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Do I Really Need Two Hearing Aids?

The Benefits of Binaural Listening

The question regarding whether to purchase one or two hearing aids is an important topic to address with your audiologist during a hearing aid consultation. Hearing aids are an investment in your hearing health that can contribute to improved communication with family and friends and lead to better quality of life. Hearing aids are also a financial investment and it makes sense that many people want to weigh the benefits versus the cost.

In some cases one hearing aid truly is the best option. For example, a person may have a hearing loss in only one ear and normal hearing in the other ear. Another example is a person who has very little useful hearing in one ear; in this case a hearing aid may not provide any benefit at all and a cochlear implant may be the better option.  In most other cases if both ears have a hearing loss then two hearing aids are better than one.

Binaural hearing is the term used to refer to hearing with two ears (whether with two normal hearing ears or with two hearing aids). Bimodal hearing applies to people who wear a hearing aid on one side and a cochlear implant on the other ear. Studies have shown that binaural/ bimodal hearing have many benefits and leads to improved communication ability.

Detecting Location of Sound

The ability to detect where sounds are coming from is called “localization” and is a function of the brain that is dependent upon sound being heard well by both ears. The brain uses timing and loudness cues to determine which ear received the sound first and at which ear the sound was louder in order to determine where the sound is located. The brain is unable to detect the location of sound accurately with only one (amplified) ear.

Understanding in Noise

When sound reaches the ears, the signal travels to the inner ear and is then transferred to the hearing never. It then travels up the brainstem to the hearing centers of the brain. The brain analyzes and combines the sound heard from both ears to help “tease out” the speech signal from the unwanted background noise. If the brain only receives sound from one amplified ear it has much more difficulty separating speech from noise.

Louder Volume

When sounds are received by both ears the signal travels through multiple pathways in the brainstem. This double input of information to the brain creates a boost in the volume of the speech signal making it easier to hear. This boost or summation of volume does not occur with one ear.

Easier Listening

Studies have shown that when the brain listens with two ears, less effort is needed to hear and understand speech which helps to reduce fatigue.

For more information about the benefits of listening with two ears or about bimodal benefit for cochlear implant users call Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute at 904-399-0350 to set up a hearing aid consultation.

 

What’s New with Hearing Aids

The Phonak Belong Platform: An Overview

Audeo B-Direct:

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!

 

 

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

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/

 

Ear-Friendly Holiday gift giving guide

Gift giving ideas

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking of gift ideas for those closest to you. This year, why not consider giving your loved ones a unique but useful hearing related gift? Whether they are hearing impaired or have normal hearing, below is a list of gift ideas that they are sure to love.

 

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Custom hearing protection- Custom hearing protection is a great gift for so many different people in your life. Hunters, musicians and avid concert goers, to name a few, can all benefit from custom earplugs. Hearing protection can be made completely solid to block all sound (great for sleeping plugs!) or with various filters to let in animal noises or vocals in music. Custom plugs can also be made into earbuds/headphones, which are a great option for anyone on your list.

 

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Hearing Aid Dryers – Hearing aid drying devices are a great gift for loved ones who use hearing aids. Dryers range from minimal to more advanced options that plug into the wall and use a germicidal lamp to disinfect. A drying device will extend the life of hearing aids, keep the user’s ears dry and clean and provide storage options both at home and while on the go.

 

accessories

Bluetooth Accessories- Bluetooth Accessories are a great option for someone that already has hearing aids. Bluetooth packages allow hearing aid users to “stream” or directly connect to audio from cell phones, television, iPads or remote microphones. These gifts are especially useful for anyone who is struggling to understand with his or her hearing aids. For more information on Bluetooth, please see on of our earlier blog posts on the topic (https://www.betterhearingjax.com/hearing-aid-accessories/)

 

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TV Ears- TV Ears are ideal for someone who doesn’t have hearing aids but still struggles to understand the television or likes the volume turned up very loud. TV Ears are easy to use and can provide excellent sound quality at a reasonable cost. They are available in many different styles depending on preference.

 

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Vibrating Alarm Clock – There are a lot of household accessories available for people who are hard-of-hearing or deaf to make daily life easier. One example is a vibrating alarm clock, which uses a bed shaker to wake someone from sleep instead of sound. Bed shakers and vibrating watches can also pair to cell phones, doorbells and landlines to alert someone of visitors or incoming calls.

