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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When Should I Get My Hearing Tested?

In most cases, people are unaware that they have hearing loss. It develops so slowly that it’s usually undetectable, and on top of that, most family doctors do not regularly test for hearing loss at the yearly physical exam.

Bearing in mind these two realities, it’s no surprise that most people first realize they have hearing loss by being informed about it from close friends or family members. But once people confront you about your hearing loss, it’s very likely already relatively advanced. Considering that hearing loss gets worse over time—and cannot be totally recovered once lost—it’s critical to treat hearing loss at the earliest opportunity instead of waiting for it to get bad enough for people to notice.

So when and how often should you get your hearing tested? Here are our suggestions:

Establish a Baseline Early

It’s never too soon to consider your first hearing test. The sooner you test your hearing, the earlier you can create a baseline to compare future tests. The only method to assess if your hearing is becoming worse is by comparing the results with previous tests.

Although it’s true that as you grow older you’re more likely to have hearing loss, keep in mind that 26 million people between the age of 20 and 69 have hearing loss. Hearing loss is widespread among all age groups, and being exposed to loud noise puts everyone at risk regardless of age.

Yearly Tests After Age 55

At the age of 65, one out of every three people will have some degree of hearing loss. Given that hearing loss is so typical around this age, we advise once-a-year hearing tests to ensure that your hearing is not deteriorating. Remember, hearing loss is permanent, cumulative, and essentially undetectable. However, with yearly hearing exams, hearing loss can be discovered early, and treatment is always more effective when carried out earlier.

Consider Personal Risk Factors

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “approximately 15 percent of Americans (26 million people) between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to noise at work or during leisure activities.”

If you have been subjected to loud work environments or activities such as music concerts or sporting events, it’s a good idea to have your hearing tested. It’s also a good idea to get a yearly hearing test if you continuously expose your hearing to these conditions.

Watch for Signs of Hearing Loss

As we noted earlier, the signs and symptoms of hearing loss are often first observed by others. You should set up a hearing test if someone has recommended it to you or if you experience any of these signs or symptoms:

  • Muffled hearing
  • Difficulty following what people are saying, especially in loud settings or in groups
  • People commenting on how loud you have the TV or radio
  • Avoiding social situations and conversations
  • Ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in the ear (tinnitus)
  • Ear pain, irritation, or discharge
  • Vertigo, dizziness, or balance problems

Don’t Wait Until the Harm is Done

The bottom line is that hearing loss is common among all age groups and that we all live in the presence of several occupational and everyday risk factors. Seeing that hearing loss is hard to detect, gets worse over time, and is best treated early, we suggest that you get your hearing tested regularly. You may end up saving your hearing with early intervention, and the worst that can happen is that you find out you have normal hearing.

Understanding Your Treatment Options for Tinnitus

Nearly 45 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, which is the perception of sound where no outside sound source exists. This phantom sound is typically identified as a ringing sound, but can also materialize as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking.

The first thing to recognize about tinnitus is that it’s a symptom, not a disease. As a result, tinnitus may signify an underlying health condition that, once cured, cures the tinnitus. Earwax accumulation or other blockages, blood vessel conditions, select medications, and other underlying disorders can all trigger tinnitus, so the first step is ruling out any ailments that would require medical or surgical treatment.

In most cases of tinnitus, however, no specific cause is found. In these cases, tinnitus is presumed to be caused by destruction of the nerve cells of hearing in the inner ear. Noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and one-time exposure to very loud sounds can all cause tinnitus.

Whenever tinnitus is induced by nerve cell damage, or is connected with hearing loss, tinnitus oftentimes cannot be cured—but that doesn’t imply that people must suffer without help. While there is no definitive cure for the majority of instances of chronic tinnitus, numerous tinnitus treatment options are available that help patients live better, more comfortable, and more productive lives, even if the perception of tinnitus persists.

Here are some of the treatment options for tinnitus:

Hearing Aids

The majority of cases of tinnitus are associated with some type of hearing loss. In patients with hearing loss, less sound stimulation reaches the brain, and in response, investigators believe that the brain changes physically and chemically to accommodate the lack of stimulation. It is this maladaptive response to sound deprivation that results in tinnitus.

Tinnitus is aggravated with hearing loss because when ambient sound is muffled, the sounds associated with tinnitus become more noticeable. But when hearing aids are utilized, the amplified sound signals cause the sounds of tinnitus to blend into the richer background sounds. Hearing aids for tinnitus patients can then render multiple benefits, such as improved hearing, increased auditory stimulation, and a “masking effect” for tinnitus.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy is a wide-ranging phrase used to identify several approaches to making use of external sound to “mask” the tinnitus. After some time, the brain can learn to recognize the sounds of tinnitus as unimportant relative to the competing sound, thereby minimizing the intensity level of tinnitus.

Sound therapy can be delivered through masking devices but can also be provided through specific hearing aid models that can stream sound wirelessly using Bluetooth technology. Some hearing aid models even connect with compatible Apple products, including iPhones, so that any masking sounds installed on the Apple devices can be delivered wirelessly to the hearing aids.

