American Hering & Balance

Learn How To Avoid
The Most Common Mistakes
With Hearing Aids
In 3 Easy Steps!

When it comes to better hearing,
it pays to be selective
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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.

The Basics of Analog vs Digital Hearing Aids

When trying to understand the difference between analog and digital hearing aids, it is important to first understand the history of analog versus digital, and the alternative ways that they amplify and process sounds. Historically, analog technology appeared first, and consequently the majority of hearing aids were analog until digital signal processing (DSP) was invented, at which point digital hearing aids appeared. Most (roughly 90%) hearing aids sold in the US at this point are digital, although you can still find analog hearing aids because some people have a preference for them, and they are often less expensive.

Analog hearing aids handle inbound sounds by taking the electrical sound waves as they emerge from a microphone and amplifying them “as is” before sending them to the speakers in your ears. On the other hand, digital hearing aids take the very same sound waves from the microphone, but before amplifying them they turn them into the binary code of ones and zeros that all digital devices use. After the sound is digitized, the micro-chip within the hearing aid can process and manipulate the information in sophisticated ways before transforming it back to analog sound and passing it on to your ears.

Both analog and digital hearing aids perform the same function – they take sounds and amplify them to enable you to hear better. Both types of hearing aids can be programmed by the dispensers of the hearing aids to create the sound quality that each user desires, and to create settings appropriate for different environments. For example, there can be distinct settings for quiet rooms like libraries, for noisy restaurants, and for large areas like sports stadiums.

Digital hearing aids, because of their ability to manipulate the sounds in digital form, generally offer more features and flexibility, and are often user-configurable. They have multiple memories in which to store more environment-specific configurations than analog hearing aids. Other features of digital hearing aids include the ability to automatically minimize background noise and remove feedback or whistling, or the ability to prefer the sound of human voices over other sounds.

In terms of price, analog hearing aids are generally less expensive, although some digital hearing aids are approaching the price of analog devices by removing the more sophisticated features. Hearing aid wearers do detect a difference in the sound quality produced by analog versus digital hearing aids, but that is largely a matter of personal preference, not really a matter of whether analog or digital is “better.”

Marching Band Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Some six million teenagers in the United States suffer some form of loss of hearing, and this number has risen considerably over the past 20 years. While authorities claim that this hearing loss is in part caused by sustained exposure to high volumes of music from phones and MP3 players, participation in marching band is another contributing cause. As nearly every city high school and university has a marching band, participation is a quite common activity among teens.

Dangerous sound levels for teenagers.Noise levels are measured in decibels, also written as dB. Children and adults can suffer hearing loss from exposure to sounds over 85 dB. Marching band includes a variety of instruments, some of which easily cross over that threshold during rehearsals and performances. An experiment at Duke University showed that a drumline rehearsal exposed students to decibel levels of 99 over a 30-minute period. However, playing those instruments indoors for rehearsals can be even more harmful to teens’ hearing. Sometimes teens don’t want to reduce the volume of their instruments just because they are inside.

Prevention and protection strategies. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. However, parents often find them to be expensive. Another effective strategy for protecting young people’s hearing is to reduce the length of time they are exposed to potentially harmful sound levels by breaking up the rehearsals into shorter sessions. Increased awareness among teens and band leaders of the importance of reducing instrument sound levels when playing indoors is also key. To best protect the hearing of marching band members, a joint effort between students, band leaders, and parents is recommended.

Tips for Driving Safely with Hearing Loss

People rely on their ability to hear in a number of situations, making it difficult to carry out some common tasks if your hearing is impaired. Driving is one situation that can cause difficulties for many people affected by impaired hearing. However, having hearing problems doesn’t imply you have to throw away your keys. Keep these safe driving tips in mind the next time you get behind the wheel.

  1. Keep your car in good shape: Strange noises are a typical warning sign that something is not quite right with your car. However, if you can’t pick up on audio clues that something is wrong with your vehicle you may end up driving an unsafe car. Stay up to date with routine maintenance to make sure your car is in proper condition.

  2. Only drive when you feel comfortable: If you are not at ease driving with hearing loss, don’t do it! There are many alternatives to owning an automobile, including public transportation. Driving while stressed or uncomfortable may make you more likely to make dangerous errors, so don’t get behind the wheel unless you are feeling safe and confident.
  3. Reduce distractions: In case your hearing isn’t great you will have to rely on other senses, such as vision. Distractions that take your eyes off the road, such as food or electronic devices, can avert your eyes and put you and your passengers in danger. Similarly, listening to the radio can make it even more difficult to hear sirens, horns, and other important traffic cues. By cutting out these distractions while you’re behind the wheel you can make sure you’re taking in all the information you need.
  4. Be mindful of your hearing aid: If your hearing is assisted by a hearing aid, be sure to put it on any time you drive a car. It’s also important to make sure your car’s environment is conducive to proper hearing aid functioning. Rely on your car’s climate control system to maintain a comfortable temperature rather than opening the windows. Your hearing aid can become less effective if it is buffeted by a draft from an open window, impairing your hearing and putting you at risk.

As long as your doctor approves there is no reason for hearing loss to keep you from driving. Stay safe and enjoy the open road.

The Alarming Truth About Hearing Loss and Veterans

When considering post-combat injuries in veterans, PTSD, missing limbs, and brain damage may come to mind. However, many fail to consider another consequence of combat: hearing loss. These 5 facts about veterans and hearing loss may surprise you.

The number one injury soldiers suffer from combat is loss of hearing. – Hearing loss is even more common than PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Loud explosions from bombs aren’t the only threat to hearing – general combat and everyday military noise can cause harm as well. Improvised explosive devices, loud weapons, and other sounds such as the engines of ships, planes, and tanks can cause tinnitus and temporary to permanent loss of hearing. Soldiers who have served since September 2011 are especially afflicted with hearing damage. In fact, 414,000 post 9/11 soldiers have come home with some form of tinnitus or hearing loss.

Veterans have been found to be more susceptible to loss of hearing than those who haven’t served in the military. – Veterans are 30 percent more likely than nonveterans to suffer hearing loss of the severe kind. Even more concerning is that among those who served from September 2001 to March 2010, veterans were four times more like to suffer hearing loss than nonveterans.

Soldiers now may suffer more hearing damage than those who have served in past decades. – With the advent of improvised explosive devices and more powerful combat technology, more veterans are coming home with hearing loss than their predecessors. Intensely loud field generators, bombs such as “bunker busters,” and even modern helicopters can cause hearing impairment if soldiers don’t take precautions.

Many veterans suffering from hearing impairment don’t seek medical help right away. – Most soldiers with hearing damage or tinnitus avoid seeking out help for their injury upon returning home, according to experts. They often let it go for long periods of time. Incredibly, the average time between someone noticing hearing damage and getting help for it is 7 years.

Neuroscience innovations may be a way to alleviate severe tinnitus. Tinnitus cannot be cured completely at this time. However, it’s severity may be linked to maladies caused by serotonin loss, such as depression, sleeplessness, and anxiety. Tinnitus therapies combined with antidepressants have aided some veterans who are chronic sufferers of tinnitus.