Category Archives: Better Hearing

Better Hearing and Speech Month

May was designated as the Better Hearing and Speech Month by the American Speech-Language-Hearing  Association (ASHA)  in 1927.  The goals of Better Hearing and Speech month is to bring awareness to hearing and speech deficits, educate the population on how these issues effect the community, and empower individuals to take action if they suspect they have a speech or hearing deficit.

Hearing loss is the third most common health issue in the United States, effecting one in every eight people over the age of 12.  Difficulty communicating with others can lead individuals to be withdrawn, negatively impacting them both socially and emotionally.  The primary goal of an audiologist, when working with these patients, is to provide the tools they need to maintain an active lifestyle and minimize the effect of their hearing loss.  The National Institute of Health (NIH) developed a short questionnaire* to see if you could benefit from having your hearing evaluated by an audiologist.

NIH QUESTIONNAIRE:

  1. Do you feel frustrated when talking to members of your family because you have difficulty hearing them?
  2. Do you have difficulty hearing or understanding co-workers, clients, or customers?
  3. Do you feel restricted or limited by a hearing problem?
  4. Do you have difficulty hearing when visiting friends, relatives, or neighbors?
  5. Do you have trouble hearing in the movies or in the theater?
  6. Does a hearing problem cause you to argue with family members?
  7. Do you have trouble hearing the TV or radio at levels that are loud enough for others?
  8. Do you feel that any difficulty with your hearing limits your personal or social life?
  9. Do you have trouble hearing family or friends when you are together in a restaurant?

If you answered “YES” to three or more of above questions, feel free to contact our clinic at (904) 339-0350 to schedule an appointment with a provider.  Together you will develop an individualized plan to improve your hearing healthcare.

*Adapted from: Newman, C.W., Weinstein, B.E., Jacobson, G.P., & Hug, G.A. (1990). The Hearing Handicap Inventory for Adults [HHIA]: Psychometric adequacy and audiometric correlates. Ear Hear, 11, 430-433.

Why Do Masks Make Hearing So Difficult?

One of the biggest changes that has occurred due to COVID -19 has been the need to wear a mask when in public. The positive side to wearing a mask is the proven decrease in transmission of COVID-19. The downside? The inability to read lips and watch the facial expressions of those around us. Many people have reported that their hearing has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic. While it’s certainly possible that a person’s hearing can decrease over time, what may also be happening is the sudden inability to lip read.

Most people use facial cues to understand spoken language but those with even mild hearing loss rely on watching peoples’ mouths to help “fill in the blanks” in conversation. This skill is even more helpful when in a noisy environment and the background noise drowns out speech. You may not have realized how helpful lip reading can be or how often you use it until it is no longer available.

The brain utilizes several pieces of information to understand speech. A large portion is from the hearing system but it also gathers information from the context of the conversation and from visual cues, or lip reading. The masks effectively remove one of these pieces of information which forces you to rely more heavily on your hearing and the context. For those with hearing loss the brain is left with even fewer pieces of information to understand speech.

Hearing aids can help amplify speech to make it easier to understand what others are saying but it will not alleviate the difficulty associated with the inability to watch people’s mouths. Just keep in mind that the use of masks is temporary and once you have access to lip reading again, in combination with hearing aids, you will be able to more easily talk with friends and family.

For more information call our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule a hearing evaluation.

New Hearing Aid Technology for Severe Hearing Loss

One of the industries leading hearing aid manufacturers, Phonak, has released their newest product for patients with severe to profound hearing loss that enables users to experiences a unique sound quality as well as the perks of new technology.

The Naida Paradise is designed to enhance soft speech as well as reduce background noise, making it functional for users in both quiet and noisier environments.

These devices can be connected to Bluetooth enabled devices such as cell phones and tablets, allowing users to have access to all aspects of their life in which communication and understanding is important. Phone calls, videos, music, and even audiobooks can be streamed from a connected device right into the hearing aids. Connectivity to the myPhonak app also enables users to have a remote-control right on their smart devices, allowing them to make adjustments for their particular listening situations.

The Naida Paradise is now also available in a rechargeable option! The hassle of changing batteries and always keeping some on hand when out of the house is now eliminated!

Presidential Hearing Aids

Did you that Ronald Reagan was the first President to wear hearing aids while he was in office? He was 72 years old and was fit with a device that was considered “barely visible”.  According to the famous article from the New York Times in September of 1983, President Reagan started losing his hearing after a pistol was fired in close proximity to his right ear. The change in technology and size is what prompted the President’s decision to wear hearing aids and the public announcement. Prior to this, reporters had to speak loudly during interviews, particularly if they were on his right side. Thanks to President Reagan, there was a decrease in the negative stigma towards hearing aids.

REAGAN BEGINS TO WEAR A HEARING AID IN PUBLIC – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

President H.W. Bush also was an advocate for those with hearing loss. In 1990, President Bush passed the American Disabilities Act which helped provide assistive listening options in patrons in public venues. Although, he did not wear hearing aids during his presidency, he did after he served.

