American Hering & Balance

Learn How To Avoid
The Most Common Mistakes
With Hearing Aids
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When it comes to better hearing,
it pays to be selective
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Why Not to Buy a Hearing Aid Online

The online markets have provided a significant amount of benefits for people all over the world. You have the ability to seek information or have products delivered to your doorstep without ever stepping foot into a shop. Yet, some people are beginning to make the mistake of using the web to take their health into their own hands. From supplement purchases to the more serious hearing aid purchases, people are skipping the doctor and self-medicating. In this article we will take a look at this folly and see why you should never buy a hearing aid online.

Non-Specific Treatment

When you go to a professional consultant for your hearing loss, they will run a series of tests in order to determine the exact problem with your hearing. These can figure out whether your hearing loss is a result of failure to pick up certain frequencies, pitches, or volume. Once they have the results they will be able to make a hearing aid that is configured to your needs. Yet, when you purchase a hearing aid device online, you lose this form of specificity and most use a generic hearing aid device.

Removing The Doctor

Another one of the drawbacks to buying a hearing aid online is that you will not have your hearing loss diagnosed. There are a variety of causes for hearing loss which your doctor can look for, from something as simple as an object in the ear canal to a neurological disease. A doctor can check to see if you have a treatable cause of hearing loss and whether you actually need a hearing aid.

Custom Hearing Aids

A problem that many people run into when they buy a hearing aid online is that they are not made to fit everyone’s ears. A hearing aid that is made by a professional company and with consultations takes specific measurements to make sure that there is a snug fit that will not be uncomfortable. A loose fit or a painful fit can both have serious drawbacks to your hearing and will certainly not make you wish to wear your device.

Low Quality Products

Many people who go online to purchase their hearing aids are trying to avoid the moderate prices that are associated with professional medical devices. However, the products that you can find online have none of the high quality materials in them that make prescribed hearing aids superior. Not only can they fail to produce helpful levels of hearing, but the poor craftsmanship can fall apart within months are you begin using the product. For all of these reasons and more, you should never buy a hearing aid online.

Common Summer Sounds That Cause Hearing Loss

Summer is one of the most enjoyable times of the year. The kids are out of school, the weather is warm, and there are many venues to go to in order to have a good time. However, when you are out enjoying a concert or watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, you may not realize that you are doing permanent damage to your hearing. In this article we will examine the ways that common summer sounds can cause hearing loss and what you can do to prevent it.

Fireworks

One of the best things about summer is hanging out on a warm summer night and watching the sky light up to celebrate the nation or town. However, there are some very significant risks involved with watching fireworks because they can produce up to 150 decibels of sound when the hearing threshold for humans is about 85 decibels. This poses a significant risk to the ability to hear for all individuals who watch fireworks.

Concerts

Another one of the most enjoyable experiences during the summer months is going to a concert. These outdoor festivals offer the benefit of live music and being surrounded by people like you. However, the speakers at these events can often generate a constant flow of 115 decibels, more than enough to inflict acute hearing damage as well as chronic hearing loss. While enjoying the music, it is important to take steps to safeguard your hearing.

Sporting Events

Another one of the best common summer sounds that causes hearing loss can be found at sports venues. While a roaring baseball crowd is not likely to inflict too much hearing loss, motorsports pose a true threat to your hearing. With hours of 115 decibel engines ripping around the arena, you can lose hearing temporarily and suffer long term effects.

Outdoor Machinery

One of the other dangers that are posed by the summer sounds come from something as simple as mowing your lawn. Lawnmowers, edgers, and even weed whackers can produce a great deal of noise that, when taken in over time, causes significant damage to hearing. This hearing loss usually occurs when the lawn is cut over the period of an hour or more.

How To Protect Your Hearing

There are generally two different ways available to protect your hearing from the common summer sounds which cause hearing loss. The first way is to begin utilizing ear plugs in all different facets of your everyday life. When you go to a sporting event, concert, or even when you are mowing your lawn, you should wear these plugs. They can be found in many locations and are very inexpensive.

