Pediatric Hearing Aids

The Oticon Opn™ Play hearing device is a pediatric hearing aid specifically designed to help your child optimize incidental learning and truly process sound in a 360-degree environment.

Benefits

Incidental learning is the big perk. Acoustics being what they are, valuable sound and information is not often directed to the listener, which can make it difficult for hard-of-hearing children to pick up on certain things. Sound environments help us grow, and a child’s spatial/hearing awareness is a crucial part of their developmental process.

From the Oticon website: “With Opn Play, there’s finally a cutting-edge hearing aid that allows your child to learn, grow, play and thrive. Open up their world, let them play, laugh along with friends, let them dream about the future. Just like any other child.”

Technology

With its Velox™ chip, the Opn Play boasts superior signal-to-noise processing, helping speech comprehension in noisy areas such as schoolyards or classrooms. As said above, being able to separate what you want to hear from its surrounding background is a beneficial skill for children to have.

The aids are also sturdy, “designed to stand up to the test of childhood.” The battery doors are childproof, the aids allergen-free, and each device has an LED light to “give caregivers and teachers visual confirmation that the battery is functioning properly.”

Extras

Each Oticon Opn play comes in a fun variety of kid-friendly styles and colors. Depending on how your children want to express themselves, these aids can be subtle and unobtrusive or colorful and stylish.

For additional schoolroom help, the pediatric Opn aids can be paired with ConnectClip, Amigo FM, and Oticon ON app systems.

For more information on pediatric hearing aids, visit this month’s technology spotlight over on the REM website.

National Protect Your Hearing Month

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. What can you do to help spread awareness about noise-induced-hearing loss (NIHL)?

What is NIHL?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), breaks down NIHL simply: “When sounds are too loud for too long, tiny bundles of hair-like structures that sit on top of hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. When hair cells are damaged, they cannot respond to sound, causing NIHL. In humans, hair cells cannot be fixed or replaced, so the hearing loss is permanent.”

Noise induced hearing loss is hearing loss caused by your habits and surroundings.

NIHL + NIHL Prevention

Noise-induced-hearing loss is preventable, which is why this is an important month. Listening to loud music (with or without headphones), not taking proper precautions in noisy work environments, and attending loud concerts without earplugs can all contribute to early-onset NIHL.

According to Noisy Planet, hearing loss from long and loud exposure to noise might not be apparent at first, but can build over time. In fact, “13 to 18 percent of teens (ages 12 – 19) have signs of possible NIHL.” That’s a lot!

REM recommends noise-attenuating or cancelling headphones to help monitor and regulate the sound levels going into your ears, as well as digital decibel readers that you can download and install on your phone (often free of charge) to help measure the sound environments around you. Also, be sure to check out all we have to say about ear protection (an invaluable way to help preserve your hearing in day-to-day life).

Both Noisy Planet and Oticon offer other prevention tips, such as keeping safe distances from sustained sounds. Sometimes, all it takes is turning down the volume and limiting your exposure. “Give your ears a rest,” Oticon writes.

Spread the Word

Much like during Better Hearing and Speech Month, letting other people know about National Protect Your Hearing Month can be as easy as sharing a Facebook article. But if you want to do more, you can always speak to your school or local community organizations and they, in turn, can possibly distribute pamphlets, hang posters, and try to reach as many people as they can.

If you have any ideas or would like to get involved further, please reach out to us at REM Audiology.

Returning to Class with Hearing Loss

Returning to class with hearing loss can be challenging, so it’s important to prepare your child for the year ahead. But what should you say? How should you say it? How can you appropriately talk to your kids about the start of the new school year?

All good questions.

1. Explain to your child that their hearing aid or device will actively help them learn, that it’s important they do not feel different or disadvantaged in any way.

2. Treat their hearing aid as a cool new device, something to not be ashamed of, but proud to wear. Frame it, maybe, as a cool new bit of technology, a fun piece of jewelry, or a combination of both. It’s not uncommon to see people wearing earbuds or headphones outside of school, and what’s a hearing aid but a more permanent earbud?

Pediatric aids come in a variety of colors, too. If it’s their first or a new device, help them pick one out that best expresses their personality. Encourage customization!

