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April 18, 2013

How Loud Is A Bomb?

By Lolly Wigall

On April 15, 2013 the Boston marathon was interrupted abruptly by two explosions at or near the finish line. There was chaos.  There was a debris field of glass and other flying objects. There was death and destruction. There were many visible injuries. 

As an audiologist, my mind immediately went to the loudness of the explosions. My mind raced to think of the damage being done people’s hearing. My mind raced to the temporary damage being done to people’s hearing systems. And, the permanent damage that will show up as a result of the loud explosions. 

Some news stations reported that many bystanders’ eardrums were ruptured as a result of the explosions. Ruptured eardrums need immediate medical attention to prevent infections. The tympanic membranes (or ear drums) keep dirt and debris from entering the middle ear. When a person has a hole in the eardrum, dirt and debris can enter and possibly cause an infection. 

The loudness of the explosions can cause sensori-neural or permanent hearing damage. The only way to determine if permanent damage is present is to have a complete audiological evaluation by an audiologist. 

Usually when a person is exposed to loud sounds, a temporary hearing loss is noticed. This is also true after attending a loud concert. This is called a temporary threshold shift.  But, gradually, the hearing returns. But, the hearing may not fully recover based on the loudness of the noise, and the individual’s resistance. It is wise to have a complete hearing test immediately, just to document the loss, even if it is temporary. Then, follow-up with a second audiogram to monitor the improvement, or to document the permanent hearing loss. Do not assume the hearing will return fully. 

Tinnitus or ringing in the ears can be a symptom of hearing loss. Tinnitus can be temporary or become permanent.  But, again have a hearing test to record the hearing thresholds.

The threshold of hearing is 0dB. The sound of breathing at about 3 feet is 25dB. Normal conversational speech is usually recorded at 45-65 dB.  A shout is usually at 95dB. Plane take-offs is at 115dB. Heavy weapon fire at about 10 feet is 190 dB. 

March 26, 2013

I didn’t hear you!

“What did you say?” “Could you repeat that please?” “Huh?”

We’ve all said these things to our family and friends. We’ve all heard our spouse’s voice from the other room and had no idea what they were saying. We’ve all heard a young child look up at us, say something, but we had no idea what was said. We’ve heard a waitress say the specials, but really didn’t understand what she was saying.

We’ve sat in church and not really heard or understood the sermon. How about watching a TV show, and not being able to understand some of the dialogue?

All these situations have probably happened to most people. But, how can you tell if it is because you weren’t paying attention, or if you have a hearing loss? Was it because the speaker mumbled? Is it because the restaurant is so noisy, it is impossible to really hear the waitress?

Not hearing another person can be due to inattention. Reading a good book can be relaxing. But, then someone asks you a question. You look up and say, “What?” Did you say “what” because you really didn’t hear them, or did you not really understand them because you were concentrating on the book? Or, do you have a hearing loss?

Many people complain they cannot always understand the minister. My usual suggestion is to move closer to the pulpit to be able to be able to see the pastor’s lips better and to hear better. However, many pastors talk too fast.

When a microphone and speakers are involved, the speaker should talk slower. There is a delay in any speaker system. If the pastor speaks more slowly, it gives the audience a better chance to hear what is being said. I understand that when you speak in public, adrenalin kicks in. But, the speaker should speak slower than normal so the audience can truly hear what is being said. But, even if the pastor speaks slowly, and you still don’t hear what is being said, do you have a hearing loss?

The only real way to know if you have a hearing loss is to have a hearing test. An audiologist is a trained professional who tests hearing. The good news is most medical insurance policies cover the cost of a hearing test.




March 9, 2013

Dementia-Hearing Loss Link Prompts BHI to Urge Hearing Checks

As evidence increases showing that there may be a connection between hearing loss and dementia, the Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is urging hearing checks among Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Because most hearing loss can be managed with hearing aids, BHI also is encouraging those with hearing loss to be fitted with hearing aids when appropriate. To make it easier for anyone to determine if they need a comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional, BHI is offering a free, quick, and confidential online hearing check at

Several studies have looked at the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive function. One such study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging, and published in the Archives of Neurology, found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. The study also found that the more hearing loss they had, the higher their likelihood of developing dementia.

According to the Johns Hopkins on the study, the reason for the link between the two conditions is unknown, but the investigators suggest that a common pathology may underlie both or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders.

According to BHI, these research findings should prompt people to take hearing loss seriously. BHI encourages Boomers and Gen Xers especially to get their hearing tested by a hearing healthcare professional who can provide a thorough examination and, if needed, fit them for hearing aids.

