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Keep your Loved Ones with Hearing Loss Engaged in Conversations over Thanksgiving!

It’s not uncommon to see family members and friends with hearing loss limit their participation in loud, large social gatherings. Multiple speakers, clanking of silverware, and lots of background noise can make it difficult to understand the conservation we are trying to participate in. Here are some tips and reminders that may be helpful this Thanksgiving:

  • Seat the person with hearing loss at the head of the table or somewhere they are able to see others seated at the table
  • Provide adequate lighting 
  • Take turns speaking to prevent multiple, overlapping conversations
  • Speak clearly, but not overly loud or over-enunciated
  • Indicate topic shifts and reiterate key information 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for repetition or clarity
  • How Often Should You Purchase Hearing Aids?

    This is a question that we address everyday with our patients and their loved ones! The short answer is that a hearing device should typically be replaced about every five to seven years or so. In reality, however, the answer is a bit more involved. Several factors may determine whether or not it’s time to update your hearing instruments. They include:

    • Level and sophistication of the hearing technology
    • Potential changes in your hearing sensitivity, lifestyle, or overall health
    • Condition and performance of your existing hearing devices

    Here are a few potential signs you may need fresh hearing technology:

    Device Malfunctioning

    You do all the recommended maintenance, but things still aren’t right: Replaced batteries drain quickly; sound is still muffled after you change wax guards. The occasional repair is normal, but regular malfunctions may mean it’s time to replace your devices.

    Hearing Level Has Changed

    Your hearing changes over time because of age, loud sounds, or other health issues. Often we can adjust your programming to meet your new needs, but sometimes your hearing changes so much that you require a different level of technology or a different type of device all together. 

    Repairs Seem Costly

    With older devices, the parts are often scarce or the model is discontinued. Sometimes repairing your devices costs enough that it makes more sense to replace them with new hearing aids.

    Technology Evolving

    Devices have advanced significantly over the years with better filtering of background noise, rechargeability without the hassle of disposable batteries, tinnitus management, and wireless streaming from smartphones.

    Hearing your best is more critical than ever in our changing world — with in-person and virtual communication both playing important roles in today’s new normal. If you think it might be time to update your hearing devices, please don’t wait to contact us to get your questions answered or to schedule a hearing aid consultation.

    The Value of an Audiologist

    An audiologist is a health care professional who provides patient-centered care in order to identify, diagnose and treat hearing loss and balance disorders using evidence-based practice. An audiologist aims to provide personalized services to minimize the negative impact of hearing loss and ultimately lead to improved quality of life. 

    Audiologists are required to hold a doctorate degree in audiology (Au.D.). They must also pass board examinations to receive licensing and accreditation. In addition, audiologists are required to earn annual continuing education credits in order to remain knowledgeable of the most current research-based practice and rehabilitation methods.

    A hearing aid is often used to manage hearing loss by analyzing and amplifying sound within an environment. If hearing aids are recommended based on a comprehensive hearing evaluation the audiologist uses the test results combined with information about the patient’s lifestyle and communication needs to determine the most appropriate style and power level of hearing aid. Additionally, the audiologist provides personalized counseling to help educate the patient and establish realistic expectations regarding their potential benefit from hearing aids. Information is also provided regarding communication and self-advocacy strategies in order to give the patient control over their hearing experience and help maximize hearing aid benefit. 

    One of the most important components of the hearing aid process is the follow up care. Best practice methods include programming hearing aid settings based on verification measures (objective data) and patient feedback regarding their experience (subjective data). A hearing aid is an investment in your health and wellness and when thinking about purchasing hearing aid it is important to find out the types of services and the level of care that you will receive with your purchase. Many audiologists include programming adjustments, verification tests and counseling in the cost of the hearing aids. This helps to ensure the patient receives high quality of care tailored to their specific needs.

    October is National Protect Your Hearing Month!

    Although most people tend to see audiologists after they have already started noticing hearing difficulties, audiologists also strive to educate the public on protecting their hearing. Back in July, we posted a blog about the different types of hearing protection. Many of these you can buy over the counter, but some custom-made devices need to be fit by an audiologist.