The kinds of masking sounds utilized may vary, including white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, and music. Sounds can also be specifically programmed to match the sound frequency of the patient’s tinnitus, delivering customized masking relief. Seeing that each patient will respond differently to different masking sounds, it’s imperative that you work with a knowledgeable hearing professional.

Behavioral Therapies

Numerous behavioral therapies exist to help the patient deal with the psychological and emotional components of tinnitus. One example is mindfulness-based stress reduction, in which the individual learns to accept the ailment while developing beneficial coping methods.

You may have also heard the term Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), which blends cognitive-behavioral therapy with sound masking therapy. With Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, people learn to establish healthy cognitive and emotional reactions to tinnitus while using sound therapy to train their brains to reclassify tinnitus as trivial, so that it can be deliberately ignored.

General Wellness

Along with the more specific sound and behavioral therapies, patients can engage in general wellness activities that have been found to lessen the severity of tinnitus. These activities include healthy diets, frequent exercise, social activity, recreational activities, and any other activities that contribute to improved health and reduced stress.

Drug Therapies

There are currently no FDA-approved medications that have been demonstrated to cure or relieve tinnitus directly, but there are drugs that can treat stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can make tinnitus worse or are caused by tinnitus itself. In fact, some antidepressant and antianxiety medicines have been shown to furnish some relief to patients with severe tinnitus.

Experimental Therapies

A flurry of encouraging research is being carried out in labs and universities internationally, as researchers continue to seek out the underlying neurological cause of tinnitus and its ultimate cure. Even though many of these experimental therapies have shown some promise, remember that they are not yet readily available, and that there’s no guarantee that they ever will be. People suffering from tinnitus are encouraged to seek out current treatments rather than waiting for any experimental treatment to hit the market.

Here are a few of the experimental therapies currently being tested:

  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) delivers electromagnetic pulses into the affected brain tissue to lessen the hyperactivity that is believed to cause tinnitus.
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is another means of delivering electromagnetic pulses into the hyperactive brain tissue that is believed to cause tinnitus.
  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is comparable to the preceding therapies in its use of electromagnetic energy, the difference being that DBS is an invasive procedure requiring surgery and the placing of electrodes in the brain tissue.

Other medical, surgical, and pharmacological therapies exist, but the results have been mixed and the dangers of invasive procedures oftentimes outweigh the benefits.

The Optimal Treatment For Your Tinnitus

The best tinnitus treatment for you is based on several factors, and is best determined by a certified hearing specialist. As your local hearing care experts, we’ll do everything we can to help you find relief from your tinnitus. Book your appointment today and we’ll find the personalized solution that works best for you.

Getting the Most Out of Your Hearing Aid Batteries


Hearing Aid Batteries
Zinc-air-battery-types by Marc Andressen is licensed under Attribution CC 2.0

You could make a strong case that the most critical component of your hearing aid is the battery: without it, nothing else works, and if it fails, your hearing fails with it. In this short guide, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about hearing aid batteries so that you can get the most out of your hearing aids.

How Hearing Aid Batteries Work

Hearing aids take a particular type of battery called zinc-air batteries. Each one has a sticker that covers tiny holes on the top of the battery. When the sticker is removed, air enters the battery through the holes, resulting in a chemical reaction that activates the zinc and makes the battery live. Once the battery is live, it begins discharging power and reapplying the sticker will have no effect in conserving its life.

Hearing Aid Battery Types

Zinc-air hearing aid batteries come in four standard sizes, labeled with standardized number and color codes. The four sizes, from biggest to smallest, are:

  • 675-blue
  • 13-orange
  • 312-brown
  • 10-yellow

Each hearing aid uses only one of the sizes, and your hearing specialist will inform you which size you will need. Bear in mind that the numbers and colors above are manufacturer independent, but that manufacturers sometimes add additional letters or numbers to its packaging.

Hearing Aid Battery Life

Hearing aid battery life is reliant on a multitude of factors. Many patients get up to one week of life out of a battery if they use the hearing aid for 12 or more hours a day, but this will differ based on:

  • The size of the battery – bigger batteries have a longer life.
  • The magnitude of hearing loss – More severe hearing loss demands additional power.
  • Hearing aid features – wireless capability, noise reduction programs, and multi-channel processing, for instance, call for more power to operate.
  • Temperature – hot and cold temperatures can diminish battery life.

Your hearing specialist will talk about all of this with you, and can help you find the right balance between hearing aid performance and battery life.

How to Lengthen the Life of Your Hearing Aid Batteries

You can very easily extend the life of your hearing aid batteries with one basic trick. Immediately after you remove the sticker to activate the battery, wait 5-7 minutes before placing the battery into your hearing aids. By removing the sticker and laying the battery flat side up for several minutes, air is able to properly activate the battery before you start using it, which lengthens its life.

