Hearing Aids and Masks

Wearing a mask outside the home has become a part of day-to-day life. From a public health perspective, it’s one of the most important things we can do. But for those with hearing loss, masks can pose extra hardships.

People with hearing challenges often rely on visual cues, especially when speaking to others. A mask obscuring someone’s mouth and face removes a much-needed avenue of understanding.

What can you do?

If you’re talking to someone you know has hearing loss, be sure — while practicing social distancing — to look directly at your companion and speak slowly and distinctly, but “do not shout.” If you’re the one with hearing loss, be upfront about your situation. Let whoever you’re talking to know that you need them to speak more clearly, directly. You can even gesture to your aids, to help get your point across.

Another concern is how to wear a mask with your device.

Oticon has a good graphic with tips on how to not only effectively wear a mask, but also how to adapt it to your device’s needs. These include creating extenders, tying long hair back into a bun, and using headbands and buttons to hold the mask to help “take the strain off your ears.”

Why is this important?

It’s not just about comfort. According to Starkey, “The over-the-ear face mask, often the most common style, puts hearing aid wearers at risk for misplacing their behind-the-ear devices when they become entangled upon removal.” The last thing we want to happen is someone to lose, drop, or break their aids.

Further tips

1. Know your device’s warranty and insurance info, just in case.
2. Ask your audiologist or doctor’s office for mask recommendations. They will know best what works best for your personal needs.
3. If you’re spending a lot of time talking or working virtually, see what options your device has with pairing to your computer or phone. Many aids have Bluetooth® accessibility.
4. You can purchase masks with a transparent front (called the “Clear Mask”), for lip-reading purposes.

Masks aren’t going anywhere, at least not for the foreseeable future, but with just a little bit of adjustment, they don’t have to create any extra trouble.

Find Your Hard of Hearing Community

Facing challenges is always easier with the help of others. If you’re new to hearing loss (or even if you’re not!), who can you talk to, turn to for advice? Where can you find those who may be going through a similar situation? How can you find your hard of hearing community?

Audiologists

Your first line of defense will probably end up being your most ardent support system. With the help of your primary care physician and audiologist, you can meet nearly any hearing difficulty head-on with information and advice.

An audiologist will take you through different styles and models of hearing aids. They will offer their opinion on the best ways to keep your ears safe, and they’ll often suggest techniques to practice brain training and comprehension habits for the future. They will not only guide your expectations and answer your questions, but they can also recommend activities and groups to help acclimate you and your ears to any new sound environment.

How to Find Online Communities

With the internet, the hard of hearing world has never been more accessible. But how do you go about finding that certain special group that seems to speak directly to you?

1. Google! Try and find some online communities through online searches. This casts a wide net, but can be a good place to start.

2. Search Facebook or social media for national or local organizations. On-the-web get-togethers can be just as helpful as in-person meetings.

3. Be patient! Finding an organization, message board, or a series of blogs you find helpful — where you feel comfortable — is often a personal process. It can take some time. There’s no rush!

4. Ask around! Talk to your audiologist and the staff at your doctors’s offices, or check out Meetup.com. The more people you talk to, the more ideas and options you’ll have.

Resources

1. If you’re local to us at REM Audiology, the Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre in Philadelphia might be worth your time. “We’re focused on creating opportunities for Deaf individuals to become more participatory members of Philadelphia through work, fellowship, and community activism,” their website states.

2. Or consider the NAD (National Association of the Deaf). Though geared more towards legal matters and advocacy, the NAD website has a full list of links and ideas that can help you pursue your research.

3. Sites like Healthy Hearing and Hearing Like Me always have good ideas and often list sites you may find helpful (such as: Hearing Health & Technology Matters – life as a hard of hearing consumer).

Asking for help is always something we encourage our patients to do. It’s easier to walk together than it is to walk alone.

Getting More From Pediatric Aids

Now that you know the different makes, models, and accessories / assistive listening devices, you might be asking yourself, what else can I get out of my Oticon pediatric hearing aids?

What Can You Do?

1. Ask your audiologist about customization and sound profiles.

2. Read / stay up to date. The features we covered in our tech spotlight and blogs are only the tip of the iceberg, and improvements and additions are always on the horizon.

3. Are you worried about putting a hearing aid on a toddler and keeping it in place? Preventing it from getting lost? Oticon has you covered there, too.

4. Understand the importance of what these devices can do for your child. The more you know about comprehension and developmental assistance, the more your children will benefit in the end.

5. Prepare for your initial fitting and future adjustments. Children develop at a much faster rate than adults. You’ll most likely need to keep on top of audiologist visits and appointments. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your child’s future is worth voicing any concerns you may have.

