Providing hearing aid solutions in Nashville,TN

Listen up, Music City; your hearing is about to take center stage!

Let’s start with the basics. You’re hearing is what drives your life, enlivens your relationships, keeps you in the loop and at the top of your game.

The quality and clarity of your hearing is essential to living your life to the fullest. If your hearing is suffering even just a little bit, if you’ve felt frustrated, isolated or left out because you can’t make out the conversation, Audiology Associates and Hearing Aids Today can change all that with a lifestyle solution just for you.

We’re here to help you understand your hearing loss, and help you take back the life you’ve been missing. You don’t have to miss another sound, the solution to your hearing problems is right around the corner.

Hear more – anywhere, anytime!


Want to be a part of the conversation again?

Dr. Jina Scherer has built a practice that is 100% focused on you – your family, your work and your life. The conversations that start in our office are about building relationships of trust, and finding solutions that inspire.

We know how hard it can be to struggle with hearing loss and feel like there’s nowhere to turn. Audiology Associates & Hearing Aids Today is dedicated to helping people hear better everyday. Our clients, friends and family in Nashville have come to trust us for exceptional care and service, and we take that trust very seriously.

Nearly 36 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss, and every one of them has a family, a job and a lifestyle that can also be significantly affected. That adds up to a lot of people suffering, losing hope and missing out on things when they don’t have to.

The comeback your hearing deserves, is here today!

  • Hear Better, Live BetterClick here to see how our Audiology Services can help you hear and live better.
  • Acoustic or Electric – Turn It Up! – Check out our full line of musician’s earplugs, tips to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss. Click here to find out more.
  • A Tip of the Hat to TechnologyClick here to see just how far hearing aid and hearing assistance devices have come – We guarantee you’ll be surprised!
  • Testing, Testing – One, Two… – Already have a hearing aid? We can test any hearing aid you have and see that it’s delivering the best sound possible. Click here to set up an appointment today.

Your Ears…Only Better!

“I was a pretty good imitator of Roy Acuff, but then I found out they already had a Roy Acuff, so I started singin’ like myself.” – Hank Williams

Rediscovering your hearing is like finding your own voice, it will change your life overnight!

People come to Nashville to become a star; they stay because of the family they find here. Audiology Associates and Hearing Aids Today is part of that family, and the relationships we’re building everyday are far better than a single night on stage at the Grand Ole Opry.

When you struggle with hearing loss, your relationships suffer, your business suffers and your life is a little less than it could be. When the chips are down, the relationships in your life are more important than anything else; isn’t that what all those songs are really about?

Before we help people to hear better…We Listen! Our amazing staff of audiology and support professionals know what they’re listening for, so when you step into our office, you’ll know you’ve come to the right place.

It’s time you did something about your hearing loss, and we’re here to help!

  • Meet the TeamClick here to meet the best audiology professionals and support staff anywhere in Music City.
  • Contact Us – Nothing beats getting your questions answered face-to-face. Click here to get in touch and schedule an appointment today.
Natural, effortless listening pleasure…
Call today!
615-457-8600

The Right Way to Clean Your Ears


Anatomy of the ear
Blausen.com staff. “Blausen gallery 2014″.

That there is a right way to clean your ears suggests that there is a wrong way, and in fact, there is a very wrong way. The wrong way is widespread, and it violates the first rule of cleaning your ears: don’t insert foreign objects into your ear canal. That includes cotton swabs and any other object that will likely only push the earwax up against the eardrum, potentially causing irritation, temporary hearing loss, or eardrum damage.

So what should you be doing to clean your ears under normal circumstances? In a word: nothing (I hope you weren’t looking for something more profound). Your ears are built to be self-cleansing, and the regular movements of your jaw move earwax from the canal to the outer ear. If you attempt to remove it, your ear just generates more wax.

And earwax is beneficial, as it contains protective, lubricating, and antibacterial characteristics. In fact, over-cleaning the ears creates dry, itchy, irritated skin within the ear canal. So, for the majority of people the majority of of the time, nothing is needed other than normal bathing to wash the outer ear.

But notice that we said MOST of the time, because there are situations in which people do generate an excessive amount of earwax or excess earwax impacts the eardrum. In situations like these, you will need to clean your ears. Here’s how:

Cleaning your ears at home

We’ll say it once again: don’t insert any foreign objects into your ear canal. You can irritate the fragile skin of the canal and can end up perforating your eardrum. This means no cotton swabs and definitely no ear candles. (Speaking of ear candles, in 2010, the FDA issued a warning against using them, declaring that no scientific evidence supports their effectiveness and that their use can result in significant injuries.)

To properly clean your ears at home, take the following actions:

  1. Purchase earwax softening solution at the drugstore or make some at home. Directions for preparing the solution can be found online, and the mixture often includes the use of hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, and glycerin.
  2. Pour the solution into your ears from the container or by using a plastic or bulb syringe. Tilt your head to the side and let the solution to work for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Drain the fluid out of your ear by tilting your head gradually over a bowl or the sink, or you can use a cotton ball pushed against the outside of the ear. (I know it’s tempting, but again, don’t push the cotton ball into your ear.)
  4. Flush out your ears with lukewarm water using a bulb syringe to displace any loose earwax.

