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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. 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.

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!

National Protect Your Hearing Month

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. What can you do to help spread awareness about noise-induced-hearing loss (NIHL)?

What is NIHL?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), breaks down NIHL simply: “When sounds are too loud for too long, tiny bundles of hair-like structures that sit on top of hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. When hair cells are damaged, they cannot respond to sound, causing NIHL. In humans, hair cells cannot be fixed or replaced, so the hearing loss is permanent.”

Noise induced hearing loss is hearing loss caused by your habits and surroundings.

NIHL + NIHL Prevention

Noise-induced-hearing loss is preventable, which is why this is an important month. Listening to loud music (with or without headphones), not taking proper precautions in noisy work environments, and attending loud concerts without earplugs can all contribute to early-onset NIHL.

According to Noisy Planet, hearing loss from long and loud exposure to noise might not be apparent at first, but can build over time. In fact, “13 to 18 percent of teens (ages 12 – 19) have signs of possible NIHL.” That’s a lot!

REM recommends noise-attenuating or cancelling headphones to help monitor and regulate the sound levels going into your ears, as well as digital decibel readers that you can download and install on your phone (often free of charge) to help measure the sound environments around you. Also, be sure to check out all we have to say about ear protection (an invaluable way to help preserve your hearing in day-to-day life).

Both Noisy Planet and Oticon offer other prevention tips, such as keeping safe distances from sustained sounds. Sometimes, all it takes is turning down the volume and limiting your exposure. “Give your ears a rest,” Oticon writes.

Spread the Word

Much like during Better Hearing and Speech Month, letting other people know about National Protect Your Hearing Month can be as easy as sharing a Facebook article. But if you want to do more, you can always speak to your school or local community organizations and they, in turn, can possibly distribute pamphlets, hang posters, and try to reach as many people as they can.

If you have any ideas or would like to get involved further, please reach out to us at REM Audiology.

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.

Custom Ear Plugs

The final blog in our earplug series is all about custom protection. These types of ear plugs are made with the help of an audiologist, and offer the most personalized sound attenuation and fit.

What Makes a Custom Earplug

Customs are created just for you. An audiologist will make an earmold to send to a manufacturer, where it will then be crafted to your specifications and needs. Though the specifics depend on the consumer, most earplugs are made from a silicon, semi-flexible material that fits perfectly into your ear. If you opt for musician’s plugs, each will contain a specialized filter, designed to block out a predetermined amount of noise.

Types

Like reusable plugs, customs come in a few different varieties:

1. Sleep earplugs. These are your everyday types, designed to attenuate a level of noise to help you sleep at night, or travel during the day.

2. Musician’s earplugs. The main difference between these and your baseline plugs are the attenuation levels. Musician’s earplugs tend to preserve the relationship between high and low frequencies, to help you distinguish between different tones.

3. Sport earplugs. Varieties include:

Price and Upkeep

Costs usually range from $100.00 – $200.00*, so a pair is a bit of an investment. Keep in mind, though, that a good pair of custom earplugs can last anywhere from 3 to 5 years, much longer than disposables (single use) and reusables (2-3 months).

To get the most out of your money, you want to be sure to clean your plugs as often as possible. Use a little bit of water and a microfiber cloth or a specialized wipe your audiologist can provide. It’s best not to use alcohol or alcohol swabs.

Process of Making Customs

As we stated above, an audiologist will make an earmold. They will first examine your canal for wax, which they will clear out if necessary. Then they will inject a soft putty into your ear, which will take the shape of your canal as it hardens. Once the putty is removed, a history is taken, questions about specifications are asked, and then everything is sent to the manufacturer who will make the plugs and mail them back to your audiologist, who will make sure the fit is perfect.

For specifics and questions, don’t hesitate to ask your audiologist. They will be more than happy to walk you through your choices.

*Plugs for hunters, due to the mix of amplification technology and noise protection, will run a lot more.

 

Over The Ear (OTE) Ear Plugs

This week we’re continuing our tech spotlight blog series by talking about something a little more niche: over-the-ear (OTE) protection. OTE protection, more commonly known as “ear muffs”, is not something everyone is going to use. They’re big, bulky, and not practical for a lot of daily or social actives. However, for those who work in particularly noisy or messy surroundings, or for those who need a level of professional customization, these are possibly some of the best the tools on the market to help protect your hearing.

