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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.

Summertime Localization

Since it’s summer, odds are you’ll find yourself outside more than usual, and whether you’re going to street festivals, fairs, amusement or water parks, you’ll want to be aware of your hearing aid’s localization features.

What is localization?

Localization is the ability to determine the direction and placement of sound and noise, and is important for spatial awareness, balance, and location comprehension. Those with hearing loss often have trouble with the localization of sound.

What does this mean for summer activities?

Being able to hear the world around you is an incredibly important part of staying aware and safe, and unlike at home or indoors, the sounds of an outdoor environment can be a bit more unpredictable.

If you find yourself surrounded by a lot of people, you’ll also be surrounded by a lot of sound. To someone with hearing impairment, this could be like hearing a low roar, a flat level of noise coming from no particular direction. This not only limits your interaction with those around you, but can also cause safety issues.

What can you do?

  • Be sure to talk to your audiologist about how your hearing aid processes sound in a 3D environment.
  • Before you buy an aid, research different brands. Oticon Opn™, for instance, has a lot of good localization features, including rapid noise reduction and speech clarity support.
  • If you notice an increased difficulty hearing or comprehending speech or noise in big crowds, don’t ignore it. Maybe you need another hearing assessment, or maybe your aid simply needs an up-to-date adjustment.

Don’t waste your summer worrying about noise outside.

Summer Exercise and Hearing Aids

Summer is hot and maybe sweaty. How can you protect your aids during summer exercise?

Whether you’re running marathons or just going for a walk in the park, moisture buildup can be a real problem during the hottest months of the year. Both humidity and sweat can introduce water droplets into your device, clogging or shorting out the interior components.

Signs Your Hearing Aid Has A Water Problem

Healthy Hearing outlines a list of symptoms, ranging from your aid cutting out during loud noises to fading sound or intermittent static. You may also encounter corrosion in the battery compartment or moisture in the tubing, both of which you’ll be able to see.

Your aid’s health can gradually diminish before it suddenly stops working, so it’s important to take immediate note of any changes. The more you’re familiar with your device’s baseline sound-processing quality, the quicker you can address any potential problems.

Solutions

  1. Talk to your audiologist. They’ll know better than anyone else what to do.
  2. Switch out and test new batteries. Water could simply be trapped between the battery and the contact.
  3. Invest in a dehumidifier. This is preventative more than anything, but each night, or after each workout, use one of these handy and portable machines to help dry out your aid.

Summer Exercise

  1. Work out during a cooler part of the day.
  2. Wear headbands and wristbands to help “catch” your sweat.
  3. Look into protective covers for your hearing aids. Ear Gear, for example, is a nylon-spandex sleeve that fits over most devices.
  4. Keep your warranty information handy, and know your coverage (just in case).

To escape the heat, check out our past blog about exercising with aids during the winter.

Shopping with Hearing Loss

We all know that hearing loss — whether mild or severe — can affect everyday life in significant ways. Trying to hold a conversation, listen to a lecture, or spend time in public can seem daunting, especially if your hearing once functioned at an ideal level. That’s why shopping with hearing loss is a big issue for many, as well as one that a lot of people — and a few establishments — might not give a second thought.

What is easy and taken for granted by some, can be a challenge for others.

The best thing you can do is make sure you have a hearing aid with a good signal-to-noise ratio, a device designed to process speech and sound at an optimum level. Such aids will assist your awareness of speech in space and conversation around you. If you’re interested, ask your audiologist for more info. They might even be able to offer suggestions on how to better adjust or tweak the settings on your current pair.

Above and beyond that, it never hurts to call the store you plan on visiting, especially if you’re still concerned. Management or customer service will often be more than happy to give you a run down of their services, and maybe even a quick description of their layout. Knowing what to expect before you arrive is a big part of facing the challenge in front of you. Anxiety won’t affect your hearing, but it can severely limit your interactions.

Although there are no federal or local ADA requirements retail establishments must follow in regards to hearing issues, some shops will still offer hearing loss amenities. A telecoil (or T-loop), if available, can help in busier locations if you need to understand any announcements or information broadcast throughout the store, and if you’re looking for more personal service, some locations might devote time to one-on-one assistance.

