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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:

Disposable vs. Rechargeable Hearing Aid Batteries

All hearing aids require a power source, but many modern hearing aids have the option of either a disposable or rechargeable battery. Which option is the best for you?

Benefits of Rechargeable Batteries:
1. Convenient – Instead of having to frequently repurchase batteries over the lifespan of the hearing aid, you simply charge the hearing aid at night while you sleep. The hearing aid then has battery power for up to 30 hours on a single charge. The internal battery can be charged thousands of times before needing replacement. 
2. Easy to Use – Disposable hearing aid batteries are very small and can be difficult to change for some people. Rechargeable hearing aids easily pop into a charger, so there is no fumbling with small pieces.
3. Environmentally Friendly – Given that most disposable hearing aid batteries last about 5-7 days, you will ultimately throw away hundreds of batteries over the lifespan of hearing aids if you use that option. Although hearing aid batteries can be recycled, disposable batteries create much more waste over the lifespan of a hearing aid compared to 2 rechargeable batteries. 

Benefits of Disposable Batteries:
1. More portable – Disposable batteries are much easier to take on the go, since you don’t have to pack the charger with a power cord. A pack of disposable batteries is small enough to easily fit in a pocket or wallet.  
2. Little downtime – When disposable batteries die, it’s as simple as changing to a new battery in a matter of seconds to power your hearing aids again. When the charge dies on rechargeable hearing aids, it typically takes a couple of hours for the hearing aids to fully recharge, which is especially inconvenient if you don’t have your charger with you. 
3. Different hearing aid style options – Certain styles of hearing aids, such as tiny invisible in the ear hearing aids, are only able to be powered by disposable batteries. Other types of hearing aids, such as behind the ear styles, typically have the option of either rechargeable or disposable batteries. 

The best hearing aid battery option for you is a matter of lifestyle and personal preference. An audiologist can help you decide what the best choice is to fit your needs. 

Troubleshooting Bluetooth-Enabled Hearing Aids

Many newer hearing aids on the market are Bluetooth compatible and are able to wirelessly connect to both iPhone and Android devices. Patients with Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids enjoy the convenience of streaming phone calls and listening to music/tinnitus maskers from their phones directly to their hearing aids, all the while being able to use their phone as a remote control. But with great convenience comes the occasional annoyance when connections drop out.

If this happens, there are a few things you can do to fix the connection. Here are a few ways you can troubleshoot:

  • Have you downloaded and installed the latest version of software for your cell phone?
    • It is important to regularly download and install software updates provided by the cell phone manufacturer. These updates protect your device from viruses and hacking, as well as improve the device’s operation.
    • Note that a software update may require you to completely switch off the phone for a minute before switching it back on.
  • Have you downloaded and installed the latest version of software for the app?
    • If your phone has had a software update, check to see whether your apps also require updating. Occasionally, an update to the device will require an update to the app as well.
  • Did your hearing aids lose its Bluetooth pairing?
    • It is possible that you can fix Bluetooth streaming issues by re-pairing your devices in either the Bluetooth or Accessibility screen in your phone’s General Settings.
    • Remember to turn the hearing aids off and on and place them within a few inches of the phone before re-pairing.

If you are still having Bluetooth issues, we encourage you to come to our Walk-In Clinic (Tuesdays 10:00am – 11:30am and Thursdays 1:00pm – 2:30pm) at the Hearing Center for help troubleshooting your connection.

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.

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!