Tips For Improving Communication in the Presence of Hearing Loss

Two women having a conversation outside

Communicating in the presence of hearing loss can be frustrating—for both parties. For individuals with hearing loss, limited hearing can be upsetting and fatiguing, and for their communication companions, the frequent repeating can be just as taxing.

But the difficulty can be mitigated provided that both parties take responsibility for successful conversation. Since communication is a two-way process, both parties should work together to conquer the obstacles of hearing loss.

Here are some helpful tips for effective communication.

Tips for those with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss:

  • Aim at full disclosure; don’t just state that you have trouble hearing. Elaborate on the cause of your hearing loss and provide tips for the other person to best communicate with you.
  • Suggest to your communication partner things like:
    • Keep short distances in between us
    • Face to face communication is best
    • Get my attention prior to talking with me
    • Talk slowly and clearly without shouting
  • Find quiet places for conversations. Limit background noise by shutting off music, finding a quiet booth at a restaurant, or identifying a quiet room at home.
  • Retain a sense of humor. Our patients often have happy memories of ridiculous misunderstandings that they can now laugh about.

Remember that people are usually empathetic, but only when you take some time to explain your position. If your communication partner is aware of your challenges and requirements, they’re considerably less likely to become angry when communication is disrupted.

Guidelines for those without hearing loss

If your communication partner has hearing loss:

  • Gain the person’s attention before speaking. Don’t shout from across the room and face the person when speaking.
  • Ensure that the person can see your lips and enunciate your words diligently. Sustain a consistent volume in your speech.
  • Limit background noise by choosing quiet areas for discussions. Turn off the television or radio.
  • In groups, ensure that only one person is speaking at any given time.
  • Keep in mind that for those with hearing loss, it is a hearing problem, not a comprehension problem. Be prepared to repeat yourself on occasion, and remember that this is not because of a lack of intelligence on their part.
  • Never use the phrase “never mind.” This expression is dismissive and implies that the person is not worth having to repeat what was important enough to say in the first place.

When communication fails, it’s convenient to blame the other person, but that’s the wrong approach.

As an example, consider John and Mary. John has hearing loss and Mary has normal hearing, and they are having considerable communication issues. John is convinced Mary is insensitive to his hearing loss and Mary believes John is using his hearing loss as an excuse to be inattentive.

Instead, what if John searched for ways to improve his listening skills, and provided tips for Mary to communicate better? At the same time, what if Mary did the same and attempted to find ways that she could communicate more clearly.

Now, both John and Mary are accepting responsibility for their own communication and are not blaming the other person for the problems. This is the only road to better communication.

Do you have any communication recommendations you’d like to add? Let us know in a comment.

How to Cope With Listening Fatigue From Hearing Loss

Woman holding her hands up to her forehead exhausted

Have you ever experienced intense mental fatigue? Maybe you felt this way after finishing the SAT exam, or after completing any test or task that called for intense concentration. It’s like running a marathon in your head—and when you’re done, you just want to crash.

An analogous experience happens in those with hearing loss, and it’s known as listening or hearing fatigue. Those with hearing loss pick up only limited or incomplete sounds, which they then have to make sense out of. With respect to comprehending speech, it’s like playing a continual game of crosswords.

Those with hearing loss are presented with context and a few sounds and letters, but in many cases they then have to fill in the blanks to decipher what’s being said. Language comprehension, which is supposed to be natural, turns into a problem-solving workout demanding deep concentration.

For example: C n ou r ad t is s nt e ce?

You probably figured out that the arbitrary array of letters above spells “Can you read this sentence?” But you also likely had to stop and think it over, filling in the blanks. Imagine having to read this entire article in this manner and you’ll have an understanding for the listening demands placed on those with hearing loss.

The Personal Effects of Listening Fatigue

If speech comprehension becomes a chore, and social interaction becomes exhausting, what’s the likely consequence? People will begin to stay away from communication situations completely.

That’s exactly why we see many people with hearing loss come to be a lot less active than they had previously been. This can contribute to social isolation, lack of sound stimulation to the brain, and to the higher rates of mental decline that hearing loss is increasingly being linked with.

