Hearing Test or Hearing Screening?

You’ve seen and heard ads offering a FREE Hearing Screening and you’re wondering what exactly that means.  What is the difference between a test and a screen? How do I know which one I need?

First of all a screening is just that, a screening.  It’s a basic pass or fail situation that lets you and your audiologist know that further testing may be required.  If the screening is “failed”  in some cases we will send you to your primary care physician to get a referral for us to perform a full diagnostic hearing test and find out exactly what’s going on.

We are on a mission to help as many people as we can to hear better, so we have made it easy to qualify for a FREE screening. If any one or more of the following statements are true then give us a call to schedule your screening.

  • You are age 55 or over.
  • Have trouble hearing when background noise is present.
  • Your loved ones suggest that you should get your hearing tested.
  • You play the TV or Radio too loud.

Whether you are coming to Advanced Audiology for a full diagnostic test or a simple screening you will soon find out that we treat you like family.  Not the kind of family that bickers.  We are a welcoming oasis for you with snacks and coffee in our waiting room.  We understand how hard it is to admit that you have an issue with hearing, and we want to make sure that you are happy you made the choice to come and see us at Nola Aronson’s Advanced Audiology.

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How Much Do Summer Noises Impact your Hearing?

Nola Aronson, M.A., CCC-A, FAAA

Summer is one of the noisiest seasons. Fireworks, trains, concerts and target practice can all be harmful to your hearing. Once hearing is damaged, it cannot be repaired.

One in 10 Americans has hearing loss that affects their ability to understand normal speech. Aging is the most common cause. However, exposure to excessive noise can damage hearing in higher pitches.

Hearing loss due to excessive noise is totally preventable, unlike hearing loss due to old age or a medical condition.

Music to my Ears, or Just Plain Noise?

I recommend using hearing protection devices for those who are exposed to excessive, loud noises and musician’s earplugs, which simply attenuate the intensity/loudness without altering frequency response.

The use of ear buds by teenagers in your life may be saving your ears from their music, but it could be damaging their ears.  The rule of thumb is, if you can hear what they’re listening to it’s too loud.

Loud Noise Permanently Kills Ear Nerve Endings

Three small bones in the middle ear help transfer sound vibrations to the inner ear where they become nerve impulses that the brain interprets as sound.

When noise is too loud, it begins to kill the hair cells and nerve endings in the inner ear. The louder a noise, the longer the exposure, and the closer you are to the source, the more damaging it is doing to your nerve endings. As the number of nerve endings decrease due to damage, so does your hearing. Nerve endings cannot be healed or regenerated and the damage is permanent.

Here are a few summertime tips:

  • Cover your ears: Generic, over-the-counter earplugs are inexpensive and can be found at any drugstore. They can be custom-made for comfort and durability. Buy earplugs and keep them handy in wallets, backpacks, briefcases and purses so you can pop them in when noise is loud and continuous.
  • Swimmer’s ear and cotton swabs: Swimmer’s ear is caused by painful membrane swelling due to trapped moisture in the outer ear. Customized plugs for swimming are available and a good investment to avoid painful ear infections. After swimming, tilt your head to drain the water from each ear and gently wipe the outer ear with a towel. Do not use swabs, they can actually do more damage than good
  • The plane truth: Many travelers complain about ear discomfort when the plane is taking off or landing. Yawning, swallowing or chewing gum can be effective in unplugging the ears. If yawning and swallowing are not effective, pinch the nostrils shut, take a mouthful of air, and direct the air into the back of the nose as if trying to blow the nose gently. This may have to be repeated several times during the plane’s descent.

Registered Levels for Common Sounds

Normal Conversation/Typing

60 db

Noise from highway traffic

70 db

Earplugs recommended after                        85 db
Lawnmower, power tools

90 db

Loud rock concert, car horn

115 db

Fireworks, jet engine take-off

150 db

Sound of a shotgun

170 db

Information provided by American Academy of Otolaryngology

 

Nola Aronson has been helping Santa Clarita hear better for over 26 years.  For more information or to schedule an appointment to have your hearing screened give us a call at 661-253-EARS (3277). Advanced Audiology is located at 23822 Valencia Blvd #103 in the Owen Patterson building across from AAA.

Harnessing Ear Power

Researchers power an implantable electronic device using an electrical potential — a natural battery — deep in the inner ear.

