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Archive for the ‘Hear This’ Category

Missouri Humidity and Hearing Aids – Part 2

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Missouri Humidity and Hearing Aids (Part 2)  By Heather Meyer

Unless you want to move, what can a hearing aid wearer do to maintain hearing aids in the humid climate of Missouri? 

1.  Protect the aids from situations where moisture is likely to be present:

If possible, avoid wearing the hearing aid in wet, humid or steamy conditions or during strenuous exercise. When not in use, the hearing aid should always be kept in a dry place, not in the bathroom or similarly moist location.

  • Never wear the aid while taking a bath or shower, swimming, or in a sauna unless you have purchased a specialized “water proof” model.
  • Ensure that your hair and ears are dry before you put in your hearing aid.
  • Remove the hearing aid when at the hairdresser

      2.  Protect your aids from high temperatures:

You should never expose your hearing aid to heat. Protect it from direct sunlight (at home or in a parked car) and do not place it near heaters. If a hearing aid gets wet, remove it promptly, but do not attempt to dry it with a hairdryer, oven, clothes dryer, microwave, or other source of heat. Excessive temperatures may melt the plastic components and microwaves cause almost immediate destruction of all the electronic elements.

      3.  Protect the aids from fluctuations in temperature:

Never leave a hearing aid on an air conditioner or a radiator, near a stove, in a sunny window, in the glove compartment of a car, or in any other extremely hot or cold place. Be particularly careful when wearing the hearing aid outdoors in extreme cold or wet and rainy weather. Use an umbrella or hat when it is raining.

      4.  Keep the aids as dry as possible after exposure to moisture:

If you live in an area subject to high humidity or regularly engage in perspiration-inducing activities, consider trying some of these ideas to help in keeping moisture from damaging your hearing aids.

BTE tubing – BTE aid users may also face condensation of moisture in the tubing between the earmold/dome and their aid.  Sometimes, we use thicker tubing which is less likely to attract moisture due to temperature changes. For additional hearing aid care, the earmold air blower cleans foreign materials and moisture from the tubing. Some people have used compressed air cans (the ones for office equipment NOT the ones for car tires!) Blowing through the tubing yourself can create further build-up of moisture from your breath, so this is not recommended. It has also been suggested that unwaxed dental floss or sewing thread strung through the tubing can be effective, as the material will absorb moisture.

Ear Gear – A water resistant double wall spandex nylon sleeve that is acoustically transparent, so there is no effect of sound coming into the hearing instrument. Ear Gear covers protect hearing instruments from dirt, sweat, and moisture. They come in a variety of sizes and colors and can be washed and reused over and over.

Dry & Store dehumidifier – An electrical appliance that uses heat and moving air, as well as a desiccating substance, to remove moisture from a hearing aid. The lamp within also helps to kill off bacteria, molds or fungi that may be growing on the outside of hearing aids and earmolds.  These devices are a little more costly, but certainly do a good job.

Dry-Aid kits – A passive system of removing moisture, these inexpensive kits consist of silica (desiccating) crystals/beads in a jar. The hearing aid is placed inside after removing the battery or opening the battery door, to allow moisture in the hearing aid to be absorbed by the crystals. When the desiccant becomes too moist and needs to be recharged, it will change colors, and can be heated in an oven or microwave.

WARNING: the desiccants used here at Midwest ENT can be "recharged", but others may not. I would advise you to consult with your audiologist to find out the type of desiccant you have and follow the directions included with your kit.

 

Sources: www.HealthyHearing.com; and Ear Gear Advantage
Dr. Mark Ross Self Help for Hard of Hearing People journal article 1999

Communication Disorders in Older Adults

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Communication Disorders Common in Older Americans

During May Is Better Hearing & Speech Month, Midwest ENT Centre is spotlighting the importance of early detection and treatment for communication disorders in older Americans. Roughly 40 million Americans experience these disorders. Speech/language or swallowing disorders may result from medical conditions, such as oral cancer, stroke, Parkinson’s, or traumatic brain injury. Adults may also experience voice disorders or speech/language disorders that have persisted since childhood, such as stuttering. Hearing loss is among the most common conditions affecting older Americans. In fact, according to an AARP-ASHA poll that was taken in 2011, a significant percentage of baby boomers have untreated hearing loss. Hearing and balance issues are also risk factors for falls—a serious concern for the older population—that may result in significant injury or death.

