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!

How can I protect my hearing?

According to the Better Hearing Institute, one-third of hearing loss is preventable. So what measures can you take to protect your own hearing? For starters, it’s important to limit the amount of time you spend doing noisy activities. This seems obvious, but many people don’t realize that repeated exposures to loud noises can add up to cause damage later. Second, if you must participate in a noisy activity (such as mowing the lawn), wear proper protection. By wearing ear plugs or muffs, people can limit the amount of noise that enters the ear canal. These devices can be purchased at most sporting goods stores or a basic drug store. Third, turn down the noise that you can control.

It’s easy to leave the TV on too loud or be tempted to crank up the stereo in the car, but even these small choices can have negative consequences on your hearing. Instead, make a conscious effort to keep the volume down low when you’re watching TV and listening to the radio. This goes for all handheld devices, as well. Personal music players with ear bud-style headphones allow the music to have direct access to your ear canal, so listeners must use extra caution when using these types of players. Finally, the Better Hearing Institute recommends that patients ask their doctor about possible negative side effects of their medications. Some medicines can actually be dangerous to a person’s hearing, so do some research and talk to your doctor about your concerns. When it comes to hearing, prevention is the key to preservation.

Could your child’s toys negatively impact his hearing?

Walk around your local toy store and you’ll see millions of different toys for your child to play with. Many of them include a sound component, which, in addition to being annoying to parents, can also pose a risk to a child’s hearing. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, some children’s toys – like sirens or squeaky rubber toys – can actually emit sounds of 90 decibels. To put that in perspective, adults experiencing that level of noise at work would have to wear ear protection!  Worse, when held up to a child’s ear during play, these toys can actually reach up to 120 decibels – a painful level that can result in permanent hearing loss.

The Association suggests that some of the most dangerous toys for hearing include cap guns, vehicles with sirens, walkie talkies, vacuum toys, and even talking dolls. Before buying a new toy, be sure to test out its sound component; if you already have dangerous toys at home, take out the batteries to ensure they stay quiet. Healthy hearing practices begin at a young age, so start protecting your child at all times – even during play time. Talk to a doctor in your True Dental Discounts hearing plan if you have any questions or concerns about toys around your house.

Solutions for hearing loss around the home

Most of us take for granted that we can talk to someone over the phone and open the door when we hear the door bell chime. But for people with hearing loss, these tasks are not so simple. Fortunately, technology has now made it possible for hard-of-hearing people to “hear” the door bell and other alerts in the home, as well as carry on a conversation over the phone. For instance, telephone amplifiers can be coupled with a person’s hearing aid to improve the person’s ability to hear a caller.

For people who still cannot hear well enough for a conversation, they can use Voice Carry Over, which is used with a telephone relay service. In these cases, the operator translates what the other person is saying by converting their words to text on a screen. When it comes to “hearing” the door bell, people can install systems that pick up the signal and cause lights to flash, fans to spin, or a small device to vibrate. The same goes for sleeping alarms, fire alarms, and more. Talk to your True Dental Discounts hearing specialist about the best options for your home to find out more information.

Balancing: It’s all in your ears

Even the simplest action, like walking, is affected by a person’s sense of balance. This balance comes from a complex combination involving the visual system and kinesthetic senses, along with one other important area: the inner ear. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, without those three parts working in concert, a person becomes dizzy and loses their sense of balance. The inner ear plays a critical role in balance, and any disturbances, such as calcium deposits, can affect a person’s balance. Some other causes of dizziness include Meniere’s Disease, certain drugs, and head trauma.

In order to determine what is causing a person to lose their balance, a doctor may conduct a balance assessment to monitor any changes and detect the site of the problem. Symptoms of balance issues include having rapid, involuntary eye movements; vertigo and dizziness; and difficulty or awkward walking/running. If you suspect you may have problems with your balance, talk to your doctor about the health of your inner ear. He or she can assess your condition and determine the existence of any abnormalities.