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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.

Over The Ear (OTE) Ear Plugs

This week we’re continuing our tech spotlight blog series by talking about something a little more niche: over-the-ear (OTE) protection. OTE protection, more commonly known as “ear muffs”, is not something everyone is going to use. They’re big, bulky, and not practical for a lot of daily or social actives. However, for those who work in particularly noisy or messy surroundings, or for those who need a level of professional customization, these are possibly some of the best the tools on the market to help protect your hearing.

OTE Protection

OTE hearing protection can be found online or at your local hardware store. They resemble earphones, and fit completely over your ear. No matter the brand, you can adjust the tightness to your level of comfort.

The rims are cushioned and comfortable, some are sweat resistant, and you can wear them for hours at a time. One popular type is even collapsable for easy storage.

Uses and Advantages

Ear muffs are commonly used by construction workers, hunters, and (with some upgrades) airline pilots. They are portable, require less maintenance than, and have similar NRR ratings to*, reusable in-the-ear plugs.

They are ideal for constant use, and can be easily removed, replaced, and stored. You don’t have to worry about irritation or introducing dirt or debris into your ear canal. Earmuffs are also one size fits all (though some brands offer a range of sizes).

Every now and then, it’s recommended you wipe down the inside with some water (though you won’t need to do this nearly as much as you would with reusable ear protection). Compressed air also helps to clear out any skin flakes that may have gotten trapped inside.

At $10.00 – $20.00 for a standard pair on Amazon, they are relatively inexpensive.

Using with Other Protection

Some people double up and wear ear muffs in addition to disposable or reusable plugs. This can help if you find yourself in an extremely noisy or harsh accoustic environment. Coopersafety.com breaks down how this works in regards to NRR ratings:

“When hearing protectors are worn in combination (i.e. earplugs AND earmuffs), rather than adding the two NRR numbers together, you simply add five more decibels of protection to the device with the higher NRR. For example, using 3M™ E-A-R™ Classic Earplugs (NRR 29) with 3M™ Peltor™ H7 Deluxe Earmuffs (NRR 27) would provide a Noise Reduction Rating of approximately 34 decibels.”

Most people opt for a single set of ear protection, however, whether that’s disposable, reusable, over-the-ear, or custom varieties. Each have their strengths.

Next up: custom ear plugs. (This is where your audiologist comes in to help.)

*Regarding NRR ratings: your base level ear muffs will typically have a lower score than your run of the mill disposable or reusable plug. You can purchase brands, however, with comparable noise valuations.

 

Disposable Ear Plugs

The most popular types of ear plugs, arguably, are the disposable varieties. These are the inexpensive plugs you can find in the drugstore or online, the kind of protection you can pinch, twist, and insert into your canal. Usually they expand completely to fill the space inside, and you’ll toss them after a single use. Most disposable plugs are made of memory foam to match the contours of your ear.

Disposable Plug Uses

Disposable ear protection is ideal for those trying out earplugs for the first time, as backups for more permanent plugs, or for those who are more comfortable sleeping and working with that memory foam-feeling.

Sleepers, especially, gravitate towards the disposables. They tend to block out loud neighbors or ambient noise just enough to allow for rest. While they’re also good for attenuating the noise levels around you, making sure your inner ear isn’t exposed to any loud or constant noise, they also bring down the overall volume of the world to more peaceful levels.

Loud work sites also tend to give out disposable ear plugs to their employees. OSHA outlines the circumstances when ear protection must be used (anything over 85 dBA), and how effective these types of earplugs can be in those situations.

Different Types

There are dozens of brands. Some have a more comfortable fit than others, but most will offer similar levels of protection.

For workplaces or industrial areas, the most popular plug might be the 3M classic pillow pack, which you can find online. These are effective, comfortable, and easy-to-use. Just be careful on insertion. There’s no lip for easy removal, so don’t place too far into your ear canal.

As we get into the other earplug categories in later blogs, we’ll have more specifics and recommendations. For disposables, it’s really up to you and whatever you find the most comfortable.

Earplug Tests

Because there are so many disposable varieties, you can often inadvertently purchase cheap knock-off or defective plugs. So before you settle on a type, buy a few small packs and give them each a test run. If they block out or attenuate to a perceived acceptable level of sound, and you find them comfortable and not painful, then you’re good to go.

If you’re using disposables primarily as protection, it’s also a good idea to get a decibel reader, which you can download for little or no cost to your smart phone. Remember what OSHA says — anything above 85 dB is a potential hazard.

Also be sure that after each use, you throw out your plugs; you don’t want to re-introduce dirt into your canal. Don’t wear them for too long, either. Moisture can easily get trapped in your ear, potentially leading to ear infections.

Disposable earplugs are just the tip of the ear protection iceberg, but they’re an incredibly useful day-to-day tool. Try out a few brands, see what suits your lifestyle, and later on, maybe consider some reusable or custom varieties.

