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Hearing Loss: A Family Problem

Hearing Loss and Communicating with Family

If you have hearing loss, you have probably noticed that your difficulty hearing is not just a problem for you, but for your whole family. When families have trouble communicating, they often report a decrease in perceived intimacy and an increase in conflict. This is because for most people, verbal communication is how we connect. When you cannot hear your friends and family, it becomes difficult to participate in a lot of things, from milestone events to nightly dinners. As the person with hearing loss, you are certain to feel this isolation and usually your family feels the disconnect as well. Even if you use hearing aids, there may still be some situations you cannot communicate well in depending on the severity of your hearing loss.

The first step to bridging the gap created by a hearing loss is simply to start the conversation on why you might not be participating the way you used to. Many times, people with hearing loss are assumed to be rude or dismissive because they are not responding in the expected way. Explain to your family that you are having trouble hearing them and go into detail about what situations make it worse. If you have extra difficulty understanding your spouse when he or she talks from another room, be very clear that this is not a situation you can succeed it. Explain to your children or grandchildren that they need to turn the television off when you are having a conversation so that you can hear them. Pinpoint situations that you really struggle in and work to tackle one at a time. Be patient with yourself and your family though – it may take a few reminders for them to break long standing habits.

Another good step is bringing your family or close friends to your audiologist appointments with you. Your hearing healthcare provider can explain your hearing loss and the limitations you might continue to have, even with hearing aids. Sometimes, it’s helpful for a third party to remind your family of the things they can do to help you succeed in hearing with as little frustration as possible. Your audiologist is there to help you as well as those closest to you in every aspect of your hearing loss journey so be sure to utilize them as a resource.

Hearing Loss and Cognition

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline

Recently, the Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute partnered with Phonak (a major hearing aid company) to give a presentation to the community regarding the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline in older adults. Unfortunately, it filled up too quickly for us to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. Just in case you missed it, here are some of the highlights from the presentation:

The study in question was conducted by Frank Lin, Ph.D. and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University using information gathered from older adults over a period of decades. The researchers found that those individuals with untreated hearing loss (whether it was mild, moderate, severe, or profound) were significantly more likely to experience cognitive impairments than their normal hearing peers.

But just how are hearing loss and cognitive impairment connected? As Dr. Lin reports, “Your inner ear has to take in a complex sound and convert it into a signal that goes into the brain. When we say that people have hearing loss, it means the inner ear is no longer as good at encoding those signals with accuracy and fidelity. So the brain gets a very garbled message — you can hear what’s being said but you can’t quite make it out. It takes a little more effort to hear what that person said. As a result, the brain has to re-dedicate sources to help with hearing and sound processing. That comes at the loss of something else.” Dr. Lin also notes that, “As we develop hearing loss, we withdraw socially. You’re less likely to go out and you may be less likely to be engaged in conversation.”

While more research needs to be completed regarding the link between hearing loss, social isolation, and cognitive decline, these early results certainly emphasize the importance of hearing heath on one’s overall health. Unfortunately, up to two-thirds of adults with hearing loss remain untreated. Here at JHBI, we hope that by increasing awareness about this topic, we can identify hearing impairments and possible intervention strategies earlier rather than later.

Resources:

Lin, F. R., et al. (2013). Hearing loss and cognitive decline in older adults. JAMA Internal Medicine(4), 173, 293-293. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1868

Hearing Aid Accessories and Bluetooth Connectivity

Boosting Your Hearing Aid Performance with Wireless Technology

Even with the best hearing aids, it can still be difficult to enjoy your favorite song or your favorite TV show, or hear a speaker clearly in a business meeting or at a restaurant. It may even still be difficult to hear someone talking to you on the phone. Over the past 10+ years, hearing aid manufacturers have developed wireless accessories to accompany hearing aids. These devices can be used in even the most complex listening environments. Today, some hearing aids will even connect directly to iPhones. Below is a list of outlined accessories and their uses as well as more information regarding direct connectivity options.

Direct Connectivity:

Several hearing aid manufacturers now offer direct-to-iPhone hearing aid options. Starkey, Oticon, Resound, and Widex hearing aids can be connected via bluetooth straight to your cell phone and most apple devices! Each manufacturer has their own free, downloadable, and user-friendly app which can control your hearing aids, including volume control, program changes, and some even allow you to control the directionality of your microphones in different listening situations. Phone calls are streamed directly to your hearing aids; your music, a video, a movie, anything streaming on your phone…that’s right! It goes straight to your hearing aids! They have now become wireless headphones!

