An Important First Step: The Hearing Aid Consultation

January 21, 2015

When it comes to choosing a new hearing instrument, the task can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? What questions do you ask? Who can you trust? What do hearing aids cost, anyway? All of these are great questions and all are best answered during a hearing aid consultation with your Doctor of Audiology. During the consultation, your Audiologist will do several things: first, a review of the anatomy and physiology of the ear is completed so that you can better understand where your hearing loss stems from and whether or not it is fixable medically or is permanent. Then, the consultation will continue with a review of your hearing loss in more specific terms. Next, your Audiologist will discuss your lifestyle and your needs and wants. Two people with similar hearing loss may require two very different hearing aids simply because of the difference in their lifestyle. If one person has a quiet, sedate lifestyle while the other is a very active person with multiple listening environments, the required technology to handle these differing situations will vary widely. It’s your Audiologist’s desire to understand what you want your hearing instruments to do (or NOT do) in order to determine the best possible amplification choice for your needs.

In most cases, a demonstration of the current hearing aid technology will be suggested during your consultation. Think of this like a “test drive” of a new car. How do you know what to expect if you’ve never heard what the new hearing aids can do? A demonstration can quickly show you what can be expected and can demonstrate what the “bells and whistles” might be able to do for you in your every-day listening environments. This is also a great time to see how well you can hear your spouse. Make sure you bring them along to this appointment. Their input is very valuable and even more important is making sure you can hear them well with the new hearing aids. You’ll also be able to see what the instruments might feel like if you were to choose a behind-the-ear model. A demonstration is a great way to get a first look into the world of better hearing.

Your Audiologist will then discuss what is included in your purchase. All hearing aids come with a manufacturer warranty. In most cases, the minimum warranty is a 2-year coverage for repairs through the manufacturer and a 2-year coverage for loss. There is often a deductible for a replacement of a hearing aid through the loss and damage coverage. Your Audiologist will review the specifics with you at the time of your consultation. All other services will be reviewed as well, such as in-house service and repair, the battery program and any auditory training that might be included in your purchase as well.

By the time you’ve finished with your consultation, which lasts about an hour, you should have the majority of your questions answered and have a plan of action for resolving your hearing needs. Your Audiologist will work hard to make sure you understand your hearing loss, the types of technology available to you and your choice of styles of instrument. What is included with your purchase will also be reviewed. By the end of your consultation, you should feel comfortable with your decision to move forward, having received the information necessary to make an educated decision on what’s best for you. If you are feeling unsure of what questions you should ask your Audiologist during your hearing aid consultation, please read our Guide to Better Hearing, which outlines some of the more important questions to ask. Or, feel free to contact our office directly to speak with your Doctor of Audiology today. We’d be happy to help.

How Much Sound Is Too Much Sound?

January 19, 2015

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can happen at any age. Researchers estimate that 10 million Americans suffer from permanent hearing loss caused by noise. Loud sounds can cause long-term damage to the tiny sensory hair cells called cilia (pronounced silly-uh) in the cochlea, which is our hearing organ. In some cases, those exposed to loud noise may only experience a temporary loss of sensitivity to sound. In other instances, either by repeated noise exposure or by a one-time excessively loud exposure to sound, a permanent hearing loss will occur.

Permanent hearing loss caused by loud noise exposure not only makes it difficult to hear, but speech can sound unclear as well, making it difficult at times to have a conversation with friends or family. Additionally, loud sounds can cause ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears, which is called tinnitus. Tinnitus can be annoying to those who experience it and unfortunately, it is permanent in most cases of NIHL.

So, how much is too much?
Once sounds reach 85 decibels (about as loud as a gas-powered lawn mower), exposure to the sound without ear protection can only last for approximately 8 hours without it causing damage to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea. Each time the sound is increased by 3 decibels, the amount of time that someone can safely be exposed to that sound without fear of permanent damage is cut in half. By the time the sound reaches 100 decibels, the safe exposure time limit is about 15 minutes. 100 decibels is about as loud as a chainsaw.

