Categories for News

A Morning at Paley Studios

January 24, 2014 8:10 pm

paleystudiosI recently had the privilege of spending a cold snowy morning with the welders and staff at the world renowned Paley Studios, where artist Albert Paley and welders create amazing works of art by manipulating pieces of steel into sculptures. This past summer I contacted the director of the studios, Jennifer Laemlein, to inform her of a research study I had recently read about.

It turns out the noise associated with welding, combined with the exposure to certain elements, namely Manganese; put welders at an increased risk of hearing loss. While most people are familiar with hearing loss due to prolonged noise exposure, not everyone is aware of the effects of long-term exposure to certain gases that may prove to be ototoxic, or damaging, to the ear. Preventive measures for welders include the use of hearing protection, adequate ventilation and possibly the use of a breathing apparatus. 

When I first contacted Ms. Laemlein, she and everyone at the studio were just getting ready for the “Paley on Park Avenue” exhibit (see AlbertPaley.com for more information and beautiful photographs), so needless to they were busy! After the exhibit and the holidays, we found a date that I could come out and conduct hearing screenings for the staff. What a wonderful group of people I met that morning. Not only were they proactive with preventive measures to help prevent hearing loss, they were interested in what the study had to say and what they could be doing to ensure a safe working environment. 

It makes me proud to be from Rochester, a community that supports artists such as Albert Paley.  And to also work for a local business, Hart Hearing Centers. Dr. Steven Hart, the owner of the practice is a native Rochesterian as well. 

-Sarah Klimasewski, Au.D.


Summer Listening Challenge

June 13, 2013 8:11 pm

sunSlap on the sunscreen AND put in those ear plugs! Concerts, amusement parks, even movie theaters: all these fun filled destinations can be noisy! But how noisy are they? “Noisy Planet”, a program of the National Institutes of Health, has proposed a challenge that Hart Hearing Centers is going to take on locally. With the advent of smart phones, we now have the capability to measure sound intensity levels using a variety of free apps such as Sky Paw’s “Decibel 10th” or Patrick Giudicelli Utilities’ “Digital Sound Meter”. The next time you are in a situation where you find yourself shouting to be heard, go ahead and take a measurement of the loudness level (measured in decibels) with your smart phone. Send your loudest findings to: sarah@www.harthearing.com. Include your name, where the sound was recorded and the level in decibels. We will collect the data and post results on our website later in the season. At the end of the summer, one entry will be randomly chosen to receive a pair of Etymotic’s ETY High Definition Earplugs. Remember, noises over 85 dB are potentially harmful over time. The use of earplugs like the ETY plugs in these situations will help in minimizing damage to the ear, while still allowing enough sound to get through to enjoy it.

Other listening tips: Avoid standing too close to the speakers at a live concert, even if it is outdoors. Place your self further back from the action, you will most likely enjoy the music more. Invest in ETY High Definiation Earplugs ($12.95). These allow the natural variances of music to be heard, but minimize the overlall loudness level of the incoming sounds. These are availbale at all of our offices.


Tax Credits for Hearing Aids

March 9, 2013 8:15 pm

Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., Executive Director
Better Hearing Institute, Alexandria VA

According to the Better Hearing Institute’s (BHI) most recent survey of 56,000 households, 31.5 million Americans have hearing loss. Hearing loss affects 1 in 10 Americans and 1 in 4 households. While 95% of individuals with hearing loss could be successfully treated with hearing aids, only 23% currently use them. One of the barriers to hearing aid adoption is affordability; 2 out of 3 people ages 55 and above with hearing loss, report that affordability of hearing aids is a key reason for their inability to treat their hearing loss.

Untreated, hearing loss can have many negative consequences. Those who struggle with hearing loss may be subject to subtle or even overt discrimination and be excluded from gatherings, conversations and meetings. The inability to communicate effectively can ultimately lead to frustration, anxiety, social isolation and depression.

Extensive research demonstrates that treatment with modern hearing aids brings measurable improvements in social, emotional, psychological, and physical well being, for both patients and their family members.

The good news is that, with treatment, those suffering even mild hearing loss can gain:

  • Greater effectiveness on the job and better earning power. (An estimated 65% of people with hearing loss are younger than retirement age.)
  • More participation in group activities like place of worship services.
  • Improved interpersonal relationships, greater intimacy and a better sense of control in professional, social and family gatherings.
  • For school age children, improved performance in school and better development of language skills.