The second sitting President to be fit with hearing aids was Bill Clinton. He was much younger than President Reagan at age 51. Because he was much younger, he encouraged others in his generation to get their hearing tested. He also shed light on the effects of noise induced hearing loss as he was an avid saxophone player. In 2013, he and his daughter Chelsea volunteered with the Starkey Hearing Foundation in Africa, where nearly 400 people were provided with hearing aids.

History of Presidents with Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids (lifestylehearingsolutions.com)

30 Years Later, Ronald Reagan’s Hearing Aid Fitting Still Reverberates Around the World | Business Wire

3 Reasons Why Your Hearing Aids are Whistling

If you wear hearing aids, you’re going to experience whistling, or feedback, at some point in the life of the device. Here we will discuss some common causes of feedback and what you can do about it.

How does hearing aid feedback occur? 

Hearing aid feedback occurs when sound that was supposed to go into your ear canal leaves your ear and goes back into the hearing aid microphone for a second time. The sound then gets reamplified, and this causes your hearing aids to whistle. This feedback can happen in different contexts, like when you put your hearing aids on in the morning and take them off in the evening. This is perfectly normal because the hearing aids are reacting to the sound bouncing back from your surroundings.   

However, hearing aid feedback could also be a sign that something could be wrong with your hearing aids, or they need to be cleaned. In that case it’s best to consult your hearing care professional. 

What causes my hearing aids to whistle and what can I do about it? 

Hearing aids come with feedback cancellation systems, but this doesn’t completely safeguard you from feedback. A number of things can cause your hearing aids to whistle. Here are the most common reasons for feedback and how to resolve them.

  1. A poor fit: In general, if your hearing aids are not put properly in your ear, it gives the sound a chance to escape and re-enter the hearing aid microphone. Make sure they are sitting nice and tight in your ear when you put them on in the morning. The shape of your ears can change over time, and if they do, the earmolds can become loose and no longer seal properly. To fix it, you may need to get new earmolds fitted to your ear. Weight gain or weight loss can also affect your ears and the fit of the earmolds. 

  2. Too high volume: It can sometimes be tempting to turn up the volume on your hearing aids. But turning it up too loud can force the sound to re-enter your hearing aids, which causes whistling. Turn down your hearing aid volume and avoid the point at which sound gets so loud that it creates feedback.

  3. Too much earwax: If your ear canal is blocked by too much earwax, the sound can’t get through. So instead, sound bounces back into your hearing aids and they start to whistle. It is recommended to get your ears cleaned out regularly by a professional (no Q-Tips!) to avoid this problem.

If you continue to experience problems with hearing aid feedback and can’t figure out the reason, make an appointment to see your hearing aid audiologist for further assistance to address the issue.

What is Auditory Training and Why is it Important?

Hearing loss most often physically occurs in the ear but also affects our brain and how we interpret and understand sounds, especially speech sounds. The use of hearings aids and cochlear implants help us to detect sounds easier but it is important to help re-train the brain to better understand sounds and make sense of the information sent through the devices.

For us to optimally understand conversation, our working memory is used to recall words and their context. Also, when a hearing loss is present, our brains have a hard time understanding the conversation because they cannot accurately interpret the information fast enough. Both of these characteristics have also been shown to decrease as we age.

Those with even a mild hearing loss and good speech understanding have experienced difficulty hearing conversations in noise. The hearing loss is causing ours brain to work harder to filter out the pertinent speech information from the background noise.

Auditory training is also referred to as “aural rehabilitation” and “hearing exercises”. The goal of auditory training is to help improve working memory and increase auditory processing speed. Hearing aid users who practiced auditory training, specifically hearing speech against background noise, for 3 hours a week were able to correctly identify 25% more words in sentences than when they started. It may be time to consider auditory training if any of the following applies when also wearing devices:

  1. You are still avoiding noisy restaurants
  2. You are asking family members to repeat themselves more often
  3. Feeling fatigued after a conversation or being in a noisy listening environment

                Auditory training can be done at home with a program set up by your audiologist or completed through apps available on smartphones, tablets, and computers. These programs are designed to act like a game so it is interactive and fun to do. Examples of some apps are:

  • AngelSound
  • Soundscape
  • Hear Coach

If downloading an app isn’t the user’s preference, other ideas for auditory training include listening to audiobooks and having practice conversations with family members.

Assistive Technology For Patients with Hearing Loss

In addition to hearing aids, cochlear implants, and osseointegrated implants, there are other devices on the market to help those who are hearing impaired. Devices such as amplified phones, lighted door bells, and amplified alarm clocks are just a few of these options.

For anyone with hearing loss, the telephone can be quite a difficult task. Two options that can help ease this stress are 1. Amplified telephones and 2. Captioned Telephones.  There are many national companies that provide captioned telephones to patients with hearing loss. Captioned telephones go through a transcription service to write out what is being said on a screen. Patients can then read what the other person is saying. Any audiologist or medical provider can certify a patient’s hearing loss.

