Hearing Aids

Helping Loved Ones Feel Included During the Holidays

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Holidays are a time for family gatherings and celebrations. While most of us relish this time of year and the festivities that ensue, keep in mind that large social gatherings are one of the most difficult environments for someone with hearing loss. Even if surrounded by loved ones, not being able to hear or engage in conversations often makes them feel isolated.

Statistics show that 50% of us will have someone with hearing loss at our holiday table. Thirty percent of holiday gatherings will include someone with hearing aids. 

We've compiled a short list of tips to make sure everyone feels included in the upcoming festivities.

For Friends/Family of Someone with Hearing Loss:

1.     Reduce or eliminate background noises in the main gathering space, such as music or the TV.

2.     Remove or minimize obstacles that interfere with a person’s ability to lip read, such as dim lighting and large centerpieces.

3.     Ask your friend/family member where they’d like to sit. Seat them beside someone who will help them navigate conversations.

4.     If asked to repeat yourself, consider rephrasing what you just said. Oftentimes, those with hearing loss have difficulty hearing a particular word or or deciphering a sound of speech. 

5.     When speaking to someone with hearing loss, stay close. It's often a good idea to touch their arm or shoulder before you speak to get their attention. Face them in case they need to read your lips.

Tips for Those with Hearing Loss

1.     Choose a place at the table that is best for you. If seating has been pre-determined, ask the host if you can re-arrange yours.

2.     Sit beside someone who is your advocate; someone who will repeat things for you if necessary and be patient with you.

3.     Too much background noise? Move the conversation to a quieter room, if possible.

4.     If the music or TV is too loud, ask the host to turn it down. Be polite, but assertive. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. 

5.     If you have hearing aids, wear them! You can always make adjustments to volume or settings if needed. 

Most importantly, we hope everyone enjoys this holiday season surrounded by those you care about most. Sending all of you our best holiday wishes. Cheers!

NPR: Take Care of Your Eyes and Ears to Keep Your Brain Sharp

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We’ve published several blog posts discussing the relationship between the brain and ears. A recent story on NPR (National Public Radio) shared research findings that further link hearing (and sight) to cognitive functioning. Researchers tracked approximately 2,000 older adults in the U.S. both before and after they started using hearing aids. A series of tests were performed with participants every two years from 1996 to 2014. They found the rate of cognitive decline was slowed by 75 percent following the adoption of hearing aids. The same study found that the rate of cognitive decline was slowed by 50 percent following cataract surgery. You can read the full article here. Our takeaway? We understand no one wants hearing aids, but it’s proven that hearing better improves your quality of life, both physically and mentally.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, read our July 2018 blog post, How Untreated Hearing Loss Affects Your Mental Health. It provides more details about the relationship between the ears and the brain and how untreated hearing loss affects the brain’s ability to remember common everyday sounds.

6 Facts About Hearing Aids

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We know you've heard of hearing aids (no pun intended). But, there are a few myths and misperceptions we'd like to address. We've narrowed down our list to six of the most common comments, questions, and concerns we receive in our office.

1. Hearing Aids Are Not Just For The Elderly

It's true: age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss. But, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), of the 466 million people worldwide who suffer from hearing loss, it is estimated that 34 million of these are children (7%). It also estimates that 1.1 billion young people (between 12–35 years old) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings. In fact, we blogged earlier this summer about how hearing loss is on the rise among teens. 

2. Hearing Aids Do Not Cure Hearing Loss

Hearing aids will improve your quality of life by helping you hear life's special moments and feel more connected to the world, but they will not cure your hearing loss. Hearing aids treat hearing loss, though; in fact, more than 95% of hearing loss cases can be treated with today's hearing technologies. 

3. You May Need Hearing Aids Even With A Mild Hearing Loss

Untreated hearing loss, even mild, affects the brain's ability to remember common everyday sounds. When the hearing nerves lose their function and no longer send sounds to the brain, the brain "forgets" the sounds and is unable to understand them over time. The longer people wait to seek treatment, the more sounds will be unrecognizable once treatment is sought. Of course, your audiologist will help you determine if hearing aids are the proper treatment.

