SUMMER SPEECH AND HEARING

Before you know it, summer vacation will be in full swing. But just because it’s summer doesn’t mean your kids have to stop learning. For those who are hard of hearing, or have speech difficulties, the summer months can be a vital time for brain training.

A few weeks ago, we released our annual Summer Speech and Hearing Newsletter, a collection of links and resources we send out to local educators as part of our bi-monthly education newsletter subscription.

Among the links included are:

1. Five Easy Activities to Prevent Brain Drain, via the ASHA Leader

2. Summer camps and programs, from Gallaudet University/National Deaf Education Center. (Note: though it might be too late to sign up for this summer, it’s always good to keep these on your radar.)

Socialization

One of the most important things to keep in mind is socialization. For hard of hearing kids especially, summer month socialization is crucial. Allowing kids to retreat from interaction is comparable to suddenly stopping exercise after 9 months of near constant workouts. When the new year starts in September, you don’t want your kids to have to play catch up to a level they already achieved.

Socialization is important, but it’s also a big topic. We hope to cover it in a blog later this month. For now, there is no shortage of articles on the internet, and you can always call our main office to find out more information.

If you would like to be a part of our education newsletters (or any of our newsletters), please don’t hesitate to sign up.

TIPS AND SIPS

Every second Wednesday of the month, the Voorhees and Medford branches of REM Audiology will be holding a Tips and Sips hearing cafe get together.

What is a Tips and Sips hearing cafe get together? We’re glad you asked. Tips and Sips is an opportunity to socialize, a space where patients can ask questions and inquire about any services or technology they’ve been curious about. It’s a place where once a month, people can stop by and learn from each other regarding strategies and technologies they’ve found useful in addressing their hearing needs.

There’s no set plan to a Tips and Sips meeting. Your needs come first so at the start we’ll address your concerns. Afterwards, there’ll be demonstrations of new technology, and plenty of time to mingle and share.

Our hearing cafe get together, like we said before, is every second Wednesday of the month, from 4 pm to 6 pm. It’s free to attend, but we do ask that you make an appointment, so we can know how many people to expect. Complimentary wine and cheese will be served.

If this is something that sounds fun, or useful, or interesting, please don’t hesitate to call us at 888-710-5734 for the Voorhees office, or 888-709-5565 for Evesham. We hope to see you there!

SOCIALIZATION FOR HARD OF HEARING KIDS AND ADULTS

In our Summer Speech and Hearing blog earlier this month, we touched a little bit on the importance of socialization for hard of hearing kids during the summer months. We wrote:

“One of the most important things to keep in mind is socialization. For hard of hearing kids especially, summer month socialization is crucial. Allowing kids to retreat from interaction is comparable to suddenly stopping exercise after 9 months of near constant workouts. When the new year starts in September, you don’t want your kids to have to play catch up to a level they had already achieved.”

One thing we didn’t mention is how socialization is just as important for hard of hearing adults.

First things first, though: what is socialization?

Socialization is probably what you think it is. It’s interacting with people and attending events. Socialization is for everybody. People diagnosed with a hearing deficit, however, sometimes have a tendency to withdraw. But to withdraw can often impede hearing even more. No matter how severe your hearing loss, not letting your hearing impact who you talk to and where you go is crucial.

Why? What can you do?

The more you talk to people, the more you’ll be able to exercise your ability to understand, to hear in noise, and to acclimate your hearing-hearing aid comprehension in various environments. It may not be easy going, not at first, but just like running a marathon, the more you practice the farther you’ll go.

Socialization is important for the brain, which is why most socialization articles online deal with hearing impaired kids. A growing brain needs stimulus. But any brain, regardless of age, is always changing and adapting. Challenging your brain, your comprehension, is important for any age.

Development wise, however, socialization may be more important for kids. The Success for Kids with Hearing Loss website has a good section about social issues for hard of hearing children. It goes into some important specifics, starting with how hearing impaired children’s social communication skills often develop more slowly than their peers:

“Social skills are typically learned by children with little effort starting at a young age. These skills are shaped by children watching others and having other people react to their behavior. How we learn social skills is based on very subtle cues, such as facial expression, body posture and quiet auditory cues. Because of their smaller “listening bubbles” children with hearing loss do not pick up language and the subtle aspects of interactions going on around them as fully as their peers with typical hearing.”

