Hearing Loss Is More Prevalent in Service Workers

Hearing Loss Is More Prevalent in Service Workers

Millions of people across the United States are exposed to loud noises at work. New research conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that a large number of those individuals work in the Services industry.

Occupational Noise Exposure Research Bartender mixing up a drink with the drink flying in the air to the next cup

Published in the July issue of International Journal of Audiology, “Prevalence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers within the services sector” looked to examine the incidence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers within the Services sector.

Researchers examined the audiograms for 1.9 million workers exposed to noise on the job across all industries between 2006-2015; this included 158,436 Services workers. While they determined that the prevalence of hearing loss within those in Services was close to the prevalence of all industries (17 percent compared to 16 percent, respectively), they found:

  • Many sub-sectors exceeded the prevalence by 10-33 percent, and workers had higher risk for hearing loss
  • Workers in Administration of Urban Planning and Community and Rural Development had the highest prevalence of 50 percent
  • Workers in Solid Waste Combustors and Incinerators had double the risk, the highest of any sub-sector
  • Some sub-sectors that were previously viewed as low-risk for developing hearing loss, including Custom Computer Programming Services and Elementary and Secondary Schools, had higher than expected prevalence and risk

What Is Occupational Hearing Loss?

This classification of hearing loss occurs when workers are exposed to hazardous noises or chemicals that cause damage to their hearing while at work.

Sounds are measured in decibels (dB). Anything over 85 dB can cause hearing loss after exposure over an extended period of time.

To combat occupational hearing loss, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. According to OSHA, “These limits are based on a worker’s time weighted average over an 8-hour day. With noise, OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dB for all workers for an 8-hour day. The OSHA standard uses a 5 dB exchange rate. This means that when the noise level is increased by 5 dB, the amount of time a person can be exposed to a certain noise level to receive the same dose is cut in half.”

The results of this study confirm that workers in the Services sector are at an elevated risk of hearing loss, and conservation efforts need to be put in place.

To learn more about protecting your hearing at work or to schedule an appointment with an experienced hearing professional, contact San Diego Hearing Center today.

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Three Things to Improve Your Hearing

Whether you have hearing loss or you’re at risk of developing it, it’s good to know that there are steps you can take to preserve your hearing and prevent future damage. Try our tips below to improve your hearing health.

Wear Hearing Aids Bearded man listening closely

The most obvious thing you can do to improve your hearing is wear hearing aids. Hearing aids are amazing technological devices that amplify sounds in your environment to a volume your ears can detect. When you choose not to treat your hearing loss with hearing aids, the parts of your brain responsible for processing sound can atrophy or reassign themselves to other brain functions, making it harder for you to treat your hearing loss later.

Hearing aids have also been shown to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Hearing aid use has been linked with lower rates of depression, anxiety, anger and social isolation. They may also help prevent falls and even dementia.

Get Some Exercise

Exercise is good for your body, including your ears! Hearing professionals believe that regular exercise helps increase blood flow to the ears, which is essential for the tiny hair cells within the inner ear that convert soundwaves into electrical impulses the brain can interpret. If these cells are starved of blood, they can die; once they die, they cannot regenerate.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five times per week. You can break up this amount of exercise into smaller chunks if that is more manageable for you.

Turn Down the Music

One of the best ways to prevent hearing loss is to avoid loud sounds – this includes the music blasting out of your headphones or earbuds. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 26 million Americans have hearing loss caused by noise exposure.

Any sound over 85 dB can cause permanent damage over time. For reference, this is about the volume of highway traffic. If others can hear your music while it is playing in your ears, it’s too loud.

For more tips for boosting your hearing ability, contact the experts at San Diego Hearing Center today.

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Understanding the Different Types of Hearing Loss

Forty-eight million Americans experience hearing loss. Before you can seek proper treatment, it is important to understand your specific type of hearing loss. There are three types: conductive, sensorineural and mixed; the causes and corresponding treatments are outlined below.