For more information, don’t hesitate to check out our tech spotlight or call us with any questions.

Keeping Your Ears Clean

Hearing aids are only half the story. Keeping your ears clean and dry (and covered up when you head outside during the winter months) can keep you safe from ear infections, impacted earwax, and other sound-limiting discomforts.

What Can You Do?

1. Keep your ears dry. This is the best way to prevent ear infections. If your ears get wet, or if you have water trapped inside, be sure to dry the outside and immediate inside with a towel or cloth. You can also use swimmer’s ear drops to unclog any passages.

2. Cover up! If it’s cold or windy outside, your ears may get dry, irritated, or debris may lodge itself inside.

3. If you experience pain, or if anything other than water gets deep into your ear canal, be sure to talk to your audiologist or PCP.

4. Don’t use Q-tips®! They may seem like the perfect tool for the job, but they often do more harm than good. If you have earwax, your doctor or audiologist can help remove it.

5. Wipe off anything you put into your ears (hearing aids, earbuds, etc.) with a dry microfiber cloth and any audiologist-approved sanitizer a couple times a week.

Why It’s Important

Your ears, like any part of your body, need to be looked after and maintained. They can be hard to clean, and unless there’s a noticeable issue such as pain or irritation, it’s not that difficult to ignore them entirely. But with the right amount of care, you can be “ears forward.” Protecting your ears can — in the end — help protect your hearing.

Keeping your ears clean is important!

Oticon Apps and Accessories

With both the Opn™ Play and Exceed Play, Oticon offers your children two aids that can help “open up their world.” When paired with assistive listening devices or smartphone apps, their world (and their sound environments) can blossom even more. 

To go along with our Technology Spotlight, we’ve been writing a bit more in-depth on the different brands of Oticon pediatric hearing aids. This week, we’re detailing some of their accessories.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

Many ALD devices act as a microphone or signal booster, which can help create an optimal sound environment for your child and their comprehension.

1. The ConnectClip

The ConnectClip functions as a remote microphone, with the Oticon hearing aid acting as the receiver – perfect for the classroom or after-school activities.

It’s real simple to use, too. All the teacher or speaker has to do is attach the amplifier to their clothing or place it somewhere nearby. The hearing aid will then pick up the signal and your child will be able to hear as if they were standing right next to their desk.

The ConnectClip can also act as a Bluetooth® remote, allowing you or your child to easily and discreetly adjust the aid’s volume or change the programmed settings.

2. Amigo FM Systems

The Amigo FM is an assistive listening device for the classroom that “bridges the distance between teacher and child and significantly improves the signal-to-noise level by sending the teacher’s voice directly to the child’s ears.”

Whereas the ConnectClip is for the child (or the parent), the FM system is installed in and utilized by the school. The teacher or speaker wears a microphone, and a receiver is attached to the child’s aid.

Also keep in mind: “virtually all Oticon BTE models are FM-compatible ‘out of the box.'” The Amigo is fully compatible with most hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Accessories and Apps

1. The Oticon ON App

The Oticon ON app acts like a remote control, making it easy “for older children and parents to monitor and control the hearing aids from a smartphone. With the app, it is possible to check the battery status and adjust program and volume.” There are also handy “find my hearing aid” functions in case your child frequently misplaces their device.

Though there is some overlap between what the ON app can do and what the ConnectClip does, the ON is specifically used for remote control purposes.

2. SafeLine Retention Cord

This cord can be a lifesaver, especially for younger kids who might take out or lose their devices. “Oticon’s SafeLine retention cord lets kids wear their hearing aids while playing sports or running around without compromising safety.” All you have to do is clip it on.

The SafeLine is also made from hypoallergenic materials and comes in two lengths, 17” or 22”. It is compatible with all behind-the-ear (BTE) and miniRITE hearing aids.

What to Buy

Should you go for the personal assistive listening device or talk to your school about installing a classroom-wide FM system? Is the SafeLine really necessary? What else can you do with the app?

You may still have a lot of questions. Please remember, you can always talk to your audiologist or visit the Oticon website directly. Different kids have different needs, and the professionals around you can help your family make the most informed decision.

Always remember that with the right combination, you can help give your child the best possible advantages in terms of both comprehension development and success. Listening doesn’t have to be a chore!

New Year, New Hearing Resolutions

We’re big believers in hearing resolutions here at REM Audiology. Sometimes, a small goal at the beginning of the year is all it takes to make that first step you’ve been meaning to make. Maybe you’ve been wanting to try a new hearing aid or some assistive listening technology, or maybe you’ve thought about downloading some hearing aid apps to help improve your connectivity to the world around you. Possibly, you’ve been putting off getting that initial hearing assessment, making that first phone call to your primary care physician or audiologist.