Further, adults can always push themselves to socialize, and though support systems are recommended (friends or relatives to make the “exercise” easier), an adult has more individual control over what they do or don’t do than a child often does. Socialization for kids often falls to the parents to enforce. School provides built in opportunities, but these need to be supplemented with outside activities and maybe speech therapy. This is especially important during the summer months, as we touched on briefly above.

There are no set rules for how you should strengthen your hearing through practice. The important thing is to understand the time that it will take, and the ability you have to adapt.

Links and Tips

Socialization Tips for Noisy Get Togethers
For Parents: How do I socialize my hard of hearing child?
Socialization for kids, from Oticon
My Hearing Loss Experience, a personal blog about hearing loss and socialization

REM WELLNESS RUNDOWN

In our July Newsletter, we briefly talked about how hearing is an important part of overall wellness. We touched on all age groups, providing links from the importance of socialization in children (which we also wrote a blog about) to one about summer activities for seniors and hearing loss.

Wellness is something we at REM Audiology take very seriously, and it’s something we talk about often. Through hearing knowledge and hearing aids, utilizing hearing tests and state of the art technology, we feel we’re in a good position to help our patients achieve their own personal health goals. Hearing is a big part of overall wellness, and one part REM Audiology can focus on completely.

To reach these goals, we started a few programs and installed some new features in our offices. In addition to our very own Wellness Program, which began a little less than year ago, we also have a monthly Tips and Sips Hearing Cafe meet and greet (where you can show up with questions and concerns) and newly installed Listening Rooms (where you can try out our new interfacing technology in any of our offices). We’re also bringing around hearing test kiosks to local health fairs, trying to get the word out to the community how important hearing really is.

This is all old information to anybody who has been following our past blogs and website, but it’s something we want to keep emphasizing. For anyone with hearing loss, auditory difficulties, or questions of any kind, REM Audiology is here to help.

For more information about any of our programs, please don’t hesitate to call any of our offices. If you’re interested in our new technology or current hearing aid models, please feel free to contact us or stop by.
And finally, keep your eyes open for one of our most exciting changes yet: a new, more responsive website, set to make its debut in the next couple of months.

HEARING LOSS IN THE OLDER COMMUNITY

The prevalence of hearing loss increases with age. That should come as no surprise. The challenges the older population faces in regards to that hearing loss, however, might be a different story.

A primary concern audiologists face while treating their patients is reluctance. Siemens cites a study: “A new survey found that a majority or senior citizens who suffer from hearing loss choose to ignore treatment with hearing aids and are in denial about the negative effects of these decisions.”

One of the most effective ways to combat a hearing deficit is to be proactive in it’s treatment and management. Hearing loss is something that will not go away. In fact, the opposite is true. The longer hearing loss is ignored, the worse it could potentially get.

What are some ways to combat this?

An initial hearing test is the first step. If there are concerns about getting a checkup, it doesn’t even need to be an in-office test. There are simple online hearing evaluations that could alert you to a problem. And though these should never be used in lieu of a test performed by a trained professional, they can often be a good foot in the door. (We at REM Audiology wanted to meet you halfway, so we bring a hearing kiosk around to community events, trying to spread the word about hearing and the value of an up to date evaluation).

Another problem is how slowly hearing loss can sneak up on you. From hear-it.og:

“At first, you start missing high pitched sounds. Words seem too softly spoken to you. S and th-sounds become unclear as does a child’s or a woman’s voice. As your hearing loss worsens, you adapt and turn up your TV. You ask people to please repeat what they just said. Slowly but surely, frustration grows in and around you. You avoid the situations that put you on the spot, the group conversations in which you feel left out, the interactions with colleagues and relatives that often lead to shrugs of their shoulders and deep irritation. The frustration turns to embarrassment or, worse, bitterness and loneliness. In the end, you withdraw into a shell of silence.“

That’s not all, either. Hearing loss can also affect the people around you. The Hearing Review mentions a study in how the loss of your hearing inevitably involves you “communication partners”.

But there are always way to deal with hearing difficulties. Realizing your have a hearing loss is the first step A clear line of communication between you and your audiologist, and you and the people around you, is the second.

COCHLEAR IMPLANT

What is a cochlear implant?

