My tinnitus spiked this weekend in my left ear offering a steady buzz like an electrical hum, accompanied by a reduction in my hearing and some dizziness. At first I wondered if my hearing aid was making the sound, but when I removed it, the disturbance grew louder since it was no longer obscured by ambient noise. I knew then that the sound was of my own invention — taking up unwanted residence in my ears and mind. Meditation usually helps me keep my tinnitus under control, but sometimes pesky noise still breaks through.
“Goodbye yellow brick road,” Elton John belted out the title song of his final concert tour. My family rarely attends concerts — given my hearing loss I worry about damaging it further — but we are big Elton John fans and could not bear to miss our last chance to see him perform live. The sold out show in Madison Square Garden was outstanding with the crowd singing along to its favorite oldies but goodies. My family and I were able to enjoy the performance because we came prepared with hearing protection and the knowledge of how to use it. You can read my tips for attending a concert in my article, “How To Enjoy a Concert Safely When You Have Hearing Loss.”
As we made our way to our seats, the irony dawned on me. We were not allowed to smoke, to bring in outside food or drink, or even use caps on our plastic water bottles (I guess they think people will throw them?!?), but we could blast our ears with 110 decibel sound for 3 hours without any rules stating otherwise. There was not even a posted sign suggesting we protect our hearing with earplugs or ear muffs. Something seemed wrong with that.
I am pleased to share an excerpt from my most recent article for Healthy Hearing.
I remember the battles with my teenage son. He was heading to a loud dance party but was worried about wearing earplugs. He knows better than most of his peers how difficult hearing loss can be and how important it is to protect the hearing that he has, because I have hearing loss. Even so, he resisted wearing them. “My friends won’t be wearing them,” he complained, “They won’t get it. It’s just not cool to wear earplugs.” Despite his complaining, he chose to wear the earplugs and off he went to the loud party.
Like he imagined, he got lots of questions about his earplugs from his friends who were not used to seeing things in his ears. He showed them how loud the music was playing using a decibel reader app on his phone and explained that he wanted to protect his hearing.
What he didn’t expect was that his friends would want to wear them too! The music was so loud it was painful. Luckily he had brought some extra pairs so he could share them with his friends. Wearing earplugs had turned out to be cool after all!
While this story has a happy ending, the perception that wearing earplugs is not cool is a big problem, especially in today’s noisy world.
How can we make wearing earplugs cool?
1. Encourage influential role models to speak out.
More musicians are wearing earplugs and touting the benefits of wearing them publicly. This includes alternative rock musicians like Chris Martin of Coldplay and classic rock icons like Eric Clapton. At a recent Adele concert, she went out of her way to compliment the children in the audience who were wearing earmuffs for hearing protection. This type of positive feedback from people with influence will help lower stigma and build awareness.
Click here to continue reading on Healthy Hearing.
I was lucky to present recently at the American Academy of Audiology’s annual convention in Nashville held April 18-21, 2018. You can read about my presentation here. It was a fascinating experience to attend an audiology conference, not as an audiologist, but as a patient. It was interesting to attend the various educational sessions for the audiologists, listen in on the latest product launches from the hearing aid manufacturers, and walk the expansive exhibition hall to explore new and innovative products for people with hearing loss. I am so glad I attended.
Positive take-homes from the AAA conference
1. Audiologists are genuinely concerned for our welfare. There were many sessions describing the details of patient-centered care in attempts to provide more personalized and effective hearing care for people with hearing loss. These talks were well attended and numerous questions were raised.
2. Over-the-counter (OTC) hearing devices are slowly being accepted. While there seemed to be push-back from some audiologists when the OTC hearing aid concept was first floated, most sessions at AAA 2018 seemed to regard OTC as a done deal. Attention was focused on how to best integrate OTC hearing aid wearers into an audiology practice, rather than rejecting the initiative entirely.
Click here to read more positives on Hearing Tracker.
Negative take-homes from the AAA conference
1. Limited hearing assistance was offered. Few sessions were captioned or had listening assistive technology available. This was not surprising since the audience did not likely include many people with hearing issues, but making the options available would have shown respect for the people who did need them.
2. Poor communication habits were on display. At many of the sessions, questions were asked without using microphones and presenters did not repeat these questions before answering them. This is fairly typical at large meetings, but I had hoped for better from professionals whose job is focused on improving communication.
Click here to read more negatives on Hearing Tracker.
“What is that noise?” I asked my family one quiet Sunday afternoon. They all looked around squinting as if that would help them hear it, but there was no sound. “It must be my tinnitus again,” I sighed. It was starting to be a real nuisance.
Tinnitus, that pesky ringing in your ears, harasses more than 45 million Americans, according to the American Tinnitus Association, with nearly 20 million of them bothered on a regular basis.
The unique experience of tinnitus
Tinnitus can impact anyone, but a 2010 article in The Journal of Medicine indicates it is most common in males, older adults, and former smokers. None of these categories apply to me, but I have struggled with tinnitus for over 20 years. There is currently no cure.
The word tinnitus is derived from the Latin word tinnire, which means “to ring,” but it can take on other sounds as well. Some describe it as a buzzing or a humming. Others as a sizzling or a hissing. For me, it is most often an electrical hum — like the sound of a fluorescent light coming on — followed by a steady high-pitched tone. This can last for several minutes.
Meditation in coping with tinnitus
The only way I have found sustained relief from tinnitus is through daily meditation, which I discovered almost by accident. I regularly practice yoga, but had never tried meditation in any meaningful way, until I attended a yoga retreat a couple years ago. Intermixed with the yoga classes were afternoon tutorials on meditation.
There were only three rules.
Click here to continue reading on Healthy Hearing.