Noisy Restaurants and Hearing Loss

If you have hearing loss, you know how difficult noisy restaurants can be. Conversations you might have no problem comprehending one-on-one suddenly become a huge challenge. Maybe you find yourself nodding along, hoping to grab a few words here and there.

Online, there is no shortage of advice on how to deal with hearing difficulties in restaurants. An article on Starkey’s website has tips ranging from seat position (if possible, sit with your back to the noise) to seat selection (if possible, choose a booth). Oticon.com, on the other hand, stresses that the atmosphere of the restaurant matters just as much as where you choose to sit: “In trendy ‘industrial chic’ restaurants, the steel, granite, tile and other hard surfaces amplified sound, raising readings to nearly 85 decibels and creating uncomfortably high sound reverberation.”

The American Academy of Audiology takes a different approach and recommends anyone concerned about restaurant noise install a noise meter on their phone. “These are sound level meters that run on your phone and in one case incorporates a reporting function so you can inform the world about the acoustics of a restaurant.”

Perhaps most important in the hearing loss/restaurant issue is the stigma you may feel comes attached to your hearing difficulty. This should not be the case. There is nothing wrong with suggesting a different restaurant or — if you’re already there — asking if they wouldn’t mind moving to a less noisy area. Simply letting people know up front about your concerns is rarely a bad idea.

For more tips or ideas, or if you want to know which hearing devices best work to help you comprehend speech in noise (such as the the Oticon Opn™ hearing aid), reach on out! We’ll be happy to tell you all we know.

What Is It Like To Experience Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss has a sound.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to have hearing loss, you’re not alone. You might even be interested to know about the many hearing loss simulators that can be found online. Experiencing what its like to struggle with speech in noise can be a powerful tool, and these simulators offer some first hand experience.

The Starkey simulator, in particular, is an eye opener. If you have headphones handy, plug them in and select what degree of loss you want to hear in which sound environment.

You can find other audible examples at the NDCS and Hear-the-world.com.

What It’s Like to Hear With Hearing Loss

Mild hearing loss might be one of the most underreported medical issues today. It can be easy to ignore. Many convince themselves that a slight hearing struggle is not worth going in for a checkup, or that it couldn’t possibly get worse.

So what does mild hearing loss sound like?

Though no two instances of hearing loss are the same, if you have mild hearing loss, “the most difficult sounds of speech – consonant sounds like ‘f’ and ‘th’ or ‘k’ and ‘p’ – can be lost during a conversation.” One on one, mild hearing loss might not pose any major difficulties, but in a noisy area or crowded room, even a small hearing deficit can prove challenging. Those with mild to moderate hearing loss also have more trouble understanding softer or higher pitched speech.

Severe hearing loss, on the other hand, is a problem no matter what environment you find yourself in. A severe hearing loss prevents the individual from hearing conversational speech. Audibility is negatively impacted and without audibility there is not comprehension.

Mild hearing loss impacts understanding, severe or profound hearing loss (without the use of hearing devices) limits it completely.

What It’s like to Live With Hearing Loss

Experiencing the sounds of hearing loss is one thing. Living with it is another. People with normal hearing or even mild difficulty can approximate what it’s like to hear with major hearing loss, but as Shari Eberts writes for the Living with Hearing Loss Blog, it’s “hard to explain to others what it is like…

It’s hard because of the “the lack of clarity in speech, the sensitivity to loud noise, and the exhaustion that comes with heavy bursts of communication. It is an invisible disability, so it is often misunderstood, downplayed or even ignored – sometimes even by those closest to you.”

All Hearing Loss is not Equal

As we wrote before, hearing loss does not manifest in identical ways. Depending on the person, severity, type and cause, a hearing difficulty will never be the same in any 2 people.

For more descriptive examples of types of hearing loss sound, please check out the Hearing Link website or Hear-it.org.

June is National Aphasia Month

Similar to May’s Better Hearing and Speech month, National Aphasia month is an important time to help raise the public’s awareness of an issue they might know little about. The National Aphasia Association says that despite the “2 million people in the United States [who] have aphasia, 84.5% of Americans” have never heard of the term.

What is Aphasia

Aphasia is a language disorder that is caused by brain damage, often after a stroke. It’s a disorder that can affect comprehension, speaking, reading and writing skills. After diagnosis, a speech-language pathologist often helps with treatment.

