A Changing Economic Landscape

America has reached the point where hearing health must become a workplace wellness imperative.

The U.S. economy now depends largely on employment that demands good communications skills. Service and knowledge-based work has become increasingly dominant. America also is experiencing a demographic shift toward a maturing labor force. People are staying in the workforce longer; baby boomers are on the threshold of their golden years; and the rate at which young people are entering the job market is slowing as a result of population changes. What’s more, just as we’re seeing this convergence of economic circumstances, we also are witnessing an increase in adult hearing loss at younger ages.

Already, nearly 40 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. The majority of them are in the workforce. And according to EPIC’s “Listen Hear!” survey, more than 10 percent of full-time employees have a diagnosed hearing problem. Another 30 percent suspect they have a problem but have not sought treatment.

To help facilitate timely hearing self-screenings for all American workers, BHI is offering a free and confidential online hearing check at www.BetterHearing.org, where anyone can quickly assess if they need a more comprehensive hearing test by a hearing healthcare professional. The earlier hearing loss gets treated the better. If you need a more comprehensive exam, please call 513.489.3300 to schedule an appointment.

10 Reasons Why Hearing Tests Are Essential for Women’s Complete Wellness

(1) Women with hearing loss are more likely to be depressed. Research shows that hearing loss is associated with depression among U.S. adults, but particularly among women.

(2) The ear may be a window to the heart. Cardiovascular and hearing health are linked. Some experts say the inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it’s possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body.

(3)  If you have diabetes, you’re twice as likely to have hearing loss. What’s more, having diabetes may cause women to experience a greater degree of hearing loss as they age, especially if the diabetes is not well controlled with medication.

(4) Your fitness level and waist size may be affecting your hearing. Research shows that a higher body mass index (BMI) and larger waist circumference in women are each associated with higher risk of hearing loss. It also shows that a higher level of physical activity is associated with lower risk of hearing loss.

(5) Cancer treatments can damage hearing. Certain chemotherapy treatments for cancer may damage healthy cochlear hair cells found in the inner ear and result in hearing loss.

(6) Hearing loss may put you at greater risk of falling or hospitalization. A pair of Johns Hopkins’ studies found that people with even just mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling, and that hospitalization is more likely for older adults with hearing loss.

(7) Addressing hearing loss may benefit long-term cognitive function. Research shows a link between hearing loss and dementia, leading experts to believe that interventions, like hearing aids, could potentially delay or prevent dementia. Research is ongoing.

(8) Hearing loss in women is tied to common pain relievers. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are associated with an increased risk of hearing loss in women. The link is even stronger among those younger than 50.

(9) Addressing hearing loss improves quality of life, earnings, and relationships. Eight out of 10 hearing aid users say they’re satisfied with the changes that have occurred in their lives specifically due to their hearing aids—from how they feel about themselves to the positive changes they see in their relationships, social interactions, and work lives.

(10) Today’s state-of-the-art hearing aids are better than ever and virtually invisible. Today’s sleek and sophisticated, virtually invisible hearing aids combine high-performance technology and style with durability and ease-of-use, helping women stay socially, physically, and cognitively active. The options are so varied there’s an attractive solution for just about anyone.

Call 513.489.3300 to schedule an appointment today!

10 Things You Should Know About Hearing Loss and Health

Hearing Loss and Health – What You Need to Know:

(1) Hearing loss is tied to depression. Research shows that hearing loss is associated with an increased risk of depression in adults of all ages, but is most pronounced in 18 to 69 year olds. Research also shows that the use of hearing aids reduces depressive symptoms.

(2) Hearing loss and dementia are linked. Research not only shows a connection between hearing loss and dementia, but a Johns Hopkins study of older adults found that hearing loss actually accelerates brain function decline. Some experts believe that interventions, like hearing aids, could potentially delay or prevent dementia. Research is ongoing.

(3) Hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes. Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have hearing loss. When broken down by age, one study showed that those 60 and younger are at greater risk.

(4) Your hearing may say something about your heart. Cardiovascular and hearing health are linked. Some experts say the inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it’s possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body.

(5) Staying fit may also help your hearing. Research on women’s health shows that a higher level of physical activity is associated with a lower risk of hearing loss. Conversely, a higher body mass index (BMI) and larger waist circumference in women are each associated with a higher risk of hearing loss.

(6) Hearing loss may put you at greater risk of falling. A Johns Hopkins study showed that people in middle age (40 to 69) with even just mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling.

(7) Hospitalization may be more likely for those with hearing loss. Another Johns Hopkins study showed that hospitalization is more likely for older adults with hearing loss.

(8) The risk of dying may be higher for older men with hearing loss. A groundbreaking study found that men with hearing loss had an increased risk of mortality, but hearing aids made a difference. Men and women with hearing loss who used hearing aids—although older and with more severe hearing loss—had a significantly lower mortality risk than those with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids.

(9) Hearing loss is tied to common pain relievers. One study found that the regular use of aspirin, NSAIDs, or acetaminophen increases the risk of hearing loss in men, and the impact is larger on younger individuals. A separate study found that ibuprofen and acetaminophen are associated with an increased risk of hearing loss in women, with the link even stronger among women younger than 50.