Last year, we wrote a comprehensive blog on worthwhile hearing goals, covering everything from regular hearing assessments to pediatric testing to new tech and features. This year, we want to focus on the importance of your mental outlook, how it can help you see those resolutions through to their end. Everyone is at a different stage in their hearing health development, but in the fruit few months of 2020, we can all take a decisive step forward together.

Stay Positive

The struggles of hearing loss are very real, and they can absolutely be disruptive. But hearing difficulty doesn’t have to lower the quality of your life. A positive outlook can help motivate you to further explore hearing solutions. There have even been studies that have shown the value of receiving quality hearing care.

“Anger, frustration, depression, and anxiety are all common among people who find themselves hard of hearing. Getting people to use the latest in hearing aid technology can help them regain control of their life and achieve emotional stability and ever-better cognitive function.

Try New Things

Keeping up with the latest advances — even just being aware — is a crucial part of staying confident and engaged with the world around you. We consider hearing technology to be an important investment, so become an informed consumer by visiting sites such as ASHA online and HearingLikeMe.com.

The more you know about the hearing industry — the more savvy you are — the better you and your audiologist can make the decisions regarding your hearing health future.

Work Together

Working together with your audiologist and PCP benefits everyone. With lines of communication open and everyone on the same page, you can really maximize your visits and care.

ASHA has a good list about what you can do before, during, and after your visit.

Have a Good Year

This is your time to shine. The next few months, make an effort to cross some items off your wishlist. 2020 is not just another year, but a new decade. It’s the perfect time to put your hearing health front and center.

South Jersey Holiday Hearing Events

If you have hearing loss, you might spend a lot of time thinking about accessibility, about what options are available to you at various events and venues around town. Does a theater or museum have assistive listening devices or T-coil technology? Do they have reliable open/closed captions or maybe even ASL-compliant interpreters? What is available to help make listening easier? What holiday hearing events are for you?

These are important questions, and this holiday season, we have your back.

What is there to do?

Recently, we wrote about several seasonal activities and resources in Philadelphia. In this blog, we’re focusing on South Jersey.

1. December 12 – 22, the Ritz Theatre Company in Haddon Township has a Scrooge Musical production. December 16 – 21, they have a children’s Frosty the Snowman show. The theater is fully handicap accessible and has select ASL interpretation and assistive listening help. Always call before buying tickets to see what options are available.

2. If you have kids (and even if you don’t), the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ, has a festive Christmas Underwater event. Though they don’t offer assistive listening devices, a free-of-charge ASL interpreter can be provided with 2-weeks notice. They also have complimentary sound-reducing headphones for anyone sound sensitive that you can pick up at the front desk.

3. Though we at REM (understandably) urge caution around loud, sudden noises, the 2nd Annual Hanukkah Fireworks Celebration in Voorhees, NJ, might be worth a look. Here, you won’t have to worry about hearing at all. Just be sure to wear ear protection if needed!

4. There are also all the come-as-you-are holiday events you can choose from: mall Santas, light displays, holiday hayrides, and family farm activities. These might be the perfect places to try out different settings on your hearing aids or practice listening to speech-in-noise. Any new environment that forces you to hear under different-than-normal circumstances only helps your comprehension abilities in the end.

If you have any suggestions for holiday hearing events yourself, let us know! We’ll publish them here in this blog with your permission and attribution.

Resources

For more information about state disability requirements and some helpful suggestions, we suggest getting in contact with the state’s Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Also, be sure to check out our past blogs tips for hearing around the holiday dinner table and our popular holiday hearing guide.

Philadelphia Holiday Hearing Events

Thanksgiving through New Year’s is full of seasonal parties, get-togethers, dinners, and festive events. Don’t let your hearing loss stop you from enjoying the sounds of the holiday season.

What is there to do?

If you’re looking for something specific to do, Philadelphia has a lot of options.

1. If you want to take in a show, nothing beats the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music, both of which have American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation (at select performances) in addition to audio description, assistive listening, and open/closed captions. Check their website for shows and times, and be sure to always call before you reserve a seat. Not every performance might have what you need.

2. Though it’s only one day, the Franklin Institute’s Polar Express event could be fun for you and your kids. “Relive the magic and wonder of the timeless classic holiday tale The Polar Express on Saturday, December 14 with activities inspired by the award-winning book and beloved film. Let your imagination soar as you climb aboard the authentic Baldwin 60,000 locomotive for a guided storytelling experience.” The Institute’s accessibility options include portable assistive listening devices and closed captions for use in the Franklin Theater, where screenings of The Polar Express will be held.

