Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year's Resolution: Better Communication

As the new year approaches, we become more serious about setting goals for what we want to accomplish in the coming year.  Losing weight, spending more time with family, and paying off debt are all popular goals we set for the new year. One goal we often overlook, however, is "improving how we communicate."  Communication is foundational to every relationship.  We become isolated when our ability to communicate is significantly reduced by the presence of untreated hearing loss.  As more studies show how hearing loss worsens isolation, depression, and dementia, it's imperative that we and our loved ones take hearing healthcare seriously! 
If you're looking for communication and hearing healthcare goals to set for the new year, here are some ideas:
  • Have your hearing health evaluated!
    • How often should a person have their hearing evaluated?  Click here for general guidelines.
    • How can we connect with people if we have difficulty hearing what they are saying? Hearing well is foundational to good communication.
  • Help loved ones get the hearing healthcare help they need
    • Recent studies show that it takes up to seven years before the average person with hearing loss begins to seek help.  Loved ones need help to understand what they are missing and how it is impacting their life. 
    • Gently allowing our loved ones to safely experience the consequences of untreated hearing loss may be an appropriate step towards helping them seek the help they need.
      • One simple action step is to stop repeating what you say to highlight the presence of the hearing loss and its impact on communication.
      • Another action step is to write down what you're saying each time you are asked to repeat yourself.  This will help the hearing loss sufferer begin to understand how many times they are asking you to repeat yourself.
  • Set volume limits on ear phones for all handheld devices to protect your hearing! A good rule of thumb is to set the volume limit to 80% of it's maximum capacity. 
  • Schedule an appointment with a clinical audiologist to review new technology that could help you hear better and understand conversations more clearly.
  • Schedule an appointment with your clinical audiologist every 6 months to have your hearing aids checked, cleaned, and potentially adjusted.

Friday, December 21, 2012

How Music Impacts the Way the Brain "Listens"

New research shows that our brain waves synchronize to what we are listening to.  In turn, this activity influences how we listen- our hearing capacity is determined by our brain's "rhythm."  Molly Henry and Jonas Obleser, researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Human Cognitive and Brain Science, state:
The slow waxings and wanings of brain activity are called neural oscillations. They regulate our ability to process incoming information. From these findings, an important conclusion emerges: All acoustic fluctuations we encounter appear to shape our brain’s activity. Apparently, our brain uses these rhythmic fluctuations to be prepared best for processing important upcoming information.
Commenting on the importance of these findings, one author suggests:
This idea holds fascinating implications for the way humans process speech and music: Imagine the melodic contour of a human voice or your favourite piece of music going up and down. If your brain becomes coupled to, or “entrained” by, these melodic changes, Henry and Obleser reasoned, then you might also be better prepared to expect fleeting but important sounds occurring in what the voice is saying, for example, a “d” versus a “t”.
Researchers hope these findings will provide important information on how hearing loss impact how we listen.

To read the source of this information, click here.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

New Hearing Aid Technology- Siemens Micon

Siemens Hearing Instruments released a new hearing aid named "Micon" on November 1, 2012.  We feel it is a real step forward in hearing aid innovation.  The Micon hearing aid features 48 frequency channels.  This promotes a more natural sound and results in greater noise reduction.  The frequency compression it uses also makes high frequency sounds such as /s/, /sh/, and /ch/ more audible, resulting in a higher level of speech clarity.  Micon hearing aids automatically pick up voices from the side and behind the listener.  They are equipped with a built-in tinnitus masker and a telephone amplifier.  Rechargeable batteries, waterproof housing, and bluetooth connectivity to computers, handheld music devices, cell phones, and television are all optional features.

For more information on the Siemens Micon, watch this video or visit Siemens website.

If you would like to see if the Micon could be of benefit, don't hesitate to contact our office to speak with one of our clinical audiologists.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hunters- Protect Your Ears, Still Hear Your Prey!

Gunfire is a common cause of hearing loss and the sudden onset of tinnitus (ringing in the ears).  The sound level of a .22 rifle shot registers at 145 dB while the sound level of a 12 gauge shotgun registers at 155 dB.  Exposure to sound levels greater than 115 dB lead to hearing loss in a matter of seconds.  For this reason, it is important to wear ear protection whenever you are firing weapons.  

Many hunters object to wearing sound protection while hunting because they believe it will block out the sounds they need to hear and cause them to miss important opportunities to capture what they are hunting. This is a valid concern.  However, newer technology enables the hunter to protect his hearing AND hear surrounding noises in nature.  Siemens Hearing Instruments has created "SecureEar."  SecureEar is a type of hearing protection that dampens loud noises while enhancing soft sounds.  It is battery powered and works to soften the sound of a gun shot while amplifying surrounding noises hunters need to hear- twigs breaking, leaves crunching, etc.  Purchasing SecureEar involves having a custom ear mold made (15 minute process, $15 per ear) by a clinical audiologist.  Once the ear mold is created, it is sent to Siemens who then uses the mold to create a SecureEar device that fits comfortably within the ear.  Pricing information for the SecureEar is available by contacting one of our clinical audiologists.

For more information about SecureEar from Siemens, visit their website!

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Protect Your Hearing Without Losing Quality of Sound

Custom ear molds are ideal for musicians who need to protect their hearing.  However, musicians often object to sound protection for one major reason:

They believe ear molds greatly reduce the quality of what they're hearing. 

In turn, this impacts how they play their instrument, sing, and interact with other band members.

