How Earplugs Can Save Your Hearing


Exposure to excessive noise can damage your hearing over time. It is important to know the effects that noise can cause, and what steps you can take to avoid it. First and foremost, wearing hearing protection reduces your noise exposure level and lowers your risk of permanent hearing loss.

When a noise is too loud, it causes damage to the nerve endings or stereocilia in your ears. Too much of this damage will kill those nerve endings and lead to hearing loss. This damage is caused by not only how loud something is but also by how long you are exposed to the noise. There is no way to restore life to dead nerve endings, any damage caused by exposure is permanent. Other effects may come from damaged nerves in the ear besides hearing loss, including tinnitus. Tinnitus is more commonly known as a “ringing in the ears” and affects millions of people worldwide. It is incurable, permanent, and constant. Other long term conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease are commonly linked to hearing loss. The connection is not fully understood, but a recent study by Johns Hopkins University showed a link between hearing loss and the disease. These reasons create urgency for you to know when and where to use hearing protection.

All hearing protection devices include a NRR rating, or a Noise Reduction Rating. This rating determines the noise exposure reduction of the product, measured in decibels. This rating is often overestimated, as it is calculated in an experimental environment. For example, an average rock concert will have a noise exposure level of 100 dB and if you are wearing protection rated with a NRR of 33 dB, your noise exposure will only be reduced to 87 dB. The math behind this answer would be to take your NRR number, subtract 7, then divide by 2. This new number is the amount of exposure reduced by the hearing protection measured in decibels.

Exposing yourself to loud environments can be damaging in many ways. You must understand the effects of a lifetime of noise exposure in order to take the precautionary steps to avoid permanent damage. Hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs should always be worn when working in noisy environments. Protection should be worn when around firearms, motorcycles, lawn equipment, power tools and other situations with similar sound levels.


This is a guest article and was posted by ASI Audiology & Hearing Instruments. A company specializing in hearing aids, tests for hearing loss, and hearing protection.

Hearing Protection Options


One option to protect your hearing is earplugs, though these do not make you immune to loud noises. These lightweight earplugs are popularly used for comfort and protection in a small size. They have a NRR rating of 33 dB and are meant for activities like shooting, loud music, power tools, racing and more.


Another option for hearing protection is earmuffs. This highly reviewed earmuff contains a great NRR score, is compact and comfortable for the user. Muffs tend to be designed around being used in a shooting range, but can be used in many different loud environments including mowing or operating machinery.

Anna Bruening
The "Speech Banana" and the Sounds of Human Speech

The "Speech Banana" is a very useful visual tool for describing where the sounds used in everyday human speech occur on an audiogram. Parts of speech that are commonly used are known as "phonemes" and include "ng", "th", or "s" as well as many more. When mapped out on a graph, these phonemes form an almost banana-like shape, which is where the term "Speech Banana" comes from. 


This graph can be very useful for people with hearing loss as well as the people they communicate with. It is very common for seniors to lose their ability to clearly hear high frequency (4000 Hz and up) sounds. The sounds in this range are "f", "th", and "s" sounds, and finding alternate words that don't include these letters can improve understanding. 

Common examples of bad words to use around people with high frequency hearing loss:

First, fast, nice, bath, things, thirsty, past, months, eighth, and mouth

The purpose of conversation to both speak and be understood. If you are having difficulty holding a conversation, be aware of the words you are having problems with and adjust accordingly. For most people, the words containing sounds on the left half of the Speech Banana are easier to understand. However, everyone has a slightly different ability to hear and you should get your hearing tested to discover exactly how your hearing works. 

ClearValue Hearing partners with hearing providers around the United States to make sure that people have access to free hearing tests. If you want to learn more about your hearing, please call 1-888-439-5775 today and take advantage of this free program. 

This article was guest posted by ASI Audiology, a large audiology practice in Iowa with 16 locations. 