When not to clean your ears at home

Cleaning your ears at home could be dangerous in the presence of an ear infection or a perforated eardrum. If you encounter any symptoms such as fever, lightheadedness, ear pain, or ear discharge, it’s best to speak with your doctor or hearing specialist. Additionally, repeated attempts at self cleaning that are unsuccessful may suggest a more significant blockage that requires professional cleaning.

Medical doctors and hearing specialists make use of a variety of medicines and devices to quickly, thoroughly, and safely remove excess earwax. The solutions tend to be more powerful than the homemade versions, and devices called curettes can be inserted into the ear to manually remove the wax.

When in doubt, leave it to the experts. You’ll get the peace of mind that you’re not damaging your ears, and symptoms can subside within minutes of a professional cleaning. In addition, underlying issues or hearing loss can be identified and corrected by a professional.

If you have any further questions or want to schedule an appointment, give us a call today! And keep in mind, if you’re a hearing aid user, you’ll want to get a regular professional checkup every 6 months.

The Surprising Statistics Behind Occupational Hearing Loss

It’s popular to think of hearing loss as an inescapable problem connected with aging, or, more recently, as a consequence of the younger generation’s constant use of iPods. But the numbers show that the larger problem may be exposure to loud noise at work.

In the US, 22 million workers are subjected to potentially hazardous noise, and an estimated 242 million dollars is paid on a yearly basis on worker’s compensation claims for hearing loss, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

What’s more is that higher rates of hearing loss are found in increasingly noisier occupations, indicating that being exposed to sounds above a certain level progressively enhances your risk for developing noise-induced hearing loss later in life.

How loud is too loud?

A study carried out by Audicus found that, of those who were not subjected to work-related noise levels over 90 decibels, only 9 percent experienced noise-induced hearing loss at age 50. In contrast, construction workers, who are repeatedly subjected to sound levels as high as 120 decibels, suffered with noise-induced hearing loss at the age of 50 at a rate of 60 percent!

It appears that 85-90 decibels is the threshold for safe sound levels, but that’s not the complete story: the decibel scale is logarithmic, not linear. That signifies that as you raise the decibel level by 3 decibels, the sound level approximately doubles. So 160 decibels is not two times as loud as 80—it’s about 26 times louder!

Here’s how it breaks down: a decibel level of 0 is scarcely noticeable, normal conversation is about 60 decibels, the limit for safety is 85-90 decibels, and the death of hearing cells occurs at 180 decibels. It’s the region between 85 and 180 that leads to noise-induced hearing loss, and as would be expected, the vocations with increasingly louder decibel levels have steadily higher rates of hearing loss.

Hearing loss by occupation

As the following table displays, as the decibel levels associated with each profession increase, hearing loss rates increase as well:

Occupation Decibel level Incidence rates of hearing loss at age 50
No noise exposure Less than 90 decibels 9%
Manufacturing 105 decibels 30%
Farming 105 decibels 36%
Construction 120 decibels 60%

Any profession with decibel levels above 90 places its personnel at risk for hearing loss, and this includes rock musicians (110 dB), nightclub staff (110 dB), Formula One drivers (135 dB), airport ground staff (140 dB), and shooting range marshalls (140 dB). In every scenario, as the decibel level rises, the risk of noise-induced hearing loss rises with it.

Protecting your hearing

A recent US study on the prevalence of hearing loss in farming revealed that 92 percent of the US farmers surveyed were exposed to harmful noise levels, but that only 44 percent reported to use hearing protection devices on a regular basis. Factory workers, in comparison, tend to stick to to stricter hearing protection regulations, which may explain why the incidence rate of hearing loss is moderately lower in manufacturing than it is in farming, despite being exposed to similar decibel volumes.

All of the data point to one thing: the importance of protecting your hearing. If you work in a high-risk occupation, you need to take the right precautionary steps. If avoiding the noise is not an option, you need to find ways to minimize the noise levels (best attained with custom earplugs), in addition to assuring that you take frequent rest breaks for your ears. Reducing both the sound volume and exposure time will lower your chances of acquiring noise-induced hearing loss.

If you would like to investigate a hearing protection plan for your specific circumstances or job, give us a call. As hearing specialists, we can provide personalized solutions to best protect your hearing at work. We also offer custom earplugs that, in addition to defending your hearing, are comfortable to wear and can maintain the natural quality of sound (as opposed to the muffled sound you hear with foam earplugs).

Finding Financial Assistance for Your Hearing Aids

Hearing Aid Financing

The maxim “you get what you pay for” is certainly true of hearing aids, and while the latest hearing aids are engineered to be more effective than ever, they’re not exactly cheap, either.

