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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