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Lauren McNee Ear Health Interview

Lauren McNee Ear Health Interview

Summer is well and truly gone – music festivals, house parties, days spent at the beach are in the past, but some of the health side effects may be lingering.

Committing to hit the gym harder and sacrificing your favourite sweets might be at the top of your list this Winter but your ear health should also be if you've been attending music festivals throughout Summer and Autumn.

We've all experienced that ringing sound in our ears and often shrug it off as a sign of listening to loud music. That ringing sound is called Tinnitus – an extremely common and misunderstood condition. However, studies now show that hearing loss is present in 90% of tinnitus cases.

Alarmingly, hearing loss is not a condition that is confined to people your grandmas age anymore! Younger people are becoming more susceptible to the condition every day.

Interview with Lauren McNee, Clinical Audiologist

Hearing loss affects over 5% of the world's population (360 million) yet the condition is still widely misunderstood. Lauren McNee, Professional Practice Manager and Clinical Audiologist at Connect Hearing delves into the truths behind hearing loss.

Question: What are your top tips for ear health?

Lauren McNee: Be prepared with protection: For those situations, you can't control, come prepared with earplugs or earmuffs. Concerts, loud lecture halls, sport games, cinemas etc are fun, but not exactly ear friendly! Try and invest in a simple, subtle noise-reducing device to take sound down by 15-30 decibels. Or if you want something more advanced and comfortable consider custom made plugs, or plugs that can be bought off the shelf at Connect Hearing Centers across Australia.

Set your phone's 'loud limit": Many mobile devices allow you to select a maximum sound level, so you aren't tempted to turn it up too high – the lower the better.

Earbuds, bad. Headphones, ok: There are so many different designs of headsets that exist and people find it so hard to figure out which ones are less damaging to your ears. Earbuds are internal, while headphones rest over your ears, making incoming sound a whole lot safer. Invest in a nice set of noise-cancelling headphones so you don't have to crank up the volume on your songs, podcasts, phone calls, online shows or videos!

Question: What are the signs and symptoms for poor ear health?

Lauren McNee: Hearing can sometimes fade slowly and you might not notice the signs and symptoms when they start to occur. Some of the key signs that you should look out for include:

One-on-one conversations are fine, but it's hard to catch every word when there's background noise
Sometimes following conversations is difficult
Asking people to repeat what they say
Thinking other people are mumbling or not speaking clearly
Complaints about the TV being too loud
Ringing, roaring or hissing sounds in the ears

Having hearing checks every couple of years can help monitor your hearing levels and help prevent hearing complications in the future.

Question: What should we do if we think we have a hearing problem?

Lauren McNee: The most important thing to do if you think you have a hearing problem is to visit a hearing center like Connect Hearing. They can help you identify the signs of hearing loss and provide solutions to assist you.

Question: What are the effects of continual loud music on the ears?

Lauren McNee: A survey by charity Help Musicians UK revealed some startling findings about hearing loss amongst musicians. Researchers surveyed 692 musicians and discovered a clear connection between working in music and severe hearing loss. This link is especially concerning when you consider that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.

39% of respondents told Help Musicians UK they had not sought professional help for their hearing loss, as they believed it was an unavoidable consequence of working as a musician. The good news is that hearing loss from prolonged exposure to loud music is entirely avoidable. Survey respondents reported that they found customised earplugs and/or custom-moulded in-ear monitors to be the most effective form of hearing protection. These solutions are available from your specialist hearing clinic.

Question: How do earphones affect our ear health?

Lauren McNee: Damage from loud noises of prolonged duration, such as music, can be irreversible. Firstly, it's important when looking at earphones or headphones to consider comfort and noise levels. If you prefer earphones, the level of noise should be lower because it is incredibly close to the eardrum whereas earphones provide a safer distance.

Whichever you choose, you should always try to limit your listening time, not just to loud sounds but also to sustained noise, and because wearing headphones for more than just an hour will increase the bacteria in your ears by over ten times the normal amount. This is nothing to be concerned about though, as you just need to let your ears breathe occasionally.

So, get good quality, snug fitting headphones and take them off every now and then to enjoy your music and keep your hearing longer.

Question: Is it detrimental to our ear health to remove excess wax?

Lauren McNee: While you may scrub dead skin and oil off your body, you actually want wax in your ears. It may sound mildly disgusting, but earwax is essential for maintaining healthy hearing.

We know the colour is a little…icky. Does it have to be sticky? Yes, as its stickiness helps collect debris that's too small to see and prevents it from entering your ear canal. Earwax's unbecoming scent repels insects that may be tempted to nest inside your ears. And wax does have one decent characteristic – its moisturising qualities keep your ears soft.

Question: What is tinnitus and how can it be treated?

Lauren McNee: Tinnitus, more commonly known as 'ringing in the ear" or 'head noise", has been experienced by almost everyone at one time or another, usually after exposure to high volume sound or air pressure. With most people, it's temporary, but for some it stays.

For those who suffer from chronic tinnitus, research suggests that patients can experience relief when provided increased input into the auditory pathway with a hearing aid. A study conducted by Dr Jacob Johnson shows that when fitted with a Lyric, a specialized hearing device for tinnitus, patients observed a significant improvement with their tinnitus.

Here are ten simple steps you can take to cope with your tinnitus before seeing a hearing specialist:

Talk to your family and friends about your condition
Avoid stress
Learn relaxation techniques
Try avoiding caffeine
Protect your ears
Don't give up on a prescribed treatment if it doesn't work right away
Try distracting yourself with activities or music you enjoy
Improve your general health
Move around and change your sleeping patterns
Keep a positive outlook

Interview by Brooke Hunter



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