Advancements in Cochlear Implant Technology
In recent years, technology has become available that has allowed hearing aid users to connect their hearing devices directly to their Apple IPhone. This technology has allowed users to stream phone calls, stream media, and use their phone as a remote control without the need for an extra piece of equipment (neck worn device, etc.). Unfortunately, this option has not been available for cochlear implant users. However, with the release of Cochlear Americas’ Nucleus 7 sound processor, this is now a great option for IPhone and Cochlear Americas implant users.
But what about users without iPhones?!
Not to worry, there are still those “in-between” devices that will allow users to connect to their cell phones with Bluetooth. These types of devices are available to users of all three of the cochlear implant companies with which we work (Advanced Bionics, Cochlear Americas, and MED-EL).
If you or a loved one are a cochlear implant user looking to upgrade technology or if you are someone suffering from hearing loss and believe the cochlear implant may be the best solution for your hearing needs, contact our clinic at 904-399-0350.
The Phonak Belong Platform: An Overview
Last week Phonak launched their ‘Made for All’ direct connect hearing aid, the Audeo B-Direct. Using a new proprietary 2.4 GHz radio chip these devices allow users to stream phone calls directly to any cell phone with Bluetooth without an intermediary device. Current technology from other hearing aid manufacturers allows only users of an Apple phone the ability to stream phone calls. The Made for All technology will allow Android, iOS or other Bluetooth cell phone users access to hands-free phone use. By utilizing built-in microphones as a voice pick-up feature, the Audeo B-Direct is able to function like a wireless Bluetooth headset. Once a phone call is received by the user, they are able to answer calls with a push of a button on the hearing aid. At this time, streaming of the phone call is only heard on the user’s preferred side, not to both devices. Patients will also have the ability to balance environment noise when background noise is present by either using the volume control on their phone or directly on their hearing aids. Using a streaming protocol called AirstreamTM Technology, the new TV Connecter from Phonak offers a “plug and play” solution that turns Audeo B-Direct hearing aids into wireless TV headphones. This device allows users to stream content from their TV without having to wear a body-worn streamer and is capable of streaming to multiple hearing aid wearers at the same time.
Virto B Biometric Calibration:
Another recent launch from Phonak is the use of Biometric Calibration in Virto B custom hearing aids. Using 3-D modeling software 1,600 biometric data points are identified from an earmold impression and are used to calculate calibration settings that are unique to each user. This technology allows individual ear anatomy and its effects on the acoustics of the incoming sound to be accounted for which provides a 2dB improvement in directionality. Another available option is the Virto B- Titanium invisible in the ear (IIC) option, which is made from medical grade titanium. Titanium is stronger and thinner than acrylic, allowing for significantly reduced device size.
Audeo B-R and Bolero-PR Rechargeable Options:
Phonak continues to offer a built-in rechargeable device option (Audeo B-R and Bolero B-PR). With a single charge, the device is powered for up to 24 hours. Smart charging options are also available, which allow on the go users to charge from anywhere, without having to worry about running out of power.
If you or someone you love is noticing hearing difficulties and would like to discuss hearing aid options, contact The Hearing Center at JHBI at (904) 399-0350 ext 246 to schedule an appointment to speak with an Audiologist about your options!
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.
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!
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.
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
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!
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.
Thanks to the advancements in technology, now is a better time than ever to treat your hearing loss. Here’s why.
Provided courtesy of Better Hearing Institute (BHI)
Lifting your mood, boosting your energy, protecting your earnings, super-charging your social life — and even keeping your mind sharp: These are just some of the many spoils that come with facing and dealing with a noise-induced hearing loss that has been slowly but persistently creeping up on you. The quality-of-life and feel-good benefits of treating even just mild hearing loss brought on by years of loud music, power tools, high-volume headphones, motor-sport engines, crowded night clubs and bars, noisy restaurants, and raucous sporting events are plenty. But in this digital age of smart phones and wearable technologies, the draw for many solution-minded consumers may be in the technology itself. Super-smart, super-sleek, super-convenient, and super-sophisticated — today’s hearing aids give you a multitude of reasons to address that hearing loss you’ve been trying so hard to ignore. Consider these inspiring facts about today’s highly functional, high-powered hearing aids. They just may get you to finally do something about your hearing loss and make your life easier.