Conductive Hearing LossStudio Shot Of Man Suffering From Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss describes problems with the ear canal, eardrum and middle ear (including the tiny bones it contains – the malleus, incus and stapes). This type of hearing loss has many potential causes, including:

  • Malformation of the ear
  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Otitis media (middle ear infection)
  • Allergies
  • Poor Eustachian tube function
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Tumors
  • Impacted earwax
  • Infection in the ear canal
  • Foreign object in ear
  • Otosclerosis (bone growths in middle ear)

Conductive hearing loss can be treated by combatting the underlying problem. For example, antibiotics and antifungal medications can be used to treat chronic ear infections, and tumors can be removed via surgery.

For malformations of the inner ear, plastic surgery can correct problems like congenital absence of ear canal or failure of ear canal to be open at birth.

Another option for conductive hearing loss is a bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA). These devices are surgically implanted in the mastoid bone behind the ear. Soundwaves are picked up by an external processor and converted into vibrations, which travel through the skull and jaw bones and stimulate the inner ear, bypassing the damaged portion of the ear.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss, also called nerve-related hearing loss, is caused by problems affecting the inner ear such as:

  • Noise exposure
  • Aging
  • Head trauma
  • Viruses/diseases
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Heredity
  • Malformation of inner ear
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Otosclerosis
  • Tumors

The gold-standard of treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids. Traditional hearing aids work by amplifying sounds to a volume that the inner ear can detect. Today’s devices have features such as rechargeable batteries, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic programming and feedback reduction.

For those with severe sensorineural hearing loss who do not benefit from traditional hearing aids, cochlear implants may be recommended. These are surgically-implanted devices that aid in speech understanding when hearing aids aren’t powerful enough.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is just what you’d expect – a combination of conductive and sensorineural loss.

Audiologists typically treat the conductive component first, especially if a malformation would make it difficult to wear a hearing aid. A combination of treatments listed above is likely necessary for best outcomes.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the experts at San Diego Hearing Center today.

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Drugs That Can Cause Hearing Loss

There are more than 200 drugs with a known link to hearing loss – these medications are known as “ototoxic.” The severity of hearing problems varies depending on the drug, dosage and length it is taken, but generally the risk increases the more the drug accumulates in the body. Hearing loss caused by medications may be temporary or permanent.

Below are some of the types of drugs most commonly linked to ototoxicity. If you are taking any of the below medications, contact your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits and discuss alternatives.



There are many types of antibiotics, but the class known as aminoglycosides is linked with hearing loss. This type is usually prescribed to treat serious infections like meningitis when other antibiotics prove ineffective. Newborns are particularly at risk and should be screened for hearing loss if they take this drug.

Pain Relievers

OTC pain relievers like aspirin and acetaminophen can cause hearing loss after prolonged use of high doses. In the medical field, these drugs are known as “analgesics” and “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).” One study published by The American Journal of Medicine found a correlation between use of analgesics and hearing loss in men, and another study found similar results for women. This risk is low if you follow recommendations about dosing, but talk to your doctor if you take these drugs daily.


Diuretics reduce the amount of fluid in the body and are used to treat a variety of conditions, including edema, glaucoma and high blood pressure. These drugs can cause temporary hearing loss and tinnitus; if you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor.

Chemotherapy Drugs

Cisplatin is a platinum-based chemotherapy drug typically used for bladder, ovarian and testicular cancers that have spread. Hearing loss (temporary or permanent) is one listed side effect, along with tinnitus and vertigo. Researchers at OHSU have uncovered a strong correlation between platinum-based chemotherapy drugs and hearing loss and are currently working to develop a chemotherapy drug that does not have ototoxic effects.

For more information about ototoxic drugs or to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, contact the experts at San Diego Hearing Center.

Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and social distancing make this a challenging time for all. For those with untreated hearing loss, who are at an even greater risk of developing mental health issues, raising awareness and developing a coping strategy is key.

Social Isolation

Smiling young woman sitting and looking through the window. With long hair, wears denim shirt. Hands on legs.

A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and sponsored by AARP Foundation found that about 25 percent of those over the age of 65 lack social contact with others. This number is exacerbated by hearing loss.

Seniors with untreated hearing loss can become frustrated when trying to hear and understand in noisy situations. As a result, they begin avoiding activities, people and places they once enjoyed. One study found that people with untreated hearing loss are significantly less likely to participate in social activities than those who use hearing aids.