Fortunately, modern digital hearing aids, while not cheap, ARE becoming more affordable, in the same manner that the majority of consumer electronics are becoming more affordable (A 20-inch high-definition TV cost $1,200 in 1999; it costs just $84 today). And when you think about it, we tend to spend far more money on things that simply do not improve our quality of life to the extent that a pair of hearing aids can.

Let’s say, for example, that a pair of hearing aids costs $5,000. Assuming the hearing aids last 5 years, that equates to a monthly price of only $83.33 per month. Most people spend more money on their cable television bill, and that’s why the majority of our patients freely admit that while the upfront cost seems high, the monthly expense, relative to the benefit they receive from improved hearing, is more than worth it.

So you have to ask yourself, would you be willing to invest less than 100 dollars per month to have better conversations and relationships with your close friends and family? Most people would, and that’s why so many people decide to purchase hearing aids.

But once you elect to buy hearing aids, what are your methods for paying for them? Despite common beliefs, you have several potential options.

Financing options for hearing aids

The first mistake people make is assuming that no financial support is available. While receiving help can be frustrating at times, there are in fact an assortment of resources that you should inquire about before making a decision to hand over a full cash payment. Here are some of the steps we recommend taking:

  • Start by contacting your private insurance provider. While private insurance varies by company and by state, many people find that their private insurance includes some type of assistance with hearing aids.
  • Think about utilizing a medical flexible spending account. This is a special type of account you can use to put aside money (pre-tax) to pay for out-of-pocket medical costs.
  • Check your Medicare and Medicaid benefits. This is not the most usual way to help pay for hearing aids, but Medicare and Medicaid do offer benefits in certain limited circumstances.
  • Contact your local VA office if you’re a veteran. Veterans may obtain benefits that can help partly or totally pay for hearing aids. Check with your local VA office for more information.
  • Search for charitable organizations that supply hearing aids or financial aid. If you satisfy the financial requirements, there are numerous charitable organizations that supply hearing aids or financial assistance for hearing aids. We’ll provide some resources for you in the following section.
  • Check your state’s vocational rehabilitation program. If hearing aids are necessary for employment, your state may help you pay for them through its vocational rehabilitation program.
  • Consider financing your hearing aids. Several programs exist, including CareCredit, which works like a credit card but is exclusive to healthcare services.

Additional resources

There are far too many options and resources to try to list, and many programs are specific to the state you live in or to the specific organizations you’re affiliated with. Therefore, instead of reading through a long list of resources, it’s best to search for programs specific to your state or situation. For example, conducting a Google search for “hearing aid funding in ” or “hearing aid assistance for veterans” will likely provide some valuable results.

You might also want to browse the list of financial resources from the
Better Hearing Institute
and the Hearing Loss Association of America, both of which list programs by state and incorporate lists of a variety of charitable organizations.

If you’re still not sure where to begin, or are having difficulty finding information, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We can point you in the right direction and can help you discover the financing option that works best for you. Your hearing is well worth it—give us a call today!

When Should I Get My Hearing Tested?

In most cases, people are unaware that they have hearing loss. It forms so gradually that it’s often undetectable, and on top of that, most family physicians do not consistently screen for hearing loss at the yearly physical examination.

Considering these two facts, it’s no surprise that most people first realize they have hearing loss by being informed about it from close friends or relatives. But once people confront you about your hearing loss, it’s more than likely already relatively advanced. Given that hearing loss worsens over time—and cannot be totally recovered once lost—it’s crucial to treat hearing loss in a timely manner instead of waiting for it to get bad enough for people to notice.

So when and how often should you get your hearing tested? Here are our recommendations:

Establish a Baseline Early

It’s never too early to consider your first hearing test. The earlier you test your hearing, the earlier you can establish a baseline to compare later tests. The only method to assess if your hearing is getting worse is by comparing the results with previous examinations.

Although it’s true that as you get older you’re more likely to have hearing loss, consider that 26 million people between the age of 20 and 69 have hearing loss. Hearing loss is common among all age groups, and exposure to loud noise puts everyone at risk regardless of age.

Annual Tests After Age 55

At the age of 65, one out of every three people will have some level of hearing loss. Seeing that hearing loss is so prevalent near this age, we advise once a year hearing tests to assure that your hearing is not deteriorating. Remember, hearing loss is permanent, cumulative, and virtually undetectable. However, with once-a-year hearing tests, hearing loss can be identified early, and intervention is always more effective when carried out earlier.

Consider Personal Risk Factors

As stated by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “approximately 15 percent of Americans (26 million people) between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to noise at work or during leisure activities.”

If you have been exposed to loud work environments or activities such as music concerts or sporting events, it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested. It’s also a good idea to get an annual hearing test if you continuously expose your hearing to these environments.

