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.

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Making the Most Out of Your Hearing Aids

After you have had a complete audiological evaluation, are fit with the right hearing devices, and your devices have been personalized for your needs, it is important to know what accessories are available to you. Hearing aid accessories can help optimize the performance of the devices and even make them more convenient to use.

Battery Chargers
Traditionally, hearing aids have been powered by disposable batteries which need to be replaced every five to ten days depending on the size of the battery. Rechargeable devices are now available, making wearing the device more convenient to wear. The need to change small batteries and have additional batteries on hand is eliminated. This can be very helpful for those who have visual or dexterity issues and it’s also environmentally friendly!

Bluetooth and Streaming Capabilities
Many of today’s hearing aids are Bluetooth compatible, meaning they can easily pair to your cell phone and other wireless devices. This enables the user to stream phone calls, music, and other audio sources from the device, hands free, directly to the hearing aids, and allows the user to hear clearly from their hearing aids without interference or hearing unwanted sounds. An app can also be downloaded onto smartphones and tablets to gives access for the individual wearing the devices to control the hearing aids via a remote control.

Another helpful accessory is the television adapter. These adapters allow the user to stream audio from their television directly into their hearing aids, again avoiding interference from unwanted sounds. It also allows the user to control the volume and sound quality without affecting others who may be watching television with them.

Remote Microphones
Although many hearing aids today have the ability to help us hear better when background noise is present, some hearing aid users still find these situations challenging. Remote microphones can help resolve this issue by streaming the conversation directly to the hearing aids, helping to eliminate background noise. Remote microphones can be used personally, meaning one speaker wears a device, or in a group where the microphone can be placed in the center of a table.

Dehumidifiers
Moisture can affect the performance and function of your devices. Using a dehumidifier, often referred to as a dry aid kit, reduces the amount of moisture collected inside your hearing aid. This is especially true if you live in a humid climate or are exposed to moisture frequently. Dehumidifiers can be electric or non-electric. If your hearing aids are rechargeable, the charging system often includes the dehumidifier, eliminating the need to have a separate accessory.

Having the appropriate cleaning tools to maintain your devices is also important. The use of small brushes, cleaning clothes, cases and other tools will help clean and protect your hearing aids. There are accessories with clips that enable you to participate in sports or physical activities while keeping devices clean, dry, and prevent them from falling out.

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.

Why Does My Tinnitus Get Worse When I’m Stressed?

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!

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

What To Do If Your Hearing Aids Get Wet

As things start warming back up in Jacksonville, it is likely that you will be heading to the beach or pool (or may get caught in bad rainstorms!). Whether you are new to hearing aids or have worn them for years, one thing almost all hearing aid wearers should know is that these highly advanced technological devices can be damaged by too much moisture. Here is what to do if your hearing aids get wet.

1.Don’t panic! Most hearing aids have a special coating to protect them from moisture damage. While this coating isn’t waterproof, it is water-resistant so that small amounts of water such as from perspiration or rain will be repelled.

2. Try to determine how much water damage has occurred.
Did you get caught in a rainstorm, or did they fall into the deep end of the pool? Regardless of the amount of water exposure, try your best to remove them from the moisture source right away.

3. Wipe away any visible moisture the best you can with a dry cloth or tissue. If you have a battery door you should open it, remove the battery, and wipe inside the battery compartment as well. If you have rechargeable hearing aids, wipe the outside down as best you can.

4. Use special hearing aid dryers and drying “jars” for hearing aids. Drying jars use moisture-absorbing beads to soak up any water that may have gotten into the hearing aids. Electric dryers plug into a wall outlet and are generally more effective than the jars (although the jars are more portable and don’t require electricity). Sometimes, even your charging case doubles as a de-humidifier.

5. See if they still work. If they are not working, or do not sound as good as they once did, contact your audiologist.

6. Check your warranty. If your hearing aid is relatively new, water damage may be covered under the warranty; ask your provider.This may also a good reason to get an extended warranty. If the damage is severe, the hearing aid may be replaceable using your insurance under loss and damage.

7. Try your best to not accidentally submerge your hearing aids again. Try leaving a note taped to the shower door or inside your beach bag that says, “Take out hearing aids!” is very helpful. Sometimes just a reminder is all that is needed to avoid a sticky situation!

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.