The Link Between Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) and Smoking
As if we haven’t been given enough reasons to refrain from smoking, The Journal of Physiology published an article this spring describing the harmful auditory effects of perinatal nicotine exposure (full article here). Based on this research using animal models, children that are exposed to nicotine both in utero and after birth may develop abnormal auditory brainstem responses. An abnormal auditory brainstem response can cause delayed or atypical development during childhood including auditory processing deficits, delayed speech development, and learning difficulties. But what does this mean?
An auditory processing deficit is not synonymous with a loss of hearing. In fact, one hallmark of auditory processing disorder is normal outer, middle, and cochlear or inner ear structure and function. The deficit lies in the transmission of sound from ear level to brain level, meaning this is a central nervous system deficit. Sound is picked up appropriately by the healthy ear, but it is not effectively discerned by the brain after traveling along the vestibulocochlear nerve and enters the neuronal structure of the auditory pathway.
So what can an auditory processing disorder look like? Symptoms can include but are not limited to:
Difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments
Difficulty differentiating between similar sounds
Unable to follow extensive list of directions or remember large amounts of information given verbally at one time
Trouble with temporal or timing cues
Requiring visual cues to understand information
Asking for repetition repeatedly
In children, the presentation of APD can be misdiagnosed as a specific language impairment (SLI), developmental dyslexia, or attention deficit disorder (ADD). Diagnosis of a child is often determined by the specialized health care professional that is seen initially, whether that is an audiologist, speech pathologist, or psychiatrist. An audiologist is the healthcare provider to perform accurate diagnostic testing and offer management options for those with a true auditory processing deficit.
TLDR; there are auditory processing deficits that occur in people with otherwise healthy ears and normal hearing. Seek the expertise of an audiologist who specializes in auditory processing disorders if you or your child are experiencing any of the symptoms above. Also…just to reiterate the starting point… nicotine exposure is harmful to children both peri- and postnatal. The more you know!
National Protect Your Hearing Month
October is a popular month. Not only is it National Audiology Awareness Month, but is also National Protect Your Hearing Month! Hearing loss can affect any individual at any age and stem from varying causes. One cause that is preventable is noise-induced hearing loss.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is permanent and irreversible, and is the cause of hearing loss in 1 of 3 individuals suffering from a hearing impairment. Excessively loud noise can cause damage to our inner ear sensory cells and result in this type of hearing loss. Even sounds as loud as a hairdryer or blender are loud enough to cause this cell damage. We live in a noisy world, experiencing dangerously loud sounds daily from traffic noises to emergency sirens to sporting events. We must take responsibility for our hearing health into our own hands and protect our ears from dangerously loud sounds.
Ways to protect your ears and hearing include:
Wearing hearing protection when exposed to loud sounds for extended periods of time.
This includes mowing the lawn, attending concerts and sporting events, shooting guns at a range or hunting, watching fireworks, etc.
Walking away from the noise source i.e. speakers at a concert.
Maintaining safe listening levels for music and television. Turn down the volume on iPhones, iPods, and TVs.
Audiologists can assist you with selecting and creating/ordering appropriate custom hearing protection devices for your specific needs. Don’t become a statistic-protect your hearing now!
Approximately 37.5 million Americans Suffer from Hearing Loss1
This number affects individuals of all ages, from birth through the elderly. Untreated hearing loss not only affects your ability to hear sounds and understand speech, but can significantly impact the brain’s ability to process information and have a negative effect on your social and emotional health.
Signs you may be experiencing hearing loss include but are not limited to:
Often asking for repetition or clarification of what someone has said
Difficulty understanding conversations in noisy environments
Inability to hear speech clearly when the speaker is not directly facing you
Relying on visual cues and context cues to follow conversation
Close family or friends comment on inappropriate conversational input or often needing to repeat themselves
An audiologist is the primary doctorate-level professional to evaluate, diagnose, and manage both hearing loss and balance disorders. He or she has the education to provide full diagnostic testing, counseling, and management options for varying types and degrees of hearing loss. Dr. Paige Peterson and Dr. Sabrina Marciante at The Hearing and Balance Center of Austin are doctorate level audiologists that work with adults and children of all ages. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above, or feel as though your hearing acuity is not as sharp as it once was, please contact our office for an evaluation.
