Michelle Rupp: In this week’s segment of Catch Up On Your Checkup, we are visiting with Dr. Mary Chatelain of Pinnacle Hearing. We’re talking all things ears because hearing, well, I mean, let’s face it, you just have to be able to hear. Dr. Mary Chatelain, thank you for joining us today.

Dr. Mary Chatelain: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to talk to you.

MR: So, all things hearing. There’s so much more probably than what we have time to get into, but first of all, when is a good time to have our hearing checked?

MC: Well, you know, that’s a great question. So, if you’re not experiencing any hearing loss, we recommend that you have your ears tested by age 50. In the hospital, newborns, they’re tested, school age children are tested. But if you’re not experiencing any issues, get your hearing tested by age 50. You know, since the COVID rise and everyone wearing masks, we have seen such an increase in our appointments because people are really understanding, “Hey, I think I do have hearing loss,” and that’s because of these things right here. These masks, because they are covering your mouth, people are not able to lip read. And you know, most people that lip read, they don’t even realize they’re doing it. But since the use of masks, people are saying, “hey, whenever I don’t see people, when I can’t see their mouth, I’m having such a hard time understanding” and they’re realizing, “hey, I do have some hearing loss.” So, since COVID, really, in the past year we have just seen so many more people coming in due to the understanding issues. One thing that our staff does here, which is neat, is we have these masks that are clear. So, what they do is they allow for lip reading. We’ve recommended these to schoolteachers, to people working in the service industry that come across people with hearing loss. They can see their lips. But that is a sign that you might have hearing loss if you have to see somebody to be able to understand them.

MR: You are so right about the masks and some of us struggling. I mean I probably need to go ahead and make an appointment because I too have realized how much I rely on being able to read lips. So that’s a good indicator. What are other contributing factors besides age?

MC: Genetics are going to play a factor. You know, did your mother, did your father have hearing loss? Another big thing, especially in Arkansas is going to be noise exposure. Exposure to noise, whether it’s loud concerts, music in your car, woodworking, hunting, musicians, things like that are really going to affect hearing. And I would say most people, we see their hearing loss is going to be is due to noise, which is preventable.

MR: How is it preventable? What are some of the things we can use?

MC: Mowing the yard for example, it’s something that’s common here in Arkansas. We recommend wearing hearing protection when you mow the yard, whether that is inserts – the little foam plugs you can twist in your ear or the kind that fit over your ears. That is something that here in Arkansas people are basically going to be doing once a week but that can really cause um lots of noise damage, which is going to affect your hearing. Another thing is with hunting. We know that when you are hunting, you’re in the woods listening for animals. It’s hard to really wear hearing protection because you are wanting to know what’s going on around you. But during those times when your target practicing, you’re shooting your gun and you’re not hunting, wearing hearing protection in those situations is crucial. For musicians, being able to control their environment as much as possible so there’s less reverberation and noise exposure in their environment. Also, there are some hearing protection musicians can wear. So, things like that that are preventable. It’s huge just that little bit of effort so it doesn’t affect you 5, 10 or 20 years down the road.

MR: What about earbuds, your ipod and airpods, what about those devices? I mean, obviously you’re going to have them in, but I guess the key would be not to have the volume turned up so loud.

MC: Exactly. So, our rule of thumb is okay if you’re sitting in front of me and you have your earbuds on and I can hear the music, that’s too loud. You don’t want to wear earbuds while you’re mowing the yard because then you’re going to try to turn that music over the loud noises. With noise induced hearing loss, what we find is those people usually come in and they say, “I don’t think I have a hearing issue. I just think everybody else’s mumbling.” The people that are usually brought in by their wife or their children, and the reason is because that type of hearing loss affects the high frequencies. So that affects consonant sounds. Typically, their vowel sounds they can hear that and that’s where the volume of speech comes from. Consonants are where the understanding comes from. So, people that have that noise induced hearing loss they typically say I can hear I just don’t understand. And they believe it’s just because other people are mumbling because they can hear some of what is being said. Those patients are excellent candidates for hearing aids. Typically, we can put hearing aids on those. There are some that have been designed in the past few years that are specifically for people with noise induced hearing loss and they do great because it just amplifies those consonant sounds for those that have normal low frequencies.

MR: All right, well, Dr. Mary we could talk all day long about this. This has been so insightful and so helpful with the masking and noise prevention. What you can do real quickly, let us know where you’re located.

MC: We are located right off Rodney Param here in Little Rock. We also have a location in Camden right next to the hospital.

MR: Okay. Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time today.

MC: All right, thank you so much for having me.