The fact is that better hearing is a critical aspect of effective communication. Hearing is crucial to developing meaningful relationships and the ability to enjoy life, whether it is participating fully in a conversation between friends, or enjoying aesthetic pleasures like music, the leaves rustling in the wind, or the cooing of a child.

Better hearing helps you perform better, whether in business situations or engaging in hobbies or sports – all of life’s activities that include a wealth of auditory cues and signals. Better hearing also gives you an enhanced sense of security, and is critical where safety is a concern – for instance when caring for young children.

A Call to Action
If you or a family member would like to benefit from a tax credit toward the purchase of hearing aids, the best thing you can do is go to www.hearingaidtaxcredit.org . Just a push of a button enables you to send letters to your Senators and Congressman. Encourage your family members and friends to help us get this needed legislation passed.  They need to hear that you support his idea now.


Founded in 1973, the Better Hearing Institute is a not-for-profit educational organization whose mission is to educate the public about hearing loss, its treatment and prevention. To receive a free copy of their 28 page booklet “Your Guide to Better Hearing” visit their website at www.betterhearing.org or call the Better Hearing Institute hotline at 1-800-EAR-WELL.


The Heart/Hearing Connection

March 9, 2013 8:14 pm

Noise exposure, heredity, and aging are all commonly understood factors that contribute to hearing loss. But what if someone smokes or is overweight or obese and has a high Body Mass Index (BMI)? Or what about diabetes? You may be surprised, but it turns out the health of our heart has an influence on the health of our ears.               

The sensory organ of hearing, the cochlea, relies on a strong flow of blood to stay healthy and do its job. Disease that affects blood flow, such as obesity, may have an impact on the health of the cochlea, not to mention many other organs in the body. One unique attribute with the cochlea is that, unlike other organs in the body, it does not have the ability to heal itself, even if the behavior that brought about the damage stops.  If someone stops smoking, for instance, other organs may recover and heal to a certain extent, but not the delicate structures in the cochlea. Perhaps in the future there will be a way to regenerate the cells in the cochlea, but for now we have to take care of what we have.

Like obesity or overweight conditions, if diabetes, or even pre-diabetes is left untreated it can affect the circulatory system.  Once again, the health of blood vessels throughout the body and the ear is no exception.

Most people are aware of the link between vision and diabetes.  If so, they may be proactive and have their vision checked regularly by a professional. However, people may be surprised to learn that more recent studies have also found a link with hearing, typically affecting the ability to hear high frequencies. In fact, the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that a person with diabetes is twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss as someone without the disease. Left untreated, hearing loss can lead to depression, isolation, and loss of income.   Conversely, treating hearing loss with hearing instruments has a positive impact on the quality of life.

It’s not just adults who face greater risks to health and hearing if they are overweight or obese.  One recent study stated that the incidence of ear infections is going up with the higher rate of childhood obesity. The theory is that the increase in inflammation that comes with obesity interferes with Eustachian tube function, which in turn leads to more ear infections.

The underlying message of so many studies is to take care of yourself.  If you do it is hoped the positive affects will spill over to other areas of your health and wellness. Exercise, eat right, stay connected with friends and family, and find healthy ways to de-stress. We don’t need a funded study to tell us what we all know. If something does go wrong, however, it is helpful to know of all potential outcomes and manage them with your health professionals.


Can I Buy Hearing Aids Online?

March 9, 2013 8:13 pm

The Internet has become a go-to source for many consumers. For the hearing aid customer, the Internet serves as a wonderful resource for learning about hearing loss and hearing aids; however, for online hearing aid purchases, consumers should proceed with caution. It may save you a few hundred dollars up front, but you may be sacrificing listening experience, wearing satisfaction and even hearing safety. In fact, any money you save may end up being spent (and then some) for reprogramming and professional follow-up care in order to get satisfaction from your aids.

Many leading hearing aid manufacturers do not sell their products to Internet retailers and have placed alerts on their websites warning consumers to purchase hearing aids directly from qualified, trained hearing professionals. These words of caution are meant to protect consumers from purchasing hearing aids that may not be appropriate for their hearing loss.  One aspect of the hearing aid fitting believed to be vital is the role of a hearing care professional.

