Posts

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.

Digital Holidays

If you’re away from family this holiday season — as a lot of people are — chances are good you’ll instead be spending time with them digitally. Video chats this year are the new get-togethers, a holiday lifeline for those who can’t see their loved ones in person.

If you have hearing loss and wear hearing aids, how does this affect you?

Technology

The good news is, most digital aids can pair with wireless devices easily. All you have to do is look up your manufacturer’s specifications. Oticon, for instance, has “wireless listening capabilities…” in several of their aids, allowing you to “easily connect to accessories and everyday devices for clearer and more comfortable communication.” Using their built-in Bluetooth® capabilities, modern aids can make listening to music, watching tv, and talking to friends and family easier than ever before.

Take Zoom, as an example. HearingLife outlines how simple it is to hook up your aids, depending on your digital platform. Keep in mind, however, if you’re using a computer, you may have to purchase an Oticon ConnectClip, a device that helps “turn your hearing aids into a wireless stereo headset.” Different brands will offer different features, and some may even be able to hook up to your computer directly. Don’t hesitate to ask your audiologist for more information.

Socialization

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, and for those with hearing difficulties, it may seem even tougher. Those not able to socialize as they have in years past — especially given the existing hurdles of hearing loss — may isolate themselves and pull away from the people around them. It’s not uncommon to choose solitude in these times. It’s even understandable. But know that doing so may cause harm down the line. The brain needs conversation, interaction.

So consider using this holiday season to your benefit. Know that you’re not alone. Reach out to friends and family to continue the traditions of your past. ASHA Leader has a very helpful article about ways to make your family’s holidays festive and bright, everything from setting expectations to planning conversation starters and games.

For additional resources, please talk to your audiologist, who can help you with not only technical concerns but also with making the next few months of digital holidays a little easier on everyone.

Social Distancing

In today’s world of social distancing and 6-feet-away safety, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about the efficiency of hearing aids over long distances. How far away can you be before your aids don’t help you anymore?

The good news is today’s hearing technology is more effective than ever before. But for larger distances or noisier locations, hearing and speech processing can be tricky. Especially in a learning environment. Even with top-shelf aids. For every doubling of distance, the sound level around you reduces by 6 decibels (dB) (e.g., moving from 10 to 20 meters away from a sound source). Background noise, too, further compromises word intelligibility. A person with optimal hearing requires speech to be 2 to 3 dB louder than background noise in order to understand 50% of words correctly. A person with mild to moderate hearing loss requires speech to be 8 dB louder than background noise in order to understand 50% of words correctly.

What aids do help?

Though no technology is perfect (a great enough distance and/or ambient noise will overpower any aid), Oticon’s BrainHearing™ technology and their Opn S1 can certainly help bridge the gap. “Oticon Opn and the open sound experience proved how Oticon’s unique approach to signal processing outperformed traditional hearing aid technology. In fact, compared to traditional technology, Oticon Opn improved speech understanding by 30%, reduced listening effort by 20%, and improved memory recall by 20%.

Another device that can help, especially in classrooms, is the Oticon ConnectClip, which functions as a remote microphone. For watching TV or listening to podcasts and music, current hearing aids can also connect to your phone and smart devices via Bluetooth®. Be aware, though, that constant use of remote connection will drain your batteries at a faster rate than usual, so be sure to stock up!

For other options and devices, don’t hesitate to ask your audiologist.

Outside of hearing healthcare technology, what can you do?

For regular conversations, you can be pretty confident your aids will work at a distance of 6 feet, though it might be more of a challenge to hear than if you were closer. If there is too much ambient noise, you can always politely ask your companion to speak a little louder or move to a quieter location. Be upfront with your situation, and don’t be embarrassed.

Even more concerning than keeping your distance is having to potentially isolate yourself from family, friends, and maybe even healthcare professionals. According to professionals, “in times such as these, when we are encouraged to be further apart from each other to avoid community-based virus spread…members with hearing loss are likely feeling more isolation than ever before.” And with isolation comes a whole host of problems, including depression, which can potentially affect the way you hear and how your brain can process speech.

If you have concerns about any comprehension or hearing trouble, please talk to your audiologist or primary care physician. Being comfortable in your environment is no small thing, and right now, it’s important to be at your best.

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!

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!

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.

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.

Playing in the Snow with Hearing Aids

In a recent blog, we wrote about the dangers of a wet hearing aid, and what you should do if any moisture finds its way inside. We covered prevention tips, as well as sweatbands, dehumidifiers, and Ear Gear protection. But for full-on snow-based fun, we want to add and emphasize a few more points.

Check your warranty

If your aids break, malfunction, or get lost, you want to make sure if and how you’re covered.

Check your protection

Whether you’re wearing earmuffs, hats that cover your ears, or Ear Gear spandex sleeves, you want to know how well they keep out water. Test inside before you leave the house!

Dry your aids

Keep your aids dry, preventatively. Use a dehumidifier nightly, and wipe down your aids with a dry, clean cloth after any outside activity.

Don’t wear them

Only as a last resort, as this goes against our most common advice. But if you’re going outside for a snowball fight or snow angel session, and you know the environment (and there’s no chance of traffic), a couple minutes without aids might be your best bet. Give them to someone you trust.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or a child, playing in the snow can be fun. If you wear hearing aids, just be sure to take extra care they don’t get wet.