Tagged: hearing loss

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.

Is A Cochlear Implant Right For Me?

November 17, 2014

If you’ve come to the point where your hearing loss has become so profound that hearing aids are no longer helpful to you, a cochlear implant may be the next step in preserving your sense of sound. A cochlear implant isn’t by definition a hearing aid, which is meant to amplify sound according to your hearing loss. Instead, a cochlear implant is a small, surgically implanted device that works by delivering electrical impulses directly to the inner ear. The electrical impulses are then delivered to the brain to be processed as sound. A cochlear implant doesn’t restore hearing, but can give the implant wearer a chance at hearing sound again, when other options are no longer viable.

How does a cochlear implant work?
Cochlear implants are intended for those with profound sensorineural hearing loss who cannot or can no longer wear hearing aids. This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the small cells in the inner part of the ear called the cochlea. These cells, called cilia, communicate with the auditory (hearing) nerve. When the cells have been destroyed or did not develop during gestation, there is no communication with the hearing nerve and therefore, no sound reaches the brain. A cochlear implant stimulates the hearing nerve directly, allowing the sound to bypass the damaged area of the ear and get to the brain.

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that consists of both internal parts that are implanted under the skin just behind and above the ear and external parts that are worn behind the ear, just like the typical behind the ear hearing aid would be worn.

When there are sounds in your environment, the microphone and processor will pick them up and change them into an electrical signal. Then the transmitter sends the signal to the receiver under the skin. Next, the receiver sends the signals on to the electrodes that are inserted into the cochlea. These electrodes stimulate the hearing nerve, which carries the signals to the brain, where they are recognized as sound.

How do you get a cochlear implant?
Once an ear, nose and throat physician and his cochlear implant team determines that you are a good candidate for an implant, a date will be set for the surgery. The surgery takes one to two hours to perform and is generally an outpatient procedure.

One to two weeks after surgery, you will be fitted with three external parts: a microphone, a speech processor, and a transmitter. The microphone is housed in a case that looks very similar to a behind the ear hearing aid and is worn on the ear. The audio processor may be housed along with the microphone or it may be worn elsewhere on the body. The audio processor offers multiple program options, telephone connection options, and the ability to connect to assistive listening devices and other listening devices, like MP3 players.

How do I know if a cochlear implant is right for me?
If you think you might be a candidate for a cochlear implant, talk to your audiologist. He or she can tell you whether a cochlear implant is a good option for you and advise you of the positives and negatives of a cochlear implant. If your audiologist does not work with cochlear implants directly, you will be referred to a center that does where you will consult with a team of experts. Typically, these experts include an ear doctor (otolaryngologist), audiologist, psychologist and speech-language pathologist. The team works together to evaluate you, answer your questions, perform the surgery and offer follow-up care.

You may undergo certain tests, such as:

• an audiogram to determine the extent of your hearing loss as well as where the hearing loss stems from
• a hearing aid evaluation
• CT or MRI scans of the middle and inner ear structures
• a physical exam to prepare for general anesthesia
• a psychological exam to assess your expectations and ability to handle the surgery and commitment necessary for the programming and follow-up needed with a cochlear implant

Many times those with profound hearing loss feel like they have no hope for better hearing. In many instances, though, a cochlear implant is an excellent next step. If you are curious about cochlear implants and wonder if you might be a candidate, call our office. We’d be glad to discuss the possibility with you.