Depending on a person’s specific condition, a speech-language pathologist or audiologist can assist in potentially life-altering treatment. In the case of someone with oral cancer, for instance, a certified speech-language pathologist can deliver treatment that includes helping the person get used to the differences in the size, shape, and feel of the mouth. The speech-language pathologist will teach the person how to produce speech sounds more clearly and develop better control over weakened muscles in the throat or palate. If swallowing is an issue, treatment can vary from simple changes in food consistency to exercises for weak oral muscles to learning totally new ways to swallow. In many cases, improvement is evident within several months.

In the case of hearing loss, millions of Americans experience this in at least one ear. Hearing disorders are complex conditions with medical, psychological, physical, social, educational, and employment implications. They should be diagnosed and treated by an audiologist. Treatment options include hearing aids and other assistive technologies that meet a host of different medical needs and preferences, as well as aural/audiologic rehabilitation. Although many people may think of hearing aids as the singular answer to hearing issues, other interventions may be appropriate. This is why receiving a comprehensive evaluation by an audiologist is essential.

Many people have outdated perceptions of hearing aids (and hearing loss in general) that may lead them to delay treatment for years or forgo it altogether. Among adults ages 70 and older with hearing loss who could benefit from hearing aids, fewer than one in three (30%) have ever used them. Even fewer adults ages 20 to 69 (approximately 16%) who could benefit from wearing hearing aids have ever used them, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Untreated hearing loss is associated with anxiety, depression, reduced quality of life, and even earlier onset of dementia—all of which support the critical importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

Family members and friends can assist a loved one with a communication disorder in numerous ways, including providing assistance with finding a provider and accompanying him or her to appointments. There are also everyday things a family member or friend can do to help make the communication process easier for an older person who may have speaking or hearing challenges.

  • Reduce background noises that may be distracting (e.g., turn off the radio or TV, close the door, or move to a quieter place).
  • Stick to a topic. Avoid quick shifts from topic to topic.
  • Allow extra time for responding. Don’t hurry the person.
  • Be an active listener. Look for hints from eye gaze and gestures. Take a guess (e.g., “Are you talking about the TV news? Yes? Tell me more. I didn't see it.”)

More tips for communicating better with older people are available at www.asha.org/public/speech/development/Communicating-Better-With-Older-People/.

For more information about communication disorders, visit http://IdentifytheSigns.org. To seek an assessment from a speech-language pathologist or audiologist, contact (insert contact information).

How Do I Clean My Ears?

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Help!  My ears feel full and I want to clean them myself, but ……

DO NOT PUT ANYTHING SMALLER THAN YOUR ELBOW IN YOUR EARS!  Many people want to use q-tips or bobby pins to clean their ears when they feel full.  Using a q-tip or anything like that can actually make the fullness worse, if the fullness is indeed due to ear wax impaction.  Ear wax is a good thing for our ears.  It is the body's natural way of protecting the ears and keeping them clean.  Some people produce more ear wax than others and need to have their ears cleaned by a medical professional on a regular basis.  Those patients who try to clean their ears on their own can actually cause the problem to get worse by pushing the ear wax deeper into the ear or even possibly by damaging the ear drum, both of which can and will affect hearing.  Patients have been known to get pieces of a q-tip or other foreign object stuck in their ear and have to see a physician to have that removed.

How do I clean my ears if I can't use a q-tip?  It's best to have a qualified medical professional clean your ears.  This is the safest way.  If you must do it yourself, just a simple wash rag will do the trick.  However, if you are a patient who produces excessive ear wax, it is still best to let the professionals do it.

