January 2021 Newsletter: New Year Same Ears?

Our December 2020 Newsletter included a variety of headphone recommendations for work, pleasure, and working out.  However, even acousticians can get carried away with volume levels in an attempt to get “more bass to the face”.  Metropolitan Acoustics challenges you to add your ears to the list of health goal resolutions in 2021.  Read on to learn more about auditory health and how to mitigate potential damage.

There are two main types of hearing loss: sensory hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is usually temporary and occurs when the outer or middle ear is obstructed; this form of hearing loss is often treatable. Causes include ear infections, rapid pressure changes, allergies, and earwax impaction.

Sensory hearing loss is a permanent form of hearing loss that occurs when there is degradation to the ear mechanisms caused by aging and exposure to loud sounds.  Symptoms of sensory hearing loss include reduction of the perceived loudness of sound, as well as perceived frequency content, both of which can result in difficulty understanding speech.

The main cause of recreational (not occupational) hearing loss in the United States is from gun fire during hunting or shooting practice. If you are partaking of these activities, please wear appropriate hearing protection!

One of the most common ailments related to the human hearing is tinnitus, which manifests as a persistent ringing in the ears.  Current treatments for chronic tinnitus are limited, and there is no medically-recognized cure.  While tinnitus is typically described subjectively, scientists from Australia have recently developed a method to objectively measure tinnitus with the use of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS).  This is a non-invasive imaging technique that can measure brain blood flow activity related to sound.  fNIRS technology may allow for a more accurate diagnosis of tinnitus and in turn more effective treatment solutions.

While fNIRS technology is still in development and may be an important tool for tinnitus treatment in the near future, that doesn’t mean there aren’t measures to improve your ear health right now. We challenge you to improve the well-being of your ears in 2021; are you up to it?
  • Ditch the Q-Tips in favor of these kits which can remove earwax without damaging your ears
  • Wear hearing protection such as muffs or plugs during loud events (when they resume!)
  • Download an app for your iPhone or iWatch to monitor your headphone audio levels (here is a guide on how to use the Health app).

One of our previous newsletters outlined new, innovative research being conducted to restore one’s hearing. In the meantime, to treat existing conditions, we recommend exploring hearing aids, in-ear masking devices that produce low-level sound masking to suppress tinnitus symptoms, and sound therapy which uses external noise to alter and reduce a patient’s perception of their tinnitus. We hope that you are able to incorporate these ear health improvements into your New Year’s resolutions. You only get two ears, so it is important to remember to take care of them. Let Freedom Ring and not your ears! 

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