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Portable Music Device Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is on the rise! For children, exposure to loud, constant noise is more prevalent than ever. A recent study, undertaken by researchers from Erasmus University, links portable music devices to future hearing problems in children. According to the ASHA Leader article that breaks down the study:

“Even using the portable music players just one or two days per week (regardless of how long they wore headphones or how high the volume setting), these children were more than twice as likely to have hearing loss when compared to children who did not use these devices at all.”

That’s a bold, frightening claim, but parents should realize there are still ways to help protect their children’s hearing. Volume level and length of exposure — despite the prevalence conclusions of the study — are still major determining factors in later-life hearing loss. Limiting time and sound level is strongly advocated. It will help!

When asking your children to turn down their music or take out their earbuds for a while, REM recommends explaining why you’re telling them to do so. Teach them good hearing etiquette early in life, lessons they can apply years down the road. Teach your children (and other adults you may know) to take care of their hearing now.

For more information about how long it takes (and how loud it needs to get) before sound causes hearing loss, you can check out one of our past blogs.

Managing a Hearing Aid Thanksgiving

After last year’s COVID holiday wipeout, family get-togethers are coming back strong. For those with hearing issues or new hearing aids, that might mean—once again or for the first time—dealing with the challenge of a loud, crowded holiday. Though this can make family fun difficult, there are a few steps you can take to make this hearing-aid-Thanksgiving easier.

Where to Sit and Stand

Remember that old real estate cliché: location, location, location. Where you plant yourself in a room can be crucial. Try to avoid being in the center of things. At dinner, shoot for the end of the table. That will cut down on the amount of sound you’re dealing with on either side, which can be disorientating and overwhelming.

The same goes for the football game in the living room. Stay away from the TV—more specifically, its speakers—and aim for the edges of the gathering. Just be aware, the farther away from a conversation you are, the more difficultly you may have listening in. As we wrote in a past blog, the hardest part of new social situations is the unknown. You’ll often find yourself simply (pardon the expression) playing it by ear.

Go Easy on Yourself

All this can be tiring. So, another good strategy is taking a break from the hubbub. A walk around the block right before or after dinner will clear your head and give your ears a rest. If need be, you can also find a quiet room for some downtime. Give yourself a chance to recharge!

Others are There to Help

Your hearing aids are there to assist you! If new, they may take some getting used to, but remember not to get frustrated. Some aids may even come with programmable settings for different environments. These settings, if properly used, can be very helpful.

Also, there’s no shame in letting those around you know what’s going on! If you’re new to hearing aids, politely broach the topic, ask those present if they wouldn’t mind speaking to you a little slower and maybe away from the crowd. This will make things easier for everyone—especially you.

And most importantly, have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Enjoy the time with those around you.

COVID and Hearing

As has become clear, nothing is easy with COVID-19. Even with vaccines widely available, the current wave of infections will inevitably result in more cases of what is known as long-haul COVID. So, what’s the relationship between COVID and hearing?

Long COVID

What has become clear over the last year and a half is that a small minority of people who get infected do not simply “get over it” — no matter the treatment they receive. Instead of their symptoms wrapping up after the acute phase of the disease has run its course—usually, about two weeks—these unlucky folks, about 10 percent of those infected, have symptoms that linger.

For those who required hospitalization, a recent study published in The Lancet found that about half were still feeling the effects a year later. Fatigue, muscle weakness, and shortness of breath are the most common signs of long-haul COVID.

COVID and Hearing

For those affected, are further hearing issues a problem? Can those who contracted COVID and then recovered be plagued with issues that may include bouts of tinnitus and vertigo, and (for some) sudden onset hearing loss? According to Healthy Hearing, the jury’s still out. Maybe, but much more research is needed.

But some say it’s possible. One theory is that such ear-related problems are rooted in the havoc that COVID can wreak on the body’s circulatory system. There is now a syndrome identified as coronavirus blood clots, which can be especially problematic in the kind of tiny blood vessels that are crucial to ear function.

This may be the root cause of why tinnitus—a persistent ringing in the ears that is not associated with actual sounds—has (anecdotally) been reported to have gotten worse for many after getting COVID.

At this point COVID long haulers are the focus of a tremendous amount of medical research and, hopefully, treatments will eventually be developed. If you think your hearing loss has gotten worse – due to COVID or not – it’s best to speak with an audiologist or hearing specialist immediately.

Hearing Aid Summer Accessories

The summer vacation is back! With lockdowns being lifted, it’s time to hit the road again. But if you depend on hearing aids to make your daily life—especially interactions with strangers—more positive and fulfilling, then you’ll want to make sure that everything stays in working order while you’re away from home (finally). So, what hearing aid summer accessories will you need?

There are the obvious things to remember, like spare batteries or the recharging unit—since a hearing aid without electricity is just an earplug. The obvious is easier to forget than you might think.

Hitting the beach, a national park, or any other outdoor activity will also mean that your hearing aid may be exposed to more dirt, grime, and moisture than usual. So don’t forget the cleaning kit for the end-of-the-day tune-up, the dehumidifier for the overnight drying out of a unit that’s been exposed to the elements, and extra wax guards and domes that you might want to use to provide extra protection on your trip.

And if it’s been a while since you’ve been out in a crowd, don’t forget the Bluetooth external microphone that may have come with your hearing aid (the one that wasn’t too useful on Zoom calls). It can really help out in an unfamiliar room with a great deal of ambient background noise (like a Vegas casino room, say).

A vacation with a better hearing experience will be a better vacation. If you use a hearing aid, make sure you have everything you need to keep it working its best for you.

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!