Tinnitus is a common problem. In fact, more than 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, the experience of sound, noise or ringing in the ears in the presence of sound in the environment. These sounds can vary from loud to soft, high pitch to low pitch and from constant to periodic. Tinnitus is very common in those who have hearing loss.
For most people, tinnitus is not a significant problem, but more of an irritation. For others, the tinnitus they experience can become a substantial disruption in their lives, affecting sleep and causing anxiety, stress and even depression. With a combination of counseling and sound therapy, the effects of tinnitus can be minimized.
The use of sound to minimize the effects of tinnitus is meant to help the brain habituate or become accustomed to the tinnitus. The type of sounds used can be amplified sound from hearing aids, environmental sounds, noise or music. A new type of sound used to help the brain habituate is called Zen fractal music and comes from a hearing aid manufacturer called Widex. Based on what is known as “fractal technology,” Zen music is a series of chime-like tones that play randomly but with a rhythm that is meant to mimic the resting heart rate. Each Zen program can be adjusted for tempo, pitch and volume.
The goal of Zen technology is to aid in relaxation in order to decrease the wearer’s aggravation and stress from continuous tinnitus and thus improve overall quality of life. The Zen music can be played by itself with no amplification of outside sounds or in addition to conventional amplification. A program that incorporates a low-level white noise along with the Zen music can also be programmed into the hearing aid. Each program is accessed through a push button on the hearing aid or by remote control. A survey performed by researchers at Widex revealed that the use of Zen fractal music as a way to decrease the severity of tinnitus is very successful. In fact, 85.7% of patients surveyed reported a reduction in tinnitus severity1.
The Zen fractal technology is found in all of the Widex Mind family of hearing aids. If tinnitus is a constant barrage of sound that causes stress or aggravation in your daily life, ask your adiologist today if Zen is right for you.
1 The Efficacy of Fractal Music Employed in Hearing Aids for Tinnitus Management, Francis Kuk, PhD; Heidi Peeters, MA; and Chi Lau, PhD; Hearing Journal Sept 2010
I hate it when I purchase something and it has so many buttons, bells and whistles that half of them go unused. I just want the thing to work. It can be sparkly. It can be pretty to look at. But really, I want to know that my money was well spent and that the thing does what it’s supposed to. I think that people with hearing loss want the same thing from their hearing aids. Manufacturers can talk all day about the new sound processing or the latest microchip or the “best in class” this or that, but when it comes down to it, people really just want to know one thing: Does it work?
Don’t get me wrong, there are many great features available in hearing aids today. The technology advancements in the past several years have been truly amazing. Manufacturers truly have listened to their customers and have worked hard to give people what they want in a hearing aid. The main goal of any technology, though, is to improve hearing and make it as easy to do so in as many environments as possible.
So, how do you know what features (i.e., “bells and whistles”) you should be looking for in a hearing aid? Are there some features that are more important than others? You might be surprised to hear that it is actually more important to work with well-informed audiologist than to worry about the features in the hearing aid you purchase. It really doesn’t matter if your hearing aid has all the latest and greatest features if you don’t need them or want them. What your audiologist will do when you first meet with her or him is discuss what difficulties you are experiencing and in what situations you’d like to hear better. You will need to place your trust in your audiologist to be able to openly discuss the difficulties you have been experiencing with your hearing loss and the communication difficulties it has created for you. Being open and frank about the impact your hearing loss has on your spouse, your family and friends, as well as your performance at work is critical to your success. Then, using the information obtained from diagnostic testing, the audiologist will determine what hearing aid and what features will best suit both your hearing loss and your needs and wants.
Placing your trust in someone you’ve just met is a difficult thing to do. You may have a bad experience in the past that makes you want to be cautious. You should be cautious. By all means, do your homework before you choose your audiologist. Talk to your doctor about who they recommend. Ask your friends or family members who they see. Look at the audiologist’s website to see what their educational background is. Are they professional? 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?
In the end, the hearing aid technology itself will be successful for you when you work alongside an audiologist who is interested in working together as a team and who is dedicated to your success. Don’t get bogged down in the many choices hearing aids offer today. Make an appointment with your audiologist and trust that he or she is going to find the very best choice for you. You’ll be glad you did.
Hearing aids are expensive. Once you’ve purchased a pair of hearing aids, you want that investment to last as long as possible. The truth of the matter, though, is that the average life expectancy of hearing aids, according to most manufacturers, is five to seven years. It’s been my experience that a five to seven year life span is generous at best. Although it’s true that you can extend the life of your hearing aids with regular care and maintenance, in general you can plan to replace each pair every three to five years and only every seven years if luck is on your side.
So, how do you know when it’s time to replace your hearing aids?
If you’ve been wearing the same hearing aid for more than a few years, it may be time to discuss new technology with your hearing healthcare provider. Hearing aid technology improves rapidly. In fact, most of the top manufacturers will release a significantly improved product over their previous generation product approximately every 18 months. Most recently, technology improvements have generally focused on improved hearing in background noise, smaller packaging and wireless connectivity. There have also been some amazing advancements for those who experience ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, and for single sided deafness. If you are unhappy with the sound quality of your hearing aids or if you feel they aren’t able to handle the listening situations you are most commonly exposed to, it’s possible that new technology advancements will be able to help. The best thing to do is to talk with your audiologist about what’s new in hearing aids. She will be able to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision.