The other easiest way to save your hearing is to reduce the amount of time that you spend in a noisy environment. Cut your lawn in shorter bursts rather than all at once, and do not stay for the entire duration of a music festival. These basic steps can keep your hearing at a high level throughout your life.

How Hearing Loss can Lead to Brain Atrophy

According to research that was done by Johns Hopkins, it has never been more important to protect your hearing. Of course, there are some very obvious benefits to hearing well into your senior years, but the research has found that hearing may be more intricately tied to the health of your brain than previously known. In fact, there have been links that suggest that your ability to hear is directly tied to your brain mass. Here we will take a look at the studies, their results, and also ways to conserve your hearing.

How To Protect Your Hearing

One of the best ways to ensure that you have a good level of hearing throughout your life is to go to regular doctor’s checkups. They will be able to establish the baseline for your hearing health, and track it throughout your life. This means that, regardless of age, everyone should begin seeing their doctors with some degree of consistency. For people who already suffer from hearing loss, the findings that suggest that brain size is tied to hearing loss should serve as motivation to be more stalwart about their health. After all, having your hearing checked can be the difference in your mental capacity throughout your later years.

The Tie Between Hearing And Your Brain’s Health

The study that has brought all of this attention was performed by Johns Hopkins in a combined effort with The National Institute on Aging. They used a sample of 126 individuals and followed them throughout two decades. They performed annual physicals, complete with MRIs, and began to notice that there was a correlation between hearing loss and the brain size of the individuals. While brain size is known to decrease with age, the rate at which these subjects’ brains were decreasing was cause for alarm. After all, a decreased brain size is a known mechanism in dementia and diminished cognitive function.

As the study came to an end, the researchers found that there was a positive correlation between hearing loss and brain shrinkage. It confirmed their hypothesis that hearing loss was a determinate factor of decreased levels of grey matter. Thus, hearing loss puts all of the patients at a high risk for brain atrophy, which can trigger a wide variety of cognitive disorders.

This entire phenomenon of brain damage as a result of hearing loss was explained rather simply by the researchers. They say that when the brain receives damage, such as hearing loss, it attempts to compensate for the damage by rerouting necessary cell components. However, this action results in grey matter cells being deprived those components, leading to degradation. In the end, the researchers noted that individuals should take charge of their hearing health, as it could be the difference between good and bad mental health.

Avoiding Long Term NIHL in Musicians

What do Phil Collins, Brian Wilson, Barbra Streisand, and Ludwig van Beethoven have in common, besides all being musicians? All of these musicians experienced – as a result of playing the music they love – permanent hearing loss.

When musicians come to me for treatment, I feel obliged to inform them of a lamentable fact of life – playing music may damage their hearing. Exposure to loud music causes noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which can produce a temporary ringing in the ears (tinnitus); if you continue to expose yourself to the loud music, the condition can become permanent.

The hearing loss can happen to any musician, whether they play in a rock band, in a symphony orchestra, in a chamber music group, or just play at home when rehearsing. You can experience hearing loss when exposed for a prolonged period of time to any sound over 85 decibels (dB). An electric guitar played onstage generates 120dB, but a violin can produce 103dB, and thus cause almost as much hearing loss. In fact, audiologists researching hearing loss in musicians have found that overexposure to sound while rehearsing adds up to more hours than they spend on stage performing.

By investing in a pair of earplugs – high-quality musicians earplugs, not the cheap foam earplugs you find in pharmacies – you can take steps to protect your hearing. The first musicians earphones were invented by Etymotic Research, and other manufacturers still use their design to create specialized ear protection for musicians. Unlike the cheap Styrofoam earplugs that simply block sound, musician ear protection customized for you by your audiologist allows you to hear your normal full range of sound, just at a reduced volume ensuring your hearing is protected. You can find universal-fit musicians earplugs in most stores that sell musical instruments, starting at about $15 a pair. But for the musicians I see – whether they play professionally or just for fun – I recommend custom-molded musicians earplugs with Etymotic filters, because of the greater protection they provide. These will be more comfortable to wear for long periods of time, more effective at blocking undesirable levels of noise while allowing you to hear the music properly, and easier to clean and care for. Yes, they’re more expensive than the earplugs sold in music stores, but since hearing damage is irreversible, how much is your ability to hear the music you play worth to you?