Newer models of ear molds seek to remedy this complaint by utilizing "flat response attenuation." Flat response attenuation reduces the volume level by the same decibel level across all frequencies, without impacting the quality of what is heard.  The volume level can be decreased by 15-20 decibels (depending on the model of the ear mold) without degrading the sound quality by using an acoustic resistor and tuned resonator.  For more information on this style of ear mold, click here.

If you'd like to speak with one of our clinical audiologists about this type of sound protection, don't hesitate to contact our office!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

iPods and Hearing Loss

Can iPods and other handheld music devices cause hearing loss?  Only if you use them without taking precautions to protect your hearing! Dr. Brian Fligor, Director of Diagnostic Audiology at Children's Hospital in Boston, has conducted extensive research to examine the impact of listening to music at loud volume levels through handheld music devices.  Here are some highlights of his research:

  • The volume level of most handheld music devices can be increased to 105 decibels.  At that decibel level, the average person can listen for 7 minutes (1-2 songs) before hearing damage begins to occur.
  • "The volume level of the mp3 player is too loud if someone standing next to you can hear what you're listening to." This is not true. There is no connection between the decibel level and the ability to hear what someone else is listening to. It is actually the result of the type of headphones being used- not the volume level.  
  • Studies show that teenagers listen to handheld music devices at louder volumes than any other age group. This is alarming because the most rapid hearing loss occurs during the first ten years of repeated loud noise exposure.  Dr. Filgor states:
If somebody is exposed to loud sounds over a significant portion of their life, say from age ten to 40 years, they will lose more hearing in the first ten years than in the last ten years.  Imagine a 15-year-old who gets an MP3 player and is not taught to safely use the device.  That 15-year-old, by the time he's 25, could have the hearing of a 55 to 60 year old man.
  • The "80-90" Rule.  Dr. Filgor created a principle to provide for realistic listening volume and enjoyment without the risk of hearing loss.  It's called "The 80-90 Rule."  Dr. Filgor states:
If you set the volume control at 80 percent, and listen for 90 minutes a day, or less, that is appropriate for every MP3 player out there, using the headphones that came with it.

To read more about Dr. Filgor's research, click here. 

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Helpful Apps for Hearing Loss

Innovative designers continue to offer real help for hearing loss sufferers through various Apps available at the iTunes Store.  Here's a list of Apps hearing loss sufferers and their loved ones may find beneficial:

  • Hearing Loss Simulator
    • If you've ever wondered what it's like to suffer from hearing loss, this App can help.  The Hearing Loss Simulator allows you to program and experience different degrees of hearing loss.  It even allows you to record your own voice and experience what it sounds like with programmable degrees of hearing loss.  Click here to read more about it.
  • uHear
    • uHear was created to help people test their hearing using a mobile device.  While the accuracy of the testing cannot be the sole criteria in determining the level of hearing loss, uHear may be a non-threatening way to help loved ones who deny the presence of a hearing deficiency more readily accept the need for further testing. Click here to read more about it.
  • TooLoud
    • TooLoud analyzes the volume level in any environment and lets you know if it is damaging to your ears.  Click here to read more about it.
  • SoundAmp R
    • SoundAmp R is the highest selling hearing-related App on iTunes.  It essentially turns your mobile device into a hearing aid by amplifying sounds in the surrounding environment.  
For more information about SoundAmp R and the other Apps mentioned in this post, read the article this information is taken from.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Struggle to hear at holiday parties?

Participating in conversations at holiday parties can be difficult even for people with normal hearing.  The human brain has a "switch" that helps it avoid being overwhelmed by loud noises.  This "switch," when accompanied by hearing loss, can make it extremely difficult to discern speech in the presence of surrounding noise.

Robert Frisina of the University of Rochester in New York, says the following:

Scientists have long known that the brain not only receives signals from the ears, but can also talk back to them. And when there's too much noise, this dimmer-switch brain circuitry tells the ears to reduce their flow of signals to the brain. This helps the sensitive auditory system handle loud sounds that otherwise would overwhelm it and become distorted, as when a radio is turned up too loud for the speaker to handle. In addition, since background noise at a party tends to be lower-pitched than speech sounds, the dimmer switch probably can block out that distracting noise more than it does the speech. The brain has an added trick for focusing on a particular person's speech rather than competing conversations. Since you're probably facing the person you want to hear, his words arrive at both your ears at the same time and at the same volume. The brain can use that, along with the dimmer switch, to home in on that person's speech.
So, if you struggle to hear at parties this holiday season, know that your brain...not just your a role!

For more detailed information, read the article this blog is based upon.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gift Ideas for Loved Ones with Hearing Loss

The Christmas season has officially begun!  Sometimes it's difficult to know what to buy for a loved one with hearing loss.  Here are some simple ideas:

  • Hearing Aid Batteries.  
    • Hearing aid batteries typically last about 5-7 days (depending on how often wireless accessories are utilized).  The type of battery you buy will impact how well the hearing aids function.  We recommend buying premium batteries because they possess 1.45 volts instead of the typical 1.4 volts.  More voltage gives your hearing aids more power to run on and therefore maximizes the benefit of the instrument. Many audiology practices offer a "battery club" where you can save money by buying a larger quantity of batteries.  Our battery club membership includes 12 packs of batteries (6 batteries per package) for $50, shipped postage free.  This equates to about a full year of batteries.
  • No-whistle, custom ear molds
    • Custom ear molds are ideal for anyone wishing to protect their hearing from loud noise exposure. Hunters, musicians, motorcyclists, and individuals who work in loud manufacturing environments, would benefit from custom ear molds.  Ear molds are also ideal for people who swim regularly and wish to protect their ears.  
    • We charge $15 per ear to make custom ear molds.  It usually takes about 30 minutes to create the impressions
    • There is an additional charge from the manufacturer of the ear molds. This charge ranges from $50 to $200 depending on the type and features of the ear mold.  It usually takes about 10-14 days to receive the custom molds from the manufacturer.  
  • Gift Certificates
    • Many audiology practices offer gift certificates.  Bluetooth accessories that stream the volume of the television or cell phone directly to both hearing aids, a new dehumidifier, wax traps, domes, new Siemens e-charger, etc. are all potential gifts an individual could use a gift certificate to purchase. 
    • We offer gift certificates ranging from $10 to $500.
For more information, don't hesitate to visit our website