The Societal Impact

Hearing loss is not only exhausting and frustrating for the individual: hearing loss has economic repercussions as well.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that the societal cost of severe to profound hearing loss in the US is approximately $300,000 per person over the course of each person’s life. Collectively, this amounts to billions of dollars, and according to the NCBI, the majority of the cost is attributable to lowered work efficiency.

Corroborating this assertion, the Better Hearing Institute found that hearing loss adversely impacted household income by an average of $12,000 annually. Additionally, the more severe the hearing loss, the greater the impact it had on income.

Tips for Reducing Listening Fatigue

Listening fatigue, then, has both high individual and societal costs. So what can be done to offset its effects? Here are some tips:

  • Wear Hearing aids – hearing aids help to “fill in the blanks,” thus avoiding listening fatigue. While hearing aids are not perfect, they also don’t have to be—crossword puzzles are much easier if all the letters are filled in with the exception of one or two.
  • Take regular breaks from sound – If we try to run 10 miles all at once without a break, most of us will fail and give up. If we pace ourselves, taking regular breaks, we can cover 10 miles in a day relatively easily. When you have the occasion, take a break from sound, find a quiet area, or meditate.
  • Reduce background noise – bringing in background noise is like erasing the letters in a partly completed crossword puzzle. It drowns out speech, making it difficult to understand. Make an effort to limit background music, find quiet places to talk, and go with the quieter sections of a restaurant.
  • Read as a substitute to watching TV – this isn’t bad advice on its own, but for those with hearing loss, it’s doubly relevant. After spending a day bombarded by sound, give your ears a break and read a book.

3 Ways Hearing Aids Can Prevent Cognitive Decline

abstract graphic of brain

In 2013, Johns Hopkins University researcher and epidemiologist Dr. Frank Lin guided a study that was the first to appraise the potential consequence of hearing loss on mental performance.

Volunteers with hearing loss took repeated cognitive exams, used to evaluate memory and thinking skills, over the length of six years. Hearing tests were also conducted over the same time frame.

What the investigators found was concerning: the cognitive abilities of those with hearing loss diminished 30 to 40 percent faster than those with normal hearing, even after accounting for other contributing factors like age, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

But that wasn’t everything. Not only did those with hearing loss experience higher rates of cognitive decline—the decline was directly related to the intensity of the hearing loss. The more severe the hearing loss, the greater deterioration to brain performance. Furthermore, those with hearing loss displayed signals of significant cognitive deterioration 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing.

The research shows a strong association between hearing loss and cognitive decline, but the question remains as to how hearing loss can trigger cognitive decline.

How Hearing Loss Causes Cognitive Decline

Researchers have proposed three explanations for the correlation between hearing loss and cognitive decline:

  1. Hearing loss can bring about social isolation, which is a recognized risk factor for cognitive decline.
  2. Hearing loss forces the brain to commit too many resources to the processing of sound, at the expense of memory and thinking.
  3. A shared underlying trauma to the brain causes both hearing loss and reduced brain function.

Perhaps it’s a blend of all three. What is apparent is that, regardless of the cause, the connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline is powerful.

The question now becomes, what can be done about it? Experts estimate that 27 million Americans over age 50, including two-thirds of men and women aged 70 years and older, are afflicted by some kind of hearing loss. Is there a way those with hearing loss can protect against or counter cognitive decline?

Can Hearing Aids Help?

Remember the three ways that hearing loss is believed to trigger hastened cognitive decline. Now, think about how hearing aids could deal with or correct those causes:

  1. People with hearing aids increase their social confidence, become more socially active, and the effects of social isolation—and its contribution to brain decline—are lessened or removed.
  2. Hearing aids protect against the overtaxing impact of struggling to hear. Mental resources are freed up and available for memory and thinking.
  3. Hearing aids yield elevated sound stimulation to the brain, helping to re-create neural connections.