    The American Academy of Audiology agrees with OSHA standards in regards to which levels of sound, and for how long, can damage your ears permanently. For instance, repeated or length exposure to sound above 85 decibels (dB) can damage hearing. Average conversation is usually around 60-65 dB, jet engines are typically around 150 dB, and those lawn mowers that people are using without hearing protection are around 85 dB, which is the level at which damage can start. Other recreational activities have high levels of sound that can damage your hearing: shooting a gun (140-175 dB depending on the firearm), concerts (can reach 120 dB), action movies in a theater (100 dB).

    According to the American Academy of Audiology, there is an easy way to remember the main ways to protect your hearing: EARS.

    The four main ways for protecting your hearing are:

    • E – earplugs
    • A – avoid loud sounds
    • R – reduce the level of sounds
    • S – shorten time in loud environments

    If you have been exposed to this type of noise, even if it was years ago, there is a good chance you have some hearing loss. To schedule a hearing test or an appointment with one of our audiologists to discuss custom hearing protection, call our office at 904-399-0350.

    Learn more from the American Academy of Audiology at audiology.org

    Improving Phone Communication

    One of the top areas of communication many of our patients are wanting to improve is better communication on the phone. Phone calls are one of the most difficult listening situations for individuals with hearing loss — there’s no opportunity to read lips, the signal is not always clear/consistent, and there are fewer contextual cues compared to face-to-face communication. Even with properly fit hearing aids, many patients continue to experience difficulty on the phone. Here are a few helpful tips for improving speech understanding over the phone while wearing hearing aids:

      1. Place the speaker of the phone directly on the hearing aid microphones. This allows the audio from the phone call to be processed through the hearing aids and amplified. If the phone is held to the ear in a typical fashion, the hearing aid may be acting as an earplug, making phone calls even more difficult. 

     2. Enable Bluetooth streaming for phone calls (if available). By streaming phone calls through the hearing aids, our brain is able to process the incoming speech information with two ears, thus allowing more opportunity for accurate speech understanding. 

    3. Ask your communication partner to slow down and speak naturally. Slowing down rate of speech while continuing to speak in a natural manner is more beneficial than over-enunciating and raising the volume. 

    Phone calls can take practice and patience. Reach out to your hearing care provider if you need further strategies or technology to improve phone communication.

    CROS and Bi-CROS Solutions

    What is a CROS System?

    A Contralateral Routing of Sound (CROS) hearing aid is a type of hearing device that is used to treat unilateral hearing loss (single sided hearing loss). It takes sound from the ear with poor hearing sensitivity and transmits the sounds to the better hearing ear. As a result, the CROS transmitter device is not a full hearing aid. It has microphones and a computer processing chip, but no speaker. It will therefore be transmitting the sound wirelessly to a receiving hearing aid on the better ear. This type of set-up allows a patient to have access to sound from both sides of their head which aids in volume, clarity, and sound localization.  

    What is a Bi-CROS System?

    A Bi-CROS system is very similar to the CROS system. A patient would still be wearing two devices, however, the CROS transmitter is paired with an active hearing aid providing amplification. A Bi-CROS system is used when someone has an asymmetrical hearing loss, that is a hearing loss in both ears but with one ear better than the other.

    Again, the CROS device works as a transmitter which captures the sound from the bad side and transmits it to the hearing aid on the better side. The hearing aid on the better side delivers the sound from the worst ear and amplifies the sound from the better hearing ear as well.

    Who is a Candidate for a CROS or Bi-CROS System?

    Individuals with either asymmetric hearing loss or single-sided deafness may be a candidate for a CROS or Bi-CROS system. To inquire whether or not this non-surgical option would work for you, give us a call at 904-399-0350 to make an appointment!

    Why is Hearing in Noise So Difficult?

    One of the most commonly reported challenges people face with their hearing is understanding speech in background noise. Noise can vary depending on the environment. Sometimes it might be multiple people talking at once, like at a party. It may also be ambient noise such as music from a speaker or dishes clanking at a restaurant. Regardless of the type of sound, extra background noise makes it more difficult to understand conversations with others.