(10) Moderate chronic kidney disease is linked to hearing loss. Research has shown moderate chronic kidney disease to be associated with an increased risk of hearing loss.

Schedule an appointment with Hearing Consultants today for an evaluation. Call 513.489.3300

SoundScape, online interactive listening activities

SoundScape Games

SoundScape offers a variety of free, interactive listening activities designed to provide cochlear implant & hearing aid users a fun and engaging way to approach listening practice.

The games are accessible from the web site, www.medel.com, where users can choose from a variety of listening activities designed for different age groups and different experiences. Click here to access SoundScape games. Once on the page, you can view and play the games by age.

Hearing Aid Battery Storage and Disposal

Caring for your hearing aid battery

Your hearing aid battery or batteries should be stored at room temperature. Avoid storing batteries in hot places since heat will shorten the life of the batteries. Refrigeration is also not recommended.

Batteries should not be carried loose in your pocket or purse. If a battery inadvertently comes into contact with a metal object such as coins or keys the battery may charge, leak or in rare incidences even rupture. To prevent this from occurring keep unused batteries in the original packaging or in a battery holder.

Batteries that have been fully discharged can be thrown in your regular trash. Store and discard batteries in places that cannot be reached by infants or children. If a battery is swallowed, see a doctor immediately. For recommended treatment, call the National Button Battery Hotline collect at 202-625-3333.

Fun Facts About Hearing

Here are some quick fun facts about hearing you probably never knew:

  • Cicadas have their hearing organs in their stomachs.
  • Crickets have their hearing organs in their knees.
  • Male mosquitoes hear with thousands of tiny hairs growing on their antennae.
  • Fish do not have ears but they can hear. They hear pressure changes through ridges on their bodies.
  • Snakes do not have ears, but their tongues are sensitive to sound vibrations.
  • In World War One (WWI) parrots were kept on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France because of their remarkable sense of hearing. When the parrots heard the enemy aircraft coming they would warn everyone of the approaching danger long before any human ear would hear it.

Healthy Hearing: Invest in Your Future

About 37 million people in the United States suffer from hearing loss, but only 24% actually get help with wearing a hearing aid. That means nearly 28 million people could be missing out on the healthy hearing benefits hearing instruments can bring: greater earning power, better interpersonal relationships, reduced anger and frustration from miscommunications, less depression and anxiety, and the belief that they are in control of their lives. Investing in a digital hearing instrument means investing in your health. Research shows people with hearing loss who use hearing aids report better health than those who do not use hearing aids.

Hearing Aids and Humidity

Hearing Aids and Humidity – Affecting performance and functionality

Damage to your hearing aids can be incurred from high heat or cold, which may adversely affect a hearing aid’s performance. Much of this damage is caused by the changes in temperature, which causes a condensation of moisture within the aid, rather than the temperature itself.

Anything wet, high humidity, perspiration, condensation, accidental immersion in a bath or pool can cause damage to a hearing aid and prevent it from functioning properly.

You should never leave your hearing aid(s) near a radiator, or AC, in a sunny window, or in the glove box of a hot car. Also do not try and dry the hearing aid by using a hair dryer, oven or any other external heat source.

Some preventative measures with Hearing Aids and Humidity

If you live in an area subject to high humidity or regularly engage in perspiration-inducing activities, consider buying some sort of DRI-AID kit. This is a small, inexpensive kit consisting of silica (desiccating) crystals in a jar. At night, after removing the battery, place the hearing aid down in the jar.

Protecting your hearing aids from moisture and humidity will prolong the life of the hearing aid and keep your hearing aids out of the repair shop and in your ears where they can do their job.

Interacting in Group Settings with Hearing Loss

Good Communication

If you have a friend or family member with hearing loss, you’ve probably found ways to adjust for improved one-on-one communication. Your tactics for good communication might differ depending on whether the individual is open about and/or aware of his or her hearing loss, or if you’ve just recognized it yourself.

But group settings, such as at dinner or at a family gathering, can be a little trickier for that person because he or she has to navigate multiple people speaking, sometimes at the same time, and conversation can move pretty quickly.

Tips for interacting Group Settings with Hearing Loss

  • Make sure not to talk over other people. This tends to happen when people get excited and, for the most part, it’s not too much of a problem for people with regular hearing. But for people with hearing loss, whether they wear hearing aids or not, hearing often takes some level of focus. So background noise, including multiple conversations or voices, can make hearing difficult.
  • If your friend or family member is comfortable talking about his or her hearing loss, make sure to ask that person what you can do to make things easier.
  • Speak clearly and naturally. Don’t cover your mouth with your hands and don’t eat while speaking – this can interfere with lipreading.
  • Make sure to first get the individual’s attention by saying his or her name. Maintain eye contact while speaking.
  • If you’re having a group conversation, stand by your friend and give him or her a heads up about the topic of conversation. Fill your friend in if he or she looks confused about something that was said or asked, but never answer for that person.
  • Be patient. Since hearing takes a bit of extra effort for people with hearing loss, and can in fact be tiring sometimes, be comfortable with the silence so your friend or family member has a turn to speak.
  • If it’s OK with your friend or family member, let others in the group know in advance about some ways that they can make hearing and communication easier for the individual using some of the above tips and tactics.

