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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. Without professional input or communication between everyone involved, personal FM systems or assistive listening devices can be a bit steep to surprise-buy. The CaptionCall telephone, however, isn’t too expensive and could make a great gift. 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!

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.

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.

Seeing Movies with Hearing Loss

It’s movie time, with or without hearing loss. With October’s scary flicks and winter’s Oscar® contenders on the horizon, fall is the perfect time to find yourself at the theater.

For those worried about their hearing difficulty, here are some REM-approved tips that may help you maximize your moviegoing experience.

Tips For You

1. Movie theaters are pretty loud to begin with.

Being able to hear the movie will be a lot easier than trying to understand a conversation with a friend out in the lobby.

2. Pick your seat wisely!

The best seat, according to some experts, is in the center of the row, about 2/3 of the way back from the screen. You’re farther away from the speakers, but you’re also where the sound mix is the clearest.

3. Assistive listening devices can be very useful.

Not only that, but as of this year, theaters must offer them to anyone who needs them: “Under new rules that took effect in the summer, movie theaters must now provide closed captioning and audio description for any digital movie that includes such accessibility features. The services must be provided upon request at a person’s seat.”

If you’re curious about specifics, theater websites often have more information. AMC, for example, has everything from devices to amplify sound to caption readers to audio description/assistive listening technology. Some theaters may even have T-coil connections, allowing your hearing aid to pick up your theater’s audio stream.

Whatever the theater offers, it’s always a good idea to call before you leave to verify availability. Specific devices may differ per location and chain.

4. Watch movies at home!

Some new releases are released on-demand simultaneously to their theatrical window. Most are released shortly thereafter. Gone are the days when you had to wait 8 months to watch a new movie at home.

Home theaters are also getting better and better. There are devices available you may already have that help transmit sound from your system to your aids.

5. Plan your trip for off hours!

Movie theater audiences can be noisy, their sound cutting into the sounds you want to hear. Simply put, fewer people = less distraction.

6. Try not to worry!

Test out different theaters and different times of day, and before you know it, you’ll find your ideal combination.

If you want to make day of it, be sure to check out our blog about hearing in noisy restaurants. Enjoy the movies!

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.

 

Galapro Theater App

For those with hearing loss, there’s something exciting happening in the theater world, and all you need is your phone. For years, going to a play while hard of hearing could be a difficult experience. However, things could be changing for the better.

What Galapro does is simple. It lets you stream real-time closed captions right to your phone. Their webpage explains it best:

“How does it work? Simply download the app and choose from our participating theaters. You can search by city or current location. Once you choose your preferred theater you will be able to see the show offered with the available languages and services.”

NPR recently profiled the app, following a user who was often frustrated by the lack of theater options for those with different degrees of hearing loss. Standard venue offerings, such as sign language shows and closed captioned devices, never seemed to be enough. Being able to understand or enjoy a performance was usually more trouble than it was worth. Using the Galapro app, however, now being able to follow along the show on his phone, the theater-goer finally found a reason to stick around.

Galapro also has voice recognition software and displays text on a black screen so as not disturb other theater guests. It could also potentially work extremely well with a T-coil connection. Using both Galapro and a T-coil connection you’d be able to listen to audio streamed directly to your aid while reading the performance’s text right in your lap.

You can see what shows currently work with Galapro by visiting Theater Access NYC. For now, Galapro is New York City based, but that could always change. You can also use Galapro for Live Captioning elsewhere if CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) is offered at your event, lecture, or conference. See the Galapro website for more information.

It’s still early days, but Galapro is definitely an app worth watching

 

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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.