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Hearing Loss Could Put You at Risk for Accidental Injury

Hearing loss isn’t as benign or straightforward as we once thought it was. Not just a minor annoyance that you could choose to manage if you wanted to with a hearing aid.
No, hearing loss is a complex condition that can affect every aspect of our life from the way we communicate and our relationships to our total health and well-being. Study after study is finding that treating our hearing loss is no longer an option because untreated hearing loss can have devastating consequences.
New research is finding that it’s not just the cognitive decline and anxiety we should be aware of now, either. It’s something as simple as an increased risk of accidental injury.
Hearing loss and accidental injury
As experts realize the more significant impact of untreated hearing loss, they are digging into existing data as well as compiling new data through various studies to identify patterns related to hearing health. One of the most recent findings is linking hearing loss to an increased risk of accidental injury.
Analyzing data from the National Health Interview Survey gathered between 2007 and 2015, researchers determined that individuals who reported having “a lot of trouble” hearing were twice as likely to have an accidental injury as those who reported no trouble hearing. This fact was true both in work and leisure settings.
While more research is needed into exactly why this is the case, experts believe that the simple effects of sensory impairment may be behind it. This is concerning because accidental injuries are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in America, according to the CDC’s National Health Report.
Reducing your risk for accidental injury could be as easy as scheduling an annual hearing evaluation to determine whether or not you have a hearing loss. This simple step could even help protect you from more than just accidental injury.
The importance of treating hearing loss
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions, affecting an estimated one out of every five Americans and well over 450 million people around the world, yet it often goes untreated. As we learn more about the cost of untreated hearing loss, experts hope that the tide will change and the crucial role that hearing health plays in our lives will be taken more seriously.
While this study found that untreated hearing loss may increase the risk of accidental injury, this isn’t the only often unseen effect of untreated hearing loss. Others include:

Don’t let untreated hearing loss put you, your health and your well-being at risk. Whether it’s an accidental injury, falls, mental health or other concerns, you can take action now to reduce your risk.
Contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation and discuss options to treat hearing loss, such as hearing aids. This could be the most powerful choice you make for your health.

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What’s the Difference Between Hearing Aids & Hearing Amplifiers?

Have you heard of a hearing amplifier? Sometimes called a hearing enhancer or a personal sound amplifying product (PSAP), a hearing amplifier does just what its name suggests: it amplifies sound. While this may sound similar to what hearing aids do, they are different tools for different purposes.
First, let’s start with what hearing aids are and who might need them. Hearing aids are designed for people with hearing loss. They work by boosting or enhancing certain frequencies of sound in order to help the person better hear that particular frequency. This can, in turn, help the person better understand speech and other sounds.
Hearing aids are typically professionally fitted and finely tuned to each person’s unique needs. This is because each case of hearing loss is unique. Hearing aids are highly personal and can be a great tool for improving a person’s ability to hear sounds and communicate with others. When properly used, hearing aids can improve a person’s quality of life.
Now, let’s turn to hearing amplifiers. Hearing amplifiers are made for people with normal hearing. Unlike hearing aids, which enhance only certain frequencies, hearing amplifiers work by amplifying all sounds.
A hearing amplifier’s abilities can be useful in situations where the sound needs a boost to allow you to hear it better, such as while watching TV, while birdwatching, or while at the theater. Sound amplifiers can also be used in closed environments where the sound level needs a boost, such as at the cinema or in a restaurant. Some sound amplifiers can even be used to keep an “ear” out for babies or small children at home. You may want to use a hearing amplifier if you have normal hearing and would like to enhance the sound by simply making it louder.
Sound amplifiers are not made for people who are hard of hearing. Using a sound amplifier when you suffer from hearing loss will likely do nothing to improve your ability to hear or understand sounds. This is because the amplifier will boost the volume of all sounds, while most people with hearing loss have difficulty hearing specific frequencies. Furthermore, neglecting to properly treat hearing loss can lead to further deterioration of your hearing ability.
It may sometimes be difficult to tell whether you simply need the sound to be louder (as provided by a sound amplifier) or if you are experiencing hearing loss. The following are common signs of hearing loss:

  • Difficulty hearing in crowded or noisy environments
  • Constant need to increase the volume on the TV, radio, or music
  • Difficulty understanding conversations
  • A sensation of muffled hearing
  • Frequently choosing to avoid social events and activities
  • Spending more time trying to read lips

If you have noticed these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, hearing loss may be the cause. In these cases, it is important to receive high-quality care from a hearing professional. They will be able to evaluate your hearing ability and recommend the proper hearing device.
To learn more about the difference between hearing amplifiers and hearing aids, and to set up an appointment with our friendly hearing professional, we encourage you to contact our office today.