If you suspect your friend or loved one is suffering from hearing loss, consider helping them find and set up an appointment with an audiologist near where they live. Additionally, some people feel comforted by having a loved one accompany them to their appointment.

5 HUGE reasons you should NOT buy your hearing aids at the same place you buy bulk toilet paper.

  1. Life and Death.  OK, that’s over dramatic, but it is true that your hearing is part of your overall health.  I recently reviewed an audiogram that had been done by a warehouse store, and was alarmed that the patient hadn’t been referred on to a medical doctor – this person had the red flag signs of an acoustic neuroma (auditory tumor).  While an acoustic neuroma wont kill you, it will destroy your hearing over time.  Most “free hearing tests” will provide the tester just enough information to sell you a hearing aid.  At Hearing Consultants we complete a comprehensive evaluation and work closely with physicians when needed.  Hearing Consultants audiologists have six to eight years of schooling, and supervised clinical requirements to ensure we are trained at diagnosing all types of hearing loss, and recognizing the signs of a more serious auditory or vestibular (balance) related problem.
  2. A bargain is only a bargain when it is the same product (same warranty, etc.) at al lower price.  FACT:  The club warehouses do not sell top tier manufacturers.  Rather, they sell a company that is affiliated with a top tier manufacturer.  They are not the same.  Beware of flashy marketing, or sales people that mention the top tier name, not the actual manufacturer.  Their hearing aids cost less for a reason – the technology is less than superior.
  3. A hearing aid (at any cost) is worthless if it is not programmed correctly. A hearing aid is like a miniature computer that is programmed specifically to a patient’s hearing loss, previous amplification experience. age, and ear canal characteristics. Part of the cost of hearing aids is the expertise of the audiologist setting your instruments. I’ve recently “re-fit” several hearing aids purchased elsewhere because they were set of fit improperly. Hearing Consultants uses state of the art verification equipment to ensure you have the hearing you paid for.
  4. Physician trusted professionals.  Physicians refer their patients, family, friends, and themselves to Hearing Consultants.  They know we have all their patients’ best interest in mind.  Physicians do not refer their patients to bulk retail stores, period.
  5. Service.  Unfortunately, many new hearing aid users don’t understand how important the service part of a hearing aid purchase is.  It’s all the little things we do to go above and beyond.  At Hearing Consultants we do these things because we care, not because our corporate manager told us to.  Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.  Here’s just a few of the services we provide that you won’t find in the larger retail stores:  loaner hearing aids (for instruments in repair), trade in options, demo hearing aids and accessories, complimentary insurance coverage check, and claim submissions.

In today’s market, consumers are bombarded with so many buying decisions. While it’s smart to “shop around” for the best deal, it’s also imperative that you understand what you are losing at a big box warehouse compared to a medical based audiology clinic like Hearing Consultants.

Are Hearing Aids Expensive?

Expensive is a relative term. The cost of hearing aids has actually decreased over time, when compared to the rate of inflation.

Today, hearing aids range from approximately $1,000 to $4,000 each, depending on the technology selected. Several factors contribute to the cost of hearing aids, including: research and development costs; customization of each device to fit the needs of the wearer; manufacturing costs; and time spent with the professional who fits and services the instruments for the lifetime of the product.

Averaged over the lifetime of the instruments (3 – 5 years or more), the cost per day of a pair of highly featured, advanced instruments is about $3 – less than a large latte at your favorite java joint. And hearing aids are proven to not only help you hear better, but to actually improve the quality of life for people with hearing loss and their families.

The ability to hear clearly is to fully immerse yourself in life and to enjoy all the sounds that surround you. That’s not a dollar-and-cents consideration any more than a pair of eyeglasses comes down to dollars and sense.

Hearing is beautiful. It adds a long-lost dimension to everyday life. You hear sounds that you’ve forgotten but didn’t know you missed – until you hear them again. And when you do, you’ll understand why hearing aid myth busting is catching on.

Call the office today to discover what you’ve been missing and forget the myths. Things have changed. Really changed.

Hearing Consultants 513-489-3300

iPods and Hearing Loss

A Northwestern University audiologist and professor found more hearing loss in younger people with the use of iPods and earbud headphones that is similar to that found in aging adults.

Earbuds are placed directly in the ear and can boost the sound signal by as much as six to nine decibels. It’s enough to cause hearing loss after only about an hour and 15 minutes.

The recommendation is what the researchers call the 60 percent/60 minute rule. They recommend using the MP3 devices, including iPods, no more than about an hour a day and at levels below 60 percent of maximum volume.

To avoid permanent hearing loss in the middle ranges – the range required to hear conversation in a noisy restaurant, for example – they recommend the older style, larger headphones that rest over the ear opening.

Another option is the use of noise-canceling headphones that eliminate background noise so listeners don’t have to crank the volume so high.

