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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.

Xceed Play

In addition to the Opn™ Play, Oticon’s line of pediatric hearing aids also includes the Xceed Play. Known as the “world’s most powerful pediatric hearing aid,” the Xceed is designed specifically for children with severe-to-profound hearing loss in mind.

Benefits

The goal of the Xceed Play is to preserve and enhance your child’s acoustic environment and help them learn through listening. It accomplishes this through access to 360-degree sound and speech, using — like the Opn Play — Oticon’s self developed BrainHearing™ technology. This technology helps preserve “the important details in speech, so your brain doesn’t have to strain to fill in the gaps.”

Why is this important? Being able to hear the world and distinguish speech and valuable information from noise is crucial for your brain’s development. The more your child can hear, the more your child can grow.

The Xceed also has tech included to help prevent interfering whistling sounds* and can easily connect to accessories and apps, improving the aids’s sound and signal.

Extras

The Xceed is similar to the Play in customization and durability. Though there aren’t as many behind-the-ear styles, your child can still pick from a variety of fun colors. And parents and caregivers can be sure of tamper-resistant battery doors, strong materials, and an LED indicator to help “monitor hearing aid & battery status.”

Check out our Tech Spotlight — all about Oticon’s line of pediatric hearing aids — for more info.

* “Groundbreaking technology in Oticon Xceed Play helps prevent feedback from happening so that your child can enjoy a clearer, stable speech signal*, and receive up to 20% more speech details,** which are essential to language development.”

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.

 

Winter Exercising With Hearing Aids

When exercising, how can you best keep your hearing aid dry? Should you even wear them in the first place? Is there gear that offers protection? Exercising with hearing aids can be tricky. Exercising with hearing aids in the winter can be even trickier.

Should I Wear Hearing Aids?

Yes, despite the temperature and season, your hearing aids are crucial for outdoor activities. You want to be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you’re with a group, you want to be able to hear them. If alone, it’s important to be able to place yourself in space, to hear what’s nearby.

Make sure your aids don’t get wet, though. Moisture is an aid’s number one enemy.

What Gear Should I Get?

Sweatbands can help prevent water from dripping down and pooling into your ears. Used on your wrist or forehead, these easily allow you to wipe away or stop any perspiration that could potentially damage your device.

Ear Gear products — spandex sleeves that fit over whatever hearing device you have — also offer a convenient solution. According to their website: “Ear Gear has a unique double wall of spandex that provides protection against sweat, rain, and moisture of all kinds….preventing it from reaching the hearing instrument’s microphone port, battery door, and sensitive interior circuitry.” They even have customizable products and sleeves for cochlear devices.

It’s not a bad idea to look into a hearing aid dehumidifier, either. A nightly drying in one of these portable containers can help keep your aid looking and working as good as new.

What Should I Do If My Aid Gets Wet?

Don’t panic! Take out the batteries and wipe down everything with a clean cloth. Use a Q-tip® to clean out the battery compartment. If you have a dehumidifier, place your aid in overnight, and if you don’t, try a ziplock bag with a silica gel packet. If after all these steps you feel your aid’s functionality has decreased, call your audiologist whenever you’re able.

What Exercise Is Best?

Any exercise is good, and frankly, we believe that with the right precautions, those with hearing loss can participate in any activity or sport. When it’s cold, running, jogging or walking are probably the most manageable. But even if you’re skiing or snowboarding, just keep your aids dry (or covered with Ear Gear or similar protections), use your dehumidifiers, and make sure you don’t lose them on the slopes (and always check any warranty information beforehand, just in case).

Happy Trails!

Holiday Hearing Around the Table

Whatever your December may involve, we can all agree that it probably includes a lot of sitting around the table and talking to your friends and family. If you have problems hearing, this can often be frustrating.

Though it may be difficult, we recommend telling anyone who might not be familiar with your hearing loss about your needs up front. It will be a lot easier for you and them in the long run. But we also understand that this may be difficult, especially if you find yourself in a bigger group than usual, or if you’re around people you don’t know. In these situations, don’t get frustrated. Pick up what you can, and respond when you’re able. A couple “pardon me”s and your companions might get the idea without your ever having to tell them.

For smaller gatherings, try to place yourself at the center (location-wise) of any conversation you want to hear. Too far at one end of the table or room, and you may run into difficulty. Quiet backgrounds are always best, though even in the most muted surroundings, there’s always the risk of too much ambient noise. The hardest part about social gatherings are the unknowns.