Loneliness and social isolation can lead to serious health problems, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Dementia
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Early death
  • Hospitalizations


Untreated hearing loss has been linked with an increased risk of depression. This connection makes sense as hearing loss can make communicating difficult, which in turn can lead to social isolation, stress and fatigue.

One study by the National Council on Aging looked at more than 2,300 people and found that those with hearing loss were 50 percent more likely to experience feelings of sadness and depression. A 2014 study conducted by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders determined that more than 11 percent of those with hearing loss also had depression as compared to only five percent in the general population.

Cognitive Decline

Untreated hearing loss has long been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline. Some suspect that untreated hearing loss can reorganize the brain, shrinking the underused areas to devote them to other tasks. This results in a reduction in brain functions such as short-term memory problems or issues with problem-solving skills.

Dr. Frank Lin, at Johns Hopkins University, has conducted a number of studies looking at the connection between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. His 2011 study monitored the cognitive abilities of participants for more than 12 years. They found that the worse participants’ hearing loss was at the start of the study, the more likely they were to develop dementia.

In 2013, Lin published a study called Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline Among Older Adults. He and his team tracked the cognitive abilities of nearly 2,000 adults with an average age of 77. After six years, those who began the study with hearing loss were 24 percent more likely than those with normal hearing to see a decrease in their cognitive abilities.

Treating Hearing Loss

One of the best ways to protect your mental health is to treat your hearing loss. And for most of the 48 million Americans with hearing loss, the best treatment is the use of hearing aids.

Tips for Coping with Hearing Loss During COVID-19

Staying connected and engaged during these difficult times is crucial to your mental health. Below are 10 tips to help keep your spirits up and feel connected.

Video Calls

Staying connected with the ones you love is more important than ever before. There are a number of video calling platforms you can use that make you feel closer than a traditional phone call.

Meditation and Yoga

Meditation and yoga can help reduce stress levels and control anxiety. There are free videos on YouTube for every experience level to fit your needs.


While we may not be able to go to the gym, nothing is stopping you from doing a home workout using just your body weight. Exercise releases endorphins, which can make you feel happier.

There are thousands of free workout videos online to fit your mood.


Dance is an excellent form of exercise and can help reduce stress and improve your mood. Put on your favorite song and dance around your living room.

Go Outside

While many parks are closed, as long as you wear and mask and practice social distancing, it is safe to go out for a walk around your neighborhood. Getting fresh air can help boost your mood.

Clean Your House

There is always housework and chores to be done. Now is the perfect time to go through that junk drawer or dust those high shelves.

Practice Your Cooking Skills

Why not try that complicated recipe you’ve always talked about cooking? If you can get some flour, you can even try your hand at bread making.

Watch a Movie

There are many online streaming platforms that bring the movie theater experience right to your living room. Whether it is a classic that you never got around to seeing or a movie that’s so bad it’s good, watching a movie can take your mind off your troubles, even for just a few hours.

Pamper Yourself

Bring the spa to you. Try your hand at nail art, put on a face mask and light some candles. Now is the time to practice self-care by taking some time just for you.

Join a Virtual Social Group

There are social groups devoted to every topic under the sun. You can connect with people from around the world who share your hobbies and interests right from the comfort of home.

Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time to look inward at your own health and reach out to those who may be struggling. Contact San Diego Hearing Center to learn more about the connection between untreated hearing and mental health or to schedule an appointment today.





Diseases Linked to Hearing Loss

While hearing loss is usually attributed to old age or noise exposure, there are many other possible causes. In fact, hearing loss is linked to a number of chronic and acute diseases. Knowing which ones have an association with hearing loss will help you take action should you start noticing symptoms.

Heart DiseaseFemale doctor uses a stethoscope to examine elderly patient's heartbeat

Heart disease includes conditions such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. All of these conditions make it difficult for your heart to pump blood throughout the body, including your inner ears. Inside the inner ear are tiny hair cells called stereocilia, which convert soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound. When these cells don’t receive enough blood flow, they can become damaged. And once damaged, they do not regenerate.


Diabetes is a condition marked by blood sugar levels that are too high. The disease affects about 30 million people in the U.S. Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop hearing loss as those without. Researchers theorize that this is due to damage to the blood vessels in the inner ear, the same way heart disease causes damage.