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Vitamins that Help Your Hearing

Eating healthy can impact your hearing. Studies show that certain vitamins directly and indirectly improve the health of your ears.
  • Folate
    • Folate is a type of B Vitamin that is found in leafy green vegetables.  It helps produce and maintain new cells.  While research is ongoing, a study has shown that elderly people with hearing loss had lower levels of folate in their blood than people without hearing loss.
  • Vitamin A
    • Vitamin A is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole milk.  It is an essential nutrient that improves the function of the immune system. Scientists in Turkey discovered that Vitamin A helps prevent and possibly cure a common type of ear infection known as "otitis media."  Consistent ear infections can lead to hearing loss.
  • Vitamin B-12
    • Vitamin B-12 aids the creation of red blood cells and the maintenance of nerve cells.  It is considered an essential vitamin for ear health.  While research is ongoing, scientists have discovered that levels of Vitamin B-12 were lower in elderly people with noise-induced hearing loss.  This nutrient is found mostly in animal meat.
To read more about these studies, click on the links below.
Article 1
Article 2

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Training Your Brain to Hear Better in Noise

Understanding speech clearly (particularly in the presence of background noise), involves more than simply hearing better. While hearing aids position an individual to hear sounds in the environment more clearly and distinctly, interpreting what is being heard requires a different level of perceptive ability. Because we really  hear in the brain, we are able to improve the brain's ability to process what is heard through auditory training.

Auditory training is essentially teaching the brain to listen.  Neurologists suggest that brain function  improves with exercises that increasingly adapt to an individual's improved performance.  The exercises must target the particular area of brain function you are hoping to improve.  For more information on this, read this helpful article by Sandra Vandenhoff, clinical audiologist.  

Multiple programs provide auditory training.  At Appalachian Audiology, we use LACE training (Listening and Communication Enhancement).  LACE has been shown to improve speech comprehension in difficult listening environments by 40%.  For more information on LACE, click here.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Siemens Aquaris Waterproof Hearing Aid Wins Award

Siemens Hearing Instruments, Inc. continues to earn critical acclaim for its innovative approach to hearing aid manufacturing.  Earlier this year, Siemens miniTek wireless streamer and remote earned the "Best of CES" and "Fan Favorite" awards at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  In November, Siemens received the International Consumer Electronics Show Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Honoree recognition for the world's first truly waterproof hearing aid- the Aquaris.  The Aquaris is the only hearing aid to receive an IP68 rating.  This means that it can be totally submersed in up to 3 feet of water for one hour without being damaged.  Siemens Aquaris is bluetooth equipped and can wirelessly stream the volume of the television, handheld music device, or cell phone directly to both hearing aids.  

For more information about the Aquaris, click here.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Gene Linked to Hearing Loss Identified

Researchers at the University of South Florida have discovered the genetic biomarker that impacts age-related hearing loss.  Professors Robert Frisina Jr., Robert Frisina Sr., and David Eddins have identified a gene that produces a protein in the inner ear which converts audio signals into a code the nervous system sends to the parts of the brain responsible for hearing.  Summarizing the impact of this nine year study, Robert Frisina Jr. states the following:
Age-related hearing loss is a very prevalent problem in our society. It costs billions of dollars every year to manage and deal with it. It’s right up there with heart disease and arthritis as far as being one of the top three chronic medical conditions of the aged...This gene is the first genetic biomarker for human age related hearing loss, meaning if you had certain configurations of this gene you would know that you are probably going to lose your hearing faster than someone who might have another configuration.”
Age-related hearing loss usually results in a gradual, high frequency hearing loss that can be worsened by loud noise exposure or other medical conditions such as diabetes.  With this discovery, an individual can now be tested for the presence of this genetic marker.  If the marker is present, an individual can take steps to lessen the degree and onset of age-related hearing loss by avoiding loud noise exposure or wearing ear protection.

To read more about the research and its findings, click here.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Why do hearing aids cost so much? Part 4

It's the question we're asked most frequently at health fairs and public presentations...why do tiny devices that provide real benefit to hearing loss sufferers cost so much?!  We've already discussed three reasons in previous posts:

In our final post addressing this issue, we'll discuss another component that impacts the pricing of hearing aids...federal regulation.