For more information on words that are difficult to understand, please check out our Guest Post at - Common Words That Are Difficult To Understand With Hearing Loss

Last Updated: 12/09/2016

Andrew Lekashman
Hearing Loss State Spotlight - Iowa

Hearing Loss in Iowa

Iowa is significant producer of corn, soybeans and hogs nationwide.

Iowa is significant producer of corn, soybeans and hogs nationwide.

In 2014 more than 100,000 of your friends and neighbors in Iowa reported experiencing some sort of hearing loss. That’s not surprising since 15% of adults over 18 experience hearing loss to some extent, and 28.8 million American adults could benefit from hearing assistance!

The causes of hearing loss in Iowans may surprise you, however. people in Iowa often joke that we have two seasons – winter, and construction / farming / pothole repair. That second season is wreaking havoc on our hearing. Let’s go over some of the occupations that contribute most to hearing loss in Iowa.

Causes of Hearing Loss

Construction: If you’ve ever been caught at a red light while a crew uses a jackhammer to repair the street, you know how painfully loud that sound can be. Imagine how it would feel if that was the job you did every day. People working in construction use saws, drills, hammers, and other equipment that makes a great deal of loud noise for long periods of time.

A tractor plowing a field in rural Iowa.

A tractor plowing a field in rural Iowa.

Farming: Did you know more than 200,000 Iowans are employed as farmers or work in a farming related field? At first glance, farming might not seem like a profession that could damage your hearing – at least not to city dwellers. But those who have lived or worked on a farm, or in any of the many industries that relate to it, know better. A tractor with a closed cab can expose its operator to noise levels of around 85 decibels, and an open cab to 100 decibels. Grain silos and all the equipment that dries and keeps things flowing smoothly generate a lot of noise. Even a barn full of animals can be loud. A pig’s squeal alone can reach 106 decibels!

Manufacturing: According to the CDC, 82% of hearing-loss cases reported in 2007 involved workers in manufacturing. Manufacturing is equipment-intensive work, and equipment tends to create noise. In Iowa, manufacturing tends to be particularly focused on heavy farming equipment, which often has significantly more work and machining.When the noise reaches over 85 decibels, damage can occur. When that noise level is sustained for hours and days at a time, it’s hard to understand how someone wouldn’t have hearing loss.

Hunting: This activity might ring a bell – and keep bells ringing in your ears for years to come in the form of tinnitus. In 2013 more than 170,000 hunting licenses were issued to Iowans. Being exposed just once to gunfire can do permanent damage to your hearing! Bow hunters might think they’re at less risk but you don’t have to pull the trigger yourself for a gun’s sound to cause hearing issues – standing next to the person shooting, or even in the vicinity, can cause damage.

What can you do about it?

Earplugs are an incredibly effective and cheap way to address overly loud sounds. 

Earplugs are an incredibly effective and cheap way to address overly loud sounds. 

First, be mindful of working conditions and use the appropriate noise-reducing gear. Know what tools and equipment are particularly loud, and wear hearing protection when working with or near them.  Try different protection options – earmuffs may sound like something a kid would wear in the snow, but using them will keep you safe and much happier when you can hear your grandchildren telling you about their day. If earmuffs are too much, try earplugs. They may not be glamorous, but if they’re effective, that’s all that matters where safety is concerned.

Second, use tools that muffle or reduce noise on the equipment itself. You can install noise-reducing mufflers on engines. Choose the tractor with an enclosed cab or purchase an add-on enclosure.

Third, a simple and quick hearing test can help you understand where your hearing is now, and your hearing care provider can help you identify tools and resources to slow or prevent further damage. If you work in any of the above industries, or you find yourself engaging in loud activities regularly, you should have your hearing tested once per year to check for any significant changes. 

Our hearing is one of the greatest gifts we have because it allows us to connect with people and things we love, and when we can protect that gift, we should! 

This post was guest authored for ClearValue Hearing, the free hearing benefits plan by ASI Audiology and Hearing Instruments out of Red Oak, Iowa. Call today at 888-439-5775 to receive free annual screenings for hearing loss anywhere in the United States. 