Watch for Signs of Hearing Loss

As we noted earlier, the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are often first observed by others. You should schedule a hearing test if someone has suggested it to you or if you experience any of these signs or symptoms:

  • Muffled hearing
  • Trouble understanding what people are saying, especially in noisy settings or in groups
  • People commenting on how loud you have the TV or radio
  • Avoiding social situations and conversations
  • Ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus)
  • Ear pain, discomfort, or discharge
  • Vertigo, dizziness, or balance problems

Don’t Wait Until the Harm is Done

The bottom line is that hearing loss is prevalent among all age groups and that we all live in the presence of several work-related and everyday risk factors. Given that hearing loss is hard to detect, gets worse over time, and is best treated early, we recommend that you get your hearing tested regularly. You may end up saving your hearing with early treatment, and the worst that can happen is that you find out you have normal hearing.

Understanding Your Treatment Options for Tinnitus

Nearly 45 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, which is the perception of sound where no outside sound source exists. This phantom sound is often identified as a ringing sound, but can also materialize as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking.

The first thing to recognize about tinnitus is that it’s a symptom, not a disease. Consequently, tinnitus may indicate an underlying health condition that, once treated, cures the tinnitus. Earwax accumulation or other blockages, blood vessel conditions, certain medications, and other underlying conditions can all trigger tinnitus, so the first step is ruling out any ailments that would demand medical or surgical treatment.

In most cases of tinnitus, however, no specific cause is revealed. In these cases, tinnitus is presumed to be caused by destruction of the nerve cells of hearing in the inner ear. Noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and one-time exposure to very loud sounds can all cause tinnitus.

When tinnitus is caused by nerve cell damage, or is associated with hearing loss, tinnitus oftentimes cannot be cured—but that doesn’t imply that people have to suffer without assistance. While there is no definitive cure for the majority of instances of chronic tinnitus, several tinnitus therapy options are available that help patients live better, more comfortable, and more productive lives, even if the perception of tinnitus remains.

Below are some of the treatment options for tinnitus:

Hearing Aids

The majority of cases of tinnitus are associated with some form of hearing loss. In patients with hearing loss, a reduced amount of sound stimulation reaches the brain, and in response, investigators believe that the brain changes physically and chemically to accommodate the deficit of stimulation. It is this maladaptive response to sound deprivation that results in tinnitus.

Tinnitus is intensified with hearing loss because when surrounding sound is muffled, the sounds identified with tinnitus become more detectable. But when hearing aids are utilized, the amplified sound signals cause the sounds of tinnitus to blend into the richer background sounds. Hearing aids for tinnitus patients can then present multiple benefits, including improved hearing, enhanced auditory stimulation, and a “masking effect” for tinnitus.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy is a broad term used to identify several techniques to using external sound to “mask” the tinnitus. With time, the brain can learn to recognize the sounds of tinnitus as trivial relative to the contending sound, thereby reducing the intensity level of tinnitus.

Sound therapy can be delivered through masking devices but can also be provided through selected hearing aid models that can stream sound wirelessly by means of Bluetooth technology. Some hearing aid models even link up with compatible Apple devices, including iPhones, so that any masking sounds downloaded on the Apple devices can be delivered wirelessly to the hearing aids.

The kinds of masking sounds used can vary, including white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, and music. Sounds can also be specifically programmed to match the sound frequency of the patient’s tinnitus, delivering individualized masking relief. Seeing as each patient will respond differently to different masking sounds, it’s important that you work with a knowledgeable hearing professional.

Behavioral Therapies

Numerous behavioral therapies exist to help the patient address the psychological and emotional components of tinnitus. One example is mindfulness-based stress reduction, during which the individual learns to accept the ailment while establishing effective coping methods.

You may have also heard the term Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), which mixes cognitive-behavioral therapy with sound masking therapy. With Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, patients learn to establish healthy cognitive and emotional reactions to tinnitus while applying sound therapy to teach their brains to reclassify tinnitus as unimportant, so that it can be consciously ignored.

General Wellness

In addition to the more targeted sound and behavioral therapies, sufferers can engage in general wellness activities that often lessen the severity of tinnitus. These activities consist of healthy diets, frequent exercise, social activity, recreational activities, and any other activities that promote improved health and lowered stress.

Drug Therapies

There are currently no FDA-approved medications that have been found to cure or alleviate tinnitus directly, but there are medications that can treat stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can render tinnitus worse or are caused by tinnitus itself. In fact, some antidepressant and antianxiety medicines have been demonstrated to produce some relief to patients with severe tinnitus.

Experimental Therapies

A flurry of promising research is being conducted in labs and universities throughout the world, as researchers continue to seek out the underlying neurological cause of tinnitus and its ultimate cure. Even though several of these experimental therapies have shown some promise, remember that they are not yet readily available, and that there’s no assurance that they ever will be. Those suffering from tinnitus are encouraged to seek out current treatments rather than holding out for any experimental treatment to hit the market.

Here are a few of the experimental therapies presently being tested:

  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) delivers electromagnetic pulses into the affected brain tissue to lessen the hyperactivity that is believed to cause tinnitus.
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is another method of delivering electromagnetic pulses into the hyperactive brain tissue that is believed to cause tinnitus.
  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is comparable to the preceding therapies in its use of electromagnetic energy, the difference being that DBS is an invasive procedure requiring surgery and the placement of electrodes in the brain tissue.