    Many people don’t realize that a lot of our hearing ability comes not just from what the ears pick up, but how our brain processes the sound information from our ears. Hearing in noisy places is more challenging for a couple of reasons:

    • Audibility – we have to be able to hear all the sounds of speech in order to easily understand it. Extra noise can overpower soft speech sounds.
    • Focus – noisy environments tend to be busier. If there are distractions present, it decreases our ability to concentrate as effectively as we can in quiet.
    • Memory – in order to understand speech, our brain has to process sound and remember the information. Busier environments compete for the brain’s attention in focusing and remembering speech.

    The good news is that hearing devices can address the concerns listed above and make it easier to understand in noisy places. Although in most cases it is not possible to completely eliminate all background noise, hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can make a big improvement in speech understanding, both in quiet and in noise.

    If you are interested in learning more about how you can optimize your hearing in noisy environments, contact our office at 904-399-0350 to schedule a hearing evaluation.

    What to Expect When You are New to Hearing Aids

    1. During an appointment with your audiologist, expect a thorough assessment to determine the severity of your hearing loss and a detailed discussion about your lifestyle, hearing priorities, and budget to help determine what hearing aids are best for you.

    2. Expect an adjustment period when you first begin to wear hearing aids. Hearing loss typically occurs over time, and it can take time for your brain to become accustomed to all the sounds you are now hearing again. The world is a very noisy place and you may notice sounds you didn’t realize you were missing such as your footsteps when walking, running water from the faucet & the quiet hum of the refrigerator. After wearing the hearing aids for a week or two, all of those ambient sounds will become less prominent to you. The more you wear hearing aids, the quicker you will adjust!

    3. Expect them to “whistle” as you put them in your ears. Once they are in your ears, the whistling should stop.

    4. Expect to take care of your hearing aids! The better care that is taken of them, the longer they will last. It is as simple as routine nightly cleaning. Wiping them down with a tissue every night will go a long way!

    5. Expect a new technology to be developed every couple of years. You can speak with your audiologist to determine if new technology would be beneficial for you. Just as any other electronic device, they do not last forever and will eventually wear out.

    Purchasing hearing aids is a big adjustment to your life but with these few pointers to get you started, you are on your way to better hearing!

    Hearing with Two Ears

    Our bodies are designed with two ears for many important reasons. Listening with two ears:

    • Leads to better understanding in background noise
    • Allows for improved ability to detect where sound is coming from and
    • Gives speech a “boost” in volume

    In addition, listening with two ears lessens the amount of work it takes the brain to understand speech and can lead to an improved quality of life. 

    For people whose hearing loss is severe, two hearing aids may not be very helpful. However, research, anecdotal evidence and experience tells us that using a hearing aid in one ear and a cochlear implant in the other ear can improve clarity of speech, even more so than using just one cochlear implant. 

    This has been demonstrated over and over to the point where two cochlear implant companies have partnered with hearing aid companies to create compatibility between the cochlear implant and hearing aid. This not only leads to the great benefits discussed above but also allows streaming of phone calls and other media to both ears at the same and easier access to program or volume changes.

    To learn more about your hearing aid and/or cochlear implant options, give our office a call at 904-399-0350 for a hearing evaluation.

    Hearing Aids Make an Appearance on Team USA

    Although COVID took a larger than expected spotlight during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, pushing the games back a full year into 2021, for audiologists, there was a special player on Team USA that caught our attention.

    That player is David Smith, the 36 year old middle blocker of Team USA Men’s Volleyball. Including Tokyo, David has seen three Olympic games. With his 6-foot-7 stature, you may not be able to see, but David Smith wears hearing aids.  David was born with a severe to profound hearing loss and worn hearing aids since the age of 3. He currently wears a set of Oticon Dynamo hearing aids.  David’s hearing aids are powerful enough that he can hear many things, including the softer voices of his children, but he also relies heavily on lip reading, especially on the noisy volleyball court.

    In a recent interview, David thanks his parents for keeping him involved in sports. He states that his hearing loss was less of a barrier in areas where he could watch and learn from others. He says “it was definitely a confidence booster”. Even as he plays overseas, he has become a role model for children with hearing loss, referencing a few children who wore his jersey at every game they attended. David hopes others with hearing loss see that they can achieve anything they want, even making it to the world’s biggest sporting event.

    David Smith (Source: https://www.teamusa.org/usa-volleyball/athletes/David-Smith.org)

    More information about David can be found at the links below: