Archives

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month!

Although most people tend to see audiologists after they have already started noticing hearing difficulties, audiologists also strive to educate the public on protecting their hearing. Back in July, we posted a blog about the different types of hearing protection. Many of these you can buy over the counter, but some custom-made devices need to be fit by an audiologist.

The American Academy of Audiology agrees with OSHA standards in regards to which levels of sound, and for how long, can damage your ears permanently. For instance, repeated or length exposure to sound above 85 decibels (dB) can damage hearing. Average conversation is usually around 60-65 dB, jet engines are typically around 150 dB, and those lawn mowers that people are using without hearing protection are around 85 dB, which is the level at which damage can start. Other recreational activities have high levels of sound that can damage your hearing: shooting a gun (140-175 dB depending on the firearm), concerts (can reach 120 dB), action movies in a theater (100 dB).

According to the American Academy of Audiology, there is an easy way to remember the main ways to protect your hearing: EARS.

The four main ways for protecting your hearing are:

  • E – earplugs
  • A – avoid loud sounds
  • R – reduce the level of sounds
  • S – shorten time in loud environments

If you have been exposed to this type of noise, even if it was years ago, there is a good chance you have some hearing loss. To schedule a hearing test or an appointment with one of our audiologists to discuss custom hearing protection, call our office at 904-399-0350.

Learn more from the American Academy of Audiology at audiology.org

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!

Why is Hearing in Noise So Difficult?

One of the most commonly reported challenges people face with their hearing is understanding speech in background noise. Noise can vary depending on the environment. Sometimes it might be multiple people talking at once, like at a party. It may also be ambient noise such as music from a speaker or dishes clanking at a restaurant. Regardless of the type of sound, extra background noise makes it more difficult to understand conversations with others.

Many people don’t realize that a lot of our hearing ability comes not just from what the ears pick up, but how our brain processes the sound information from our ears. Hearing in noisy places is more challenging for a couple of reasons:

  • Audibility – we have to be able to hear all the sounds of speech in order to easily understand it. Extra noise can overpower soft speech sounds.
  • Focus – noisy environments tend to be busier. If there are distractions present, it decreases our ability to concentrate as effectively as we can in quiet.
  • Memory – in order to understand speech, our brain has to process sound and remember the information. Busier environments compete for the brain’s attention in focusing and remembering speech.

The good news is that hearing devices can address the concerns listed above and make it easier to understand in noisy places. Although in most cases it is not possible to completely eliminate all background noise, hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can make a big improvement in speech understanding, both in quiet and in noise.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can optimize your hearing in noisy environments, contact our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule a hearing evaluation.

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:

Sporting events and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

With August comes the start of a new school year, and also the beginning of football season. While many people enjoy the atmosphere of game day, they don’t always recognize that sounds could be loud enough to damage their hearing. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 40 million U.S. adults may have noise-induced hearing loss. The good news is that noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. The chart below shows the average decibel levels for many common sounds.

Source: The American Academy of Audiology

As the chart shows, sporting events such as football games can reach levels of 110 decibels or more! Exposure to this level of noise over several hours can be damaging to your hearing. The Guinness world record for the loudest NFL crowd noise was set by the Kansas City Chiefs fans in 2014. The roar of the crowd was measured at an ear-shattering 142.2 decibels!

Even smaller scale sporting events can have noises loud enough to damage hearing. It’s a good idea to bring a pair of earplugs with you, just in case sounds reach loud levels. If you are concerned you may have noise-induced hearing loss, you should schedule a hearing evaluation with an audiologist to learn more about your hearing. We only get one pair of ears, so it is important to protect your hearing as much as possible.  

Types of Hearing Protection

One of the prominent causes of hearing loss is excessive noise exposure. For many patients, they have grown up hunting and target shooting, or have worked many years in a very noisy job. Unfortunately, one the damage from noise has been done, there is no way to reverse it. Instead, we ask all of our patients to use hearing protection when they are going to be around excessive noise.

There are different types of hearing protection. The one that works the best is the one that you will wear consistently and properly.

Styles:

  • Over the ear: These devices look like headphones, or are sometimes referred to as “Mickey Mouse ears” due to their bulk.  These cover the external part of the ear and block out many external sounds.
  • In the ear (non-custom): These devices are generally available at drug stores and are made of foam or plastic.  Non-custom devices fit into the ear with a tight fit and come in an array of sizes.
  • In the ear (custom): For a more secure fit, custom molded hearing protection can be made. This requires a silicone-like mold of your ear to be made, then sent to an outside company for crafting. These are typically a rubber-like material.

Types of Sound reduction: Hearing protection can be divided into two categories of sound reduction; active and passive.

  • Passive: Passive hearing protection uses the physical piece as the method of blocking the sound. These are less expensive than active hearing protection as there is no electronics within the devices. The foam hearing protection that is seen at drugs stores is a form of “passive” hearing protection. Passive hearing protection can be custom and non-custom.
  • Active: Active hearing protection uses not only the physical properties of the device, but also electronics to reduce sound.  Active hearing protection uses external microphones to analyze sounds in the surrounding area, then shut off when a loud sound is identified. Many hunters utilize active hearing protection to hear their environment, but the sound of the firearm is reduced. Active hearing protection can be custom or non-custom.

Here are some situations where Hearing protection should be utilized:

  • Hunting/shooting
  • Power tools, including lawn mowers
  • Noisy work environments – factories, mills, military, aircraft

If you are interested in custom hearing protection, JHBI can help. We are able to take custom molds and order both active and passive hearing protection.

A Father’s Day that’s Celebrated Every Day of the Year

House neurotologist Dr. William Slattery, MD and his family have a reason to celebrate this father’s day and every day of the year thanks to the cochlear implant. After decades of isolation due to hearing loss even the most powerful hearing aids could not help, an implant was able to bring new connections and a reason to rejoice.

Seeing how transformative the cochlear implant was for his father, Dr. Slattery has dedicated his life to helping patients like his dad at the very institution that invented, pioneered, and implanted the first cochlear implant 60 years ago. Watch now as Dr. Slattery and his father talk about their family’s implant journey. 

With your support, the House Institute can continue to spearhead research and future program advances that will impact those with hearing loss, those with neurological disorders, and those throughout the world in need of hearing care. 

Give today in honor of your father, father figure, or someone special in your life.

DONATE