Communication Strategies For Telephone Use

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COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES FOR TELEPHONE USE

Whether you are a hearing aid user or not, hearing on the telephone when you have a hearing loss can be very challenging.  This often leads to misunderstanding and frustration with the caller or the inability to have a conversation on the telephone at all.  Below are some strategies you can use that may help resolve difficulties when using the telephone. 

1.  Turn off background noise – When possible, turn off any competing noises in your environment (e.g., TV, dishwasher, etc.)

2.  Caller ID – Know who is calling, either by using caller ID or by asking the caller.

3.  Context – Know what the conversation is going to be about.  It is helpful to ask the caller what the subject matter of the conversation is regarding (e.g., doctor's appointment) that way you can use the context of the conversation to "fill in the blanks."

4.  Make caller aware of your hearing loss – Do not be afraid to let the caller know that you have difficulty hearing and express to him that you will need accommodations to make this conversation successful. 

5.  Ask to REPEAT and REPHRASE – Do not be afraid to ask the caller to repeat himself or to rephrase his/her message.  Refrain from saying "what" and let the caller know what part of the message you were able to understand (e.g., "I think you said something about my doctor?").

6.  Spell Information – Ask the caller to spell a word or a number if you are having difficulty understanding; this is especially helpful after the caller has already repeated himself.

7.  Count up for understanding numbers – Numbers have no context; therefore, it is very difficult to distinguish different numbers.  Ask the caller to count up to the number he/she is trying to tell you. 

8.  YES or NO Answers – Ask the caller to answer your questions with a Yes or a No; this is easier to understand rather than trying to determine the answer through a sentence if you are having trouble hearing or understanding the caller.

9.  Repeat what the caller said – Repeat the information that you received back to the caller in order to confirm that you understood him.  "My appointment is confirmed for Tuesday October 28th at 9:00 am correct?" 

 An amplified telephone designed for hearing impaired individuals is always useful.  If you are a Missouri Resident, have telephone service in your home, and have income of $60,000 or less, you qualify for a State provided phone.  Contact the Delta Center for Independent Living.  If you do not meet these qualifications, your audiologist can help you purchase an amplified telephone.   

 There are many Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) that can work with your hearing aids to improve your telephone use as well. Taking advantage of a T-Coil setting on your hearing aid is the easiest and least expensive option.  But you can also use devices such as Bluetooth Streamers and/or NeckLoops.   See our previous blogs regarding these devices or speak with your audiologist. 

 

 

Nesgaard Pedersen and Kirkwood.  "Speech Intelligibility Benefits of Assisted Telephone Listening Methods". The Hearing Review.  June 2014.

Can I Wear My Hearing Aids In The Rain?

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Can I wear my hearing aids in the rain?  This question is asked at almost every hearing aid fitting, especially as we start talking about how harmful moisture can be to hearing aids.  Hearing aids are electronic devices and can certainly be damaged when moisture gets inside the case where the electronics are housed.   Fortunately, many hearing aids today offer some sort of  “water resistance” which helps to repel moisture and protect the hearing aid from splashes.  One manufacturer even offers a “water proof” hearing aid which allows for continuous immersion in water. 

So, can hearing aids be worn in the rain?   If you’re standing outside in a downpour for some reason (maybe you are golfing), it would be better to take your hearing aids out.   But as long as it’s a light rain and you are going from point A to point B (maybe walking from your car in a parking lot into a place of business wearing a hat or carrying an umbrella), you should be able to wear your hearing aids. 

Talk to your audiologist to learn more about water-resistant and water-proof hearing aids.  For more information on the topic, please read Heather’s blog about Missouri humidity and hearing aids.

Benefits of Using a Neck Loop

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Using the T-coil and Neck Loops With Your Hearing Aid

In the last blog, I talked about t-coils and how they can increase the functionality of your hearing aid or cochlear implant.  T-coils are like wireless antennas.  They pick up magnetic signals transmitted from a sound source and then deliver that sound directly to your hearing aid.  T-coils are easy to use – you activate them by pressing a button or switch on your hearing aid. 