3. Mention the importance of taking care of the aid — how to treat it with care and handle it gently. A couple times a week, consider a cleaning and maintenance routine with them by your side.

4. Tell them to speak up if they’re still having trouble listening or paying attention, that it’s always ok for them to tell their teacher if they can’t hear. Maybe their batteries need to be changed, or something might be wrong with an FM system or your assistive listening device. Possibly, the aid might need a new configuration. The only way to know is for them to say something.

5. Kids adapt quickly. The most important thing is to not attach any stigma or negative connotations to their wearing of hearing aids.

Every year, REM puts out a blog with back to school tips for those with hearing loss, covering everything from the problems they may face to the importance of getting tested by an audiologist as soon as possible (for both social and developmental reasons). For additional information, please see our past blogs on tips for talking to school administration and the importance of classroom acoustics.

Autumn Hearing

Summer is winding down, and with the hotter weather soon behind us, it’s time to start preparing for fall. A change of season means a change in hearing healthcare.

Hearing Goals

Autumn brings cooler weather, a host of holidays, and new activities. You might swap out the beach for scenic car trips; outdoors might slowly be replaced by gatherings inside.

The change in your surrounding environment might take some getting used to, especially if you have new hearing aids. Indoor acoustics (windows closed, people crowded inside) for longer periods of time can prove challenging. But if there’s a readjustment period, don’t worry — simply be patient and voice your concerns.

Our past blogs about dining out or talking around the dinner table have some applicable tips for carrying on conversation inside. Remember, learning to listen in different types of locations can strengthen the way you hear, how your brain perceives sound, and how you can comprehend speech amid noise.

Weather

The weather outside will most likely be moderate, so your hearing aids will probably be OK. Temperature extremes (the hot in the summer, the cold in the winter) are more likely to affect your device than any temperature in the fall.

One thing you’ll want to watch out for, however, is any dampness or moisture caused by chill. If you have a dehumidifier, continue drying out your aids a couple times a week. Don’t stop just because summer is over.

Holidays

Summer into fall brings with it back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays. This means parties, people, and lots of conversation. Use this time to brain train, to practice listening and talking. Strengthen your hearing as best as you can before bunkering down for the winter.

Most importantly, have fun! September through December brings lots of opportunities for you to further your hearing health goals.

Optimizing Classroom Acoustics

Classroom acoustics are a crucial part of a child’s education experience and development. If the arrangement of chairs or the layout of the room impedes the natural flow of sound, then the amount of information heard and retained can be affected. This is especially true for your hard-of-hearing students.

REM has written about this before. In that blog, we covered everything from proper layout to national standards and recommendations. In this blog, we want to focus on the specifics of classroom setups.

Chair Positions

The single greatest thing you can do to help improve acoustics is properly position your students’ seats.

The closer a child sits to the teacher, the louder the speech signal will be, and the more they’ll be able to hear. Students who sit in the back of the classroom may have a harder time listening, participating, and learning. A half circle might be the best configuration for desks, allowing the teacher to project at an equal distance from everybody. If this isn’t possible, talking and walking (roaming the aisles) might be the way to go, with desks placed at inward, center-facing angles.

For hard-of-hearing students, a wireless FM system or Roger™ Pen might provide the best benefit, allowing hearing aids to pick up any transmitted speech.

Classroom Materials

  1. If the ground is uncarpeted, consider adding soft materials (such as felt or cork board) on the walls to help with unnecessary reverberation.
  2. Rubber stoppers or tennis balls on chair and table legs can reduce ambient scratches or squeaks.
  3. Hanging curtains over the windows — if allowed to do so — might help keep some of the noise at an acceptable, even level.

Ambient Noise

Everything from your overhead lights, to air conditioning or heating units, to outside traffic, can add a layer of unwanted noise. Though these might be harder to control, be sure to turn off any equipment you’re not using, and (if possible) replace or move anything broken or portable. Always remember, too, to regularly ask your students if they’re having any trouble hearing you speak.

Learn More

Classroom Acoustics are an important part of your children’s education. Please see the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) for more information on what you can do to optimize your learning environment.

Summertime Localization

Since it’s summer, odds are you’ll find yourself outside more than usual, and whether you’re going to street festivals, fairs, amusement or water parks, you’ll want to be aware of your hearing aid’s localization features.

