Diet and Hearing Health

A healthy diet is an important part of hearing health. It’s easy to understand why – a healthy diet equals a healthy body, and when you eat all the right foods and get plenty of exercise, you age better, more naturally, and maybe even slower.

So, how does hearing specifically fit into all this?

Let’s start with minerals. Minerals in food are necessary nutrients the body needs, and there are a few that are crucial to help preserve good hearing. Potassium, folic acid, magnesium, and zinc are all important to help your hearing remain its best. Check out the linked article for more information, and start paying attention to what vitamins you’re regularly consuming. You might need to add some supplements if you’re lacking in any essentials (though talk to your doctor first).

As for overall health, a recent article on the CaptionCall website cites a study: “Over the last 26 years researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, part of Harvard Medical School in Boston, have been studying women’s diets and how it relates to hearing loss.” Results showed that those with better dietary habits had a 47 percent less likely chance to experience hearing loss later in life. “Researchers note that the main relation between healthy diet and hearing loss prevention is increased cardiovascular health. Healthy diets lead to an increase in blood flow and reducing inflammation.”

So, looking beyond diet, it might be safe to conclude that a healthier heart equals hardier hearing. “The connection between hearing health and cardiovascular health has led many professionals to believe the ear may be a window into the heart,” writes Beth McCormick, Au.D., in a Starkey blog.

The body works together in ways that the medical community is still figuring out, and different studies on diet and hearing will naturally have different conclusions. That said, a healthy body is always a good thing to strive for, right?

Healthy body, healthy heart, healthy mind, healthy hearing.

Summertime Hearing Tips

Every summer, we write about how to protect your hearing and your hearing aids while outdoors, in the heat, or on vacation. This year we decided to do something a little different. After a couple protection tips, we get into the benefits of summer, and how the season can help improve your hearing health.

How to Protect Your Hearing

1. Swimmer’s ear can often lead to ear infections, caused by trapped water in the ear canal. If you notice water in your ear that’s not going away on its own, use over-the-counter ear drops to reduce moisture. If you’re already experiencing pain or discharge, a visit to the doctor is recommended.

2. Summer months often mean vacation, air travel, and unfortunately, airplane ear. Also called barotitis media, airplane ear is ear pain and a stuffed-up feeling due to the change in air pressure during the plane’s ascent and descent. Yawning, blowing your nose, swallowing, or chewing gum can help.

3. Be aware of how loud summer activities are, and how little it can take to damage your hearing. Do yourself a favor and get a phone app that monitors the sound levels around you. Many are free. You can find more info on our previous blog, Surprising Levels of Everyday Sounds.

How to Protect Your Hearing Aids

1. Do not keep your hearing aids in direct heat or sunlight (e.g., dashboard in your car).

2. Use hearing aid dehumidifiers to reduce moisture damage.

3. If going to the beach, protect your aid by putting it in a ziplock bag with a desiccant. If applying suntan lotion, be sure any doesn’t get on your device.

4. Always open the battery door at night, especially when it’s hot and humid. Humidity can have a devastating effect on your hearing device.

How the Summer Can Help You Hear

Summer is a great time to socialize with others, and if you’re a regular reader of these blogs, you know what we’re about to say — socialization is brain training and a crucial part of maintaining hearing health and wellness.

Check out some hard of hearing community events. The Hearing Loss Association of America, for example, promotes accessible theater groups that use assistive listening devices — such as captioned performances — for the hard of hearing.

Most importantly, have fun! Use the time to learn about all the hearing aids and technology you might not know about. Take advantage of the nice weather to experiment with ideal sound environments. Enjoy the improved communication skills offered by today’s devices. All of this is in the best interest of your cognitive and emotional well-being.

Tech Spot Update: Phonak Roger™ Amplification Devices

Phonak’s Roger™ line of sound amplifiers are some of the most exciting assistive listening devices on the market today. Roger technology — with the help of a hearing aid — helps you listen in noise and is ideal for most classroom or workplace environments.

Take, for example, the Roger Table Mic II, which transmits sound from a 360 degree environment straight to your aid:

“Roger Table Mic II is a microphone dedicated for working adults who participate in various meetings. It selects the person who’s talking and switches automatically between the meeting participants. Multiple Roger Table Mic II can be connected to create a network, making it ideal for large meeting configurations. It can also transmit the sound of multimedia e.g. computer.”

The Roger Pen™ is a similar, but portable, device. Placed near the speaker or source of sound you want to hear, the pen transmits — just like the table microphone — to your hearing device. The Roger Pen is used more for single point-to-point purposes. It also has Bluetooth® capabilities and can connect to applicable computers or multimedia systems.

If all you need is an amplifier for a single conversation, the Roger Clip-On Mic might be just what you need. The clip-on utilizes a directional microphone that picks up sound and interfaces with your aid.

The most recent Roger device is the Roger Select™. Similar to the Roger Table Microphone, the Select is instead geared more towards personal use.

Phonak has a whole list of sound amplifiers, including TV connectors, touchscreen microphones, and wireless microphones specifically designed for teachers (the Roger inspiro™). All are well worth looking into.

Also, please don’t hesitate to check out REM’s monthly updated Technology Spotlight for more information about Phonak and other hearing device products.

 

What Services Do Audiologists Offer?

Deciding to get your hearing tested is a big move for a lot of people. Whether it’s at the urging of a primary care physician or something you decide to pursue yourself, choosing an audiologist often comes with a whole list of unknowns. You may find yourself asking what an audiologist does and what services they’ll provide during the course of your visits. Maybe you’re wondering if you even need to see one in the first place (if you’re having difficulty hearing then probably, yes).

After the decision to meet, you’ll first be given a medical history form. You may also be asked to fill out questionnaires regarding balance and tinnitus. Medication and its potential implications on balance and hearing problems will also be discussed.

After the history? The hearing test. For more information about what to expect from a hearing evaluation, please check out our recent blog.

Once the test is complete, you’ll sit down with the audiologist for the consultation, often based on your COSI (client oriented scale of improvement) — your personal improvement benchmarks. Discussing your results, you and your audiologist will go over personalized communication problems, word recognition tests (comparing hearing speech in noise with hearing aids vs. no aids), and customized treatment recommendations.

If the audiologist decides you’ll need a hearing aid, this is when you’ll begin to talk about specific models. You’ll discuss what you want out of your hearing aid experience, whether you’d like to interface with Bluetooth® technology, and how often you plan to use your aids out in social settings.

After you choose your aid, the audiologist will then monitor the device’s results using real ear measurements. He or she will want to be sure the aid is working to its specifications and your needs. You’ll often meet for follow-up appointments at regular intervals, usually every 6 to 12 months, for maintenance and cleanings.

Other services audiologists often provide are:

  1. Earwax removal
  2. Auditory processing testing (if you have problems comprehending speech even though there is no indication of peripheral hearing loss)
  3. Balance testing or referral for balance consultation

Audiologists are also there to help with your tinnitus needs and can offer advice for any hearing-related questions you may have.

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

 

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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.