4. Hearing Aids Won't Affect Your Lifestyle

Today's hearing technologies are suitable for all lifestyles. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, there are bluetooth-compatible hearing aids that pair with your phone, so you can hear conversations, music and other sounds from your phone directly in your ears. Do you work out and sweat frequently? There are now water resistant hearing aids. Are you often in the company of large groups of people? Hearing aids with multi-directional microphones will help you hear conversations taking place in front of, to the side of, and behind you. 

5. You Should Not Purchase Hearing Aids Online

In order to maximize the potential of your hearing aids and ensure a proper fit, there is customization required from your audiologist. You'll more than likely have questions, which your audiologist can answer, as well. Sure, you may be able to find less expensive hearing aids online, but you won't receive the care and personal attention your hearing deserves.

6. Today's Hearing Aids Are Virtually Invisible

We understand the concerns people have with wanting to keep hearing aids concealed, especially  those who are younger. Unfortunately, hearing aids aren't yet as widely accepted as glasses. But, today's hearing aid technologies are virtually invisible. They come in multiple colors to match your hair or skin type. There are even tiny hearing aids that fit in your ear canal. The different fits have pros and cons, so an audiologist will help you determine which fit works best for you. 

If you have questions or would like to learn more about hearing aid technologies, please feel free to give us a call.

Hear the Joy of the Holidays

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The holiday season is right around the corner! For many, holidays are a time for family gatherings and celebrations. However, large social gatherings are one of the most difficult environments for someone with hearing loss. Not being able to hear or engage in conversations can feel very isolating.

Statistics show that 50% of us will have someone with hearing loss at our holiday table. Thirty percent of holiday gatherings will include someone with hearing aids. 

There are simple steps everyone can take - those with hearing loss and their friends/family members - to make sure the upcoming festivities are enjoyed by all. We've included some helpful tips below.

For Friends/Family of Someone with Hearing Loss:

1.     Reduce or eliminate background noises in the main gathering space, such as music or the TV.

2.     Remove or minimize obstacles that interfere with a person’s ability to lip read, such as dim lighting and large centerpieces.

3.     Ask your friend/family member where they’d like to sit. Seat them beside someone who will help them navigate conversations.

4.     If asked to repeat yourself, consider rephrasing what you just said. Oftentimes, those with hearing loss have difficulty hearing a particular word or or deciphering a sound of speech. 

5.     When speaking to someone with hearing loss, stay close. It's often a good idea to touch their arm or shoulder before you speak to get their attention. Face them in case they need to read your lips.

Tips for Those with Hearing Loss

1.     Choose a place at the table that is best for you. If seating has been pre-determined, ask the host if you can re-arrange yours.

2.     Sit beside someone who is your advocate; someone who will repeat things for you if necessary and be patient with you.

3.     Too much background noise? Move the conversation to a quieter room, if possible.

4.     If the music or TV is too loud, ask the host to turn it down. Be polite, but assertive. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. 

5.     If you have hearing aids, wear them! You can always make adjustments to volume or settings if needed. 

Most importantly, we hope everyone enjoys this holiday season surrounded by those you care about most. Sending all of you our best holiday wishes. 

How to Talk to Your Doctor: Choosing the Right Hearing Aids for You

If you're reading this post, hopefully you've already familiarized yourself with how to talk to your doctor about hearing loss. This is Part 2 of our "How to Talk to Your Doctor" series and will focus on the conversations following the initial hearing screening, after it has been determined that your level of hearing loss requires support from hearing aid technologies. 

First, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the various hearing aid options. There are in-the-ear, behind-the-ear, rechargeable-battery, iPhone-compatible, and many more hearing aid options from which to choose. Make a list of what is most important to you from a hearing aid perspective. Here are some things to consider:

  • How active is your lifestyle? Do you spend most of your days in a quiet or more social setting? Are you just trying to hear the TV better, or do you need to actively participate in group conversations? This will help you decide which features will work best with your lifestyle, such as noise reduction, directional microphones, wireless technologies, additional programming, and more.
  • How often are you on the phone? If your answer is "often," you should consider the iPhone/mobile phone compatible hearing aids. 
  • How important is discreetness? Hearing aids vary in discreetness, ranging from the most discreet completely-in-the-canal options to less discreet behind-the-ear technologies. Of course, each type also has its pros and cons. Be sure to discuss these with your audiologist.
  • Do you have a budget? Hearing aids also vary in costs, so it's important to discuss your personal budget with your audiologist when deciding which technology is best for you.
  • Are rechargeable batteries important? The latest hearing aid technologies offer rechargeable battery options. This is an important consideration from environmental, maintenance and cost perspectives. 
  • Can you take the hearing aid for a test drive? Hearing aids are an important investment. Before settling on a final option, ask if you can take them for a test drive. Even if it's not exactly the hearing aid you plan to order, it will give you a good idea of what you can expect and will help you prioritize features and programs. You can read one of our patient's reviews after a demo with the iPhone-compatible hearing aids. 

Finally, find a reputable, local audiologist. During the first few months, you'll be getting used to your hearing aids and will probably have many questions or will need to visit the office for minor adjustments. This is why it's important to find a local audiologist that you trust. It's also the reason we recommend against buying something as important as hearing aids online. There is no "one size fits all" when it comes to your hearing. You'll need to work with your audiologist until you find the best solution for your hearing loss and lifestyle needs.

 

Rechargeable Hearing Aids: How ZPower is Changing the Landscape

Update: We now carry these in our Roanoke and Charlottesville (Crozet) offices. Call us to find out if you're eligible for this rechargeable battery upgrade. If you're in the market for a new pair of hearing aids, some manufacturers offer the ZPower batteries at no additional charge, as well as other incentives!

A new generation of rechargeable battery technologies has set out to make life easier for hearing aid consumers. The most common complaints we hear among hearing aid users relate to batteries: they fail at the most inconvenient times; they can be expensive to replace; and, they're bad for the environment.

Depending on the sophistication of your technology, such as streaming capabilities, they may only last a few days! According to a study of over 500 hearing aid users, 70 percent said they want rechargeable hearing aids, even though only 11 percent said they currently have them. Our "No More Batteries" blog post from last year continues to be our most-read post to date, so we know this is a topic that many of our patients are interested in learning more about.

The ZPower silver-zinc batteries are the latest to hit the market. ZPower is an independent battery company, which means its rechargeable batteries can be used instead of standard disposable batteries in many manufacturers' hearing aid models. This works by replacing the original battery compartment with ZPower’s retrofit battery compartment, which we can do right in our office.

Why ZPower?

ZPower’s silver-zinc rechargeable batteries offer hearing aid wearers 24-hours of use time—even with streaming technology. If you forget to charge the battery, you can replace the ZPower batteries with the standard disposable zinc-air batteries - they're interchangeable! Additionally, ZPower batteries are safe, 100% recyclable, mercury-free, and non-flammable. (Remember the recent lithium-ion Samsung phone recall? Lithium-ion batteries are used in many rechargeable hearing aid models and, therefore, have to be placed in sealed cases to ensure safety.) ZPower's proprietary silver-zinc battery technology also can be recharged hundreds of times without losing significant capacity. An extra bonus: they're made in the U.S.A. The silver-zinc technology was originally developed by NASA for its Apollo moon missions. 

What's Next?

The hearing aid industry is making vast strides with the introduction of new technologies every year. Looking to the near future, we should expect to see further developments from other major hearing aid manufactures and third-party companies. Battery life in hearing aids is getting shorter as technology improves. That's why we're so grateful that companies like ZPower are offering our patients more innovative solutions. 

We will continue to post about rechargeable hearing aid batteries as news of new products becomes available. In the meantime, feel free to call us for more information or ask about it at your next appointment. 

