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How Long Do Hearing Aid Batteries Last?

December 22, 2014

 
Hearing aids are amazing. As technology improves, they become more and more sophisticated and less and less hands-on. One of the things that hasn’t changed, though and remains “hands-on” is changing the battery. The battery is a necessary evil. It can be a nuisance to have to change, but there are a couple of things you can do to prolong the life of your battery and improve your listening experience at the same time.

Finding a hearing aid battery that you can trust is key. There are many different brands but some will last longer than others. If you have a battery brand that you use for other areas of your life, look for this battery for your hearing aid as well. It’s likely that if you use Energizer, Rayovac or Duracell batteries successfully in your household tools, you’ll find that these brands work well in your hearing aids as well. If you don’t know which brand to trust, ask your hearing healthcare provider. Often, they will be able to provide guidance or, even better, you can get your batteries straight from them. In many cases, providers will purchase batteries directly from the manufacturer, making their batteries much fresher than what you might find on your local drug store shelf.

Freshness of the battery is important. If the batteries have been sitting on the shelf for a long time, they may not perform well. This can cause all sorts of issues in your hearing aid including fluctuations in sound, a steady decrease in volume over time, or strange circuit noises. There’s nothing more frustrating than having your hearing aid malfunction. Being able to depend on your hearing aid batteries makes it that much easier to wear your hearing aids with confidence.

If you are concerned about the freshness of your batteries, take a look at the box. On the outside of the box will be an expiration date. Generally speaking, hearing aid batteries have a three-year shelf life. This means that from the time they are produced, they can sit in the box dormant (non-functioning) without losing any strength. So, when you purchase your hearing aid batteries, look for a box with a date the furthest out: a February 2014 date is better than a September 2013 date, for example.

 So, how long do hearing aid batteries generally last?

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The life expectancy of your hearing aid battery really depends on the type of hearing aid you have and how long you wear them each day. In general, the smaller the hearing aid, the smaller the battery. The smaller the battery, the shorter the life expectancy of that battery. And, it depends on the circuitry in the hearing aid, too. Some hearing aids are constantly working to improve the sound quality and reduce noise. These “automatic” hearing aids generally require more battery power. You’ll find that with this type of hearing aid, the battery life can fluctuate.

For example, if you have a week that is relatively quiet – you’re at home most of the time and not around a lot of noise, your hearing aid batteries may last longer than a week that is very active in terms of listening environments. The more active you are, the more power your hearing aid may need in order to perform all of its sound cleaning and restoration functions. If you are curious how long your hearing aid batteries should last, ask your hearing healthcare provider. They will be able to calculate the life expectancy of the batteries used in your particular hearing aid. Knowing what to expect from your hearing aid will allow you to plan accordingly and hear with confidence.

Should I Fix My Hearing Aid or Just Replace It?

December 15, 2014

If you wear hearing aids, you know that being able to trust that they are working properly is of utmost importance. You don’t want to have to worry about whether you are hearing properly or not or when the next time will be that they will break down. So, keeping your hearing aids in tip-top shape is important. You can do this by making sure to have your hearing aids checked by your audiologist on a regular basis and by maintaining a regular cleaning regimen at home. At a minimum, you should wipe down your hearing aids daily. Using a disinfectant spray or wipe, such as Audiologist’s Choice is even better. But what happens if they DO break down? When do you decide to replace them instead of fixing them?

Image converted using ifftoanyHearing aids are a long-term investment. The average life-span of any hearing aid from any manufacturer is five to seven years. If your hearing aids are older than the typical life expectancy, you’ll be happy to hear that they can still be fixed. What you need to know is that, with older hearing aids, manufacturers often stop supporting the older technology. It’s what’s called “built in obsolescence,” and means that manufacturer can’t feasibly repair hearing aids forever. It just wouldn’t be good for business to continue to manufacturer the parts and keep them on hand for every hearing aid made. So, you may be told that the hearing aids are “not fixable.” This is simply not true, however. There are many non-manufacturer repair labs, called All-Make labs that often have parts. So, if you are being told that you must replace the hearing aid because it isn’t fixable, get a second opinion. If you were happy with your hearing aids prior to their breakdown, it’ll be worth your time to find someone who can get them working again.