Admittedly, this is mainly theoretical, and the big question is: does utilizing hearing aids, in fact, slow or prevent accelerated mental decline, and can we measure this?

The answer could be discovered in an upcoming study by Dr. Frank Lin, the head researcher of the initial study. Lin is working on the first clinical trial to examine whether hearing aids can be objectively measured to protect against or mitigate brain decline.

Stay tuned for the results, which we’ll address on our blog once published.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Q-Tips to Clean Your Ears

Woman holding a cotton swab up to her ear canal

You have most likely never noticed, but on the backside of any package of cotton swabs there’s a written warning that is some variation of this:

“Caution: Do not enter the ear canal. Entering the ear canal could cause injury.”

If you have a package of cotton swabs nearby, go check it out for yourself.

The truth is, it’s not just doctors, audiologists, and hearing professionals who advise against the use of cotton swabs to clean the ears—even the makers of cotton swabs believe it’s a bad idea!

So why, if the use of cotton swabs is such a preferred method of ear cleaning, should it be refrained from? Why are the producers so insistent that you don’t use their own product in this way?

We’re excited you asked: the following are four reasons to never use cotton swabs to clean your ears again.

1. Earwax is important

Earwax has a couple of useful functions apart from being gross. It has antibacterial attributes to reduce the risk of infections, it works as an insect repellent to keep bugs out of your ears, and it helps to lubricate the ear canal, which helps prevent dried out, itchy skin.

2. Cotton Swabs force earwax up against the eardrum

Using cotton swabs can actually be dangerous. When you drive any foreign object into the ear canal, you’re pushing most of the earwax up against the eardrum. This can rupture the eardrum or can result in an impaction that will bring about hearing loss.

3. Earwax removes itself

The ear is structured to remove its own earwax. The natural movements of your jaw—from talking, eating, or yawning—will push the earwax to the external ear. All that’s needed on your part is normal showering and cleaning the outer ear with a washcloth.

4. Too much earwax removal causes dryness

Earwax has lubricating and antibacterial properties, so if you remove too much, you’ll experience a dried out, itchy feeling and will be more predisposed to infections.

What you can do instead

There are a variety of commercial (and do-it-yourself) solutions you can use to flush out your ears, which is far safer than inserting foreign objects into the ear canal. However, if you’re having problems with excess earwax or you’re having difficulties hearing, it’s usually best to seek the advise of a hearing professional.

Hearing professionals are thoroughly educated in the structure and function of the ear, and can diagnose any issues you may have with earwax buildup or hearing loss. It’s always a wise course of action to rule out more severe problems, and if cleaning is all that’s needed, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that it’s being done the right way.

Hearing Loss: Overcoming Resistance to Treatment

Father and son sitting on couch

The intriguing thing about hearing loss is that, statistically, if you have it, you more than likely won’t acknowledge it or seek out care for at least five to seven years—possibly longer.

The statistics:

  • 20 percent of the US population, or 48 million people, have some level of hearing loss.
  • Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment.
  • Of those who do seek treatment, they’ll wait 5 to 7 years prior to getting a hearing test.
  • Of those that obtain a hearing test, they’ll delay, on average, 10 years after the established diagnosis before getting hearing aids.

As a consequence, on average, out of 100 people, 20 will have hearing loss. Out of those 20, only 4 will search for treatment. And those 4 people will wait 5 to 7 years before obtaining a test, after which they’ll wait an additional 10 years before buying a hearing aid.

That means, in this sample of 100 individuals, 16 people will go without better hearing indefinitely, while the 4 that do get help will have forfeited 15 years of better hearing and a better quality of life.

Resistance to Finding Help

If you work in the hearing care profession, these numbers are bothersome. You’ve most likely entered the profession to help people—and with contemporary technology you know you can—yet the vast majority of people won’t even try to enhance their hearing, or for that matter, even admit there’s an issue.

The question is, why do millions of people throughout the United States deny their hearing loss or avoid seeking help?