Hearing instruments are medical devices that must meet federal standards for distribution.  Dr. Bettie Borton details the impact of federal regulations on hearing aid pricing:
Hearing aids are medically regulated devices. As such, the manufacturers who produce these devices are subject to regulation by many organizations, including the FDA, FTC, and FCC. Like many other products in the U. S. marketplace, having to meet regulation specifications by governmental agencies seldom lowers costs, and almost assuredly raises them.
Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, federal regulations are meant to protect consumers from predatory and unsafe business practices.  Federal regulations help ensure gas mileage standards for automobiles, safe food distribution, proper medical dispensing, and more.  However, businesses usually pass the cost of complying with these standards onto the consumer.  The National Economic Research Association released a report in August detailing how federal regulations impact the cost of goods:

  • U.S. manufacturers today are subject to an estimated 2,183 unique regulations promulgated between 1981 and April 2012. 
  • Since 1998, growth in the cost of major regulations (defined as those costing more than $100 million) has far exceeded manufacturing sector growth and overall economic growth. In that span, the cumulative inflation-adjusted cost of compliance for major manufacturing-related regulations grew by an annualized rate of 7.6%. Over this same period, annual growth in the physical volume of manufacturing sector output averaged a mere 0.4% while U.S. inflation-adjusted GDP growth averaged 2.2% a year. 
  •  In 2012 alone, major regulations could reduce the total value of shipments from the manufacturing sector by up to $500 billion in constant 2010 dollars. This is a loss in shipment value equal to 85% of the 2010 pre-tax profits of the entire manufacturing sector.
Hearing aid pricing is impacted by federal regulations.  While the scope of the Federal Government's regulatory role will continue to be debated, some guidelines are necessary to ensure safety standard compliance and consumer protection.  The cost for compliance is one more component hearing aid manufacturers must account for as they calculate the price point for the products they offer.

To read Dr. Borton's blog, click here.
To read the NERA's report, click here.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why do hearing aids cost so much? Part 3

How can tiny devices that seem to provide real benefit to hearing loss sufferers be so expensive?  In earlier posts, we saw that research and development play a critical role in how much hearing aid manufacturers charge for their products.  Also, many audiologists include various services and accessories in the price of hearing aids to ensure the patient can receive the maximum benefit from each instrument.  In this post, we discuss how "market penetration" impacts how much hearing aid manufacturers charge for their products. 
Market penetration is the extent to which a product is recognized and purchased within a particular market. Apple enjoys enormous market share and brand recognition.  The iPad is considered the most successful launch of new technology in the history of the United States. As of September, Paul Slone points out that 84 million iPads had been purchased with 94% of Fortune 500 companies owning them for business purposes. Apple boasts a 68% market share of all "tablet" sales. Also, 350 million iPods have been sold since its introduction in October, 2001. Apple's iTunes store is now available in 63 countries and has sold over 20 billion songs. Over 66% of all items purchased through the iTunes store are downloaded onto another Apple product. Apple products enjoy a high percentage of market share and brand recognition. Because their products dominate the market, they have the luxury to lower their prices accordingly. As of this date, hearing aids do not enjoy the same level of market penetration. Dr. Bettie Borton, a clinical audiologist in Alabama, states the following:

Hearing aids still have a fairly low market penetration. Of the 37 million Americans who might benefit from amplification, only about 1 in 5 actually utilize the available hearing technology. We have not seen the same price reductions that are inherent to widely used electronic devices like TV’s, computers, cell phones, etc., found in virtually every household. So, what’s the result? Without sufficient market penetration, the product pricing remains higher for everyone.
With this in mind, it's easier to understand how pricing for hearing aids is determined.  To read Paul Slone's article about Apple products, click here.  Dr. Bettie Borton's blog can be read by clicking here

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why do hearing aids cost so much? Part 2

If hearing aids are so small and make such a big difference in the lives of hearing loss sufferers, why do they cost so much?  There are several factors in determining the price point for hearing technology.  In our last blog, we discussed the impact that research and development has on the pricing of hearing instruments.  In this post, we'll talk about how bundled services impact hearing aid pricing.

"Bundled pricing" refers to the services and accessories that an audiologist provides as part of the overall hearing aid purchase.  Audiologists understand that programming a hearing aid to account for an individual's hearing loss requires a significant input of time, precision, and skill.  The audiologist must take into account the frequencies where the hearing loss occurs, the individual's level of perception (people with the same hearing loss can "perceive and process" sound very differently), vowels and consonants the individual cannot understand, the presence of other maladies (such as tinnitus or hyperacusis), and the technological capabilities of the particular hearing aids throughout the hearing instrument fitting process.  This may require multiple visits throughout the lifetime of the hearing aid.  Also, because hearing loss increases over time and hearing aids should last 5-7 years, the audiologist must re-evaluate the individual every 1-2 years and adjust the hearing aids to compensate for any change in hearing.  For these reasons, some audiologists include the cost of these services in the price of the hearing instruments.  They feel that not including these services in the price of the hearing instruments would lead to several costly office visits, particularly those who require multiple adjustments or frequent cleanings to remove excessive wax build up.

At Appalachian Audiology, we include the following in the purchase price of all hearing instruments:
  • Follow up service that includes adjustments and cleanings for the life of the hearing aid
  • Generous Repair, Loss & Damage Warranties
  • 10 packs of batteries (60 batteries- should last for 10-12 months)
  • Dry 'n Store dehumidifier (for storing the hearing aids overnight)
  • Audiowipes to clean the hearing aids
For more information about bundled pricing, visit our website!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Do Hearing Aids Cost So Much? Part 1

It's the question we're asked most frequently at health fairs and public presentations... if such small devices are so critical for improving the quality of life for people with hearing loss, why do they cost so much?!  On the Appalachian Audiology website, we post the pricing information along with the services that are provided with each pair of hearing instruments purchased through our practice.  There are several reasons hearing instruments are sold at various price points.  We will discuss them over the course of the next few blogs.

Hearing aid manufacturers sell their devices at pre-determined prices.  One major factor that determines how much they charge is their investment in research and development.  Dr. Bettie Borton, a Clinical Audiologist in Alabama, writes the following about the investment each hearing aid manufacturer makes into research and development:

Consider that the “Big Six” (or the top 6 hearing aid manufacturers in the United States today) spend roughly $500,000,000 annually on R & D, which is quite a lot. To be precise, that figure is 14% of their combined budgets. To put this into perspective, let’s do a percentage comparison.  All of us would concede that Apple is certainly cranking out state of the art technology, and undoubtedly this costs the company in terms of product research and development  – but by comparison,  Apple expends only 2% of its total budget for R & D.