Tips and tricks: hearing in noisy environments

Hearing with background noise is one of the most challenging humps to get over for people with hearing aids – and it’s even difficult for people with normal hearing. There are many hearing aid features and settings that can help you deal with loud background noise that may be distracting, but there are also strategies that will make the process easier. Wearing two hearing aids instead of one, using a directional microphone and having a hearing aid with digital processing are all great ways to ensure that you are hearing to your utmost capabilities. Here are a few strategies to consider as well:

Lip reading:

People with hearing loss use lip reading as a vital resource for communicating.

Lip reading can help you improve confidence, avoid social isolation and minimize the effect of hearing loss on your daily life. You might be thinking: How am I going to lip read? You can attend lip reading classes taught by qualified teachers in an informal setting. Teachers go over the basics of the different shapes that sounds make on the lips as well as skills that will help you fill in the gaps.

Pick a well-lit area:

When you are going out with friends and family, make sure that the area is well lit, so that you can read written text and use your lip reading skills. Since you cannot rely on your hearing capabilities, you must be able to trust your eyes to get you through a conversation. If you are at a restaurant or public gathering, make sure to ask to be seated in an area with a lot of light.

Ask for non-verbal cues:

Body language and hand gestures can guide a conversation and serve as a backup for when you cannot hear the words being spoken. For instance, if someone points to their wrist, you know they are talking about the time. Others can also use gestures to illustrate if something is large or small, tall or short, far away or close.

Consider the time and place:

If you go out to dinner at the hottest new restaurant on the scene at 7 p.m., chances are it is going to be difficult for you to hear. This is when the crowd is at its peak and the noise is possibly at its loudest. If you have trouble hearing in loud environments, make sure that you consider the time and place of your meeting. It may be best to go to a restaurant during non-peak hours, such as between the lunch and dinner rush.

If you are still having difficulty hearing in noisy environments, ask your audiologist for advice. There is a possibility that the settings on your devices are not as they should be, in which case you’re audiologist make some adjustments. She may also be able to guide you in the right direction to purchase new devices.

Before You Buy Hearing Aids

Questions you may want to ask before you purchase hearing aids:

Most people with poor eyesight would not consider trying to function without glasses or contacts, but some people who cannot hear well resign themselves to living in an increasingly quiet world.  Hearing usually fades gradually which makes it harder to realize how serious the problem has become.  Some people may not want to be seen wearing hearing aids.  Often, the very prospect of purchasing a hearing aid can be confusing and/or overwhelming.

Purchasing a hearing aid represents a significant investment.  If you, or a loved one, are considering a hearing aid, here are several points for you to consider:

  1. Choose an Audiologist you trust. If you suspect you have a hearing loss, consult with an Audiologist.  An Audiologist has a graduate degree specifically in the measurement and non-medical treatment of hearing impairment.  You need someone who will be committed to helping you hear your best.  Obtaining hearing aids and getting used to them is a process.  During that time, you will see your Audiologist several times.  You want to feel comfortable with your Audiologist and it is best to choose a caring individual who is truly interested in helping you hear your best.  Avoid those who sell only one brand of hearing aids.  No manufacturer makes a hearing aid that is right for everyone
  2. Get a diagnostic evaluation. Your hearing test is the foundation on which a successful hearing aid fitting is built.  The Audiologist will test your hearing to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss.  An audiometer is used to determine your speech understanding abilities, as well as your hearing thresholds, which are the softest sounds you can hear at various pitches.  They will also test your middle ear and eardrum for proper function.  The Audiologist will explain your loss to you and tell you whether your loss is conductive, sensorineural or mixed in nature.  Sensorineural hearing losses in, once diagnosed, are treated with the use of amplification or hearing aids.  Approximately 90% of all hearing losses are sensorineural in nature and cannot be treated medically.  If the nature of your loss is conductive or mixed, the Audiologist will refer you to a physician specializing in diseases of the ear for a medical evaluation.  Hearing tests are diagnostic procedures and are typically covered by insurance.  Avoid the free hearing test.  Understand your choices.  Once a sensorineural hearing loss has been diagnosed the Audiologist will offer you several choices of hearing aids.  Hearing aids are fairly simple in principle.  They consist of a microphone, an amplifier, a receiver and a battery.  However, the technology and size varies and will affect the cost.  Most hearing aids fit today are digital in technology.  Some are very basic featuring only five pitch bands while others might contain more advanced levels of technology featuring up to 20 individual pitch bands to precisely fit your hearing loss.  The styles vary from behind-the-ear all the way to nearly unnoticeable hearing aids.  The Audiologist will make recommendations based on your hearing loss and your lifestyle.  It is more cost-effective to get a better quality hearing aid that you will wear than to get the less expensive model and not wear it because it does not meet your needs.  Talk with your Audiologist and discuss your expectations and match them to the level of technology that will appropriately address them.  A quality hearing aid in your ear is a better value than a less expensive hearing aid in a drawer.
  3. One hearing aid or two? If you have hearing loss in both ears, you need to wear two hearing aids.  Our brains are able to process speech better, especially in noisy areas, when both ears are amplified.  Occasionally it happens that one ear is “unaidable.”  In that situation, a CROS or BiCROS system is appropriate.
  4. Ask questions. There are many very good manufacturers of hearing aids and no simple way to tell in advance which one will work best for you.  Audiologists work with several hearing aid companies and narrow their recommendations based on your specific needs, hearing loss and lifestyle.  In today’s age of technology, some consumers spend time researching various hearing aid manufacturers online, while others still rely on word of mouth and what has worked for others.  Talk to people you know who wear hearing aids as well as your Audiologist.  Ask questions.  

