Dr. Wright's Blog

Awakening the Auditory Cortex

Have you heard the saying “use it or lose it?”.  Well, like anything with our bodies, this also applies to our ears; more specifically, the part of our brain that receives the sound from the ear. That part of the brain is called the auditory cortex. This part of the brain is located in the temporal lobe and it’s really what interprets the sound waves into meaningful bits of information. As with other senses, auditory sensations are perceived only if received and processed by a cortical area of the brain.

When we have hearing loss, certain sounds are not intense enough to reach the cortical areas of the brain and therefore are not perceived. The benefit of keeping this part of the brain stimulated is the subject of much research lately linking decreased auditory cortex stimulation to conditions such as dementia (http://www.audiologyresearch.org/index.php/audio/article/view/13). 

I see many people being fit with hearing aids in a proactive way. Although they may feel they can still “get by” without the use of hearing aids, they are using them to continue to keep the auditory cortex awake and doing its job.    

To find out more about how the auditory cortex relates to hearing, come visit us at the Healthy Hearing Expo as I will be doing an in depth talk on this exact subject.

Hearing aids through Veteran’s Affairs Canada

There have been some changes going on lately with  Veteran's Affairs Canada (VAC).  News  from Friday reported that VAC has now afforded part time reservists the same benefits and compensation as full time veterans.   Good news financially for all reservists who may have suffered some degree of hearing loss or tinnitus due to noise exposure.  

For Veteran’s Affairs purposes, a hearing loss that would qualify for a disability benefit exists when the threshold sum is 100 dB or greater at frequencies of 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz and 3000 Hz in either ear, or 50 Db or more in both ears at 4000 Hz. To determine if you meet this guideline, book a hearing test appointment with one of the Audiologists in our clinic and it will be easy to see if you meet the criteria.  

In addition to payment for hearing aids, as well as all of the services, batteries and support you will need to manage hearing loss and tinnitus, you may also be eligible for a disability pension or award.

For more information about applying for hearing loss benefits go to 

http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/services/after-injury/disability-benefits/how-to-apply

The VAC website states, “it is preferred that audiograms submitted to the Department for entitlement or assessment purposes be performed by a clinical Audiologist. However, audiograms submitted from other sources such as hearing instrument specialists (HIS), physicians or nurses may be considered by VAC if they meet the following standards." (and they go on to list standards).   

At Broadmead and Oak Bay clinics, you are in good hands because we are staffed exclusively by Audiologists so you will be sure to get exactly what you need to complete your application.

Hearing Aids and the Weather

Fluctuations in temperature can cause damage to a hearing aid and hearing aid batteries.  This is because when the temperature fluctuates it causes condensation and this moisture can enter and damage the electronic components of the hearing aid in the same way that perspiration can damage your hearing aids and cause corrosion.

If you think your hearing aids have been damaged, here are some signs:

  • Your hearing aid cuts out during loud noises.
  • The sound fades or comes and goes.
  • Everything you hear is punctuated by static.
  • Sounds are unclear or seem distorted.
  • Your hearing aid completely stops working and then starts again. This might happen a few times.

To prevent moisture damage, remove your hearing aid batteries from the hearing aid and store just the hearing aids in a dry aid kit or dehumidifier every night.  We have a selection of dry aid kits and dehumidifiers in our clinics which our clinic assistants would be happy to demonstrate for you. 

When going outside there are precautions that you should take to avoid unnecessary damage to your hearing aids, perhaps use an umbrella or hat in the rain.  We hope you get out and enjoy our beautiful spring weather - just make sure to protect your ears and your hearing aids.

The Leading Cause of Hearing Loss is Noise Exposure

I joined a new gym this month.   Which by all accounts is great for my health and fitness.  But it got me thinking about noise exposure once more.  

The leading cause of hearing loss is noise exposure, which ironically is also the most preventable form of hearing loss.  For many people, the gradual decrease of hearing over time is not enough of a “cause and effect” to take greater care when in a noisy environment.  This new gym I joined is fantastic but as I sat listening to the music increase in volume for the 60 second sprint, I thought of the trainer, who has to work in this loud environment for 4 hours a day.  

It is hard to understand what is really happening in the ear during these hours of exposure, but this video does an amazing job with graphics to explain exactly why it is important to use consistent hearing protection.

http://www.etymotic.com/hearforalifetime/generationhear

(Once opened, click on the '60 Seconds Flat Video' link on the left hand side of the page.)

As for me, I think I will try to be a role model for those around me and put in my custom hearing protection when I clip on my heart rate monitor. 

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Hearing Fact

More than 8 million Canadians have some type of hearing problem. Hearing difficulties are often unrecognized by the person involved. Children and teenagers seldom complain about the symptoms of hearing loss, and adults may lose their hearing so gradually they do not realize it is happening.

The first step in treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.