Habits & Health episode 83 with Dr Brian Taylor, who is the Senior Director of Audiology at Signia, a division of WS Audiology. In this episode we explore healthy hearing and habits that can help to prevent loss of hearing.
Dr. Taylor has authored several peer reviewed papers and textbooks and is a highly sought out lecturer. He has nearly 30 years of experience as a clinician, business manager, and university instructor. Dr. Taylor received his AuD from Central Michigan University.
Some of the topics discussed include:
- How does hearing health link to general mental and physical wellness
- How may those who suffer from hearing loss prioritize habits that address and ease their hearing loss
- Are there steps individuals can take to lower their risk of hearing loss?
- Core habits needed to prioritize healthy hearing
- Health metrics most essential to monitor for consumers with hearing loss
- Which designs consumers prefer when choosing hearing aids and other wearables
Don’t forget, there is a transcript of every episode (scroll down the page).
Habits & Health Links
83 – Dr. Brian Taylor
[00:00:00] Tony Winyard: Habits & Health episode 83.
[00:00:14] Tony Winyard: Welcome to another edition of Habits & health. And my guest today is Dr. Brian Taylor. Who is the senior director of audiology at Signia. A division of WS Audiology and he’s also authored several peer reviewed papers and textbooks, and is a highly sought out lecturer with 30 years of experience as a clinician. Business manager and university instructor. And in today’s episode, we explore hearing and hearing aids and many areas around how hearing health links to general mental and physical wellness that’s today’s episode, Dr. Brian Taylor, if you know anyone who’d get some value from this please do share it with them and hope you enjoy this week’s show
Habits & Health. My guest today, Brian Taylor, how are you, Brian?
[00:01:03] Dr. Brian Taylor: I am great. It’s a privilege to be with you.
[00:01:06] Tony Winyard: And we were just discussing before we started recording that neither of us. the locations that both of us live, don’t often experience glorious weather, but we’re both having very nice weather today.
[00:01:18] Dr. Brian Taylor: That is right. We’re experiencing the glories of summer here in Minnesota, where, on the Fahrenheit scale, it’s expected to be about 85 degrees with, no humidity,
[00:01:27] Tony Winyard: Wow. And what is that as high as it gets in the summer for you?
[00:01:31] Dr. Brian Taylor: no,it can get into the high nineties and even over a hundred on the Fahrenheit scale. yeah, that usually happens a handful of days. Every summer.
[00:01:42] Tony Winyard: If I was to ask you, Brian, who are you, how would you respond to that?
who am I? That’s always a good question. I am a,I’ll I’ll, classify myself as a, inquisitive audiologist, meaning that, I am a hearing care professional, and been one for a number of years who, likes to ask a lot of questions. That’s extremely curious and, looks forward to, implementing new ideas into clinical practice.
[00:02:11] Tony Winyard: It’s interesting. On this podcast. We’ve had 200 episodes, and we’ve never covered hearing. And it’s crazy. We’ve covered so many different aspects of health, but this is the first time we’ve actually ventured into the world of hearing, which is ridiculous.
[00:02:25] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’m not really surprised that you say that. I think it’s really interesting that for whatever reason, People take their hearing for granted. And in many places, it flies under the radar. We don’t really talk about it much, but I do think that’s changing.
That’s probably something we’ll talk about today.
And so how did you get into all this in the first place.
[00:02:44] Dr. Brian Taylor: Oh, I don’t know back. I grew up in, rural Wisconsin on a dairy farm and, where I think, the cheese of Wisconsin probably, is not maybe as good as what you find in the UK, but, by US standards, it’s pretty good. anyway, I, uh, moved from, dairy farming into the healthcare professions through college, I found something that I wanted to do.
That was interesting where I could help people, where I felt I could make a difference where you could apply science and, psychology, things like that, into one field. that’s how I became an audiologist more or less of stumbled upon it through, just taking different classes in college, back in the late 1980s.
[00:03:21] What is an audiologist?
And, and for those who, haven’t heard of an audiologist before, what is an Audiologist?