 

Once you have established a relationship with an Audiologist you trust and have had all of your questions answered, you need to make a decision about which hearing aid is best for you.  The Audiologist may  take an impression of your ears.  It is very important to get a good ear impression.  A rushed impression makes for a poor-fitting hearing aid.  The hearing aid could be too loose and then whistle, or it could be too tight and cause your ear to hurt.  It can take approximately two weeks to obtain the new hearing aids.  Your Audiologist will give you a written price quote and information about your new hearing aids before you leave the office.

  1. Being fit with your new hearing aids. Plan to spend about an hour with your Audiologist on the day of your hearing aid fitting.  The Audiologist will make sure they fit properly and will program them to your specific loss.  It is common to start with only one program at the initial fitting; adding more at follow up appointments as needed and if your hearing aids are equipped with multiple programs.  You will learn how to properly insert and remove your hearing aids and their batteries.  Your Audiologist will also discuss proper care and cleaning of your hearing aids.
  2. Adjusting to your hearing aids. If you have grown accustomed to living with hearing loss, you may find at first that hearing aids overwhelm you with sound.  You are hearing things you have not heard in a long time.  While you may have to “build up” how long you wear your hearing aids, the more you wear them, the quicker the adjustment process will be.  It may take several visits to the Audiologist to fine tune the hearing aids and get comfortable with insertion, removal, changing the battery and caring for your hearing aids.  Be patient, once you get through the initial adjustment period things will get much easier.

Does it sound like a lot to remember?  Relax!  The most important thing to remember is to work with an Audiologist you trust and feel comfortable with.  Armed with this information, you are on your way to making a good decision regarding your hearing aid purchase.  If you would like further information or would like to schedule an appointment, please call Hearing Consultants at (513) 489-3300.

Cell Phones and Hearing Aids

Q. I am getting a new cell phone. How do I make sure it is compatible with my hearing aids?

Cell phones create “Radio Frequency Emissions” when a call is placed. These emissions create an electromagnetic field, which hearing aids may or may not be able to shield. The electronics used for backlighting, display and circuit board can cause magnetic interference.  Speakerphones, text messaging, and vibrating ring mode are standard features that benefit the hearing-impaired cell phone user.

Models and features of cell phone technology change quickly so it is important to stay informed. The Cellular Telecommunication and Internet Association (CTIA) website on accessibility and wireless technology is www.accesswireless.org. It includes wireless and cell phones that work well with hearing aids.

If you would like more information or would like to schedule an appointment please call us.

If You Suffer With Hearing Loss…

The main purpose for hearing is communication. We need to be able to hear and understand speech to effectively communicate. As we age, some of us experience a decline in our hearing ability. If left untreated, a hearing loss will eventually affect communication skills. We have identified Five Steps to Better Hearing. When followed, they can improve communication skills.

FIVE STEPS TO BETTER HEARING

    1. Admit you have a problem. If you have had your hearing tested by an Audiologist and have been told you have a permanent hearing loss and need hearing aids, you can accept or deny it. Denial only hurts yourself. You cannot hide a hearing loss from others. Your symptoms will give away your secret. Your hearing loss is more obvious than a pair of hearing aids. Untreated, a hearing loss can lead to a downward social spiral. You will find yourself no longer participating in activities you once enjoyed. Acknowledge the problem and that others already know you have a hearing problem.
    2. Decide to proceed with a GOOD ATTITUDE.  Your attitude will determine how successful you will be.  The hearing instruments alone cannot make you hear better.  Listening is a learned behavior.  Learning how to listen to speech and tune out background noise will take time and practice.  Be patient with getting used to hearing aids while your brain acclimates to ambient sound & noise.
    3. Educate yourself.  Learn all you can about your hearing loss.  What type of hearing loss do you have?  Learn whether it is a conductive, sensorineural (nerve) or mixed loss.  What is the degree of loss in each ear?  How has the brain been affected?  The hearing loss has probably been gradual.  Putting on hearing aids will “startle” your brain with all of the missed sounds.  It will need time to adjust.  Voices will sound unnatural until you are used to hearing the once-missed consonants (like /s/, /f/, /k/, etc.). Background noises (like fans, appliances, etc.) will be distracting until you learn to tune them out, as normal-hearing individuals do.  Understanding speech is a brain function and will take time.  It needs to be re-familiarized with sound.  This sudden improvement in hearing could cause “auditory confusion”.
    4. Set realistic expectations.  Hearing aids, while advanced in technology, are aids.They cannot replace your original hearing.  Set expectations on “better” hearing and understanding – not perfection.  Know that the aids are only a substitute for original hearing. However, without them, you would be handicapped.  It is not unusual to need to have the hearing aid remade for a better fit. They should never make your ears sore.  The electronic adjustments will be made step-by-step over several weeks. As you become more acclimated to your hearing aids the Audiologist will adjust your hearing aids with your input. Your own voice may sound strange at first, but will sound natural in time. Background noise is normal. Normal hearing people hear it too.  Background noise can be diminished by using a two microphone system. Ask about this.  It’s normal for hearing aids to need repairs from time to time.  Ear canals are very humid and contain wax. These things are harmful to electronics.  It’s best to see your Audiologist routinely for a check-up
    5. Practice + Patience = Success! One investment for success is practice. It will cost you time and patience, but will be worth it. You will need to start at a slow pace at home. Build up to wearing your hearing aids all day, every day. Wear them even when you may think you don’t need to be wearing them This will help you adjust quicker. If your hearing aids are not a part of your habit through daily use your brain will not to be able to adjust to the change. Things will always sound funny then. It is OK to stop when you are tired – just commit to not quit. Stay in contact with your Audiologist. New hearing aid users should come back 2 – 3 times during the first 30 days for adjustments, progress checks and assistance. Commit to increasing your hearing aid use by 15 or 30 minutes each day the first week. You will be wearing them all day in no time!