Other medical, surgical, and pharmacological therapies exist, but the results have been mixed and the dangers of invasive procedures in many cases outweigh the benefits.

The Optimal Treatment For Your Tinnitus

The optimum tinnitus treatment for you is based on many factors, and is best evaluated by a qualified hearing specialist. As your local hearing care professionals, we’ll do everything we can to help you find relief from your tinnitus. Set up your appointment today and we’ll find the customized solution that works best for you.

Getting the Most Out of Your Hearing Aid Batteries


Hearing Aid Batteries
Zinc-air-battery-types by Marc Andressen is licensed under Attribution CC 2.0

You could make a strong case that the most critical part of your hearing aid is the battery: without it, nothing else works, and if it fails, your hearing fails with it. In this concise guide, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about hearing aid batteries so that you can get the most out of your hearing aids.

How Hearing Aid Batteries Work

Hearing aids take a unique type of battery called zinc-air batteries. Each battery has a sticker that covers tiny holes on the top of the battery. Once the sticker is removed, air enters the battery through the holes, generating a chemical reaction that activates the zinc and makes the battery live. After the battery is active, it starts discharging power and reapplying the sticker will have no influence in preserving its lifespan.

Hearing Aid Battery Types

Zinc-air hearing aid batteries come in four standardized sizes, marked with standard number and color codes. The four sizes, from biggest to smallest, are:

  • 675-blue
  • 13-orange
  • 312-brown
  • 10-yellow

Each hearing aid makes use of only one of the sizes, and your hearing specialist will inform you which size you will need. Keep in mind that the numbers and colors above are manufacturer independent, but that manufacturers sometimes add additional letters or numbers to its packaging.

Hearing Aid Battery Life

Hearing aid battery life is dependent on many factors. Many patients get up to one week of life out of a battery if they use the hearing aid for 12 or more hours a day, but this will vary depending on:

  • The size of the battery – bigger batteries have a longer life.
  • The amount of hearing loss – More serious hearing loss demands more power.
  • Hearing aid features – wireless capability, noise reduction programs, and multi-channel processing, for example, require more power to work.
  • Temperature – hot and cold temperatures can lessen battery life.

Your hearing specialist can review all of this with you, and will help you discover the right balance between hearing aid capability and battery life.

How to Increase the Life of Your Hearing Aid Batteries

You can easily increase the life of your hearing aid batteries with one simple trick. Just after you remove the sticker to activate the battery, wait 5-7 minutes before placing the battery in your hearing aids. By removing the sticker and laying the battery flat side up for several minutes, air is able to properly activate the battery before you start using it, which lengthens its life.

A couple of other tips:

  • Keep the batteries away from coins, keys, or other metal materials that could short the battery.
  • When the hearing aid isn’t being used, turn it off and store it with the battery door open. If you don’t anticipate using your hearing aids for a long period of time, remove the batteries completely.
  • Unopened batteries can last for years; nonetheless, newer batteries are preferred because each year that goes by reduces the life of the battery.
  • Store your batteries at room temperature. This tip is so important that the next section is dedicated to the issue.

How to Store Your Hearing Aid Batteries

There’s a dangerous myth out there advocating that storing your batteries in the refrigerator lengthens their life. This is not only untrue; it produces the opposite effect!

The thinking behind storing your batteries in the refrigerator is that the cold temperature will slow the discharge of power. While this may be technically true, the amount of power you will save will be negligible, and the undesirable effects of moisture will generate far greater negative consequences.

Storing zinc-air batteries in a cold environment permits micro condensation to form in an on the battery, causing corrosion and a high risk of premature failure. Consequently, for best performance, simply keep your batteries away from extreme hot or cold temperatures and store at room temperature.

Maintaining Your Hearing Aid Battery Supply

Once you determine how long your batteries last, on average, you’ll want to keep a month’s supply. If your batteries last 1 week, and you use 2 batteries (1 for each hearing aid), then you’ll end up using approximately 8 per month. Simply set 8 as your reorder point, and once you reduce your stock down to 8, order another pack. Alternatively, you may want to look into the cost savings associated with bulk purchases and maintain a supply that lasts longer than one month. If you’re not sure, we are more than happy to help you design a plan and will handle all of your hearing aid battery needs. Just give us a call!


Have any other questions? Speak to one of our hearing specialists today!

6 Ways to Save Your Hearing

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.1 billion individuals are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, caused by exposure to extreme sound levels from personal audio devices and very loud environments such as nightclubs, bars, concerts, and sporting events. An projected 26 million Americans already suffer from the condition.

If noise-induced hearing loss occurs from direct exposure to extreme sound levels, then what is deemed as excessive? It turns out that any noise higher than 85 decibels is potentially dangerous, and regretfully, many of our everyday activities expose us to sounds well above this threshold. An music player at maximum volume, for instance, hits 105 decibels, and police sirens can hit 130.