In an effort to improve the quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease, BHI advocates that hearing checks, hearing healthcare, and hearing aids when appropriate, be included in their regimen of care. According to the Institute, unaddressed hearing loss can present an added, unnecessary strain on individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, and also on caregivers who suffer from hearing loss themselves. BHI also advocates that hearing checks and hearing healthcare be part of the diagnostic process.

Studies show that although a significantly higher percentage of people with Alzheimer’s disease may have hearing loss, they’re also much less likely to receive attention for their hearing needs than their normally aging peers.

Research  also shows that the use of hearing aids among Alzheimer’s patients with hearing loss, in combination with appropriate aural rehabilitation in a multidisciplinary setting, can help alleviate the symptoms of depression, passivity, negativism, disorientation, anxiety, social isolation, feelings of helplessness, loss of independence and general cognitive decline.

Because healthy hearing helps people remain socially and cognitively engaged, BHI urges all Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and others to make hearing checks a regular part of their preventive healthcare.

About Alzheimer’s Disease
Source:  Alzheimer’s Disease International

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and accounts for 50 percent to 75 percent of all cases. It destroys brain cells and nerves disrupting the transmitters, which carry messages in the brain, particularly those responsible for storing memories. Alzheimer’s disease was first described by Alois Alzheimer in 1906.

About BHI

Founded in 1973, BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit To take the BHI Quick Hearing Check, visit at




The Risks of Buying Hearing Aids Online or Over the Counter

Better Hearing Institute Warns on Do-it-yourself Hearing Care 

Washington, DC.: The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) is warning consumers of the inherent risks associated with purchasing over-the-counter, one-size-fits-all hearing aids instead of consulting a hearing healthcare professional. Hearing loss is sometimes the symptom of a serious underlying medical problem. All 50 states require that consumers use a credentialed hearing care professional to purchase hearing aids.

BHI also points out that hearing devices that are purchased over-the-counter or Internet without the consultation of a hearing healthcare professional may result in the devices not being accurately customized to the specific hearing needs of the individual.

"Today’s state-of-the-art hearing aids should be programmed to the individual’s specific hearing loss requirements in order to provide good levels of benefit and customer satisfaction,” says Sergei Kochkin, BHI’s Executive Director. “The process requires a complete in-person hearing assessment in a sound booth; the training and skills of a credentialed hearing healthcare professional in order to prescriptively fit the hearing aids using sophisticated computer programs; and appropriate in-person follow-up and counseling. This is not possible when consumers purchase one-size-fits-all hearing aids over the Internet or elsewhere.”

Extensive research shows that individualized hearing health assessments and fittings programmed specific to the needs of the hearing aid user provide the best chance for optimal hearing enhancement and customer satisfaction.

“The best advice BHI can give anyone purchasing a hearing aid is to find a state credentialed hearing healthcare professional and to communicate openly during the evaluation, fitting and trial period to increase the likelihood that you are receiving the best possible benefit from your hearing aids,” says Kochkin. “It will make a tremendous difference in your ability to hear and in your quality of life.”

BHI has published a comprehensive consumer guide entitled, “Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids.” (See under hearing loss treatment). The guidelines give confidence to first-time hearing aid buyers by providing a detailed, step-by-step explanation of what to expect, ask, and look for when selecting and visiting a hearing healthcare professional and purchasing a hearing aid.

BHI also has published, “Your Guide to Financial Assistance for Hearing Aids,” the first comprehensive guide on how people can obtain financial assistance to purchase hearing aids.

Read more about buying hearing aids online and watch Healthy Hearing's video aboutinternet hearing aid purchases.

More About Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids
The number of Americans with hearing loss has grown to more than 34 million—roughly 11 percent of the U.S. population. Over the past generation, hearing loss among Americans has increased at a rate of 160 percent of U.S. population growth and is one of the most commonly unaddressed health conditions in America today.

Numerous studies have linked untreated hearing loss to a wide range of physical and emotional conditions, including impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks, reduced alertness, increased risk of personal safety, irritability, negativism, anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression, and diminished psychological and overall health.

But the vast majority of people with hearing loss can benefit from hearing aids. In fact, eight out of ten hearing aid users report improvements in their quality of life, according to a survey by BHI of more than 2,000 consumers.

Advances in digital technology have dramatically improved hearing aids in recent years, making them smaller with better sound quality. Designs are modern, sleek, and discreet. Clarity, greater directionality, better speech audibility in a variety of environments, better cell phone compatibility, less whistling and feedback than hearing aids of the past, and greater ruggedness for active lifestyles are common features.

About BHI
Founded in 1973, BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit To take the BHI Quick Hearing Check, visit