As Dr. Barton illustrates, hearing aid manufacturers invest heavily in research and development.  This directly impacts the amount they charge for their products.  It also helps us understand why the technology in modern hearing aids is second only to the technology behind space travel.

To read Dr. Barton's article on why hearings aids cost so much, click here.   

Friday, October 26, 2012

Common Objections to Hearing Aids: "They're too noticeable!"

One of the major reasons an individual with hearing loss will refuse to wear hearing aids is because they are afraid of how it will look.  Men in particular are concerned that the hearing aid will be too noticeable.  If the device is too noticeable, some individuals worry that they will be perceived as being handicapped, "old," or frail.  If this describes you or someone you know, ask:

Is wearing a hearing aid any more noticeable than the signs of your hearing loss?

Chances are the people around you or your loved one with hearing loss already know that a hearing problem is present. The signs of hearing loss seldom go unnoticed.  In fact, most people only agree to have their hearing tested because they grow weary of friends and family urging them to do so!  Hearing loss sufferers usually do not realize how much they are missing.  Friends and family must patiently (yet firmly) help the hearing loss sufferer understand the far-reaching effects of the hearing loss and how it can be properly addressed.  

Don't let hearing loss deprive you of connecting with people, participating in social activities, or enjoying your favorite hobbies any longer!

For more information about what hearing aids look like and how much they cost, click here.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Addressing Hearing Loss in the Alzheimer's Patient

The Better Hearing Institute is encouraging caretakers and family members to properly address potential signs of hearing loss in individuals with Alzheimer's Disease.  Hearing loss appears to be more common in Alzheimer's patients than people of the same age without the condition. Hearing loss can further complicate interaction with and treatment of the Alzheimer's patient. Recent research shows that hearing loss may even contribute to the onset of cognitive impairments such as dementia.  For these reasons, it is important to address hearing problems with individuals suffering from Alzheimer's.

There are numerous potential benefits of addressing hearing loss in Alzheimer's patients.   A vital component of journeying with the person suffering from this condition is helping them connect and communicate with other people while it is still possible to do so. Improving their quality of life by removing the barrier to communication that a loss of hearing creates is perhaps the highest aim of any potential treatment.  Also, reducing further strain on the brain can be achieved by amplifying an individual's remaining hearing capacity.  For a more detailed discussion, read this article from The Better Hearing Institute.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

A Link Between Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, and Hearing Loss

The Hearing Review recently released information on a new study conducted by Brigham and Women's Hospital that shows a woman's risk for hearing loss increases as she takes ibuprofen or acetaminophen on a consistent basis.  The risk of hearing loss rose by 13% in women who took ibuprofen 2 to 3 days per week, 21% in women who took it 4 to 5 days per week, and 24% in women who took it 6-7 days per week.  The risk of hearing loss rose by 11% in women who took acetaminophen 2 to 3 days per week and 21% in women who took it 4 or more days per week. 

Researchers theorize that blood flow to the cochlea (the hearing organ of the ear) is reduced when these medications are taken.  The reduction in blood flow is one possible explanation for why these medications increase a woman's risk of hearing loss.  Researchers also noted that no association between hearing loss and aspirin was apparent.  

To read the article on this study published by The Hearing Review, click here.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

New Treatment for Tinnitus?

The most common disability among soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is tinnitus.  Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the head when no external sound is present.  The sounds of tinnitus can be described as clicking, hissing, roaring, swooshing, and tonal.  With an estimated 40% of soldiers returning from war with this condition, the Department of Defense is investing in new research to create a way to treat tinnitus.  One promising new treatment method is a self-dissolving capsule that is inserted into the inner ear.  This capsule would deliver a dosage of medication directly to the cochlea and dissolve once the medication had been completely released.  While this treatment method is still in the initial phases of development, researchers believe it holds real promise for providing lasting relief from tinnitus.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

How to Resolve an iPhone Hearing Aid Compatability Issue

As some of you already know, the iPhone 5 is having connection difficulties with Phonak's ComPilot accessory.  Often the person receiving the call cannot hear the caller's voice.  Until Apple works this out, do the following:
  • Answer the call as usual on the ComPilot
  • On your iPhone 5, go to Audio Sources
  • Once there, push "ComPilot."
  • Next, push "iPhone"
  • If you still cannot hear the caller's voice, push "ComPilot" again.
Following these steps should resolve the issue.

For more information on the iPhone 5 and hearing aid compatability, read this article from The Hearing Review.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

If I buy hearing aids, how long until they're obsolete?

This is one of the most common questions we are asked.  Who wants to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment that will be useless in a few years?  Thankfully, hearing aids do not become obsolete the way computers do.  If I walk into a store and purchase a new laptop, I understand that  within 3-5 years, the operating system will become inoperative, new software upgrades will cease to work, and my computer will become virtually useless.  Hearing instruments are completetly different.   Hearing aid manufacturers release new technology every April.  Along with this, manufacturers  release new software upgrades capable of "updating" older hearing aids.  These software updates apply to past and current "generations" of hearing instruments and typically impact the firmware and quality of sound of the hearing aid.  It's also important to realize that new technology that impacts an individual's particular type of hearing loss usually comes out every five years or so.  Properly maintained hearing instruments that correctly address an individual's particular hearing loss should work for up to seven years.  Hearing aid manufacturers are careful to prolong the efficiency, "upgrade-ability" and accessibility of their products.  After all, the technology behind modern hearing aids is rated second only to the technology behind space travel!

