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Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aids

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a rule permitting the sale of a new category of Over-the-Counter (OTC) hearing aids that could be sold directly to consumers without an exam. While unregulated OTC hearing aids may work as intended, there is a risk that the devices could be defective or completely inadequate for the treatment of hearing loss. Advertisements for these new OTC hearing aids have already targeted consumers even though there are currently no OTC hearing aids that have received FDA approval.

Whenever individuals are going to make a “big purchase” they tend to think it over and do research. This must also apply to hearing aids, especially as it is part of your physical and mental health.

Companies that sell over-the-counter hearing devices are not held to the same standards as the licensed professionals who provide these devices. They are also not required to inform consumers of the risks associated with their products. While consumers may be tempted to purchase these unregulated products because of their low prices, the ultimate price you pay may be further hearing loss.

Hearing aids are not a “one size fits all” product. In fact, they need to be custom programmed and fine-tuned to an individual’s hearing loss. The OTC hearing aids can create further hearing loss by being inappropriately fit to the user.

Medical device companies are required to register and list their devices with the FDA, though this registration only indicates that the company has provided information to the FDA; it does not indicate FDA approval, clearance, or authorization of the device. Unfortunately, this has not stopped some disreputable sellers of OTC hearing devices from falsely claiming that their products are “FDA-registered” or “FDA-cleared.” Since the devices are not approved or regulated by the FDA for their overall acoustic output or volume, the effects can be damaging to any remaining hearing the individual has left if it is set too loud.

If you are considering buying a hearing aid, take the following recommendations into account:

  • Beware of misleading claims. Over-the-counter hearing aids are only meant to treat mild to moderate hearing loss and may not be able to treat severe hearing loss. Avoid purchasing OTC hearing aids that claim to treat severe hearing loss or hearing loss in children.
  • Have your hearing evaluated by a medical professional. While online hearing tests may be convenient, they may fail to detect serious hearing loss, or the underlying causes of your hearing loss that may need medical management.
  • Know your rights. Under state law, if you are unhappy with your hearing aids you are allowed to return them within 30 days of receipt. The seller must provide you with a written statement with this information.

If you believe you or a loved one may need help hearing, seek a licensed medical professional for a complete hearing evaluation to determine the status and nature of the hearing loss and whether it can be corrected with medical intervention or hearing aids.

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!

How Often Should You Purchase Hearing Aids?

This is a question that we address everyday with our patients and their loved ones! The short answer is that a hearing device should typically be replaced about every five to seven years or so. In reality, however, the answer is a bit more involved. Several factors may determine whether or not it’s time to update your hearing instruments. They include:

  • Level and sophistication of the hearing technology
  • Potential changes in your hearing sensitivity, lifestyle, or overall health
  • Condition and performance of your existing hearing devices

Here are a few potential signs you may need fresh hearing technology:

Device Malfunctioning

You do all the recommended maintenance, but things still aren’t right: Replaced batteries drain quickly; sound is still muffled after you change wax guards. The occasional repair is normal, but regular malfunctions may mean it’s time to replace your devices.

Hearing Level Has Changed

Your hearing changes over time because of age, loud sounds, or other health issues. Often we can adjust your programming to meet your new needs, but sometimes your hearing changes so much that you require a different level of technology or a different type of device all together. 

Repairs Seem Costly

With older devices, the parts are often scarce or the model is discontinued. Sometimes repairing your devices costs enough that it makes more sense to replace them with new hearing aids.

Technology Evolving

Devices have advanced significantly over the years with better filtering of background noise, rechargeability without the hassle of disposable batteries, tinnitus management, and wireless streaming from smartphones.

Hearing your best is more critical than ever in our changing world — with in-person and virtual communication both playing important roles in today’s new normal. If you think it might be time to update your hearing devices, please don’t wait to contact us to get your questions answered or to schedule a hearing aid consultation.

Hearing Aid Industry Update: Signia Insio Charge&Go AX

The world of hearing aids has improved yet again! Rechargeable devices have been available to patients with hearing loss for a number of years in the behind-the-ear style with great success. Now, patients have the option of a custom fit hearing aid that is also rechargeable!

One of the hearing aid industry’s leading manufacturers, Signia, has released their newest product, the Insio Charge&Go AX. They allow hearing aid users to have the most discreet custom and rechargeable hearing aid on the market with great sound quality, better hearing in background noise and modern technology features such as Bluetooth connection. They devices are capable of direct Bluetooth connection to cell phones and tablets for any audio signal such as phone calls, streaming of music, video, and audiobooks. In addition, they can be paired to the Signia App on smart devices, which allows the user to have more control of their listening ability in difficult listening environments such as group environments and restaurants.

