One of the most commonly reported challenges people face with their hearing is understanding speech in background noise. Noise can vary depending on the environment. Sometimes it might be multiple people talking at once, like at a party. It may also be ambient noise such as music from a speaker or dishes clanking at a restaurant. Regardless of the type of sound, extra background noise makes it more difficult to understand conversations with others.
Many people don’t realize that a lot of our hearing ability comes not just from what the ears pick up, but how our brain processes the sound information from our ears. Hearing in noisy places is more challenging for a couple of reasons:
Audibility – we have to be able to hear all the sounds of speech in order to easily understand it. Extra noise can overpower soft speech sounds.
Focus – noisy environments tend to be busier. If there are distractions present, it decreases our ability to concentrate as effectively as we can in quiet.
Memory – in order to understand speech, our brain has to process sound and remember the information. Busier environments compete for the brain’s attention in focusing and remembering speech.
The good news is that hearing devices can address the concerns listed above and make it easier to understand in noisy places. Although in most cases it is not possible to completely eliminate all background noise, hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can make a big improvement in speech understanding, both in quiet and in noise.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can optimize your hearing in noisy environments, contact our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule a hearing evaluation.
Our bodies are designed with two ears for many important reasons. Listening with two ears:
Leads to better understanding in background noise
Allows for improved ability to detect where sound is coming from and
Gives speech a “boost” in volume
In addition, listening with two ears lessens the amount of work it takes the brain to understand speech and can lead to an improved quality of life.
For people whose hearing loss is severe, two hearing aids may not be very helpful. However, research, anecdotal evidence and experience tells us that using a hearing aid in one ear and a cochlear implant in the other ear can improve clarity of speech, even more so than using just one cochlear implant.
This has been demonstrated over and over to the point where two cochlear implant companies have partnered with hearing aid companies to create compatibility between the cochlear implant and hearing aid. This not only leads to the great benefits discussed above but also allows streaming of phone calls and other media to both ears at the same and easier access to program or volume changes.
To learn more about your hearing aid and/or cochlear implant options, give our office a call at 904-399-0350 for a hearing evaluation.
Although tinnitus (or ringing / buzzing / whooshing / roaring in the ears) is often an underlying symptom of hearing loss, it can be exacerbated or even triggered by stress. A person’s reaction to tinnitus depends on how the autonomic nervous system responds to the sound itself. While many patients are able to ignore their tinnitus, for others it can cause significant stress, anxiety, and irritability when the brain subconsciously decides that the tinnitus is an “alarm”. Just like your body enters “fight or flight” mode when you encounter a genuine threat, tinnitus can trigger the same physical and emotional reaction. This makes it very difficult to concentrate or relax when you are stressed and have tinnitus.
One of the ways we attempt to combat this stress response is through relaxation exercises. Some patients report a reduction in the intrusiveness of their tinnitus with the use of these methods over time; including progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, mediation, and yoga. In addition, you may try a simple form of sound therapy: add calming sounds or white noise to your calming routines to help aid in relaxation. And of course, limiting the amount of caffeine consumed during the day and getting an adequate amount of sleep at night will also help in the long term.
For more information on tinnitus and tinnitus treatment options, contact our office to set up an individualized consultation to discuss what methods might be best for you!
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
If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss, slow down, take a breath, and know there are resources to help you at The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute. Research as much as you can on the Internet (go to www.JHBI.org and www.BetterHearingJax.com) and give yourself time to make a decision as to what you want your next step to be. Taking responsibility for your own hearing health is important. Give yourself a timeline to make a decision after you have learned more about exactly what is going on with your hearing and what options you have, such as hearing aids and devices.
If you decide to wait to make a purchase – understanding there are various financial ranges of costs – put a date down in your calendar for reconsidering and re-evaluating your next step. Research has proven that the sooner you treat hearing loss, the better it is for you and your quality of life.
For more information on hearing loss, take a free, quick, confidential and online hearing check to determine if you need a comprehensive hearing test by one of our board-certified Audiologists at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance’s The Hearing Center. Visit www.BetterHearing.org, follow BHI on Twitter @better_hearing, or like BHI on Facebook at www.facebook.com/betterhearinginstitute. You can “like” Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute’s The Hearing Center, too, on Facebook!
Let us know if we can help you in any way! Call the experts at The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute today. We are here for you!
Educating yourself on the importance of hearing loss diagnosis and treatment can help you to reach acceptance of that loss and help you obtain peace of mind. One good place to check out is www.BetterHearing.org where you can learn about the causes of hearing loss and what can be done about it. What you will find is that you are not the only person experiencing hearing loss. You are not alone!