“A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.” That’s according to the the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

“The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin.”

Who is a candidate?

Both children and adults can get cochlear implants. Children as young as 12 months can be fitted for the device.

In fact, children may benefit from the device more in the long run. We don’t mean to discount the enormous impact a cochlear implant can have with an adult patient (the benefits are enormous), but according to audiology.org, “All children, especially those implanted at a young age, demonstrated improvement in sound detection and in their auditory perceptions kills following implantation.” The child will learn and develop with the cochlear device.

The University of Maryland Medical center provides a good rundown of who can benefit and who can qualify. “The ideal candidates for cochlear implantation are adults or children with recent hearing loss and young children whose hearing loss is identified very early.” A decision is ultimately decided by a team of specialists working with the patient.

How does the technology work?

According to cochlear.com, “A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that does the work of damaged parts of the inner ear…to provide sound signals to the brain.”

 

WebMD has an in depth breakdown: “First a surgeon places a receiver under your skin behind your ear, through a small cut. The receiver is connected to electrodes, which are surgically inserted into the cochlea.” A while after the surgery, the patient is fitted with three external pieces: “a speech processor, a battery pack, and a transmitter. You wear the microphone, which looks like a hearing aid, behind your ear.”

Once everything is ready to go, the microphone will pick up any external sound and “change them into electoral impulses,” which are sent to the receiver, which are sent to the electrodes, which stimulate the auditory nerve. Once the auditory nerve is stimulated, the signals (sounds) are sent to the brain.

You can find out even more information at the ASHA website:

1. Cochlear Implant Quick Facts

2. Cochlear Implant FAQ

HEARING AIDS AND MEMORY

Have you ever wondered about the relationship between hearing loss and memory decline, or even dementia? If you have, you’re not alone. Google has pages and pages of studies and articles, info that ranges from medical sites (John Hopkins) to mainstream newspapers (Chicago Tribune). And while there is no conclusive link as of yet, as the Hearing Review says: “the evidence from scientific studies is intriguing.”

Let’s proceed for a minute as if hearing and cognitive function are definitively connected. If hearing loss can lead to memory loss, can the use of hearing aids forestall that decline? According to AARP, maybe. “Fortunately, there’s a potential upside. If this connection — shown in several recent and well-regarded studies — holds up, it raises the possibility that treating hearing loss more aggressively could help stave off cognitive decline and dementia.”

AARP is also quick to point out that nothing is proven, and even some of the top researchers, despite having “several theories about the possible explanation for the link between hearing and dementia…” aren’t sure if any will prove accurate.

Hear-it.org talks about hearing aids and memory in a different, more immediate way. In their article, “Hearing aids stimulate brain activity”, they talk about the common occurrence of forgetting everyday sounds. “Untreated hearing loss affects your quality of life, but it also affects the brain’s ability to remember common everyday sounds because the hearing channels are no longer effectively used.

Dr. Frank Lin, one of the leading researchers on the subject of hearing and memory, also talks about some of the more noticeable effects of hearing deficiency and memory loss. He refers to something he calls the cognitive load. “Essentially, the brain is so preoccupied with translating the sounds into words that it seems to have no processing power left to search through the storerooms of memory for a response.”

The Better Hearing Institute compiles a list of articles and links in support of World Alzheimers Month.

PHONAK TECHNOLOGY

When you’re trying to find new hearing technology, you often don’t have to look farther than Phonak. With the Roger Pen, the Easy Pen, and the Easy Call, Phonak created devices to help people hear discreetly in noise.

The Roger Pen is a wireless microphone. From Phonak’s website:

“This universal, cutting-edge wireless microphone helps people with a hearing loss to understand more speech in noise and over distance. Designed with discretion in mind, the Roger Pen features adaptive wireless transmission, fully automated settings, wideband audio Bluetooth for cell phone use, TV connectivity and an audio input for listening to multimedia. It can also be used alongside other Roger Clip-On Mics and Roger Pens in a microphone network.”

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The Roger Pen is a digital wireless system, and there are platforms for both adults and children. Both the Roger Pen and the Easy Roger Pen (a more streamlined version of the product) interact with your hearing aid. They can be used as a transmitters (sounds that the microphone picks up will be heard in your hearing aid) as well as intermediaries (audio from multimedia stations or supported devices can be streamed directly to your aid).