Contact our Hearing Center to see if the Signia Insio Charge&Go AX is right for you!

Click HERE to visit Signia’s website for more information.

The Value of an Audiologist

An audiologist is a health care professional who provides patient-centered care in order to identify, diagnose and treat hearing loss and balance disorders using evidence-based practice. An audiologist aims to provide personalized services to minimize the negative impact of hearing loss and ultimately lead to improved quality of life. 

Audiologists are required to hold a doctorate degree in audiology (Au.D.). They must also pass board examinations to receive licensing and accreditation. In addition, audiologists are required to earn annual continuing education credits in order to remain knowledgeable of the most current research-based practice and rehabilitation methods.

A hearing aid is often used to manage hearing loss by analyzing and amplifying sound within an environment. If hearing aids are recommended based on a comprehensive hearing evaluation the audiologist uses the test results combined with information about the patient’s lifestyle and communication needs to determine the most appropriate style and power level of hearing aid. Additionally, the audiologist provides personalized counseling to help educate the patient and establish realistic expectations regarding their potential benefit from hearing aids. Information is also provided regarding communication and self-advocacy strategies in order to give the patient control over their hearing experience and help maximize hearing aid benefit. 

One of the most important components of the hearing aid process is the follow up care. Best practice methods include programming hearing aid settings based on verification measures (objective data) and patient feedback regarding their experience (subjective data). A hearing aid is an investment in your health and wellness and when thinking about purchasing hearing aid it is important to find out the types of services and the level of care that you will receive with your purchase. Many audiologists include programming adjustments, verification tests and counseling in the cost of the hearing aids. This helps to ensure the patient receives high quality of care tailored to their specific needs.

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.

CROS and Bi-CROS Solutions

What is a CROS System?

A Contralateral Routing of Sound (CROS) hearing aid is a type of hearing device that is used to treat unilateral hearing loss (single sided hearing loss). It takes sound from the ear with poor hearing sensitivity and transmits the sounds to the better hearing ear. As a result, the CROS transmitter device is not a full hearing aid. It has microphones and a computer processing chip, but no speaker. It will therefore be transmitting the sound wirelessly to a receiving hearing aid on the better ear. This type of set-up allows a patient to have access to sound from both sides of their head which aids in volume, clarity, and sound localization.  

What is a Bi-CROS System?

A Bi-CROS system is very similar to the CROS system. A patient would still be wearing two devices, however, the CROS transmitter is paired with an active hearing aid providing amplification. A Bi-CROS system is used when someone has an asymmetrical hearing loss, that is a hearing loss in both ears but with one ear better than the other.

Again, the CROS device works as a transmitter which captures the sound from the bad side and transmits it to the hearing aid on the better side. The hearing aid on the better side delivers the sound from the worst ear and amplifies the sound from the better hearing ear as well.

Who is a Candidate for a CROS or Bi-CROS System?

Individuals with either asymmetric hearing loss or single-sided deafness may be a candidate for a CROS or Bi-CROS system. To inquire whether or not this non-surgical option would work for you, give us a call at 904-399-0350 to make an appointment!

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!

Hearing with Two Ears

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.

Hearing Aids Make an Appearance on Team USA

Although COVID took a larger than expected spotlight during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, pushing the games back a full year into 2021, for audiologists, there was a special player on Team USA that caught our attention.

That player is David Smith, the 36 year old middle blocker of Team USA Men’s Volleyball. Including Tokyo, David has seen three Olympic games. With his 6-foot-7 stature, you may not be able to see, but David Smith wears hearing aids.  David was born with a severe to profound hearing loss and worn hearing aids since the age of 3. He currently wears a set of Oticon Dynamo hearing aids.  David’s hearing aids are powerful enough that he can hear many things, including the softer voices of his children, but he also relies heavily on lip reading, especially on the noisy volleyball court.

In a recent interview, David thanks his parents for keeping him involved in sports. He states that his hearing loss was less of a barrier in areas where he could watch and learn from others. He says “it was definitely a confidence booster”. Even as he plays overseas, he has become a role model for children with hearing loss, referencing a few children who wore his jersey at every game they attended. David hopes others with hearing loss see that they can achieve anything they want, even making it to the world’s biggest sporting event.

David Smith (Source: https://www.teamusa.org/usa-volleyball/athletes/David-Smith.org)

More information about David can be found at the links below: