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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.

How Do We Hear?

August 3, 2015

 
The sound of children laughing, birds chirping at the first sign of spring, laughing with your childhood friend over coffee…hearing is something we as humans need in order to have connection to others and to the environment that surrounds us. We often take it for granted – until our hearing starts to change and we notice we’re missing some of those “everyday sounds.” So, how does the ear work exactly? The answer is that the ear is complex and many different things have to work together in order for us to hear.

Hearing is a complex process that begins with a series of events that change sound waves in the air into electrical signals that are ultimately processed by the brain. First, sound is funneled into the ear through the pinna. The pinna is the part of the ear that you see on the outside and includes the earlobe, which is where women often place their earrings. Sound waves enter the outer ear canal after being funneled from the pinna and travel a short distance to the eardrum, a very thin piece of skin. The eardrum vibrates from the incoming sound waves, and then sends the vibrations to three small bones in the middle ear. These bones are the smallest in the body. Their medical names are the malleus, incus, and stapes. You may have learned about them in school, where they are often called the hammer, anvil and stirrup. The small middle ear bones amplify (or increase) the sound vibrations and send them to the inner ear, which is called the cochlea. The cochlea has a snail-like shape and is filled with fluid. Sitting in the fluid are small hair-like cells, called cilia. The cilia are like keys on a piano – those closest to the outside detect high pitch sounds like birds, bells and whistles. They’re also important for understanding the consonants in speech. The cilia that are located toward the inside of the cochlea detect low pitch sounds like engine noise and vowels. When the cilia are stimulated by the fluid moving in the cochlea, certain chemicals rush in, creating an electrical signal. The hearing or “auditory” nerve carries this electrical signal to the brain, which translates it into information that we recognize and understand as sound.

The ear is an amazingly complex organ. It’s a wonder that more things don’t go wrong with our ears. To keep your ears working well, make sure to wear ear protection when you are around loud sounds, eat a healthy diet and follow your doctor’s recommendations for the medications you take. It’s also a good idea to have your hearing checked every couple of years to make sure you are hearing everything you want to hear.

Stop That Racket! I Have Hyperacusis!

July 27, 2015

Hearing loss can be devastating. It can cause feelings of isolation, depression and anger. Hearing aids can help those with hearing loss overcome these feelings and return to productive, happy and successful lives. Imagine having the opposite problem, though. Expressions: Loud noiseImagine being the one in approximately 50,000 individuals that suffer feelings of isolation and depression from a condition known as hyperacusis, a disorder that arises from a problem in the way the brain’s central auditory processing center perceives noise. Individuals with hyperacusis have difficulty tolerating sounds that wouldn’t seem loud to almost anyone else. Sounds such as the water running in the sink or a honking horn can cause everything from irritation to pain for those who suffer from hyperacusis. Although all sounds may be perceived as too loud, high frequency sounds, in particular, are often perceived as extremely loud, something the mother with hyperacusis can attest to when her baby is crying at 3 in the morning.

The quality of life for those with hyperacusis can be significantly affected. Imagine trying to work in construction, or even as a teacher in an elementary school if you happened to be so unlucky as to be hypersensitive to sound. Hyperacusis can make it difficult, if not impossible to function in a typical listening environment with all of its ambient noises. Hyperacusis can also contribute to the development of phonophobia (fear of normal sounds). Can you blame them? If nearly every part of regular life was uncomfortable for your ears, wouldn’t you isolate yourself, too?

Causes Of Hyperacusis
The exact reason for the development of hyperacusis is unknown. However, those who suffer from hyperacusis often report some sort of trauma before hyperacusis developed. Some common types of trauma that are associated with the development of hyperacusis include:

• Head injury
• Ear damage from heavy metals, chemical toxins or medications
• Air bag deployment
• Viral infections involving the inner ear or facial nerve such as Bell’s palsy
• Untreated Temporo-mandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

Several neurologic conditions are associated with the development of hyperacusis, as well. These include:

• Post-traumatic stress disorder
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Some forms of epilepsy
• Depression
• Migraines

Diagnosing Hyperacusis
If you or someone you know suspects they might be suffering from hyperacusis, the best place to start is with a conversation with an audiologist or regular physician. It might be necessary to be evaluated by an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) but the initial consultation is likely to include a full audiologic evaluation to determine where in the system things might be malfunctioning. Your audiologist can answer any questions you might have at that time, as well.

Treatment of Hyperacusis
There are no known cures for effectively eliminating hyperacusis and no specific corrective surgical or medical procedure to effectively treat hyperacusis. Some find that sound therapy, which is used to “retrain” the auditory processing center of the brain to accept everyday sounds is helpful. What is NOT effective is to wear earplugs of any kind. It seems like earplugs would be the perfect solution as they decrease the volume of the sound to the wearer but in actuality, by wearing earplugs, those with hyperacusis can essentially make the ears more sensitive to sound.