Protect your ears
So, what can you do about it? Start by having your hearing tested. It’s always a good idea to have a baseline in order to monitor any changes to your hearing that might happen in the future. And, you may be unaware of how much you may be missing already. Second, make sure to invest in good ear protection. Using ear protection in any instance of loud noise will make sure that you do not experience more hearing loss due to noise exposure. Your audiologist can make a suggestion about which of the different types of custom hearing protection products designed for a variety of noisy environments are best for you.

Call us today to schedule your hearing exam. We’ll be glad to test your hearing, make suggestions on how to best protect your ears from further damage and make suggestions for better hearing, too. We care about your ears and are glad to help in any way we can.

Let’s Get Loopy – Loop Systems for Hearing Aids Improve Hearing

January 12, 2015

Recently, the 2nd Annual International Hearing Loops conference was held in Washington D.C. in conjunction with the Hearing Loss Association of America conference. 250 attendees, all members of the “Get In The Loop” campaign, gathered to discuss loop systems, the benefit of telecoils and how to get the message out to the public about the benefits of loop systems and the communication access they provide.

Even though they offer improved sound quality, are easy to install and are cost effective, hearing aid loop systems are not well known to hearing aid users. When hearing aids fall short of providing better hearing on the TV, when listening in the presence of background noise or while talking on the phone, a loop system can easily close the gap toward better hearing.


What is a Loop System?
Loop systems are a type of assistive listening device that work in conjunction with a hearing aid’s t-coil to help hard of hearing people hear speech better, especially in background noise. Other types of assistive listening devices include such things as FM systems and Infrared systems. Unlike with FM and Infrared, there is no external accessory needed in order to connect to and use a loop system. The only requirement is that the hearing aid is equipped with a Telecoil, also known as a T-coil or T switch.

What does a Loop System Do?
Imagine being able to hear sound from the TV or stereo system from anywhere in the house. If you’d like to wash dishes in the kitchen and listen to the TV in the family room at the same time, you can. If you don’t want to miss the score of the big game but want to get a snack from the fridge, you don’t have to worry. With a Loop system, the sound is delivered directly to the hearing aids and stays exactly the same as you move from room to room, as long as you stay within the loop. It improves sound quality by allowing the hearing aids to adjust the incoming sound for your specific hearing loss and then delivering the sound to both ears simultaneously. You can also set up the system to deliver sound from the phone directly into the hearing aids, allowing for binaural sound and improved sound quality. Loop systems can also be used in meeting rooms and theaters, churches and even in the car or RV!

How does a Loop System Work?
Loop systems consist of three basic parts: an input device, a loop amplifier and loop wiring. Lastly, you’ll need hearing aids with Tcoils in order to pick up the signal from the loop wiring. The input device is the device you want to listen to such as the TV, a stereo or MP3 player, a microphone or almost any other audio device. The loop amplifier plugs directly into any wall socket while the input device plugs into the amplifier. The loop wire is placed around the perimeter of any room or listening area and the two ends of the wire then connect to the amplifier. Once turned on, the loop is active. To pick up sound, simply turn your hearing aids to the Tcoil mode while you are inside the looped area and sound will be instantly directed to both ears.

What does a Loop System Cost?
Loop systems are probably the most inexpensive of all assistive listening devices. A good system will only cost several hundred dollars, unlike some integrated FM systems, which can cost thousands. The issue is that you may have to have several loop systems for different areas. There are small “pad” loop systems that you can place under your favorite La-Z-Boy recliner that are very inexpensive. With the new focus on looping public areas such as at churches, theaters, grocery stores and public meeting halls, groups like Hearing Loss Association of America are making it more likely that you will have the opportunity to use a loop system at no charge when you are in a public venue. Be sure to ask if a loop system is available next time you visit a noisy place. You might be surprised.

If you are having difficulty hearing clearly, even with your hearing aids, ask your audiologist if a loop system is right for you. A loop system can make communication and listening more enjoyable for everyone.