A few other tips:

  • Keep the batteries away from coinage, keys, or other metal items that could short the battery.
  • When the hearing aid isn’t being used, turn it off and store it with the battery door open. If you don’t plan on using your hearing aids for an extended period of time, remove the batteries completely.
  • Unopened batteries can last for years; still, newer batteries are preferable because each year that goes by decreases the life of the battery.
  • Store your batteries at room temperature. This advice is so crucial that the next section is devoted to the subject.

How to Store Your Hearing Aid Batteries

There’s a dangerous myth out there advocating that storing your batteries in the refrigerator extends their life. This is not only incorrect; it produces the opposite result!

The reasoning behind storing your batteries in the refrigerator is that the cold temperature will slow the release of power. While this may be technically true, the amount of power you will save will be minimal, and the undesirable effects of moisture will produce far greater negative consequences.

Storing zinc-air batteries in a cold environment permits micro condensation to form in an on the battery, causing corrosion and a high risk of premature failure. Therefore, for ideal performance, simply keep your batteries away from extreme hot or cold temperatures and store at room temperature.

Maintaining Your Hearing Aid Battery Supply

Once you confirm how long your batteries last, on average, you’ll want to keep a month’s supply. If your batteries last 1 week, and you use 2 batteries (1 for each hearing aid), then you’ll end up using about 8 per month. Simply set 8 as your reorder target, and once you reduce your inventory down to 8, order an additional pack. Alternatively, you may want to look into the cost savings linked with bulk buys and maintain a supply that lasts longer than one month. If you’re not sure, we are more than happy to help you set up a strategy and will handle all of your hearing aid battery needs. Just give us a call!


Have any other questions? Speak with one of our hearing specialists today!

6 Ways to Save Your Hearing

The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion people are at an increased risk for noise-induced hearing loss, caused by exposure to excess sound levels from personal audio devices and noisy environments such as clubs, bars, concerts, and sporting events. An projected 26 million Americans already suffer from the condition.

If noise-induced hearing loss occurs from direct exposure to extreme sound levels, then what is deemed as excessive? It turns out that any noise more than 85 decibels is potentially dangerous, and regrettably, many of our daily activities expose us to sounds well above this threshold. An music player at maximum volume, for instance, reaches 105 decibels, and law enforcement sirens can hit 130.

So is hearing loss an unavoidable outcome of our over-amplified life? Not if you make the right decisions, because it also turns out that noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.

Here are six ways you can save your hearing:

1. Use custom earplugs

The best way to prevent hearing loss is to avoid loud noise entirely. Of course, for most people that would lead to resigning from their jobs and ditching their plans to watch their favorite band perform live in concert.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to live like a recluse to conserve your hearing. If you’re exposed to loud sounds at work, or if you plan on going to a concert, rather than avoiding the noise you can lower its volume with earplugs. One possibility is to buy a low cost pair of foam earplugs at the convenience store, understanding that they will in all likelihood create muffled sound. There is a better option.

Today, several custom earplugs are available that fit comfortably in the ear. Custom earplugs are molded to the curves of your ear for optimum comfort, and they contain advanced electronics that lower sound volume symmetrically across frequencies so that music and speech can be heard clearly and naturally. Speak with your local hearing specialist for additional information.

2. Keep a safe distance from the sound source

The inverse square law, as applied to sound, says that as you double the distance from the source of sound the intensity level of the sound drops by 75%. This law of physics may possibly save your hearing at a rock concert; instead of standing front row adjacent to the speaker system, increase your distance as much as possible, balancing the benefits of a good view against a safe distance.

3. Take rest breaks for your ears

Hearing injury from subjection to loud sound is influenced by on three factors:

  1. the sound level or intensity
  2. your distance from the sound source
  3. the amount of time you’re exposed to the sound

You can lessen the intensity of sound with earplugs, you can increase your distance from the sound source, and you can also limit your cumulative exposure time by taking rest breaks from the sound. If you’re at a concert or in a recording studio, for instance, make certain to give your ears periodic breaks and time to recuperate.

4. Turn down the music – follow the 60/60 rule

If you regularly listen to music from a portable music player, make sure you maintain the volume no higher that 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes per day. Higher volume and longer listening times enhance the risk of irreversible damage.

5. Purchase noise-canceling headphones

The 60/60 rule is very difficult, if not impossible to abide by in certain listening conditions. In the presence of very loud background noise, like in a busy city, you have to turn up the volume on your MP3 player to hear the music over the ambient noise.

The remedy? Noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones can filter out ambient sounds so that you can enjoy your music without breaching the 60/60 rule.

6. Arrange for regular hearing exams

It’s never too early or too late to book a hearing test. In addition to being able to determine present hearing loss, a hearing exam can also establish a baseline for subsequent comparison.

Because hearing loss develops gradually, it is difficult to notice. For most people, the only way to know if hearing loss is present is to have a professional hearing examination. But you shouldn’t wait until after the damage is done to schedule an appointment; prevention is the best medicine, and your local hearing specialist can offer customized hearing protection solutions so that you can avoid hearing loss altogether.