Cell Phone Accessories:

With the technology of bluetooth, connecting your world to your hearing aids has become easier than ever. Several manufacturers offer wireless accessories that either clip to your lapel or hang around your neck. These intermediary devices allow your cell phone to talk directly to your hearing aids. As long as you are wearing your clip-on or your neck loop, your phone calls can stream directly to your hearing aids, as well as any other audio streaming from your cell phone. All it takes is a simple pairing procedure which your audiologist can help with!

 

TV Accessories:

With a TV Link, you will have the audio from the TV streaming directly into your hearing aids. All you have to do is hook up the accessory to your TV. Enjoy the comfort of listening to your favorite show at the volume you prefer while your loved ones can still enjoy the show at their preferred volume. Most TV Links require an intermediary device, however, which connects to the hearing aids and the TV Link then connects to the intermediary device.

 

Microphone Accessories:

 Many manufacturers make accessory options in the form of a remote microphone. Remote microphones significantly improve the signal-to-noise ratio in noisy environments. Although most hearing aids at all technology levels reduce background noise levels in noisy environments to some degree, a remote microphone brings the speaker’s voice directly to the hearing aid users’ ears. The speaker wears the remote microphone and the listener wears an intermediary device which streams the signal to the listener’s hearing aids. This makes for exceptional speech understanding in noise and better understanding over longer distances. Some remote microphones can transmit to the users’ hearing aids from up to 80 feet away!

 

 

 

If you would like to learn more about these devices for your hearing aids and learn what your options are, schedule a hearing aid consult with an audiologist today! They should be able to answer any questions you might have! Just call: 904-399-0350

Hearing Health Seminar

Please Join Us!

Where: Maggiano’s Little Italy in St. Johns Town Center

When: Wednesday, July 12

Time: 6:00 pm-7:00 pm

Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute invites you to an important hearing educational seminar followed by hors d’oeuvres and drinks. We will discuss the causes and consequences of hearing loss, the relationship between hearing loss and cognitive decline, brain cognition health tips, and how to arrive at a hearing health care solution. The providers at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute will offer advice and practical tools for individuals and families impacted by hearing loss.

Join us for:

  •  More information about the relationship between hearing, cognition and your overall health and well being.
  • The latest information on hearing loss treatment to clear up any confusion about hearing aids. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of hearing loss, then don’t miss this special opportunity!

 

RSVP required by Friday, July 7th ~ Limited Seating

(904) 302-9576

 

Aural Rehabilitation For Cochlear Implant Users

Becoming More Successful With Your CI

One of the most important steps in the cochlear implant process is rehabilitation. Research studies demonstrate that patients adjust more quickly and achieve greater overall success when they actively participate in a rehabilitation program. Rehabilitation with a cochlear implant can be done at home with computer based programs and  listening exercises with family members or in a more formal setting with an auditory verbal therapist.

After a cochlear implant is activated it is important to complete listening exercises to help teach the brain how to listen with a cochlear implant. Immediately following activation, speech often sounds strange and unclear; this is because sound is being delivered to the brain through electrical stimulation (versus acoustic stimulation). The brain must adjust to this new way of receiving sound input. This process of “brain acclimatization” can be greatly impacted by the amount of effort put into the rehabilitation stage. Imagine never completing physical therapy after a knee or hip replacement; it would be very difficulty to walk effectively and progress may be much slower. Fortunately there are many resources available for patients to help them with their “listening therapy’. Each cochlear implant company offers an abundance of support and activities intended to help the brain acclimate to listening with a cochlear implant.

Cochlear Americas

Communication Corner:

Cochlear’s Communication Corner offers specially designed activities for every age group from young children to older adults. Each group offers activities that range in difficulty to allow you to tailor you rehabilitation process to your specific needs. They also offer a Music program to help you enjoy the sounds of music again. In addition Cochlear has a telephone program called “Telephone with Confidence”. This program allows you to practice listening on the telephone through guided activities.

Follow this link: http://www.cochlear.com/wps/wcm/connect/us/communication-corner

Advanced Bionics

The Listening Room:

Advanced Bionics’ The Listening Room provides numerous listening activities for people of all ages. Activates vary in difficulty and are labeled as beginner, intermediate or advanced to allow you to work through hearing skills at your own pace. The activities can be completed with a listening partner or done independently. Lessons are designed to improve speech understanding as well as increase music appreciation.