Last Updated: 9/21/2016

Hearing with Your Brain - Alzheimer's and Hearing Loss

Our ears may capture sound, but we hear with our brains.

Our ears may capture sound, but we hear with our brains.

Many of us assume we hear entirely with our ears, but that’s not exactly true. It helps to think of it this way: When you hear a favorite song on the radio, the radio itself is not the song – it’s the tool that lets you hear the song. Similarly, your ears are the ‘radio’ for your brain. They are the tool that passes the song – or words spoken by a friend, or the giggles of your grandson – to your brain. Your brain then processes and ‘hears’ the sounds.

If it’s been a while since your last science class, the cerebrum is the part of your brain inside your skull. Its job is to handle the daily tasks of life, you might say. It analyzes information, it makes decisions, it stores information, and it processes what your eyes see, your tongue tastes and your ears hear. The temporal lobes are sections of the cerebrum, and they are responsible for hearing, storing new memories and bringing back ‘old’ memories.

Hearing and Alzheimer's Disease

When you experience hearing difficulty, it’s because there is a loss of information entering the brain. The auditory nerve – the part of your brain that carries sound information – begins to weaken. This forces the area of the brain that processes sensory input, like sound, to work harder to make sense of what it is hearing. Weakness of this shared area of the brain is connected to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

This information was first published in a study by Dr. Frank Lin, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University. This study, titled Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia, has been the foundation for much of our understanding of the links between hearing loss and cognitive decline. We’ve always known that losing your hearing had a serious effect on your ability to communicate, but this discovery makes it quite clear that untreated hearing loss will do much more than just stop you from hearing your loved ones.

Being able to hear and remember information is important to enjoying memories with grandchildren.

Being able to hear and remember information is important to enjoying memories with grandchildren.

Losing your hearing is difficult enough, but this area of the brain is also involved in memory. If your hearing is impaired, the brain area that handles both hearing and memory may have to ‘reshuffle’ resources to do its job. Hearing loss can cause further difficulty when processing information in this area of the brain, which may already be struggling. The part of the brain that deals with memory, recall, and association may be weaker than it should if you aren’t able to hear well.

There’s more to this risk than sensory deprivation from a weakening in the auditory nerve. Many people with hearing loss feel socially isolated, and withdraw into themselves. This often leads to loneliness and depression, which are well-known risk factors for cognitive decline. Feelings of loneliness can increase the risk of dementia by as much as 60%.

Of course, not everyone with hearing loss will suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, but a recent study showed that people with hearing loss have a 40% greater chance of cognitive difficulty. This is true even for individuals with only a minor hearing loss.

Living with Hearing Loss

Treating hearing loss – even mild loss – sooner rather than later is vital. Providing support to the auditory nerve can help reduce strain on that part of the brain, which may allow it to dedicate more resources to managing memory. This can have the added effect of reducing stress, headaches from prolonged concentration, and improve overall quality of life.

Did you know age related hearing loss begins at 45? If you’re in your 40s, it’s time to get a hearing exam. Addressing even mild hearing loss now will have positive effects on your life as a whole, but can also help your brain function more efficiently. And, if you’re one of the 29 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, be sure to have your hearing checked now regardless of your age, because individuals with the disease often experience hearing loss sooner than their non-diabetic peers (see article The Link between Diabetes and Hearing Loss).

For more information on the connection between Alzheimer's Disease and Hearing Loss, please read articles from reliable sources like Johns Hopkins University's article "Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss". It is very important that you get your information from a reliable medical professional before taking action. Alzheimer's Disease can be a overwhelming problem to deal with, and it is strongly encouraged that you take advantage of a free hearing test to address your hearing loss. 

Last Updated: 12/09/2016

Andrew Lekashman
Presbycusis or Age Related Hearing Loss

A smiling couple with hearing loss.

