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2022: Year of Hearing

With 2021 finished and done, we’re once again greeted with the promise of a new year. If you’re still searching for a resolution, how about approaching 2022 as your “Year of Hearing”?

2022: The year to finally make the most out of your hearing aids.

Hearing Goals

1. Catch up with new technology

Hearing technology is changing all the time, and it’s in your best interest to keep up with the latest advances.

Every month, REM holds DEMO DAYS, open to anyone who wants to participate, a good way to get hands-on access to the progress of the hearing aid industry. Want to know more about rechargeable hearing aids, for instance? Our Demo Days may be just what you’re looking for.

If your aid is old, if you’re curious about what features you may be missing, you can also schedule an appointment with your audiologist. Even if you simply have questions, it’s good to know what hearing healthcare tech is out there.

The more you know, the better you can approach your hearing path.

2. Expand your hearing aid’s reach

Assistive listening devices can help in day-to-day hearing, especially in office or classroom settings. One popular product is Oticon’s ConnectClip, an accessory that “turns your hearing aid into a wireless stereo headset.”

The ConnectClip is exciting remote-control technology, a go-between, a device that can transmit phone calls, virtual meetings, or digital audio directly to your aid. All you need is a smartphone.

There are also TV and music aid accessories, digital apps, and phone adaptors, all ready to make your digital hearing life easier. Always remember: hearing aids are a line to the world around you. Different devices can strengthen that connection.

3. Utilize all of your aid

If you’re happy with your hearing aid, be sure to talk to your audiologist about exploring all of its included features.

Take the Oticon More™, for example. The More line of aids offers you everything from smartphone connectivity to brain-like-learning programmable settings. Some aids even have tinnitus relief (utilizing Oticon’s own Tinnitus SoundSupport™ system) where you can control and adjust a range of sounds “until they give you the relief you need”.

4. Socialization

This is a big one here at REM, and something you can easily do on your own. Interaction with the people around you can help your ears and, in turn, your brain. Both are connected.

Think of your brain as a muscle, one that needs to be exercised. The stronger it gets, the more situations you allow it to work or to comprehend speech-in-noise, the more your hearing can potentially improve.

It’s not good to be all alone, and for those with hearing loss, social interaction is crucial.

REM’s resolutions

As for us at REM, we’re still here and committed to being by your side during your hearing journey. For those new to hearing loss, we want to make the transition as easy and productive as possible. For those who have been with us for years, we want to continue being of service, offering you the best in hearing healthcare.

Here’s to a healthy, hopeful, and terrific 2022!

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.

Subjective and Objective Tinnitus

What is tinnitus? Tinnitus is noise (non-external) that you can hear in one or both of your ears. It often presents as a ringing or buzzing and may be constant or intermittent — coming and going — sometimes without cause. Professionals break down the affliction into 2 categories: subjective and objective tinnitus. An easy way to distinguish between the two is by determining who can hear the described noise. If it’s only the patient, then it’s subjective. If others can hear or measure the sound (often through hearing instruments), then it’s objective.

Effective management often depends on the type of tinnitus you have.

Subjective Tinnitus

The vast majority of tinnitus sufferers have subjective tinnitus, ringing in ears that can often be managed, but not fixed.

There are many treatment options for subjective tinnitus. Many doctors recommend limiting the intake of caffeine or alcohol and reducing stress. Auditory habituation or tinnitus retraining therapy is another method and involves a device or hearing aid that produces a low-level sound alongside the ringing in order to desensitize your own, possibly ingrained reactions to sound. This is similar to acoustic therapy, which – through the use of hearing aids or sound generators – masks any annoying tinnitus sounds.

Objective Tinnitus

Objective tinnitus is “usually produced by internal functions in the body’s circulatory (blood flow) and somatic (musculoskeletal movement) systems.” This type can both be heard by your hearing care specialist and can often be cured in its entirety. For those whose “buzzing, ringing, whistling” is caused by a buildup of earwax or a punctured eardrum, the path to clear sound is often as simple as fixing the underlying problem.

Objective tinnitus is rare, seen in less than a single percent of all recorded cases.

What To Do About Tinnitus

1. Don’t panic. Try not to get frustrated. Your reaction — and approach — to tinnitus can greatly affect how much it bothers you down the road. Mindset is important.

2. Talk to your audiologist. Especially if you notice a new or worsening ringing or buzzing. If it’s a symptom of another problem or not, whether it’s subjective or objective tinnitus, it’s best to get any symptoms checked by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Blog update: This was one of REM’s first blogs, published a few years ago, on the effective management of tinnitus. We have updated this article with the most up-to-date information.

 

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Acoustic Ecology

Could the way you listen to the world be wrong?

Of course not. There is no one way to hear the world around you. But according to a little known discipline referred to as acoustic ecology, the relationship between people and their planet is deeply connected to their perception and interaction with sound.

There could be ways of listening you’ve never even considered.

In a sense, acoustic ecology can be understood as helping to define a certain way of life, a method to ethically engage with what R. Murray Schafer refers to as soundscapes. “Our senses are clogged with too much,” Schafer says. “If we become too dominant and too unobservant about the other sounds in the environments…then we’re ruining the richness of our whole lives.”

Selective listening — is that what he’s getting at?

Kind of. Schafer talks often of noise pollution, argues how it can actively lower the quality of one’s life (he refers to the industrial revolution as a worldwide harbinger of constant, “droning” sound). But he also puts the responsibility to hear squarely on the individual’s shoulders. People, in a sense, have to re-learn how to listen.

A soundscape is an “acoustic environment as perceived by humans.” It can be passive, active, natural, or man-made. People can manipulate soundscapes through what they choose to hear or block out, and social systems can impose soundscapes on a population, often without thought. It is a complex back-and-forth between us and what’s around us.

What does that mean?

In the late 1960’s, Schafer created the World Soundscape Project as a way to organize, categorize, present, and preserve the sounds of select sound environments. Its ultimate goal was to “find solutions for an ecologically balanced soundscape,” and search for a symmetry between humans, their communities, and their “sonic environments.”

Balance is an important word to Schafer and acoustic ecologists. Acoustic ecology is all about finding harmony.

What can we do?

Schafer’s influence extends to today. In Chicago, the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology holds events promoting field recordings and “soundwalks” (“focused listening” through a “soundscape with complete attention to sound”). Certain musicians** believe that music can help heal our “relationship with the natural world.” Environmentalists around the world, too, believe that paying attention to sound can help preserve certain ecological habitats.

Though interaction with sound, noise, and soundscapes is not limited to one side, it is essentially up to us to choose how to listen. As Eric Leonardson puts it: “when people stop listening, noise pollution occurs.

**It’s not hard to see why many AE practitioners are also composers. Music can be a way to combine the disparate sounds of the world into something easily perceived, enjoyed, and contemplated.