The Roger pen reduces the negative effect that distance has upon speech comprehension. The further away a speaker is from the hearing aid, the more degraded speech comprehension can become. The use of the Roger Pen shortens the distance between the speaker and the hearing aid, enhancing speech intelligibility, especially in noise. The Roger Pan can be used very easily in situations such as cocktail parties. The hearing aid user holds the pen similarly to a regular pen and discreetly points it towards the speaker.

Phonak’s Easy Call is another device that allows noise to stream directly to your aid. “EasyCall wirelessly connects a Phonak hearing aid with any Bluetooth-enabled cell phone and binaurally streams the call directly to the hearing aids for maximum speech understanding.”

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To learn what product best suits your need, be sure to visit Phonak’s online guide.

REM has all products to try out in our offices.

LOCALIZATION TECHNOLOGY

What is localization?

According to the Hearing Review:

“Localization is the ability to tell the direction of a sound source in a 3-D space. The ability to localize sounds provides a more natural and comfortable listening experience. It is also important for safety reasons such as to avoid oncoming traffic, an approaching cyclist on a running path, or a falling object. Being able to localize also allows the listener to turn toward the sound source and use the additional visual cues to enhance communication in adverse listening conditions.”

Localization helps your spatial awareness. For those with hearing loss, this can often be a problem. That’s where hearing aids come in, and why an audiologist will always recommend two aids instead of one.

Localization Technology

The science behind localization is pretty complex, and hearing aids will generally have different approaches to how they handle processing sound in a noisy environment. But they all strive towards similar ends: helping your brain hear by improving your sense of place and orientation.

One big advancement was the creation of a wireless communication technology called ear-to-ear.

From Healthy Hearing:

“Traditional hearing aids process sound independently, according to the hearing loss in each ear. This can cause the wearer difficulty in pinpointing the sources of sound because the timing and level differences are often lost. Wireless hearing aids address this problem by working together to compare timing and level differences for sounds received at the microphone of each device, thus preserving the natural localization cues our ears provide.”

Oticon’s website addresses the benefits of wireless technology:

“As an extension to digital sound processing, Oticon’s latest quad-core signal processing platform, Inium Sense, delivers the unique combination of exceptional performance, incredibly small size and low power consumption. This is how Oticon raises the bar in speech understanding, sound quality, wireless connectivity and listening effort, and opens a wide range of personalisation opportunities.

This brain-like behaviour provides a more authentic listening perspective. In addition to pushing the limits of how hearing instruments process sounds, Inium Sense allows people to connect to a number of Bluetooth enabled electronic devices such as mobile phones, MP3 players etc.”

Localization is determined by how the hearing aids communicate with each other. The programming of the right ear is determined by the programming of the left (and vice versa). Because of wireless technology, the hearing aid responses are optimized for speech intelligibility, preserving the timing and level differences that are necessary for localization.

Ear-to-ear wireless technology is available in premium or advanced hearing aids.

In Summary

Localization is a big part of hearing, and though the differences from low end to high end can be night and day, anything from a pair of traditional aids to the latest aids with wireless technology will help your sense of space in noise.

 

HEALTHY HEART, HEALTHY HEARING

February is Healthy Heart Month. Heart disease is a leading cause of death in America, and illnesses from an unhealthy heart can often affect other parts of your body.

This is readily apparent in regards to hearing health. According to Healthy Hearing:

“The inner ear and its mechanisms, because of their small size, are particularly susceptible to any changes in blood flow… Restrictions in the blood vessels leading to the inner ear cause the sensitive hair cells within the inner ear to die, and unfortunately the hair cells don’t regenerate.”

Many believe that a poor cardiovascular system may inhibit one’s ability to hear, especially in older patients. Starkey writes:

“An active lifestyle can improve cardiovascular health and increase blood flow to the ear. According to the American Journal of Medicine, increased physical activity can actually decrease your risk for hearing loss. The American Heart Association also recommends maintaining a healthy diet and keeping blood pressure within a healthy range.”

Heart and hearing aren’t often thought of interacting, but the body is interconnected.

REM recommends annual hearing screenings for patients 55 and over. A change in hearing can alert a physician to early onset of cardiac problems. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.