According to the NIDCD, aphasia often occurs suddenly and there are 2 broad types: fluent and non-fluent. Fluent aphasia stems from the temporal lobe and people with this type may speak in “long, complete sentences that have no meaning.” Non-fluent aphasia from the frontal lobe has more physical manifestations. Those afflicted may experience limb weakness or loss of motor skill function. People with Broca aphasia (a type of non-fluent aphasia) also “may understand speech and know what they want to say, but they frequently speak in short phrases that are produced with great effort. They often omit small words, such as ‘is’, ‘and’ and ‘the.’”

Aphasia and Hearing

Last year we wrote a little about the connection between aphasia and hearing loss:

“Aphasia is a communication disorder stemming from damage to the part of the brain containing language. Though aphasia does not directly affect one’s hearing, hearing loss in combination with aphasia can add to the ‘language deficits’ that make comprehending speech in noise difficult.”

If you have hearing loss and aphasia, speak to your audiologist. They’ll often work with your speech therapist to give you the best possible course of treatment.

For more you can do to help, please refer to the National Aphasia Association’s website, where they’re currently running a 2018 Aphasia Awareness Challenge campaign.

Galapro Theater App

For those with hearing loss, there’s something exciting happening in the theater world, and all you need is your phone. For years, going to a play while hard of hearing could be a difficult experience. However, things could be changing for the better.

What Galapro does is simple. It lets you stream real-time closed captions right to your phone. Their webpage explains it best:

“How does it work? Simply download the app and choose from our participating theaters. You can search by city or current location. Once you choose your preferred theater you will be able to see the show offered with the available languages and services.”

NPR recently profiled the app, following a user who was often frustrated by the lack of theater options for those with different degrees of hearing loss. Standard venue offerings, such as sign language shows and closed captioned devices, never seemed to be enough. Being able to understand or enjoy a performance was usually more trouble than it was worth. Using the Galapro app, however, now being able to follow along the show on his phone, the theater-goer finally found a reason to stick around.

Galapro also has voice recognition software and displays text on a black screen so as not disturb other theater guests. It could also potentially work extremely well with a T-coil connection. Using both Galapro and a T-coil connection you’d be able to listen to audio streamed directly to your aid while reading the performance’s text right in your lap.

You can see what shows currently work with Galapro by visiting Theater Access NYC. For now, Galapro is New York City based, but that could always change. You can also use Galapro for Live Captioning elsewhere if CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) is offered at your event, lecture, or conference. See the Galapro website for more information.

It’s still early days, but Galapro is definitely an app worth watching

 

.

Tech Spot Update: Widex Evoke

It’s time to update our Technology Spotlight! Last month we featured the Opn™ line of Oticon Hearing Aids. This month we want to talk about the Widex Evoke™.

The Widex Evoke is a smart hearing aid, one that “intuitively analyses your sound environment and reacts to changes for natural, effortless hearing.”

How does this work?

Widex uses self learning technology called SoundSense to help map your aid’s preferences and listening environments. At any given time, the Evoke provides you with 2 different sound profiles. After choosing which option sounds better, the aid does its part and updates your sound systems in real time. The more you do this, the more the Evoke learns.

Simply put, the Evoke is an aid that evolves.

Features

Widex’s newest aid also has a smart phone app, which you can use to control your hearing aid from your phone. With this app you can create your own personal and customizable sound profiles.

Please feel free to visit our technology spotlight page for more information, or call us if you have any questions. You can also visit the Widex webpage to check out the other features and various models and sizes (ranging from micro to behind-the-ear) the Evoke hearing aid provides.

May is Better Hearing & Speech Month

Better Hearing & Speech Month is a big month for hearing specialists and speech language pathologists. It’s also a big month for you. BHSM gives everyone an enormous opportunity to help spread crucial wellness information to those who need it most.

What is BHSM?

All you need to know about Better Hearing and Speech Month is in its name. BHSM was started to provide outreach and instruction about hearing loss-related communication disorders. These are disorders which can, according to the NIDCD, “compromise physical and emotional health and affect the social, educational, vocational, and recreational aspects of life.”

It’s a month about the importance of treatment. Not only why it’s crucial, but how to get it. BHSM is just as much about the practical side of hearing and language healthcare.

Affordable hearing healthcare is also a big issue, and one the NIDCD vocally supports. Many people, even if they are aware of the help they can get, might be worried about being able to afford appointments and ongoing management.

