Don’t Let Moisture Damage Rain on Your Parade

January 11, 2016

Snoqualmie Falls Washington State USAOne of the most common reasons for hearing aid malfunctions is moisture damage. This sort of damage is frustrating because, in most cases, the wearer didn’t get in the shower while wearing the hearing aid or accidently jump in the pool or get caught outside in a sudden downpour. In general, hearing aid wearers try very hard to protect their investment and follow their hearing healthcare provider’s advice for care and maintenance.

Hearing aid manufacturers are just as motivated to find a solution to moisture-related hearing aid failures as hearing aid wearers are. GNReSound, a hearing aid manufacturer that isn’t wet behind the ears in terms of hearing aid technology advancements has recently partnered with the company P2i, a world leader in liquid-repellent nano-coatings to develop iSolate nanotech. This thin protective covering, now found in all GNReSound hearing aids, promises to greatly decrease the number of hearing aid repairs due to moisture damage.

“Nano” is a Greek word meaning, “dwarf.” iSolate nanotech works by establishing a thin, protective shield on all internal and external components of the hearing aid. This protective barrier bonds to the hearing aid components at the molecular level, ensuring a thorough and complete covering of all components while continuing to allow sound to enter the system. GNReSound recently conducted a review of 50,000 hearing aids sold in the six months following the introduction of the protective coating. It found that the iSolate technology decreased moisture and debris related repairs by 50 percent.

The introduction of iSolate nanotech means that hearing aid wearers don’t have to worry about moisture raining on their parade. With GNReSound hearing aids, wearers can be assured that their instruments will remain in optimal working condition for much longer than hearing aids of the past, reducing the cost of long-term hearing aid use and improving overall satisfaction.

Be informed of the effects of medication on hearing and balance

January 4, 2016

Before altering or discontinuing the use of any prescribed medication, consult your physician.

Heartburn, nausea, confusion, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, loss of coordination; mood or mental changes: these are some of the possible side effects of…Aspirin. That’s right; not a toxic cancer drug or a drug used for some obscure disease but one of the most commonly prescribed and over-the-counter medications used to treat pain. It shouldn’t be surprising that many commonly prescribed medications are potentially hazardous to the ears. As we learn how to improve and prolong life with amazing scientific breakthroughs in pharmaceuticals, we must also be aware that the medications being offered may cause other health issues. As an audiologist, my concern is with the possible increase in hearing and/or balance disturbances that these medications can cause and making my patients aware of these potential side effects.

Every physician uses the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) as part of their arsenal in deciding which medication to best prescribe for their patients. The PDR contains a description of many of the medications available today including their uses, dosages and of course, side effects. Here’s the interesting thing: more than 300 (of nearly700) of the side effects listed in the PDR can influence hearing and/or balance function. Some of those side effects include:

• Hearing loss
• Hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound)
• Blood pressure increase
• Water retention
• Tinnitus (ringing in the ears in the absence of sound)
• Roaring in the ears
• Vertigo (a sensation that the world is moving)
• Capillary fragility

Some of these side effects relate directly to hearing and balance. Others might be less obvious to the casual observer. For example, “capillary fragility” can prevent the tiny structures in the inner ear that are vital to hearing from receiving the nutrients and blood supply they need. A lack of oxygen and nutrition leads to lack of function and possibly to cell death. This in turn, can cause hearing loss and/or dizziness that can sometimes be a permanent change. Medications that affect the amount of fluid in your body can also wreak havoc. The fluid-filled hearing and balance structures of the inner ear normally function independently of the body’s overall fluid/blood system. The fluid (called endolymph) that bathes the sensory cells of the inner ear, however, must maintain a constant volume to function correctly. If a medication changes the volume or composition of the body’s fluid or blood supply, the amount of endolymph in the inner ear system, may fluctuate as well. This fluctuation is thought to cause the symptoms of endolymphatic hydrops or Meniere’s disease, which causes pressure or fullness in the ears, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hearing loss, dizziness and imbalance.

The point of this story is not to worry you about the possibility of side effects your medications might cause. It’s likely that your doctor understands what you might experience when taking your prescription but the benefit to your health is greater than the side effects the medication may cause. You should never stop a medication without talking to your doctor first. But if you have concerns about your hearing or balance or are noticing something different with your hearing or balance system when taking a medication, talk to your doctor about it. Being informed is truly the best way to sustain optimal health.

Innovation at its best is found in GN Resound

December 28, 2015

If you are familiar with Bluetooth headsets at all, you’ve probably heard of Jabra. Jabra headsets, well known for their comfortable fit and exceptional flexibility are a popular choice for the tech-savvy hands-free cell phone user. What you may not have heard is that the European headset company GN Netcom, managed by GN Store Nord of Denmark produces Jabra. GN Store Nord also owns GN ReSound, one of the most successful hearing aid manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe. Some of the success GN ReSound has seen in recent years has been from its innovative technology.

One of the more notable innovations GN ReSound brought to the hearing industry came to market in 2003 with the release of the first ever open-fit hearing aid. The Air quickly became the instrument of choice as it provided hearing aid wearers with a cosmetically appealing instrument that didn’t block the ear canal, instantly improving wearer satisfaction. In 2008, another innovation called “be by ReSound” introduced the concept of “remote microphone” placement. In this model, the microphone is separated from the custom-made body of the hearing aid by a tube that wraps around the bowl of the ear and tucks up into what is known as the helix lock, effectively blocking wind noise interference. In 2010, ReSound introduced the Alera, a premium digital hearing aid that set new standards for wireless connectivity with external audio devices such as cell phones and televisions. The Alera incorporates GN ReSound’s trademark sound processing technology called Surround Sound. It works just like a surround sound system, splitting sound streams into bass (low frequencies) and treble (high frequencies) while distinguishing differences in directionality in order to locate where sounds are coming from more successfully. Surround Sound provides the listener with distortion-free sound quality and optimized speech clarity.