For more information, visit our website!     Image provided courtesy of

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Will the flu vaccine impact my hearing?

Flu season is quickly approaching!  The CDC encourages everyone older than 6 months to protect themselves from the flu by obtaining a seasonal flu vaccine.  The 2012-2013 flu vaccine contains 3 inactive types of viruses known to cause what we commonly refer to as "the flu."  After receiving the vaccine, it takes the body about 2 weeks to produce the appropriate antibodies needed to protect itself. The flu vaccine is intended to prevent the individual from experiencing the symptoms of the virus once it's contracted.  The vaccine is also intended to lessen the effects of the flu virus. 

Flu symptoms directly impact your ears.  Sinus drainage can lead to ear infections or a feeling of "fullness."  Hearing can decrease.  Over time, multiple ear infections can cause hearing loss.  Because of this, it's important to take the necessary steps to prevent, lessen, and manage the symptoms of the flu virus.

We encourage all individuals to consult with their family doctor to explore the right course of preventative care for their hearing health during flu season.  Your ears are worth protecting!  

For more information on the 2012-2013 flu vaccine, click here.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

What Does Tinnitus Sound Like?

Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound in the head when no external sound is present.  There are two types of tinnitus.  Subjective tinnitus describes head noises that are audible only to the patient.  Objective tinnitus describes head noises that are audible to both the patient and others.  Ringing or head noises can occur in one or both ears and can be perceived to be inside or outside the ear.  Tinnitus is is often a warning sign for hearing loss.  There are over 200 potential causes of tinnitus ranging from diet to brain trauma.  
Researchers theorize that the origin of tinnitus lies in the brain.  As the brain receives less auditory stimuli (due to hearing loss), it begins generating the sounds we describe as tinnitus.  The "sounds" of tinnitus vary.  Many people describe what they hear as tonal, swooshing, roaring, or chirping sounds.  Others describe the sound as white noise.  

To hear what tinnitus sounds like, click here.

Whatever the case, tinnitus is a real condition that often causes anxiety, stress, and loss of sleep.  However, relief from tinnitus is possible.  More in the next blog....

For more information on tinnitus relief, visit our website.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Why You Should Quit Using Q-tips

Did you know that using Q-tips or cotton swabs to clean your ears can lead to hearing loss and tinnitus?  Ear wax is produced in the outer third of the ear canal as one of the body's defense mechanisms.  Its' purpose is to collect dirt, debris, and harmful bacteria to prevent these materials from traveling further into the ear canal.  The acidic content of ear wax kills bacteria as well.  In a normally functioning ear, ear wax gradually makes its way toward the outer ear.  When it becomes visible, it is safe to use a washcloth to wipe it away.

Using a q-tip or cotton swab to clean the wax out of the ear canal actually pushes it deeper into the ear canal where it is not intended to be.  This can cause the ear wax to accumulate and harden.  As it compacts together, it creates a "stuffy" sensation in the ear and obstructs the pathway noise travels to reach the hearing organ of the ear.  This leads to conductive hearing loss.  Conductive hearing loss is not permanent and will go away once the ear wax has been removed from the ear canal.  Also, if ear wax gets pushed up against the ear drum, it can cause the ear to ring (tinnitus).  The tinnitus will usually go away once the ear wax is removed.  For those who wear hearing aids, wax build up can cause hearing aids to feedback or whistle.

When ear wax becomes visible, the best way to clean it out is to use a warm, damp washcloth and remove it.  Do not stick anything in your ear that will push the wax deeper into the ear canal and cause it to accumulate.  Ear candling is also not advised as this practice is considered unsafe.

For more information, read this helpful article.   

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How Your Heart Impacts Your Hearing

Did you know that your cardiovascular health impacts your hearing?  Hearing loss can be associated with a number of chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease.   The inner ear is extremely sensitive to blood flow.  Therefore, inadequate blood flow to the inner can cause hearing loss.  In fact, The Hearing Review has reported on a new study suggesting that cardiovascular disease can cause low frequency hearing loss prior to its effects being felt in other parts of the body.  Impurities in the blood can also damage the cochlea and cause hearing loss.  These impurities are often the result of certain types of antibiotics and cancer treatment medication.  To avoid damage to your hearing, researchers recommend consistent screenings for potential cardiovascular abnormalities.  Individuals should also consult with their physician to be aware of any ototoxic medications.

For more information, read the two research excerpts below:

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Apple Confirms iPhone Compatibility with Hearing Aids

recent article from The Hearing Review has confirmed reports that Apple's new operating system (iOS6) will provide greater compatibility with hearing aids.  The article also confirms earlier reports that Apple is working with major hearing aid manufacturers to create "made for iPhone" hearing aids. The iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 will work with "made for iPhone" designated hearing aids in a manner not yet disclosed by Apple.  While no major hearing instrument manufacturer has publicly confirmed these reports, rumors continue to circulate that Apple is working to give hearing aid users and their audiologists the ability to remotely adjust the settings of the instruments through "streaming functionality" contained within the new iOS6 software.

For more information, read the article from The Hearing Review.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Depression Pt. 2

In our last blog, we highlighted various studies that show a clear link between hearing loss and depression.  Untreated hearing loss can severely impact an individual's quality of life.  New research shows how people with hearing loss are more likely to display signs of depression.  Reasons for this may include:

  • Isolation due to withdrawal from social activities or hobbies
  • Isolation due to avoiding difficult listening environments such as restaurants
  • Relational problems due to the difficulty of communicating
  • "Brain strain"- the brain becomes more tired as it labors to process what it is barely "hearing"

The effects of untreated hearing loss are far-reaching.  While research is ongoing, it has become increasingly clear that depression rates are higher among people whose hearing loss remains untreated.  Is it possible to counteract the effects of hearing loss on how our brain functions?  Next blog...