A successful fitting of hearing aids is dependent on many factors beyond simply buying the right device for you. Some examples include:

  • A hearing professional will evaluate your hearing loss through simple, painless testing – This is a critical aspect of any hearing aid purchase. Unfortunately, when you buy hearing aids online, there’s no professional between you and your purchase.  There’s a good chance you will buy the wrong hearing aids for your needs and lifestyle.
  • Hearing aids should be programmed by a hearing professional based testing. A hearing test is the first step in choosing and programming hearing aids; however, hearing loss alone cannot predict accurate hearing aid settings. The hearing professional often performs additional subjective and objective testing to fine-tune the hearing aids.
  • After-purchase care – Hearing aids often need adjusting through the years. A hearing aid professional can answer questions, make fine-tuning adjustments and monitor your hearing over the years. Expect to establish a long-term friendship with a good hearing aid professional. You’ll be seeing each other regularly.
  • Trial periods, returns and guarantees – Most hearing professionals offer a trial period on newly purchased  hearing aids – which is often a requirement of the state in which you live. With an online retailer you don’t get that kind of follow-up service or guarantee.

Hearing aids are more than mere amplifiers. They are complex digital devices that not only allow people with hearing loss to hear, they give back quality of life and happiness to many. This type of investment is worth purchasing face-to-face from a trained and qualified hearing professional.

Addendum:

Recently, United Healthcare Group Inc. announced they will offer hearing “devices” to their members and the public via the internet.  Under FDA regulations, they cannot use the term “hearing aid”, because it is not one; it is simply an amplifying device.  Similar to the scenarios described in this article, no examination is needed to order these devices. For the lay public, the information provided may be misleading. The American Academy of Audiology is currently researching a response to this announcement.


The Hidden Benefits of Hearing Well: What Every Senior Should Know

March 9, 2013 8:12 pm

The primary role of our ears and auditory system is to, well, hear. No argument there! Hearing loss is alive and well in the over 65 population; 1 out of every 3 people in this age group has hearing loss and many chose to ignore it, deny it or live with it.  But did you know that those with untreated hearing loss also suffer from a host of other ailments such as memory loss, increased risk of dementia, balance problems and loss of income? Recent research supports what many audiologists have known all along: the effects of hearing loss impact much more than communication.

A lot of ‘hearing’ takes place in the brain. After sounds travel through the ear’s anatomy (think ear canal, ear drum, and cochlea), the important role of processing and making sense of all the sounds we hear takes place in the temporal lobe of the brain. When hearing loss is present, the brain can get a little sloppy. It struggles to make sense of the limited amount of information it is receiving.  Take the word ‘cat’. If Mr. Smith has a mild high frequency hearing loss, the final /t/ sound in ‘cat’ may be difficult to hear, if at all. Mr. Smith’s brain tries out different sounds to guess at the word. Is it ‘cap’? Is it ‘calf’? Sometimes our brain makes a guess based on the context of the conversation. Mr. Smith’s poor brain has to work overtime to do this over and over throughout the day. At the end of the day, he will be significantly more tired than someone who does not have to struggle to hear.

Clarity of sound is another factor that affects brain efficiency. When sounds are garbled and not distinct, the brain works overtime and may even tap into other areas of the brain to try to make sense of what it is hearing. When this happens, other functions such as memory and even our sense of balance may suffer.  In a recent study at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Dr. Frank Lin found that for each 10 decibels of hearing loss, the risk of dementia rose by 20 percent.  Brain efficiency is key; the overworked brain may lose cognitive reserve and other functions suffer.  The areas of brain that normally regulate balance or memory are overtaxed with hearing issues and therefore these functions are negatively affected.

The good news is a vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from the use of hearing instruments. Treating hearing loss with hearing instruments not only positively impacts communication, but also increases personal safety, helps with the ability to learn new tasks, decreases fatigue, depression, isolation, and enhances job performance, earning potential. Dr. Sergei Kochkin form the Better Hearing Institute sums it up quite well. “Hearing loss is far more serious than people realize. When left unaddressed, hearing loss negatively affects virtually every aspect of an individual’s life.”  The return on the investment is tremendous and should be considered when considering the use of hearing instruments. The first step is a hearing evaluation with an audiologist. He or she will explain the test results and let you know their recommendations such as communication strategies, hearing instruments or assistive technology.  Taking that first step may be the hardest, but the consequences of ignoring one’s hearing are too injurious to overlook.