The most important thing you want to ask yourself before shopping is, “what kind of store will I be visiting?” — a grocery store, for instance, is a mostly visual buying experience. A computer shop, on the other hand, or place where you have questions about replacement or repair, might require that personal assistance (maybe a fair bit more than others). But that’s ok! Don’t be embarrassed to broach your concerns when you arrive (or call). If you’re upfront about your hearing loss, most places will be more than happy to help you however they can with whatever you need.

New smart phone apps on the market can also help. Google Live Transcribe, for example, is a new feature you can access if you have an android. This app “automatically transcribes speech in near-real time”. If you have an iPhone and AirPods, you can also easily take advantage of their sound amplifier technology.

For more of REM’s practical hearing loss advice guides, be sure to check out our Seeing Movies with Hearing Loss and Summertime Hearing Tips blogs.

Bananas and Hearing

Can bananas help your hearing? Maybe!

“In the same way that we are told to drink milk to keep our bones strong we are now being encouraged to eat bananas to protect our hearing.”

Why? It all has to do with potassium (and aldosterone).

Potassium is an important mineral for the “fluid in your inner ear”, where the noises you hear are translated into “electrical impulses the brain interprets as sound.” Aldosterone, on the other hand, is a steroid hormone “produced in the adrenal cortex”, which can drop and affect your sodium and potassium benchmarks.

Though eating foods rich in potassium will not affect your aldosterone levels, some say they can help your overall health, and possibly your hearing health as well. If your potassium levels are low — which can affect your hearing — it only makes sense to increase your potassium intake. It certainly won’t hurt (though we always recommend talking to a doctor before any major increase in mineral or supplement consumption).

So eat that banana. Eat a couple. And consider, maybe, keeping your ears open for future developments in aldosterone treatment, which have been shown by some to slow the “progression of age-related hearing loss.”

Surprising Levels of Everyday Sounds

So you don’t go to any loud concerts, you don’t work around heavy machinery without proper ear protection, and you always keep your tv and music at a reasonable volume — can you still lose your hearing from the everyday sounds around you?

Absolutely.

ASHA provides a breakdown of sound decibel levels. Though the effect of day to day noise on your hearing is dependent not only on sound level but also on the length of exposure to that sound, some items you might not think twice about can have a noticeable effect on your hearing. An average blow dryer, kitchen blender, or food processor can be measured between 80 – 90 dBA (decibels), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Healthy (NIOSH) recommends anyone exposed to noises “85 dBA or louder for more than 8 hours a day” should make efforts to limit their exposure at that level.

A blow-dryer, of course, is not a jet engine, but if you’re exposed to it’s noise level for a long enough time, the effects on your hearing can be comparable.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorder (NIDCD) rates anything above 85 dBA as the level – after 8 hours – at which hearing damage begins to occur. Anything below 85 dB (washing machines, city traffic, vacuum cleaner, normal conversation) is considered safe and exposure for up to 24 hours will not cause any hearing loss.

Pretty self explanatory, though there are still some sounds louder than you might realize.

1.) Driving in a convertible – 85 – 91 db at 55 mph or more.

2.) Electric drill / consumer power tools. Many tools won’t reach over 90 dBa, but some might sneak up to ~115, which means safe level of exposure is dropped from 2 hours to 15 minutes. When using tools, always play it safe and wear ear protection.

3.) Noisy restaurants. They’re not quite on the level of a club or concert, but restaurants can be unexpectedly noisy. According to Noisy Planet, restaurant “reviewers have noted noise level averages of 80 decibels or higher in restaurants around the country.”

For a safety regarding length of exposure, be sure to check out our past blog on sound and decibel levels.

Most sounds you hear day in and day out won’t harm your hearing, and you don’t have to go around carrying a decibel meter or anything (though there are handy measuring apps you can get on your phone). Just remember to wear ear protection while using tools, and avoid any prolonged sound that makes you uncomfortable.