A Review: Pairing New Hearing Aids with My iPhone

I'm 40 years old and have worn hearing aids since my late 20s due to a (lucky me) hereditary hearing loss. I'm a working mom with an active lifestyle, so when it was time for a new pair of hearing aids, I immediately gravitated towards the new styles that would pair with my iPhone. I'm on the phone a lot during the day with my job and have numerous conference calls during the week, so having my calls stream directly through my hearing aids sounded ideal to me.

Hearing Health Associates allowed me to demo a pair of AGXO G-Series hearing aids and paired them with the RemoteLink app on my iPhone. After one week of testing these new hearing aids, I asked Dr. Cameron and Dr. Garber if I could share my experience. Hearing aids are a large investment, and I feel it's better to read personal reviews rather than the manufacturers' specs. 

Here are my top takeaways for those of you considering this investment:

1. Easy Setup - I was in and out of the office in about 15 minutes. I downloaded the app on my phone. Dr. Garber walked me through the steps of pairing the new hearing aids with the app. I watched a quick tutorial on how to use the app, and then Dr. Garber created two programs - one for every day use, and one that I call the "restaurant" program, which helps minimize noise in a loud space so you can hear the person/people you're talking to. That's it! I was ready to go!

2. My "Aha!" Moment: First Phone Call - I immediately left the office, got in the car, and called my husband. The clarity of his voice was reason enough to purchase these. It's comparable to wearing earbuds while talking on the phone - the sound is streaming through both ears - only there are no wires and no removing and inserting the hearing aids and earbuds. Prior to this, I would have a hard time talking on the phone, never knowing quite where to hold the phone for optimal listening. I often found myself putting it on speaker. 

The phone also rings in your ears, so you don't have to miss important calls. Note: I disconnected the Bluetooth on my phone if I didn't want to be disturbed. Also, you can mute the ringing on your hearing aids and on the phone if it's nearby.

Drawback: I have bluetooth in my car, and sometimes my phone would get confused - was it supposed to send calls to my hearing aids or to my car? There were times when a single conversation went back and forth between the two, which drove me a little crazy. After giving this feedback to Dr. Garber, she said you can set your iPhone so it defaults to the hearing aids. 

3. No More Earbuds! - I listened to music, podcasts, and my favorite shows on my phone without having to remove my hearing aids to use my earbuds. This also was a huge benefit to me.

Drawback: This took some getting used to when it came to my kids using my phone to play games or watch videos. The noise would suddenly blast through my hearing aids. I once jumped and yelled at dinner with friends because my youngest borrowed my phone and started playing YouTube videos upstairs. I had to remember to disconnect the Bluetooth before I gave my phone to the kids. I also put a password on my phone so they couldn't just grab it and use it without my permission.

4. A Heads Up on Battery Life - Another one of my favorite features was checking the life of my batteries through the app. If I was leaving the house for the day, I could see if I needed to bring backup batteries. I can't tell you how many meetings I've been in where my hearing aids start beeping, giving me a 5-minute warning that the battery was about to die. With this app, I was much better prepared.

5. Separate Volume Adjustment - I loved that I could adjust the volume of each hearing aid through the app. I was recently sitting beside someone VERY soft spoken on my right, so I just increased the volume in that hearing aid to hear her better. This way, you're not distracted by other noises in the room by having to increase the volume in both ears.

I also loved the overall volume feature when watching TV. Usually, I sit with the remote in my hands because I have to turn up the volume when people are conversing and turn it down during music, loud blasts or other noises. With the new hearing aids, I could make these adjustments from my phone and share the remote with my family again! I realize I could do that by pressing the buttons on my old hearing aids, but this was different somehow. Perhaps there is greater control of the volume levels? With my old ones, it just seemed easier to use the remote control. Note: There is a TV adaptor that you can purchase that allows the TV to stream through your hearing aids like your phone. I didn't test this, but it sounds great!

6. Discreet Adjustments - Changes to volume, settings, and more is just a quick swipe on your phone. No more reaching up behind your ear to click on buttons only to find that you clicked the wrong one so you have to reach up again. The app is super easy to use, and people think nothing of you having your phone out.