They’re cool, sleek, discreet and virtually invisible.
New technologies are all about function, style, and effortless living. The latest hearing aids offer all three. The designs are incredibly attractive with smooth, modern contours. And they’re much smaller than even conventional Bluetooth earpieces. Many of the latest hearing aids are so tiny, they sit discreetly and comfortably inside the ear canal, out of sight. You might say that aesthetically, hearing aids have had a complete makeover.
They cut out background noise so you hear what you want to hear.
Even with the best of hearing, it’s tough to hear people when it’s noisy. But many state-of-the-art hearing aids not only reduce unwanted noise, they also scan the listening environment and automatically adapt to it — even in wind. There are hearing aids that can actually “geo-tag” a location. So if it’s convenient for you to network at a certain coffee shop, your hearing aids will know when you’re there and adjust themselves accordingly. For the record, it’s not by chance that the latest state-of-the-art hearing aids are so adaptable to changing noise scenarios. Recordings of virtually every imaginable listening situation have been used to create algorithms and “train” these amazing mini-computers for your ears.
They capture the natural richness and variation of speech, so it’s easier to follow the conversation wherever you are.
Let’s face it, one of the most pesky aspects of not hearing as well as you once did is not catching everything people are saying. New technologies not only help you decipher speech details in music and noise, but they better preserve and clarify the more subtle sounds of language — like the consonants B, S, F, T, and Z — so you can really follow what someone is saying. No faking.
You can hear from all directions — even when scoping out what’s in the fridge.
Advanced directional microphone technology lets you hear from the back and side — something really important when driving a car. But it also makes it easier to hear voices more clearly in other everyday settings — like when your head is in the fridge and your significant other is talking at your back. Yes, that’s one great feature.
Digital, Bluetooth, and wireless capabilities keep you connected when it counts.
Digital, wireless hearing aids are the now the norm. That means many new technologies let you stream sound directly into your hearing aids — at the perfect volume — from your smartphone, laptop, conference-room speakerphone, home entertainment system, and other Bluetooth devices. Music, phone calls, podcasts, videos, whatever you listen to through your iPhone (or iPad and iPod for that matter), you can listen to through many hearing aids. Some even let you control the volume and other personalized sound settings with an app on your smartphone. Several types of wireless accessories give you a listening boost by bridging the gap between you and the speaker, making it easier to hear in loud or large places. Using a wireless mini-microphone — with cool, contoured designs, some even looking like a pen— placed on the restaurant or conference-room table, or near anyone you want to hear, makes it feel like they’re speaking directly and clearly into your ears, no matter how noisy the setting. You adjust the volume.
State-of-the-art comfort and convenience mean you’ll always want to use them.
Super-small, super-light, customized, functional, and ergonomically designed, hearing aids today are more comfy than ever — yet tough enough to withstand real life. For most of the newest hearing aids, there’s virtually no feedback or whistling thanks to advances in digital technologies. And most are hypoallergenic with nanotechnology coating to keep them clean and dry. Some are even fully waterproof, so you can swim and shower in them, no problem. Plus, today’s greater-than-ever audio-processing goes hand-in-hand with less battery usage. Some hearing aids are even rechargeable, eliminating the need to change batteries altogether. But the convenience and comfort don’t end there. Some brands let you set up reminders for things like appointments or taking medicine. Perhaps the most “peace-of-mind-preserving” life hack, though, is leading-edge technology that helps sooth the ringing in your ears (tinnitus) in a way that suits you.
There are even more disruptive hearing technologies on the horizon.
Totally out-of-sight, semi-permanent hearing aids that stay in for two to three months let you shower and sleep in them, no fuss. Perhaps the most futuristic glimpse of hearing aids is tied to recent ground-breaking studies revealing a significant link between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Hearing aid manufacturers are deep in the trenches working to create future break-through technologies that will make it as easy as possible for the brain to decode speech and other sounds. Reducing cognitive load — that is, drawing fewer resources from the brain just to “hear” — is a very good thing. After all, we really do hear with our brains and not with our ears. Some hearing aids with these technologies are already available. Yes, leading-edge hearing aids are here to help you keep your mind sharp and your life easier by hearing your best at every age — starting today.