We’ve discovered the most common factors to be:

1. Hearing loss is progressive

Hearing loss as a rule develops in small increments over many years and isn’t perceptible at any one instant. For example, you’d notice a sudden 20-decibel hearing loss, but you wouldn’t necessarily notice a yearly loss of 1-2 decibels over 10 years.

2. Hearing loss is partial

High-frequency hearing loss (the most common kind) mainly impacts higher frequency sounds. That suggests you might be able to hear low-frequency sounds normally, generating the perception that your hearing is normal. The problem is, speech is high-frequency, so you may feel that the speaker is mumbling when, the truth is, hearing loss is to blame.

3. Hearing loss is invisible and painless

Hearing loss is subjective: it can’t be diagnosed by visual evaluation and it’s not ordinarily accompanied by any pain or uncomfortableness. The only method to appropriately measure hearing loss is with a professional hearing test (audiometry).

4. Hearing loss is not evaluated by the majority of family doctors

Only a small percentage of family physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. Your hearing loss will most likely not be noticeable in a tranquil office atmosphere, so your physician may have no reason at all to even suspect hearing loss—and they may not even be trained in its proper assessment.

5. Hearing loss is easily compensated for

If you have hearing loss, there are alternative ways to intensify sounds: you can turn-up the volume of the TV or require people to yell or repeat themselves. But not only does this strategy work poorly, it also shifts the stress of your hearing loss onto other people.

If individuals can surmount these hurdles, they still face the stigma of hearing loss (although it’s fading), the expense of hearing aids (although it’s dropping), and the perception that hearing aids simply don’t work (entirely erroneous).

With so many obstacles, it’s no wonder why so many individuals wait to deal with their hearing loss, if they decide to deal with it at all. But it doesn’t need to be that way…

Overcoming the Roadblocks to Healthier Hearing

Here’s how you can overcome the obstacles to better hearing and help others do the same:

  1. Know the odds – hearing loss is among the most prevalent health issues in the United States. 20 percent of the population has hearing loss, so it’s not unlikely that you may, as well.
  2. Accept your hearing loss – hearing loss is common, and so are hearing aids. Millions of people in the US use hearing aids and most are satisfied.
  3. Obtain a hearing exam – hearing loss is difficult to discern and easy to deny. The only way to know for certain is by obtaining a professional hearing test.
  4. Learn about hearing aidsmodern hearing aids have been proven to be effective, and with a multitude of models and styles, there’s a pair that’s right for you and your price range.

In regard to hearing aids, the Journal of the American Medical Association in a recent study assessed three prominent hearing aid models and concluded that “each [hearing aid] circuit provided significant benefit in quiet and noisy listening situations.”

The research reveals that hearing aids are highly effective, but what do hearing aid users have to say? According to the MarkeTrak consumer satisfaction survey, 78.6% were satisfied with their hearing aid performance.

Help Reverse the Statistics

Of those with hearing loss, only 20 percent will seek treatment, in spite of the fact that hearing aids are effective and the majority of people are satisfied with their hearing aids’ overall performance.

But what if the statistics were flipped, and 80 percent of those with hearing loss sought treatment? That would mean an additional 28 million people in the US could experience all of the physical, mental, and social benefits of better hearing.

Share this article and help reverse the trend.

University Professor Demonstrates Hearing Aids Improve Memory and Speech

Group thinking, memory

Have you ever taken a course, or attended a lecture, where the ideas were delivered so quickly or in so complex a fashion that you learned next to nothing? If yes, your working memory was probably overloaded over and above its capacity.

The limitations of working memory

All of us process information in three steps: 1) sensory information is received, where it is 2) either dismissed or temporarily retained in working memory, and last, 3) either disposed of or stored in long-term memory.

The problem is, there is a limit to the quantity of information your working memory can hold. Picture your working memory as an empty cup: you can fill it with water, but once full, additional water just pours out the side.

That’s why, if you’re talking to someone who’s preoccupied or on their cell phone, your words are simply flowing out of their already occupied working memory. So you have to repeat yourself, which they’ll be aware of only when they clear their cognitive cup, devoting the mental resources required to fully understand your message.

