Tagged: hearing loss

Sometimes Good Hearing Aids Aren’t Enough

September 14, 2015

ThinkerSometimes, good hearing aids just aren’t enough. There are so many things that go into “good hearing,” from having a good diagnostic test to choosing the right hearing healthcare professional to purchasing the right instrument for your hearing loss. Once you’ve gone through the process, the last thing you want to hear is that you might still have trouble hearing in some instances, especially in situations with background noise. But for many people, this is exactly the case and it can be very frustrating!

So why is it that good hearing aids are just not enough?
Well, it generally has to do with the ear more than the hearing aids. You see, when there is hearing loss, there is damage to the ear in some capacity. That damage cannot generally be undone. So, while hearing aids make sound louder, the sound still has to be processed through the damaged system. The damaged system can cause distortion of the sound, which makes it difficult to hear clearly at times. In addition, we listen with our brains, not with our ears. So, once the sound makes it past the damaged ear, the sound has to be processed and made sense of. If there is any change in the brain from long-term hearing loss or if the brain cannot hold on to information for an adequate amount of time, what is heard can be lost. The listener has only one recourse – ask for the speaker to repeat themselves. Inevitably, the response is, “aren’t you wearing your hearing aids?”

So what can you do when even good hearing aids aren’t enough?
There are several different things to try if you’re having trouble hearing in noise, even with your noise reduction hearing aids. The first is a system called LACE (Listening and Communication Enhancement). LACE is an auditory training program done at home on your computer. It is a month-long intensive program that requires 30 minutes of your day to improve the way the brain uses the information it gets. Another good way to help improve hearing in noise is a system like ReSound’s Unite Mini Microphone. The Mini Mic can be clipped to your speaking partner, left on a podium or set in the middle of a table during a round-table discussion, dinner or meeting. The Mini Mic is a small device that sends sound directly to the hearing aids. By putting the Mini Mic close to the person you’d like to hear, you are essentially decreasing the distance between the speaker and the ear and thus, background noise interference can be reduced significantly.

If you have noise reduction hearing aids but are still having difficulty hearing in noise, talk with your Audiologist about the other options that are available to help improve the way you hear and communicate. We’re here to help!

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.

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!