Ways Your Hearing is Impacted by Crowds and Background Noise

A frequent question from patients relates to the ability to hear in crowded rooms. They report that they don’t seem to have any problem hearing people and understanding what they say when they are speaking to them one-on-one, or even in small groups. Not so in crowded situations. Whether in large public space outdoors such as a football game or indoors at a party, they report being unable to distinguish the speakers’ voice over the background noise. This is true even when the speaker is close by and addressing them directly. The same people that have difficulty with crowds, will often also express that they find it challenging to hear and distinguish certain consonants especially H, F, and S.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, there is a possibility that you may have suffered some form or high-frequency hearing loss. Sound comes in different frequencies, and human speech – especially the consonants mentioned above – tends to fall into the range that scientists define as “high-frequency,” between 3000 and 8000 Hz. In crowds, there is a mix of frequencies, ranging from the low frequencies of background music or people walking or dancing to the higher frequencies of human speech. Those suffering from high-frequency hearing loss tend to perceive the low-frequency sounds (which in this case qualify as noise) as sounding louder than the high-frequency sounds they are trying to focus on – the voices of people speaking to them.

High-frequency hearing loss is common, afflicting at least 18% of the population. One of the possible causes for this condition is aging, but high-frequency hearing loss has in recent years been increasing in teenagers and younger adults as well, possibly as a result of being exposed to overly loud music, and suffering noise-induced hearing loss. There are other potential causes, including genetic factors, diabetes, exposure to toxic drugs such as chemotherapy agents, and other diseases.

The important thing to remember is that if you have suffered some degree of high-frequency hearing loss, it can be effectively treated. We can prescribe hearing aids that have been adjusted to reduce the volume of low-frequency sounds and boost the volume of the higher frequencies, so that you can hear better in crowds.

Before we get too far into treatment options, it is critical that you have a proper diagnosis. To find out if high-frequency hearing loss is the root cause behind your difficulty hearing in crowds, call and make a first appointment. Our audiologist can perform a variety of tests to identify the underlying cause of the problem and recommend the best treatment options for your specific situation.

Picking the Right Mobile Phone if You Use a Hearing Aid

Hearing aids have not previously always worked well with cellular phones, because of electronic interference between the two devices that caused static, whistling or squealing noises, or lost words. Thankfully, improvements in technology and new government regulations have made the issue “Will this phone work with my hearing aid?” easier to answer. The regulations mandated new labeling requirements and ratings that help you to find a cell phone that works well with your hearing aid.

Understanding the rating system requires a bit of knowledge about the modes that hearing aids can operate in. There is an M mode (which stands for microphone) and a T mode (which stands for telecoil). In M mode, your hearing aid uses its built-in microphone to pick up audible sounds from the environment and amplify them so that you can hear them. In T mode, the hearing aid uses telecoil technology instead. The hearing aid is able to pick up the electromagnetic signals from inside the phone directly. Roughly 60 percent of all cell phones sold in the US have a telecoil (T) mode.

The rating system for these two modes of hearing aid operation uses a scale that ranges from the lowest sensitivity (1) to the highest sensitivity (4). To be sold in the United States as hearing aid compatible (HAC), a mobile phone or cordless handset must have a rating of at least M3 or T3.

In addition, many hearing aids (and cochlear implants) have a similar M and T rating to measure their sensitivity and their resistance to radio frequency interference. When shopping for a phone, to determine its compatibility with your hearing aid, simply add its M and T ratings together with those of the phone to create a combined rating. A sum of 6 or more makes a solid pairing. That hearing aid and mobile phone combination should work well for you. A sum of 5 is considered normal and should work fine for typical cell phone users. If the combined rating is 4, this is thought of as acceptable but not very usable if you make a lot of extended phone calls.