A smiling couple with hearing loss.

A significant portion of people living in America today have some difficulty hearing and understanding speech. As we age, our chances of experiencing permanent, progressive hearing loss increase with up to 50% of people over the age of 75 having some form of loss.

This type of hearing loss is known as presbycusis or more commonly as “Age Related Hearing Loss”. There is no single cause for this condition, it develops over a lifetime of noise exposure and is present to some degree in all people. Unless you’ve been in particularly unusual listening environments for extended amounts of time, presbycusis will affect both ears in a similar manner. This type of sensorineural hearing loss is not reversible and can have a significant impact on quality of life.

Personal Connection to Hearing Loss

Many people do not wish to admit to themselves that they are having difficulty hearing. This has the biggest effect on the nation’s widespread hearing loss epidemic, as it pushes the problem to the backburner. Here are some extremely common reasons people give for not wanting to seek treatment for their hearing loss, paired with a rebuttal that represents reality.

Complaint: Everyone else is mumbling and not speaking clearly.

The truth: Very few people mumble regularly and those who do often have a speech impediment and should seek professional help as it can likely be adjusted. If you are noticing a person who never mumbled before that you believe is mumbling, more often than not the culprit is your ability to hear and understand.

Complaint: Hearing Aids make people look old, I would only use one if it were invisible.

The truth: Not being able to hear others well is a much stronger indicator of old age than using state of the art technology. Invisible options do exist, but they are often a bit more expensive than more common models. The only people who typically notice hearing aids are audiologists, doctors, and your loved ones, as the general public are not in regular practice of looking for them.

Complaint: Hearing Aids are much too expensive for my budget.

The truth: While healthcare costs are high, hearing aids are very easily financed if budget is a problem. Many models are very affordable, and a portion of the cost isn’t in the device itself, but in the bundled service that comes with it.  

Hearing Loss Next Steps

The consequences of not treating hearing loss are extensive. Untreated hearing loss compounds on itself, resulting in progressively worse understanding over time. The following activities are made much more difficult by the inability to hear well.

  • Watching movies or television
  • Having conversations with friends and loved ones
  • Operating a motor vehicle such as a car, truck, or tractor
  • Going out to eat at restaurants
  • Enjoying music or concerts
  • Running a business
  • Talking on the phone

If untreated hearing loss stopped there, that alone would be bad enough, however this is not the case. Hearing loss can cause depression, it can separate you from your family, and it can limit your favorite activities. To successfully remain independent, your ability to interact with your environment using your body must maintain a certain level, or you become at risk to harm.

The best path forward is generally to work with a qualified hearing professional, usually an audiologist or hearing instrument specialist. Many providers around the country offer free hearing tests or consultations, making it very simple to learn how well you are hearing. It is important to take the initiative and not ignore this issue, before it is too late. Your maximum ability to hear weakens as hearing loss progresses, and if it disappears entirely no device will be able to help you to understand.

A happy family with parents, grandparents, and grandchildren.

A happy family with parents, grandparents, and grandchildren.

For friends and family members who want to help a loved one with their hearing loss, there are many ways to chip in. It is important to speak clearly, slowly, and to make eye contact when talking to increase your chances of being understood. Body language is important for communication, and many people with hearing loss read lips to aid in understanding. Also, many people with hearing loss will not take action unless prompted by another, so do not wait and subject them to more permanent and irreversible damage. Communication is at least a two way street, and people that are suffering need help from everyone in their life to enjoy their hearing properly. 

This is a guest article and was posted by ASI Audiology & Hearing Instruments, an audiology practice with 16 locations in Iowa (Major locations include West Des Moines, Red Oak, Council Bluffs, and Creston) specializing in hearing aids, tests for hearing loss, and hearing protection.

Last Updated: 9/21/2016

The Link between Diabetes and Hearing Loss

A young lady testing her blood sugar levels for diabetes.

A young lady testing her blood sugar levels for diabetes.