For more information, download the report from The Better Hearing Institute.  It is listed as "Backgrounder" under the "2012 Mental Illness Awareness" heading.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Depression

Untreated hearing loss can impact an individual's life in many different ways.  In fact, new information suggests a clear link between untreated hearing loss and multiple conditions including dementia and depression.  The Better Hearing Institute recently released a survey of these findings.  Highlights are detailed below.
  • Research from The National Council on Aging shows that people aged 50 and older who had untreated hearing loss were more likely to report symptoms of depression.  The study also suggests that the severity of the symptoms increased in proportion to the degree of hearing loss.  
  • The British Geriatrics Society published research showing that the risk of depressive symptoms grew by 80% among older people with hearing loss.
  • A survey by Australian Hearing showed that over 60% of individuals with untreated hearing loss aged 18 or older exhibited signs of depression.
Research also points to why the link might exist and how to find potential solutions to these problems.  More on this in the next blog...

To read the report from The Better Hearing Institute, click here and download the report under the "2012 Mental Illness Awareness" heading.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

iPhone Compatible Hearing Aids?

With the upcoming release of the iPhone 5, anticipation for its new features continues to grow.  As you might have heard, Apple is in conversation with many major hearing aid manufacturers about how to distribute or exchange software that would give hearing aid wearers the ability to adjust the instruments' settings using Apps and the iPhone or iPad keyboard.  Newer rumors suggest Apple is also trying to create a way for hearing aid users to post their individual settings on social networking sites to benefit others with a similar hearing loss and/or lifestyle.  For an excellent article on these developments, click here.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Features of Hearing Aids That Make Speech Clearer Pt. 3

Untreated hearing loss eventually causes an individual to withdraw from difficult listening environments.  Audiologists intervene to stop the isolation by empowering the hearing loss sufferer to engage in the relationships, social activities, and hobbies that have been avoided or neglected due to the effects of hearing loss.  Therefore, the ultimate goal of an audiologist is re-connection.  

Modern hearing aids contain many features that make re-connection possible.  In our last blog, we discussed how a hearing aid equipped with multi-channel programming makes speech clearer in the presence of background noise.  Another feature that amplifies an individual's remaining hearing capacity is volume control.  Some hearing aids are equipped with an actual button that serves as a volume control.  When the button is pushed, the volume can be increased or decreased to the individual's preference.  

Many digital hearing aids are now equipped with an automatic volume control.  This feature enables the hearing aid to automatically analyze sounds in the environment and adjust the volume accordingly.  Loud or harsh sounds are "softened" and soft sounds are made audible.  An audiologist adjusts the dynamics of this feature to account for an individual's particular type and degree of hearing loss.

For more information about volume control and other features of modern hearing aids, read this document from The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How Hearing Aids Make Phone Conversations Clear

As we noted in our last blog, the ultimate goal of an audiologist is re-connection.  Because untreated hearing loss typically leads to social withdrawal and isolation, audiologists seek to empower the individual to communicate with confidence, particularly in difficult listening environments.  Talking on the phone is one of the most difficult obstacles to connection for an individual with hearing loss.  However, modern hearing instruments are equipped with various features that enable the hearing loss sufferer to talk on the phone without difficulty (or an interpreter!).  These features are unique to certain technology levels and include:

  • AutoPhone 
    • This feature automatically converts the hearing aid to a telephone amplifier with no whistle or feedback once the phone is held up to the ear.  When the phone is hung up, the hearing aids automatically resume their normal function.      
  • DuoPhone
    • Phonak premium hearing aids have an automatic "duophone" feature.  When the phone is held up to one ear, the hearing aid transfers the caller's voice to the other ear as well.  The phone call is heard in both ears simultaneously.
  • Hands-free Phone
    • Using bluetooth technology built into the hearing aid, the caller's voice wirelessly connects to both ears simultaneously.  The volume of the hearing aid is lowered slightly permitting you to focus on the caller's voice in stereo.
  • Manual Phone Use
    • A clinical audiologist can create a custom telephone listening program in many modern hearing aids.
For more information about hearing aid features and phone use, click here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Features of Hearing Aids That Make Speech Clearer Pt. 2

As we noted in our last blog, the goal of an audiologist is re-connection.  Typically, individuals do not understand how their hearing loss is disconnecting them from the relationships and activities they value and enjoy most.  Clinical audiologists strive to help people who have become increasingly isolated over time due to hearing loss.  The ultimate aim is to help the hearing loss sufferer re-connect with loved ones and resume the activities they have avoided (often times unknowingly) due to their hearing difficulties.

A major way an audiologist accomplishes this goal is to properly fit an individual with hearing aids.  Modern hearing aids contain many technological features that help the hearing loss sufferer understand speech more clearly in noisy places and on the telephone.  Multi-channel programming is a feature that helps the audiologist adjust a hearing device to enhance an individual's remaining hearing capacity.  Advanced technology equips hearing aids with up to twenty independently adjustable channels.  This allows the audiologist to create customized programming tailored to an individual's hearing loss, lifestyle, and preferences.  Each channel can also continuously measure and automatically adjust to sounds in the environment.  This feature equips audiologists with the ability to limit the harshness of loud sounds while amplifying soft sounds (and sounds not heard due to the type and degree of hearing loss) to the level of audibility.  

