Help You Hear Better?

They might not know it, but most people now have technology in their pocket which can stand in for a hearing aid – their smartphones. Advances in phone technology mean that many people are now using their phone and apps on it to help them manage their hearing loss better. Does this mean the end of the traditional hearing aid?

Will Cellphones Replace Hearing Aids?

On the face of it, smartphones are an ideal solution: they have all the technology necessary to mimic a hearing aid, people carry them everywhere, and many apps are already available. Additionally, some users report feeling self-conscious using a hearing aid and may find a smartphone a more acceptable solution.

The Jacoti ListenApp, for example, helps users to use their Apple earphones to hear nearby voices and audio from their phone more clearly – essentially acting as a hearing aid. The smartphone picks out the sound, increases the volume and decreases ambient noise, and then sends the sound to earphones connected by wire or Bluetooth.

Sounds great, but there are also a few downsides. Some phones are more expensive than hearing aids, so this isn’t a solution for those who can’t afford a hearing aid. Additionally, the audio tech contained within phones is not as good, and these app solutions are not effective for all levels of hearing loss. As it stands, cellphones are unlikely to replace hearing aids – but they are a great backup option.

So, It’s Smartphones vs. Hearing Aid Then?

Not necessarily. Modern hearing aids are increasingly learning from the wider wearable tech industry, introducing more modern, stylish designs and embracing the opportunity smartphones and apps bring for improving the user experience. Many manufacturers have already brought out their own apps which can act as a remote control for that brand’s hearing aids.

Many smartphone makers are also working closely with manufacturers to ensure hearing aids are compatible with their phones. For example, brands such as Unitron, Oticon, Widex, Starkey, and Signia are compatible with iOS devices.

Hearing Apps Go Beyond Hearing Enhancement

Cellphone apps have far more to offer than just hearing advancement. There are a wide variety of apps available that help to solve specific problems:

  • Voice Relay P3 Mobile is a relay service app which helps hard of hearing and deaf individuals to have phone conversations.
  • Relief from Tinnitus – Apps such as Relax Melodies help tinnitus sufferers improve the quality of their sleep.
  • Environmental Alerts – Apps like Sound Alert give visual and vibratory alerts after registering a specific audio cue (such as a car horn).
  • Sign Language Apps – There are a wide variety of apps which help users to learn and understand sign language.

Get Advice From an Audiologist

Have you noticed a reduction in the quality of your hearing? Smartphone apps are helpful, but the best thing you can do is to get a diagnosis from an Audiologist. We are independent specialists with more than 30 years’ experience supporting individuals experiencing hearing loss in the Perth area.

Contact us today on 08-9388-8003 or click here to book your FREE consultation.