Have you heard?

People aren’t the only ones with interesting hearing mechanisms and facts. Check out these random tidbits about animal hearing from the Better Hearing Institute, Teachers Domain, and the University of Washington:

• Snakes do not have ears, but their tongues are sensitive to sound vibrations.
• Owls distinguish sound directions partly by measuring the difference in time it takes the sound to reach each ear. This difference is typically less than 200 millionths of a second!
• Cicadas have hearing organs in their stomachs
• Crickets have hearing organs in their knees; sound waves cause a thin membrane on the cricket’s legs to vibrate
• It is thought that owls can create an image of the world around them based only on sound, much like humans do with their eyes
• Although fish do not have ears, they can hear pressure changes through ridges on their bodies
• Dolphins can hear frequencies up to at least 100,000 Hz.  Compare this to a dog’s ability to hear up to 40,000 Hz and a person’s 20,000 Hz
• During World War I, the military kept parrots on France’s Eiffel Tower because their extra-sensitive hearing allowed them to warn of incoming enemy aircraft before any person could hear it
• All mammals have external ears, but many can move them to help pinpoint the direction of sounds. Some animals, like elephants, can even use their ears to stay cool by waving them like fans.

And you thought you could twitch your ears!

Dangerous hearing situations

You know that extended exposure to loud sounds can cause permanent hearing damage. But do you know how to tell if a situation has escalated to that level? The Better Hearing Institute suggests four signs that should tip you off that your environment is dangerous to your hearing:

  1. You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area. Any amount of pain is an indicator that the noise level is much too loud. This should be a given, but many people ignore it or brush it off.
  2.  You cannot hear someone who is three feet away from you. If you have to shout over the noise to talk to someone about an arm’s length away, you’re probably in a dangerous hearing situation.
  3. You have ringing or buzzing sounds in your ears after leaving the area. Symptoms of tinnitus are clear indicators of over-exposure to noise. This is common after walking away from a rock concert or other event, especially if you were standing close to the stage.
  4. You suddenly have trouble understanding what the people around you are saying after being exposed to loud noises. In these cases, you may be able to hear that the people are talking, but you can’t understand them. Like the other three indicators, this is a serious sign that the noise is too loud.

Remember: It is important to remove yourself from situations that you feel might be dangerous to your hearing. It is impossible to reverse the damage, so wear protection or leave the area if at all possible. Foam ear plugs or special ear muffs are a good option, particularly if you work in a consistently noisy environment. Ask your True Dental Discounts audiologist for more suggestions to keep your hearing healthy and intact.

Protect your hearing with earmuffs, earplugs

Although it is always best for your hearing to avoid dangerously loud environments, many people are simply not able to escape these situations, particularly in a work setting. In these cases, experts recommend one of two hearing protection options: earmuffs or earplugs. Both of these devices work by lowering the intensity of sound before it reaches a person’s ear drum, but earmuffs are worn outside the ear while earplugs are inserted directly into the outer ear canal. According to the American Hearing Research Foundation, earplugs are only effective when they form a completely air-tight seal in the ear canal. To make sure the canal is sealed, earplugs come in many sizes and shapes.

They can also be custom made by an audiologist on your True Dental Discounts hearing plan if you have difficulty finding properly fitting plugs. In addition, some people wear special headbands with earplugs attached in order to make sure they do not fall out of their ear while working in a loud environment. The foundation does not recommend substituting cotton balls for earplugs because make-shift plugs typically only work about half to one-fourth as well as a properly fitting earplug.
However, people who prefer not to wear earplugs can find a good alternative in earmuffs. Earmuffs form an air-tight seal around the outside of the ear and are worn on a headband. People who choose to wear earmuffs should be careful not to wear them while wearing eyeglasses or long hair, both of which will cause the muffs to seal improperly.

The headband must also be adjusted to a length that allows the muffs to fit snugly around the ear so no loose space exists to let sound in. If all of these conditions are met, the foundation suggests that people who wear earmuffs or earplugs can reduce their nose exposure by 15 to 30 decibels. That’s like the difference between a rock concert and a movie! The two methods can also be combined, and people who wear earmuffs in addition to earplugs can often increase their protection by another 10 to 15 decibels. If you can only choose one, many experts agree that earplugs are more effective at reducing low-frequency noise, while earmuffs are better at reducing high-frequency noise. When in doubt, always ask your True Dental Discounts audiologist. An audiologist can help identify any emerging damage and show you how to preserve your hearing for years to come.

What is an audiogram?

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, an audiogram is “a graph that shows the softest sounds a person can hear at different pitches or frequencies.” An audiogram can be constructed to illustrate a child’s range of hearing and help determine his or her level of hearing loss, if present. Levels range from “normal” to “profound” and include several intermediary degrees, such as “severe” and “moderate.” A child with severe hearing loss, for example, can likely only hear extremely loud sounds like a police siren. Audiograms typically include keys similar to those on a map to help identify the meaning of symbols. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders suggests that “O”s represent right-ear responses while “X”s represent left-ear responses. Marks closer to the top of the graph indicate softer sounds heard.

One important use of an audiogram is to determine a person’s ability to hear conversation. Speech sounds vary in pitch and loudness, and an audiogram shows a person’s ability in relation to the frequency of average speech. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders cites as an example the sounds of “s” and “o.” The “s” sound is higher in pitch and quieter, while the “o” sound is lower and louder. To learn more about the benefits of audiograms, schedule an appointment with an audiologist on your True Dental Discounts, hearing plan. Your membership allows you to receive special discounts; call today to find out how much you could save.

Importance of vestibular testing

When a person has trouble balancing, the problem is often attributed to the inner ear – more specifically, the vestibular (or balance) part of the inner ear. However, according to the American Hearing Research Foundation, the dizziness can also be caused by other issues, including psychological anxiety, low blood pressure or the brain itself. For this reason, vestibular testing is very important for patients suffering from dizziness. When the cause is isolated to something outside the ear, it can often be corrected, which helps the person’s balancing problems to disappear. One example of a vestibular test is the Rotational Chair Test. According to AHRF, the test monitors a person’s dizziness by recording eye movement while a chair is moved around and the person looks at different lights.

The purpose of this test is to determine if the dizziness may be caused by the brain or the inner ear. Recorded eye movements are used to determine how well someone’s inner ear responds to motion – in general, people who suffer from an inner ear disease will become less dizzy than a normal person. Several other vestibular tests are also available, so talk to an audiologist on your True Care hearing plan to find out which ones may help you restore your balance. Many causes revealed through these tests are easily treatable, so don’t wait to find relief.