What is localization?

Localization is the ability to determine the direction and placement of sound and noise, and is important for spatial awareness, balance, and location comprehension. Those with hearing loss often have trouble with the localization of sound.

What does this mean for summer activities?

Being able to hear the world around you is an incredibly important part of staying aware and safe, and unlike at home or indoors, the sounds of an outdoor environment can be a bit more unpredictable.

If you find yourself surrounded by a lot of people, you’ll also be surrounded by a lot of sound. To someone with hearing impairment, this could be like hearing a low roar, a flat level of noise coming from no particular direction. This not only limits your interaction with those around you, but can also cause safety issues.

What can you do?

  • Be sure to talk to your audiologist about how your hearing aid processes sound in a 3D environment.
  • Before you buy an aid, research different brands. Oticon Opn™, for instance, has a lot of good localization features, including rapid noise reduction and speech clarity support.
  • If you notice an increased difficulty hearing or comprehending speech or noise in big crowds, don’t ignore it. Maybe you need another hearing assessment, or maybe your aid simply needs an up-to-date adjustment.

Don’t waste your summer worrying about noise outside.

Summer Exercise and Hearing Aids

Summer is hot and maybe sweaty. How can you protect your aids during summer exercise?

Whether you’re running marathons or just going for a walk in the park, moisture buildup can be a real problem during the hottest months of the year. Both humidity and sweat can introduce water droplets into your device, clogging or shorting out the interior components.

Signs Your Hearing Aid Has A Water Problem

Healthy Hearing outlines a list of symptoms, ranging from your aid cutting out during loud noises to fading sound or intermittent static. You may also encounter corrosion in the battery compartment or moisture in the tubing, both of which you’ll be able to see.

Your aid’s health can gradually diminish before it suddenly stops working, so it’s important to take immediate note of any changes. The more you’re familiar with your device’s baseline sound-processing quality, the quicker you can address any potential problems.

Solutions

  1. Talk to your audiologist. They’ll know better than anyone else what to do.
  2. Switch out and test new batteries. Water could simply be trapped between the battery and the contact.
  3. Invest in a dehumidifier. This is preventative more than anything, but each night, or after each workout, use one of these handy and portable machines to help dry out your aid.

Summer Exercise

  1. Work out during a cooler part of the day.
  2. Wear headbands and wristbands to help “catch” your sweat.
  3. Look into protective covers for your hearing aids. Ear Gear, for example, is a nylon-spandex sleeve that fits over most devices.
  4. Keep your warranty information handy, and know your coverage (just in case).

To escape the heat, check out our past blog about exercising with aids during the winter.

Acoustic Ecology

Could the way you listen to the world be wrong?

Of course not. There is no one way to hear the world around you. But according to a little known discipline referred to as acoustic ecology, the relationship between people and their planet is deeply connected to their perception and interaction with sound.

There could be ways of listening you’ve never even considered.

In a sense, acoustic ecology can be understood as helping to define a certain way of life, a method to ethically engage with what R. Murray Schafer refers to as soundscapes. “Our senses are clogged with too much,” Schafer says. “If we become too dominant and too unobservant about the other sounds in the environments…then we’re ruining the richness of our whole lives.”

Selective listening — is that what he’s getting at?

Kind of. Schafer talks often of noise pollution, argues how it can actively lower the quality of one’s life (he refers to the industrial revolution as a worldwide harbinger of constant, “droning” sound). But he also puts the responsibility to hear squarely on the individual’s shoulders. People, in a sense, have to re-learn how to listen.

A soundscape is an “acoustic environment as perceived by humans.” It can be passive, active, natural, or man-made. People can manipulate soundscapes through what they choose to hear or block out, and social systems can impose soundscapes on a population, often without thought. It is a complex back-and-forth between us and what’s around us.

What does that mean?

In the late 1960’s, Schafer created the World Soundscape Project as a way to organize, categorize, present, and preserve the sounds of select sound environments. Its ultimate goal was to “find solutions for an ecologically balanced soundscape,” and search for a symmetry between humans, their communities, and their “sonic environments.”

Balance is an important word to Schafer and acoustic ecologists. Acoustic ecology is all about finding harmony.