Deep in the inner ear of mammals is a natural battery — a chamber filled with ions that produces an electrical potential to drive neural signals. In the journal Nature Biotechnology, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School, MIT, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) demonstrates for the first time that this battery could power implantable electronic devices without impairing hearing.

The devices could monitor biological activity in the ears of people with hearing or balance impairments, or responses to therapies. Eventually, they might even deliver therapies themselves.

The new chip, equipped with a radio transmitter, is powered by a natural battery found deep in the mammalian ear. Patrick P. Mercier/MIT

In experiments, Konstantina Stankovic, HMS assistant professor of otology and laryngology at MEEI, and HST graduate student Andrew Lysaght implanted electrodes in the biological batteries in guinea pigs’ ears. Attached to the electrodes were low-power electronic devices developed by MIT researchers. After the implantation, the guinea pigs responded normally to hearing tests, and the devices were able to wirelessly transmit data about the chemical conditions of the ear to an external receiver.

“In the past, people have thought that the space where the high potential is located is inaccessible for implantable devices, because potentially it’s very dangerous if you encroach on it,” said Stankovic, an otologic surgeon at MEEI and Massachusetts General Hospital. “We have known for 60 years that this battery exists and that it’s really important for normal hearing, but nobody has attempted to use this battery to power useful electronics.”

The ear converts a mechanical force — the vibration of the eardrum — into an electrochemical signal that can be processed by the brain; the biological battery is the source of that signal’s current. Located in the part of the ear called the cochlea, the battery chamber is divided by a membrane, some of whose cells are specialized to pump ions. An imbalance of potassium and sodium ions on opposite sides of the membrane, together with the particular arrangement of the pumps, creates an electrical voltage.

Although the voltage is the highest in the body (outside of individual cells, at least), it’s still very low. Moreover, in order not to disrupt hearing, a device powered by the biological battery can harvest only a small fraction of its power. Low-power chips, however, are precisely the area of expertise of Anantha Chandrakasan’s group at MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL).

The MTL researchers — Chandrakasan, who heads MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; his former graduate student Patrick Mercier, who’s now an assistant professor at the University of California at San Diego; and Saurav Bandyopadhyay, a graduate student in Chandrakasan’s group — equipped their chip with an ultralow-power radio transmitter: After all, an implantable medical monitor wouldn’t be much use if there were no way to retrieve its measurements.

But while the radio is much more efficient than those found in cellphones, it still couldn’t run directly on the biological battery. So the MTL chip also includes power-conversion circuitry — like the boxy plug on a phone charger — that gradually builds up charge in a capacitor. The voltage of the biological battery fluctuates, but it would take the control circuit somewhere between 40 seconds and four minutes to amass enough charge to power the radio. Thus, the frequency of the signal itself indicated electrochemical properties of the inner ear.

To reduce its power consumption, the control circuit had to be drastically simplified, but like the radio, it still required a higher voltage than the biological battery could provide. Once the control circuit was operational, it could drive itself; the problem was getting it up and running.

The MTL researchers solve that problem with a one-time burst of radio waves. “In the very beginning, we need to kick-start it,” Chandrakasan says. “Once we do that, we can be self-sustaining. The control runs off the output.”

Stankovic, who maintains an affiliation with HST, and Lysaght implanted electrodes attached to the MTL chip on both sides of the membrane in the biological battery of each guinea pig’s ear. In the experiments, the chip itself remained outside the guinea pig’s body, but it’s small enough to nestle in the cavity of the middle ear.

Cliff Megerian, chairman of the otolaryngology department at Case Western Reserve University, says that he sees three possible applications of the researchers’ work: in cochlear implants, diagnostics and implantable hearing aids. “The fact that you can generate the power for a low voltage from the cochlea itself raises the possibility of using that as a power source to drive a cochlear implant,” Megerian says. “Imagine if we were able to measure that voltage in various disease states. There would potentially be a diagnostic algorithm for aberrations in that electrical output.”

“I’m not ready to say that the present iteration of this technology is ready,” Megerian cautions. But he adds that, “If we could tap into the natural power source of the cochlea, it could potentially be a driver behind the amplification technology of the future.”

The work was funded in part by the Focus Center Research Program, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and the Bertarelli Foundation.

Larry Hardesty is a science writer at the MIT News Office.

Taken from http://hms.harvard.edu/content/harnessing-ear-power.