The Psychology of Hearing Loss

If we genuinely want to understand hearing loss, we have to understand both the physical side, which makes hearing progressively more challenging, and the psychological side, which includes the lesser-known emotional responses to the loss of hearing. In concert, the two sides of hearing loss can wreak havoc on a person’s total well being, as the physical reality renders the loss and the psychological reality prevents people from addressing it.

The numbers tell the story. Even though virtually all cases of hearing loss are physically treatable, only about 20% of individuals who would benefit from hearing aids use them. And even among those who do seek help, it takes an average of 5 to 7 years before they book a hearing test.

How can we explain the massive discrepancy between the opportunity for better hearing and the widespread unwillingness to obtain it? The first step is to recognize that hearing loss is in fact a “loss,” in the sense that something invaluable has been taken away and is ostensibly lost forever. The second step is to figure out how individuals generally react to losing something valuable, which, courtesy of the scholarship of the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, we now understand exceptionally well.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 stages of grief

Kübler-Ross observed 5 stages of grief that everyone coping with loss seems to pass through (in remarkably consistent ways), although not everyone does so in the same order or in the same time period.

Here are the stages:

  1. Denial – the individual buffers the emotional shock by denying the loss and imagining a false, preferred reality.
  2. Anger – the individual acknowledges the loss but becomes angry that it has happened to them.
  3. Bargaining – the individual responds to the feeling of helplessness by seeking to regain control through bargaining.
  4. Depression – understanding the weight of the loss, the individual becomes saddened at the hopelessness of the situation.
  5. Acceptance – in the last stage, the individual accepts the circumstance and exhibits a more stable set of emotions. The rationality associated with this stage leads to productive problem solving and the recovering of control over emotions and actions.

People with hearing loss progress through the stages at different rates, with some never getting to the final stage of acceptance — hence the discrepancy between the potential for better hearing and the low numbers of people who actually seek help, or that otherwise wait several years before doing so.

Progressing through the stages of hearing loss

The first stage of grief is the most difficult to escape for those with hearing loss. Because hearing loss advances slowly through the years, it can be very hard to recognize. People also have the tendency to make up for hearing loss by cranking up the TV volume, for example, or by forcing people to repeat themselves. Those with hearing loss can remain in the denial stage for years, saying things like “I can hear just fine” or “I hear what I want to.”

The next stage, the anger stage, can express itself as a form of projection. You may hear those with hearing loss state that other people mumbles, as if the issue is with everyone else rather than with them. People remain in the anger stage until they recognize that the issue is in fact with them, and not with others, at which point they may proceed on to the bargaining stage.

Bargaining is a form of intellectualization that can take various forms. For example, people with hearing loss might compare their condition to others by thinking, “My hearing has become much worse, but at least my health is good. I really shouldn’t complain, other people my age are coping with real problems.” You may also come across those with hearing loss devaluing their problem by thinking, “So I can’t hear as well as I used to. It’s just part of aging, no big deal.”

After passing through these first three stages of denial, anger, and bargaining, those with hearing loss may enter a stage of depression — under the mistaken presumption that there is no hope for treatment. They may persist in the depression stage for a period of time until they recognize that hearing loss can be treated, at which point they can enter the last stage: the acceptance stage.

The acceptance stage for hearing loss is surprisingly elusive. If only 20% of those who can benefit from hearing aids actually use them, that means 80% of those with hearing loss never reach the final stage of acceptance (or they’ve reached the acceptance stage but for other reasons decide not to act). In the acceptance stage, people recognize their hearing loss but take action to correct it, to the best of their ability.

This is the one positive side to hearing loss: distinct from other kinds of loss, hearing loss is partly recoverable, making the acceptance stage easier to reach. Thanks to major improvements in digital hearing aid technology, people can in fact strengthen their hearing enough to communicate and engage normally in daily activities — without the stress and frustration of impaired hearing — permitting them to reconnect to the people and activities that give their life the most value.

Which stage are you in?

In the case of hearing loss, following the crowd is going to get you into some trouble. While 80% of those with hearing loss are stuck somewhere along the first four stages of grief — struggling to hear, damaging relationships, and making excuses — the other 20% have accepted their hearing loss, taken action to improve it, and rediscovered the joys of sound.

Which group will you join?

A Short Biography of Raymond Carhart, the “Father of Audiology”

Raymond Carhart

Most people are surprised to hear how young the discipline of audiology really is, and just how recently its founding father established the profession. To put this in perspective, if you wanted to find the founding father of biology, for instance, you’d have to go back in time by 2,300 years and read through the The History of Animals, a natural history text composed in the fourth century BCE by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.

In contrast, to find the founding father of audiology, we need go back only 70 years, to 1945 when Raymond Carhart popularized the term. But who was Raymond Carhart, and how did he come to produce a separate scientific discipline so recently? The story starts with World War II.

World War II and Hearing Loss

One of history’s most reliable lessons tells us that necessity is the mother of invention, signifying that challenging scenarios prompt inventions aimed at relieving the difficulty. Such was the case for audiology, as hearing loss was coming to be a bigger public health concern both during and after World War II.