What can we do?

Schafer’s influence extends to today. In Chicago, the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology holds events promoting field recordings and “soundwalks” (“focused listening” through a “soundscape with complete attention to sound”). Certain musicians** believe that music can help heal our “relationship with the natural world.” Environmentalists around the world, too, believe that paying attention to sound can help preserve certain ecological habitats.

Though interaction with sound, noise, and soundscapes is not limited to one side, it is essentially up to us to choose how to listen. As Eric Leonardson puts it: “when people stop listening, noise pollution occurs.

**It’s not hard to see why many AE practitioners are also composers. Music can be a way to combine the disparate sounds of the world into something easily perceived, enjoyed, and contemplated.

Tinnitus Education

Tinnitus education starts early at REM! For children especially, early management of tinnitus can help prevent future issues, such as hearing loss due to noise exposure.

And while it’s very important to not draw undue attention to tinnitus in a child lest they over-focus on or invent its presence, it is likewise important for parents and physicians to pay attention to any unsolicited complaints of ringing, buzzing, or “foreign” sounds in their ears.

What Do We Propose?

The presence of tinnitus symptoms can be due to noise (maybe they’re listening to loud music through earbuds), certain medications, or even a past head injury. It can be harmless or require immediate attention. There are a lot of variables, and it’s important to figure out what’s what.

REM recommends that all school-aged children receive at least 1 hearing test in their elementary years. That might be the perfect time to not only talk about hearing loss — its risks, what it feels (and sounds) like — but also what to do if they experience any “hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring or ringing” in their ears.

Again, you don’t want to overemphasize tinnitus, as a small amount of ringing in the ears can be both normal and — to the detriment of the child — hyper-focused on. But you may want to ask them to describe — in their own words — what sounds they normally hear. If they detail anything out of the ordinary, it may provide cause to investigate possible signs of tinnitus further and maybe even come up with a treatment or management plan for the future.

How Does Tinnitus Manifest in Children?

As in adults, every case is different. The most common symptoms, according to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) are:

  • “Reports of ringing, buzzing, clicking, whistling, humming, hissing, or roaring sound
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Poor attention and restlessness in a very young child
  • Tantrums, irritability, and your child holding his head or ears
  • Severe fatigue
  • Anxiety or depression”

CHOP also breaks down why tinnitus in children is something that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. It may be temporary (a side effect of exposure to a loud noise), but tinnitus could also signal “damage to the inner ear,” which can cause hearing impairment and affect concentration, learning, and development in the classroom.

It’s Up To Us

“About one-third of children suffer from tinnitus at some point, but the condition often goes unnoticed. In many cases, the child is too young to describe what they’re hearing, has come to think of it as normal, or is not troubled by the experience enough to mention it,” CHOP also writes.

It’s a tricky situation, trying to diagnose something you don’t necessarily want to draw attention to. But since a lot of children don’t notice tinnitus, or can’t articulate its symptoms if they do, it’s up to us to find a way to help.

Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. What can you do to help spread awareness?

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.” Given enough time, it can harm your ability to remember, hold conversation, or carry out simple tasks. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia, and ranks somewhere between third and sixth as the leading cause of death in older Americans.

Your Mind and Your Body

As audiologists, we naturally want to know how Alzheimer’s can influence your hearing health. The brain is your command center, and when it starts to change, so does your body. When a disorder like Alzheimer’s takes hold, your physical sense of self can be just as affected as your mind.

New research suggests a link between dementia, hearing loss, cognitive load, and social isolation, with hearing loss as the catalyst. Though hearing loss does not directly cause Alzheimer’s (or dementia), it can lead to lifestyle and medical changes that can sometimes, in a sense, “open the door.”

This is why getting an annual hearing assessment* — especially if you’re aged 55 or older — is important. If early identification and intervention can even slightly help prevent Alzheimer’s, then a hearing test is something every person needs to regularly receive.

Help Spread the Word

Check out the Alzheimer’s Association to see what you can do to help. Ideas include wearing (and turning your social media profiles) purple, sharing your story, and more.

For more information about the mind and hearing heath, check out past REM blogs on the relationship between hearing loss and dementia and brain aging & memory loss.

*See office for details