Category Archives: Hearing Information

Hearing – Use it Or Lose It!


Hearing – Use It or Lose It!

Use it or lose itCatching a hearing problem early will help keep you hearing your best!  Even a slight difficulty understanding in social groups can impact how your brain receives sounds.

For example, consider that you’re starting to miss some of the speech sounds that may be “out of your range”.  This makes it harder to understand others, especially in background noise.

The brain becomes used to these “gaps” of sound and eventually “forgets” that these sounds exist.  Over time, the nerves weaken from lack of stimulation.  Eventually the nerves atrophy from disuse and the brain is unable to recognize these sounds or give them meaning.

It is important to keep your ears and brain stimulated with the entire range of sounds. You may not know if you have a reduction in a particular hearing range, but a baseline hearing check will tell you exactly how you hear. Catch it early and preserve what you have!  “Hear Well for Life”™.

Dr. Anita Carroll is a licensed Audiologist and owner of Hearing Solutions in the Triangle, PLLC with over 25 years of experience. Have a few questions – she can be contacted here.   If you’re looking to check your hearing range or improve listening skills visit our online scheduling here.


Ear-Responsible Workouts


Be ear-responsible with your workouts and goals for 2018.  Everyone hits the gym or trail to reach their new goals for a healthy body.  But this can be costly to our ears . . .

Are we ignoring our ears for a “healthy” body?   Whether in a fitness class or working out alone – we are saturated with loud music.  Be mindful about the risks we take with our ears in our attempt to be healthy.

Keeping Workouts Ear Healthy:

Ear responsible workouts

1.  Monitor your music during workouts:  Rule of thumb is to set volume at 60% for no more than 60 minutes/day.  Invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling earphones so you aren’t tempted to raise the volume because of surrounding distractions.
2.  Fitness classes: Distance yourself from the speaker(s) during workouts.  Attach a pair of earplugs to your gym bag and use them in class.  Ask the instructor to turn the music down.
3.  Don’t strain too hard or hold your breath during intense workouts to prevent tiny membrane tears or restricted blood flow. Breath properly during exercise and weight lifting. Don’t use excessive weights during workouts.
4.  Check any changes:  If you notice ANY changes in your hearing after your workout, such as ringing in your ears or decreased ability to hear – get it checked!  It may cost you your future hearing!

If you’re looking to maintain current hearing contact our Audiologist for any questions or strategies to keep workouts healthy for your ears!

Why We Love Loud Music


Most of us LOVE loud music. Loud music can mean high energy, fun and excitement.  Cranking up the volume stimulates the brain in the pleasure center.   It raises the intensity of the experience – whether it is on the dance floor, working out or at a concert.  Here’s why:

loud music

Loud music

Loud music is a stimulant.  Loud music increases the heart rate and body temperature just like caffeine, exercise and alcohol.  Studies show that loud music improves exercise performance by increasing endurance, power and strength.   Look at everyone in the gym with earbuds!

Loud music relieves stress.  Listening to music is a form of “de-stressor”.   A small organ in the inner ear links directly to the pleasure centers in the brain.  Loud music stimulates the release of endorphins from this connection.  This tiny ear organ (called the sacculus) is responsible for our enjoyment of music!



  Music evokes emotions.  There are strong connections in the brain between our emotions and the interpretation of sound.  Our brains release dopamine at peak moments in songs.  When we listen to a song we already know, the anticipation of favorite passages also releases dopamine.  This is why we get emotional with the songs you love!

Loud music “drowns out” the world.  Blocking out the world can feel necessary sometimes.  Loud music masks other sounds in the immediate surroundings. Loud music overwhelms the other senses similar to alcohol or drugs and changes our state of mind.  Our focus changes.  We focus less on other things when listening to loud music.  This allows us to enjoy “the moment” and the emotions of the music!

We like loud music because it changes our mood and behavior.  Excess produces hearing damage.  Moderation is best to prevent hearing disability.

For thoughts on social consequences of hearing disability, contact our Audiologist , Dr. Anita Carroll.

Smoke Alarms and Hearing: Will You Wake Up?


Smoke alarms can usually be heard while we are awake.  But will it wake you up when you are sleeping?

Sleeping family

Sleeping family

When we are sleeping, sounds need to be louder to startle us awake and respond.  In fact – it needs to be as much as 40 dB louder for a person to wake up! Eventually, it may awaken you – but will it be in time to respond and exit safely in an emergency?

As we age, the ability to hear high-pitched sounds decreases.  While this may not impair your daily communication, it slows down your arousal and response for you to safely exit.   Smoke alarm signals are in this high-pitched range of hearing that decreases with age.

While  you may hear the smoke alarm – you will not be STARTLED to awaken from a sound sleep.   Combined with the TWO minute timeline for a fire to overtake a home, this illustrates the danger for those with hearing loss, sound sleepers and sleep apnea machines.  By the time you awaken from a “far away” sound, the fire may have progressed too far for a safe exit.

Here are the facts:

  • It’s about fast AWAKENING and having enough time to escape!
  • Majority of residential fire fatalities occur between 11 pm and 7 am when mosts people are sleeping.
  • 50% of adults with even Mild hearing loss DO NOT wake up to a smoke alarm.
  • Children, handicapped individuals, and heavy sleepers are slower to awaken and also impacted.
  • A lower frequency 520 Hz smoke alarm signal is the most effective signal for waking adults with hearing loss, heavy sleepers and handicapped individuals – waking 92%.  