Indeed, the primary driving force behind the progression of audiology was World War II, which resulted in military personnel coming back from combat with extreme hearing problems caused by direct exposure to loud sounds. While many speech pathologists had been calling for better hearing assessment and treatment all along, the multitude of people affected by hearing loss from World War II made the request impossible to ignore.

Among those calling for a new profession, Robert West, a respected speech pathologist, called for the development of the speech pathology field to include the correction of hearing in 1936 — the same year that Raymond Carhart would graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Speech Pathology, Experimental Phonetics and Psychology.

Raymond Carhart Establishes the New Science of Hearing

Raymond Carhart himself began his career in speech pathology. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Psychology from Dakota Wesleyan University in 1932 and his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Speech Pathology, Experimental Phonetics and Psychology at Northwestern University in 1934 and 1936. Carhart was in fact one of the department’s first two PhD graduates.

Following graduation, Carhart became an instructor in Speech Re-education from 1936 to 1940. Then, in 1940 he was promoted to Assistant Professor and in 1943 to Associate Professor. It was what took place next, however, that may have changed the course of history for audiology.

In 1944, Carhart was commissioned a captain in the Army to head the Deshon General Hospital aural rehabilitation program for war-deafened military personnel in Butler, Pennsylvania. It was here that Carhart, in the context of helping more than 16,000 hearing-impaired military personnel, popularized the term audiology, designating it as the science of hearing. From that point forward, audiology would divide from speech pathology as its own distinctive research specialty.

At the end of the war, Carhart would go back to Northwestern University to develop the country’s first academic program in audiology. As a skillful professor, he guided 45 doctoral students to the completion of their work, students who would themselves become notable professors, researchers, and clinical specialists throughout the country. And as a researcher, among innumerable contributions, Carhart developed and enhanced speech audiometry, especially as it applied to calculating the efficiency of hearing aid performance. He even identified a distinct pattern on the audiogram that indicates otosclerosis (hardening of the middle ear bones), eponymously named the “Carhart notch.”

Raymond Carhart’s Place in History

Of history’s founding fathers, the name Raymond Carhart may not be as well known as Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, or Charles Darwin. But if you wear hearing aids, and you know the degree to which the quality of life is enhanced as the result, you might place Raymond Carhart on the same level as history’s greats. His students probably would, and if you visit the Frances Searle Building at Northwestern University, you’ll still see a plaque that reads:

“Raymond Carhart, Teacher, Scholar, and Friend. From his students.”

Questions to Ask Your Hearing Specialist Before You Buy Hearing Aids

Question Mark

When it’s time to purchase a car, the majority of us know exactly what to do. We conduct some research, compare options, and compile a list of questions to ask the dealership. We do this so that by the time we’re ready to visit the dealership, we have an idea of what we’re looking for and we know which questions to ask.

When it’s time to choose hearing aids, in contrast, many people don’t know where to get started. Even though the process is comparable to buying a car, it’s also in many ways more complicated (and probably not quite as fun). It’s more complicated because each person’s hearing loss is unique and each pair of hearing aids needs customized programming. If buying a car was like this, it would be like you bringing it home and having to install the transmission yourself.

Fortunately, you don’t need to know how to program your own hearing aids, but you do need to know the questions to ask to ensure that your hearing specialist covers all bases, correctly programming the most appropriate hearing aids for your requirements and lifestyle. In this way, producing a list of questions to go over with your hearing specialist is the single most important thing you can do prior to your hearing test.

But which questions should you ask? Here are 35 to get you started off, broken down by category:

HEARING LOSS

Specific kinds of hearing loss require specific kinds of treatment. The more you understand your own hearing loss, the better you’ll be able to compare hearing aid options. You need to know what type of hearing loss you have, if it will get worse, how soon you should treat it, and all of your treatment alternatives.

Questions to ask:

  • What kind of hearing loss do I have?
  • Do I have unilateral or bilateral hearing loss?
  • Can I have a copy of my hearing test?
  • Will my hearing loss get worse as time passes if left untreated?
  • Will hearing aids enhance my hearing?
  • How much of my hearing will hearing aids regain?
  • What are my other options besides hearing aids?

HEARING AID STYLES AND FEATURES

Hearing aids are sold in numerous styles, from several producers, armed with numerous features. You need a organized way to narrow down your choices to assure that you get the best hearing aid without wasting money on features you don’t need or want.

Questions to ask:

  • How many different kinds of hearing aid styles do you offer?
  • Which hearing aid style is most beneficial for my needs and lifestyle?
  • Which digital features would be beneficial to me, and which could I do without having?
  • What are telecoils and directional microphones and do I need them?
  • Do I need Bluetooth compatible hearing aids?
  • Do my hearing aids need to be professionally programmed?
  • Do I need one or two hearing aids, and why?

HEARING AID PRICES, FINANCING, WARRANTIES, AND TRIAL PERIODS

The total price of a pair of hearing aids often includes the professional fees associated with custom fitting and programming, along with several other services or accessories. You want to ensure that you understand what you’re receiving for the price, if financing is available, if insurance will help, what the warranty protects, the length of the trial period, and if any “restocking fees” apply to the end of the trial period.