10 Steps For Maintaining the Value of Your Hearing Aids

January 5, 2015

Have you noticed a decrease in the performance of your hearing aids? Do you ever feel that you just aren’t hearing as well with them as you would like? Here is the most important question: has it been more than six months since your last visit to your audiologist? Often times a routine clean and check of your hearing aids can make a world of difference in the sound quality they produce and sometimes, even in the power they provide. Regular in-house servicing can improve your hearing aid’s performance and functionality. Ultimately, you are likely to maintain the value and extend the life of your hearing aids by doing so.

Having a regularly scheduled checkup is important because hearing aids have several parts that should be cleaned or replaced regularly in order to maintain optimal performance. Filters and wax traps are designed to decrease the likelihood of moisture, dust and debris collecting on the microphones and receivers. With time, these filters will clog, which will diminish the sound quality. Often times it will seem as though the hearing aid has stopped working all together. Regular checkups will decrease the likelihood of this possibility.

One style in particular, the behind the ear (BTE) hearing aid requires regular maintenance because of its use of tubing to relay sound from the hearing aid to the ear canal. The ear mold tubing and the ear hooks that are the attachment point for the tubing require periodic replacement. As the tubing ages, it will become stiff and discolored. Replacing the tubing will provide more flexibility, comfort and a better fitting ear mold. Routine maintenance of these parts is a simple way to keep your hearing aids in good working order.

There is a lot that can be done at home on a daily basis as well. Here are some tips for maintaining your hearing aids:

1.    Clean and disinfect your hearing aids daily to avoid buildup of wax and debris.
2.    Turn the aids off when not in use.
3.    Remove the hearing aids before using hair products.
4.    Do not expose your hearing aids to excessive heat, moisture or humidity.
5.    Do not wear your hearing aids while bathing, showering or swimming.
6.    Keep away from heat sources such as stoves, heat registers, hair dryers or open flame.
7.    Avoid dropping your hearing aids or allowing the instrument to be subjected to rugged handling.
8.    Keep away from pets.
9.    Keep fresh batteries in your hearing aids to avoid losing battery power unexpectedly.
10.    Invest in a drying kit to remove moisture accumulation from daily wear.

Keeping these tips in mind and visiting our office every six months is extremely important to the functionality of your hearing aids and to your overall hearing healthcare. If it has been a while since you have been in to our office, please call to schedule a routine clean and check appointment. Maintaining the health of your hearing aids is the best way to maintain the value of your investment.

It’s Not That Bad – Mild Hearing Loss Can Cause Changes In The Brain

December 29, 2014

When hearing loss is mild, it can be difficult to recognize. It’s sort of like how a window gets dirty. It can happen gradually – so gradually you might not even recognize it until someone points it out to you. When it comes to the dirty window, usually your mother-in-law will be the one to point out your poor housekeeping skills. With hearing loss, the person who notices it first is usually a family member or loved one who notices you’ve started to say “what” more often or that they’ve had to start filling in the gaps in conversation after attending a party. Or, more noticeably, they’ve started to notice that the TV volume is so loud that the neighbors know what shows you watch on Saturday night.

Mild hearing loss makes hearing soft sounds difficult and hearing clearly in the presence of background noise can be much more difficult than it was in the past. Often, people with mild hearing loss report that it takes much more energy to listen, especially in a noisy environment. It’s not that you can’t hear, it’s just not as clear as it once was.

PrintThe fact that people with mild hearing loss can do pretty well in most situations makes them much less likely to do something about it. As an audiologist, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “yeah, but it’s not that bad, is it?” My answer is generally, “you have hearing loss or you do not. There is no in between.” If you have hearing loss, hearing aids are required. Period. And here’s why:

When any of the five senses is altered – whether it’s due to illness, injury or just due to the gold ‘ole “accumulation of birthdays,” the brain reorganizes and adjusts to the alteration. In the case of hearing loss – even mild hearing loss, researchers* found that the brain’s size was actually smaller in the hearing areas. This smaller brain size suggests deterioration in the hearing center, which has been linked to difficulty understanding complex speech like what you would find in a noisy environment.

So, you see, when you have any amount of hearing loss, the sooner you get hearing aids, the better. It’s good for your brain.

*Pearlman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Jonathan Peele, Ph.D. (Aug 31 news release)