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Assistive Listening Systems and Your Hearing Prerogative

With over 48 million Americans across the country and an astounding 466 million worldwide suffering from disabling hearing loss, staying up to date with advancing technology and new laws and regulations may be the difference between accessing your right to hear in public and private settings or struggling to receive the help you’re entitled to. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), everyone has the right to hear in public places, making sure that if public address systems are used, an assistive listening system (ALS) is available for those with hearing loss as well. With numerous types of ALS systems available, technology has made it much easier to increase your quality of life while in public settings, whether they help eliminate background noise, or are discretely hidden to aid you without needing to use and return noticeable devices.

What Type of ALS’ Are There?

Fortunately, finding venues with an ALS should be simple thanks to ADA guidelines. To abide by the ADA’s Standards for Accessible Design, venues must have signs that properly show that they utilize assistive listening systems by displaying the blue international symbol, and numerous types of systems must be made available upon request with strict standards, right down to the size of audio jacks.

1. Hearing Loops

The most widely used and preferred ALS, hearing loops are a discretely hidden wire that surrounds a seating area that plugs into an amplifier and PA system. The loop then converts sound from the PA system into an electromagnetic signal that is received and translated into sound by telecoils found in most hearing aids.

 2. WiFi Systems

Though these do not follow ADA guidelines and are not an acceptable ALS system in the eyes of the law, WiFi systems are becoming increasingly popular with the rise of smartphones and tablets. While audio is streaming, sound is delivered through a WiFi connection to an appropriate app on your smartphone or tablet. Unfortunately, this requires attendants to use their own device as a receiver, failing to reach the ADA’s requirement of equal access.

3. RF Systems

Requiring a receiver that you must borrow from the venue, RF systems are becoming less popular for more convenient and user-friendly listening systems. Utilizing radio frequencies, RF systems transmit sound to receivers and earbuds like a personal radio. Though the ADA Compatibility Mandate required RF systems to be upgraded in 2012, they are still drastically lacking in technology compared to other systems.

You Have A Right To Hear

Assistive listening systems are increasing the quality of life for the millions of users with hearing loss by fulfilling their right to hear. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, whether it be concert halls, transportation hubs, or places of worship, systems such as the Hearing Loop or WiFi are ensuring that hearing loss will not stop you from participating in the joyful activities of your daily life. Whether you wear hearing aids or are struggling with untreated hearing loss, it’s important to know your rights when it comes to hearing in public places.

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An Audiologist Could Save Your Life

Healthcare is evolving. Holistic views of treating the whole person are gaining ground. The days of treating single isolated symptoms and health concerns without considering other systems of the body may soon be numbered.
A more holistic approach is now being explored by the Institute of Health Improvement (IHI) as a way to optimize the performance of our health system. That includes connecting interprofessional healthcare teams, including hearing healthcare providers, to provide optimal care to patients.
Improving health with team care
The Institute of Health Improvement is moving forward with an initiative to optimize healthcare in the United States. This approach is called the Quadruple Aim and includes four components:

  • Improving the health of populations
  • Enhancing the patient experience of care
  • Reducing the per capita cost of health care
  • Improving the work conditions of health care clinicians and staff

To do this, the IHI is exploring how best to connect health practitioners across disciplines.
Hearing healthcare providers on the team
There is no doubt that hearing is closely connected to so many other systems of the body. It has been linked to cardiovascular health, cognitive decline, diabetes, and moreover the years. In some cases, hearing loss is a symptom or early indicator of chronic disease, and sometimes a chronic disease is a cause of hearing loss. In other cases, hearing ability is found to be closely connected with acute health problems in one way or another. Either way, having a hearing healthcare professional on your healthcare team could prove invaluable when it comes to care and outcomes.
The Institute of Health Improvement began exploring just this solution in 2018 with a survey of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) Audiology Advisory Council.  A 20-question online survey was completed by 104 members of ASHA’s Advisory Councils focusing on interprofessional work and education. The survey found:

  • Almost 70% of those surveyed had engaged in interprofessional activity within the past 18 months.
  • Audiologists reported engaging in interprofessional practice more often than in interprofessional education.
  • Audiologists most frequently reported serving as team members in interprofessional teams, working most frequently with otolaryngologists, nurses, social workers, and SLPs.

Those surveyed also shared the benefits of interprofessional team collaborations they had seen including:

  • Consensus building across professions for difficult treatment decisions
  • Coordinated care for patients
  • Streamlined treatment planning for patients

The results underscore the importance of hearing healthcare professionals as part of an interdisciplinary team to provide comprehensive and effective care to patients.
Where we go from here
Healthcare is changing, and surveys like this help to confirm the value of switching to a more connected and collaborative approach to healthcare. Hearing healthcare professionals such as audiologists play a vital role in this care that is only now becoming truly appreciated. They are able to identify acute health concerns and chronic disease early thanks to routine hearing evaluations and examinations for complaints such as dizziness or ringing in the ears and refer patients to other members of their healthcare team for further examination and treatment.
As hearing is so connected to many systems of the body, so should hearing healthcare providers be closely connected to other healthcare providers to offer the best outcomes for their patients.