But what if you weren’t happy with the hearing aids?
The nice thing about hearing aid technology is that it is rapidly advancing. If your hearing aid is more than four years old, it may be worth your time to talk to your audiologist about what’s new. You may find that your money is better spent on replacing your hearing aids than on fixing something that wasn’t doing the job in the first place.

If you’re wondering what the best decision is for your situation, call our office today. I’d be glad to discuss it with you further.

Closed Captioned Movies Bring Back Life’s Little Pleasures

December 8, 2014

When you have a hearing loss, the simple pleasures in life become harder to enjoy. When you have trouble hearing, get-togethers with friends and family, hearing your grandchild’s voice or simply going to the movies can become a struggle. When it’s a struggle, you might feel like it’s just easier to not participate in the things you love any longer. But being able to hear and understand what is being said is what keeps us connected to our world. Hearing aids are the best way to help those with hearing loss stay connected. There have also been some amazing technology advancements that help hard-of-hearing consumers enjoy what normal hearing people often take for granted. One of those advancements is closed captioning of movies.

Closed captioning is a technology that allows a person to read the dialogue of a movie or TV show on screen. For someone with hearing loss, this can be the difference between enjoying a movie or constantly missing the punch line. Closed captioning “fills in the blanks,” essentially. Not all TV shows and not all movie theaters have closed captioning, however. So, if you have hearing loss and want to go to a movie, what do you do? Try Captionfish.com.

Captionfish.com is a website that lists the available closed-captioned movies at theaters all over the United States. A sophisticated search engine, Captionfish helps consumers find open captioned, “rear-window” captioned, subtitled, and descriptively narrated movies and lists them by theater and movie time. It also has captioned trailers for all of the most recent movies. The Catptionfish website is easy to use because it uses your computer’s IP address to figure out what city you’re in to make suggestions for theaters near you without having to ask it to do so. Simple. Easy! Impressive.

So, if you have hearing loss and have struggled with enjoying movies, try closed captioning. And, to find the next closed captioned movie playing in your town, try Captionfish, a great website that is making it easier for those with hearing loss to enjoy life again.

Buying Hearing Aids On-Line – A Bad Idea

December 1, 2014

There have been recent announcements by Best Buy and UnitedHealthcare that they will soon begin providing hearing aids to consumers for purchase directly through the internet. The concept of selling cheap stock amplification directly to consumers is not a new one. The Internet has changed how all business is done. More and more people go to the Internet to gain product knowledge and check prices before or after going to local stores. It’s not surprising, then, that there are companies that want to try to attract your eye when you are researching a hearing aid purchase. And with the state of the economy, the easiest way to get your attention is through your pocket book.

Buying cheaper hearing aids on line may seem like the fiscally responsible thing to do. We all want to be careful about how we spend our hard-earned money. In reality, however, this approach provides poor solutions for consumers. The reason for this is that fitting hearing aids is an art as much as it is a science. Brandon Sawalich, Senior Vice President of Starkey, one of the better-known and well-trusted hearing aid manufacturers in the US released a statement recently, denouncing the plan for on-line hearing aid sales by direct-to-consumer companies. He stated,

“better hearing is not a commodity. It is an art, guided by science and delivered by experience.”

In an email to hearing healthcare providers, Kim Herman, President of one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers, GNReSound, also denounced the sale of hearing aids directly to consumers. She noted, “As HIA research has shown, eight of the top ten reasons for patient delight with hearing aids are directly attributable to the patient’s experience with a trained hearing instrument professional. At ReSound we are committed to the principle that hearing aid technology is successful only when a trained professional has evaluated the hearing loss and fit a hearing solution that meets the patient’s individualized needs.”

TechnologyWhen fitted correctly, hearing aids can improve the quality of life for anyone who wears them. When fitted incorrectly, they can become a very expensive addition to the side table drawer. So, even if you do get a “great deal” on-line, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t wear them. If you buy hearing aids on-line, how do you know you’ve picked the right one? Who will be there to help if the sound isn’t quite right? What will you do when the hearing aid breaks down? Who is going to teach you how to best use them in your varying listening environments? The better choice is to work with a highly trained hearing healthcare professional who has your best interests in mind, not a website that is simply trying to sell you hearing aids.

How do you find the professional that is right for you? Start by researching the professionals around you. But, think about this: what do you do when you want to find a good mechanic, dentist or financial advisor? You begin by asking those you trust who they prefer.

1. Ask for a referral from friends you know who have been successful with hearing aids. Did they respect and trust the person they worked with?
2. Ask your Primary Care physician which hearing professional they refer patients to for hearing loss and hearing aids. Remember, this person reflects either positively or negatively on the physicians themselves. Normally they select other professionals they refer to very carefully.
3. Check the web. What are other people saying about the professional or clinic you are considering?
4. Then check the professional’s website. Are they highly trained? Does what they say about themselves and their clinic fit with what you are looking for? Do they give you a clear reason why you should select them? What sets them apart from the other professionals in the area? Is their website an information resource?
5. Finally, make certain the hearing healthcare provider holds a valid license, are in good standing and have no serious complaints against them. Every state has a licensing board for hearing healthcare providers. Check the state’s website for information.

Doing your homework about the professional you will work with is the best first step toward better hearing. And although it may cost a bit more to work with a hearing healthcare provider, you’ll find you are much more satisfied with your hearing aids and the benefits they provide than if you purchase your hearing aids from an on-line company that really should stick to selling MP3 players and ink cartridges.

What Is Earwax?

November 24, 2014

 
Earwax is a curious thing. Why do we have it? Do we need it? What’s its purpose? You may have wondered these things or if you haven’t, most any 9 year-old boy certainly has. Earwax is medically referred to as cerumen. It is produced by glands in the outer ear canal and its purpose is to trap dust and other small particles to keep them from travelling toward the eardrum and potentially causing irritation or damage. Normally, the wax dries up and falls out of the ear on its own, along with any trapped dust or debris. If it doesn’t, it can gradually build up over time and become impacted in the ear canal. It may then need to be removed by an audiologist or ear specialist.

Earwax Blockage
A complete blockage, or impaction of the ear canal by earwax can happen to anyone. The most common cause is from wax getting pushed deep within the ear canal by a q-tip or other object placed in the ear canal, such as bobby pins or car keys. Often, these objects push the earwax deeper into the ear canal. Those who wear hearing aids or earplugs are also more prone to having a complete blockage.

Earwax Symptoms
Earwax blockage can be associated with a number of symptoms that can be somewhat disturbing to the person experiencing them because often, the symptoms are sudden and generally do not accompany any other incident. The most common symptoms are decreased hearing, dizziness, pain in the ear and/or tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

Earwax Treatment
The easiest way to handle an earwax blockage is to try removing the wax yourself at home. The only time a “home remedy” shouldn’t be tried is if you have a hole in your eardrum or if an ear, nose and throat physician has placed a pressure equalization tube (PE tube) in the eardrum. The most common home remedy is an over-the-counter wax softener. The softener consists of a liquid called carbamide peroxide which will gradually soften the wax and help it move out of the ear canal. Another option is warmed mineral oil. When placed in the ear canal and allowed to sit, the earwax will soften, making it easier to remove. Or, it will make its way out on its own.

One of the “home remedies” that isn’t suggested is ear candling. Ear candles are hollow cones made of paraffin and beeswax. The tapered end is placed inside the ear canal and the other end is then set on fire. In theory, as the flame burns, a vacuum is created. The vacuum is meant to draw the wax out of the ear. There is no indication that the use of ear candles is successful in removing ear wax, but there is ample evidence that using this sort of home remedy can cause serious damage to your ear or ear canal or both.

When to Seek Medical Treatment
If you have tried a home remedy and haven’t seen a change in your symptoms, it may be time to seek medical treatment. Or, if you just don’t want to mess with the home remedies at all, a simple way to handle an earwax impaction is to see an audiologist or medical doctor. Either professional will be able to easily remove the wax for you. They may use a small plastic spoon called a curette, or remove the wax by irrigating the ear with warm water.

Preventing Earwax Impaction
Earwax impaction can be prevented by avoiding ear swabs or Q-tips and other objects that push the wax deeper into the ear canal. Use of mineral oil or olive oil in the ear canal regularly can also help to alleviate the possibility of earwax becoming lodged in the ear canal. If earwax impaction seems to be an ongoing problem or if you wear hearing aids, having a routine examination of the ear canal at least every six months is a good idea. Your audiologist or medical doctor can then keep a close eye on your earwax production and make sure that an impaction doesn’t occur in the future.

If you’re concerned about wax impaction, call our office. We’d be glad to help.