If you are shopping for a mobile phone online, you can usually use this combined rating to determine how compatible the phone you are interested in buying will be with your hearing aid. A better approach, of course, would be to go to a store that allows you to “try before you buy,” and actually use the phone you want while wearing your hearing aid, in both M and T modes.

Averting Common First Time Hearing Aid Purchaser Mistakes

Shopping for and selecting your first hearing aid is a daunting task, and not just for you. The publication Consumer Reports followed a dozen people over a period of six months as they shopped for their first hearing aid, and reported on it. After six months the disappointing results were in: these first-time hearing aid owners were left with ill-fitting hearing aids with volumes either too loud or too soft. Even within this small group of people the price range for these hearing aids was huge and they were not always provided the best information by the retailers. That said, there are tips that can help you when shopping for your first hearing aid, and in this article we’ll cover a few of them. We can’t provide all of the information that would be useful to cover in such a short set of tips, so we refer you in advance to an excellent set of guidelines at Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids. These guidelines are provided on the website of the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), a non-profit corporation that educates the public about hearing loss and what can be done about it. Here are our tips:

Consult a professional hearing specialist

Make an appointment with us or with another certified hearing specialist in your area, and read the information in the BHI guidelines before you go. It will help you to ask the right questions and know what the right answers are.

Select the hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle

This depends on the type and severity of your hearing loss, and should have been determined by tests performed by specialists during Step 1. Which type of hearing aid is best for you depends on the nature of your hearing loss, combined with your budgetary constraints.

Do your homework

After determining the type of hearing aid you need, use the Internet to look up information about different models. Look for price comparisons from different vendors, reports on the frequency of problems and repairs, and most important, reviews from users as to the unit’s comfort and reliability.

Search for and select a vendor you can rely on

This vendor may be your hearing specialist from Step 1 or someone they referred you to. Your hearing aid vendor should be trained and equipped to make molds of your ears to fit your hearing aid properly. While it is possible to buy hearing aids on the Internet, this is not recommended because most models have to be custom-fitted.

Ensure proper fit and performance

The vendor should perform tests to make sure of a proper fit and that everything is working correctly during your first fitting. A “satisfaction guaranteed” warranty and free follow-up appointments for fine-tuning and adjustments are standard with reputable vendors.

We are here to help you as you make the purchase of your first hearing aid and we wish you good luck on this exciting journey to better hearing!

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can take many forms, and may occur either suddenly, due to injury or trauma, or gradually, due to aging. Hearing loss may range between mild instances of not hearing conversations correctly to severe periods of being unable to hear at all, and may be either temporary or permanent. Moreover, a person can experience a loss of hearing in either one ear or both ears.

The most frequently noted symptom of hearing loss is gradually becoming unable to hear and comprehend conversations correctly. People’s voices might seem to be at low volume or sound muffled (as if the speakers were speaking through a wall from another room). Or alternatively, you might be able to hear folks talking but discover that you are having difficulty distinguishing individual words; this may become more pronounced when multiple people are speaking, or when you are in busy locations.

Other signs that you may have suffered some hearing loss include turning up the volume on your radio or television much higher than in the past, being unable to distinguish certain high-pitched sounds (such as ‘th’ or ‘s’) from one another, and having greater difficulty hearing women’s voices than men’s voices. Other types of hearing problems may be indicated if you notice a constant ringing or humming in the ears, if you feel pain, irritation or itching in the ears, and if you have instances of vertigo or dizziness.

Because it may arise gradually, many people with hearing impairment don’t realize it. Or they may recognize it but exhibit “denial behaviors” to try to disguise or conceal their hearing loss from others. Examples of these types of signs include asking people to repeat themselves often, avoiding discussions and social situations, pretending to have heard things that you really didn’t, and feelings of isolation or depression.

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, make an appointment with one of our specialists. They will give you a hearing test to determine if you have indeed experienced hearing loss, and if so, can help you do something about it.