The impact of hearing loss on working memory

So what does working memory have to do with hearing loss? In relation to speech comprehension, almost everything.

If you have hearing loss, particularly high-frequency hearing loss (the most common), you likely have difficulties hearing the higher-pitched consonant sounds of speech. Because of this, it’s easy to misunderstand what is said or to miss words completely.

However that’s not all. Together with not hearing some spoken words, you’re also straining your working memory as you try to understand speech using complementary data like context and visual cues.

This continuous processing of incomplete information burdens your working memory beyond its capacity. And to make matters worse, as we grow older, the volume of our working memory declines, exacerbating the consequences.

Working memory and hearing aids

Hearing loss taxes working memory, brings about stress, and impedes communication. But what about hearing aids? Hearing aids are supposed to enhance hearing, so theoretically hearing aids should free up working memory and improve speech comprehension, right?

That’s precisely what Jamie Desjardins, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Speech-Language Pathology Program at The University of Texas at El Paso, was intending to find out.

DesJardins studied a group of men and women in their 50s and 60s with two-sided hearing loss who had never used hearing aids. They took a preliminary cognitive test that measured working memory, attention, and processing speed, prior to ever putting on a pair of hearing aids.

Then, after wearing hearing aids for two weeks, the group retook the test. What DesJardins found was that the group participants exhibited considerable improvement in their cognitive ability, with greater short-term recollection and quicker processing speed. The hearing aids had expanded their working memory, reduced the amount of information tied up in working memory, and helped them accelerate the speed at which they processed information.

The implications of the study are wide ranging. With elevated cognitive function, hearing aid users could observe improvement in nearly every area of their lives. Better speech comprehension and memory can improve conversations, strengthen relationships, elevate learning, and supercharge productivity at work.

This experiment is one that you can try out for yourself. Our hearing aid trial period will permit you to run your own no-risk experiment to find out if you can accomplish similar improvements in memory and speech comprehension.

Are you up for the task?

Custom Earplugs Vs. Disposables

Custom-Molded Silicone Earplug

If hearing loss is the invisible disability, then sound is the invisible hazard. Without even being alert to it, the sounds we expose ourselves to could be producing permanent hearing loss that accumulates irreversibly year after year.

Who’s at risk for hearing loss?

A normal conversation registers at a volume of about 60 decibels. City traffic registers at approximately 80, a rock concert at 100, a sporting event at 105, a power saw at 110, and a shotgun blast at an earsplitting 145.

Here’s the concern: recurring exposure to any sound above 85 decibels can result in irreversible hearing loss. That’s why hearing protection is especially vital for musicians, concert-goers, hunters, and construction workers.

But it’s not as straightforward as just staying clear of the sound. Most of us are unwilling to quit our jobs or go without attending concerts just to ensure that we can hear better when we grow old. The only solution is a compromise: safeguarding our hearing by decreasing the volume of the sounds we’re subjected to. Welcome to the world of earplugs.

Custom versus disposable earplugs

The purpose of any earplug is obvious: decrease the volume of sound. And although it’s true that any earplug can achieve this, it turns out that it’s not that easy, for two reasons:

  1. All sound is not created equal—The sounds of speech are much different than the sounds of background noise. You want to suppress more of the background noise than of speech or music.
  2. Sound is dynamic—specific frequencies necessitate different handling, and volume shouldn’t be decreased by too much or by too little.

So, for an earplug to be effective, it has to 1) limit the volume of sound, but not by too much or too little, and 2) manage assorted types of sounds, or frequencies, differently.

As you’ll see, custom earplugs achieve these two feats much better than foam earplugs and have the advantage in three critical areas: sound quality, comfort, and cost.

1. Sound Quality

Foam earplugs block all sound and all frequencies, generating what is known as the occlusion effect for the user, which is the perception of a “hollow” or “booming” echo-like sound in their own voice. Foam earplugs reduce all-around sound quality and create a confined sensation.

