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BHSM 2021

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a yearly hearing healthcare event designed to help raise awareness about auditory health, wellness, and communication disorders. The BHSM 2021 theme is “Building Connections.”

What is BHSM?

BHSM is known primarily as a hearing industry affair, a time when audiology clinics and hearing specialists can focus their efforts on getting the word out about hearing technology advances, public health information, and more. BHSM has been around since 1927, and each year focuses on a different aspect of hearing care.

This year, ASHA breaks down the month into 4 weeks:

Week 1: Untreated hearing loss in adults
Week 2: Early intervention
Week 3: The role of Speech-Language Pathologists in COVID-19 recovery (1)
Week 4: Hearing protection for children

Why is BHSM important?

BHSM is all about recognition; not just recognition of the struggles of the hearing loss community, but also their triumphs. It offers hearing care practitioners ways to reach out while allowing patients and those with hearing loss ample opportunities to pursue treatment and show the world their progress.

The staff at REM have always been big boosters of Better Hearing & Speech Month. We strongly believe the best way to help people on their hearing loss journey is to make sure everyone has access to information about yearly advances in hearing technology and hearing help benefits.

If you agree with how important this month can be – to you, to the lives of many people with untreated hearing loss – there are even ways you can help extend a helping hand.

What Can You Do To Help?

ASHA has a comprehensive list of resources you can print out, share, or connect to on social media.

More importantly, you can use BHSM 2021 as an opportunity to talk to that special someone in your life who has hearing loss, one who might not be getting the help they need. Managing hearing loss can change lives for the better, and with care and attention, can help open up and revitalize the world.

At-Home Maintenance

A lot of potential hearing aid issues can be solved right from the comfort of your own home, and now more than ever, it’s good to know how to routinely clean and take care of your device. At-home maintenance can save you a lot of frustration in the future.

Getting Ready to Clean

1. Set a schedule. Clean your devices at the same time every day or every other day, preferably right before bed.

2. Use tools designed for the job, such as a wax pick and tiny brush. Your audiologist can provide you with specific options.

3. Use alcohol-free wipes, or a microfiber cloth you can gently wet.

Cleaning

1. Always remove the batteries before you touch any cleaning material to the surface of your device. Then “keep the battery compartment open to dry overnight. If they’re rechargeable, dock them according to the manufacturer’s specifications.”

2. Use the wipes or cloth first. Gently run them over the surface of the aid.

3. Next, take your brush and remove any dust or debris, focusing on any nooks or crevices (such as the microphone).

4. For RITE (receiver-in-the-ear) aides, you also want to keep an eye on your wax guard. You’ll want to brush any wax off your device any time you clean, but you’ll also need to change and unclog the wax guard every month or two. For this, you’ll need other specialized tools. Hearing Life has a helpful tutorial.

Still Having Issues?

Sometimes, you might just need to change the battery or adjust the volume. If you’re having difficulty getting the right levels, it could require a simple solution.

If none of your troubleshooting works, however, you may need to talk to your audiologist. Telehealth appointments might be available. Here at REM, we’re working on getting our remote testing system up and running. Soon, we’ll be able to access your aid in your home from our office to help diagnose and fix the problem. Call your audiologist for more information.

For step-by-step video guides about cleaning and taking care of your devices and other at-home maintenance tips, you can always refer to our How-To Videos.

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.

Keep Your Hearing Aids Dry

Cold weather is almost here. This fall and winter, how can you keep your hearing aids dry and safe?

Keep Them Dry

Keeping water out of your aids is one of the most important things you can do. Any excess moisture can irreparably damage your device, and due to COVID, you probably don’t want to make any unnecessary trips to get them fixed.

Consider purchasing a specialized dehumidifier to help dry out your aids at night. For specific products, check out amazon or talk to your audiologist. They’ll know the best option for your needs.

When changing batteries, be sure your hands are dry and no excess moisture touches the contact ports.

Exercise / Masks

This year, there are also masks to consider. In addition to normal mask-wearing tips, if you’re exercising outside, you want to be sure both your face covering and your hearing aids are both properly fitted and not tangled up. You don’t want to lose your aid mid-run.

If you’re working out, sweat is also a factor. Though it’s another accessory, consider wearing a sweatband to catch any perspiration.

Damage

Unsure if your aids are damaged? Healthy Hearing has a list of “telltale signs”:

1. Loud noises cause hearing aids to cut out
2. Fading sound
3. Static
4. Distorted sounds

If, worst-case scenario, your device has issues, don’t worry! Check the warranty and call your audiologist. It may just be a matter of drying out your aids. With remote testing and device diagnosis on the rise, it’s also possible your audiologist could fix your aid without you ever having to leave the house.

