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Turn Your Hearing Aids Up to 11

Hearing aids are amazing tools that adequately improve hearing for the vast majority of people dealing with hearing loss. But in some situations, they need a little extra power or specificity, which is when assistive listening devices (ALDs) are handy. How can you turn your hearing aids up to 11?

Several unique, adaptive technologies are increasingly commonplace:

  • Induction Loop Systems: These harness the properties of electromagnetic fields to amplify sound. They are being incorporated into the design of modern public spaces like museums, churches, concert halls, and schools. Surprisingly simple, they’re based on a loop of wire surrounding a space that establishes a magnetic field that a receiver (such as a hearing aid or handheld device) can tap into. This allows sound that is being routed through an amplifier or transmitted for an audience—like a speaker, musicians, or audio tour—to be more prominent for a listener using a hearing aid than the ambient background noise that might otherwise make listening more difficult.
  • Localized FM Transmitters: Creating a very contained FM field—in other words, a radio station for a specific place—works on the same principle. Hearing aids or other devices can then be tuned into the proper frequency to hear the augmented sound (though interference from the crowded surrounding radio spectrum can be more of an issue). Oticon’s Amigo system is a good example of an FM transmitter for classroom hearing solutions.
  • Infrared ALD: This sounds complicated, but these systems use light waves to transmit sound by communicating with receivers via an infrared signal. Not suitable for outdoor use, since sunlight interferes with them, these systems are most often found in theaters and depend on specific receivers, not directly on hearing aids.
  • Personal Amplifiers: Popular for one-to-one communication. Basically, one person clips a microphone attached to an amplifier that allows the hard of hearing person to more easily hear. Oticon’s ConnectClip works well.

If your hearing aid can’t do it all, remember to speak to an audiologist to see what options you have.

BHSM 2021

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a yearly hearing healthcare event designed to help raise awareness about auditory health, wellness, and communication disorders. The BHSM 2021 theme is “Building Connections.”

What is BHSM?

BHSM is known primarily as a hearing industry affair, a time when audiology clinics and hearing specialists can focus their efforts on getting the word out about hearing technology advances, public health information, and more. BHSM has been around since 1927, and each year focuses on a different aspect of hearing care.

This year, ASHA breaks down the month into 4 weeks:

Week 1: Untreated hearing loss in adults
Week 2: Early intervention
Week 3: The role of Speech-Language Pathologists in COVID-19 recovery (1)
Week 4: Hearing protection for children

Why is BHSM important?

BHSM is all about recognition; not just recognition of the struggles of the hearing loss community, but also their triumphs. It offers hearing care practitioners ways to reach out while allowing patients and those with hearing loss ample opportunities to pursue treatment and show the world their progress.

The staff at REM have always been big boosters of Better Hearing & Speech Month. We strongly believe the best way to help people on their hearing loss journey is to make sure everyone has access to information about yearly advances in hearing technology and hearing help benefits.

If you agree with how important this month can be – to you, to the lives of many people with untreated hearing loss – there are even ways you can help extend a helping hand.

What Can You Do To Help?

ASHA has a comprehensive list of resources you can print out, share, or connect to on social media.

More importantly, you can use BHSM 2021 as an opportunity to talk to that special someone in your life who has hearing loss, one who might not be getting the help they need. Managing hearing loss can change lives for the better, and with care and attention, can help open up and revitalize the world.

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.

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!

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.

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 start (or finish!) your seasonal shopping, but if you or someone you know has hearing loss, that perfect gift could be causing a holiday-sized headache. 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.

If you are interested in hearing aid accessories, Oticon has a ton of options. Everything from connect-clips to remote controls and tv listening solutions.

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 movies aren’t their thing, a music venue or future tickets to an outdoor concert may be just what you’re looking for.

If looking to take your or their mind off hearing for a little, consider something that will keep socialization and interaction strong. Maybe a membership to a museum or even a set of paints and a portable easel.

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.