So is hearing loss an inescapable consequence of our over-amplified world? Not if you make the right decisions, because it also turns out that noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.

Here are six ways you can save your hearing:

1. Use custom earplugs

The optimum way to prevent hearing loss is to avoid loud noise completely. Of course, for most people that would entail quitting their jobs and ditching their plans to see their favorite band perform live in concert.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to live like a recluse to save your hearing. If you’re subjected to loud sounds at work, or if you plan on attending a live show, instead of avoiding the noise you can lower its volume with earplugs. One method is to buy a low cost pair of foam earplugs at the convenience store, understanding that they will almost certainly create muffled sound. There is a better option.

Today, a number of custom earplugs are available that fit comfortably in the ear. Custom earplugs are shaped to the curves of your ear for maximum comfort, and they contain advanced electronics that decrease sound volume evenly across frequencies so that music and speech can be heard clearly and naturally. Speak to your local hearing specialist for additional information.

2. Maintain a safe distance from the sound source

The inverse square law, as applied to sound, states that as you double the distance from the source of sound the intensity of the sound declines by 75%. This law of physics may save your hearing at a rock concert; rather than standing front row adjacent to the speaker, increase your distance as much as possible, balancing the benefits of a good view against a safe distance.

3. Take rest breaks for your ears

Hearing injury from subjection to loud sound is dependent on three factors:

  1. the sound level or intensity
  2. your distance from the sound source
  3. the length of time you’re exposed to the sound

You can lessen the intensity level of sound with earplugs, you can increase your distance from the sound source, and you can also control your cumulative exposure time by taking rest breaks from the sound. If you’re at a live concert or in a recording studio, for example, you’ll want to give your ears periodic breaks and time to recover.

4. Turn down the music – follow the 60/60 rule

If you often listen to music from a portable mp3 music player, make sure you maintain the volume no higher that 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes per day. Higher volume and longer listening times raise the risk of irreversible damage.

5. Purchase noise-canceling headphones

The 60/60 rule is very difficult, if not impossible to abide by in certain listening environments. In the presence of disruptive background noise, like in a busy city, you have to turn up the volume on your MP3 player to hear the music over the ambient noise.

The answer? Noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones can filter ambient sounds so that you can enjoy your music without violating the 60/60 rule.

6. Schedule regular hearing exams

It’s never too soon or too late to arrange a hearing examination. In addition to being able to detect present hearing loss, a hearing exam can also establish a baseline for future comparison.

Given that hearing loss develops gradually, it is difficult to perceive. For the majority of people, the only way to know if hearing loss is present is to have a professional hearing test. But you shouldn’t wait until after the harm is done to schedule an appointment; prevention is the best medicine, and your local hearing specialist can offer customized hearing protection solutions so that you can avoid hearing loss altogether.

The Psychology of Hearing Loss

If we truly want to understand hearing loss, we need to understand both the physical side, which makes hearing increasingly difficult, and the psychological side, which includes the lesser-known emotional responses to the loss of hearing. Together, the two sides of hearing loss can wreak havoc on a person’s total well being, as the physical reality creates the loss and the psychological reality prevents people from dealing with it.

The numbers tell the tale. Although almost all instances of hearing loss are physically treatable, only around 20% of people who would benefit from hearing aids make use of them. And even among individuals who do seek help, it takes an average of 5 to 7 years before they arrange a hearing test.

How can we explain the enormous discrepancy between the opportunity for better hearing and the commonplace unwillingness to attain it? The first step is to appreciate that hearing loss is in fact a “loss,” in the sense that something invaluable has been taken away and is seemingly lost forever. The second step is to determine how individuals typically react to losing something valuable, which, by way of the scholarship of the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, we now understand very well.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 stages of grief

Kübler-Ross noted 5 stages of grief that everyone coping with loss appears to go through (in surprisingly consistent ways), although not everyone does so in the same order or in the same period of time.

Here are the stages:

  1. Denial – the individual buffers the emotional shock by denying the loss and contemplating a false, preferred reality.
  2. Anger – the individual acknowledges the loss but becomes angry that it has happened to them.
  3. Bargaining – the individual responds to the feeling of helplessness by trying to take back control through bargaining.
  4. Depression – comprehending the significance of the loss, the individual becomes saddened at the hopelessness of the circumstance.
  5. Acceptance – in the last stage, the individual accepts the circumstance and demonstrates a more stable set of emotions. The rationality associated with this stage leads to productive problem solving and the restoring of control over emotions and actions.

People with hearing loss progress through the stages at different rates, with some never arriving at the final stage of acceptance — hence the discrepancy between the possibility for better hearing and the low numbers of people who actually seek help, or that otherwise wait many years before doing so.