Follow this link: https://thelisteningroom.com/

MED EL

BRIDGE to Better Communication:

MED EL’s BRIDGE program contains listening exercises for various age groups. The activities for adults focus on sentence recognition. The recorded activities can be done independently and allow the listener to vary how the sentences are presented to mimic more ‘real world’ scenarios. There are also activities that can be completed with a partner. Suggestions are given on how to increase the difficulty of the task to ensure the listener continues to make progress once a particular skill is mastered.

Follow this link: http://www.medel.com/us/soundscape/#prettyPhoto

Protection and Maintenance of Your Hearing Aids

Hearing Aids: Protecting Your Investment

Congratulations! You should consider your decision to purchase hearing aids to be a smart investment of both your time and money. As you continue to get used to your new devices, you will likely develop a strong bond with your hearing aids, and will want to be without them as infrequently as possible. It is important that you develop a basic hearing aid maintenance plan that you routinely follow to ensure peak performance of your devices. You should also be familiar with common causes of hearing aid damage so that you can avoid exposing your hearing aids to hazardous conditions (although even the most meticulous hearing aid wearer will need a repair at some point in time!)

Damage to Hearing Aids: What to Expect

Moisture and earwax are two of the most common causes of hearing aid damage. It is estimated that as many as 75% of the hearing aid repairs seen in our office are related to these two items.

  • Earwax: Although the degree to which a hearing aid is exposed to earwax is determined more by body chemistry than good cleaning practices, cleaning your hearing aid regularly with a lint free cloth or hearing aid cleaning wipe will limit the problems resulting from earwax. Cleaning your hearing aid with a solvent or household cleaner is not recommended and can result in damage to the hearing aid casing or components.
  • Moisture: Moisture problems related to the environment are difficult to avoid, and the use of a hearing aid drying system (discussed below) is the best solution for this. To avoid accidental moisture damage, avoid storing your hearing aids in your bathroom or kitchen where moisture levels are high. We recommend storing in the original case on your dresser or nightstand. In addition, posting a note on your shower door can help prevent accidentally wearing your hearing aid into the shower.
  • Other: Other common reasons hearing aids become damaged include:
    • Pets (many pets love to chew hearing aids)
    • Hairspray or other hair products
    • Dropping the hearing aid
    • Incorrect battery insertion
    • Exposure to excessive heat (being left inside a car, etc)

Hearing Aid Care Products

Routine Care = Longer Hearing Aid Life and Better Hearing Aid Performance

There are many products designed to help you care for your hearing aids. Listed below are some of our most commonly recommended products:

  • Hearing Aid Dryers (Desiccant jars): Basic dry jars cost as little as $10.00. More sophisticated electric dryers are also available for purchase and contain UV lamps which have antimicrobial benefits.
  • Cleaning Wipes: Wipes designed specifically for use with hearing aids help control wax build-up.
  • Tubing Blowers: Tubing blowers are used to clean the tubing of behind-the-ear hearing aids. This also helps with moisture build-up which often occurs in hearing aid tubing, which may help reduce how often tubing needs to be changed.

 

Establishing a good maintenance plan is an essential part of your hearing aid journey and will help ensure that your hearing aid functions at peak performance for many years to come. If you are unsure of cleaning procedures for your hearing aid or are in need of a hearing aid repair, make an appointment with your audiologist to discuss the proper plan for you and your hearing aids!

Factors to Consider Before Purchasing a Hearing Aid

Do I need a hearing aid?

This is a question that the audiologists and physicians hear every day at The Hearing Center and JHBI. Let’s take a look at what matters (and what doesn’t!) when it comes to making that decision.

  • Hearing Loss:

    The first step to deciding whether or not it’s time to try hearing aids will depend on your hearing loss. Hearing aids can be programmed to fit all different degrees and configurations of hearing loss, from mild to profound. However, you have to keep in mind that what your hearing loss looks like will greatly affect your outcome with amplification. For example, patients that have very little usable hearing left may be better suited to a cochlear implant. Patients with middle ear problems may want to try a bone-anchored hearing device. So how do you know what’s right for you? That’s an easy one to answer- you just have to ask an audiologist. Come in for a hearing aid consult. If hearing aids aren’t the correct choice for you, we promise to guide you to whatever is.

  • Hearing Difficulties:

    Most people with hearing loss know that they have trouble hearing. In fact, that is usually what drove them to get a hearing test in the first place. However, even with severe hearing loss, some people will deny any hearing difficulties. Hearing aids are a process that involve both commitment and work on the part of the new user, so that person has to be invested in a positive outcome. In other words, it is important that you feel like you have something to gain from wearing a hearing aid. If you are convinced that you are not having any difficulty hearing, it will be hard to justify using hearing aids. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes it is actually the people you are talking to that take the brunt of a hearing loss. Are they frequently repeating or speaking up so that you can be apart of the conversation? Look to those closest to you for honest opinions about how they are affected by your hearing difficulties. If they are expressing frustration, that might be a reason to consider trying hearing aids.