Airplane Ear

Ears in the air! We all know that air travel is stressful enough, but have you ever considered the strain flying puts on your hearing health?

Ear pain from extended pressure (airplane ear) can happen to anyone, whether you have hearing loss or not. According to the Mayo Clinic: “Airplane ear is the stress exerted on your eardrum and other middle ear tissues when the air pressure in your middle ear and the air pressure in the environment are out of balance. You may experience airplane ear at the beginning of a flight when the airplane is climbing or at the end of a flight when the airplane is descending.” Symptoms include moderate to severe pain, a “feeling of fullness or stuffiness,” and possible temporary hearing loss.

Also known as ear barotrauma, airplane ear will probably go away on its own. Depending on risk factors, though, a medical provider might prescribe nasal steroids or “antibiotics, if an infection develops.” Prevention tips include chewing gum and swallowing more than usual during takeoff and landing. EarPlanes™ filter products can also assist with any associated pain. These filters — made of “soft, cleanable, hypoallergenic silicone” — are inserted directly into the ear canal to help slow the shift in ear pressure.

If you have a middle ear infection, or otitis media, it might be prudent — if possible — to delay your trip. Fluid in your ear canal can make airplane ear more severe, and worst-case scenario, your eardrums could even burst. With an ear infection, your Eustachian tube has trouble equalizing, or “popping.”

Effects of airplane ear on those with hearing loss are similar, though it’s possible the pressure could make your hearing difficulty worse, if only for a short time. If you’re worried, talk to your audiologist, who will be more than happy to address any of your concerns.

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.

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.

Tech Spot Update: Widex Evoke

It’s time to update our Technology Spotlight! Last month we featured the Opn™ line of Oticon Hearing Aids. This month we want to talk about the Widex Evoke™.

The Widex Evoke is a smart hearing aid, one that “intuitively analyses your sound environment and reacts to changes for natural, effortless hearing.”

How does this work?

Widex uses self learning technology called SoundSense to help map your aid’s preferences and listening environments. At any given time, the Evoke provides you with 2 different sound profiles. After choosing which option sounds better, the aid does its part and updates your sound systems in real time. The more you do this, the more the Evoke learns.

Simply put, the Evoke is an aid that evolves.

Features

Widex’s newest aid also has a smart phone app, which you can use to control your hearing aid from your phone. With this app you can create your own personal and customizable sound profiles.

Please feel free to visit our technology spotlight page for more information, or call us if you have any questions. You can also visit the Widex webpage to check out the other features and various models and sizes (ranging from micro to behind-the-ear) the Evoke hearing aid provides.

The Future of Hearing Aid Batteries

Hearing technology is changing all the time. Compared to devices as recent as 10 years ago, aids today are significantly advanced in both capability and performance.

The progress of hearing aid batteries tells a similar story.

Hearing Aid Batteries

For years, batteries have been a chief concern among hearing aid users. They’re not only the part of the hearing device the users will interact with the most, but the device’s success also depends upon their reliability.

If you wear a hearing aid, you’re familiar with its flat and circular shape. You’re also probably aware that all disposable batteries on the market are mercury-free, you should look for the 1.45 volt option, and the specific battery you need corresponds to what hearing aid you use. If you didn’t know or need a refresher, please check out our previous battery-tip blog.

Disposable hearing aid batteries have been pretty consistent over the years.

Advancements in Battery Technology

The most noticeable progress on the hearing aid battery front is probably rechargeable technology. One example, and one we at REM like a lot, is the Phonak Audeo B-R. With the B-R, you don’t have to handle batteries at all. Just put the aids in the dock and let them charge overnight. These rechargeable hearing aids – which use lithium ion batteries – should last at full capacity for 4 to 6 years (with nightly charging).

Oticon Opn™ rechargeable hearing aids (such as the MiniRTE) also use a device docking system to recharge. Oticon’s reusable batteries last about a year, and will then have to be replaced. The advantage of this system is flexibility. Opn rechargeable aids also take disposable batteries, so if you forget to bring your charger on a trip, you can temporarily pop in a disposable.

Another advantage to the Oticon rechargeable option, says Larry Gabin, Au.D., of REM Audiology, is that “people with arthritis like the Oticon recharging station because of a magnet in the base that helps attach the hearing aid to the unit for easier docking.”

Many other hearing aid brands offer rechargeable options, though usually only for their newer models. If interested, you’ll often have to purchase a brand-specific rechargeable pack. This pack will provide both the materials to replace your aid’s battery door and also the docking station that will then fit your device.

Why Rechargeable?

According to The Hearing Review, “battery life in hearing aids is getting shorter as the features to enhance listening experiences are added to new hearing aids, and a battery that used to last a few weeks now lasts only a few days.” Most disposable batteries, on the other hand, last a year. If you decide to go the rechargeable route, you’ll be saving yourself from buying, changing, losing, and throwing away hundreds of batteries.

Some believe rechargeable batteries are the future of hearing aids. If you have device-specific (or general) questions, we are here to be of service to you.