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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.

Auditory Training at Home

If you have hearing loss and find yourself alone during the winter months, the following tips could help with your auditory training at home.

What is auditory training?

Auditory training is not only learning how to distinguish between sounds but comprehending and interpreting the sounds you hear. In day-to-day life, this is usually done passively and — if you have difficulty hearing — with a hearing aid or audio device. Socializing with people and interacting with others around you helps strengthen your signal-to-noise ratio, clue you in on what’s going on and what you need to pay attention to. In young children, auditory training goes hand in hand with brain development.

How can auditory training be impaired?

If socialization is taken away or limited, if you find yourself alone more often than not, you may wear your hearing aids less. Your brain may stop working as hard as it’s used to, and its ability to decode the information your ears hear — like any muscle not in constant use — may atrophy.

What can you do?

1. Always wear your hearing aids during the day, whether you’re alone or not.
2. Read books while listening along to the audiobook (or read along out loud). In the long run, this visual + auditory combination can help strengthen your comprehension.
3. If you’re watching tv or a movie, turn on closed captions (in addition to keeping the volume at a comfortable level).
4. Talk to people! Current technology can often pair right to your hearing aid to help with video chats and digital get-togethers.

For other suggestions, don’t hesitate to call your audiologist, who will be able to answer any other questions you may have about auditory training at home. Historically, winter months are the toughest months, but today our aids and our knowledge can help bridge the isolation gap, help us continue to grow.

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.

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.

Keeping Your Ears Clean

Hearing aids are only half the story. Keeping your ears clean and dry (and covered up when you head outside during the winter months) can keep you safe from ear infections, impacted earwax, and other sound-limiting discomforts.

What Can You Do?

1. Keep your ears dry. This is the best way to prevent ear infections. If your ears get wet, or if you have water trapped inside, be sure to dry the outside and immediate inside with a towel or cloth. You can also use swimmer’s ear drops to unclog any passages.

2. Cover up! If it’s cold or windy outside, your ears may get dry, irritated, or debris may lodge itself inside.

3. If you experience pain, or if anything other than water gets deep into your ear canal, be sure to talk to your audiologist or PCP.

4. Don’t use Q-tips®! They may seem like the perfect tool for the job, but they often do more harm than good. If you have earwax, your doctor or audiologist can help remove it.

5. Wipe off anything you put into your ears (hearing aids, earbuds, etc.) with a dry microfiber cloth and any audiologist-approved sanitizer a couple times a week.

Why It’s Important

Your ears, like any part of your body, need to be looked after and maintained. They can be hard to clean, and unless there’s a noticeable issue such as pain or irritation, it’s not that difficult to ignore them entirely. But with the right amount of care, you can be “ears forward.” Protecting your ears can — in the end — help protect your hearing.

Keeping your ears clean is important!

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!

Philadelphia Holiday Hearing Events

Thanksgiving through New Year’s is full of seasonal parties, get-togethers, dinners, and festive events. Don’t let your hearing loss stop you from enjoying the sounds of the holiday season.

What is there to do?

If you’re looking for something specific to do, Philadelphia has a lot of options.

1. If you want to take in a show, nothing beats the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music, both of which have American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation (at select performances) in addition to audio description, assistive listening, and open/closed captions. Check their website for shows and times, and be sure to always call before you reserve a seat. Not every performance might have what you need.

2. Though it’s only one day, the Franklin Institute’s Polar Express event could be fun for you and your kids. “Relive the magic and wonder of the timeless classic holiday tale The Polar Express on Saturday, December 14 with activities inspired by the award-winning book and beloved film. Let your imagination soar as you climb aboard the authentic Baldwin 60,000 locomotive for a guided storytelling experience.” The Institute’s accessibility options include portable assistive listening devices and closed captions for use in the Franklin Theater, where screenings of The Polar Express will be held.

3. If you’re concerned about straining to hear or make out speech and sound (or maybe you just want a break!), a trip out to Longwood Gardens to see the holiday lights (a predominately visual experience) might be just what you need. Or consider a nice walk in one of Philly’s parks. Rittenhouse Square or Franklin Square’s Holiday Festival are beautiful and festive this time of year, and might be the perfect place to not only see the sights, but practice listening to speech and sound in different environments.

4. Explore! Philadelphia is a vibrant city, with lots to do. The Visit Philly website lays out 40 popular events and attractions — everything from holiday shopping and dance performances, to a menorah lighting at the Betsy Ross House. Accessibility may vary between each, but sometimes it can be worthwhile to just show up and try out your hearing devices in varying acoustic landscapes.

If you have any suggestions about what do in Philadelphia, let us know! We’ll publish them here in this blog with your permission and attribution.

Resources

Visit Philly’s website has a great accessibility guide, focusing not only on sights and attractions, but helpful resources on how to get around.

Also, be sure to check out our sister blog: South Jersey Holiday Hearing Events.

National Protect Your Hearing Month

October is National Protect Your Hearing Month. What can you do to help spread awareness about noise-induced-hearing loss (NIHL)?

What is NIHL?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), breaks down NIHL simply: “When sounds are too loud for too long, tiny bundles of hair-like structures that sit on top of hair cells in the inner ear are damaged. When hair cells are damaged, they cannot respond to sound, causing NIHL. In humans, hair cells cannot be fixed or replaced, so the hearing loss is permanent.”

