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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.

 

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.

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.

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.

Tips for Going Back to School with Hearing Loss

Going back to school with hearing loss can be daunting. There is a lot to consider, especially in regards to responsibility. What should the school do? What should the state do? What should parents and children do?

Parents should not be afraid to ask their school questions. The Individuals with Disability Act (IDEA) “insures that all children with disabilities have a free and appropriate education.” The rights of an education – regardless of ability or disability – are protected, as are the rights of the children and their parents in seeing that education enacted.

Different schools have different equipment, and students with different levels of hearing loss are often assigned to different levels of support based on their needs. FM systems are a popular method that allow the student to hear and participate in class. Schools might also offer interpreters or classroom assistance based upon the child’s hearing loss, mode of communication and academic level. The education department websites for New Jersey and Pennsylvania have more info.

What is important to remember is that every child is unique and what they need may be very different from what their peers with hearing loss need. The family should sit down with their school professional and come up with a plan that tailors to their child’s specific needs at that time. As the child gets older, this approach may need to be updated.

Specifically, there are some helpful devices parents may want to look into. The Phonak Roger Products, for instance. The Roger products include wireless microphones that connect to the student’s hearing aid. Some may also have a sensor that allows them to lay on the student’s desk, enabling the child to participate in group learning.

Outside of devices, many audiologists recommend a school walk through at the beginning of the year to in-service the teachers and staff about a child’s hearing loss and academic needs. During the school year itself, they recommend encouraging students with hearing loss to join extracurricular activities and participate in as many day to day activities as possible. Socialization is important to allow them to feel and be part of a group.