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The Importance of Child Hearing Screenings and Their Impact on Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the number one congenital disability in the United States. Whether the hearing loss is congenital or an acquired hearing loss, the consequences of hearing loss can be devastating if left untreated. Even a slight hearing loss can cause speech and language delays that are considered to be educationally significant. These children can have emotional difficulties, perform poorly in school and can suffer from personal-social maladjustments. A child hearing screening is an essential tool in dealing with the loss of hearing. The school hearing screening’s impact on hearing loss is the subject of a new study.

The Problem

Children in North Carolina receive screenings only before the beginning of public school. This practice goes against the recommendations of several organizations guidelines that suggest testing throughout multiple grades. Because of this, hearing loss may go untreated in many children. Because of the potential negative impact of hearing loss on auditory learning and communication, researchers are looking at the effects that screening procedures have on outcomes.

Study Methods

1.181 children in grades kindergarten through ninth grade received a screening at a charter school during the fall of 2016. Two years after this, 862 children in grades kindergarten through eighth grade underwent testing to replicate the previous study findings and to collect additional data if possible. Two hearing healthcare professionals, two speech-language pathologists, and a large group of graduate students took part. The protocol for the screening includes:

  • All children in the study receive a screening at 1, 2, 4, and 6 kHz at 20 dB HL with a minimum of two stimuli before recording a response or no response to the stimuli.
  • The children who fail at least one frequency receive rescreening at 20 dB as a check for reliability. The examiners remove the headphones and reinstruct the child.
  • Any failure to respond at one or more frequencies in either ear is a failure at 25 dB HL.
  • A rescreening of children within three weeks by a clinician who is not familiar with the initial results will need scheduling and a referral for a diagnostic evaluation if they do not pass the rescreening is also a possibility.
  • A hearing healthcare professional will administer otoscopy and tympanometry on all children who fail the initial screening.

Results

According to the conclusions of the study, a comparable number of children failed the screenings for pure tone in 2016 and 2018. This finding suggests that the results are replicable. All of the children failing the rescreening were part of distribution across grades with the majority of failures concentrated in third grade in 2016 and fifth grade in 2018. The otoscopy and tympanometry findings were abnormal in four percent of the children in the 2016 screening and three percent in the 2018 testing. Those students passing the pure tone rescreening at 25 dB received a referral for medical intervention. The results indicate that the screening criterion increases the failure rate of the initial screening.

Indications

The study indicates that a school-wide hearing screening can identify more children with potential hearing loss. More research should take place to recommend universal screening criteria. Although the authors recommend diagnostic testing following a screening, the study indicates that parents are not prone to follow up even when the testing is free. These and other barriers to compliance must receive exposure.

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How to Enjoy Swimming Without the Clogged Ears

We all experience water in our ears from time to time. It happens during baths and showers and is very common for swimmers. However, it can lead to inflammation and infection of the ear canal. The most common cause of the infection is bacteria such as streptococcus, pseudomonas, and staphylococcus. Water in the ear is aggravating and can also be harmful to your hearing health. Here is what you can do about water in your ears.

Symptoms

The symptoms of water in the ear begin mild with itching and a slight redness within the infected ear. The problem gradually gets worse with an increase in pain and itching as well as discharge from the ear. Ultimately the pain becomes intense, the canal is completely blocked, and the face and possibly the lymph nodes begin to swell.

Removing Water From Your Ear

If you have water in your ear, here are ways for safely removing the irritating liquid:

  • Jiggle your earlobe. You might be able to shake the water from your ear by gently pulling on the earlobe and shaking.
  • Use gravity. Lie on your side and let the water slowly drain from your ear onto a towel.
  • Create a vacuum. Tilt head sideways and rest ear into cupped palm. Push hand back and forth in rapid motion while covering the ear cupping your palm as you pull away.
  • Hot compress. Applying a compress can release the water trapped in the eustachian tubes.
  • Blow dryer. Set the dryer on the lowermost setting and hold about a foot away from the ear. The heat from the dryer can help to evaporate the water inside the ear canal.
  • Apply a few drops per ear. Alcohol helps to evaporate water. It also helps to eradicate the growth of bacteria, which in turn helps to prevent infections.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. This solution can clear debris and earwax which may be trapping water inside the ear.
  • Olive oil. Warm olive oil and place a few drops in the ear. It can help to prevent infection in the ear as well as repel water out.
  • The movement of the mouth can open the eustachian tubes and let the stuck water come out.
  • Valsalva maneuver. Close mouth and gently squeeze your nostrils shut with fingers while listening for a popping sound which means the Eustachian tubes are open.
  • Warm steam helps to release water from the middle ear through Eustachian tubes.
  • OTC medication. OTC eardrops are alcohol-based and can help to reduce moisture in the outer ear canal. They also kill bacteria and remove debris.

Prevention

Of course, the best way to handle ears clogged with water is through prevention. Here are a few measures to take in the prevention of water and the bacteria it contains, from entering your ears:

  • Avoid swimming in contaminated pools
  • Wear a swim cap
  • Wear earplugs
  • Dry ears thoroughly once out of water

Remember that water in the ear is usually not dangerous, but if left unaddressed, the following problems may occur:

  • Temporary hearing loss
  • Long-term infections
  • Deep tissue infection
  • Bone and cartilage damage
  • Other widespread diseases.

If you have any additional questions about hearing loss or your hearing health, please feel free to contact our office!