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