[00:03:28] Dr. Brian Taylor: An audiologist is a, uh, academically trained, professional who is an expert on hearing and, all aspects of hearing. hearing disorders, auditory rehabilitation, which is mainly hearing aids and cochlear implants. it pretty much encompasses everything related to the sense of hearing measuring it and, trying to improve it or rehab it.
[00:03:52] Tony Winyard: And I guess, most people would assume that it’s only old people need, hearing implants and so on. But is that the case?
I think that the majority of people that wear hearing aids and implants are older, but there’s an entire subspecialty in audiology, pediatric audiology that only works with, or exclusively primarily with, with,children, infants who have hearing loss, born with hearing loss or acquired early on because of some medical condition.
[00:04:20] Dr. Brian Taylor: The pediatric audiologists are closely related or work closely with, speech pathologists because of the intimate relationship between hearing speech and language development.
[00:04:31] Tony Winyard: And if someone their hearings been quite, severely affected as a child using the various devices that are available. how much hearing can they get back by using such devices?
it really depends on the situation and the diagnosis. if somebody has some type of a conductive hearing loss, which is,a condition that affects the three bones of the middle ear space, then it’s possible that they would get virtually all of their hearing back. But if it’s a condition that affects the inner ear, the cochlea or the auditory nerve, They may only restore part of the hearing, but, and it really depends on the condition.
[00:05:04] Tony Winyard: Does your company make devices?
[00:05:07] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yes. I work for a manufacturer by the name of Ws audiology. We have two primary brands,Signia and Widex and we manufacture, hearing aids.
and typically are those hearing aids going out to people of all ages and all sorts of different types of people, People of all ages. Correct.
[00:05:28] Tony Winyard: How would they go about getting something like that?
[00:05:31] Dr. Brian Taylor: Right now you would have to, see a licensed hearing care professional. There are a couple of different types of licensed hearing care professionals. There are audiologists, which are more academically trained and there are hearing instrument specialists, that they both in order for them to dispense hearing aids, they have to be licensed by their respective state.
[00:05:55] Tony Winyard: Are you just operating in, in north America or are you global as well?
[00:05:59] Dr. Brian Taylor: No, it’s a global company all over the world.
[00:06:03] Tony Winyard: And how long have you been going?
[00:06:05] Dr. Brian Taylor: Ws audiology, was previously until about 2015 or 16 known as, Siemens. And I’m guessing most of your listeners are familiar with the Siemens brand. So if you go back to the Siemens days, they’ve been manufacturing, hearing aids for, close to a hundred years.
[00:06:21] How hearing is linked to general and mental health
[00:06:21] Tony Winyard: How does hearing health link to general mental and physical wellness?
[00:06:25] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. First we know that there’s over the last 10 or 15 years, there’s been a rising amount of research out there that shows that there is a linkage between, hearing loss. I’ll use the term age related hearing loss because, I think that’s probably more precise.
There are some kinds of hearing loss that had specific medical causes. It’s a small percentage. The vast percentage of people, older people that have hearing loss have what’s called an acquired age related hearing loss. And we know from research that is, linked to a lot of different,medical conditions like, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline or dementia, depression, social isolation, loneliness, diabetes.
There are a hand, maybe two or three theories that we think caused that linkage. but a lot of it has to do with the microbiology in the ear being similar to the heart or to the,metabolic system. but anyway, we know that there’s this, pretty close relationship between hearing loss and these other medical conditions.
[00:07:31] Steps to take when losing hearing
[00:07:31] Tony Winyard: When people start to get signs of losing the hearing, what, are there any advised steps to take?
I think that, the number one risk factor of age related hearing loss is probably advancing age. Meaning the older you get, the more likely it is that you’re going to have some hearing loss just from wear and tear. so I think a good rule of thumb is if you’re over the age of 50. it would be a good idea if you are.
if you get a baseline test, now I say over the age of 50, if you’re a relatively healthy individual, if you’re somebody who’s, has a history of smoking or has a history of cardiovascular conditions or diabetes, you probably want to have your hearing checked, periodically at a much younger age.
[00:08:16] Dr. Brian Taylor: But other signs of hearing loss include ringing in the ears, tinnitus. another sign is one other when companions, friends loved ones, maybe say to you that, Hey, listen. I notice that you’re not hearing very well. when we’re at home at dinner, you seem to be, you seem to be missing out on things.
