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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.

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!

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.

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.”

Pediatric Hearing Aids

The Oticon Opn™ Play hearing device is a pediatric hearing aid specifically designed to help your child optimize incidental learning and truly process sound in a 360-degree environment.

Benefits

Incidental learning is the big perk. Acoustics being what they are, valuable sound and information is not often directed to the listener, which can make it difficult for hard-of-hearing children to pick up on certain things. Sound environments help us grow, and a child’s spatial/hearing awareness is a crucial part of their developmental process.

From the Oticon website: “With Opn Play, there’s finally a cutting-edge hearing aid that allows your child to learn, grow, play and thrive. Open up their world, let them play, laugh along with friends, let them dream about the future. Just like any other child.”

Technology

With its Velox™ chip, the Opn Play boasts superior signal-to-noise processing, helping speech comprehension in noisy areas such as schoolyards or classrooms. As said above, being able to separate what you want to hear from its surrounding background is a beneficial skill for children to have.

The aids are also sturdy, “designed to stand up to the test of childhood.” The battery doors are childproof, the aids allergen-free, and each device has an LED light to “give caregivers and teachers visual confirmation that the battery is functioning properly.”

Extras

Each Oticon Opn play comes in a fun variety of kid-friendly styles and colors. Depending on how your children want to express themselves, these aids can be subtle and unobtrusive or colorful and stylish.

For additional schoolroom help, the pediatric Opn aids can be paired with ConnectClip, Amigo FM, and Oticon ON app systems.

For more information on pediatric hearing aids, visit this month’s technology spotlight over on the REM website.

Optimizing Classroom Acoustics

Classroom acoustics are a crucial part of a child’s education experience and development. If the arrangement of chairs or the layout of the room impedes the natural flow of sound, then the amount of information heard and retained can be affected. This is especially true for your hard-of-hearing students.

REM has written about this before. In that blog, we covered everything from proper layout to national standards and recommendations. In this blog, we want to focus on the specifics of classroom setups.

Chair Positions

The single greatest thing you can do to help improve acoustics is properly position your students’ seats.

The closer a child sits to the teacher, the louder the speech signal will be, and the more they’ll be able to hear. Students who sit in the back of the classroom may have a harder time listening, participating, and learning. A half circle might be the best configuration for desks, allowing the teacher to project at an equal distance from everybody. If this isn’t possible, talking and walking (roaming the aisles) might be the way to go, with desks placed at inward, center-facing angles.

For hard-of-hearing students, a wireless FM system or Roger™ Pen might provide the best benefit, allowing hearing aids to pick up any transmitted speech.

Classroom Materials

  1. If the ground is uncarpeted, consider adding soft materials (such as felt or cork board) on the walls to help with unnecessary reverberation.
  2. Rubber stoppers or tennis balls on chair and table legs can reduce ambient scratches or squeaks.
  3. Hanging curtains over the windows — if allowed to do so — might help keep some of the noise at an acceptable, even level.

Ambient Noise

Everything from your overhead lights, to air conditioning or heating units, to outside traffic, can add a layer of unwanted noise. Though these might be harder to control, be sure to turn off any equipment you’re not using, and (if possible) replace or move anything broken or portable. Always remember, too, to regularly ask your students if they’re having any trouble hearing you speak.

Learn More

Classroom Acoustics are an important part of your children’s education. Please see the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) for more information on what you can do to optimize your learning environment.

Wine – Chocolate – Hearing Loss

Did you know that (a moderate amount of) wine and chocolate can help your hearing? It sounds far-fetched, but according to some researchers, it’s true. Red wine and dark chocolate may help prevent inflammation that causes — in part — noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

Inflammation damages your sensory perception. If you get sick or have an ear infection, the blood vessels in your ear canal can weaken, and your circulation can slow. Your natural defenses can be compromised, allowing exposure to loud or constant noise to cause more harm.

If wine and chocolate could help prevent this trauma, it would certainly be welcome news. But for all their supposed benefits, keep in mind neither is a miracle food. You shouldn’t trust them to protect you from external noise, and overindulging in either may, in fact, cause active harm. Excessive alcohol, especially, has been shown to hurt both your brain and — as a consequence — your hearing.