Progressing through the stages of hearing loss

The first stage of grief is the most difficult to escape for those with hearing loss. Because hearing loss develops slowly over the years, it can be very difficult to recognize. People also have the tendency to make up for hearing loss by cranking up the TV volume, for instance, or by forcing people to repeat themselves. Those with hearing loss can stay in the denial stage for years, saying things like “I can hear just fine” or “I hear what I want to.”

The next stage, the anger stage, can show itself as a form of projection. You may hear those with hearing loss assert that everybody else mumbles, as if the issue is with everyone else rather than with them. People remain in the anger stage until they recognize that the issue is in fact with them, and not with others, at which point they may move on to the bargaining stage.

Bargaining is a form of intellectualization that can take various forms. For instance, people with hearing loss might compare their condition to others by thinking, “My hearing has become a lot worse, but at least my health is good. I really shouldn’t complain, other people my age are dealing with real problems.” You might also find those with hearing loss devaluing their problem by thinking, “So I can’t hear as well as I used to. It’s just part of aging, no big deal.”

After passing through these first three stages of denial, anger, and bargaining, those with hearing loss may head into a stage of depression — under the false presumption that there is no hope for treatment. They may persist in the depression stage for a while until they realize that hearing loss can be treated, at which point they can enter the last stage: the acceptance stage.

The acceptance stage for hearing loss is shockingly evasive. If only 20% of those who can benefit from hearing aids actually use them, that means 80% of those with hearing loss never get to the final stage of acceptance (or they’ve reached the acceptance stage but for other reasons decide not to take action). In the acceptance stage, people recognize their hearing loss but take action to correct it, to the best of their ability.

This is the one positive side to hearing loss: unlike other kinds of loss, hearing loss is partially recoverable, making the acceptance stage easier to reach. Thanks to major advancements in digital hearing aid technology, people can in fact enhance their hearing enough to communicate and engage normally in daily activities — without the stress and frustration of impaired hearing — allowing them to reconnect to the people and activities that give their life the most value.

Which stage are you in?

In the case of hearing loss, following the crowd is going to get you into some trouble. While 80% of those with hearing loss are stuck somewhere along the first four stages of grief — struggling to hear, harming relationships, and making excuses — the other 20% have accepted their hearing loss, taken action to amplify it, and rediscovered the pleasures of sound.

Which group will you join?

A Short Biography of Raymond Carhart, the “Father of Audiology”

Raymond Carhart

Many people are surprised to learn how young the field of audiology actually is, and how recently its founding father established the profession. To put this in perspective, if you wanted to find the founding father of biology, for example, you’d have to go back in time by 2,300 years and read the The History of Animals, a natural history text authored in the fourth century BCE by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.

In contrast, to find the founding father of audiology, we need go back only 70 years, to 1945 when Raymond Carhart popularized the word. But who was Raymond Carhart, and how did he come to produce a distinct scientific field so recently? The story starts with World War II.

World War II and Hearing Loss

One of history’s famous lessons shows us that necessity is the mother of invention, which means that challenging problems prompt inventions aimed toward minimizing the difficulty. Such was the case for audiology, as hearing loss was increasingly becoming a bigger public health concern both during and after World War II.

Indeed, the primary driving force behind the progress of audiology was World War II, which resulted in military personnel coming back from battle with extreme hearing damage caused by direct exposure to loud sounds. While many speech pathologists had been calling for better hearing assessment and therapy all along, the multitude of people suffering with hearing loss from World War II made the request impossible to dismiss.

Among those calling for a new field, Robert West, a prominent speech pathologist, called for the expansion of the speech pathology field to include the correction of hearing in 1936 — the same year that Raymond Carhart would graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Speech Pathology, Experimental Phonetics and Psychology.

Raymond Carhart Establishes the New Science of Hearing

Raymond Carhart himself started off his career in speech pathology. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Psychology from Dakota Wesleyan University in 1932 and his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Speech Pathology, Experimental Phonetics and Psychology at Northwestern University in 1934 and 1936. Carhart was in fact one of the department’s first two PhD graduates.

Right after graduation, Carhart became an instructor in Speech Re-education from 1936 to 1940. Then, in 1940 he was promoted to Assistant Professor and in 1943 to Associate Professor. It was what happened next, however, that may have altered the course of history for audiology.

In 1944, Carhart was commissioned a captain in the Army to head the Deshon General Hospital aural rehabilitation program for war-deafened military personnel in Butler, Pennsylvania. It was here that Carhart, in the setting of helping more than 16,000 hearing-impaired military personnel, popularized the term audiology, assigning it as the science of hearing. From that point forward, audiology would separate from speech pathology as its own separate research specialization.

At the close of the war, Carhart would go back to Northwestern University to establish the country’s first academic program in audiology. As a talented teacher, he guided 45 doctoral students to the completion of their work, students who would themselves become prominent professors, researchers, and clinical specialists throughout the country. And as a researcher, among countless contributions, Carhart developed and refined speech audiometry, particularly as it applied to determining the effectiveness of hearing aid performance. He even identified a specific pattern on the audiogram that reveals otosclerosis (hardening of the middle ear bones), eponymously named the “Carhart notch.”