The Better Hearing Institute has a good, practical list for those persons without hearing loss, and it’s all about accommodation. If you know a guest has a hearing issue, be attentive, speak clearly, and face the person when talking or addressing him or her. If the event is at your house, “keep the room well lit. Providing good lighting will make it easier for those with hearing loss to see facial expressions and the mouths of those speaking.”

Like we said up top, there’s no shame in telling everyone that you need to hear clearly and comfortably. If people know, they’ll often be more than happy to create an accessible atmosphere for both you and your family. And remember, if you have them, always wear your hearing aids. Be sure they’re working and clean before any holiday party, and bring extra batteries just in case.

REM’s Holiday Season

The holiday season is all about family, fun, and cold weather get-togethers. For us at REM, the next few months are also about seasonal hearing health tips.

Coming up in December and January, we’re getting the word out with our holiday-themed Tips and Sips events and new open houses, free to anyone who wants to attend. And for those who stop by our offices, we’ll have seasonal sweet treats available in all our waiting rooms. Come on by, grab a snack, and ask some questions!

On the healthcare side of things, keep your eyes open for our winter newsletter, which will address in greater detail what you can do to keep your hearing in top shape during the winter months, and check out our past blogs on holiday hearing loss and cold weather ear protection. Outside of our website, we also have a patient handout in the upcoming January issue of the Hearing Journal titled, “Tips for Managing Hearing Health During the Season.” We’ll let you know when that’s available.

Finally, and we’ve been beating this drum for a while now, we want to let you know the importance of socializing, of getting outside the house, going to different places and talking to different people. Socialization, as always, equals brain training, and the more you practice hearing speech amid noise, the more your comprehension will benefit.

The holiday season is the perfect time to strengthen your hearing.

ARIA Therapy

If your child has a condition known as amblyaudia — a disorder that prohibits the ability of the brain to process competing information from ear-to-ear — he or she might need a type of dichotic therapy known as ARIA therapy.

Amblyaudia is often diagnosed following a central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) evauation, which can reveal binaural integration weakness. This is when your child develops a dominant ear, which often suppresses incoming auditory information from the opposite ear. We often refer to this “weaker” ear as a “lazy ear.” ARIA therapy’s goal is to correct this imbalance.

ARIA therapy takes place over 4 weeks, in 4 one-hour sessions, and is performed by a licensed audiologist in a soundproof booth. After therapy, there is usually a fifth, follow-up evaluation session.

The Auditory Processing Center, located in Mississippi, agrees that treatment of amblyaudia is crucial for learning and developing children: “Following ARIA treatment children have better access to auditory signals, which will help them hear better, so they will have better access to the curriculum at school. If a child has amblyaudia, this should be treated first in order to make listening easier and maximize benefit from other types of therapy (i.e. dyslexia, speech/language therapy, or tutoring) that the child may also be receiving.”

ARIA therapy is an exciting process the audiologists at REM are proud to be able to offer our patients. Amblyaudia often goes undiagnosed, which is unfortunate, because this therapy can very well help your child become a more efficient listener, both in and outside the classroom.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact our front office, email Dr. Cory McNabb (our pediatric audiologist) directly, or check out our ARIA therapy page on our website. For more info about the actual therapy, be sure to check out this month’s newly updated Technology Spotlight.

Noisy Restaurants and Hearing Loss

If you have hearing loss, you know how difficult noisy restaurants can be. Conversations you might have no problem comprehending one-on-one suddenly become a huge challenge. Maybe you find yourself nodding along, hoping to grab a few words here and there.

Online, there is no shortage of advice on how to deal with hearing difficulties in restaurants. An article on Starkey’s website has tips ranging from seat position (if possible, sit with your back to the noise) to seat selection (if possible, choose a booth). Oticon.com, on the other hand, stresses that the atmosphere of the restaurant matters just as much as where you choose to sit: “In trendy ‘industrial chic’ restaurants, the steel, granite, tile and other hard surfaces amplified sound, raising readings to nearly 85 decibels and creating uncomfortably high sound reverberation.”

The American Academy of Audiology takes a different approach and recommends anyone concerned about restaurant noise install a noise meter on their phone. “These are sound level meters that run on your phone and in one case incorporates a reporting function so you can inform the world about the acoustics of a restaurant.”

Perhaps most important in the hearing loss/restaurant issue is the stigma you may feel comes attached to your hearing difficulty. This should not be the case. There is nothing wrong with suggesting a different restaurant or — if you’re already there — asking if they wouldn’t mind moving to a less noisy area. Simply letting people know up front about your concerns is rarely a bad idea.

For more tips or ideas, or if you want to know which hearing devices best work to help you comprehend speech in noise (such as the the Oticon Opn™ hearing aid), reach on out! We’ll be happy to tell you all we know.