Hearing Loss and Communication Disorders

Hearing loss and communication disorders often go hand in hand, and BHSM addresses them both.

Hearing difficulty has an effect on how one interacts with the world. For a child with a developing brain, this interaction could lead to communication or developmental disorders. For an adult, sudden onset or gradual hearing loss can lead to difficulty in concentrating or conversation. Audiologists and speech language pathologists often work together in treatment and management, and this month helps highlight that process.

If you want to know more, REM has written previously about the relationship between hearing and development.

What Can You Do To Help

A big part of this month is helping people with hearing or speech disorders understand their options.

ASHA has a program called “Communication for All” that allows you to easily spread the word. All you have to do is sign up with your personal social media accounts and select which graphics, posts, or videos you want to share with your followers. With each share, you get points that could potentially lead to prizes.

Closer to home, you can approach family or friends who might feel hesitant about getting their hearing assessed. You can point them to some of the resources we’ve listed below. Often one of the best things you can do in approaching hearing loss in others is letting people know they are not alone.

Resources

1. When you have time, the American Speech Language Hearing Association has a lot of great resources you should check out. They break up the month into themes, each week tackling a different topic. Hearing loss in kids and swallowing disorders in adults are just two examples. They also have a helpful list of specific ways you can get involved.

2. The American Academy of Audiology also has a good list of web and advertising tools.

3. Be sure to check out REM’s Facebook page (as well as ASHA’s) for relevant posts throughout the month.

The Future of Hearing Aid Batteries

Hearing technology is changing all the time. Compared to devices as recent as 10 years ago, aids today are significantly advanced in both capability and performance.

The progress of hearing aid batteries tells a similar story.

Hearing Aid Batteries

For years, batteries have been a chief concern among hearing aid users. They’re not only the part of the hearing device the users will interact with the most, but the device’s success also depends upon their reliability.

If you wear a hearing aid, you’re familiar with its flat and circular shape. You’re also probably aware that all disposable batteries on the market are mercury-free, you should look for the 1.45 volt option, and the specific battery you need corresponds to what hearing aid you use. If you didn’t know or need a refresher, please check out our previous battery-tip blog.

Disposable hearing aid batteries have been pretty consistent over the years.

Advancements in Battery Technology

The most noticeable progress on the hearing aid battery front is probably rechargeable technology. One example, and one we at REM like a lot, is the Phonak Audeo B-R. With the B-R, you don’t have to handle batteries at all. Just put the aids in the dock and let them charge overnight. These rechargeable hearing aids – which use lithium ion batteries – should last at full capacity for 4 to 6 years (with nightly charging).

Oticon Opn™ rechargeable hearing aids (such as the MiniRTE) also use a device docking system to recharge. Oticon’s reusable batteries last about a year, and will then have to be replaced. The advantage of this system is flexibility. Opn rechargeable aids also take disposable batteries, so if you forget to bring your charger on a trip, you can temporarily pop in a disposable.

Another advantage to the Oticon rechargeable option, says Larry Gabin, Au.D., of REM Audiology, is that “people with arthritis like the Oticon recharging station because of a magnet in the base that helps attach the hearing aid to the unit for easier docking.”

Many other hearing aid brands offer rechargeable options, though usually only for their newer models. If interested, you’ll often have to purchase a brand-specific rechargeable pack. This pack will provide both the materials to replace your aid’s battery door and also the docking station that will then fit your device.

Why Rechargeable?

According to The Hearing Review, “battery life in hearing aids is getting shorter as the features to enhance listening experiences are added to new hearing aids, and a battery that used to last a few weeks now lasts only a few days.” Most disposable batteries, on the other hand, last a year. If you decide to go the rechargeable route, you’ll be saving yourself from buying, changing, losing, and throwing away hundreds of batteries.

Some believe rechargeable batteries are the future of hearing aids. If you have device-specific (or general) questions, we are here to be of service to you.

Technology Spotlight: Oticon Technology

REM’s website has a new feature! We’re calling it our Technology Spotlight. Every month we want to bring you the latest in hearing healthcare technology news. New hearing aids, top of the line assistive listening devices, even soon-to-be released accessories are all updates you can expect in the future.

This month: Oticon Technology. Specifically: the Oticon Opn™ hearing aid.