Overall, I loved just about every aspect and am definitely purchasing these. The biggest learning curve was remembering to turn off the bluetooth during meetings or social settings, in the car (if I just wanted to use my car bluetooth), and when my kids used my phone. It's similar to turning off the ringer on your phone - you just have to train your brain so that it becomes second nature. I'm also hoping the app gets updated so I can make more specific adjustments, like directional adjustments for the microphone or increases in volume for certain difficult-to-hear pitches. 

Drs. Garber and Cameron at Hearing Health Associates have been wonderful during this journey. They constantly keep me up to date with the latest technologies since they know that's important to me. 

Feel free to leave comments or questions. Hope this helped some of you who have been thinking of updating or making the jump to hearing aids.

Hearing Aid Guide: Which Fit is Best for You?

There are many different styles of hearing aids; the choices can be overwhelming. Ultimately, you and your audiologist will decide which style is best for you depending on your hearing needs, lifestyle, and style preference.

Hearing aids are categorized by how they are worn. Here are several of the most common categories:

  1. BTEs—behind the ear—fit snugly behind your outer ear.
    a. Open Fit is a variation of a BTE hearing aid with a thin tube that keeps the ear canal open.
    b. RIC - receiver in the canal - are the smallest BTEs that also leave the ear canal open so you don't get that "plugged up" sensation.
  2. ITEs—in the ear—are custom-fitted to your outer ear’s contours.
    a. ITCs—in the canal—are smaller. They fit farther into the ear canal so they are barely visible.
    b. IICs—invisible in the canal—are the smallest ITEs. Cosmetically, they may be the most flattering, but their tiny size can be a real disadvantage in handling.

Pros & Cons of BTEs and ITEs

Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Hearing Aids - BTEs fit snugly behind your outer ear and attach to the ear with either a custom mold or a thin tube with a flexible "dome" tip at the end that is inserted into the canal. 

Pros: Can provide significant low- and high-frequency amplification. Comfortable. Barely visible (especially the RIC hearing aids). Prevents a plugged-up feeling. Easy to insert. Compatible with most technologies. Less feedback issues because of greater separation between microphone and receiver. Easy-to-clean custom molds. Domes are disposable to help prevent wax build up.

Cons: Wax and moisture may limit life of receiver for RIC models. More sensitive to wind noise. Custom molds need to be replaced every few years. Custom molds are more visible. Dome tips need to be replaced frequently (but come in disposable packages.)

In-the-Ear (ITE) Hearing Aids - IICs (Invisible in the Canal) are the smallest ITE hearing aids. ITCs (In the Canal) are more visible than IICs but still very discreet. ITEs (In the Ear) are the largest and fit within the outer ear's contours. Because of the various sizes of ITEs, we've included pros and cons of each category:

1. Invisible-in-the-Canal Hearing Aids - Limited to mild and moderate hearing loss.

Pros: Extremely discreet. Insensitive to wind noise. Better for phone usage. Virtually no feedback.

Cons: Ear might feel plugged up unless hearing aid is vented. No directional microphone. Vulnerable to wax and moisture. Due to its size, handling may be difficult. Battery life is relatively short. 

2. In-the-Canal Hearing Aid

Pros: Molded to fit within the ear canal. Barely visible. Relatively easy to insert. Larger units can include directional microphones. Use a larger battery than IICs, so batter life is longer. 

Cons: Similar issues as IICs on a less severe scale.

3. In-the-Ear Hearing Aid

Pros: Offer more features than ITCs and IICs, such as directional microphone and volume control. Less of a "plugged-up" feeling when vented. Easy to insert.

Cons: More visible. Vulnerable to wax build-up and moisture. Feedback may be an issue.

For more information about hearing aid styles, take a look at the chart on our website. We also list the categories that best fit various lifestyles. For the latest in hearing aid technologies, you may be interested in this post about the next generation, or our post, How to Talk to Your Doctor About Hearing Aids. As always, if you have questions or would like additional details on styles and new technologies, feel free to contact us. 