Home Safety Advice if a Loved One is Hearing Impaired

One aspect of hearing loss which is not often discussed is the simple decrease in safety of those who have experienced it. For instance, imagine that a fire breaks out in your home; if you are like most people you have smoke detectors to sound a warning so that you and your loved ones can evacuate the premises before a fire becomes widespread, and thus deadly. But now imagine further, and contemplate what would happen if your smoke alarm goes off at night after you’ve gone to bed, removing your hearing aid first as you usually do.

The smoke alarms standard in most homes and those mandated by city or state governments emit a loud warning tone at a frequency between 3000 to 4000 Hertz. And while the majority of people can hear these sounds easily, these frequencies are among those most affected by age-related hearing loss and other forms of auditory impairment. So even if you had been awake, if you’re among the more than 11 million people in America with hearing loss, there is a chance that you would not hear the alarm.

To correct this, there are a variety of home safety products that have been re-engineered with the requirements of the hearing impaired in mind. For instance, there are smoke alarms that emit a low-frequency (520 Hertz) square wave tone that most hearing-impaired people can hear. For those who are completely deaf, or who cannot hear at all when they remove their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) during the night when they go to bed, there are alarm systems that combine exceedingly loud alarms, flashing lights, and vibrators that shake your bed. For comprehensive home safety, a number of these newer devices have been developed to be integrated into more thorough home protection systems to warn you in case of burglars, or if neighbors are pounding on your doors.

Many who have hearing aids or who have cochlear implants have chosen to boost the performance of these devices by putting in induction loops in their homes. These systems are in essence long strands of wire positioned in a loop around your living room, kitchen, or bedrooms. These serve to activate the telecoils embedded in your hearing aid or cochlear implant that raise the volume of sound; this can be useful in emergency situations.

We should not ignore the basic telephone, which is vital during an emergency of any sort. Most modern telephones now can be found in models that are hearing aid and CI-compatible, which allow their easy use during either normal or extraordinary conditions. Moreover, there are phones made for the hearing impaired which include speakerphones that function at high volumes, and which may be voice-activated. So if you fell and hurt yourself out of reach of the phone, you could still voice-dial for help. There are additional accessories for cellphones, such as vibrating wristbands that can inform you of an incoming telephone call even if you are asleep.

Other safety suggestions are less technological and more practical, like always having the phone numbers of fire departments, ambulance companies, doctors, and emergency services handy. We are as serious about your basic safety as we are about your hearing, so if we can be of service with any additional tips or recommendations, feel free to call us.

Battery Performance for Hearing Aids

The question of just how long hearing aid batteries should be expected to last is not as simple to answer as it seems, because battery performance hinges on a large number of factors. Battery life depends on the model of your hearing aid, and may vary widely even in models produced by the exact same manufacturer. The life span of a hearing aid battery also depends on the amount of time the hearing aid is powered on. As you would expect, the more you use the hearing aid, the more rapidly the batteries will deplete.

The batteries themselves are a major factor. Batteries the exact same size from different manufacturers will have different lives. And there will be variation within one battery manufacturer if they offer premium or extended-life lines. Some hearing aid batteries will not start to deplete their stored energy until they are plugged into a hearing aid that is turned on, and some (such as zinc-air batteries) will start to burn power the moment you remove the adhesive covering on the bottom of the battery, and will continue to decline in power even if the hearing aid is not on.

Because the cost of batteries adds up, if you’re looking for a new hearing aid, you should do some research to see which types and models of hearing aids have the best battery life, because that may influence your decision. Similarly, a little time invested in research may help you locate better batteries for your existing hearing aids. Fortunately, when shopping for hearing aid batteries, the companies that manufacturer them have made things a lot simpler for you by standardizing their sizes and color-coding each size; the exact same color codes are used by all hearing aid battery manufacturers. The following list of battery life is estimated, of course, but it should give you a basic idea of how long batteries of each size should last:

  • Size 10 – Yellow – 80 hours
  • Size 13 – Orange – 240 hours
  • Size 312 – Brown – 175 hours
  • Size 675 – Blue – 300 hours

To ensure the longest life for your batteries when they are in the hearing aid, turn the device off when you’re not wearing it. Store your unused hearing aid batteries at room temperature, indoors, and in their original, unopened packaging to ensure their longest possible life.