Questions to ask:

  • What is the total price of the hearing aids, including professional services?
  • Do you provide any financing plans?
  • Will my insurance coverage help pay for hearing aids?
  • How much will my hearing aids cost me per year?
  • Do the hearing aids have warranty coverage?
  • How much do hearing aid repairs cost after the warranty has expired?
  • Are repairs completed at the office or somewhere else?
  • If my hearing aids have to be sent out for repairs, are loaner hearing aids supplied?
  • Is there a trial period and how long is it?
  • Is there a restocking fee if I return my hearing aids during or after the trial period?

HEARING AID OPERATION, CARE, AND MAINTENANCE

Your hearing specialist should explain to you how to care for, clean, and control your hearing aids. To make certain that nothing is forgotten, make sure all of these questions are answered:

Questions to ask:

  • How do I operate my hearing aids?
  • How do I use hearing aids with telephones and other electronics?
  • Can you show me how to use all of the buttons, features, and settings for my hearing aids?
  • What are environmental presets, and how do I access them?
  • Do I need a remote control, or can I use my smartphone to operate the hearing aids?
  • What batteries do I need, how long will they last, and how do I replace them?
  • How should I clean and store my hearing aids?
  • Do I need to come back for follow-up visits?
  • How long will my hearing aids last?
  • Do I need to update the hearing aid software application?
  • Do I become eligible for future hearing aid upgrades?

YOU’RE READY TO SCHEDULE YOUR HEARING TEST

Ok, so purchasing a pair of hearing aids may not be as enjoyable as shopping for a new car. But the quality of life you’ll obtain from better hearing might very well make you more happy, as you’ll reconnect with people and appreciate the intricacies of sound once again. So go ahead and schedule that hearing test — your new pair of hearing aids are waiting for a test drive.

The Digital Advantage: Analog Vs. Digital Hearing Aids

Digital Code

You’ve most likely heard that today’s hearing aids are “not your grandfather’s hearing aids,” or that hearing aid technology is light-years ahead of where it used to be, even as recently as 5 to 10 years ago. But what makes today’s technologies so much better? And what exactly can modern day hearing aids achieve that couldn’t be accomplished in the past?

The short answer is, like almost all electronic devices, hearing aids have benefited significantly from the digital revolution. Hearing aids have transform into miniaturized computers, with all of the programming adaptability you would anticipate from a modern computer.

But before hearing aids became digital, they were analog. Let’s see if we can understand why the move from analog to digital was such an improvement.

Digital vs analog hearing aids

At the simplest level, all hearing aids do the job the same way. Each hearing aid is made up of a microphone, amplifier, speaker, and battery. The microphone picks up sound in the environment, the amplifier strengthens the signal, and the speaker supplies the louder sound to your ear.

Fundamentally, it’s not very complex. Where is does get complex, however, is in the details of how the hearing aids process sound, which digital hearing aids accomplish much differently than their analog alternatives.

Analog hearing aids process sound in a fairly straightforward manner. In three basic steps, sound is detected by the microphone, amplified, and delivered to the ear through the speaker. That is… ALL sound is made to be louder, including background noise and the sound frequencies you can already hear properly. In other words, analog hearing aids amplify even the sounds you don’t want to hear — think of the scratching sound you hear from an analog recording on a vinyl record.

Digital hearing aids, conversely, apply a fourth step to the processing of sound: transformation of sound waves to digital information. Sound itself is an analog signal, but instead of only making this analog signal louder, digital hearing aids first transform the sound into digital form (saved as 0s and 1s) that can then be altered. Digital hearing aids, therefore, can CHANGE the sound before amplification by altering the information stored as a series of 0s and 1s.

If this seems like we’re talking about a computer, we are. Digital hearing aids are essentially miniature computers that run one specialized application that manipulates and enhances the quality of sound.

Advantages of digital hearing aids

A good number of today’s hearing aids are digital, and for good reason. Considering that analog hearing aids can only amplify incoming sound, and cannot alter it, analog hearing aids are liable to amplify distracting background noise, making it frustrating to hear in noisy environments and nearly impossible to talk on the phone.

Digital hearing aids, however, have the flexibility to amplify select sound frequencies. When sound is converted into a digital signal, the computer chip can identify, label, and store specific frequencies. For example, the higher frequency speech sounds can be tagged and stored separately from the lower frequency background noise. A hearing specialist can then program the computer chip to amplify only the high frequency speech sounds while suppressing the background noise — making it effortless to follow conversations even in noisy surroundings.

Here are some of the other advantages of digital hearing aids:

  • Miniaturized computer technology means smaller, more discreet hearing aids, with some models that fit totally in the ear canal, making them virtually invisible.
  • Digital hearing aids tend to have more eye-catching designs and colors.
  • Digital hearing aids can be programmed by a hearing specialist to process sound in various ways based on the environment. By changing settings, users can attain ideal hearing for various situations, from a quiet room to a noisy restaurant to speaking on the phone.
  • Digital hearing aids can be fine-tuned for every patient. Each person hears different sound frequencies at different decibel levels. Digital hearing aids permit the hearing specialist to adjust amplification for each sound frequency based on the attributes of each person’s unique hearing loss.