3. If you’re concerned about straining to hear or make out speech and sound (or maybe you just want a break!), a trip out to Longwood Gardens to see the holiday lights (a predominately visual experience) might be just what you need. Or consider a nice walk in one of Philly’s parks. Rittenhouse Square or Franklin Square’s Holiday Festival are beautiful and festive this time of year, and might be the perfect place to not only see the sights, but practice listening to speech and sound in different environments.

4. Explore! Philadelphia is a vibrant city, with lots to do. The Visit Philly website lays out 40 popular events and attractions — everything from holiday shopping and dance performances, to a menorah lighting at the Betsy Ross House. Accessibility may vary between each, but sometimes it can be worthwhile to just show up and try out your hearing devices in varying acoustic landscapes.

If you have any suggestions about what do in Philadelphia, let us know! We’ll publish them here in this blog with your permission and attribution.

Resources

Visit Philly’s website has a great accessibility guide, focusing not only on sights and attractions, but helpful resources on how to get around.

Also, be sure to check out our sister blog: South Jersey Holiday Hearing Events.

Holiday Hearing Gift Guide

What’s an affordable gift to help your hearing? Will whatever you buy interfere with current hearing aids or devices? Should you stay away from hearing-related gifts completely?

It’s almost time to finish your holiday shopping, but if you or someone you know has hearing loss, you could still be trying to find that perfect gift. That’s where our holiday hearing gift guide can help.

Gifts to Help Hearing

A lot of hearing technology is pricey. Personal FM systems or assistive listening devices can be a bit steep to buy without professional input. The CaptionCall telephone, however, can make a great surprise. Easy to use, the CaptionCall is designed specifically for the hard of hearing, a phone with a display of scrolling text so you can “better understand the conversation.”

Phone apps make great under-the-radar presents. Apps can help with hearing aid connectivity (such as the Oticon ON App), speech to text, sound application, and decibel readings. Get a few and turn your phone into a traveling hearing center.

For some perspective, consider a book about the challenges or landscapes of hearing loss. From self-help to fiction, Goodreads has a list to start.

For more ideas, check out HearingLikeMe’s great blog about hearing-specific gear. They cover everything from toys to travel pouches to film recommendations.

Or maybe you can create and print out a hand-made gift card or coupon, one that might say something like: “Redeem for one trip to the audiologist.” That way, you or your loved one can — at your convenience — head on in and test the latest in hearing healthcare technology, tune up your existing devices, or stock up on small accessories and batteries.

Gifts for the Hard of Hearing

If you want to buy something a little less hearing-centric, there are still plenty of options.

Consider a gift card to a movie theater, especially one known to have top-of-the-line ADA-compliant and assistive listening options. Seeing a movie can be the perfect activity for someone hard of hearing.

If you have any suggestions or gift ideas, please let us know. With your permission, we’ll include them at the bottom of this holiday hearing gift guide.

Happy holidays!

Xceed Play

In addition to the Opn™ Play, Oticon’s line of pediatric hearing aids also includes the Xceed Play. Known as the “world’s most powerful pediatric hearing aid,” the Xceed is designed specifically for children with severe-to-profound hearing loss in mind.

Benefits

The goal of the Xceed Play is to preserve and enhance your child’s acoustic environment and help them learn through listening. It accomplishes this through access to 360-degree sound and speech, using — like the Opn Play — Oticon’s self developed BrainHearing™ technology. This technology helps preserve “the important details in speech, so your brain doesn’t have to strain to fill in the gaps.”

Why is this important? Being able to hear the world and distinguish speech and valuable information from noise is crucial for your brain’s development. The more your child can hear, the more your child can grow.

The Xceed also has tech included to help prevent interfering whistling sounds* and can easily connect to accessories and apps, improving the aids’s sound and signal.

Extras

The Xceed is similar to the Play in customization and durability. Though there aren’t as many behind-the-ear styles, your child can still pick from a variety of fun colors. And parents and caregivers can be sure of tamper-resistant battery doors, strong materials, and an LED indicator to help “monitor hearing aid & battery status.”

Check out our Tech Spotlight — all about Oticon’s line of pediatric hearing aids — for more info.

* “Groundbreaking technology in Oticon Xceed Play helps prevent feedback from happening so that your child can enjoy a clearer, stable speech signal*, and receive up to 20% more speech details,** which are essential to language development.”