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.

Updates in Cochlear Implant Technology

At Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute we work with all three of the FDA approved cochlear implant manufacturers. One of those manufacturers, Advanced Bionics, has recently released their newest sound processor. Below you will find a video introducing the new device!

If you are interested in discussing this new technology, you can sit down and chat with an Advanced Bionics representative in our office! Reach out to Karalee Kowar at Karalee.Kowar@advancedbionics.com to reserve a spot!

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).

Image result for jhbi

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.

Superior Semicircular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome

What is superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome?
Superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome (or SSCDS) is a condition where the normal bony covering of the superior semicircular canal (one of the three balance canals that respond to angular acceleration) is missing.

What type of symptoms do patients with SSCDS have?
Many, but not all, patients with SSCDS have dizziness. This dizziness may be brought on by loud noises, such as the clanging of dishes together, or by pressure changes, such as sneezing, coughing, or straining. Some patients report hearing their heartbeat in the affected ear and often complain of ear fullness. Many patients describe that their voice sounds louder in one particular ear as well. Other less common symptoms include hearing one’s own eye movements and hearing one’s own footsteps on certain surfaces (watch this video: Inside Todd’s Head).

What causes SSCDS?
Currently the exact cause of SSCDS is not known. It is likely that some individuals are predisposed to the thinning of bone in certain areas of the skull base, leading to problems such as SSCDS. Additionally, head trauma may play a role in certain cases of SSCDS. Not all individuals with a dehiscence of the superior semicircular canal (as might be seen on a special CAT scan and verified by certain tests) actually have symptoms.

How is SSCDS treated?
SSCDS treatment must be individualized to each particular patient. While there is no specific medical therapy for SSCDS, various surgical management options are available.

Disclaimer:
The information and reference materials included on this website are intended solely for the general information and education purposes of the reader. They are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice or to diagnose health problems. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to discuss the information presented here.

Hearing Aid Issues?

If you wear hearing aids and continue to struggle to understand your friends and family you may be wondering where to turn. There may be a few reasons why you find yourself asking others to repeat despite the use of your hearing aids

  • Hearing aids may be in need of cleaning or reprogramming.
    • Wax build-up in a hearing aid can cause the hearing aid to sound muffled leading to difficulty hearing. It is also possible the hearing itself has decreased and the hearing aids are no longer set to the level needed to hear your best.
  • Realistic expectations
    • A common belief is that when someone wears hearing aids they will be able to hear normally. Hearing aids amplify sound which allows easier hearing, but they do not replace normal hearing. This means that you may still miss out on words especially when in a noisy room or when the talker is standing far away or behind you.
  • Severe hearing loss
    • Hearing aids amplify sound and then the sound travels to the organ of hearing (the cochlea) which stimulates the hearing nerve. If the cochlea has a lot of damage sound will likely be distorted and unclear even when amplified.
    • In this case you may receive more benefit from a cochlear implant than a hearing aid. A cochlear implant directly stimulates the hearing nerve and bypasses the portion of the cochlea that has been damaged. With time and therapy this leads to clearer sound.

If you wear hearing aids and feel that you are still not hearing your best give our office a call at 904-399-0350 to further evaluate your hearing and treatment options. Perhaps it is as simple as cleaning and updating the hearing aid settings or perhaps your hearing has declined to a level where a hearing aid can no longer provide benefit.