Maybe you should have your hearing checked. I would heed that advice.
what about people who in their work they face a lot of noise people, like maybe in air airplanes or musicians, DJs, and so on?
[00:08:49] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah. And I forgot that one. Thank you for reminding me. Yes, definitely. If you are exposed to,noise in the workplace or recreational noise, like listening to music, Go to concerts, listening through your earbuds, more than a few hours a day, that would be an indication that you should have your hearing checked, periodically.
[00:09:08] How hearing technology has changed
[00:09:08] Tony Winyard: You mentioned about some of the devices that are available. how much has the technology for this changed over the last few decades?
I think there’s probably, I, there’s probably three interesting areas of innovation over the last few decades, especially over the last five to 10 years that have really ramped up. the first, Track of innovation. That’s really interesting. Just the overall signal processing inside of a hearing aid and how smart it’s becoming.
just give an example, the brain, the human brain has the remarkable capacity to recognize, a familiar voice over other voices that are in the room, and pay attention to a voice of interest and kind of filter out the other sounds in the background automatically. The signal processing in a hearing aid, is starting to verge on how the human brain works.
[00:09:55] Dr. Brian Taylor: As far as it’s smart enough to know these are the sounds that the person might be interested in. We’re gonna amplify those. And these other sounds, even though spectorally, they might be very similar. We’re going to,Attenuate those as much as possible. So that’s an exciting track of innovation inside of a hearing aid.
the other two have to do more with design and functionality. another track that’s really interesting, I think is,Battery capacity. we’ve gone from the old, battery pill that you throw away every week or two, to rechargeability, that’s on the fly on the go. you can have the battery pack in your pocket.
[00:10:31] Dr. Brian Taylor: You can have a recharging station at home. and I think that makes it really easy for people to use their hearing aids when they don’t have to worry about changing the battery all the time, they just recharge. Like they do their phone. And I think the third innovation track is, around, the style of hearing aids, the design we call in our field, we call that the form factor and you’re starting to see hearing aids look much more consumer audio, Bluetooth headsets, and earbuds.
we’re moving away from a stodgy old fashioned looking, medical device to something that’s cool. And. of fashionable that people wanna wear.
[00:11:07] Tony Winyard: and I guess there’s like a big range in a price range from the of really good ones from these, the starter ones, maybe.
[00:11:14] Price range of hearing aids
[00:11:14] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah, sure. I think that’s one of the things in the popular press that you don’t often hear, and that is,at least in the United States, we fixate on the fact that for a lot of people, hearing aids are the access and affordability. Those are issues, but the reality is there’s a huge range in price,from under,under, for a few hundred dollars to, a few thousand dollars, it really depends on. What you’d get inside the hearing aid, what it looks like, how much service you might be getting. Those are all factors. But I think what listeners really need to know is there’s a really broad, price range.
[00:11:47] Tony Winyard: And so what kind of Habits would you advise people to adopt if they want to keep their hearing healthy?
[00:11:56] Habits to adopt to retain hearing
[00:11:56] Dr. Brian Taylor: I think the number one is just lead a healthy lifestyle and that includes things like, don’t smoke, maintain a healthy diet, cuz we know from the research that both on unhealthy diet and smoking contribute to, hearing loss, uh, try to avoid noise. if you can’t avoid noise where hearing protection, one of the lessons I’ve learned over the last decade or so is if you go to a concert.
wear hearing protection, even a few hours of exposure can do some pretty serious damage to your hearing. And, I, for one, like to use these, their,earplugs that are designed to listen to music, so the sound quality’s maintained, and you get the protection that you need. so I can’t emphasize enough how important it’s to wear either, the right kind of properly fitted, hearing protection.
[00:12:41] Dr. Brian Taylor: That’s probably the biggest thing that I would want to get across to your listeners.
[00:12:45] Tony Winyard: And what about for, if someone. They swim a lot. And sometimes you’ll you get, things put in your ears for when you’re swimming. Does swimming without using those sort of things affect your hearing at all?
no, I think that’s more of an issue. some people have medical conditions or they can’t get water in their ear or they’re terribly annoyed by it. maybe they have, narrow ear canals and the water has a tendency to stay in there. there’s different kinds of, water plugs that you could wear.