Custom earplugs, in contrast, come with special filters for an exact, even level of noise reduction (attenuation). The earplugs can be customized to reduce volume only by the necessary amount, and can filter specific kinds of sound more than others, preserving the fidelity of speech and music.

2. Comfort

Foam earplugs, to be effective, have to form a deep seal within the ear canal, producing a constant feeling of pressure, and this “plugged up” feeling is practically universal.

Custom earplugs, however, are cast to the curves of each patient’s ears by a hearing professional, producing a secure, natural fit without the feeling of constant pressure. Custom earplugs are also crafted with soft, medical-grade material that doesn’t shrink or change shape.

In addition, foam earplugs do not adjust well to variations in ear size and shape. Since custom earplugs are specially shaped for each patient, differences in ear size and shape present no problem at all.

3. Cost

Let’s perform some quick calculations, starting with foam earplugs.

Assume that you work in a profession that requires the every-day use of earplugs. Assuming an average cost of $0.19 per pair, with use on 5 days a week over 4 years, the total cost would be:

$0.19 X 5 days X 52 weeks X 4 years = $197.60 total cost.

(Also keep in mind the environmental cost: over four years you’d be discarding 1,040 pairs of earplugs!)

Let’s do a comparison of that $197 to the cost of a pair of custom earplugs.

A high quality pair of custom earplugs can last four years or more, but let’s just say four. Most custom earplugs cost under $100, so your overall cost after four years is less than half the cost of the disposable earplugs—and you’ll get better sound quality and comfort in return.

Not to mention that by wearing the same custom earplugs for four years, you’ll reduce the waste connected with throwing out over 1,000 pairs of foam earplugs.

Custom hearing protection and foam earplugs will both reduce volume and protect your hearing, but that’s where the similarities end. Custom earplugs have better sound quality, are more comfortable, and cost you and the environment, in the long term, much less.

A Simple Guide to Hearing Aids

Small digital hearing aid in hand

Hearing aid guides are not uncommon, but the majority are not exactly reader-friendly, either. Many are generally too long or complicated, adding more confusion instead of less.

My guess is that you’re a great deal less interested in the physiology of hearing or in the particulars of acoustical engineering and much more interested in finding the proper technology at an acceptable price. Your goal is to hear better, not to read a 20-page manual.

If that represents you, then you’ll benefit from this concise guide to hearing aids. We’ll review four brief sections, and when we’re finished, you’ll be well prepared to work with your hearing care professional to discover the technology that’s most suitable for you. Let’s get started.

How All Digital Hearing Aids Work

Choosing a hearing aid can feel overwhelming—there are several brands and seemingly never-ending considerations. But it’s really not as complicated as it seems. As you progress through this guide, keep in mind that all digital hearing aids function basically the same way, and include these four basic parts:

  1. The microphone picks up environmental sound and delivers it to the digital processor.
  2. The digital processor adjusts the sound signal according to the settings programmed by the hearing specialist. The modified sound signal is then transmitted to the amplifier.
  3. The amplifier increases the volume of the sound based on the programmed settings, amplifying only the frequencies the patient has trouble hearing (while suppressing background noise). This signal is next sent to the speaker.
  4. The speaker supplies the magnified sound to the ear, producing louder, clearer sound.

In addition, all hearing aids include a battery, volume and setting switches, and remote controls.

Hearing aids really only differ in two important ways: 1) style, and 2) advanced features. We’ll address these in the next two sections.

Hearing Aid Styles

You have your choice of three primary styles:

1. Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids hook over the top of the ear and sit behind the ear. The case is then fastened to an earmold in the ear canal by a piece of clear tubing. BTE hearing aids are convenient to handle and clean, typically have a longer battery life, and can manage severe hearing loss.

2. In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids occupy the exterior part of the ear with a custom-molded shell. ITE hearing aids are smaller than the behind-the-ear hearing aids but bigger than the in-the-canal styles. This makes ITE hearing aids easier to handle than the smaller styles but less noticeable than the BTE style.

3. In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids fit partly or entirely within the ear canal, making them nearly or entirely invisible. ITC and CIC hearing aids are custom molded to the curves of the ear, and some types can be used for several months at a time.