Try digital hearing aids out for yourself

Reading about digital hearing aids is one thing, trying them out is another. But remember, to get the most out of any set of hearing aids, you will need both the technology and the programming capability from an experienced, licensed hearing specialist.

And that’s where we come in. We’ve programmed and fine-tuned countless hearing aids for individuals with all forms of hearing loss, and are more than happy to do the same for you. Give us a call and experience the digital advantage for yourself!

The Top 5 Hearing Aid Myths Exposed

Sometimes, it seems as if we prefer to mislead ourselves. Wikipedia has an page called “List of common misconceptions” that consists of hundreds of widely-held but false beliefs. Yes, I understand it’s Wikipedia, but take a look at the bottom of the page and you’ll see around 385 references to credible sources.

For example, did you know that Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb? Or that sugar does not in reality make kids hyperactive? There are countless examples of beliefs that we just assume to be correct, but now and then, it’s a good idea to reevaluate what we think we know.

For some of us, it’s time to reassess what we think we know about hearing aids. The majority of myths and misconceptions about hearing aids are founded on the problems connected with the outdated analog hearing aid models. But since the majority of hearing aids are now digital, those concerns are a thing of the past.

So how up-to-date is your hearing aid knowledge? Keep reading to see if any of the top 5 myths are stopping you or someone you know from getting a hearing aid.

The Top 5 Myths About Hearing Aids

Myth # 1: Hearing aids are not effective because some people have had bad experiences.

Reality: To start with, hearing aids have been proven to be effective. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association comparing the performance of three common types of hearing aids concluded that:

Each [hearing aid] circuit markedly improved speech recognition, with greater improvement observed for soft and conversationally loud speech….All 3 circuits significantly reduced the frequency of problems encountered in verbal communication….Each circuit provided significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.

Additionally, since the publication of this investigation, hearing aid technology has continued to get better. So the question is not whether hearing aids perform well — the question is whether you have the right hearing aid for your hearing loss, professionally programmed based on to your preferences by a trained professional.

Negative experiences are likely the result of choosing the wrong hearing aid, purchasing hearing aids online, contacting the wrong individual, or not having the hearing aids customized and professionally programmed.

Myth # 2: Hearing aids are big, bulky, and unsightly.

Reality: This one is relatively easy to disprove. Just perform a quick Google image search for “attractive hearing aid designs” and you’ll see a number of examples of stylish and colorful models from numerous producers.

Additionally, “completely-in-the-canal” (CIC) hearing aids are available that are virtually or fully hidden when worn. The newer, stylish designs, however, compel some patients to go with the somewhat larger hearing aid models to showcase the technology.

Myth # 3: Hearing aids are too expensive.

Reality: Presently, some flat screen televisions with ultra-high definition curved glass retail for $8,000 or more. But this doesn’t make us say that “all TVs are too expensive.”

Just like television sets, hearing aids range in price dependent on performance and features. While you may not want — or need — the top of the line hearing aids, you can likely find a pair that fits your needs, preferences, and finances. Also remember that, as is the situation with all consumer electronics, hearing aids are becoming more affordable from year to year, and that the value of better hearing and a better life is almost always worthy of the cost.

Myth # 4: You can save time and money buying hearing aids online.

Reality: Remember myth # 1 that alleged that hearing aids are not effective? Well, it was probably created by this myth. Like we said before, hearing aids have been proven to be effective, but the one caveat to that statement has always been that hearing aids have to be programmed by a professional to assure performance.

You wouldn’t dare purchase a pair of prescription glasses on the internet without contacting your eye doctor because your glasses need to be individualized according to the unique attributes of your vision loss. Buying hearing aids is exactly the same.

Sure, visiting a hearing specialist is more expensive, but consider what you get for the price: you can be confident that you get the right hearing aid with the right fitting and settings, together with follow-up care, adjustments, cleanings, instructions, repair services, and more. It’s well worth it.

Myth # 5: Hearing aids are uncomfortable and challenging to operate.

Reality: If this relates to analog hearing aids, then yes, it is mostly true. The thing is, nearly all hearing aids are now digital.

Digital hearing aids dynamically process sound with a mini computer chip so that you don’t have to worry about manual adjustments; in addition, some digital hearing aids can even be controlled through your smartphone. The bottom line: digital hearing aids are being produced with optimum ease-of-use in mind.

Your hearing specialist can also generate a custom mold for your hearing aids, ensuring a comfortable and ideal fit. While a one-size-fits all hearing aid will most likely be uncomfortable, a custom-fit hearing aid conforms to the curves of your ear.

How to Read Your Audiogram at Your Hearing Test

Audiogram

You have just finished your hearing test. The hearing specialist is now entering the room and presents you with a chart, like the one above, except that it has all of these icons, colors, and lines. This is intended to present to you the exact, mathematically precise attributes of your hearing loss, but to you it might as well be written in Greek.

