While the Department of Health advises wearing face masks in public and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 disease, this practice creates further communication difficulties, especially for people who are hard of hearing. The Silverstein Institute and Ear Research Foundation physicians and audiologists strongly suggest taking appropriate measures to interact and connect with people suffering from this disability.
Even before the social distancing orders began, Ms. Maloney, one of our Help Us Hear (HUH) hearing aid recipients, avoided social events with friends and family. She has a litany of excuses prepared to avoid the potentially embarrassing events. Hearing loss is an isolating disability. With the stay at home orders in place, the social disengagement that the hearing-impaired community experiences have compounded. “It’s difficult to talk to people when they’re wearing masks. I would ask them to repeat what they said once or twice. After a while, it can get very embarrassing.” says Ms. McLaren, another HUH patient. Our Help Us Hear program is aimed at providing hearing aids to under-insured patients.
Dr. Rende, The Silverstein Institute’s Director of Audiology and an Ear Research Foundation Volunteer Audiologist, ensures that her audiology team wears clear face masks to assist with patient interaction. “Most of these individuals rely on lipreading, and facial expression as an effective form of communication.” she explains. Masks can distort the sound or the quality of speech, and social distancing at least 6 feet away makes it even more difficult for them to hear or be heard. She further states that the practice also has an increasing number of patients that come for repairs and/or replacement of hearing devices due to ear-loop face masks.
The doctors urge patients to consider the use of newer technology:
Speech to Text Applications – You can download speech-to-text apps smartphone apps that can provide live transcription of conversation to assist the hearing impaired while communicating in public
Hand-Help Amplification – there are handheld devices such as Pocket Talker or SuperEar that allow users to use headphones to amplify sound to their desired volume
Get a hearing help! – Effective intervention with hearing aids or cochlear implants may improve social and emotional function, communication, cognitive function, and quality of life
Unsure about your hearing health?
Schedule an appointment with the Silverstein Institute by calling (941) 366-9222 to see what options fit your lifestyle. The practice offers TeleMedicine virtual appointments as well.
When new technology may not be the best solution, some alternative methods may be effective:
Advocate for hearing with a communicator friendly face mask:
Are you a healthy hearing advocate?
Join Ear Research Foundation’s Hearing Advocate’s Coalition as a founding member with a monthly donation of only $5, $10 or more! Approximately 48,975 adults in Sarasota County are living with hearing loss, and 5,975 of those are living in poverty. The group was initiated to raise money for under-insured patients that need care during these trying times. Upon donating, you will receive a clear face mask as a gift. Wearing this mask will help the hearing-impaired community communicate better.
These masks are made with:
Reed, N., AuD, Ferrante, L., MD, MHS, & Oh, E., MD, PhD. (2020). Addressing Hearing Loss to Improve Communication During the COVID‐19 Pandemic. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 68(9). doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.16674
Stern, C. (2020, May 08). 10 Tips for Managing Face Masks and Hearing Loss: CHC blog. Retrieved September 28, 2020, from https://chchearing.org/blog/face-masks-hearing-loss-communication-tips/
Ear Research Foundation
(941) 365-0367 | www.EarRF.org
1901 Floyd Street, Sarasota, Florida 34239
In 1979, the Ear Research Foundation was established in Sarasota, Florida by President and Founder, Dr. Herbert Silverstein. The Foundation was created out of his desire to continue research and development, and to contribute to medical education in a private setting. In the field of Otolaryngology. A non-profit 501C-3 organization, Ear Research provides essential and innovative research, educational sessions to inform the community about hearing health and to train professionals in the field, and community care for people in need of hearing devices and care who could not otherwise afford it. Vital to the Ear Research Foundation is the strong partnership with Silverstein Institute.
The Silverstein Institute has locations in Sarasota, Venice, Lakewood Ranch, and soon to open in Longboat Key. An internationally-respected physicians’ practice dedicated to diseases and surgery of the ears, nose, and throat. Silverstein Institute provides innovative, high-quality patient care. A state-of-the-art organization, the staff and physicians work together every day to improve the health and well-being of their patients.
Ear Research Foundation
(941) 365-0367 | www.earrf.org
1901 Floyd Street, Sarasota, FL 34239
Contributed by Lisa Packer
Last updated July 2, 2019
Copyright Healthy Hearing (www.healthyhearing.com)
When you think of celebrating Independence Day, the first thing that comes to mind is probably fireworks. After spending the day swimming, playing and barbecuing, many of those in the United States will soon be heading out to ooh and aah over a display of colorful and exciting pyrotechnics. But whether you are watching a professional show or have purchased your own fireworks, hearing loss is a real risk.
Why are fireworks so loud?
Always keep a safe distance from fireworks.
It all comes down to the chemical reaction that happens after the fuse is lit. The burning gunpowder releases hot gas that expands rapidly; when the gas expands to the point that it runs out of room within the firework, the resulting explosion causes a blast wave. The vibrations from that blast wave have the potential to cause permanent damage to the delicate hair cells of the inner ear.
Yes, they're exciting, but the problem is the excitement is often measured by the “loudness factor." For some people, the louder the better. And those loud explosions have the potential to reach levels between 150 and 175 decibels at close range. When it comes to fireworks, the World Health Organization recommends the maximum safe decibel level for adults is 140 decibels, and for children only 120 decibels.
Infants should not be exposed at all; an infant’s ear canal is much smaller than an older child's or an adult's, so the sound pressure entering the ear is greater. What might not sound that loud to an adult actually sounds up to 20 decibels louder to an infant. Infants should not be exposed at all—their ear anatomy is too delicate.
5 ways to protect your hearing
1. Keep a safe distance
One way is to maintain a safe distance from the display. The farther you are from the sound, the less harmful the sound is to your ears, so your distance from the sound of the fireworks can make all of the difference in terms of decibel level and hearing safety. A distance of around 500 feet will still give you a great view, but without the sound pressure that can damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear.
2. Skip the home displays
Where you view your fireworks can also affect your hearing. Experts recommend attending a community display rather than setting off your own fireworks at home. Not only are fireworks dangerous and best left to trained professionals, but there is usually a roped off area located a safe viewing (and listening) distance away from the show.
3. Bring earplugs and earmuffs
If you intend to sit as close to the action as possible, or if you are determined to create your own display, protect your hearing and that of your children. Inexpensive foam earplugs can be found in drugstores and pharmacies, and work well for adults; earmuffs (basically foam-filled cups that cover the ears) are better for small children because earplugs sometimes don’t fit and can be a choking hazard.
4. If you buy your own fireworks, buy these
If you are planning your own fireworks display, the good news is you can customize your selection for reduced noise. All fireworks come with a noise level rating, so selecting quieter fireworks will not only preserve a good relationship with your neighbors, it will protect your hearing as well. Quieter options include fountains, wheels, falling leaves and comets. While not completely silent, they crackle and whistle instead of creating a loud, explosive boom. All are created for spectacular visual display but less noise. If you buy fireworks, your fireworks provider should be able to direct you to those that are lower on the noise rating scale.
5. And avoid these
What to avoid? Rockets, mines and any fireworks that have many blasts strung together tightly. These fireworks are created to make as much noise as possible.
Noise-induced hearing lossAccording to the National Institutes of Health, more than 30 million people in the U.S. are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss. Exposure to noises such as loud fireworks can result in:
Reproduced with permission. Copyright Healthy Hearing (www.healthyhearing.com). Original article: [https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52478-How-to-protect-your-hearing-this-fourth-of-july].
Originally Published at SW Florida Health and Wellness Magazine