REM has written about food’s relationship with hearing before. In that blog, we focused on the correlation between cholesterol and hearing health. We concluded that the healthier the body, the healthier the hearing. The connection between chocolate and wine and protection from NIHL may be a bit more tenuous, but a little bit of either certainly won’t hurt. They might even help.

At the very least, they’ll taste good.

Family Hearing Loss

Living with hearing loss can be a challenge for anyone, but if your household has one or more individuals with hearing difficulty, day-to-day conversation and interaction can sometimes feel insurmountable. So it’s important to know your options.

Hearing aid technology has advanced greatly over the years, and devices are now at the point (depending on the severity of your loss) where speech in noise can be more easily understood, where you don’t have to shout to get the other person’s attention. If you don’t have hearing aids, you might find yourself turning the TV up too loud, getting easily frustrated trying to talk to your family members, or having your family members get frustrated themselves.

Hearing aids are important. They will help. There may still be difficulties, yes, but with the right device, and the right programming, you can find your family’s conversation equilibrium. This is true for homes with single or multiple wearers of hearing aids.

Assistive listening devices — used in conjunction with your aids — can make things even easier. Hypersound, for instance, is an amplification technology that uses directional speakers to focus the sound of your entertainment system. Most aids, such as the Oticon Opn™, also have Bluetooth® technology that allows certain devices to stream directly to your aids. As the technology around us grows, so does our ability to pair them with each another. Hearing aids are no exception.

With conversation and entertainment options covered, what else is there?

There will always be challenges, despite all the solutions available. Be honest and up-front with your loved ones. Let them know what you’re feeling, what you find frustrating, and ask them to tell you the same. If you and others suffer from hearing loss at the same time, not being transparent can compound communication issues. Hearing issues can be hard enough; there’s no need to make them harder.

Be sure to also talk to your audiologist. They may even be able to help counsel you and your family on how to more easily converse and understand one another at home.

National Audiology Awareness Month

October is National Audiology Awareness Month. What does that mean? What can you do? How can you help spread awareness?

Do a Google search, and you’ll find half a dozen calls to action from a variety of different hearing education resources. The American Academy of Audiology, for example, asks hearing professionals to take charge locally and dedicate time during October 1-5 (“Public Awareness Week”) to “rally with your colleagues,” while Cochlear Americas seeks stories from the experts, hoping to inspire and teach.

Healthy Hearing, on the other hand, lays out the facts for the non-professional. They highlight the importance of not only hearing tests, but the importance of audiology assessments:

“Audiologists have a valuable and varied role in treating the hearing health of people of all ages, from the very young to the very old. They not only perform hearing evaluations and fit hearing aids, but also treat noise induced hearing loss, ear infections, trauma and damage to inner ear and eardrum due to illness or ototoxic medications.”

In line with Healthy Hearing, the NIDCD has a dedicated website to help inform the consumer, especially concerning adolescent hearing loss. This is a great resource for parents and teachers.

Finally, REM has some tips for how you can help with National Audiology Awareness Month:

  1. Spread the news about hearing loss prevention, which is a big part of any audiologist’s job.
  2. Find your favorite resources. In addition to the websites listed above, REM’s own blog — covering a variety of topics over the course of several years — might prove helpful.
  3. Encourage ear protection when exposed to loud noises.
  4. Get an app that monitors noise levels in the world around you.
  5. Realize that everyone over 55 deserves a hearing assessment*.

There’s lots you can do to help this coming October!

*The purpose of this hearing assessment and/or demonstration is for hearing wellness to determine if the patient(s) may benefit from using hearing aids. Products demonstrated may differ from products sold. Test conclusion may not be a medical diagnosis. The use of any hearing aid may not fully restore normal hearing and does not prevent future hearing loss. Testing is to evaluate your hearing wellness, which may include selling and fitting hearing aids. Hearing instruments may not meet the needs of all hearing-impaired individuals.