Also known as the flu, influenza causes fever, fatigue, body aches and more. What many don’t know is that influenza is associated with both temporary and permanent hearing loss. The flu causes fluid buildup in the tubes in the ears, causing pressure and making sounds feel muffled. In most cases, the fluid goes away once you recover, but some cases can affect the hearing organs directly; if not treated promptly, hearing loss can become permanent.


Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The cause can be viral, bacterial, fungal or parasitic, and some cases are life-threatening if not treated right away. One of the main side-effects, especially for children, is hearing loss. This is due to inflammation affecting the auditory nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain. It is estimated that 10 percent of children who have meningitis experience permanent hearing loss afterward.

For more information about the causes of hearing loss or to schedule an appointment, contact the experts at San Diego Hearing Center.

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Which Musicians Are Most at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Multiple studies have confirmed the link between loud music and hearing damage, mostly from attending concerts or playing music through headphones too loudly. However, a 2013 study has examined the link between orchestral musicians and hearing loss. The results are in: French horn players are at the greatest risk for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

About the Study

Man playing the French Horn

The study took place during the International Horn Society’s 2010 meeting in Brisbane, Australia and was published in the spring 2013 edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. Researchers examined 143 French horn players and found that, for those under the age of 40, there is an 18-33 percent chance of developing noise-induced hearing loss. The study also found that only 18 percent of players wear hearing protection.

“Even within that 18 percent, the use of hearing protection appears to be inadequate with 81 percent of these participants reporting their frequency of use as ‘sometimes’ and 50 percent reporting they use generic, foam or other inferior forms of protection,” explained lead study author Wayne Wilson, senior lecturer of audiology at the University of Queensland.

This also shows that, even when accounting for age-related hearing loss, there is still a significant effect on hearing caused by sound. Authors hope that more orchestra musicians learn from these results and take measures to protect their hearing.

“Our findings also reinforce the need to educate horn players, their mentors and audiologists about the need to protect hearing and how best to achieve this while still enabling musicians to play to the highest level,” said Ian O’Brien, doctoral student researcher at the University of Sydney and professional French horn player. “Even mild hearing loss can result in difficulties discriminating pitch, abnormal loudness growth and tinnitus, all of which can affect a musician’s ability to perform, subsequently jeopardizing his or her livelihood.”

Other NIHL-Causing Instruments

While French horns were the focus of this study, many instruments put your hearing at risk. Here are some common instruments and their decibel outputs:

  • Trombone: 85 to 114 db
  • Flute: 85 to 111 db
  • Cello: 82 to 92 db
  • Clarinet: 92 to 103 db
  • Piano (normal practice): 60 to 70 db
  • Piano (fortissimo): 84 to 103 db
  • Oboe: 90 to 94 db

For reference, any sound over 85 dB can cause damage over time.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for custom musician’s plugs, call San Diego Hearing Center today.

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As you know, we are in the midst of a pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus. As a health care facility, we have an obligation to serve our patients while at the same time doing our best to limit the spread of this highly contagious disease.

We have instituted the following internal policies to limit patient and staff exposure to COVID-19 by:

  • Asking patients who are feeling unwell and exhibiting flu-like symptoms to reschedule appointments. There will be no penalty to reschedule.
  • Increasing our already rigorous cleaning and sanitization protocols.
  • Providing additional sanitization stations throughout our practice.
  • Monitoring the health and well-being of our staff and providers closely.
  • Working with the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and other government officials to follow recommended guidelines.
  • Continuing to monitor the situation and implementing additional measures as needed.

We will do our best to accommodate the needs of our patients and continue to provide the exceptional care you are accustomed to.

The virus can spread from person to person and symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

To prevent potential exposure and transmission of this virus, limit accompanying family or friends to your office appointment or procedure.

To reduce your risk of any infection, we recommend the same precautions as for avoiding the common cold and flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Implement physical (social) distancing of 6 feet.

If you recently traveled to China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, New York City or Europe and have a fever, cough or shortness of breath:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and symptoms.
  • Stay home after you have been seen by a medical provider and avoid contact with others until you are well.
  • Avoid travel on public transportation (such as bus, train, subway, metro or airplane).
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

To read more on the CDC website, click here.