*Check out CaptionCall.com for more information.

Devices such as amplified alarm clocks also have features such as a “bed shaker” that sends a small vibration at the alarm time. Patients have also utilized smart watches with a vibration feature for alarms.

*Check out Diglo.com for more assistive technology for patients with hearing loss

How Do I Clean My Ears?

As audiologists, we often get asked “How do I clean my ears?” by patients. Many people do not know that your ear typically cleans itself! Earwax, or cerumen, is a self-cleaning agent meant to protect and lubricate your ear canal. Glands in your ear canal produce this substance to trap dirt and dust particles so they do not make their way to your eardrum. The earwax naturally migrates out of your ear with jaw movements, such as chewing or talking.  Different factors can impact how much earwax a person produces (e.g. genetics, medications).

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When a cerumen impaction occurs, it is typically due to the patient using Q-tips or other objects to clean their ears. But, in reality this typically just inhibits the natural migration of the earwax and pushes it down deeper into the ear canal! Symptoms of a cerumen impaction include decreased hearing, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), itchiness, or a plugged feeling in the ears.

There are safe methods to help remove the earwax from your ears, if there is a buildup. Patients can place a few drops of mineral oil, a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, or commercial wax softeners into the ear over the course of a few days. If a deep impaction has occurred, softening the wax alone will most likely not remove all of the wax and the individual will need to have the cerumen extracted. Licensed medical providers have the ability to manually remove earwax. Different methods of extraction include suction, water irrigation, or curette removal. The method used varies depending on the condition of their ear and the amount of wax. Consult a physician if you believe that you have a cerumen impaction.

Noisy Toys and How to Protect your Children’s Ears

It’s finally the holiday season and everyone is excited for good food, (socially distant) gatherings, and presents, unless that is, you have young children with noisy toys constantly playing throughout your house. Although most parents can attest to how loud their children’s toys are, you may not know just EXACTLY how loud. 

The Arizona Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) and the Sight and Hearing Association are two of many organizations that put out an annual list of noisy toys for the holiday season. There are toys on their list that have been tested and shown to have an output of 103 dB! Measurements were taken as if a child had their ear next to the speaker, which is very realistic as anyone with young children would know.  According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association and the American Academy of Audiology, 85 dB is the loudest that a child should be exposure to.  For reference, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that exposure to 90 dB for 8 hours a day is considered a “permissible noise exposure”.  The permissible time of exposure for a 100 dB sound is only 2 hours. Many of theses toys are actually labeled as educational toys.

Here are some tips for testing to see if toys are too loud:

  • Test the toys prior to buying. Many toys have a “TRY ME” button
  • Hold the toy relatively close to your own ear and see if you think it is too loud

Ways to Reduce Volume

  • If there is a volume control, make sure it is set at the lowest volume
  • Put waterproof tape or glue over the speaker to dampen the sound
  • Put tape over the volume control to prevent your child from changing the volume.

The below list was organized by The Arizona Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH):

Hearing Loss and the Holidays

With everything going on during the holiday season, it’s easy to forget that some people struggle during holiday get-togethers for various reasons. One recent online study shows that 50% of families will host at least one person with hearing loss at their holiday table. For these loved ones, the holidays can be isolating and frustrating, because they don’t feel included in the celebration.

Here are some suggestions to help you have a hearing-friendly holiday:

  1. Minimize background noise. Skip the holiday music or television in the background. Background noise can make it difficult to hear. Consider having rowdy football fans enjoy the game in a different room.
  2. Pay attention to seating. Seat the individual with hearing loss at the head of the dinner table or middle of the table, making it easier for them to see all the guests’ faces. Round tables enable easy viewing for everyone. When setting your table, try decorating with shorter centerpieces to avoid blocking sightlines.
  3. Rephrase, don’t repeat. Instead of repeating the same words, try rephrasing. It’s very likely when someone with hearing loss mentions they can’t hear you; they may be having trouble understanding a specific word or phrase. This approach draws less attention to the individual with hearing loss by keeping the conversation more natural. For those uneasy or self-conscious about hearing loss, this will be appreciated.
  4. Skip the mood lighting. A well-lit room helps those with hearing loss see the mouths and facial expressions of those speaking.
  5. Capture attention. Look directly at the person with hearing loss when speaking to them, so they can see your mouth and facial expressions. To get their attention, gently touch them on the hand, arm or shoulder, or say their name before starting to speak.
  6. Speak clearly. Be deliberate while speaking clearly. Be careful to project, but don’t shout. Keep your hands away from your face when speaking. Avoid disturbances which make following a conversation more difficult.
  7. Ask how you can help. Be respectful and discrete by taking aside the individual with hearing loss and asking if there’s anything you can do to make their visit easier. Demonstrate understanding and compassion, and you’ll be an example of the true meaning of holiday spirit.

If you’re concerned about possible hearing loss for you or a loved one, consider scheduling a consultation with one of our audiologists.