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2021 is Here

2021 is here, and with the promise of a new year comes the hope for change. Coronavirus holidays and winter brain-training have our attention now, but do you have hearing healthcare plans in mind for the spring and beyond?

If you’re still looking for some simple steps to help with your hearing resolutions, we might be able to offer a few COVID-safe suggestions.

1. Mask extenders. Start your year off right by picking up one of our complimentary mask extenders. These easy to use accessories can help keep you protected and your hearing aids safe. Call our office for more information. Stop by, and we’ll bring them to you right outside.

2. Any hearing aid problems? Get them taken care of with our curbside service! For routine maintenance issues, you can drop off your device without having to leave your car.

3. If you would like a little more intensive work on your hearing aid (such as reprogramming), you can ask us about our remote testing services. We’re planning to roll this out in the next few months.

4. Attend some of our virtual seminars. If you’re interested in what new hearing technology is out there, hop onto one of our zoom demonstrations. We’ll be demoing the latest tech and answering any questions you may have. Our Tips and Sips page will list all upcoming dates and info about how to log on.

Let’s go into this year with our ears in mind. Here’s to a hopeful and healthy 2021.

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

Though the upcoming fall and winter season will have its challenges, there are steps you can take to help prepare your ears and aids for the 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.

Be sure to call 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 follow COVID-19 safety procedures, so you can take care of your hearing needs quickly and safely.

Be sure to also look into any tele-health or remote testing options. Sometimes, an audiologist can diagnose and fix a problem over the phone or video chat. Other times, they may opt to try and fix the problem from afar.

What is Remote Testing?

Simply described, remote testing is when hearing aids are paired via Bluetooth to an app on a smart phone or smart device. An audiologist using a computer in REM’s office can then program or make changes to the hearing aid. Some devices even permit the audiologist to do a hearing test through the aids themselves. REM is currently working on starting up our remote testing program.

Keep Up Your Brain Training

This year, everyone will be spending 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 in this situation, 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, 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.

At-Home Maintenance

A lot of potential hearing aid issues can be solved right from the comfort of your own home, and now more than ever, it’s good to know how to routinely clean and take care of your device. At-home maintenance can save you a lot of frustration in the future.

Getting Ready to Clean

1. Set a schedule. Clean your devices at the same time every day or every other day, preferably right before bed.

2. Use tools designed for the job, such as a wax pick and tiny brush. Your audiologist can provide you with specific options.

3. Use alcohol-free wipes, or a microfiber cloth you can gently wet.

Cleaning

1. Always remove the batteries before you touch any cleaning material to the surface of your device. Then “keep the battery compartment open to dry overnight. If they’re rechargeable, dock them according to the manufacturer’s specifications.”

2. Use the wipes or cloth first. Gently run them over the surface of the aid.

3. Next, take your brush and remove any dust or debris, focusing on any nooks or crevices (such as the microphone).

4. For RITE (receiver-in-the-ear) aides, you also want to keep an eye on your wax guard. You’ll want to brush any wax off your device any time you clean, but you’ll also need to change and unclog the wax guard every month or two. For this, you’ll need other specialized tools. Hearing Life has a helpful tutorial.

Still Having Issues?

Sometimes, you might just need to change the battery or adjust the volume. If you’re having difficulty getting the right levels, it could require a simple solution.

If none of your troubleshooting works, however, you may need to talk to your audiologist. Telehealth appointments might be available. Here at REM, we’re working on getting our remote testing system up and running. Soon, we’ll be able to access your aid in your home from our office to help diagnose and fix the problem. Call your audiologist for more information.

For step by step video guides about cleaning and taking care of your devices and other at-home maintenance tips, you can always refer to our How-To Videos.

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.