 

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Toys and Comics featuring hard of hearing or deaf characters – If you have a child on your buying list who has hearing loss, a hearing related gift might be just right for them. Marvel Comics has recently introduced Blue Ear and Sapheara, two super heroes who wear hearing aids and cochlear implants. American Girl Dolls has also introduced hearing aid accessories for any of their 18” dolls. These options and others like them (including a host of different books) are relatable and educational for children with hearing loss, and may even help them to accept their hearing aids and cochlear implants.

 

The gift of better communication is one of the best gifts you can give this year. The above options are just a small sample of some of the ways you can use gift giving to help a loved one reconnect to the world of sound this holiday season.

Basic Hearing Aid Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting guide

Are you having issues with your hearing aids? Here are some common hearing aid issues, solutions, and troubleshooting steps you can take at home.

ISSUE POSSIBLE CAUSE POSSIBLE SOLUTION
HEARING AID IS DEAD OR NOT WORKING Dead, run down, or wrong type of battery. Replace battery.
Eartip plugged with wax. Change wax guard and / or dome.

Use brush to remove excess ear wax.

WORKING,

BUT IRREGULAR

Dead, run down, or wrong type of battery. Replace battery.
Battery leakage or corroded battery contacts. Discard the battery and wipe the gold terminals carefully with cloth or Q-tip to remove loose powder.
WHISTLES, CONTINUOUSLY OR OCCASIONALLY Earmold or dome is not seated properly in ear. Remove earmold and replace in ear, looking in mirror to check placement.
Earmold or dome fits loosely in ear. Make and appointment to have a new earmold made.
Tubing of earmold not connected, loose, brittle, or cracked. Bring the problem to the attention of the audiologist. The tubing may need to be replaced.
Ear wax or obstruction in canal. Schedule an appointment with the audiologist.
POOR SOUND QUALITY Change in hearing sensitivity. Schedule an appointment with the audiologist to obtain an updated hearing test.
Eartip plugged with wax. Change wax guard and / or dome. Use brush to remove excess ear wax.
Ear wax or obstruction in canal. Schedule an appointment with the audiologist.

Remember that the Hearing Center at Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute holds a walk-in clinic for our patients on Tuesdays (10:00 am – 11:30 am) and Thursdays (1:00 pm to 2:30 pm) to help with general hearing aid care, use, and troubleshooting. No appointment is necessary to participate in walk-in clinic.

If you’re still having issues with you hearing aids, call our clinic and make an appointment to see your hearing aid audiologist.

Making the Most of Your Hearing Aids or Cochlear Implant

Hearing loss is one of the most prevalent health issues in the world today.  Over 48 million people in the United States experience significant hearing loss. Studies have shown that untreated hearing loss can have detrimental effects on a person’s social and emotional health. Listening with a hearing loss requires increased cognitive effort which often leads to exhaustion by the end of the day. The impact of untreated hearing loss leads to an overall poorer quality of life when compared to individuals with treated hearing loss. Hearing aids and cochlear implants that are recommended and appropriately programmed by an audiologist can help regain the joys of life that are found in connecting with family and friends through conversation. However, it is important to remember that although hearing aids and cochlear implants are significant components of the rehabilitation process, they will not lead to perfect speech understanding in all situations. Even with the use of hearing aids and/or cochlear implants there may still be environments that interfere with the ability to understand speech. The most common situations where hearing aid users may have difficulty include loud and noisy environments (i.e. restaurants), listening at a distance (i.e. large meeting room) reverberate or echoic environments (i.e. worship center) on the telephone and the television.

Noise

Listening in a noisy environment is difficult because the noise tends to “wash over” the soft high pitched sounds necessary for the clarity of speech. In addition, a hearing loss leads to difficulty with differentiating speech versus unwanted noise making it hard for the brain to focus.  Studies also show that individuals with hearing loss need speech to be much louder than the noise in order to understand the message compared to an individual with normal hearing.

Distance and Reverberation

Listening to a talker standing at a distance is difficult because a hearing aid is most effective when the sound source (the talker’s voice) is within several feet of the hearing aid microphone. The further away the talker is the softer and less clear the signal will be. Environments such as a worship centers often lead to reverberation due to the lack of carpet and/or upholstery and the use of high ceilings; these factors combined cause sound waves to bounce off the walls and can lead to echoic and distorted sound quality before the sound is even picked up by the hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Telephone and Television

Understanding on the telephone can be difficult due to the lack of visual cues. During face-to-face communication we often rely on visual cues to help the brain “fill in the blanks” if certain sounds are not heard however, these cues are not available when using the telephone. In addition, the signal heard from a telephone is a filtered signal and different from a natural voice. Television shows and movies can be difficult due to the music added to the background of the spoken dialogue. In addition, many times the individual with hearing loss prefers the volume at one level while family members prefer a different volume which often leads to unpleasant watching experiences.