Although t-coils were originally used to enhance the magnetic signal from a telephone handset, which allowed a hearing aid user to hear better on the telephone, there are a couple of other ways to use t-coils.  Today I’ll explain the benefits of using a neck loop with a t-coil. 

A neck loop is just a loop of wire worn (very loosely) around the neck and connected to a sound source.  The neck loop changes the incoming sound signal to a magnetic signal which is then transmitted through the wire loop.  The t-coil in the hearing aid picks up the magnetic signal from the neck loop and then processes the sound through the hearing aid.  A basic neck loop just takes the place of a “headset” for those who have t-coil equipped hearing aids.  A neck loop can be plugged into any device (sound source) that can be used with a headset such as an iPod or mp3 player, headphone connection at the gym, TV or stereo, personal amplifier, computer, cell phones, and land line telephones.  The sound from the connected device is relayed from the neck loop to the t-coil in the hearing aid, working just like a headset. 

Neck loops also come in amplified versions.  This type of neck loop includes a volume control and a microphone.  This allows for additional volume control adjustment independent from the volume control on the device.  The microphone on the loop replaces the mouthpiece of the telephone which enables hands free conversation.  So it’s very easy to have a two-way conversation – both speaking and listening – on the telephone using this type of neck loop.  Amplified neck loops still function like headsets and can be plugged into any device with a sound source.  

If you don’t like the idea of being hard-wired into your device, you can also get a Bluetooth version of a neck loop where the Bluetooth signal from the sound source is received by the neck loop and then transmitted to the t-coil equipped hearing aid.  The sound from a Bluetooth enabled device, like your cell phone or iPod, will be received by the neck loop and transmitted to the hearing aids via the t-coil without any wire connecting the neck loop to the sound source.

Why should you consider trying a neck loop?  There are many advantages to using neck loops with your t-coil equipped hearing aids.  First, sound from the neck loop is delivered directly into your hearing aid which has been programmed for your individual hearing loss – the sound has been shaped to match your hearing ability.  If you have the t-coil feature enabled in both of your hearing aids, then you will hear the delivered sound in both ears which can improve speech understanding.  Using neck loops can also significantly reduce the amount of background noise typically picked up in a listening environment.  Since neck loops stay with the user, they can be connected to various devices at any time or place.  Plus, neck loops are affordable.  The cost ranges from about $50.00 for a basic non-amplified model to about $350.00 for a Bluetooth model. 

Next blog, I’ll talk about using neck loops with the TV, personal listening systems, and FM systems.  Until then, talk to your audiologist about hearing better with a neck loop!

Realistic Expectations for Family Members With Hearing Loss

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“My mother still has a hard time hearing me even when she is wearing her hearing aids.” 

Many spouses and family members experience a lot of frustration when someone they love suffers from hearing loss.  Typically, they have dealt with this invisible disability for several years.  Once they finally convince that loved one to get hearing aids, they are so excited about the prospect of that loved one being able to hear again, they tend to be disappointed when their expectations are not met.  It is very easy to see someone wearing hearing aids and expect them to be able to hear.  Unfortunately, hearing aids do not restore our hearing nor are they beneficial in all situations. 

As discussed in previous blogs, hearing aids are an “aid” to our hearing.  They function best in smaller areas with distance of 3-6 ft. and in quiet situations.  Hearing aids do not necessarily know who the wearer wants to listen to nor can it ever eliminate background noise.  This is also in conjunction with the fact that the anatomy and physiology of an individual with hearing loss is abnormal as well as the natural progression of cognitive decline as we age. 

So what does this all mean?  Well, not only is it important for the hearing aid wearer to have realistic expectations of what a hearing aid can and cannot do, but also for the family members to understand that their loved one will NOT have normal hearing ever again, will always be an individual with hearing loss, and that there are communication strategies that everyone can use to optimize the ability to communicate with a loved one with hearing difficulties.  (See blog Communication Strategies for Family Members With Hearing Loss on 10/24/13)

Dizziness

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Dizziness: Lightheadedness or Vertigo?  (part 1)

Your ears do more than just help you to hear. The Vestibular System is also useful for maintaining balance. Part of the inner ear contains three semi-circular canals. These are full of fluid that react whenever you move your head. As the fluid shifts within the canals, small cilia (or hair-like protuberances from a cell) are activated and send messages to the brain. These messages tell your brain which direction the body is moving.

