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Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well: May 2022

Try these strategies for getting a better night’s sleep, and learn when it’s time to get screened for hearing loss. 

Sleep Strategies
Are you getting solid shuteye? A better bedtime routine may be what you need. 

If you’re still binge-watching Netflix shows in bed and have yet to silence the alerts that ding just as you’re drifting off to sleep, it is time to evaluate your bedtime rituals.

“We forget that we spend about one-third of our lives in sleep, and it’s crucial for good and better health,” says Dr. Karthik Kanagarajan, director of The Christ Hospital Sleep Center in Cincinnati.

Many of us are not getting eight hours of sleep each night, and there are consequences. Beyond exhaustion, side effects of sleep loss include slow thinking, reduced attention, memory blips, poor or risky decision-making, overall lack of energy and even weight gain.

Sleep deficiency is also associated with compromised immunity, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, hormone regulation issues and mental health disorders. Kanagarajan offers advice for setting yourself up for a good night of sleep.  

Limit Naps: Keep naps brief. “Make sure you set an alarm for 20 to 30 minutes and take the nap in the early afternoon, not close to dinner time,” Kanagarajan says. 

Eat Dinner Earlier: Eat your last meal of the day at least four hours before bed. “Light snacking is OK,” Kanagarajan adds, “but if you have a huge meal, your body will be focusing on how to digest it, not sleeping.” 

Ban the Blue Light: Avoid watching TV or using your phone in bed. Screens emit blue light that interferes with the body’s circadian cycle. Kanagarajan says the blue light blocks a hormone called melatonin that makes you sleepy.

Stick to a Schedule: “Manage your bedtime and wake time and keep it consistent, including weekends,” Kanagarajan says. Try setting the sleep time feature on your mobile phone as a reminder to wind down.

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Child taking hearing test (photo by iStock)
Listen Up
Hearing loss is an issue for younger and older people alike. Know the signs, how to prevent it and when to get screened.

Many people who experience hearing loss do not recognize the warning signs or feel pain or fluid in their ears. But 48 million people in the United States have trouble hearing out of one or both ears, according to data from The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

“Hearing loss is one of the most common issues that patients have,” says Dr. Anita Jeyakumar, a pediatric otolaryngologist and otologist at Mercy Health in Youngstown. “By [age] 75, more than 50% of adults will have permanent hearing loss.”

Hearing loss often becomes an overlooked problem and is “highly untreated,” Jeyakumar adds. In general, most hearing loss can be addressed with hearing aids, but often there are financial and social barriers that keep people from benefitting from their use.

“I tell patients all the time, 80 years ago there were stigmas associated with glasses,” Jeyakumar says in regard to people worried about the appearance of hearing aids.

In children, hearing loss can be particularly detrimental to their success in school.

“National data shows that 50% of children with hearing loss will never finish high school, and it’s not a product of the intellect of the children,” Jeyakumar says.

According to the American Academy of Audiology, hearing loss increases the chance of developing dementia in older adults, and there is also a strong association between hearing loss and depression. May is Better Hearing Month, so here is what to know about hearing loss, common signs of it and when to get tested. 

How Hearing Loss Happens: Being around too much loud noise without hearing protection can deteriorate hearing over time. “Typically, adults have progressive hearing loss,” Jeyakumar says, explaining that there are two aspects to hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is when sounds cannot get through the outer and middle ear. Sounds can be muffled, and often this hearing loss can be treated. “[Nerve] hearing loss is an inner ear and hearing nerve issue and that can be genetic,” Jeyakumar adds.

Can an ear infection cause permanent hearing loss? “Traditionally, ear infections are usually a reversible cause of hearing loss,” Jeyakumar says. “That said, if a child has fluid in his or her ears for three to six months where they are hearing underwater, that can affect educational milestones.” 

How to Protect Your Hearing: These are simple ways to protect your hearing as you age. The first is to turn down the volume of your headphones or ear buds. Also, consider using ear protection when attending loud concerts and sporting events or when operating loud equipment. If you suspect fluid in your ear or an ear infection, seek medical treatment. “Often, hearing problems get overlooked until it’s too late,” Jeyakumar says. 

When to Get Screened: “Many [people] do not go out to dinner in loud restaurants because they cannot hear,” Jeyakumar says. “I encourage people, if you think you are having a hearing issue, if people around you are asking why they have to repeat themselves, get tested.” If loud noise no longer bothers you, you probably already have some hearing loss. A primary care doctor can perform basic screening and provide a referral for a hearing test with a specialist if necessary. Screening and testing are not the same. “A screen tells you if there is reason to be concerned,” Jeyakumar says. 

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