Better hearing will depend on (a) your commitment to make your hearing aids work in your everyday routine, (b) time spent wearing your hearing aids to become comfortable using them in different environments, (c) your patience while your brain adjusts to unfamiliar sounds.  Does this sound overwhelming?  Call us!  We’ll walk you through this process one step at a time.  We are committed to helping you hear better.

How do I know if I have hearing loss?

Aging, hereditary, exposure to loud noise, medications, infections, or disease, can cause hearing Loss. It negatively impacts quality of life, personal relationships and, of course, the ability to communicate.  You may have a hearing loss if…

  • You hear people speaking but have trouble understanding their words.
  • You don’t laugh at jokes because you missed the punch line.
  • You frequently complain that people mumble or speak to fast.
  • You need to ask others about the details of a meeting you just attended.
  • You listen to the TV or radio louder than those around you.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should see an audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation.  Most hearing problems do not require medical intervention.  In fact over 95% of all hearing losses are not medically or surgically treatable. However, it is very important to receive the proper diagnosis before considering amplification.  For more information or to schedule an appointment please call us.

What good are the Roses…

What good are the Roses…If you can’t hear the sweet nothings?

Valentines Day is here and therapists tell us that the best aphrodisiac in the world is effective communication. The impact of even mild hearing loss can make a partner seem remote and unresponsive, when in reality they just may not hear certain key phrases. Your spouse may feel rejected when in fact he or she very much wants to be close. The same problem often haunts couples in long-term relationships when one of them develops a hearing problem but refuses to deal with it.
It’s hard to feel romantic and attracted to someone who never seems to listen. Yet, that’s how someone with untreated hearing loss often comes across. If you or your partner has trouble hearing, hearing aids may help ensure romantic cues are picked up and whispered sweet nothings are heard.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call us.

Musical Ear Syndrome

The Phantom Voices, Ethereal Music & Other Spooky Sounds Many Hard of Hearing People Secretly Experience

© 2005 by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

“My wife hears music that is not there,” Harry writes. “The first song she heard was Silent Night sung by a very good choir of mostly men. It came in quite loud. A day later it was the Vienna Waltz over and over again so clear it was like being at a musical production.”

“Late at night when I don’t have my hearing aids on,” Carolyn relates, “I am absolutely sure I hear trucks and bulldozers working right outside our bedroom windows. We are the only ones living on our little country lane. There’s no traffic of any kind outside my bedroom windows. My husband swears there are no noises at all.”

“Years ago,” Sherry remembers, “when my dad would take me flying in his little two-seater wind-knocker airplane, I used to hear strange music. The music sounded like the full Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Since I was quite young, I thought it was angels singing.”

What do these people have in common? They are all hard of hearing, and they all hear strange phantom voices, ethereal music or other spooky sounds that no one else hears. Nor are they alone. Thousands of other hard of hearing people “hear” similar phantom sounds, yet they never tell a soul because they are afraid of the dreaded “H” word. They are terrified someone will discover their “shameful” secret—that they experience auditory hallucinations.

What Are Hallucinations?

According to Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, hallucinations are “the apparent, often strong, subjective perception of an object or event when no such stimulus or situation is present.” Put another way, hallucinations are phantom sensory phenomena in the absence of real external sensory stimuli.

Hallucinations may be visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), olfactory (smelling), gustatory (tasting) or tactile (feeling). Therefore, hallucinations are simply seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling sights, sounds, odors, tastes, or sensations that no one else around you perceives.

Although hallucinations may occur with any of the five senses, auditory hallucinations are by far the most common kind of hallucination. A person is hearing auditory hallucinations when he or she hear noises, music, sounds or voices that no one else hears because these phantom sounds are generated in the person’s brain, not externally.

Two Kinds of Auditory Hallucinations

Most people have never heard of the kind of auditory hallucinations that thousands of hard of hearing people experience. These auditory hallucinations have nothing whatsoever to do with mental illness. You see, there are two basic “kinds” of auditory hallucinations—psychiatric auditory hallucinations and non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations. People with mental illnesses often experience the former, while hard of hearing people often experience the latter.

