Category Archives: Better Hearing

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month

Did you know that the month of May is officially Better Hearing & Speech Month? Since 1927, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) organizes initiatives during the month of May to help promote the fields of audiology and speech language pathology. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Connecting People” and promoting hearing health allows us to do just that!

Hearing is a critical sense we use to communicate with those around us. Hearing loss can make this task difficult. There is research that shows untreated hearing loss can be linked to social isolation, loneliness, and depression. These negative outcomes don’t have to happen. Here are 3 steps you can take to be proactive with your hearing health and stay connected with your loved ones:

  1. Recognize Signs of Hearing Loss: Since hearing loss tends to occur gradually in most people, sometimes changes in hearing aren’t noticed right away. Early signs of hearing loss can include turning the volume up on the television or phone, asking people to repeat what they say, or having trouble understanding conversations in noisy environments.
  2. Schedule a Hearing Evaluation: A hearing test with an audiologist can help determine if you have hearing loss and help you find out what you have been missing. Even if you feel your hearing problems are minimal, it is helpful to have a hearing evaluation as a baseline to compare if more significant changes happen in the future.
  3. Treat Your Hearing Loss: Once a comprehensive hearing test is done, treatment options can be discussed if hearing loss is present. This may include a recommendation for hearing aids. Some types of hearing loss may need to be addressed with medical procedures or surgical devices such as cochlear implants.

Join us as we celebrate Better Hearing & Speech Month! Don’t live another day in silence and say goodbye to isolation. Stay connected with the people in your life. Hearing well is an important step in living well, so call our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule an evaluation.

New Standards for Safe Listening Levels

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “over 1 billion people aged 12 to 35 years are at risk to having permanent hearing damage due to exposure to loud music and other recreational noise.” Exposure to loud sounds can cause hearing loss and/or tinnitus, which can become permanent with prolonged exposure. This noise exposure can come in the form of concerts, personal audio players, recreational shooting, etc. Although the organization cannot stop someone from turning up their personal music too loud, there are recommendations that can be published to help combat excess noise in public venues.  At the moment, public venues generally do not have a limit on noise levels. The release of these recommendations was timed with World Hearing Day 2022, which took place on March 3.

The recommendations include the following for public venues:

  • Limiting sound levels to 100 dB.
  • Monitoring sound levels with appropriately calibrated equipment and trained personnel.
  • Optimizing venue acoustics and sound systems.
  • Making personal hearing protection available.
  • Offering access to quiet zones.
  • Providing training information to staff and audience members.

As audiologists, it is our job to educate our patients on the importance of protecting their hearing, especially our younger patients. Here are some ways you can protect your hearing:

  • keeping the volume down on personal audio devices
  • using well-fitted, and if possible, noise-cancelling earphones/headphones
  • wearing earplugs at noisy venues
  • getting regular hearing check-ups

References:

https://leader.pubs.asha.org/do/10.1044/2022-0302-who-safe-listenting-standards/full/

https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-who-releases-new-standard-to-tackle-rising-threat-of-hearing-loss

Maximizing Speech Understanding in Noise

Listening in background noise is one of the hardest auditory tasks for individuals with and without hearing loss. The presence of background noise can “drown out” the speech we want to hear, which may cause us to misunderstand words, miss topic changes, and cause frustration. As hearing aid technology advances, so does the background noise reduction ability of hearing aids. Hearing aids are able to reduce the volume of background noise, however cannot eliminate it completely. Here are some additional tips to help maximize speech understanding while wearing your hearing aids:

  • In restaurants, ask to sit in a booth if possible. Booths are typically more closed-off from the majority of background noise than tables and often allow communication partners to be seated closer together
  • If a booth is not available, sit with your back to the noise. With our backs to noise, your hearing aids better able to increase the sound of your communication partner’s voice and decrease unwanted signals from behind you. If you sit with your back to the wall, background noise may actually be amplified by the hearing aids as the noise bounces off the wall and travels back over your devices
  • In other social situations, avoid having conversations close to walls or in the corner of the room. This helps minimize the chance of background noise reverberating from the walls and further interrupting communication
  • Ask your communication partner(s) to indicate topic shifts if possible

If you’re struggling in background noise, make an appointment to see your audiologist. They may be able to adjust your hearing aids for those specific situations and/or recommend additional technology to improve speech understanding!

Improving Phone Communication

One of the top areas of communication many of our patients are wanting to improve is better communication on the phone. Phone calls are one of the most difficult listening situations for individuals with hearing loss — there’s no opportunity to read lips, the signal is not always clear/consistent, and there are fewer contextual cues compared to face-to-face communication. Even with properly fit hearing aids, many patients continue to experience difficulty on the phone. Here are a few helpful tips for improving speech understanding over the phone while wearing hearing aids:

  1. Place the speaker of the phone directly on the hearing aid microphones. This allows the audio from the phone call to be processed through the hearing aids and amplified. If the phone is held to the ear in a typical fashion, the hearing aid may be acting as an earplug, making phone calls even more difficult. 

 2. Enable Bluetooth streaming for phone calls (if available). By streaming phone calls through the hearing aids, our brain is able to process the incoming speech information with two ears, thus allowing more opportunity for accurate speech understanding. 