Noise induced hearing loss is hearing loss caused by your habits and surroundings.

NIHL + NIHL Prevention

Noise-induced-hearing loss is preventable, which is why this is an important month. Listening to loud music (with or without headphones), not taking proper precautions in noisy work environments, and attending loud concerts without earplugs can all contribute to early-onset NIHL.

According to Noisy Planet, hearing loss from long and loud exposure to noise might not be apparent at first, but can build over time. In fact, “13 to 18 percent of teens (ages 12 – 19) have signs of possible NIHL.” That’s a lot!

REM recommends noise-attenuating or cancelling headphones to help monitor and regulate the sound levels going into your ears, as well as digital decibel readers that you can download and install on your phone (often free of charge) to help measure the sound environments around you. Also, be sure to check out all we have to say about ear protection (an invaluable way to help preserve your hearing in day-to-day life).

Both Noisy Planet and Oticon offer other prevention tips, such as keeping safe distances from sustained sounds. Sometimes, all it takes is turning down the volume and limiting your exposure. “Give your ears a rest,” Oticon writes.

Spread the Word

Much like during Better Hearing and Speech Month, letting other people know about National Protect Your Hearing Month can be as easy as sharing a Facebook article. But if you want to do more, you can always speak to your school or local community organizations and they, in turn, can possibly distribute pamphlets, hang posters, and try to reach as many people as they can.

If you have any ideas or would like to get involved further, please reach out to us at REM Audiology.

Summer Exercise and Hearing Aids

Summer is hot and maybe sweaty. How can you protect your aids during summer exercise?

Whether you’re running marathons or just going for a walk in the park, moisture buildup can be a real problem during the hottest months of the year. Both humidity and sweat can introduce water droplets into your device, clogging or shorting out the interior components.

Signs Your Hearing Aid Has A Water Problem

Healthy Hearing outlines a list of symptoms, ranging from your aid cutting out during loud noises to fading sound or intermittent static. You may also encounter corrosion in the battery compartment or moisture in the tubing, both of which you’ll be able to see.

Your aid’s health can gradually diminish before it suddenly stops working, so it’s important to take immediate note of any changes. The more you’re familiar with your device’s baseline sound-processing quality, the quicker you can address any potential problems.

Solutions

  1. Talk to your audiologist. They’ll know better than anyone else what to do.
  2. Switch out and test new batteries. Water could simply be trapped between the battery and the contact.
  3. Invest in a dehumidifier. This is preventative more than anything, but each night, or after each workout, use one of these handy and portable machines to help dry out your aid.

Summer Exercise

  1. Work out during a cooler part of the day.
  2. Wear headbands and wristbands to help “catch” your sweat.
  3. Look into protective covers for your hearing aids. Ear Gear, for example, is a nylon-spandex sleeve that fits over most devices.
  4. Keep your warranty information handy, and know your coverage (just in case).

To escape the heat, check out our past blog about exercising with aids during the winter.

Tinnitus Education

Tinnitus education starts early at REM! For children especially, early management of tinnitus can help prevent future issues, such as hearing loss due to noise exposure.

And while it’s very important to not draw undue attention to tinnitus in a child lest they over-focus on or invent its presence, it is likewise important for parents and physicians to pay attention to any unsolicited complaints of ringing, buzzing, or “foreign” sounds in their ears.

What Do We Propose?

The presence of tinnitus symptoms can be due to noise (maybe they’re listening to loud music through earbuds), certain medications, or even a past head injury. It can be harmless or require immediate attention. There are a lot of variables, and it’s important to figure out what’s what.

REM recommends that all school-aged children receive at least 1 hearing test in their elementary years. That might be the perfect time to not only talk about hearing loss — its risks, what it feels (and sounds) like — but also what to do if they experience any “hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring or ringing” in their ears.

Again, you don’t want to overemphasize tinnitus, as a small amount of ringing in the ears can be both normal and — to the detriment of the child — hyper-focused on. But you may want to ask them to describe — in their own words — what sounds they normally hear. If they detail anything out of the ordinary, it may provide cause to investigate possible signs of tinnitus further and maybe even come up with a treatment or management plan for the future.

How Does Tinnitus Manifest in Children?

As in adults, every case is different. The most common symptoms, according to CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) are:

  • “Reports of ringing, buzzing, clicking, whistling, humming, hissing, or roaring sound
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Poor attention and restlessness in a very young child
  • Tantrums, irritability, and your child holding his head or ears
  • Severe fatigue
  • Anxiety or depression”

CHOP also breaks down why tinnitus in children is something that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. It may be temporary (a side effect of exposure to a loud noise), but tinnitus could also signal “damage to the inner ear,” which can cause hearing impairment and affect concentration, learning, and development in the classroom.

It’s Up To Us

“About one-third of children suffer from tinnitus at some point, but the condition often goes unnoticed. In many cases, the child is too young to describe what they’re hearing, has come to think of it as normal, or is not troubled by the experience enough to mention it,” CHOP also writes.

It’s a tricky situation, trying to diagnose something you don’t necessarily want to draw attention to. But since a lot of children don’t notice tinnitus, or can’t articulate its symptoms if they do, it’s up to us to find a way to help.