If you are hearing phantom voices, music or other sounds, how can you tell which kind of hallucinations you are experiencing? Here are two “rules of thumb.”

1. People who experience psychiatric auditory hallucinations generally hear voices, as opposed to music or other sounds. People who experience non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations mostly hear music or singing, rather than just plain voices.

2. The voices that people who experience psychiatric auditory hallucinations hear are generally clear and distinct. These voices almost always talk to or about the person, and may engage the person in conversation. Consequently, the content is of a meaningful personal nature. In contrast, when people who experience non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations hear voices, the voices they hear are often vague and indistinct and do not contain information of a meaningful personal nature. These voices neither talk to or about the person, nor engage them in conversation.

Typically, the voices many hard of hearing people hear sound vaguely like a radio broadcast playing in another room. For example, Ruby explained, “I get Red Barber calling the game. I can’t distinguish the words—but I’m sure that’s who is talking.” Catherine described her auditory hallucinations as “what sounded like the voice of a radio announcer on a badly tuned radio station.”

Characteristics of Auditory Hallucinations

Non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations (hereinafter referred to simply as “auditory hallucinations”) comprise a wide range of sounds, ranging from simple to complex. Simple sounds are single, unmodulated sounds such as the various tinnitus sounds (ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, rumbling, etc.) millions of people hear. In fact, tinnitus is the most common kind of auditory hallucination.

In contrast, complex sounds include multiple, modulated sounds such as tunes, singing, music and voices. These are the kinds of sounds that people have traditionally considered auditory hallucinations. Many people have mistakenly called these sounds “musical tinnitus.”

Depending on their clarity, phantom sounds may be either “unformed” or “formed.” Unformed auditory hallucinations consist of hearing distorted music, sounds, or voices. These sounds are vague, “fuzzy” and indistinct. For example, Jane described her unformed auditory hallucinations as “like the wind blowing, but with a musical quality, as if someone off in the distance was singing without words.” Rachel explains, “The words are never distinct—it’s like they are several rooms away.” Sarah relates, “I sometimes hear phantom “radio broadcasts” that I can’t quite make out.”

In contrast, formed auditory hallucinations are where speech, music or singing is so clear and recognizable that people hearing it can identify the various voices and musical instruments. For example, James explains, “For the past 3 to 4 months I have had the most calming and repetitive choruses and wind ensembles, usually led by a bass sax and a baritone playing and singing in a low octave, the older Christian hymns and a few oldies from the forties such as, Near the Cross, Amazing Grace, His Eye Is on the Sparrow and The Star Spangled Banner.”

The Fear Factor

Few people have the courage to admit they are hearing auditory hallucinations for fear of being thought crazy. Cheryl says, “I was afraid I was going nuts. I never said one word to anyone about the strange music I was hearing because I didn’t want them to think I was crazy.” Sharing with family members often elicits a similar response. Anna declares, “All my family believe I am nuts because I told them I hear music every waking moment.”

Because of this fear factor, many people describe their auditory hallucinations in terms such as musical tinnitus to avoid using the word “hallucinations.” Obviously, there is a real need for a new name to describe non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations—a name that has no “bad press” associated with it and that does not include the word “hallucinations.” Since the vast majority of people who experience auditory hallucinations hear some sort of phantom music, I have named this condition Musical Ear syndrome.

“Musical Ear Syndrome (MES): Hearing phantom sounds (auditory hallucinations) of a non-psychiatric nature, often musical, but also including voices and other associated sounds, commonly found in, but not limited to, elderly, hard of hearing people with tinnitus who lack adequate sound stimulation.”

I am hoping that by using this name, which has no negative connotations (and even sounds like it might be something good to have), that the stigma of hearing non-psychiatric phantom sounds will fade away.

Musical Ear Syndrome Symptoms

Musical Ear syndrome (MES), as its name implies, is comprised of a number of symptoms, which, when taken together, form a syndrome. Typically, but not always, there is a constellation of five symptoms that seem to predispose people to hearing such phantom sounds.

1. Often the person is elderly.

2. Generally, the person is hard of hearing.

3. Often the person lacks adequate auditory stimulation.

4. Almost always the person has tinnitus.

5. Often the person is either anxious, stressed or depressed.

A person does not have to exhibit all five symptoms in order to have Musical Ear syndrome, but many people with MES exhibit three or more of the above symptoms. For as yet unknown reasons, there are people that prove to be exceptions to this rule. Perhaps, in the future, researchers will discover why.

How Common Is Musical Ear Syndrome?

Musical Ear syndrome affects significant numbers of hard of hearing people. However, because few people are willing to admit to hearing these phantom sounds, it is difficult to obtain accurate figures. The best estimates suggest that in excess of 10% of hard of hearing people experience these phantom sounds at one time or another.

When I speak to groups of hard of hearing people, I sometimes ask how many have heard such auditory hallucinations, and since they feel “safe” with me, invariably 10% to 30% of the people present feel brave enough to put up their hands.

Interestingly enough, typically the people reporting hearing such sounds are women. However, this does not mean that more women than men experience Musical Ear syndrome. In my experience, MES does not favor either gender. It is just that more women than men are willing to speak up and seek help.