When picking out a style, weigh the tradeoffs among ease of use, battery life, and concealment. Your hearing care professional will help you prioritize your preferences and identify the most appropriate style.

Hearing Aid Advanced Features and Accessories

After you’ve chosen the most suitable style, you can figure out which of the following features you need—and which you don’t.

  • Directional microphones enable you to focus on the sounds and conversations directly in front of you while minimizing the interruption of loud background noise.
  • Telecoils, or T-coils, allow you to talk on the phone while reducing the static brought about by background noise.
  • Environmental noise control allows you to enhance hearing based upon your environment, for example in a tranquil room at home versus in a chaotic restaurant.
  • Direct input to sound sources such as televisions, radios, computers, and music players allow for clear sound without background noise.
  • Wireless connection to mobile phones transforms your hearing aids into high-quality wireless headsets. The hearing aid settings can be manipulated from your phone (or digital watch), and sound can be wirelessly streamed straight from the phone to the hearing aids.

Optional accessories include cleaning kits, storage cases, ultraviolet sanitizers, battery-changers, and more. Your hearing care professional can help you determine which hearing aid accessories you may need or want.

Choosing the Right Hearing Aids

Before making an investment in hearing aids, take these four steps:

  1. Find a reputable, local hearing care professional. Only professionals with adequate experience can evaluate your hearing accurately, which is crucial for when it comes time to program, fit, and calibrate your hearing aids.
  2. Focus on hearing aid styles and advanced features. Your choice of hearing aids will hinge on your preference of style and functionality. Explore these two factors with your hearing expert and your options will come to be manageable.
  3. Set a budget. Some would assert that your hearing is priceless, but that doesn’t imply you have an unlimited budget. With all of the hearing aid options available to you, you and your hearing specialist can uncover the right hearing aid at a reasonable price.
  4. Test drive your new hearing aids. inquire about trial periods and test out your new hearing aids. Work with your hearing specialist to establish sensible expectations and give your hearing aids an opportunity to show results. Your patience will be rewarded when you realize the difference better hearing will make in your life.

And that’s it. What appears to be a complicated process is in fact easily manageable, once you understand how to prioritize your needs and narrow your options. With the assistance of your local hearing care professional, you can discover the ideal technology at the right price—so you can start enjoying all of the advantages of better hearing.

What Makes Modern Digital Hearing Aids Better?

Digital Hearing Aid

Technology evolves quickly: in 2006, the typical 40-inch flat screen TV would have cost you over $1,500. Today, 10 years later, you can purchase a 40-inch flat screen TV for less than $230.

The same has happened with hearing aids, even though it’s more likely to escape our awareness. We notice that TVs become bigger, better, and less expensive, but we’re blind to the advancements in hearing aids because we’re not inundated with advertising and massive store exhibits.

Nonetheless, hearing aids, along with all other consumer electronics, have improved drastically over the last 10 years. If analog hearing aids are like the bulky 15-inch-tube-TVs of the past, modern digital hearing aids are like the lightweight 65-inch-Ultra-High-Definition TVs of the present.

Here’s what makes modern hearing aids significantly better, beginning with the technology that makes it all possible.

Digital Technology

Hearing aids, like all electronics, have benefited from the digital revolution. Hearing aids have come to be, in a sense, miniaturized computers, with all of the coding flexibility you’d expect from a contemporary computer.

The result is a gadget that is compact, lightweight, energy-efficient, and proficient at manipulating information—information being, in the case of a hearing aid, sound.

So how do modern hearing aids manipulate sound? Let’s use an analogy: visualize inbound sound as incoming mail and the digital hearing aid as a mailroom.

As mail is obtained, it’s identified, labeled, stored, and ultimately delivered to the appropriate recipients. In a similar manner, digital hearing aids can take incoming sound and can label certain frequencies to be delivered to the amplifier. Speech sounds, for example, can be tagged as essential and sent to the speaker for amplification. Likewise, background noise can be tagged as “undeliverable” and returned.

