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.

Hearing Loss and Travel

For individuals with hearing loss, traveling by plane can be a particularly stressful experience. As the summer months approach and we begin to make travel plans to see friends and family, keep the following tips in mind for a stress-free and enjoyable traveling experience.

-Sign up for e-mails from your airline in order to receive written communication regarding any travel changes leading up to your flight.

– Arrive to the airport early so you have plenty of time to communicate with the agents at the check-in desk. Let them know you have difficulty hearing and request that they speak slowly and, if possible, maintain eye contact for the added benefit of lip reading.  Or better yet, check-in online.

– When going through security you are allowed to keep your hearing aids, cochlear implant or BAHA processor on. Notify the TSA agent if you have an implantable hearing device such as a cochlear implant or a BAHA. You will likely be scanned with the security “wand” rather than go through the full body scanner. This will not cause any problems with your implant.

– Once through security make sure to find a TV monitor to visually confirm your gate number and boarding time. Wait at your gate within view of the boarding door so you don’t miss your boarding time. Often there will be a monitor to display the boarding group as they are called.

– You can safely use your hearing aids, cochlear implant or BAHA on an airplane. Notify the flight attendant that you have difficulty hearing and where your seat is located in case they need to provide important safety information during the flight.

– Be sure to pack extra disposable batteries if applicable or if your device is rechargeable be sure to pack your charger in your carry-on in the event your battery unexpectedly dies.

Overall, use visual and written confirmation of information when available and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. Happy travels!

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!

Hear for the Holidays

The holidays are often a joyful time to reconnect with loved ones. However, for those with hearing loss, holiday get-togethers can lead to stress and anxiety due to difficulty understanding conversation. If you notice that you often mishear what people say or rely on lipreading to understand them better, you may have a hearing loss. Hearing aids are often an effective treatment for hearing loss. Hearing aids amplify sound to allow the brain better access to speech which, for many people, greatly improves communication.

The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute is currently offering a special hearing aid discount through the month of December. Give our office a call for a comprehensive hearing evaluation and discussion regarding the best treatment option for you. Happy Holidays!

Keep your Loved Ones with Hearing Loss Engaged in Conversations over Thanksgiving!

It’s not uncommon to see family members and friends with hearing loss limit their participation in loud, large social gatherings. Multiple speakers, clanking of silverware, and lots of background noise can make it difficult to understand the conservation we are trying to participate in. Here are some tips and reminders that may be helpful this Thanksgiving:

  • Seat the person with hearing loss at the head of the table or somewhere they are able to see others seated at the table
  • Provide adequate lighting 
  • Take turns speaking to prevent multiple, overlapping conversations
  • Speak clearly, but not overly loud or over-enunciated
  • Indicate topic shifts and reiterate key information 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for repetition or clarity

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.

What to Expect When You are New to Hearing Aids

1. During an appointment with your audiologist, expect a thorough assessment to determine the severity of your hearing loss and a detailed discussion about your lifestyle, hearing priorities, and budget to help determine what hearing aids are best for you.

2. Expect an adjustment period when you first begin to wear hearing aids. Hearing loss typically occurs over time, and it can take time for your brain to become accustomed to all the sounds you are now hearing again. The world is a very noisy place and you may notice sounds you didn’t realize you were missing such as your footsteps when walking, running water from the faucet & the quiet hum of the refrigerator. After wearing the hearing aids for a week or two, all of those ambient sounds will become less prominent to you. The more you wear hearing aids, the quicker you will adjust!

3. Expect them to “whistle” as you put them in your ears. Once they are in your ears, the whistling should stop.

4. Expect to take care of your hearing aids! The better care that is taken of them, the longer they will last. It is as simple as routine nightly cleaning. Wiping them down with a tissue every night will go a long way!

5. Expect a new technology to be developed every couple of years. You can speak with your audiologist to determine if new technology would be beneficial for you. Just as any other electronic device, they do not last forever and will eventually wear out.

Purchasing hearing aids is a big adjustment to your life but with these few pointers to get you started, you are on your way to better hearing!