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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.

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).

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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.

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. 

Noisy Toys and How to Protect your Children’s Ears

It’s finally the holiday season and everyone is excited for good food, (socially distant) gatherings, and presents, unless that is, you have young children with noisy toys constantly playing throughout your house. Although most parents can attest to how loud their children’s toys are, you may not know just EXACTLY how loud. 

The Arizona Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) and the Sight and Hearing Association are two of many organizations that put out an annual list of noisy toys for the holiday season. There are toys on their list that have been tested and shown to have an output of 103 dB! Measurements were taken as if a child had their ear next to the speaker, which is very realistic as anyone with young children would know.  According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association and the American Academy of Audiology, 85 dB is the loudest that a child should be exposure to.  For reference, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that exposure to 90 dB for 8 hours a day is considered a “permissible noise exposure”.  The permissible time of exposure for a 100 dB sound is only 2 hours. Many of theses toys are actually labeled as educational toys.

Here are some tips for testing to see if toys are too loud:

  • Test the toys prior to buying. Many toys have a “TRY ME” button
  • Hold the toy relatively close to your own ear and see if you think it is too loud

Ways to Reduce Volume

  • If there is a volume control, make sure it is set at the lowest volume
  • Put waterproof tape or glue over the speaker to dampen the sound
  • Put tape over the volume control to prevent your child from changing the volume.

The below list was organized by The Arizona Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH):

Hearing Loss and the Holidays

With everything going on during the holiday season, it’s easy to forget that some people struggle during holiday get-togethers for various reasons. One recent online study shows that 50% of families will host at least one person with hearing loss at their holiday table. For these loved ones, the holidays can be isolating and frustrating, because they don’t feel included in the celebration.

Here are some suggestions to help you have a hearing-friendly holiday:

  1. Minimize background noise. Skip the holiday music or television in the background. Background noise can make it difficult to hear. Consider having rowdy football fans enjoy the game in a different room.
  2. Pay attention to seating. Seat the individual with hearing loss at the head of the dinner table or middle of the table, making it easier for them to see all the guests’ faces. Round tables enable easy viewing for everyone. When setting your table, try decorating with shorter centerpieces to avoid blocking sightlines.
  3. Rephrase, don’t repeat. Instead of repeating the same words, try rephrasing. It’s very likely when someone with hearing loss mentions they can’t hear you; they may be having trouble understanding a specific word or phrase. This approach draws less attention to the individual with hearing loss by keeping the conversation more natural. For those uneasy or self-conscious about hearing loss, this will be appreciated.
  4. Skip the mood lighting. A well-lit room helps those with hearing loss see the mouths and facial expressions of those speaking.
  5. Capture attention. Look directly at the person with hearing loss when speaking to them, so they can see your mouth and facial expressions. To get their attention, gently touch them on the hand, arm or shoulder, or say their name before starting to speak.
  6. Speak clearly. Be deliberate while speaking clearly. Be careful to project, but don’t shout. Keep your hands away from your face when speaking. Avoid disturbances which make following a conversation more difficult.
  7. Ask how you can help. Be respectful and discrete by taking aside the individual with hearing loss and asking if there’s anything you can do to make their visit easier. Demonstrate understanding and compassion, and you’ll be an example of the true meaning of holiday spirit.

If you’re concerned about possible hearing loss for you or a loved one, consider scheduling a consultation with one of our audiologists.

Hearing Aid Advancements and Remote Programming Updates

At Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute, we are pleased to offer the newest technology in regards to hearing healthcare. Hearing technology has vastly improved over the years with advancements including rechargeability and Bluetooth compatibility.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the audiologists at JHBI have started offering remote programming for our hearing aid patients to alleviate the need to come into the office for appointments. The newest hearing aids offer remote programming through the use of a smartphone application.  An appointment time is then set for you to meet with your audiologist via a video call through the applications. During your virtual appointment, your audiologist can make real time changes to your hearing aid settings.  You are able provide feedback on sound quality and volume, just as if you were in our office.  Remote programming is a great option if you travel often, have transportation issues, or have difficulty leaving home.