[00:13:10] Dr. Brian Taylor: But,for the most part, would not affect your hearing in any negative way.
And, and for people who do suffer from hearing loss, once they do get some kind of a device, how might their life change? what Habits might they need to change?
that’s a good question. I think my first bit of advice there is, it’s always important to get a good test done. You wanna make sure that you don’t have some sort of underlying medical condition that could be treated, with something that’s not a hearing aid? there are some, relatively rare conditions, but nevertheless, they do exist where, you’d wanna get treatment from a physician first.
once you get hearing aids, assuming that you need them and you’re the right candidate, and that’s something that a qualified, licensed professional would work with you on. but once you have hearing aids, I can’t emphasize enough that you gotta give your brain, the auditory cortex, some time to get rewired.
another exciting, area of research and audiology over the last, few years has been, looking at brain plasticity and how it changes when somebody has a hearing loss and not wearing hearing aids and how the brain changes relatively quickly and continues to change over a long period of time after they’ve been wearing hearing aids.
and the research is starting to show that those plastic effects that you see inside the brain. Only happen when you’re fitted properly with hearing aids. Meaning if you have a hearing aid, that’s not giving you enough volume, you’ve been under fitted. you’re not going to experience those plastic effects as much as somebody who is properly fitted, getting the right amount of volume that allows the brain to rewire properly over a long period of time.
[00:14:49] Crossmodal plasticity
[00:14:49] Tony Winyard: About 20 so years ago, my mum lost her eyesight. She went blind. And before she went blind, her hearing was nothing special at all.
After she’d been blind. I dunno, just only about five years or so. Her hearing was absolutely remarkable.
She lived in a, in an elderly people’s home and she’d often be sitting in this cafe and there was a couple of hundred people living in this place and she could recognize everyone walking past just from their footsteps. It was her hearing was absolutely incredible.
[00:15:18] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah, there is something to that. that phenomenon is called crossmodal plasticity. And, there are a couple of research centers around the world that have studied this, but basically I think what your mother experienced, what the researchers are starting to now finally uncover. And that is, when one part of the brain that’s responsible for, let’s say vision is not stimulated.
another part of the brain. Another sense will take over or commandeer that area of the brain and use it. So I think your example is Consistent with what the research is finding the other interesting step. If you take that one step further is, let’s say for some, maybe some through some miraculous process, her,the vision was restored there.
The research would tell us that it’s possible that those centers, the vision centers are,are sort oftaken. by the eyesight being restored. so that’s where that crossmodal comes in. it’s almost like,two war countries fighting for territory and one kind of takes over for a while and then the other rises up and takes it back.
And that sort of happens in the brain with respect to these different senses. if they’re restored through hearing aids or through surgery or.
Well, it it’s amazing that you said that Brian, because my mom’s eyesight did come back and she was blind for about 18 years and then one day it just came back and her doctors could not explain. They did not understand why or how it came back. It just did.
[00:16:47] Dr. Brian Taylor: that’s really interesting.
[00:16:49] Tony Winyard: Yeah, but, I don’t recall. It’s not a question I ever asked though, but I don’t recall her saying.
Her hearing was affected much when her sight came back.
maybe she was so profoundly happy that she got her vision back, that she wasn’t so much concerned about her, that little bit of extra decline, possibly in her hearing as a result of it. anyway, it’s a really interesting area of study crossmodal plasticity.
[00:17:13] Chronic conditions that affect hearing
[00:17:13] Tony Winyard: Nowadays a lot of people, there’s so many different chronic conditions that people suffer with. are there any conditions that will often lead to deterioration in hearing as well?
sure there is many, the list is pretty long. You can start with more physical conditions like cardiovascular disease or, cognitive decline, meaning that if you have those conditions they could affect. your hearing, and the, really the theory there is that,we call the common cause theory, which means whatever’s affecting the heart or the endocrine system or the executive functioning in the brain at the cellular level is also affecting,hearing.
so that’s one, I think interesting area, another is,conditions like, social isolation, loneliness, depression, that it’s a vicious cycle where, if you’re feeling depressed, maybe you start avoiding situations and when you’re avoiding situations, lack stimulus, and then. you can see how things start to, to, spiral. your hearing is not as good, so you avoid situations. And then, when you avoid situations, you don’t get the stimulation that you need, you get more depressed. there’s some theories around how those things are interconnected.