Another reason to replace your hearing aids is if they have started to need more repairs. Hearing aids have mechanical working parts. These parts will stop working at some point and must be replaced in order to return the hearing aid back to working condition. With an older hearing aid, especially those over five years old, repairs become more frequent and this can become cost prohibitive. In addition, older hearing aids may only receive a 90-day or 6-month warranty on a repair. If the hearing aid stops working again and the hearing aid is not covered under warranty, you’ll have to pay another repair charge. In an older hearing aid, saving money you would have spent on a repair and investing it into a new, more advanced technology may be the better long-term solution.
If you are thinking that it might be time to replace your hearing aids, talk with your audiologist. It’s our pleasure to be able to work alongside you to decide when or if it’s time to look into new hearing aids. We’ll discuss with you the pros and cons of replacement and the associated costs. And, in most cases, you can listen to some of the new technology while you’re in the office and decide what’s best for you. Call the office to make an appointment. We’d be glad to help.
You want the best hearing aid available, and for good reason. The investment in hearing aids in both time and hard-earned money is significant. When you make your final decision on which hearing aid to purchase, you want it to be the best decision and one that is a solid investment for years to come. The truth is, there really is no single product that is best for everyone. Finding the best product for your hearing loss, your lifestyle and your needs requires that you to take some time to consider several key factors before moving forward. Once you have done so, you will find it much easier to make a well-informed decision; one that benefits both your hearing loss and your pocket book.
The first key factor to consider has nothing at all to do with the hearing aids themselves but with the choice of provider. The person you choose to work with to select and program the hearing aids is almost more important than the choice of which hearing aid to purchase. You are going to be spending time with this person for years to come! It is important that it is someone you feel comfortable around and someone you can communicate with. You will need to trust this professional to be able to discuss the difficulties you have been experiencing with your hearing loss and the communication difficulties it has created for you. Being open and frank about the impact your hearing loss has on your spouse, your family and friends, as well as your performance at work is critical to your success.
The second key factor is weighing price versus performance. The goal is to find a high-quality hearing aid that offers affordable pricing for the most effective solution. So, how do you find such a hearing aid? The answer again lies with the professional you choose to work with. You can easily find information about manufacturers and the different models of hearing aids they offer by searching online. There are also many different consumer forums online offering personal opinions and experiences. But that’s actually one of the problems. There is almost too MUCH information to be found online. Who do you trust? Which manufacturer is best? What technology is right for you? When you want to find the best hearing aid for you, your lifestyle and hearing needs, the best place to start is with an audiologist you trust. Your audiologist’s job is to take what he or she knows about you from your hearing evaluation and from interviewing you about your needs and wants and then use that information to narrow down your choices from the thousands available to a much more manageable and understandable choice of several instruments to consider. The audiologist will then explain to you the pluses and minuses of each choice to help you reach your final decision.
For most of us, the cost of the hearing aids is a major concern. No one wants to spend more than they have to. You simply want the best possible solution for a reasonable price. Price itself can vary widely and depends on the features available in the hearing aid and the “package” the hearing aids come with. If you are “shopping around,” make sure that you are comparing apples to apples when considering pricing. You may find that one clinic charges significantly more for the same product as a clinic you’ve recently visited. The cost difference could simply be the “package” the hearing aids come with. Questions you should be asking are:
• What’s included with my hearing aids?
• Are batteries provided?
• What is the warranty coverage?
• Is there a deductible if I lose a hearing aid?
• What services are included?
You can buy cheap, generic hearing aids, of course, but you won’t get the quality that you deserve and you might possibly receive less-than-effective care. You don’t have to pay a lot for quality, but you should never settle for a cheap model just because of the price. To make sure you get the best hearing aid for your hearing loss for the best price, work with someone you trust. A well-educated and reputable audiologist may cost a little more, but in the end, you’ll find that you are satisfied with your purchase because ultimately, the most expensive hearing aids are the ones that sit in the side-table drawer, untouched.
36 million people experience some form of hearing loss in the United States. 22 million people have noise induced hearing loss. 16 million have a constant ringing sound in the ears called tinnitus. Since 2006 over 18,000 walkers have raised over $3.5 million dollars to increase public awareness of hearing and balance and its disorders and to educate the general public about the effects of hearing loss. Known as the Walk4Hearing and sponsored by Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), this year’s 23 walks are planned for cities across the country. By the time the last walk is finished in early November, the Walk4Hearing is anticipated to raise more funds than any previous year for programs and service organizations dedicated to helping those with hearing loss. More importantly, HLAA hopes that through Walk4Hearing the issue of hearing loss will be brought into the national spotlight. According to HLAA, bringing awareness to the issues surrounding hearing, hearing loss and the many diseases and disorders that cause hearing loss is extremely important. Their hope is that improved awareness will ultimately improve early diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss as well as decrease the stigma that is often experienced by those who have hearing loss.
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is the nation’s leading advocacy organization for issues relating to hearing loss. HLAA was founded in 1979 by Howard E. “Rocky” Stone, a retired CIA officer who was passionate about the need for prevention and treatment of hearing loss as well as regular hearing screenings throughout life. The Hearing Loss Association of America has made a significant impact on communication access, public policy, research and public awareness regarding hearing loss. There are local chapters in many major cities across the US. The chapters hold regular meetings and recruit members who then become advocates for better hearing in their communities. The Walk4Hearing events are not simply a national campaign organized by Hearing Loss Association of America. Instead, each is chapter-sponsored and much of the planning for the events is done by community members. The Walk4Hearing is a perfect example of how HLAA is community-minded and invested in improving the lives of those with hearing loss.
For more information on the Hearing Loss Association of America, please visit www.hearingloss.org. To find a Walk4Hearing event near you, visit www.hlaa.convio.net.