Analog hearing aids didn’t have this “mailroom” functionality. Incoming sound is delivered all at one time—like if the mail clerk were to give you everyone’s mail and you had to sort through the clutter yourself to find your own. Speech simply gets lost in the mix with background noise, and you have to work hard to dig it out.

Hearing Aid Advanced Features

Digital manipulation of information is the key element to everything a modern hearing aid can accomplish. Here are some of the advanced features associated with contemporary hearing aids that digital technology helps make possible:

  • Speech recognition – digital hearing aids can distinguish and enhance speech with digital processing and directional microphones.
  • Background noise suppression – background noise is a lower frequency sound, which the hearing aid can recognize and inhibit.
  • Clearer phone calls – telecoil technology amplifies the signal from your phone, producing clear sound without interference.
  • Wireless streaming – hearing aids equipped with Bluetooth technology can connect to devices wirelessly, so you can stream music, phone calls, and TV programs directly to your hearing aids.
  • Wireless control – compatible hearing aids can be operated with smart phones and digital watches, so you can effortlessly and discreetly adjust volume and settings.

Test Out Your New Digital Hearing Aids

As you have seen, digital hearing aids are powerful pieces of contemporary technology. That’s why almost all cases of hearing loss can now be effectively treated, and why the majority of people are pleased with the performance of their hearing aids.

If you’d like to test drive this new technology for yourself, give us a call and inquire about our hearing aid trial period.

How to Communicate Your Hearing Loss to Others

Family smiling

Hearing loss is known as the invisible disability for a reason. No one can view or experience your hearing loss, and no one can experience your frustration and stress. The only thing people can experience is their OWN frustration when they have to constantly repeat themselves.

Regrettably, individuals with hearing loss rarely get the benefit of the doubt. That’s why communicating your hearing loss to others is essential—both for attaining empathy and for participating in effective conversation.

Here are a few tips you can use to let others know about your hearing loss.

Full disclosure of your hearing loss

Informing others about your hearing loss may be awkward or distressing, but in doing so you’ll prevent many other awkward situations. Missing out on jokes and causing others to repeat themselves, for instance, can make for situations that are much more uncomfortable.

When disclosing your hearing loss, aim for complete disclosure. Don’t just say something like, “I can’t hear you, please speak up.” Instead, explain your hearing loss and recommend ways the other person can best speak with you. For instance, you might say something like, “I’m partially deaf in my left ear due to an infection I had years ago. If you could sit on my right side that would help a lot.”

Suggest how others can best communicate with you

Once you divulge your hearing loss, other people will be much less likely to become frustrated and more apt to make an effort to communicate clearly. To help in this respect, offer your communication companions some tips for better communication, such as:

  • Keep the distance between us short, and please don’t yell across the room or from another room.
  • Face-to-face communication is critical; visual signs and lip reading help me with speech comprehension.
  • Get my attention before speaking with me.
  • Speak slowly and clearly, but there is no need to shout.

Your friends, family members, and co-workers will appreciate the honesty and pointers, and you’ll avoid having to cope with communication obstacles after the fact.

Control your hearing environment

After fully disclosing your hearing loss and offering communication tips, the final consideration is the management of your environment. You’ll want to give yourself the best chance to hear and communicate clearly, and you can achieve this by removing disruptions and background noise.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • When eating out, pick out a quiet, serene restaurant and select a table away from the middle of the restaurant.
  • At social gatherings, it’s best if there is no background music or sound coming from a television or radio.
  • Find quiet areas for conversations.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to the host beforehand about special arrangements.

Preparing in advance is your best option. Approaching the host prior to the party will give you your best shot at effective communication. And the same can be applied to work; reserve some time with your supervisor to review the preparations that give you the best chance to realize success. Your supervisor will likely appreciate the initiative.

Find professional help

When hearing loss starts to make social events more of a burden than a pleasure, it’s about time to search for professional assistance. Modern hearing aids have come a long way in terms of their ability to filter background noise and improve speech, and they may be just what you need to enjoy an active social life once again.