[00:18:21] Dr. Brian Taylor: So, um, you know, long story short, there’s a lot of,there’s a strong relationship between many of these medical conditions. psychosocial conditions and, untreated hearing loss.
[00:18:31] Tony Winyard: If people don’t use certain muscles, you get atrophy. So is that something similar in the ear? is there a muscle in the ear, it’s not really a muscle. It’s more of a sense organ. It’s,nerve fibers. but yeah, there is definitely a use it or lose it, phenomenon. if you’re not, if the brain is not receiving a steady supply of sound, It’s going to start to atrophy or decline and, back to the theory before other modalities of sense, other areas of executive function may take over and start using, the area of the brain that’s,of responsible for hearing.
When people come in to see you about the hearing. . Is there anything generally that is the most surprising to people when they’re talking to you about hearing and health and so on.
[00:19:16] Dr. Brian Taylor: I think what’s probably most surprising in my experience is how much hearing loss they may actually have. I think some people I’m thinking about people that are in their, Like sixties and seventies who have maybe had a hearing loss for 20 years and they’ve developed a lot of coping strategies.
they, and they do it unknowingly where you cup your hand behind your ear, you focus more on somebody’s face and lip read. you get a little bit closer to them. You have these compensatory strategies. That help you overcome, the deficit of hearing in challenging situations. And when you actually then measure their hearing, they may, they’re quite surprised by, how advanced it might be because they lose it so slowly that they don’t, know what they’ve had and how much they’ve lost.
[00:20:06] How hearing technology may change in the future
[00:20:06] Tony Winyard: Where would you say, where do you see, progression and new technology and so on in the next sort of five to 10 years in your world?
[00:20:15] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah, I’d go back to, what I said before along those three tracks, I think you’re gonna see incremental improvements around, better algorithms in, Hearing aids that help with, hearing speech in the noise. this is an area that I think is a real strong suit for, Signa. For example, we have our technology’s really effective at improving.
What’s called the signal to noise ratio, and I think you’re gonna see more and more incremental advancements in improving the signal to noise ratio with,algorithms inside of hearing aids. I think you’re gonna see advances in battery capacity and rechargeability, another area that I think,Siemens and now Signia has been a leader in, and then finally, around, form factors, these styles of hearing aids and make and having, Different styles, different, form factors. I think, and then maybe more broadly, you’re starting to see some things like, that we talk about, um, Fitbits things that are worn on the wrist that count calories, that count steps. That count, activity levels, things like that. I think you’re gonna start to see more and more of those kinds of, of applications, on a hearing aid, because at the ear it’s actually more accurate and it turns the hearing aid into a multitasking device, which I think has a lot of advantages for people.
[00:21:37] Tony Winyard: Yeah. I have a device from HeartMath, for sensing my heart rate and I put it on my ear lobe to detect the heart rate.
[00:21:43] Dr. Brian Taylor: yeah, the ear is a great place to collect that data.
[00:21:45] Which sounds better, vinyl or digital?
out of interest, Icuz you are obviously so much into sound and hearing, so I wonder your views on people, who claim that vinyl is much better to listen to say than digital sound. Have you got a view on it?
[00:22:01] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah, I do have a view on that, I’ve gotten out of that area since in the last 25 or 30 years, but I do think there’s something to that. I do think albums, that analog quality has a warmer sound. I don’t know if it’s the, maybe it’s just the act of taking an album out of the jacket and putting it on the turntable and hearing that.
Hissing noise. If that is, more of a humanistic quality that makes it more enjoyable. But, I do think there’s something to an album, having a better warmer sound quality than well people don’t listen to CDs anymore, but, to streaming,I think that what we forget is the, the speaker, the loud speaker makes a huge difference.
People don’t aren’t into loud speakers as much as they used to be. And I think music quality suffers because of it. That’s one person’s opinion.