While the constant pushing of the envelope to develop innovative technology has led to improvements in sound quality and speech understanding in hearing aids, GN ReSound offers increased freedom, smaller sized instruments and ease of use to its customers. It is no wonder that GN Store Nord, through its daughter company GN ReSound, is one of the most successful hearing aid manufacturer’s in the U.S. and Europe.

Infrared sheds some light on hearing better in noise

December 21, 2015

Once you’ve made a large investment in better hearing, it can be frustrating to find that the hearing aids do not solve all of your hearing difficulties. New technology is amazing! Hearing aids are fantastic in most situations! They aren’t human, however, and they can’t solve all of the problems a hearing loss can cause in different environments. It becomes necessary, at times, to augment the hearing aid’s function with accessories. Infrared systems are one type of accessory and are most commonly used in the home with TV sets and other audio equipment. They help make speech more intelligible by decreasing interference from background noise. They’re also a great asset at the theater, in large meeting rooms or in concert venues.

What is an Infrared system?
Infrared (IR) listening systems transmit sound by invisible light beams. An IR system converts an auditory signal into infrared light and carries it by light emitting diodes to the infrared receiver. The receiver converts the information back into an auditory signal and delivers it directly to the hearing aid or to the ear. Infrared systems improve hearing by decreasing the distance between the sound source and the ear. This alleviates such things as reverberation off furniture, bare walls and hard floors. This system also improves the signal-to-noise ratio, making speech more easily heard over background noise.

What are the negatives of an Infrared system?
The infrared signal is limited to line of sight transmission. This means that if you aren’t sitting within a 160° angle of the transmitting light emitting diodes (LEDs), you won’t pick up a signal or that the signal will be degraded. The line of sight transmission also means that if someone walks in front of the LEDs, you may lose the signal momentarily. Line of sight transmission can be a positive, as well. Because the diodes must “see” the receiver, there is no spill over from room to room. This makes it a secure form of sound transmission in conference rooms and courtrooms where confidentiality is a concern.

Another negative is the infrared’s poor flexibility. Because of the use of light for transmission, IR systems can’t be used outdoors. Sunlight affects the transmission and the large open area allows the light to disperse too quickly, degrading the signal.

An additional pitfall is that infrared systems are not compatible with one another. Different systems will operate on different frequencies and only systems working on the same frequency are compatible. This means that if you would like to take your infrared system to the movies, for example, you would have to verify which system or which “carrier frequency” the theater’s infrared system works on. The nice thing is that many theaters now have infrared systems installed and theatergoers can borrow a headset at no extra cost.

What do Infrared systems cost?
One of the benefits of Infrared systems is they are relatively inexpensive. For a system with excellent sound quality and premium transmission technology, you’ll pay $300 to $400. If you’d like to have more than one headset, plan to add another $100 or so. Other less expensive options are available but the quality of sound is sometimes poor and longevity of the product is also a common complaint with some cheaper models.

Hearing better is a great thing. Don’t be frustrated by the fact that hearing aids may not solve all of your hearing needs. Accessories are available to help improve the listening environment when your hearing aid investment falls short. Infrared systems, especially for home TV watching, can be a great asset and will improve your enjoyment of listening to the sounds you’ve been missing.

How long should hearing aids last?

December 14, 2015

When you are considering a hearing aid purchase, there are bound to be questions you need to have answered prior to your final decision. One of the more common questions I hear is “How long should a hearing aid last?” When making a large investment, it’s important to consider the longevity of that investment in order to make the best decision for your budget, lifestyle and needs. Many people are surprised that there is a difference in typical life expectancy between styles of hearing aids.

Team of 5 business people working on some calculationsThe typical life span of most hearing aids is five to seven years. The life expectancy for a completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aid is slightly shorter compared to the other styles because it resides in a hostile environment every day. The outer ear canal is a warm, moist cavern that has a slow accumulation of wax and oils. Over time, the CIC can have wax accumulation on the receiver, which generates the sound that is heard by the ear. Alternatively, it may develop corrosion on the internal components, decreasing its functionality and/or sound quality. Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids generally have a longer life expectancy because the working parts are inside a sealed case. The part of the hearing aid that delivers the sound to the ear has no working parts, so it can be removed from the hearing aid and washed under warm water with mild soap on an as-needed basis. The newer Canal Receiver Technology (CRT) also called Receiver in the Canal (RIC) technology is sort of its own breed. This instrument has most of the working parts encased in a piece that sits behind the ear, but the receiver is in the canal, as its name implies. The nice thing about the CRT/RIC technology is that the receivers can be replaced for a nominal cost at your hearing healthcare provider’s office if wax or other debris degrades the sound quality, saving you the cost of a repair by the manufacturer. The life expectancy of the CRT/RIC is similar to the BTE.

No matter which style you choose, hearing aids need to be checked periodically to ensure they are working properly. We recommend having your hearing aids checked every six months. If you have neglected these important checks, your instruments may not be in the best working order and you may be experiencing less than optimal performance and sound quality. Regular check-ups will ensure a long lasting hearing aid that improves your everyday listening to the best of its ability. In addition, these semi-annual checks allow your provider to make sure the hearing aids function as expected. If your hearing or listening environments have changed, the hearing aids can be modified to better suit your needs at your semi-annual check-up. If it has been a while since you’ve had your hearing aids checked, call today and get your check-up scheduled. And, if you are new to hearing aids, make your investment last longer by determining to make your check-ups a priority. You’ll be glad you did.