  • Age:

    Hearing aids are for people with hearing loss, no matter their age. It does not matter at all how old you are- If you have a hearing problem, it is time to consider a hearing aid. Please do not wait until you reach a certain age to start considering a hearing aid.

  • Cosmetics:

    It’s okay to be worried about what a hearing aid will look like. We are all human, and we want to present our most confident self to the world. For some people, it’s scary to think about what a hearing aid will look like. The good news is that we have come a long way from the large devices that used to be the industry standard. Most styles are nearly invisible these days. Depending on your ear canal size and hearing loss, your audiologist can guide you into the most discrete style possible.

  • Price:

    For many people, the price of hearing aids can be very intimidating. At JHBI, we offer different levels of hearing aids at varying prices to meet the needs of everyone that comes through our door. We also have some financing options that may help. We encourage you to come in and see what we have to offer and talk about what your budget allows. Even if a hearing aid isn’t an option for you currently, we may be able to find some ways to help you hear better that are within reach.

For more information on hearing aids, click on the following link: https://www.betterhearingjax.com/hearing-technology/our-hearing-aids/

 

Hearing Protection and our Military

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

There is no doubt that the men and women of our armed services sacrifice so much to keep our country safe. They readily put themselves in harm’s way and often suffer long-term physical and emotional consequences as a result. One common outcome to years of service, surrounded by the loud sounds of gunfire, explosions, engine noise and machinery, is something called noise-induced hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) refers to a permanent, usually high frequency, hearing loss that typically begins in a “notch” formation and spreads to affect more of the individual’s hearing. To learn more about NIHL, check out one of our earlier blogs on the topic.

NIHL and Combat

What is important to know about NIHL is that it is preventable. For the average person, simply avoiding loud situations or using adequate hearing protection is enough to protect your ears from permanent damage. Unfortunately, the issue is a little more complicated for our soldiers. Often times, a solider may find him or herself in a situation of sudden, unexpected noise, such as gunfire, and not have time to put in hearing protection. Wearing hearing protection continually is also not an option because he or she needs to hear orders from commanding officers, communications from other soldiers, and also be aware of his or her surroundings. For those reasons, many of our soldiers have simply gone without adequate protection and as a result, have suffered permanent hearing damage. As this trend becomes more and more prevalent, experts in the fields of hearing loss and hearing conservation have worked together to find a way to protect our soldiers and their ears at that same time. This has led to the introduction of what is called adaptive or digital hearing protection.

Adaptive Hearing Protection

The U.S. Army has developed a hearing protection system called the Tactical Communication and Protective System (TCAPS), which is already being dispensed to the men and women of our armed forces. The TCAPS system is a clever combination of amplification and noise protection that works to allow the user to hear quiet and average sounds at an audible level and reduce the impact of loud sounds using noise-canceling technology, to a safe level.

Those in charge of the TCAPS initiative are confident that the devices will result in fewer veterans with service related hearing loss. Approximately 20,000 units have already been introduced in active duty and the real-life applicability is being tracked closely. In order to be successful, TCAPS must protect our soldiers from loud impact sounds while still allowing them to hear everything they need to hear to keep themselves and their fellow soldiers safe on the battlefield.

 

For more information on hearing protection options and ways to protect your own hearing, make an appointment to talk to your audiologist at JHBI today.

Communication Strategies for People with Hearing Loss

Communication is an essential aspect to everyday life. Unfortunately, hearing loss can have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to communicate. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other assistive devices can provide help in certain listening situations, but difficulties can still exist. Communication strategies, along with consistent use of amplification, can be utilized for greater ease of understanding and fewer communication breakdowns. Both the speaker and listener in a conversation can contribute to better understanding for the hearing impaired listener.  Below are a few strategies that can help with effective communication:

1.) Face the speaker

Seeing the speaker’s face and being able to read facial cues can significantly improve speech understanding. Even if you don’t think you can lip read, everyone uses visual cues to enhance their auditory signal. If someone is speaking to you from another room, ask them to please come into the same room and ask their question again. When attending a lecture, sit close to the speaker so you are able to see their face. Remind your communication partner to get your attention before asking a question or beginning a conversation.

2.) Minimize background noise (when possible)

Try to eliminate or minimize background noise when having a conversation. This means turning off the television or extraneous noise sources when communicating. You can also try to move to a quiet space away from the noise source. When going to a restaurant, ask for a table away from the kitchen, server stations, or large parties.