You know that feeling of dizziness after you have been spinning around? Well, the fluid in your inner ears was also spinning. That made the cilia move in all different directions and briefly confused your brain. When a person has a vestibular disorder, disruptions somewhere within the inner ear structures or along the nerve or brain pathways may occur.

What is the difference?

Dizziness is often used to describe either lightheadedness or vertigo, so it is important to know the difference in symptoms to help narrow down the list of possible problems.

Vertigo is the illusion that you or your surroundings are moving (rotating, spinning, leaning, falling) without actual movement. Severe vertigo can cause nausea or even lead to vomiting.  You may physically lose your balance or even have trouble walking. Vertigo is not the same as motion sickness, though, as this feeling is not actually triggered by repeated motion.

Lightheadedness is the sensation of almost fainting or passing out, but without the feeling that your surroundings are moving. It often disappears when you lie down. When lightheadedness gets worse, it can feel like almost fainting and may sometimes cause nausea to the point of vomiting. It is not uncommon for people to get a bit lightheaded, and it usually is not caused by an inner ear problem (i.e. it could be a momentary drop in blood pressure caused by getting up too quickly).

At Midwest ENT Centre, we work with patients who may be experiencing dizziness, imbalance or vertigo episodes. Depending on the patient’s symptoms, the doctor may request further assessment of the Vestibular System.  I will go into more detail later about some of the tests we perform here.

Airport Security and Hearing Aids

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Airport Security and Hearing Aids

Many people question if it is safe to go through the scanners at the security checkpoints with their hearing aids.   According to the TSA website, it is not necessary to remove your hearing aids, but you should inform the security officers that you have them.  It is actually better to leave the hearing aid(s) in your ear(s) so that you can better hear instructions and answer questions from the Security Officers.  If you still feel uncomfortable going through the scanners because of your instruments, you can ask for a full-body pat down.  If this is the case, the security officer may ask to inspect your device if needed.

Always ask (politely, of course) the security officers to look directly at you so that you can better understand what they are saying to you.  Simply explain you are hearing impaired and that it would be better if they could look directly at you.  You should then have no problem going through airport security.

Communication Strategies for Family Members With Hearing Loss

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COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES FOR FAMILY MEMBERS

If you have a loved one who suffers from hearing loss, you understand the frustration that accompanies a conversation with them.  Even with hearing aids, that loved one is still hearing impaired and could use a little help on your part to optimize the listening situation.  Below are a few simple steps you can take to do just that:

1)      SAY THEIR NAME – Because it takes so much effort for a person with hearing loss to hear and comprehend, it is best to get their attention before speaking.  Say that person’s name and let them know you want to have a conversation. 

2)      “WALK BEFORE YOU TALK” (Remensnyder, Linda) – We all hear better when we can see who is speaking, read their lips, watch facial expressions and hand gestures; therefore, don’t expect someone with hearing loss to hear and understand you when they cannot see you. 

3)      TURN IT OFF – We all hear better when there is less noise around; therefore, make sure to turn off any competing sounds (e.g., TV, radio, dishwasher, etc.)

4)      SLOW DOWN – It is not necessary to shout at someone wearing a hearing aid if they are still struggling to hear you, simply enunciate your words; talk slowly and distinctly. 

5)      REPHRASE – If the hearing aid wearer says “what,” don’t repeat the exact same sentence; rephrase what you have said in order for them to use all of the information to fill in the blanks. 

6)      BE PATIENT – If you think it’s frustrating, just image what it is like on their end.  It can be very lonely and isolating when you cannot hear especially when you know that your better hearing loved ones are frustrated with you.  Communication is a two-way street.  Try to understand that your hearing impaired loved one has a disability and that you can help the conversation by implementing these simple communication strategies.

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