When Lisa was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in 2012, she knew she’d have to watch for certain things: she might develop cataracts or glaucoma; nerve damage could lead to numbness, particularly in her hands and feet; and she was now at higher risk for heart and kidney disease. What Lisa didn’t know, and her endocrinologist didn’t think about, is that diabetes may cause hearing loss.

Lisa didn’t make the connection; the people around her were the ones who noticed and commented. When Lisa and her coworkers went for their daily lunchtime walk, she often had to ask them to repeat what they’d said. Her daughter commented on the loud volume of the television when she stopped by one evening. And Lisa began to prefer quiet coffee shops to popular restaurants because she just couldn’t keep up with the conversation in the busier spaces.

Even though she was only in her 40s, it made her feel old to keep asking others to repeat themselves. After a while it was more comfortable to avoid those situations, so she stopped going for walks with her friends at lunch. Instead Lisa sat alone in her car while she ate a quick drive-thru lunch. It made her sad, and a little angry; wasn’t having diabetes enough? Why did she have to lose her hearing too?

Unfortunately for Lisa, her frustration wasn’t making anything better. Every part of your body is connected and when one part isn’t working well it can be a vicious cycle. When diabetes affects hearing, hearing loss can lead to depression, depression can lead to worry and anxiety, and that can result in less physical and social activity – and more emotional eating.

Medical Research on Diabetes

Recent studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have some level of hearing loss compared to people without the disease. And almost one in three people with pre-diabetes – meaning they have elevated blood glucose levels but are not officially diabetic – have some loss of hearing.

Diabetes as well as Hearing Loss can affect people of any age.

Diabetes as well as Hearing Loss can affect people of any age.

Why would one affect the other? Researchers aren’t entirely sure, and more research is necessary to determine the link between diabetes and hearing loss. Diabetes causes damage to the nervous system and to blood vessels  both of which play an important part in hearing. And high blood pressure, which is another consequence of diabetes, seems to make hearing loss worse.

To add insult to injury, diabetes-related hearing loss seems to affect people who are too young to experience age-related hearing loss. Most of us start to have some level of loss around the age of 45 or 50 simply due to aging. But those with diabetes often see loss sooner than that ripe old age.

If you have diabetes, or are close to someone who does, there are things you can watch for:

•    Turning up the volume on the radio or television.

•    Asking others to repeat what they say.

•    Having a hard time following conversations when more than one person is talking.

•    Avoiding activities with others in busy environments.

There’s no cure for diabetes but there are solutions to help make hearing easier and life fun again. If you or someone you know has diabetes, ask your primary care physician to recommend a hearing test or exam, or make an appointment on your own.

This is a guest article and was posted by ASI Audiology & Hearing Instruments, an audiology practice with 16 locations in Iowa (Major locations include West Des Moines, Red Oak, Council Bluffs, and Creston) specializing in hearing aids, tests for hearing loss, and hearing protection.

Last Updated: 9/21/2016

Welcome to ClearValue Hearing

ClearValue Hearing exists to serve its members by providing information on Hearing Aids to people with Hearing Loss. We operate a Free Hearing Benefits Program for people all over the United States and our members are entitled to a Free Hearing Test no matter where they go, and receive better pricing on instruments than the general public. We have negotiated a set service plan and pricing breakdown with audiologists and hearing professionals around the country to better combat the problem of hearing loss.

There is no commercial obligation to be a member of ClearValue Hearing, this is a free service to better address the epidemic of hearing loss nationwide. 

Many people take up to 7 years from the moment they notice they have a loss to do anything to help their hearing. If by posting up to date information about new hearing aid technology, hearing news, tips for caregivers and family members, or general advice on aging well, we are able to get someone the help they need sooner, we will have achieved our goal of combating hearing loss

Our membership is currently open, if you or a loved one has a hearing loss, please take the time to give us a call and see how we can help.

Call 1.888.439.5775 for the next steps to better hearing. 

Andrew Lekashman