Tagged: hearing

A T-coil Can Improve Hearing In Noise

April 4, 2016

 
Hearing aids can seem complicated. Do you understand or even know about all of the features your hearing aids include? Do they have directional microphones? What about a volume control or wireless connectivity? If you are unsure, you’re not alone. I’m amazed at how many times patients aren’t even sure if their hearing aids have multiple programs. If they do, they’re often unsure of what those programs are or what they do. Many times, easily accessed features that are meant to improve hearing for the listener go unused. One of the more under-utilized features in most hearing aids is the telecoil or “t-coil.”

A t-coil consists of a tiny coil of wire wrapped around a metal core. The core will generate an electric current in the coil when it is in the presence of a magnetic field. It can act as an alternate or supplemental source for sound coming into a hearing aid. Normally, a hearing aid gathers sound through its microphone or microphones. It then amplifies that sound and sends it into the ear canal of the listener. When a telecoil is used as the input source instead, the hearing aid bypasses the microphone and picks up the electro-magnetic signal produced by a telephone or an assistive listening device, such as an FM system. Then, the hearing aid will amplify that signal and convert it to an audio signal. The result is a clear signal with less interference from background noise.

The t-coil was originally designed only for use with a regular land-line telephone, which has a speaker that is driven by magnets. When someone wearing a hearing aid that has a t-coil switches the t-coil on, the sound heard through the phone is often much stronger. Now, there are many other systems that can be accessed with a t-coil in order to improve sound quality.

Telecoils are especially helpful when there is a lot of background noise. If you happen to have access to an assistive listening device, such as an FM system, you may find that you can hear much better through your t-coil with the FM system than with just the hearing aid microphones. This is because the hearing aid microphones are often turned off when the t-coil is in use. The sound that is being amplified comes directly from a microphone in the assistive listening device, which is often much closer to the sound source. This decreases the amount of background noise that is amplified. Many public places such as movie theaters, auditoriums and sports stadiums provide assistive listening devices to their patrons at no charge. Many of these systems are hearing aid compatible. So, if your hearing aid has a t-coil, you can easily improve your hearing in the situations that are often most difficult.

A telecoil can provide the extra help you need to hear in situations that otherwise might seem impossible. Ask your hearing healthcare provider about telecoils and whether your hearing aid has one. The more you know, the better you’ll hear.

8 Tips For Communicating with Those with Hearing Loss

August 31, 2015

 
Many people are under the false impression that if someone has a hearing loss, the entire communication burden must rest on the shoulders of the one with hearing loss. They don’t understand that communication is a two-way street. Even if the person with the hearing loss has taken the appropriate step to get hearing aids, their communication partners can mistakenly believe that the hearing aids will solve everything, sort of like glasses helping those with sight issues. With glasses, once you put them on, vision will be corrected as long as the prescription is correct. Unfortunately, with hearing aids, it’s not that simple. Hearing aids are amplifiers and their job is to make sounds louder. We may hear with our ears but we listen with our brains. If the hearing aids are programmed appropriately, the communication partner may not need to speak louder…but they will need to make an effort to communicate more appropriately to accommodate the hearing loss.

We hear with our ears but we listen with our brains.

In other words, our brain interprets the sound that we hear to give the sound meaning. Most of those with hearing loss have an inner ear hearing loss that occurs in the cochlea, a small snail-shaped tunnel in the bone of the skull, just behind the ear. When the tiny sensory cells in the cochlea are damaged, not only does someone have difficulty hearing but sounds aren’t as clear as they used to be. Think of the sensory cells as keys on a piano. Now, picture someone playing your favorite song on a piano that has keys that are missing or out of tune. The song won’t sound clear and your brain must try to fill in the blanks. That is what it is like for those with a hearing loss. Hearing aids will make the tune louder, but not necessarily clearer.

Here’s what you can do to help improve communication with those with hearing loss:

1. Get the listener’s attention before speaking.
In other words, do a “Sound Check” You may not be heard when speaking from another room or if the listener is near a source of noise.

2. Talk face to face
Lip movement, facial expression, and gestures are an important part of conversation.

3. Speak at a slower pace and speak clearly
Avoid over-emphasizing, but enunciate consonants with care.

4. Maintain the volume of your voice throughout each sentence without dropping the volume at the end of each sentence.

5. When speaking, avoid obstructing your face or mouth with your hands, gum chewing, smoking or eating.

6. Avoid noisy background situations
For example, turn off TV; pick a quieter restaurant, etc.

7. If you’re misunderstood, rephrase your comments and avoid repeating the same words.

8. Give clues when changing topics.

Taking a little bit of time to consider your communication partner who has hearing loss will make it easier and more enjoyable for the both of you. And, there’s no easier way to tell someone you care about them by making an effort to ensure better communication.

How to Take Care of Pesky Ear Wax!

August 24, 2015

 
There are some simple home treatments that help keep your ear canals clear of wax and keep your hearing aids from malfunctioning when too much wax builds up. Here are some suggestions to continue experiencing uninterrupted optimal hearing, with or without hearing aids.

First, a few words of caution:
If you happen to have a hole in your eardrum, should never put any solutions in the ear unless directed by a doctor to do so. Also, there is a possibility that cold liquids placed in the ears can cause dizziness, so warm any solution to body temperate by holding the bottle in a closed hand for a few minutes before putting the solution into the ear canal. It may be best to have a family member assist with putting the drops in the ear to make sure the right amount is placed in the canal.