This is about SAFETY and important for everyone to consider!  Contact our Audiologist for recommendations on smoke alarm options for those with apnea, decreased hearing, and sound sleepers.



Fans Risk Hearing Damage

Love those football games? How about basketball or hockey? Don’t forget to bring your earplugs! It’s not only rock concerts that hurt hearing . . .

Have you ever been to a quiet stadium or sports arena? Roaring crowds, noisemakers and blaring music is the norm. College and professional sporting events are LOUD and risky for your hearing – especially indoor arenas.  carolina_panthers_bank_of_america_stadium_with_skyline

Arena noise levels can range from 105 dB (uncomfortable) – 130 dB (painful).   (Above 90 dB is damaging.)  I doubt you would sit next to a chainsaw for 2 hours without earplugs, yet fans sit in arenas that are just as loud with unprotected hearing!

Loud arenas are risky to your hearing when you consider the following:
1.  How LONG you are exposed to loud noise.
2.  The LOUDNESS level of the event(s).

Think about how long games last and the length of time you sit there with this loud noise. The average football game is 3 hours with loudness levels ranging from 90-117 dB. Cheering fans can push the noise even higher. Most basketball games are 1 – 2 hours with noise levels ranging from 100 – 118 dB.  So, if you go to a game where the noise is around 100 dB –  only 15 MINUTES is safe for hearing!  See your time and risk connection here.  unc-dean-dome-2

Everyone responds differently to loud noise. It can take as little as 1 game to experience hearing damage. Season ticket holders are even more at risk because the damage is cumulative.  It can result in ringing ears, distorted hearing or hyper-sensitivity to sounds.

All this can be prevented with a $10 purchase of earplugs! Earplugs reduce dangerous noise into a safer zone by 20 – 30 dB. Earplugs allow you to enjoy the fun/energy of the game without damaging your hearing. Be smart about your hearing!  We supply our local Chapel Hill and Durham fans with these earplugs – perfect for hearing the game AND conversations!



Listen Happy – Feel Happy!

YES – anything you listen to will affect your mood.  The music you listen to can change your state of mind – both positively and negatively.  So, re-think what you are listening to if you are “down in the dumps”.

Studies have shown that mental health is linked to what you are listening to on a particular day. Brain receptors behave differently depending on what an individual was listening to – whether it was gloomy or upbeat.  Those who listened to slow, sad music often reported feelings of loneliness and/or depression.  Those who listened to upbeat, cheerful music were more excited about their day.

Want to change the way you feel today?  Switch from slow, sad music to something upbeat that you enjoy and has a “catchy” beat.  Want to relax?  Listen to white noise, such as a waterfall or ocean.  It is a great alternative to music toocean surf help you relax.  Want a new way to impact your day? Find some interesting podcasts to listen to rather than sad music.  What you listen to can most definitely change your outlook on the day!


The Heart-Hearing Link


There is a link between cardiovascular and hearing health.  Research confirms that hEARt telling you smhearing loss may be an early sign of cardiovascular disease! The inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that cardiovascular abnormalities could be seen earlier in the ear than other areas of the body. Some specific patterns of hearing loss may even be correlated with arterial disease and used for screening purposes for those at risk.

Getting a hearing test just may help your heart!  The negative effect on the auditory system stems from compromised blood flow to the ear due to hardening of the arteries and plaque formation.  The ear may be the first to show these effects.

Hearing loss is not only linked to cardiovascular disease, but it’s linked to other chronic illnesses as well, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic kidney disease and depression.  Have your hearing checked and spread the word!

Guys Guide to Hearing


60% of adults with hearing loss are MEN . . .  Why do more men have hearing loss?  They tend to have noisier occupations and louder hobbies than most women.  You can suffer a lot of damage from loud sounds before you notice.  man listening

6 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Hearing Loss:

  • Cover up.  Use earplugs / earmuffs when using tools around the house (lawnmower, saws, etc.)
  • Tune out.  Use noise cancelling earphones so you don’t try to drown out the gym (or other stuff) by turning it up.
  • Butt out.  Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke increases the risk of hearing loss by disruption of blood flow to the tiny vessels in the ear.
  • Turn it down.  Listening to an iPod for 5 minutes a day at high volume can increase your risk.  If you can’t hear someone speaking at arms length – turn it down.
  • Talk about your meds.  Certain pain relievers and medications used for erectile dysfunction can cause hearing loss.  Ask your doctor.
  • Get help.  If you notice a drop in your hearing, get it checked by an Audiologist.   It’s important to know your baseline. Don’t let sounds fade away!

Listening vs. Hearing: Hear the Difference!


     Hearing is a sense.  Listening is a skill.  Hearing is passive – it takes no effort to hear brain, musicsound.  Hearing occurs 24/7 and cannot be turned “off”.  Listening is active – it requires attention and is a brain skill.  Brain (or cognitive) abilities that are important for good listening skills are memory, processing speed and attention skills.

Listening makes sense out of the sounds you hear.  We don’t simply want louder sounds, but meaning from the sounds.  If the quality of sound is degraded from even a mild hearing loss, then the brain becomes inefficient in how it does the listening – making a heavier “load” on the brain, increasing listening effort and fatigue. Continue reading