[00:22:49] Tony Winyard: And added to that, I don’t think people realize how much difference it makes by hearing like music through really good speakers, as opposed to really basic tinny speakers.
[00:23:00] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah, it makes a huge difference. Yeah, no doubt about it. You get the full base, you get all of the highs, just, and with, that’s a really interesting question because for a long time, I’m a big proponent of, sound quality inside of a hearing aid. Is driven by the same factors that drive sound quality in a loud speaker that you might listen to music to.
And that is low distortion, smooth broadband response. those things drive quality sound quality in a hearing aid.
is that gonna be one, the main differences between say the more basic hearing aids and the more expensive ones, it’s just gonna be a much better sound quality than a more expensive one?
[00:23:36] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah, I think that is a little bit of a factor. It’s more, there’s a lot of, The more expensive hearing aids tend to have more, features that can be adjusted by both the wearer and by the hearing care professional, more expensive hearing aids tend to have more, what we call connectivity options, where you can connect it to,your phone to, your TV via Bluetooth.
and I think more expensive hearing aids tend to have more, sophisticated noise reduction, technology in them.
as we are, we’re coming to the end, Brian. I wondered if there is a book that you can think of that has really moved you for any reason.
[00:24:12] Book recommendation by Brian
that’s a great question. I’m a, I’m an avid reader and, I’m if I wasn’t an audiologist, I would probably be a, an historian. And I’ll tell you one author that I’ve read all of her books and she’s an out, I just, I do a lot of writing and I just, I Marvel at how clear she writes on, relatively, Arcane topics , she’s a political scientist.
she’s American and she lives in Poland. Her name is Ann Applebaum. She also writes for the Atlantic magazine and, she’s an expert on Russian history and, mainly around the era of Lennon, Stalin, and, she’s written a series of books. One called Gulag. that’s a very moving account of life in Soviet prison camps in the 1930s.
[00:24:55] Dr. Brian Taylor: So that’s an author Ann Applebaum that I really admire and respect and love to read everything that she writes. For those of you that are interested in history, that’s who I would recommend that you read.
[00:25:07] Tony Winyard: Okay. we’ll include some of her book titles in show notes and some links to some of her books. And if people wanna find out more about Signia and,your work, social media, where would they go?
[00:25:18] Brian’s contact info
[00:25:18] Dr. Brian Taylor: Well, Signia has a professional library. I think if someone was to Google, Cigna professional library, that would take you to, we have an embarrassment of riches on our professional library. We have white papers, and published articles that go back about 35 years. So they’re literally,well over a hundred.
White papers and peer reviewed trade journal articles that are archived there on a number of topics of interest. So that’s where I’d have people go. Signia professional library.
[00:25:50] Tony Winyard: And finally, Brian, do you have a quotation that resonates with you for any reason?
[00:25:55] Favourite quote
[00:25:55] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah. I have a couple of teenage kids that I,sometimes a lot of teenagers are difficult to motivate into action. So I’ll give you a quote that I use with them from,I think who everyone loves that’s Yoda and the quote is, I think it’s do or not do. There is no try. I think I got that.
So it’s all about either do it or you don’t and it’s not trying.
[00:26:18] Tony Winyard: and why is it that resonates with you?
because I think it’s one of those things where you have to make a commitment it’s either, instead of, hedging on something you have, it’s either you did or you didn’t, it’s no in between. And I think that’s a good message for, for teenage boys, at least
Brian, thank you for sharing your information with us and for well helping our listeners to find out a lot more about their hearing and maybe some steps they can take to, to help their hearing health.
[00:26:42] Dr. Brian Taylor: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
[00:26:45] Tony Winyard: Thank you.
Next week is episode 84 with Douglas Lucas, who is a board certified orthopedic surgeon. Who left the traditional medical model to build a practice on health optimization and specialize in metabolic health. Hormone optimization for both men and women and osteoporosis and longevity. So we talk a lot around.
Many of those areas and chronic disease. And what does it take to improve both health span and lifespan? So that’s next week. Episode 84 with Douglas Lucas. If you know anyone who’d get some real value from some of the information that Dr Brian Taylor shared with us please do share the episode with them and hope you have a fabulous week
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