According to a press release put out by Oticon (about new rechargeable hearing aids – keep your eyes open for next week’s blog), Opn technology “…gives users advantages that even the most sophisticated hearing solutions of today can’t deliver – the ability to handle noisy environments with multiple speakers and to connect their hearing aids to the Internet…”

How does this work? The processing speed of the Opn is advanced enough to accurately interpret sound in a 360 degree environment. Oticon’s Opn page has more information.

Oticon Opn also offers:

  • Tinnitus SoundSupport (offering customizable sounds to help relieve tinnitus)
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • A range of styles and colors

Used in conjunction with the Oticon ConnectClip, the Opn also utilizes Bluetooth® technology to help connect your aid to your mobile and home devices so you can enjoy hands-free streaming.

Be sure to check out Oticon’s website for additional info on the OPN and other technology they offer.

Hearing Loss and Associated Comorbidities

Did you know that hearing loss can often lead to other disorders? It’s not new news, but it might come as a surprise to many. The presence of additional diseases or disorders caused by a primary affliction are known in the medical community as comorbidities.

The Hearing Review wrote a long article on the topic.

“In only the last dozen years, many important studies have surfaced linking hearing loss to disabling conditions, such as cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, clinical depression, diabetes, falls among the elderly, heart disease, and many more.”

Hearing loss by itself can lead to these other disorders. Untreated hearing loss can lead to even more.

A common disorder that often stems from hearing loss is depression. Hearing loss – sudden or progressive – often has an insulating effect and can cause people to isolate themselves from friends and social activities. We’ve written about the importance of socialization before, but we really haven’t talked about the very real problem of depression at its core.

Not exercising your brain (socializing, talking to people, relearning how to comprehend speech in noise), can very well lead to seclusion, which is a well-known cause of depressive feelings and anxieties. If you shut yourself off, you’re potentially rewiring your brain towards that path.

This depression, though, can often be treated with proper management of hearing loss (the underlying issue). ASHA, referring to a widely cited nationwide study, says: “nearly 4,000 adults with hearing loss and their significant others showed significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other psychosocial disorders in individuals with hearing loss who were not wearing hearing aids.” Hearing aids, at least in part, can help many people with their depression.

This is just one example. The problems can extend well beyond the psychological, as the Hearing Review notes above. Please check out their article – they outline many major hearing loss-related disorders. Audiology Online also has a great interview about what it means to consider and treat hearing loss-related disorders alongside hearing loss itself.

In short, outside of helping you hear, the diagnosis-treatment-management of hearing loss can help your health in other ways. It’s a prevention, as well as quality of life, process.

Mild Hearing Loss in Children

Mild hearing loss is often ignored and – especially in children – easily dismissed. Outside of health circles it is rarely talked about or considered a problem, but mild to moderate hearing loss can very easily lead to developmental or learning problems down the road.

“Mild and moderate hearing loss can often be overlooked because of a perception that it is not a serious condition or that children are ‘coping’ at home and at school. No child should have to struggle because of these misconceptions,” the National Deaf Children’s Society (a UK organization) says.

Putting aside for a second the issue that hearing loss can always get worse, it’s important to also remember that any hearing trouble can have serious consequences on a child’s development. With even a slight hearing difficulty, the extra struggle it takes to comprehend speech or listen in the classroom could alter the entire learning process.

“Children with mild hearing loss are at risk for academic, speech-language, and social-emotional difficulties,” writes Jane Madell of Hearing Health & Technology Matters. This makes early diagnosis and treatment – before children start demonstrating delays – very important. Parents and physicians need to be extra careful at this point, too, because low end hearing loss is sometimes not picked up during the newborn hearing screening.

Slight hearing loss is classified as falling between 16 to 25 on the dB HL scale, while mild loss finds itself in the 26 to 40 range. This scale determines your level of hearing loss by identifying the point at which you begin to hear sound. If you only pick up on sounds starting in the 26 to 40 territory, you may have mild rated hearing loss. This means you might not be able to hear sounds like a whisper or rustling leaves.

There are ways to treat and manage slight hearing loss, and the approach is often determined on a case by case basis. Common solutions are hearing aids and classroom speech delivery systems such as the Phoank Roger Pen or the Oticon Connect Clip. For other options, it’s important to talk to both your pediatrician and your audiologist.

Remember, always raise any concern you have to your family physician about your child’s hearing loss. Treat it early, manage it well.