The audiogram adds confusion and complication at a time when you’re supposed to be concentrating on how to strengthen your hearing. But don’t let it fool you — just because the audiogram looks perplexing doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to grasp.

After looking through this article, and with a little vocabulary and a handful of basic concepts, you’ll be reading audiograms like a professional, so that you can concentrate on what really counts: healthier hearing.

Some advice: as you read the article, reference the above blank audiogram. This will make it easier to comprehend, and we’ll cover all of those cryptic marks the hearing specialist adds later on.

Understanding Sound Frequencies and Decibels

The audiogram is really just a chart that records sound volume on the vertical axis and sound frequency on the horizontal axis. (are you having flashbacks to high school geometry class yet?) Yes, there’s more to it, but at a basic level it’s just a chart graphing two variables, as follows:

The vertical axis documents sound intensity or volume, measured in decibels (dB). As you move up the axis, the sound volume decreases. So the top line, at 0 decibels, is a very soft, faint sound. As you move down the line, the decibel levels increase, standing for gradually louder sounds until you get to 100 dB.

The horizontal axis records sound frequency, measured in Hertz (Hz). Starting at the top left of the graph, you will see a low frequency of 125 or 250 Hz. As you continue along the horizontal axis to the right, the frequency will progressively increase until it reaches 8,000 Hz. Vowel sounds of speech are in general low frequency sounds, while consonant sounds of speech are high frequency sounds.

And so, if you were to start off at the top left corner of the graph and sketch a diagonal line to the bottom right corner, you would be increasing the frequency of sound (progressing from vowel sounds to consonant sounds) while raising the level of sound (moving from softer to louder volume).

Evaluating Hearing and Marking Up the Audiogram

So, what’s with all the marks you usually see on this basic graph?

Easy. Begin at the top left corner of the graph, at the lowest frequency (125 Hz). Your hearing consultant will present you with a sound at this frequency through headsets, beginning with the lowest volume decibel level. If you can hear it at the lowest level (0 decibels), a mark is made at the intersection of 125 Hz and 0 decibels. If you are not able to hear the 125 Hz sound at 0 decibels, the sound will be presented once again at the next loudest decibel level (10 decibels). If you can perceive it at 10 decibels, a mark is created. If not, continue on to 15 decibels, and so on.

This exact technique is repeated for each frequency as the hearing specialist progresses along the horizontal frequency line. A mark is made at the lowest perceivable decibel level you can perceive for each individual sound frequency.

Regarding the other symbols? If you notice two lines, one is for the left ear (the blue line) and one is for the right ear (the red line: red is for right). An X is ordinarily applied to mark the points for the left ear; an O is used for the right ear. You may observe some additional symbols, but these are less significant for your basic understanding.

What Normal Hearing Looks Like

So what is thought to be normal hearing, and what would that look like on the audiogram?

People with regular hearing should be able to perceive each sound frequency level (125 to 8000 Hz) at 0-25 decibels. What might this look like on the audiogram?

Take the empty graph, find 25 decibels on the vertical axis, and sketch a horizontal line all the way across. Any mark made below this line may signify hearing loss. If you can hear all frequencies beneath this line (25 decibels or higher), then you likely have normal hearing.

If, on the other hand, you cannot perceive the sound of a particular frequency at 0-25 dB, you very likely have some form of hearing loss. The smallest decibel level at which you can perceive sound at that frequency defines the grade of your hearing loss.

For instance, take the 1,000 Hertz frequency. If you can perceive this frequency at 0-25 decibels, you have normal hearing for this frequency. If the smallest decibel level at which you can perceive this frequency is 40 decibels, for example, then you have moderate hearing loss at this frequency.

As an overview, here are the decibel levels identified with normal hearing along with the levels linked with mild, moderate, severe, and profound hearing loss:

Normal hearing: 0-25 dB

Mild hearing loss: 20-40 dB

Moderate hearing loss: 40-70 dB

Severe hearing loss: 70-90 dB

Profound hearing loss: 90+ dB

What Hearing Loss Looks Like

So what would an audiogram with indications of hearing loss look like? Given that many cases of hearing loss are in the higher frequencies (referred to as — you guessed it — high-frequency hearing loss), the audiogram would have a descending sloping line from the top left corner of the chart slanting downward horizontally to the right.

This indicates that at the higher-frequencies, it requires a increasingly louder decibel level for you to perceive the sound. Furthermore, seeing that higher-frequency sounds are connected with the consonant sounds of speech, high-frequency hearing loss impairs your ability to comprehend and pay attention to conversations.

There are other, less typical patterns of hearing loss that can appear on the audiogram, but that’s probably too much information for this article.

Test Your New Knowledge

You now know the basics of how to interpret an audiogram. So go ahead, schedule that hearing test and surprise your hearing specialist with your newfound abilities. And just imagine the look on their face when you tell them all about your high frequency hearing loss before they even say a word.