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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.

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. Without professional input or communication between everyone involved, personal FM systems or assistive listening devices can be a bit steep to surprise-buy. The CaptionCall telephone, however, isn’t too expensive and could make a great gift. 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!

Autumn Hearing, Indoors vs Out

What’s the best thing about autumn? Pumpkin pie? Cooler weather? Maybe Halloween? There is a lot going on between October and December. If you have hearing loss, how can you best navigate the joys of the season? How can you best look after your hearing, indoors vs out?

Outside

Despite the chilly weather, chances are you’ll still be spending a fair amount of time outside. You might be going on long walks, looking at the leaves change, or you might want to take advantage of one of the most popular harvest months and plan some pumpkin or apple picking weekends. There are hayrides, corn mazes, and haunted houses, too.

  • The main thing you want to watch out for is moisture. Chill in the air might turn to water on your aid. Be sure to dry off your device each night, and use a dehumidifier if you have one.
  • The nice thing about cooler temperatures is more pockets, more places to store accessories. So, if you’re out at your local fall fair, be sure to stick some extra batteries or cleaning cloths somewhere handy.
  • Since you survived the summer, by now you should be an expert at navigating sound environments in outdoor elements. But even so, fall means more wind and rustling leaves. There might be a slight period of readjustment needed.

Inside

Fall has a lot going for it, but it also marks the time of year when people start spending longer periods of time indoors. This change — no matter how familiar — can always feel like a bit of a shock.

  • Keep on talking and seeing people. Go to parties and get-togethers. The more you do this, the more you “practice” hearing. Remember the REM mantra: socializing = brain training.
  • If your hearing aid has settings or profiles, they might need readjustment. This time of year — right before winter — is the perfect time to be sure your device is functioning at peak performance. A visit to the audiologist might even be in order.
  • You might be tempted to take your aids out more than usual when you’re home alone, inside and cozy. Don’t! Wearing your aids as much as possible helps both you and your brain.

Halloween

According to some, maybe the best holiday. And who can blame them? Dressing up, going to spooky parties, and canvassing the neighborhood for candy — when else can you do that?

  • If you’re trick or treating, always be sure you or your children are aware of your surroundings. When it gets dark, visibility might be low, and with all the kids on the street, it might be harder than normal to hear the world around you.
  • Decorate your aids! Have fun with your costume and don’t hide your devices. Be careful of bulky masks or ear coverings.
  • “Wear a glow-in-the-dark badge to say you’re deaf/head of hearing.”

Holiday Season

After Halloween, it’s only a few short weeks until Thanksgiving, and then a few more until the December holidays. The weather will be getting colder, and soon you’ll be spending most of your time indoors, away from the chill. But that’s for another blog!

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.

Autumn Hearing

Summer is winding down, and with the hotter weather soon behind us, it’s time to start preparing for fall. A change of season means a change in hearing healthcare.

Hearing Goals

Autumn brings cooler weather, a host of holidays, and new activities. You might swap out the beach for scenic car trips; outdoors might slowly be replaced by gatherings inside.

The change in your surrounding environment might take some getting used to, especially if you have new hearing aids. Indoor acoustics (windows closed, people crowded inside) for longer periods of time can prove challenging. But if there’s a readjustment period, don’t worry — simply be patient and voice your concerns.

Our past blogs about dining out or talking around the dinner table have some applicable tips for carrying on conversation inside. Remember, learning to listen in different types of locations can strengthen the way you hear, how your brain perceives sound, and how you can comprehend speech amid noise.

Weather

The weather outside will most likely be moderate, so your hearing aids will probably be OK. Temperature extremes (the hot in the summer, the cold in the winter) are more likely to affect your device than any temperature in the fall.

One thing you’ll want to watch out for, however, is any dampness or moisture caused by chill. If you have a dehumidifier, continue drying out your aids a couple times a week. Don’t stop just because summer is over.

Holidays

Summer into fall brings with it back to school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays. This means parties, people, and lots of conversation. Use this time to brain train, to practice listening and talking. Strengthen your hearing as best as you can before bunkering down for the winter.

Most importantly, have fun! September through December brings lots of opportunities for you to further your hearing health goals.

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.

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.

Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. What can you do to help spread awareness?

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s is “an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills.” Given enough time, it can harm your ability to remember, hold conversation, or carry out simple tasks. Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia, and ranks somewhere between third and sixth as the leading cause of death in older Americans.

Your Mind and Your Body

As audiologists, we naturally want to know how Alzheimer’s can influence your hearing health. The brain is your command center, and when it starts to change, so does your body. When a disorder like Alzheimer’s takes hold, your physical sense of self can be just as affected as your mind.

New research suggests a link between dementia, hearing loss, cognitive load, and social isolation, with hearing loss as the catalyst. Though hearing loss does not directly cause Alzheimer’s (or dementia), it can lead to lifestyle and medical changes that can sometimes, in a sense, “open the door.”

This is why getting an annual hearing assessment* — especially if you’re aged 55 or older — is important. If early identification and intervention can even slightly help prevent Alzheimer’s, then a hearing test is something every person needs to regularly receive.

Help Spread the Word

Check out the Alzheimer’s Association to see what you can do to help. Ideas include wearing (and turning your social media profiles) purple, sharing your story, and more.

For more information about the mind and hearing heath, check out past REM blogs on the relationship between hearing loss and dementia and brain aging & memory loss.

*See office for details

BHSM & Beyond

Now that Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) is coming to a close, you might find yourself wondering what else you can do to help raise awareness about communication disorders.

To Recap BHSM

Communication disorders in children are not as uncommon as some may believe. Their prevalence as well as their lower than ideal treatment numbers makes them an increasingly pervasive issue, and similar numbers are seen in adults. “At least 20 percent of U.S. adults, at some point in their lives, have a significant problem with hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, or language,” according to the NIDCD.

If left untreated, communication disorders — which may or may not be developmental, but which can always affect a child’s development — can negatively influence one’s life for the worse. What ASHA and other organizations have undertaken with BHSM is a month aimed to help spread awareness about the importance of early intervention, no matter what stage of life you find yourself or your kids at.

For The Future

So, you’ve already shared all you could on your facebook and twitter feeds. You’ve used the #bhsm hashtag to connect with others. Maybe you even donated some money. What now?

* Just because BHSM is almost over, doesn’t mean your awareness campaign has to stop. Continue visiting the ASHA, the ASHA Leader, the NIDCD websites, which are always being updated with new and crucal information to share. If you’re not already, be sure to also follow their social media accounts. You can find similar speech and hearing resources through google, as well, and do the same.

* Get creative! Creativity is the best way to reach those who might not know about a certain topic. Take a peek at ASHA’s new children’s book, for example, aimed at helping siblings of kids with communication disorders.

* Talk to your congresspeople. If you want to reach a wider audience, this may be a great way forward. ASHA outlines the basics of what you should know about approaching your local governing body or representatives.

* Talk to your medical community. Local hospitals and clinics probably have the best ideas on how to approach spreading the news.

* Talk to your schools. Does your school system offer regular hearing screenings? How well do they manage to monitor for any developmental or comprehension issues their students may face? How well do they implement their IEP’s or 504 plans? It never hurts to ask. Maybe you can even inspire the board to be more proactive if they aren’t already.

There is a lot you can do, and the best part is — if you want to help make communication disorders into a more approachable and known topic of conversation — you don’t have to spend too much time doing it.

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.