Raymond Carhart’s Place in History

Of history’s founding fathers, the name Raymond Carhart may not be as familiar as Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, or Charles Darwin. But if you own hearing aids, and you know the degree to which the quality of life is elevated as the result, you might place Raymond Carhart on the same level as history’s greats. His students probably would, and if you visit the Frances Searle Building at Northwestern University, you’ll still see a plaque that reads:

“Raymond Carhart, Teacher, Scholar, and Friend. From his students.”

Questions to Ask Your Hearing Specialist Before You Buy Hearing Aids

Question Mark

When it’s time to buy a car, the majority of us know exactly what to do. We do some research, assess options, and compose a list of questions to ask the dealership. We do this so that by the time we’re ready to head to the dealership, we have an idea of what we’re looking for and we know which questions to ask.

When it’s time to buy hearing aids, in contrast, many people don’t know where to begin. Although the process is similar to purchasing a car, it’s also in many ways more complex (and probably not quite as fun). It’s more complex because every individual’s hearing loss is distinct and each pair of hearing aids demands custom programming. If purchasing a car was like this, it would be like you taking it home and needing to install the transmission yourself.

Fortunately, you don’t need to know how to program your own hearing aids, but you do need to know the questions to ask to ensure that your hearing specialist covers all bases, accurately programming the most appropriate hearing aids for your preferences and lifestyle. In this manner, compiling a list of questions to go over with your hearing specialist is the single most important thing you can do before your hearing test.

But which questions should you ask? Here are 35 to get you started off, broken down by category:

HEARING LOSS

Different kinds of hearing loss require specific types of treatment. The more you know about your own hearing loss, the better you’ll be able to compare hearing aid options. You need to know what type of hearing loss you have, if it will get worse, how soon you should treat it, and all of your treatment options.

Questions to ask:

  • What form of hearing loss do I have?
  • Do I have unilateral or bilateral hearing loss?
  • Can I have a copy of my audiogram?
  • Will my hearing loss worsen over time if left untreated?
  • Will hearing aids enhance my hearing?
  • How much of my hearing will hearing aids restore?
  • What are my other options besides hearing aids?

HEARING AID STYLES AND FEATURES

Hearing aids are sold in several styles, from several producers, loaded with numerous features. You need a methodical way to narrow down your choices to be sure that you get the correct hearing aid without wasting money on features you don’t need or want.

Questions to ask:

  • How many different kinds of hearing aid styles do you offer?
  • Which hearing aid style is most effective for my needs and lifestyle?
  • Which digital features would be invaluable to me, and which could I do without?
  • What are telecoils and directional microphones and do I need them?
  • Do I need Bluetooth compatible hearing aids?
  • Do my hearing aids need to be professionally programmed?
  • Do I need one or two hearing aids, and why?

HEARING AID PRICES, FINANCING, WARRANTIES, AND TRIAL PERIODS

The total cost of a pair of hearing aids frequently includes the professional fees associated with custom fitting and programming, along with several other services or accessories. You want to ensure that you understand what you’re receiving for the price, if financing is provided, if insurance will help, what the warranty includes, the duration of the trial period, and if any “restocking fees” apply to the end of the trial period.

Questions to ask:

  • What is the total cost of the hearing aids, including professional services?
  • Do you supply any financing plans?
  • Will my insurance coverage help pay for hearing aids?
  • How much will my hearing aids cost me per year?
  • Do the hearing aids come with warranty coverage?
  • How much do hearing aid repairs cost after the warranty has expired?
  • Are repairs done at the office or someplace else?
  • If my hearing aids have to be sent out for repairs, are loaner hearing aids supplied?
  • Is there a trial period and how long is it?
  • Is there a restocking fee if I return my hearing aids during or after the trial period?

HEARING AID OPERATION, CARE, AND MAINTENANCE

Your hearing specialist should teach you how to care for, clean, and operate your hearing aids. To make certain that nothing is missed, make sure all of these questions are answered:

Questions to ask:

  • How do I operate my hearing aids?
  • How do I use hearing aids with telephones and other technology?
  • Can you show me how to use all of the buttons, features, and settings for my hearing aids?
  • What are environmental presets, and how do I access them?
  • Do I require a remote control, or can I use my mobile phone to control the hearing aids?
  • What batteries do I need, how long will they last, and how do I replace them?
  • How should I clean and store my hearing aids?
  • Do I need to return for follow-up appointments?
  • How long will my hearing aids keep working?
  • Do I need to update the hearing aid software?
  • Do I qualify for future hearing aid upgrades?

YOU’RE READY TO SCHEDULE YOUR HEARING TEST

Okay, so picking out a pair of hearing aids might not be as enjoyable as buying a new car. But the quality of life you’ll obtain from better hearing might very well make you happier, as you’ll reconnect with people and enjoy the subtleties of sound once again. So go ahead and schedule that hearing test — your new pair of hearing aids are waiting for a test drive.