OTE Protection

OTE hearing protection can be found online or at your local hardware store. They resemble earphones, and fit completely over your ear. No matter the brand, you can adjust the tightness to your level of comfort.

The rims are cushioned and comfortable, some are sweat resistant, and you can wear them for hours at a time. One popular type is even collapsable for easy storage.

Uses and Advantages

Ear muffs are commonly used by construction workers, hunters, and (with some upgrades) airline pilots. They are portable, require less maintenance than, and have similar NRR ratings to*, reusable in-the-ear plugs.

They are ideal for constant use, and can be easily removed, replaced, and stored. You don’t have to worry about irritation or introducing dirt or debris into your ear canal. Earmuffs are also one size fits all (though some brands offer a range of sizes).

Every now and then, it’s recommended you wipe down the inside with some water (though you won’t need to do this nearly as much as you would with reusable ear protection). Compressed air also helps to clear out any skin flakes that may have gotten trapped inside.

At $10.00 – $20.00 for a standard pair on Amazon, they are relatively inexpensive.

Using with Other Protection

Some people double up and wear ear muffs in addition to disposable or reusable plugs. This can help if you find yourself in an extremely noisy or harsh accoustic environment. Coopersafety.com breaks down how this works in regards to NRR ratings:

“When hearing protectors are worn in combination (i.e. earplugs AND earmuffs), rather than adding the two NRR numbers together, you simply add five more decibels of protection to the device with the higher NRR. For example, using 3M™ E-A-R™ Classic Earplugs (NRR 29) with 3M™ Peltor™ H7 Deluxe Earmuffs (NRR 27) would provide a Noise Reduction Rating of approximately 34 decibels.”

Most people opt for a single set of ear protection, however, whether that’s disposable, reusable, over-the-ear, or custom varieties. Each have their strengths.

Next up: custom ear plugs. (This is where your audiologist comes in to help.)

*Regarding NRR ratings: your base level ear muffs will typically have a lower score than your run of the mill disposable or reusable plug. You can purchase brands, however, with comparable noise valuations.

 

Disposable Ear Plugs

The most popular types of ear plugs, arguably, are the disposable varieties. These are the inexpensive plugs you can find in the drugstore or online, the kind of protection you can pinch, twist, and insert into your canal. Usually they expand completely to fill the space inside, and you’ll toss them after a single use. Most disposable plugs are made of memory foam to match the contours of your ear.

Disposable Plug Uses

Disposable ear protection is ideal for those trying out earplugs for the first time, as backups for more permanent plugs, or for those who are more comfortable sleeping and working with that memory foam-feeling.

Sleepers, especially, gravitate towards the disposables. They tend to block out loud neighbors or ambient noise just enough to allow for rest. While they’re also good for attenuating the noise levels around you, making sure your inner ear isn’t exposed to any loud or constant noise, they also bring down the overall volume of the world to more peaceful levels.

Loud work sites also tend to give out disposable ear plugs to their employees. OSHA outlines the circumstances when ear protection must be used (anything over 85 dBA), and how effective these types of earplugs can be in those situations.

Different Types

There are dozens of brands. Some have a more comfortable fit than others, but most will offer similar levels of protection.

For workplaces or industrial areas, the most popular plug might be the 3M classic pillow pack, which you can find online. These are effective, comfortable, and easy-to-use. Just be careful on insertion. There’s no lip for easy removal, so don’t place too far into your ear canal.

As we get into the other earplug categories in later blogs, we’ll have more specifics and recommendations. For disposables, it’s really up to you and whatever you find the most comfortable.

Earplug Tests

Because there are so many disposable varieties, you can often inadvertently purchase cheap knock-off or defective plugs. So before you settle on a type, buy a few small packs and give them each a test run. If they block out or attenuate to a perceived acceptable level of sound, and you find them comfortable and not painful, then you’re good to go.

If you’re using disposables primarily as protection, it’s also a good idea to get a decibel reader, which you can download for little or no cost to your smart phone. Remember what OSHA says — anything above 85 dB is a potential hazard.

Also be sure that after each use, you throw out your plugs; you don’t want to re-introduce dirt into your canal. Don’t wear them for too long, either. Moisture can easily get trapped in your ear, potentially leading to ear infections.

Disposable earplugs are just the tip of the ear protection iceberg, but they’re an incredibly useful day-to-day tool. Try out a few brands, see what suits your lifestyle, and later on, maybe consider some reusable or custom varieties.