Here’s what Gail D., one of our new hearing aid patients, has to say about remote programming:

Being an older patient, I am not technologically savvy. My Audiologist thoroughly explained how to access the appointment. I was able to voice all my concerns and questions, which were answered, as well, as if I had been in the office. She was able to make an adjustment in my hearing aid and evaluate the change. I clearly was able to notice a difference right away…. It’s nice to know some things can be resolved this way.”

If you are interested in learning more about this technology, visit https://www.betterhearingjax.com/ or call our clinic at 904-399-0350.

NOW HEAR THIS: Educate Yourself and Make a Plan

If you have been diagnosed with hearing loss, slow down, take a breath, and know there are resources to help you at The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute. Research as much as you can on the Internet (go to www.JHBI.org and www.BetterHearingJax.com) and give yourself time to make a decision as to what you want your next step to be. Taking responsibility for your own hearing health is important. Give yourself a timeline to make a decision after you have learned more about exactly what is going on with your hearing and what options you have, such as hearing aids and devices.

If you decide to wait to make a purchase – understanding there are various financial ranges of costs – put a date down in your calendar for reconsidering and re-evaluating your next step. Research has proven that the sooner you treat hearing loss, the better it is for you and your quality of life.

For more information on hearing loss, take a free, quick, confidential and online hearing check to determine if you need a comprehensive hearing test by one of our board-certified Audiologists at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance’s The Hearing Center. Visit www.BetterHearing.org, follow BHI on Twitter @better_hearing, or like BHI on Facebook at www.facebook.com/betterhearinginstitute. You can “like” Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute’s The Hearing Center, too, on Facebook!

Let us know if we can help you in any way! Call the experts at The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute today. We are here for you!

NOW HEAR THIS: Gathering Information on Hearing Loss

Educating yourself on the importance of hearing loss diagnosis and treatment can help you to reach acceptance of that loss and help you obtain peace of mind. One good place to check out is www.BetterHearing.org where you can learn about the causes of hearing loss and what can be done about it. What you will find is that you are not the only person experiencing hearing loss. You are not alone!

It’s difficult to navigate the world of hearing aids. There are many vendors, styles and costs – cheapest may not be the best; the most expensive needs to be vetted to ensure it meets your specific need for diagnosis and needs. New sleek and stylish state-of-the-art hearing aids make it so much easier to manage hearing difficulty without a lot of fuss. Many of the new hearing aids now in the marketplace are virtually invisible – they sit “inside” the ear canal and are out of sight. Investigate the various styles that are available to you offered by The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute. There are many other “hearing devices” available, too, such as those for your phone, office or home.

Treating hearing loss is a balance. As you are looking for a hearing aid to increase your quality of life, it is important to look at your choices and depend on the guidance of your hearing aid professional. At The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing & Balance Institute, we are here for you. For more information, go to www.BetterHearingJax.com and www.JHBI.org.

BAHA: Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids

Watch this video as Mary Jo Schuh, Clinical Audiologist, explains the BAHA procedure and her patient, Karen Hott, gives her testimonial.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it80ZgwahKo

Hearing Loss: The Largest Disability in the Country?

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that about 37 million people in the United States have a hearing loss. According to a recent article by CNN’s Jen Christensen, if hearing loss were officially considered a disability, it would rank as the largest disability class in the country.

Though hearing aids are the most widely used treatment for hearing loss, only about 20% of people who need a hearing aid actually get one. One of the biggest obstacles to treatment with hearing aids is cost. Unfortunately, most private insurance plans do not include hearing aid benefits, so most patients are forced to pay for hearing aids out of pocket.

Read below for more information on hearing loss, the “invisible disability”, and the current status of hearing aids as they relate to insurance coverage.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/10/health/hearing-aid-insurance/index.html?hpt=hp_c2