It’s difficult to navigate the world of hearing aids. There are many vendors, styles and costs – cheapest may not be the best; the most expensive needs to be vetted to ensure it meets your specific need for diagnosis and needs. New sleek and stylish state-of-the-art hearing aids make it so much easier to manage hearing difficulty without a lot of fuss. Many of the new hearing aids now in the marketplace are virtually invisible – they sit “inside” the ear canal and are out of sight. Investigate the various styles that are available to you offered by The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute. There are many other “hearing devices” available, too, such as those for your phone, office or home.
Treating hearing loss is a balance. As you are looking for a hearing aid to increase your quality of life, it is important to look at your choices and depend on the guidance of your hearing aid professional. At The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute, we are here for you. For more information, go to www.BetterHearingJax.com and www.JHBI.org.
New hybrid hearing device helps those who find hearing aids to be ineffective
By Charlie Patton Tue, Aug 19, 2014 @ 4:51 pm
Traditionally there have been two approaches to hearing loss: hearing aids to amplify sound for those who retained some hearing; and cochlear implants to restore some hearing to those who are totally deaf.
A new device, a Cochlear Nucleus Hybrid Implant System, has been approved by the FDA for use in people who have some hearing but have found hearing aids ineffective.
J. Douglas Green Jr., a neurotologist and founder of the Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute/The Hearing Center, calls the device “an extraordinary melding of technologies.”
The hybrid includes three elements: an implant that Green puts in place during a 90-minute outpatient procedure; a sound processor that converts high-frequency sounds to electric signals and sends them to the implant; and an acoustic component that functions like a hearing aid, amplifying low-frequency sounds.
The cochlear implant component restores the ability of people to hear high-pitched sound.
The hybrid “gives patients a more natural sound quality,” Green said. “People really like that. There is more clarity to the sounds.”
Green will offer free seminars about the implants: a dinner presentation from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday and a lunch presentation from noon-1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hotel Indigo, 9840 Tapestry Park Circle.
While seminars are free, seating is limited and a reservation is required. Go to HearingHealthSeminar.com or call (877) 432-7844.
Tinnitus, or ringing (also commonly described as buzzing/chirping sounds) in the ears, can be a very debilitating problem. Unfortunately, tinnitus treatments are often complex and costly. One of the best, most cost-effective tinnitus treatments involves the use of hearing aids. In many cases, hearing aids are a “kill two birds with one stone” approach, and are helpful in both the correction of hearing loss and the reduction of tinnitus.
Below is a summary of a retrospective review of 70 patients with hearing loss and chronic tinnitus, courtesy of the American Academy of Audiology. The authors found that hearing aids can be a very effective treatment for tinnitus, and we agree. In fact, some of our most successful hearing aid patients initially began using hearing aids as a tool to help their tinnitus, only to later discover the added advantage of better hearing.
Hearing Aids as Tinnitus Therapy
McNeill et al (2012) report that “hearing aids have become common therapeutic tools in the audiological management of tinnitus.” They note that hearing aids are used in tandem with counseling and hearing aids serve as an important part of treatments, such as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (Jastreboff and Jastreboff, 2000).
McNeill and colleagues performed a retrospective study of 70 patients (48 males, 22 female, mean age 55 years). Each patient had hearing loss and a primary or secondary complaint of “bothersome chronic tinnitus.” Of note, while wearing hearing aids (Oticon, Phonak or Widex) 26 patients reported their tinnitus was totally masked, 28 reported partial masking (i.e., 77 percent, or 54 of 70 reported partial or total masking) and 16 reported no masking. Tinnitus pitch masking revealed (on average) a perceived pitch of 6900 Hz. Of note, for the group that did not achieve masking (n=16, see above)they reported a mean tinnitus pitch perceived at 8000 Hz (the average perceived tinnitus pitch for the partial masking group was 7,600 Hz and for the total masking group was 5,400 Hz). The authors note the patients who had the most tinnitus relief via their hearing aid fittings had tinnitus matching results within the frequency range of the hearing aids.
McNeill et al report that their results indicate hearing aid fittings may be useful in the management of tinnitus because hearing aids reduce the audibility of tinnitus and hearing aids improve the patient’s reaction to tinnitus. The authors recommend hearing aid fittings to treat tinnitus in patients with hearing loss. Further, they note the best results are obtained when the patient has good low-frequency hearing, a strong reaction to their tinnitus and when the tinnitus pitch is perceived to be (i.e., matched) within the fitting range of the hearing aid.
A small study by the House Research Institute revealed that 72% of teens reported reduced hearing after attending a three-hour show. This type of hearing loss typically disappears within 48 hours, but if it occurs repeatedly, permanent hearing loss can develop, the study authors noted.