Auditory Training at Home

If you have hearing loss and find yourself alone during the winter months, the following tips could help with your auditory training at home.

What is auditory training?

Auditory training is not only learning how to distinguish between sounds but comprehending and interpreting the sounds you hear. In day-to-day life, this is usually done passively and — if you have difficulty hearing — with a hearing aid or audio device. Socializing with people and interacting with others around you helps strengthen your signal-to-noise ratio, clue you in on what’s going on and what you need to pay attention to. In young children, auditory training goes hand in hand with brain development.

How can auditory training be impaired?

If socialization is taken away or limited, if you find yourself alone more often than not, you may wear your hearing aids less. Your brain may stop working as hard as it’s used to, and its ability to decode the information your ears hear — like any muscle not in constant use — may atrophy.

What can you do?

1. Always wear your hearing aids during the day, whether you’re alone or not.
2. Read books while listening along to the audiobook (or read along out loud). In the long run, this visual + auditory combination can help strengthen your comprehension.
3. If you’re watching tv or a movie, turn on closed captions (in addition to keeping the volume at a comfortable level).
4. Talk to people! Current technology can often pair right to your hearing aid to help with video chats and digital get-togethers.

For other suggestions, don’t hesitate to call your audiologist, who will be able to answer any other questions you may have about auditory training at home. Historically, winter months are the toughest months, but today our aids and our knowledge can help bridge the isolation gap, help us continue to grow.

Digital Holidays

If you’re away from family this holiday season — as a lot of people are — chances are good you’ll instead be spending time with them digitally. Video chats this year are the new get-togethers, a holiday lifeline for those who can’t see their loved ones in person.

If you have hearing loss and wear hearing aids, how does this affect you?

Technology

The good news is, most digital aids can pair with wireless devices easily. All you have to do is look up your manufacturer’s specifications. Oticon, for instance, has “wireless listening capabilities…” in several of their aids, allowing you to “easily connect to accessories and everyday devices for clearer and more comfortable communication.” Using their built-in Bluetooth® capabilities, modern aids can make listening to music, watching tv, and talking to friends and family easier than ever before.

Take Zoom, as an example. HearingLife outlines how simple it is to hook up your aids, depending on your digital platform. Keep in mind, however, if you’re using a computer, you may have to purchase an Oticon ConnectClip, a device that helps “turn your hearing aids into a wireless stereo headset.” Different brands will offer different features, and some may even be able to hook up to your computer directly. Don’t hesitate to ask your audiologist for more information.

Socialization

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, and for those with hearing difficulties, it may seem even tougher. Those not able to socialize as they have in years past — especially given the existing hurdles of hearing loss — may isolate themselves and pull away from the people around them. It’s not uncommon to choose solitude in these times. It’s even understandable. But know that doing so may cause harm down the line. The brain needs conversation, interaction.

So consider using this holiday season to your benefit. Know that you’re not alone. Reach out to friends and family to continue the traditions of your past. ASHA Leader has a very helpful article about ways to make your family’s holidays festive and bright, everything from setting expectations to planning conversation starters and games.

For additional resources, please talk to your audiologist, who can help you with not only technical concerns but also with making the next few months of digital holidays a little easier on everyone.

Social Distancing

In today’s world of social distancing and 6-feet-away safety, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about the efficiency of hearing aids over long distances. How far away can you be before your aids don’t help you anymore?

The good news is today’s hearing technology is more effective than ever before. But for larger distances or noisier locations, hearing and speech processing can be tricky. Especially in a learning environment. Even with top-shelf aids. For every doubling of distance, the sound level around you reduces by 6 decibels (dB) (e.g., moving from 10 to 20 meters away from a sound source). Background noise, too, further compromises word intelligibility. A person with optimal hearing requires speech to be 2 to 3 dB louder than background noise in order to understand 50% of words correctly. A person with mild to moderate hearing loss requires speech to be 8 dB louder than background noise in order to understand 50% of words correctly.

What aids do help?

Though no technology is perfect (a great enough distance and/or ambient noise will overpower any aid), Oticon’s BrainHearing™ technology and their Opn S1 can certainly help bridge the gap. “Oticon Opn and the open sound experience proved how Oticon’s unique approach to signal processing outperformed traditional hearing aid technology. In fact, compared to traditional technology, Oticon Opn improved speech understanding by 30%, reduced listening effort by 20%, and improved memory recall by 20%.