3. Ask your communication partner to slow down and speak naturally. Slowing down rate of speech while continuing to speak in a natural manner is more beneficial than over-enunciating and raising the volume. 

Phone calls can take practice and patience. Reach out to your hearing care provider if you need further strategies or technology to improve phone communication.

Sporting events and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

With August comes the start of a new school year, and also the beginning of football season. While many people enjoy the atmosphere of game day, they don’t always recognize that sounds could be loud enough to damage their hearing. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 40 million U.S. adults may have noise-induced hearing loss. The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. The chart below shows the average decibel levels for many common sounds.

Source: The American Academy of Audiology

As the chart shows, sporting events such as football games can reach levels of 110 decibels or more! Exposure to this level of noise over several hours can be damaging to your hearing. The Guinness world record for the loudest NFL crowd noise was set by the Kansas City Chiefs fans in 2014. The roar of the crowd was measured at an ear-shattering 142.2 decibels!

Even smaller scale sporting events can have noises loud enough to damage hearing. It’s a good idea to bring a pair of earplugs with you, just in case sounds reach loud levels. If you are concerned you may have noise-induced hearing loss, you should schedule a hearing evaluation with an audiologist to learn more about your hearing. We only get one pair of ears, so it is important to protect your hearing as much as possible.  

Types of Hearing Protection

One of the prominent causes of hearing loss is excessive noise exposure. For many patients, they have grown up hunting and target shooting, or have worked many years in a very noisy job. Unfortunately, one the damage from noise has been done, there is no way to reverse it. Instead, we ask all of our patients to use hearing protection when they are going to be around excessive noise.

There are different types of hearing protection. The one that works the best is the one that you will wear consistently and properly.

Styles:

  • Over the ear: These devices look like headphones, or are sometimes referred to as “Mickey Mouse ears” due to their bulk.  These cover the external part of the ear and block out many external sounds.
  • In the ear (non-custom): These devices are generally available at drug stores and are made of foam or plastic.  Non-custom devices fit into the ear with a tight fit and come in an array of sizes.
  • In the ear (custom): For a more secure fit, custom molded hearing protection can be made. This requires a silicone-like mold of your ear to be made, then sent to an outside company for crafting. These are typically a rubber-like material.

Types of Sound reduction: Hearing protection can be divided into two categories of sound reduction; active and passive.

  • Passive: Passive hearing protection uses the physical piece as the method of blocking the sound. These are less expensive than active hearing protection as there is no electronics within the devices. The foam hearing protection that is seen at drugs stores is a form of “passive” hearing protection. Passive hearing protection can be custom and non-custom.
  • Active: Active hearing protection uses not only the physical properties of the device, but also electronics to reduce sound.  Active hearing protection uses external microphones to analyze sounds in the surrounding area, then shut off when a loud sound is identified. Many hunters utilize active hearing protection to hear their environment, but the sound of the firearm is reduced. Active hearing protection can be custom or non-custom.

Here are some situations where Hearing protection should be utilized:

  • Hunting/shooting
  • Power tools, including lawn mowers
  • Noisy work environments – factories, mills, military, aircraft

If you are interested in custom hearing protection, JHBI can help. We are able to take custom molds and order both active and passive hearing protection.

A Father’s Day that’s Celebrated Every Day of the Year

House neurotologist Dr. William Slattery, MD and his family have a reason to celebrate this father’s day and every day of the year thanks to the cochlear implant. After decades of isolation due to hearing loss even the most powerful hearing aids could not help, an implant was able to bring new connections and a reason to rejoice.

Seeing how transformative the cochlear implant was for his father, Dr. Slattery has dedicated his life to helping patients like his dad at the very institution that invented, pioneered, and implanted the first cochlear implant 60 years ago. Watch now as Dr. Slattery and his father talk about their family’s implant journey. 

With your support, the House Institute can continue to spearhead research and future program advances that will impact those with hearing loss, those with neurological disorders, and those throughout the world in need of hearing care. 

Give today in honor of your father, father figure, or someone special in your life.

DONATE

Hearing Aids vs. Amplifiers: What’s the Difference?

Today, there are numerous advertisements in magazines and on television for products that will enhance your hearing. Although many of these devices may look like hearing aids, they typically are not. These devices are called “amplifiers” or “personal sound amplification products (PSAPs)”.  Although PSAPs have been around for many years, new age marketing techniques have made them more readily available to consumers.

One of the major differences between hearing aids and PSAPs is how they function and how they are programmed.  Hearing aids are programmed for each person’s specific hearing loss while PSAPs generally make sound louder. Hearing aids are programmed using sophisticated software after a thorough hearing test is completed.  Audiologist and hearing instrument specialists use the results of the hearing test to program each frequency with a specific amount of amplification for the best possible hearing outcomes.  A person may, and typically does, need different amounts of amplification at various pitches or frequencies. On the contrary, a PSAP turns everything up globally, just like increasing the volume on the television.  For many people, this results in some pitches being WAY too loud.   An additional benefit to hearing aids is that the technology does much more that just “turn certain pitches louder”.  There are features such as background noise reduction, Bluetooth connectivity, and maximum output limits; all features for maximum benefit.

If you are interested in exploring hearing aids through JHBI, feel free to give us a call at 904-399-0350.

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.