3.) Identify the things in your listening environment you can or cannot change

There are many things in our listening environment that affect the way we hear or understand. These factors range from characteristics about the speaker, to characteristics about the environment, to characteristics of us, as listeners. For example, in our listening environment, we may not be able to change the lighting or acoustics of a room, but we may be able to change our seating or angle of vision. Below is a list of factors that affect understanding. In any given situation, identify the things that may improve your ability to listen, and act towards changing these factors that can be controlled or improved.

4.) Advocate for yourself

The ability to ask for the changes you need to hear better is something that comes more naturally to some than others. Asking a person to speak more slowly or more clearly can be helpful. It may also involve asking for a table in a private room at a restaurant, or asking to switch seats with someone when seeing a show. Many times, your communication partner wants to help you hear them better, but they don’t know what they can do to make it easier.

5.) Make a plan

If you know you are going out to eat at a particularly busy restaurant, plan your meal time accordingly. Try to eat during an off time so there is less competing background noise. Call ahead of time to reserve a more private room that may help control background noise. Arrive early for your meal so you can pick the best spot for understanding. Sit away from sources of noise, like the kitchen area or music speaker.

6.) Utilize repair strategies

Communication breakdowns can happen in any conversation. Repair strategies can be utilized to minimize communication breakdowns and continue with the conversation seamlessly. The most common response when a message is not understood is to say, “What?” The problem with saying, “What?” is that it does not give the speaker any information about what you missed, or what you need them to do to help you understand better. It may even lead them to repeat the entire message in the exact same way, leading to the same result. Instead of saying, “What?” when you don’t hear what someone said, be specific about what you need that person to do. For example, tell them to “please repeat what [they] said, more slowly.” Or, if you understood one part of the sentence, tell the person the part you understood, but ask for clarification on the part you missed. Another helpful strategy when trying to understand a telephone number or address is to repeat back each number as it is said to avoid a mistake in the middle of the series of numbers. These strategies may help minimize the breakdowns in communication, and reduce the amount of time spent on clarification.

It is most advantageous when both parties within a conversation work together to have a successful and meaningful discussion. This requires understanding and flexibility on the part of the speaker or speakers, but also the willingness of the listener to express his or her needs.

If you or someone you know is having communication difficulties, contact The Hearing Center at JHBI at 904-399-0350 ext 246 or click here to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive hearing evaluation and to meet with an Audiologist to better  discuss your listening needs.

Prevalence of Hearing Loss in Young Adults

How an Ever-Changing Society is Leading to More Hearing Loss in Young Adults

It is undeniable that teenagers and young adults are more connected to technology today than they have ever been in the past. With the growing popularity of smart phones and Bluetooth technology comes endless opportunity to be plugged into music, video streaming and even television and movies on the go. In addition, noise exposure in public venues is also increasing. Concerts, dance clubs and sporting events have become louder than ever thanks to newer speakers and better music technology.  So what does all of this add up to for the younger generation? Unfortunately, the answer might be hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe sound levels are putting approximately 1.1 BILLION teenagers and young adults at risk for noise induced hearing loss! The WHO estimates that about 50% of people aged 12-35 in middle and high income countries are exposed to unsafe sound levels from devices like smart phones and MP3 players. Additionally, about 40% of the above named age group is also at risk for noise induced hearing loss in public venues such as night clubs and sporting events.

For more information on exactly what noise induced hearing loss is, check out one of our previous blogs on this topic.  Also, take a look at permissible noise levels for listening to music in order to get a better understanding of what is safe and what might cause damage.

 

While noise induced hearing loss is not reversible, it is largely preventable. When it comes to hearing, the WHO’s main recommendation is to take simple, preventative measures to protect your ears before damage starts. Teenagers and young adults should be aware of environments that are dangerously loud and use hearing protection at all times in those situations. If you must be without hearing protection, significantly limit the time spent in loud situations and take frequent breaks from the noise. Turn down the volume on personal music players and if you spend a lot of time listening through headphones, invest in a good pair that is more effective at canceling out background noise. That way, you will not need to turn the volume up as loud to hear it. The WHO has also made the recommendation that governments pass legislation limiting the admissible noise level in public venues and encouraging education and public awareness regarding noise induced hearing loss.

 

It is estimated that 48 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss. There is no need for teenagers and young adults to add to that statistic because of noise induced hearing loss. Be educated on acceptable, safe noise levels, and always use hearing protection if you think a situation might be too loud. Your ears will thank you for it later!