For more information on multi-channel programming in modern hearing aids, read this article from Audiology Online.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Features of Hearing Aids That Make Speech Clearer

Simply put, the goal of an audiologist is re-connection.  Hearing loss sufferers cannot fully understand all that they are missing.  As hearing loss increases, social withdrawal deepens, isolation worsens, and relationships suffer. Therefore, an audiologist seeks to re-connect the hearing loss sufferer to all they are missing- relationships, social interactions, hobbies, etc.  Multi-directional microphones in modern hearing aids help an audiologist in this endeavor.  

Multi-directional microphones significantly improve an individual's ability to hear speech in the presence of background noise.  As you may know, hearing loss sufferer's often avoid difficult listening environments (like restaurants) because they cannot engage in conversation.  If a hearing aid is equipped with one microphone, every sound in the environment is made louder.  However, if a hearing aid is equipped with two microphones, one mic can amplify speech while the other reduces background noise.  Many hearing aids are also equipped with the ability to focus the microphones on speech coming from multiple directions.  The hearing aids sense the direction the speech is originating from and focus in that particular direction while also eliminating amplification for general background noise.  This means that hearing aids at certain technology levels can focus on speech coming from beside or behind the hearing aid wearer.  Whether the hearing aid wearer is having a conversation in the car, working alongside people in a noisy environment, or sitting in a wheelchair, these hearing aids can amplify speech being communicated from beside and/or behind the hearing aid wearer. 

Other features of modern hearing aids that help re-connect hearing loss sufferers to relationships and social activities include multi-channel and customized programming, automatic telephone use, volume controls, and FM system compatibility.  More on these features in future blogs...

For more information on multi-directional microphones and their advantages, read this informative article from The Hearing Review.

Friday, August 31, 2012

What a Hearing Evaluation Measures

A critical part of a thorough hearing evaluation is determining an individual's full range of hearing.  Three "thresholds" of hearing are measured:
  • What are the softest sounds that are audible?
  • What is the most comfortable level of hearing? 
  • What is the most uncomfortable level of hearing?
Threshold testing will help the audiologist determine:
  • What consonants will be difficult for an individual to hear
  • What vowel sounds will be difficult for an individual to hear
  • What sounds in nature and "everyday life" an individual will struggle to hear
  • What kind of technology will help enhance an individual's remaining hearing capacity
For more information on hearing evaluations (like how often you should have your hearing checked), click here!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How Audiologists Evaluate Hearing

As we discussed in our last blog, there are major differences between audiologists and hearing aid dispensers.  Audiologists possess a Doctoral degree in audiology and are skilled in the planning, directing, supervising, and conducting of habilitative and rehabilitative counseling programs for individuals who have been diagnosed or are suspected of having disorders of hearing.  Hearing aid dispensers are licensed by the state to test hearing solely for the purpose of fitting hearing aids.  They are not licensed to test for or treat balance disorders or tinnitus.  

Another difference between hearing aid dispensers and audiologists is how hearing is tested.  Audiologists test hearing in an enclosed, sound-proof booth instead of an open table.  The difference between a hearing evaluation performed in an enclosed sound booth and at an open table is accuracy.  Eliminating background noise is a critical component of accurately evaluating a person's remaining hearing capacity.  

At Appalachian Audiology, we test hearing across 8 frequencies depending on the severity of the hearing loss.  A thorough hearing evaluation is also comprised of:

  • Otoscopy to ensure the absence of fluid or infection.
  • Tympanometry to test ear drum movement, the presence of fluid, and to confirm the absence of eustachian tube dysfunction.
  • Acoustic Reflex Testing to check the muscles of the middle ear to see if it contracts in the presence of loud sounds
  • Speech and Tone Testing to discover the full range of a patient's hearing
  • Air and Bone Conduction 
  • Word Discrimination to determine how well speech is understood in noise
These components help an audiologist discover the location, degree, and type of hearing loss an individual has (if any).  Once this is determined, an audiologist must consider three components before deciding on the right course of treatment.  More on this in the next blog...

For more information on what you should expect from a thorough hearing exam, visit our website!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hearing Aid Warranties and Repair Costs

As we noted in last week's blog series on hearing aid repairs, a hearing instrument usually malfunctions for one of two reasons:  moisture or wax build-up.  If the hearing aid continues to malfunction after it has been dehumidified overnight and all excess wax has been removed, an audiologist should examine the aid to rule out other problems like a damaged receiver or a dead circuit.  In the event the audiologist is unable to repair the hearing aid, the instrument will have to be sent in to the manufacturer for repair.

Warranties and Repair Costs
Two types of hearing aid warranties are included in the purchase price of new hearing aids through Appalachian Audiology.  A Loss and Damage Warranty will allow the wearer to replace each aid once if the instrument is lost.  The manufacturer will usually charge a $200-$350 service fee for replacing a lost hearing aid.  A Repair Warranty will insure the hearing aid in the event it needs a repair the audiologist is not able to perform.  If the hearing aids malfunction for any reason within the warranty period, the manufacturer will repair the hearing aids and return them to the audiologist at no-charge.  Hearing aid manufacturers usually allow patients to extend their warranty coverage up to two years for less than what it takes to repair the hearing aid if it becomes damaged.  Appalachian Audiology offers extended warranty coverage through the hearing aid manufacturer for around $150 per aid.

If a hearing instrument's warranty lapses, hearing aid manufacturers charge a flat repair fee regardless of the type of repair that is needed.  The repair charge usually includes new warranty coverage for 6-12 months.  Repair costs usually add up to roughly $300 while extending a warranty usually costs around $150 through Appalachian Audiology.

Have more questions about hearing aid maintenance, repair, and warranties?  Click here!