Tips to Helping Loved Ones Hear the Joy of the Holidays

Holidays are a time for family gatherings and celebrations. While most of us relish this time of year and the festivities that ensue, keep in mind that large social gatherings are one of the most difficult environments for someone with hearing loss. Even if surrounded by loved ones, not being able to hear or engage in conversations often makes them feel isolated.

Statistics show that 50% of us will have someone with hearing loss at our holiday table. Thirty percent of holiday gatherings will include someone with hearing aids. 

We've compiled a short list of tips to make sure everyone feels included in the upcoming festivities.

For Friends/Family of Someone with Hearing Loss:

1.     Reduce or eliminate background noises in the main gathering space, such as music or the TV.

2.     Remove or minimize obstacles that interfere with a person’s ability to lip read, such as dim lighting and large centerpieces.

3.     Ask your friend/family member where they’d like to sit. Seat them beside someone who will help them navigate conversations.

4.     If asked to repeat yourself, consider rephrasing what you just said. Oftentimes, those with hearing loss have difficulty hearing a particular word or or deciphering a sound of speech. 

5.     When speaking to someone with hearing loss, stay close. It's often a good idea to touch their arm or shoulder before you speak to get their attention. Face them in case they need to read your lips.

Tips for Those with Hearing Loss

1.     Choose a place at the table that is best for you. If seating has been pre-determined, ask the host if you can re-arrange yours.

2.     Sit beside someone who is your advocate; someone who will repeat things for you if necessary and be patient with you.

3.     Too much background noise? Move the conversation to a quieter room, if possible.

4.     If the music or TV is too loud, ask the host to turn it down. Be polite, but assertive. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. 

5.     If you have hearing aids, wear them! You can always make adjustments to volume or settings if needed. 

Most importantly, we hope everyone enjoys this holiday season surrounded by those you care about most. Sending all of you our best holiday wishes. Cheers!

No More Batteries! Introducing Rechargeable Hearing Aids

 Phonak Rechargeable Hearing Aids and Charging Station

Phonak Rechargeable Hearing Aids and Charging Station

Changing batteries is one of the biggest complaints of hearing aid users. Typical battery usage can range from 3-14 days, depending on the type of hearing loss, the size and type of the hearing aid, and the amount of time the hearing aid is in use. The advanced digital technologies found in the newer models also use more battery power. 

Thanks to ever-evolving technology, several manufacturers have introduced rechargeable hearing aids to the market recently. 

 Siemens Rechargeable Hearing Aids and eCharger

Siemens Rechargeable Hearing Aids and eCharger

Siemens has a few lines of rechargeable hearing aids. Siemens Pure and Siemens Carat hearing aids can be charged for 6 hours for up to 18 hours of listening time. A car charger adapter also is available. These batteries last up to one year.

 Phonak Mini Charging Station

Phonak Mini Charging Station

Phonak takes it a step further with its Audeo B-R line, which was released in August. With a simple 3-hour charge, you'll have up to 24 hours of performance. For those who are always on the go, Phonak offers a 30-minute charge for up to 6 hours of listening time. Additionally, these lithium-ion batteries last through the lifetime of a hearing aid. The battery compartment actually is sealed. No more opening and closing!

 Signia Cellion primax hearing aids and charging station

Signia Cellion primax hearing aids and charging station

Just last month, Signia introduced the Cellion™ primax™ hearing aid. Like Phonak's Audeo B-R, the Cellion contains no battery door and gives wearers up to 24 hours on a single charge. The difference is that Cellion's OneShell design contains no charging contacts, meaning you don't have to align the hearing aids inside a charger. Nor does it matter which side you place the hearing aids on inside the charger. Once inserted, the hearing aids automatically turn off and begin to charge. The full charging process takes up to 4 hours. Cellion also offers a quick 30-minute charge for up to 7 hours of hearing enjoyment. And, the charging unit is equipped with a standard micro-USB interface that allows wearers to charge their hearing aids with nearly any USB-compatible device.

If you are interested in learning more about these models and more, please feel free to contact us!