Another device that can help, especially in classrooms, is the Oticon ConnectClip, which functions as a remote microphone. For watching TV or listening to podcasts and music, current hearing aids can also connect to your phone and smart devices via Bluetooth®. Be aware, though, that constant use of remote connection will drain your batteries at a faster rate than usual, so be sure to stock up!

For other options and devices, don’t hesitate to ask your audiologist.

Outside of hearing healthcare technology, what can you do?

For regular conversations, you can be pretty confident your aids will work at a distance of 6 feet, though it might be more of a challenge to hear than if you were closer. If there is too much ambient noise, you can always politely ask your companion to speak a little louder or move to a quieter location. Be upfront with your situation, and don’t be embarrassed.

Even more concerning than keeping your distance is having to potentially isolate yourself from family, friends, and maybe even healthcare professionals. According to professionals, “in times such as these, when we are encouraged to be further apart from each other to avoid community-based virus spread…members with hearing loss are likely feeling more isolation than ever before.” And with isolation comes a whole host of problems, including depression, which can potentially affect the way you hear and how your brain can process speech.

If you have concerns about any comprehension or hearing trouble, please talk to your audiologist or primary care physician. Being comfortable in your environment is no small thing, and right now, it’s important to be at your best.

Keep Your Hearing Aids Dry

Cold weather is almost here. This fall and winter, how can you keep your hearing aids dry and safe?

Keep Them Dry

Keeping water out of your aids is one of the most important things you can do. Any excess moisture can irreparably damage your device, and due to COVID, you probably don’t want to make any unnecessary trips to get them fixed.

Consider purchasing a specialized dehumidifier to help dry out your aids at night. For specific products, check out amazon or talk to your audiologist. They’ll know the best option for your needs.

When changing batteries, be sure your hands are dry and no excess moisture touches the contact ports.

Exercise / Masks

This year, there are also masks to consider. In addition to normal mask-wearing tips, if you’re exercising outside, you want to be sure both your face covering and your hearing aids are both properly fitted and not tangled up. You don’t want to lose your aid mid-run.

If you’re working out, sweat is also a factor. Though it’s another accessory, consider wearing a sweatband to catch any perspiration.

Damage

Unsure if your aids are damaged? Healthy Hearing has a list of “telltale signs”:

1. Loud noises cause hearing aids to cut out
2. Fading sound
3. Static
4. Distorted sounds

If, worst-case scenario, your device has issues, don’t worry! Check the warranty and call your audiologist. It may just be a matter of drying out your aids. With remote testing and device diagnosis on the rise, it’s also possible your audiologist could fix your aid without you ever having to leave the house.

FYI

For a complimentary mask extender to help prevent your hearing instruments from falling out, give us a call at (888) 710-5734. We’ll be sure to reserve one for you!

Prepare your Ears and Aids for Fall and Winter

What steps you can take to help prepare your ears and aids for the fall and winter months ahead?

Stock Up

Make sure you have plenty of batteries, hearing aid wipes, and the proper cleaning tools. If something goes wrong with your device, there’s a lot you can do at home to fix the problem, especially with regular maintenance.

But be sure to call or visit your audiologist for all necessary supplies.

Get Tested

If you’ve been waiting to get your hearing tested or re-tested (or if you need a new hearing aid), now might be the perfect time to do it, before it gets too cold. All REM offices still follow COVID-19 safety procedures, so you can take care of your hearing needs quickly and safely.

Be sure to also look into any telehealth or remote testing options. Sometimes, an audiologist may be able to diagnose and fix a problem over the phone or video chat.

Keep Up Your Brain Training

This time of year, everyone spends a lot more time indoors. This can have unwanted consequences for those with hearing loss. The more you’re isolated, the less you talk with people, the easier it is for your hearing comprehension — your ability to understand speech in noise — to backslide.

REM recommends trying to stay connected to as many people as possible. Video chats and Zoom hangouts are ideal supplements to interacting with people in person, and your devices may even be able to be paired to your computer system. Audiobooks can also be a helpful, enjoyable training technique.

Talk to Your Audiologist

Your audiologist, because they know you and will know what to do. They can recommend the best actions to take and will help you with your fall and winter preparations.

Give them a call! See what they have to say.

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!