FYI

For a complimentary mask extender to help prevent your hearing instruments from falling out, give us a call at (888) 710-5734. We’ll be sure to reserve one for you!

Getting More From Pediatric Aids

Now that you know the different makes, models, and accessories / assistive listening devices, you might be asking yourself, what else can I get out of my Oticon pediatric hearing aids?

What Can You Do?

1. Ask your audiologist about customization and sound profiles.

2. Read / stay up to date. The features we covered in our tech spotlight and blogs are only the tip of the iceberg, and improvements and additions are always on the horizon.

3. Are you worried about putting a hearing aid on a toddler and keeping it in place? Preventing it from getting lost? Oticon has you covered there, too.

4. Understand the importance of what these devices can do for your child. The more you know about comprehension and developmental assistance, the more your children will benefit in the end.

5. Prepare for your initial fitting and future adjustments. Children develop at a much faster rate than adults. You’ll most likely need to keep on top of audiologist visits and appointments. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your child’s future is worth voicing any concerns you may have.

For more information, don’t hesitate to check out our tech spotlight or call us with any questions.

New Year, New Hearing Resolutions

We’re big believers in hearing resolutions here at REM Audiology. Sometimes, a small goal at the beginning of the year is all it takes to make that first step you’ve been meaning to make. Maybe you’ve been wanting to try a new hearing aid or some assistive listening technology, or maybe you’ve thought about downloading some hearing aid apps to help improve your connectivity to the world around you. Possibly, you’ve been putting off getting that initial hearing assessment, making that first phone call to your primary care physician or audiologist.

Last year, we wrote a comprehensive blog on worthwhile hearing goals, covering everything from regular hearing assessments to pediatric testing to new tech and features. This year, we want to focus on the importance of your mental outlook, how it can help you see those resolutions through to their end. Everyone is at a different stage in their hearing health development, but in the fruit few months of 2020, we can all take a decisive step forward together.

Stay Positive

The struggles of hearing loss are very real, and they can absolutely be disruptive. But hearing difficulty doesn’t have to lower the quality of your life. A positive outlook can help motivate you to further explore hearing solutions. There have even been studies that have shown the value of receiving quality hearing care.

“Anger, frustration, depression, and anxiety are all common among people who find themselves hard of hearing. Getting people to use the latest in hearing aid technology can help them regain control of their life and achieve emotional stability and ever-better cognitive function.

Try New Things

Keeping up with the latest advances — even just being aware — is a crucial part of staying confident and engaged with the world around you. We consider hearing technology to be an important investment, so become an informed consumer by visiting sites such as ASHA online and HearingLikeMe.com.

The more you know about the hearing industry — the more savvy you are — the better you and your audiologist can make the decisions regarding your hearing health future.

Work Together

Working together with your audiologist and PCP benefits everyone. With lines of communication open and everyone on the same page, you can really maximize your visits and care.

ASHA has a good list about what you can do before, during, and after your visit.

Have a Good Year

This is your time to shine. The next few months, make an effort to cross some items off your wishlist. 2020 is not just another year, but a new decade. It’s the perfect time to put your hearing health front and center.

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.

Summertime Localization

Since it’s summer, odds are you’ll find yourself outside more than usual, and whether you’re going to street festivals, fairs, amusement or water parks, you’ll want to be aware of your hearing aid’s localization features.

What is localization?

Localization is the ability to determine the direction and placement of sound and noise, and is important for spatial awareness, balance, and location comprehension. Those with hearing loss often have trouble with the localization of sound.

What does this mean for summer activities?

Being able to hear the world around you is an incredibly important part of staying aware and safe, and unlike at home or indoors, the sounds of an outdoor environment can be a bit more unpredictable.

If you find yourself surrounded by a lot of people, you’ll also be surrounded by a lot of sound. To someone with hearing impairment, this could be like hearing a low roar, a flat level of noise coming from no particular direction. This not only limits your interaction with those around you, but can also cause safety issues.

What can you do?

  • Be sure to talk to your audiologist about how your hearing aid processes sound in a 3D environment.
  • Before you buy an aid, research different brands. Oticon Opn™, for instance, has a lot of good localization features, including rapid noise reduction and speech clarity support.
  • If you notice an increased difficulty hearing or comprehending speech or noise in big crowds, don’t ignore it. Maybe you need another hearing assessment, or maybe your aid simply needs an up-to-date adjustment.

Don’t waste your summer worrying about noise outside.