For more information on hearing loss and hearing aids, visit www.BetterHearing.org, www.jhbi.org or www.betterhearingjax.com. If you think you or a loved one needs to consider amplification, the first step is a comprehensive hearing evaluation. Call us at 904-399-0350 to schedule an appointment today.
The Process of Purchasing Hearing Aids through JHBI
Many patients are unfamiliar with hearing aid technology or the process of purchasing hearing aids when they visit our clinic. Below is an overview of what to expect when pursuing amplification through The Hearing Center at JHBI.
Step 1: Hearing Evaluation
The first step is to schedule a hearing evaluation. A comprehensive hearing evaluation includes testing your ability to hear different pitches along with how well you can understand speech. If you are a hearing aid candidate you will be referred to our Hearing Center for a hearing aid consultation with an Audiologist.
Step 2: Hearing Aid Consultation
Step two of purchasing hearing aids is the hearing aid consultation. A hearing aid consultation appointment is free and typically lasts an hour. You are encouraged to bring your spouse or loved ones to this appointment for support and help with decision-making. The Audiologist will go over the results of your hearing test, discuss your hearing needs and expectations of hearing aids, and review the latest hearing aid technology and styles. Based on this conversation, a particular hearing aid style and technology level will be recommended for you. Once a hearing aid is selected and ordered, a hearing aid dispense appointment will be scheduled in approximately two weeks.
Step 3: Hearing Aid Dispense
At the dispense appointment, the Audiologist will program and adjust the hearing aid(s) to your individual hearing loss and hearing healthcare needs. It is also a good idea to bring your spouse or loved ones to this appointment as well. Our Audiology Assistant will meet with you after the hearing aids are fit to discuss, demonstrate, and practice the proper insertion and removal of the hearing aid(s) and batteries. You also will learn how to clean and maintain the devices to promote longevity of the hearing aids.
Step 4: Hearing Aid Adjustment Period
After being fit with hearing aid(s) you will have a 30-day trial period to decide if you would like to keep the devices. It takes time to adapt to using amplification and it is not unusual to need multiple visits with the Audiologist within the first 30 days to get the settings of the hearing aids just right. For this reason, a two week follow up is scheduled after the hearing aids are dispensed. Our Audiologists work hard to assure a successful hearing aid fit. However, if you feel you are not getting enough benefit with hearing aids, you can return the devices for a refund while in your trial period.
We are happy to answer any questions you have about pursuing amplification for you or a family member. To schedule a hearing test or hearing aid consultation, you can contact our clinic at (904) 399-0350 ext 246.
Internet Hearing Evaluations: Beware!
Although a hearing test performed in the comfort of your own home may seem like a viable alternative to making an appointment to see an audiologist, online hearing tests are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (the federal agency that is responsible for ensuring medial devices and equipment are approved for use). Results obtained from an online hearing test are unlikely to be accurate or reliable. A face-to-face examination with an audiologist is the best practice for diagnosing and assessing your hearing healthcare needs. Listed below are components of an examination that require in-person assessment to ensure accurate diagnosis.
At your appointment, the audiologist will ask many questions about your past and recent medical history, with special attention given to your hearing difficulties. Physical conditions and medications can affect your hearing and should be documented in your chart. Documentation of any balance problems, noise exposure and tinnitus are also important in your overall care. Most online hearing tests will not assess any medical conditions that may be contributing to your hearing loss.
An otoscope is a lighted, magnifying device used to assess your ears to determine if obstruction, such as earwax, is present in the ear canal. Drainage or possible infections can also be inspected during otoscopy. This critical part of the evaluation is not possible during an online hearing test.
Equipment required for hearing tests:
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has published guidelines that outline the amount of acceptable level of ambient room noise that is allowed for an accurate hearing test. When having a hearing test performed by an audiologist, a sound booth is used to ensure ANSI standards are met. Hearing tests performed at home are subjected to background noise beyond control, such as noise from traffic, computer monitors and air conditioners. This background noise may skew results obtained during at home testing and elevate your hearing levels.