If you or someone you know suffers from hypersensitivity to sound, give us a call today to discuss your unique situation. We’d be glad to help!

Invisible In The Canal Hearing Aids

July 20, 2015

 
In 1994 Starkey, an American manufacturer of hearing aids became the first to offer the smallest of the custom hearing aids, the completely-in-the-canal (CIC), to people with hearing loss. Since that time, technology advancements have allowed a rapid development in the miniaturization of hearing aids – even the smallest of hearing aids have gotten smaller. Starkey now offers a hearing aid they have deemed an Invisible In The Canal (IIC) hearing aid, called the SoundLens, offering an even smaller hearing aid to those looking the most discreet hearing aid choice.

Invisible-in-the-canal hearing aids fit deeply into the ear canal providing a discreet hearing aid fitting that is nearly invisible to the casual observer. Besides being small in size, the IIC delivers sound at close range to the eardrum which can improve the sound quality and volume. They are easily removed by a small strand of Teflon string which is attached to the face of the hearing aid. Potential benefits of the Starkey SoundLens hearing aids include a reduction of the occlusion effect, which is a perceived increase in the volume of the wearers own voice, an absence of wind noise and the ability to use the telephone without making modifications to the phone or the hearing aid.

Who Can Use Them?
The new Invisible In The Canal hearing aids are ideally suited for mild to moderate hearing losses, including individuals with fairly severe high frequency sensorineural losses. With Starkey’s amazing feedback suppression system, even those requiring quite a bit of power to overcome their hearing loss have the opportunity to wear a small hearing aid again. In all fairness, the IIC hearing aids are not suitable for all types of hearing loss and a thorough evaluation by an audiologist is the first step in determining if an IIC is the right choice.

How Much Do They Cost?
Amazingly, the Invisible In The Canal hearing aids can be very affordable. Talk to your audiologist about your hearing loss, your budget and what you need the hearing aid to accomplish in your listening environments and he or she will be able to help guide you to the best choice for your specific needs. Be sure to ask what comes along with the hearing aids (warranty, service, batteries etc) as these affect the cost as well.

Things To Consider
IIC hearing aids like the SoundLens from Starkey often require a more precise fitting than the typical custom hearing aids. Because they fit deep into the ear canal, the impression taking process must be more precise and may need to be redone if an exact fit isn’t achieved the first time. An exact fit means a comfortable fitting instrument in the ear canal and an excellent sound quality but to achieve the best outcome, the wearer may require several return visits to the audiologist before the fitting process is complete.

If you think that an Invisible In The Canal hearing aid might be the right choice for you, call our office for a no-obligation consultation with one of our Audiologists. We’d love to show you how great the new technology really is!

What Are Receiver In The Canal Hearing Aids?

July 13, 2015

Once you’ve finally decided to move forward with the process of purchasing hearing aids, how do you know what hearing aid will be best? How do you decide between the many choices? Luckily, you won’t have to go back to school just to understand the jargon and technology behind hearing aids. That’s what a partnership with your hearing healthcare provider is all about. You can trust that he or she is going to suggest the best possible solution for your hearing loss as well as one that fits your budget. Part of that discussion will focus on the styles of hearing aids that are available. One of the more popular styles these days is the Receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) hearing aid.

woman listening to gossipThe Receiver-in-the-canal hearing aid or RIC is a type of behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid. RIC’s consist of a case which houses the majority of the working parts of the hearing aid and a speaker/dome component. The case sits behind the pinna, which is the scientific name for the part of the ear that you see on the side of your head. In the case of the RIC, the case has a small speaker wire attached which travels down the front of the pinna and into the ear canal. The speaker itself sits in the ear canal and is responsible for producing sound. The dome on the end of the speaker is a small silicone cap that keeps the ear canal from being injured with the insertion of the speaker, while allowing for a comfortable grip on the ear canal itself, which prevents the speaker and its attached wiring from slipping out of the ear canal.

RICs can be used for mild to profound hearing loss. They are available in all the technology levels, making the RIC hearing aid a popular choice. One of the other benefits of this hearing aid is that it has a very effective moisture protection system, making it less likely to have corrosion over time. As the majority of the electrical components are located outside of the ear canal, the chance for earwax damaging the components is reduced as well. Both of these factors can decrease the likelihood of needing a repair and increases the life expectancy of the hearing aid greatly.

The Receiver In The Ear hearing aid is a great choice for just about anyone. Its smaller behind the ear components, the power availability and the fact that it is less likely to require repairs make the RIC a natural choice. If you’d like to know more about the Receiver In The Canal hearing aid, please give us a call. We’ll set up a no-obligation consultation so that you can determine if this type of hearing aid is right for you. Call Today! We’d be glad to help!