 Blackwell DL, Lucas JW, Clarke TC. Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National health interview survey, 2012 (PDF). National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 10(260). 2014.
Phonak Audeo B-Direct Hearing Aid: A User's Review
It is no secret that the latest hype and buzz word in the amplification industry is direct connectivity. With so many to choose from, as a hearing aid user myself, and an audiologist, it is confusing even for me. The newest manufacturer to throw their hat into the connectivity ring is Phonak. In true Swiss fashion they were late to the game, but they did come with a twist.
Most direct connectivity amplification systems (notice I do not use the term hearing aids here, as I have said before hearing aids are part of an amplification system an are a therapeutic device) only work if you have drank the Apple Kool-Aid and have an iPhone. I'll whole heartedly admit, that is the reason I returned to the Apple family from my beloved Android device. I wanted direct connectivity, plain and simple. I didn't want to wear something around my neck, or have a bridge device that allowed me to stream phone calls and music. Now here comes Phonak with their Phonak Audeo B-Direct hearing aid, it has the capability of pairing with ANY mobile device with Bluetooth 4.2 technology. Say WHAT?!?! But like with everything in the tech world, this comes at a cost, and in my opinion a pretty hefty one that isn't related to the monitary value.
To achieve this Phonak utilized their Belong technology platform and developed their Sword™ 2.4 GHz chip. Now from a user standpoint this sounds really exciting because the Belong platform is awesome. The regular Audeo B hearing aids have great speech in noise capabilities and Sound Recover 2 is this side of magical. This new marriage allows the user to stream their phone calls and walk away from their phone, because the hearing aid uses the microphones in the aid to pick up your voice and you can answer/end calls from the hearing aids onboard button. The downside is that you can only do this to one ear. But wait, if you had a bluetooth headset you'd only go to one ear, right? Well yes, in 2009. Today people are used to their wireless headphones that can do the same thing in stereo. We know from an audiological standpoint that binaural summation (use of both ears amplified) has a very positive effect on the outcome of speech intelligibility for those with hearing loss. In less nerd terms, if you use two ears and you have hearing loss, you'll hear better. Yes, you can pair it to your beloved Android, Jitterbug or old Nokia that you just refuse to give up. That is super cool actually. But that my friends is where the cool factor ends. I will admit, the sound quality while on a call is fantastic, and the connectivity of the phone call is beautiful. I did experience fewer dropped calls and the answering/ending of calls on the ear was nice, but I personally really needed that call in two ears.
I love to listen to music through my aids. It helps with my tinnitus on days where my masking and hearing aid just won't do the trick. Now come the downsides to these hearing aids. You can't stream directly. Nope, not at all. You again have to have a third party bridge device in the form of a hockey puck looking thing, or the trusty neck loop. All of the lovely binaural hearing features that Phonak has built it's very existance on and that the regular Belong platform excells at, yup all that's gone too. And you remember that trusy telecoil that works well in theaters, churches, movie theaters, schools etc. Yeah, that's gone too. I'm pretty sure the Hearing Loss Association of America is going to have a field day with this one. Yes, its old technology, but its good technology, and I am a firm believer that everyone with hearing aids should have a t-coil.
Audeo B-Direct Pros:
Audeo B-Direct Cons:
Better Hearing Month is a wonderful reminder to hone in on effective listening skills. Hearing impaired or not, everyone can improve their listening abilities. Genuine listening provides better opportunities for clear communication, problem solving, relationship building, and proper understanding. Here are 5 tips to develop effective listening skills:
Face your conversation partner or the speaker, and maintain eye contact.
Be attentive and focused, not distracted or distracting.
Reduce any background noise to allow better hearing of the speaker.
Pay attention to nonverbal cues, and have adequate lighting to see these.
Ask questions to ensure understanding.
Often we are so quick to speak, we forget what it takes to be a good listener. These tips can help facilitate meaningful conversations you’ll actually remember.
Sabrina Marciante, AuD
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