There are also standards for the headphones used for hearing tests. At home testing will show various results when different types of headphones are used. In office, headphones are calibrated specifically to the audiometer used for testing.
When testing is completed at home, only one part of your auditory system is checked. Further testing is required (through use of additional head pieces and tests) to determine the type of hearing loss you may have. A visit with an audiologist is necessary to accurately diagnosis the type and degree of your hearing loss.
If you are in need of an accurate hearing evaluation, please contact The Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute to schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Audiologists!
Cochlear Implant Troubleshooting:
- Make sure you have working batteries.
- Use the disposable battery pack with a fresh set of 675 implant plus batteries.
- Do not use 675 hearing aid batteries.
- Check that your charger is working and that the rechargeable battery is able to be charged.
- Try multiple batteries and see if you continue to have the same problem.
- Change microphone protectors
- Over time these can become clogged and will provide distorted sound.
- Extra protectors and instructions on how to change them can be found in your patient kit. There are also videos online for instruction.
- Switch out each part individually to determine what it broken.
- You should have an extra of each piece (cable, coil, battery pack) in your patient kit. If you switch out just the cable and the implant starts working, then you know that your other cable needs to be replaced.
- Keep a pile of equipment you know is working and a pile of equipment that is broken. Keep these two piles separate.
- Once you have figured out what is broken, you can order these parts either directly from your manufacturer or through your audiologist.
- If you have working backup equipment, you can use it until you can get your primary implant fixed. If your backup processor does not have your current programs in it, please let your audiologist know.
- Call the company
- The cochlear implant manufacturers are here to help. They all employ great customer service representatives who are happy to help you figure out what is broken as well as order you the new parts that you need. Do not hesitate to call them. The numbers are listed below:
- Cochlear Americas: 1-877-883-3101
- Med El Corporation: 1-888-633-3524
- Advanced Bionics: 1-877-829-0026
- Check out the company website for troubleshooting help and videos.
- If you are unable to figure out what part it broken, make an appointment with your audiologist. They will be able to figure out what is not working and order working equipment from the company.
Part of My Hearing Aid is Stuck in My Ear
Picture this: You take off your hearing aids for a battery change and you notice that the plastic end piece, or dome, is no longer on the end. You look around for it on the floor or on your person but you can’t find it. You realize that there is a good chance that the dome is stuck in your ear.
Example dome that you might find on your hearing aid
Example Receiver without a dome on it
What can I do?
So now what? First, don’t panic. While it is not ideal to have a foreign object in your ear, it is very unlikely that a dome will cause damage to your ear canal, ear drum or your ability to hear. In fact, it is almost always very easy and painless to remove a dome that has been left behind in an ear. However, it is not recommended that you attempt to remove anything from your ear by yourself or have a friend or family member remove it for you. The only person that should attempt to remove the dome from your ear is a healthcare professional. If at all possible, contact your audiologist or hearing provider first to alert them to the situation. Likely, they will have you stop by the office on the day of your call to quickly remove the dome using tools designed to do so safely. While going to the emergency room or a walk-in clinic is certainly an option, this may end up costing you significantly more time and money and is therefore only recommended if you are having pain or if you notice any blood or discharge coming from your ear. Pain may indicate that the dome is touching your eardrum or the deeper portions of your ear canal, which can be very uncomfortable but again, usually does not cause damage. It is most important to remember not to get tempted to stick anything like tweezers into your ear to remove the dome yourself, as this is when you are most likely to cause serious injury.
How can I prevent this situation from happening?
To help prevent the situation from occurring in the future, be sure to push the dome completely on to the speaker unit before putting the hearing aid in. It is best practice to give the tip of the dome a soft tug to assure that it is secure before use. Keep in mind that even when the dome is secure, it can still loosen with time or get stuck in some ear wax that causes it to dislodge in your ear. While the situation can be distressing, rest assured that most likely, it can be resolved quickly and painlessly for you without a problem.