Keeping Hearing Aids Safe from Pets

Keeping your hearing aids away from pets is very important for two reasons: 1. Hearing aids are a significant investment in money and time, and 2. Hearing aid batteries are toxic to pets. Below are some tips for keeping your hearing aids stored safely away from your furry friends.

Use a Hearing Aid Storage Case

dog face

Most hearing aids come with a protective case so you can keep them safe in your purse, pocket, bag or drawer until you need them next. Rechargeable devices in particular come with charging cases that are perfect for helping you keep track of your devices while also providing a charge so you can continue using them. If you for some reason never received or lost the storage case for your devices, it’s imperative to replace it as soon as possible.

Whether you have a pet or not, a storage case keeps your devices together in the same place and protected from the elements. Even if your pet does get ahold of the storage case, the chance of them getting it open or damaging what’s inside is much slimmer than if the devices are out in the open.

Consider Storage Location

People without pets can keep their hearing aids anywhere that is cool, dry and safe, such as on the nightstand readily available for when they wake up or near the front door as a reminder to put them on before leaving the house. However, people with pets need to take extra precaution of where to place their devices, even if they’re in a storage case.

It may seem like a bathroom counter or high windowsill would be a good place for a hearing aid wearing pet owner, but that is not the case. Bathrooms are warm and humid, and hearing aids can be easily knocked into the toilet or sink. Windows are also not a good option because direct sunlight can damage the devices.

Instead, you can opt to store your devices in a nightstand drawer, jewelry box, sock drawer or on a tall dresser/shelf to make sure your pets stay away from them.

In Case of Emergency

If your pet does get ahold of your devices, there are some important steps to take. First, identify the level of damage of your devices. If they are simply damp from slobber or from getting knocked into a sink, wipe them off and place them in a dehumidifier. If there is visible damage, take them to an audiologist.

If your pet has eaten a battery or other part of a hearing aid, call your veterinarian right away. Do not get angry or punish your dog, as this will only confuse and possibly traumatize them. Remember that hearing aids can be replaced, but your best friend cannot.

For more information about proper storage for your devices, call San Diego Hearing Center today.

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7 Reasons to Get a Hearing Test

Hearing loss affects more than 48 million people and is the third most common chronic health condition among U.S. adults, after arthritis and heart disease. Hearing loss, in most cases, is also easy to treat with hearing aids. If you suspect you may have hearing loss, here are seven reasons you should finally schedule a hearing exam.

pencil sitting on a filled out form

1. Hearing Tests Are Quick & Easy

Hearing tests are totally painless and typically take less than an hour to complete. Also, most insurance companies fully cover hearing tests, so yours should be free.

2. Untreated Hearing Loss Is Linked to Cognitive Decline

A number of studies by Johns Hopkins have shown a strong link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline. People with moderate hearing loss were shown to have three times higher risk of developing dementia than those with normal hearing. Fortunately, a more recent study has shown that treating hearing loss can reverse cognitive decline.

3. Hearing Loss Can Be a Warning Sign

Besides dementia, a number of other conditions have been linked to hearing loss. Hearing loss can indicate the presence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and more. Identifying hearing loss may be the first step in diagnosing an underlying condition.

4. Poor Hearing = Poor Balance

If you can’t hear well, you’re less aware of your surroundings, making you more susceptible to falls and other accidents. In addition, the inner ear is responsible for not only helping you hear, but also for helping you balance. If your inner ear is malfunctioning, balance problems may result.

5. Treating Hearing Loss Means More Social Interactions

When people experience hearing loss, they may unknowingly withdraw from social interactions they once found enjoyable. Having conversations in restaurants, talking on the phone and attending religious services can all be much more difficult if your hearing loss goes undiagnosed and untreated.

6. More Social Interactions Decreases Risk of Depression

People who withdraw socially are more likely to experience depression. Hearing loss can impact many aspects of your life, including your relationships, confidence and job performance – all of which are factors in mental and emotional wellbeing.

7. Baseline Hearing Tests Are Important

Even if you pass your hearing test with flying colors, it’s important to have a baseline hearing test as a point of reference. As you age, your chances of developing hearing loss increase exponentially. Having a baseline test can help your provider monitor any changes in your hearing over time.

Remember, there is nothing to lose by getting a hearing test! To schedule yours, call San Diego Hearing Center today!