Causes of Musical Ear Syndrome

There are a number of things that are thought to cause MES. The primary contender is lack of adequate auditory stimulation. The theory is that when your world becomes too quiet, your brain manufactures its own sounds. This is why MES is so common among elderly, hard of hearing people. First, they often have significant hearing losses. Second, they typically live in quiet environments. Third, they generally live alone after the death of a spouse.

In addition, because of their hearing losses, hard of hearing people tend to withdraw from social situations and thus do not have much social interaction. This just further compounds their world of silence. At the same time, hard of hearing people may feel depressed over their hearing losses and anxious about what is happening to them. This just exacerbates their phantom sounds.

Another cause of auditory hallucinations is drugs and medications. Elderly people tend to take more and more medications as they age. Unfortunately, numerous drugs can cause auditory hallucinations.

In rare cases, brain abnormalities (tumors, infections) can cause auditory hallucinations. Have a neurologist check you out-especially if you do not fit the common profile of being elderly, hard of hearing and living in a quiet environment.

Controlling Musical Ear Syndrome

There are a number of things you can do to bring your auditory hallucinations under control. Here are a few of the main ones.

First, enrich your environment with sounds. This gives your brain real sounds to listen to so it won’t feel the need to generate its own phantom noises. Second, eliminate any medications (with your doctor’s permission of course) that may be causing your auditory hallucinations. Third, don’t fixate on your phantom sounds. Instead, concentrate on the loves of your life and you will not notice them as much.

Finally, if you are hard of hearing and have MES, look on the bright side. Hearing auditory hallucinations isn’t all bad. Many people actually find them pleasant. Where else can you hear beautiful music without hearing aids, assistive devices, players, headphones or other paraphernalia?

 

8 Signs You Might Need a New Hearing Aid

Remember when you first got hearing aids? All the wonderful sounds you could hear again, including speech that was much easier to understand? If you have had your hearing aids for a while, are you sure you’re still hearing at your best?

Here are 8 issues to consider when deciding whether it’s time for a new hearing aid. If one or more ring true, schedule an appointment to talk to me about your options.

1. The age of your current hearing aids

Most hearing aids last 5 years. Repairs on hearing aids over 5 years old are only 6 months long instead of 1 year. The cost of repairing a 5-year-old hearing aid is significantly more than a hearing aid less than 5 years old. Manufactures usually stop making parts for hearing aids soon after that time. The older the hearing aid, the less likely it’s performing as well as it should.

2. A change in health or dexterity

If you are unable to hold or change the battery in your current hearing aids because of dexterity or vision problems, you may want to consider a hearing aid that takes a larger or rechargeable battery.

If you would prefer things to be as simple as possible, maybe a hearing aid that intuitively adjusts to your environment so you don’t have to remember which button to push. Some of my patients prefer a devices that says: “battery low” rather than beeps when a new battery is needed.

3. Your hearing has worsened

I often have patients complaining their hearing aids don’t work as well as they used to, but after testing we discover the devices are fine- it’s their hearing that has dropped a few frequencies. Usually the solution involves a one-hour test/re-program appointment, but if your hearing has dropped significantly, you may need to consider a stronger or high fidelity device.

4. A new job or office

If you have a hearing loss, a new job may be just as stress-filled as it is exciting. Work with your human resources manager to see what the company can do to help. Pretax dollars set aside in an HSA (health savings account) and/or flexible benefit spending accounts are usable to purchase hearing aids.

5. Different hobbies or lifestyle

What do woodworking, snorkeling, and horseback riding all have in common? They all can wreak havoc on hearing aids. Thankfully, today’s hearing aids are often water-dust, and shockproof. Plus they are available at all technology levels or price points to be consistent with how active your lifestyle is.

6. A boost in finances

If in the past you needed to choose a more economical option, consider an upgrade if your financial situation takes a turn for the better. Also, it is not a waste of money to have an extra set when you can afford it- it’s prudent. Use your new set daily and keep the old set for a backup. The older units can be used when you do something dusty or around water, as well as taken with you as a back up when you travel.

7. You want to hear “your best” instead of just “better”

Most people get new hearing aids every 5 years. Although some hearing aids may last longer than that, technology significantly jumps about every 3-4 years. If your goal is to give your brain the most precise information available so it can interpret sounds better, then consider an upgrade.

8. A new attitude about hearing aids

Many of my patients are reluctant about getting their first set of hearing aids. Along with discussing sound quality and becoming dependant on their hearing aids, most take extra time to talk about size, and how to camouflage their hearing aids. But when they are ready for their second set, things have changed. They are more open about their hearing loss and their hearing aids, and they even encourage others to be more active in helping their hearing. For them, fidelity, clarity and options are more important than invisibility. I often say that if 4 people come into my office with the same level of hearing loss, each will end up with a different set of hearing aids. One may need an easy to handle device, another patient requests a rechargeable battery, the 3rd person wants a waterproof device, and the 4th is looking for the most affordable device for his budget. That is why we work with 4 different manufactures, to help you choose what’s best for you. If you think it may be time to discuss new hearing devices, call the office and schedule an appointment to talk about your concerns and options.