For monthly maintenance care:

There are some very effective over-the-counter cerumen (earwax) softening drops available. Debrox, by Johnson&Johnson is an effective solution if you follow the instructions closely. Another option that your Audiologist will recommend is called Audiologists Choice eardrops. Both products contain carbamide peroxide, a thicker relative of hydrogen peroxide. Using hydrogen peroxide can change the pH balance of the ear canal and cause itching and irritation. Using this close relative to hydrogen peroxide is generally a better a choice if excessive earwax is an ongoing issue.

It is not recommend that you use a bulb syringe or any other device to flush out the ears. The wax will come out on its own using the proper agent and by just giving it time. Using water to flush the ears could be painful and ultimately, counter-productive as the water can cause the wax to block off the ear completely, causing pain, itching and possibly temporary hearing loss.

For monthly preventative maintenance, using a few drops of mineral oil once a week in each ear promotes good ear canal skin moisturizing and keeps itching away. Putting these drops in your ears should be done in the evening after taking hearing aids out of the ears to prevent plugging up of the aids with the oil.

Each time you come into the office we’ll check your ears to make sure your canals are free of excessive earwax and to insure that your hearing aids are clear of wax as well. Keeping your ear canals and hearing aids wax free will not only help with better hearing acuity, but will prevent costly repairs a to check and keeping you hearing what you want to hear. Please give the office a call if you’d like us to take a look at your ear canals or your hearing aids. We’d love to help!

Wax Is the Culprit!

August 17, 2015

People using hearing aids frequently blame the hearing aids themselves when a break down happens or when they aren’t working properly. It can be extremely frustrating when the darn things are whistling or plain not working at all. Amazingly enough, most hearing aid breakdowns can actually be blamed on your own ears! Wax build up in the ear canal can cause all kinds of problems for hearing aids as well as for hearing!

When there is excessive wax in the ear canal, it can produce a barrier for sound that comes from the hearing aid. The wax barrier makes the sound bounce back to the microphone on the hearing aid, causing an annoying whistling sound. Wax can also plug up the hearing aid speaker port and make the sound quality change or cause the aid to completely stop working. The thing is, the wax accumulation may “plug up” the sound but in every other way, the hearing aid can be working perfectly fine. So, you see, wax accumulation in your ears may be your high tech hearing aid’s biggest obstacle to obtaining great hearing!

So how do you fix the problem?

Many people try to solve this problem by cleaning their ears with Q-tips, bobby pins, match sticks, or other sharp, pointy and otherwise inappropriate instruments of torture. Most of the time they push the majority of the wax deeper into the ear canal while risking injury to the sensitive skin of the canal. Irritating the skin of the ear canal can cause a dermatitis that makes the ears itch. This causes the person to want to clean their ear canal again and continue to irritate the sensitive skin in the canal. And so the cycle continues. Follow your own mother’s advice, don’t stick anything in your ear that’s bigger than your elbow!

Look for advice on home treatments in an upcoming article!

Six Things You Should Know About Tympanometry

August 10, 2015

 
What Is Tympanometry?
When you see your Audiologist for a hearing evaluation, several tests will be conducted in order to determine where the hearing loss stems from. Tympanometry is a test used to detect problems occurring in the middle ear.

What Happens During Tympanometry?
The first step in Tympanometry is to check that your ear canals are clear of wax or other debris by looking in your ear canal with a tool called an otoscope (oto means ear). The otoscope allows your Audiologist to look closely at your eardrum and the ear canal.

Next, a small, soft ear bud is placed into your ear canal that will change the air pressure in your ear canal and cause the eardrum to move back and forth. A machine will record how well the ear drum moves.

What Do I Need To Do During Tympanometry?
Tympanometry is really very simple. In fact, you don’t need to do a thing! And, even better, it’ll be over in just a matter of minutes. You can help your Audiologist get good results by not speaking, chewing or swallowing during the test. If you do, it’s not a problem but the best results are obtained when there is little to no movement by the person being tested.

What Will I Feel During Testing?
Tympanometry is not uncomfortable and shouldn’t cause any pain. It may feel a little strange to have the soft ear bud in the ear and the change in air pressure is noticeable, but not any more noticeable than an air pressure change in an airplane. You may hear a soft tone in your ear during testing.

Why Is Tympanometry Performed?
Tympanometry tells your Audiologist about the health of the middle ear system. The middle ear is composed of the three smallest bones in the body: the hammer, anvil and stirrup (or maleus, incus and stapes), some very small muscles and the Eustachian tube; the tube that runs from behind the eardrum down the back of the throat. If something is not allowing the bones to move, hearing loss can occur. Tympanometry is performed to rule out middle ear involvement in hearing loss or to determine if further testing by an ear specialist is needed.

What If My Tympanometry Results are Abnormal?
Tympanometry results that are abnormal can mean many different things. Your Audiologist will use the tympanometry results as one part of the puzzle in determining where your hearing loss is stemming from and what the next best step is. If your results are abnormal, don’t worry! Abnormal results simply mean more testing is needed. If you have a concern, talk to your Audiologist about it. She’ll be able to answer any questions you might have.