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Communicating on the telephone with hearing loss

Overcoming the stresses of talking on the phone

Individuals with hearing loss will often find that it is quite difficult and can be frustrating to hear on the phone. Often times the sound quality on the phone will be poor and degraded and sometime people do not speak as clearly while talking on the phone. There are also no visual cues to help out. Even with properly fit hearing aids, cochlear implants, or other amplification devices, hearing on the telephone can still become a difficult task. Below you will find some tips and tricks to help hear on the phone.

  1.  Try using speaker phone. If you utilize two devices (one in each ear) the speaker phone may be the best option for you. This allows you to hear the person speaking with both ears rather than just one. Listening with two ears is always an advantage.
  2. Try an amplified or captioned phone. If a speaker phone is still hard to hear your loved ones with, an amplified or caption phone may be helpful. An amplified phone makes the signal louder and a caption phone has captions just like TV. Both of these phones may be independently purchased or obtained from state programs
  3. An important point to remember is to make sure where you are holding your phone is in the correct place for your device. Some types of amplification have microphones that are located behind the ear. It is important to hold the phone near the microphones rather than at ear level if you are wearing a behind-the-ear device. If the devices that you use are in-the-ear devices, you can continue to use the phone at ear level
  4. If your device has telecoil enabled, try using it. The telecoil picks up the electromagnetic field from the phone and may provide a clearer signal. If you are interested in trying the telecoil, ask your audiologist to activate the telecoil options.
  5. Try accessories. Many devices now have the option to use additional accessories to help people hear better on the phone. These accessories have the ability to stream a phone call directly to your hearing aids just like a Bluetooth headset. Using a streaming device will let you hear the phone in both devices, which takes advantage of binaural listening.

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.

 

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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.

The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Ears

Earwax, or cerumen, is a naturally occurring substance in the ear canal that protects against bacteria, fungi, and insects. The earwax naturally migrates out of the ear canal, but can build-up over time. An excessive build-up can cause you to notice a decrease in hearing.

If you have turned on a television or opened a magazine, you have most likely seen some form of earwax removal tool being advertised. The products range from wax candles to devices that attempt to flush the wax from your ears. The most commonly used tool is, of course, the Q-tip.  It can be hard to decide when it is time to remove wax and what the safest way is to remove it.  It is important to reiterate that a little earwax is natural and constant cleaning of the ears is unnecessary. You should never stick or jab anything into the ear canal. At best, you may push the earwax deeper into your ear. At worst, you may earn yourself a trip to the doctor with a punctured eardrum.

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Safe options for keeping your ears clean:

-Use wax removal tools around the outer ear, but never enter the ear canal

-Over-the-counter wax softeners, such as Debrox

-Visit your healthcare professional for removal.

 
If you have further questions, you can schedule an appointment at the Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute by calling (904) 399-0350.

 

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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Can listening with earbuds cause you to need hearing aids?

Everywhere you look people are walking around with earbuds in their ears listening to music or talking on the phone. Although extremely convenient, audiologists want to warn you of the potential hazards this can cause to your hearing. Some good tips on avoiding using earbuds today and having to wear hearing aids tomorrow.

  1. Be aware of the volume: It is recommended that the volume on devices that you are listening to should not exceed 60-80% of maximum volume. “The World Health Organization recommends at or below 60% of maximum volume.”
  2. Don’t listen for too long: Especially for kids it is recommended that earbuds should only be used no more than 1-2 hours a day. Excessive exposure can lead to noise-induced hearing loss (see our article on NIHL and ways to protect your hearing https://www.betterhearingjax.com/noise-induced-hearing-loss/).
  3. Protect your hearing you have now: It is recommended earplugs should be used whenever you are in a loud environment, such as a football game or enjoying your favorite music at a concert. This will protect your hearing you currently have as well as prevent NIHL.
  4. Tinnitus: We all have experienced that ringing you get once you leave a concert or loud and noisy environment. But if the tinnitus lasts much longer than you’re used to, it is wise to see an audiologist and discuss the tinnitus, as this can be a sign of noise-induced hearing loss.
  5. Get your hearing checked: Having a baseline hearing test is always a good idea. This will allow for comparison every time you get your hearing checked. Every few years is recommended to keep your hearing healthy.

 

If you believe you are at risk for noise induced hearing loss, make an appointment with your JHBI audiologist to discuss a custom hearing protection option that is suitable for your needs!

Telecoil

What is a telecoil and how does it work?

A telecoil is a small copper coil inside most hearing aids and cochlear implant processors that will induce an electric current in the coil in the presence of a changing magnetic field. It can be used to wirelessly connect the hearing instrument directly to a sound source, giving the listener a clearer signal by reducing the interference of background noise. It’s also referred to as a “t-switch” or “t-coil”. Using the t-coil can improve listening over the phone, understanding in groups / meetings, and in places of worship. Below is a description of how the t-coil can be optimized to improve your listening experience.

 

The Telephone

A t-coil may be beneficial if your hearing loss makes it difficult to understand on the phone without the visual cues of face-to face communication. There is no additional charge for hearing aids or cochlear implants that have a t-coil. Therefore, you can ask for a t-coil when you purchase hearing aids or your audiologist may recommend one based on your lifestyle. The audiologist will add a t-coil setting to your hearing aid or cochlear implant settings during programming. Typically, you can access the program with a small button on the hearing device or a separate remote control. Sometimes, cell phones do not have enough of a magnetic field to connect to the t-coil, therefore it may be necessary to put magnets near the receiver of the phone. If this is the case, your audiologist can supply you with a t-coil magnet.

 

The Loop System

Many churches, schools, performance venues, and businesses use a loop system to help individuals with hearing loss listen over distances. A loop system can connect a person’s hearing devices directly to the sound source, thereby reducing background noise and the challenges associated with distance hearing. An environmental loop system works by placing a magnetic strip around the circumference of a room (i.e. the loop) that creates a wireless signal that can be picked-up by a hearing device. A personal loop system, or a neck loop, performs the same function by using a device worn around the neck of the hearing aid user. All devices with a t-coil, no matter the brand or company, can connect to a loop system when in telecoil mode.

 

Where to Use Your Telecoil

Aside from using the telecoil function of your hearing device with your personal phone, there are many places in the Jacksonville area where you can take advantage of this technology. For instance, the waiting rooms here at JHBI are looped to assist with hearing the television. Many other businesses, movie theaters, and churches have either environmental or personal loop systems you can use. Just look for this symbol posted somewhere at the venue:

 

 

 

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.