DECIBELS: DANGER AND KNOWLEDGE

Decibels are the unit used in measuring the level of sound, but they’re also used as a shorthand for environmental noise.

How loud is too loud?

As we wrote in our Make Listening Safe in School blog, 85 decibels in an 8 hour time span leads to hearing loss, and the louder the sound gets, the amount of safe exposure time will decrease. 90 decibels in 4 hours can cause damage, as can 95 in 2 hours, 100 in hour, 2015 in 30 minutes and so on.

To put a name to the numbers, normal conversation or the dishwasher running could measure about 60 dB, while other appliances (lawnmowers, power tools) can reach about 90 – 100 dB. Music – played loudly through headphones – can reach 100 dB.

Everyday Life

Prolonged exposure of everyday noise can cause hearing loss, especially for those who continually play their music too loud, go to a lot of concerts, or do a lot of yard work without the proper hearing protection.

Others, who’s job may require them to be around loud noises (such as heavy machinery or airplanes), are often at an even increased risk, since they aren’t able to of limit their presence around loud, continuous noise.

For both groups though, steps can be taken to prevent hearing loss. If you CAN limit your exposure, steps should be taken to do so. Take breaks between loud noises, if possible. If you listen to a lot of music, try not to go above the 50 percent volume mark. For those who use headphones to drown out ambient noise, noise cancelling headphones can often help at a much lower volume.

If you work around loud noises, earplugs are a must. Over the counter varieties that expand in your ear canal or even custom made earplugs will save you a lot of money and time down the road, not to mention your hearing.

Further Resources

If you’re interested in noise canceling headphones, you can always compare brands and ratings at reviews.com

PHILADELPHIA SUMMER ACTIVITIES FOR THE HARD OF HEARING

Summertime is outdoor time! Make hearing enjoyable!

The Mann Music Center, Philadelphia’s famous outdoor concert venue located in Fairmount Park, is a great place to go for a night out, and with their free F.M. sound enhancement assistive listening devices, a very accessible place for anyone who might be hard of hearing. Though calling ahead is recommended, no reservations are required, and without any hassle, a patron will be given a personal receiver after speaking to a member of the usher staff.

A little farther away from home, Valley Forge and Gettysburg offer relatively quick and easy ways to learn about the sites. Though certain guided tours might not have any assisted listening devices (it really depends on the tour and who is running it – it never hurts to ask!), the Valley Forge park service has self guided call phone tours while Gettysburg has something similar with their CD tour. Both of these, paired with a personal hearing aid or device, can offer you or your family a personal history lesson. The NPS Valley Forge website also mentions closed captions for the visitor center film and the possibility of assisted listening devices for use on demand.

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Self guided audio tours are the new museums, and Philadelphia’s new Museum Without Walls: AUDIO, seems tailor made for those who may have difficulty hearing in noise:

Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is a multi-platform, interactive audio tour, designed to allow locals and visitors alike to experience Philadelphia’s extensive collection of public art and outdoor sculpture along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Kelly Drive. This innovative program invites passersby to stop, look, listen and see this city’s public art in a new way. Discover the untold histories of the 51 outdoor sculptures at 35 stops through these professionally produced three-minute interpretive audio segments. The many narratives have been spoken by more than 100 individuals, all with personal connections to the pieces of art.”

Their website is easy to use, and offers a variety of options.

The Constitutional Walking Tour is a similar personal audio tour experience.

By downloading an app to their smartphone, a hearing aid user should be able to stream self guided and mobile device tours to their hearing aids by using the hearing aids’ streaming capabilities.

HYPERSOUND

A few months ago, REM Audiology installed several HyperSound systems in our offices. HyperSound is an exciting new sound amplification technology that uses ultrasound waves and special, directional speakers to send focused sound to the listener. It’s a new way to experience sound from your home entertainment system.

Patients are encouraged to come in and try this exciting new technology. In our Voorhees office listening room (a dedicated room designed to feel like a home living room), you can experience firsthand what it’s like to hear the tv as if it were right inside your ears.

According to hypersound.com, “HyperSound’s audio travels in a focused direction along a narrow beam, unlike typical point source loudspeakers that emit sound waves in all directions.” This produces an immersive effect, and is “…almost like wearing headphones.”

“The product, a controller module and a pair of thin-filmed reflecting speakers can be used with standard TV speakers or a home theater setup,” writes Mike Snider in USA Today. And “…you don’t even hear the HyperSound unless you are sitting in that spot.”

HyperSound Clear can be experienced and appreciated by anybody, but the benefits for those hard of hearing are immense.

It’s the perfect solution for people who feel they are not quite ready for hearing aids but express difficulty understanding dialogue on their television. The benefits from HyperSound Clear can absolutely be experienced without hearing aids.

But HyperSound can absolutely be used in conjunction with existing hearing technology. For those with profound hearing loss, this might be the most effective solution. Rodney Schutt, former president of Widex and the current GM of Turtle Beach / Hypersound, says:

“We have an incredible gateway product. The product works masterfully with hearing aids. People with severe hearing losses approaching profound still struggle with all the other solutions available with hearing aids to be able to watch TV. Most of them will tell you that they still have to use the closed captions. It’s a beautiful solution to marry those hearing aid wearers with HyperSound.”

Mashable writes, “the audio coming out of your TV feels lie it’s playing right inside your ears. Dialogue reminds crisp and clear, even as ambient noise rises up in the background.”

We at REM Audiology are really excited about this product, and we urge anyone who might be interested to come in and try it out free of charge. Let’s bring listening back to the living room!

CAPTIONCALL TELEPHONE SYSTEMS

Last week we talked about Hypersound, this week we want to talk about another important piece of technology for the hard of hearing: Caption Call.

CaptionCall is a technologically advanced telephone, one that has voice to text capabilities, large font display, customizable audio, and a visual ringer. With an internet connection, the phone also updates automatically, without your having to do anything.

How CaptionCall works is easy. The phone does most of the work. When a CaptionCall phone receives or dials out a call, a service center automatically receives and transcribes the voice for the user with hearing loss. The calls are transcribed by a real person, so error is limited. Your information and phone calls are also secure. All transmissions are encrypted and FCC regulated.

REM has CaptionCall phones to try out in office. They are hearing aid compatible, and strongly recommended for people who find themselves struggling to listen and comprehend over the phone.

TBI AND TINNITUS

According to a new article published in the ASHA Leader about tinnitus, although 10 – 15 percent of the global population is afflicted by ringing or buzzing in the ears, only about “…3 to 5 percent suffer enough to seek medical attention.”

People respond differently to tinnitus, and its effects vary greatly from person to person. Those sometimes more likely to seek out solutions or medical attention, often see their tinnitus connected to another injury or illness. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), for instance. And though that’s not always the case (“A persons’s reaction to tinnitus dictates how well they can manage or get used to its presence,” says ASHA), the effects of a concussion or external injury can often alter the brain’s response and body system interactions.

“In post-TBI tinnitus, it may be more difficult for the brain to desensitize itself to the auditory symptoms because of the reorganization occurring within the central nervous system. Many people with TBI report a new and heightened awareness of ’noise’”.

While it may be easy to dismiss tinnitus as a lesser side effect of concussion syndrome (an injury that requires immediate and lasting care), those suffering from a constant, internal buzzing may disagree. Tinnitus can often have a psychological hold on those who live with it, and emotional problems and depression are often reported side effects.

The TBI-tinnitus link is often seen in servicemen or women, particularly those who have just returned from an active tour, or people hurt in a car accident or sports related injury. Sometimes, tinnitus may be the most noticeable symptom of a brain injury.

Again, a TBI is something that requires the care and advice of a medical professional, but on the road to recovery, there are ways to combat tinnitus at home. Avoiding drinks with caffeine or alcohol is important, as are overabundance of aspirin and salt. WebMD recommends adding soothing sounds to silence and planned time to relax every day. Sleep is also an important part of combatting tinnitus.

Once at a doctor, further treatment can begin for tinnitus. There are many different forms of tinnitus, and its important to find a recovery regimen that includes other TBI symptoms and side effects.

LISTENING IN NOISE, BRAIN STRAIN, AND THE EFFECTS OF HEARING LOSS ON CHILDREN

Listening is hard work, especially for those with hearing loss. That’s the topic of a recent article on the advance healthcare network, written by Leanne Powers, AuD. “It takes more effort to listen if you have hearing loss because of the exertion required to hear and understand.” This can often lead to “brain strain”, leaving you with the possibility of chronic fatigue, cognition issues, and problems managing balance. Straining to hear in noise can take its toll.

Getting your hearing tested regularly, especially if you’re over the age of 55, can help catch these problems before they occur. If you test positive for hearing loss, hearing aids and personal assistive hearing devices can become the tools to help maintain any problems stemming from brain strain before they become too severe.

Children with hearing loss present a different problem, because they’re still growing and their brain is still developing. According to ASHA, there are four major ways in which hearing loss can affect children:

“1. It causes delay in the development of receptive and expressive communication skills (speech and language).

2. The language deficit causes learning problems that result in reduced academic achievement.

3. Communication difficulties often lead to social isolation and poor self-concept.

4. It may have an impact on vocational choices.”

Though this is not an easy thing for parents to hear, there are many things that can be done. Hearing loss in a child often requires intervention from a speech language pathologist and an audiologist, who will together create a plan of action so that the child won’t be at a disadvantage. ASHA says, “Recent research indicates that children identified with a hearing loss who begin services early may be able to develop language (spoken and/or signed) on a par with their hearing peers.”

Listening is a crucial part of day to day life, and with the right tools and guidance, those with impaired hearing need not be deprived of a normal life.

AFRAID OF WEARING HEARING AIDS? DON’T BE

Admitting one not only has hearing loss but also needs hearing aids can be a big step in one’s life. There are often countless questions not just about features and benefits, but simpler (though no less fraught) questions ranging from how the aids will look in public to how they’ll be received by people in everyday life.

A couple weeks ago, The Better Hearing Institute released an article: 7 High-Tech Reasons You Should Finally Deal with Your Hearing Loss. They run down a whole slew of reasons. Not only do hearing aids “cut out background noise so you hear what you want to hear,” but they also “capture the natural richness and variation of speech, so it’s easier to follow the conversation around you.” On the side of appearance, hearing aids are often “sleek and virtually invisible,” BHI writes.

The health benefits are apparent, as better hearing leads to better listening which helps reduce the psychological stress of straining to hear. Brain function is also improved. We wrote about this before, and Unitron agrees: “The longer you wait, the harder it is for your brain to get used to hearing aids and to re-learn certain sounds. The sooner you start using hearing aids, the better chance you will give your brain to adapt and re-learn sounds you may not have been hearing for a while.”

How the hearing aids themselves look, many might not call a benefit. Maybe they’re afraid of discrimination, or being treated differently by an employer. On that end, we would say that being able to hear and participate in a conversation, being able to continue the crucial action of socializing and interacting with your family, friends, and public far outweighs any appearance concerns. And as BHI says, as many other vendors and hearing professionals say, hearing aids are getting smaller and smaller, more stylish and sleeker.

The hearing aid is a small device that no one needs to be afraid of. Don’t think of it as a detriment or a crutch, but a powerful and vital tool that can literally transform how you interact with people.

HOW YOUNG IS TOO YOUNG FOR A HEARING TEST?

Though REM recommends annual hearing tests for anyone over the age of 55, hearing problems can occur at anytime, in any age.

Should I get a hearing test if I have no symptoms?

Though the obvious symptoms (such as problems hearing speech in noise, or a decreasing ability to retain spoken or audible information) are often what send people to the audiologist, those who hear fine but fall into certain risk categories should still get their hearing tested.

Exposure to continual noise (whether occupational or recreational), a family history of hearing loss, even certain illnesses and medications can all cause hearing loss down the line.

 

Experiencing Symptoms

If you do find yourself struggling with speech in noise and intelligibility, it’s really time to get tested.

Hearing impairment can either be temporary or permanent, and either one requires the attendance of an audiologist. If temporary, the audiologist will walk you through sound dampening options and lifestyle changes so your hearing doesn’t permanently disappear. If permanent, hearing aids or assistive listening devices will be discussed so you’ll be able to accurately maintain and manage your hearing.

No matter what type of loss you have, there’s no reason to assume you won’t be able to participate normally in your every day activities.

 

No Symptoms, No Risk Factors

Hearing screenings are often encouraged for younger children. According to patient.info, “Hearing loss is not confined to those with risk factors – approximately 40% of all children ultimately identified with sensorineural hearing loss do not have an established risk factor; therefore, universal screening is recommended.”

Hearing tests like these can often be carried out when the child is young, even before release from the hospital a few days after birth, but another hearing screening should also be conducted when the child is a little bit older.

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association says, “School-age hearing screenings are an integral tool in identifying children with hearing loss who were not identified at birth, lost to follow-up, or who developed hearing loss later. Without mandated routine hearing screenings in schools, students with unilateral, less severe or late onset hearing loss may not be identified or will be misdiagnosed and managed.”

 

Hearing is Important

Your hearing is important, so if you have symptoms, find yourself in several risk categories, or have a child who has never had a hearing screening, we at REM encourage you to come in for a hearing test. It’s always better to test and know than to wonder and worry about a possible hearing loss.

CAN EXERCISE HELP RELIEVE TINNITUS?

“Reaction to tinnitus sound is connected to a personal’s emotional processing system.” So says Dr. Fatima Husain in an article included in this month’s Hearing Journal. People afflicted with tinnitus often complain of it’s disruptive effects, going so far as to say it’s presence can affect their day to day life as well as their mental health.

Fatima says, however: “In one fMRI study, we investigated the differences in emotional processing between participants with mild tinnitus and those who rated their tinnitus as being more bothersome… Notably, the participants also had different physical activity levels.”

Exercise, physical activity, might have an effect on not only tinnitus, but on a person’s ability to deal with its symptoms.

Other Types of Exercise

Though physical exercise is often helpful, certain relaxation techniques might be just as beneficial.

According to Widex, exercises ranging from deep breathing to progressive muscle relaxation to guided imagery can have a positive effect on your tinnitus symptoms and their manifestations. They outline the different approaches on their website.

Tinnitus.org.uk also has a whole self help list which includes (in addition to regular exercise) meditation, diet, and personal contact. “If your mind is occupied with something absorbing, it is easier to forget about the tinnitus.”

Retraining and Management

Tinnitus can be disruptive and hard to deal with, especially when you take into account the amount of work that can go into brain retraining, but there’s no doubt that with a few lifestyle changes, its treatment might become a little more manageable than you would initially imagine.

HEARING AID BATTERIES AT REM

How long should hearing aid batteries last?

One of the questions audiologists at REM get asked the most is “how long should my hearing aid batteries last?” The answer is — it depends. Your battery life is dependent on multiple variables, such as degree of hearing loss, if your battery is powering other devices (such as Bluetooth streamers or FM receivers), and hours worn daily.

Usually, though, it’s safe to say hearing aid batteries last from 7 – 10 days. But if your use is heavy, that time could be significantly lower.

How do I know when it’s time to change batteries?

From the Starkey website: “Change your batteries if the sound becomes distorted or if you have to turn the volume up more than usual.”

Some hearing aids will beep or give a warning sound every 30 to 60 minutes before the battery needs to be changed, but older model hearing aids will simply shut off when the battery dies.

What type of batteries should I use?

Batteries are designated by a number such as 10, 312, 13, or 675. You must use the number that goes with your particular hearing aid. Generally speaking, the smallest aids run on a 10 battery while the behind the ear aids are either a 13 or 675 battery.

Battery Tips:

All batteries on the market are mercury free.

You should look for the 1.45 volt.

Make sure that once the sticker is taken off, the battery is exposed for 30 seconds before inserting in the hearing aid. The battery needs to be activated by air before insertion.

If the battery has 1.4 volts, do not purchase (1.4 is an older battery with less than efficient function).

What batteries and battery programs does REM provide?

At REM, batteries are supplied 5 years after purchase of a hearing aid under our complete hearing healthcare program. If you bought your aid elsewhere, you can ask about our comprehensive service plans, a great arrangement that could save you money in the long run.

Batteries can also be purchased in individual packs — $6.00 for a 6 pack of batteries.

If you’re not yet a patient and call for a hearing aid cleaning, you can also get a pack of batteries on us!