Wireless Accessories

One of the great benefits of digital hearing aids today is the ability to take advantage of wireless technology. The use of wireless accessories can increase the benefit received from hearing aids. All of the major hearing aid and cochlear implant companies offer wireless accessory devices to help bridge the gap between the listener and the talker regardless of background noise, echo or distance. Many companies offer a device that acts as a tiny microphone and is worn by the talker. The microphone picks up the talker’s voice and sends the signal to the hearing aids or cochlear implants.  This technology allows the talker’s voice to be heard louder relative to any background noise. The microphone will also transmit the signal over an average distance of 30 feet which leads to better understanding when seated far away from the talker. In addition, since the signal travels from the microphone to the hearing aids or cochlear implants wirelessly it is not affected by echo.

Another wireless accessory is a device that connects via Bluetooth to a smart phone and allows for phone calls, music and other media to stream from the phone directly to the hearing aids. This allows the listener to hear the signal in both ears at once which creates an easier listening experience. The microphones on the hearing aid or cochlear implant are turned down so the primary signal heard is from the mobile phone. Similarly there are also devices that plug into the television and allow for shows and movies to stream directly to the hearing aids or cochlear implant. This allows the user and the family member to independently set the volume to a comfortable level.

The combination of hearing aids or cochlear implants, wireless technology and communication strategies allow for the individual to maximize their benefit from amplification in order to achieve increased understanding of speech and an easier listening experience.

 

 

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.

Rechargeable hearing aids

Phonak Audeo BR

In September 2016, Phonak, one of the major global manufacturers of hearing aids, released its next generation of hearing aid technology. The new product line features the Audeo BR, the first hearing aid to house a built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Currently, the rechargeable option is only available in RIC (receiver in the canal) technology. To learn more about styles of hearing aids, see our previous blog post on the topic  https://www.betterhearingjax.com/hearing-technology/our-hearing-aids/hearing-aid-types-styles/.

The Phonak Audeo BR boasts 24 hours of hearing with a full charge, and the ability to reach a full charge within three hours. In addition, the 20 minute fast-charging option is able to provide up to 6 hours of immediate use. With a rechargeable hearing aid comes freedom from changing disposable batteries every 4-10 days, making hearing aids significantly more accessible to patients with dexterity issues or arthritis. The new technology is also environmentally friendly and significantly reduces the number of disposable batteries that are thrown away each year. The Audeo BR offers several charging options, from full size to mini, including the portable charger case which is able to provide power for seven full charges of two hearing aids when no power source is available.

If you, or someone you know, might be interested in a rechargeable hearing aid option, the audiologists at JHBI would be happy to show you what technology is available right now. Please visit our websites, betterhearingjax.com or jhbi.org, for more information on the practice or to schedule an appointment. To schedule an appointment by phone, please call 904-399-0350.

 

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Tinnitus: What’s that sound?

Tinnitus is the perception of ringing or other sounds in your ears that have no external source. If you are someone who experiences tinnitus, just know that you are not alone. A 2011 study reported that approximately 30 million Americans report that they experience tinnitus and about 1 in 4 people from ages 65-84. Tinnitus is also the number one disability reported by veterans in the VA system.

Causes

Researchers continue to explore tinnitus, but the following are some possible causes of your tinnitus:

  1.  Hearing loss
  2.  Medications
  3.  Exposure to loud sounds
  4.  Blood pressure issues
  5.  While rare, a tumor on the hearing nerve can also cause tinnitus

Signs

Patients report a wide range of sounds (ringing, buzzing, etc.) and how loud they feel the tinnitus to be. Below are some signs that it may be time to visit Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute to be further evaluated

  1. Experiencing a “pulsing” sound or hearing your heartbeat
  2. Tinnitus associated with spells of dizziness
  3. Only hearing the tinnitus in one ear
  4.  If you feel the tinnitus is interfering with your ability to properly communicate or hear those closest to you.

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Many patients with tinnitus do not realize that they have hearing loss. They believe that it is the tinnitus itself that causes their communication difficulties. It is not until they make an appointment with their audiologist that they realize they have experienced a loss in hearing. For a lot of patients, addressing the hearing loss with hearing aids can help to provide some relief from the tinnitus. Many of today’s hearing aids have special tinnitus programs.

It is important to know that there is no proven cure for tinnitus. If you do wish to try a medication or supplement, be sure to speak with your physician first!

For more information on tinnitus, hearing loss and hearing aids visit www.jhbi.org or www.betterhearingjax.com Or call us at 904-399-0350 to schedule an appointment today.