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The Future Is Today: Brain-Controlled Hearing Aids

When you imagine what the future will be like in, say, 20 years, what do you see? Pop culture fosters expectations of flying cars, personal jetpacks, hoverboards, and much more. Some recent technological advances even seem like something you would find in a science fiction novel, not in real life—like self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality technologies.
Another futuristic advancement that may soon be a reality is more closely related to current hearing devices than to flying cars: brain-controlled hearing aids. Hearing aids have already seen numerous advances and developments in recent years, making them more effective than ever before. Today’s hearing aids are smaller, more comfortable, more discreet, and more powerful than those of years past.
Even with recent advances, hearing aids are still imperfect. One area where hearing aid users often notice a big difference from before they wore or needed hearing aids is in listening to a speaker when other noise is present. In a person with normal hearing, your brain distinguishes between the target speaker and all other noises, allowing you to focus on the target and minimize your attention to other speakers or sounds.
However, hearing aids cannot automatically perform this same function. If you increase the volume on your hearing aid in an effort to better hear the target speaker, you are also increasing the volume on all of the background noise. Some hearing aids allow the user to identify a target speaker by turning their head or gaze towards the target speaker, or by manually selecting the target speaker. These features are helpful yet imperfect; if the hearing aid user cannot maintain a gaze in the direction of the target speaker, does not want to use manual selections, or the target speaker is very close to another speaker, these features come up short.
Enter brain-controlled hearing aids. Previous research has determined that when a person focuses their listening efforts on a certain speaker in a noisy environment, their brain waves track the voice of the target speaker. The aim of a brain-controlled hearing aid is to monitor the brainwaves of the user in order to facilitate hearing and amplifying the voice of the target speaker.
Although much research and development remains to be explored in this field, recent research has shown promise in separating and amplifying the sound of a target speaker among background noise and other speakers. In a 2019 experiment, researchers used an auditory attention decoding (AAD) process to detect and amplify a target speaker among mixed background noise. The study participants indicated that it was significantly easier to follow the voice of the target speaker in the AAD-enhanced audio than in the original mixed audio. This advance can be used in brain-controlled hearing aids to amplify the voice of the target speaker and enable the listener to better follow a specific voice.
One major obstacle that remains to be overcome by researchers is determining a noninvasive and nonintrusive way to monitor the brain signals of the hearing aid user. This, along with an AAD process that accurately and rapidly identifies the target speaker, will present a challenge for researchers and developers. Still, the promise of brain-controlled hearing aids is very real and is closer than we may realize today.
For more information about brain-controlled hearing aids and other exciting advancements in the audiology field, we encourage you to contact our hearing professional today.

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The Structure Of A Hearing Aid And How It Works

A hearing loss can have a profound impact on your life, your career, and your relationships. If you choose the correct one, a hearing aid can make a significant difference in your ability to communicate while enhancing your enjoyment of life. Knowing what goes into the design of hearing aids will help you choose the most appropriate device for your hearing needs. Regardless of the style of hearing aid you have, all hearing aids share three essential components:

  • The hearing aid microphone picks up sounds and sends them to the amplifier. New technology distinguishes between speech and background noise, making it easier to understand a conversation.
  • Converting sounds from the microphone into an electrical signal and then sending the message to the receiver is the function of the amplifier. Amplification power is dependent upon the severity of the user’s hearing loss.
  • Power source. Batteries power the hearing device. Batteries may be either rechargeable or disposable, depending on the model.

These three components are in all hearing aids. Depending on the design and the severity of your hearing loss, a few other parts might be residing inside your hearing aid.

Buttons And Switches

Hearing aids that are of the receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) type come equipped with a button or a switch. A hearing healthcare professional programs the button or switch to perform different functions such as alternating between settings or increasing and decreasing volume. Make a point of knowing the purpose of your switch.

Wire

A hearing aid wire is typically thin and coated in plastic. The wire extends from the body of the hearing aid to the speaker, which resides in the ear. The transmission of power and signals takes place in the wire. Hearing aid wires feature conductor materials, shielding, and jacketing manufactured for custom hearing solutions.

Receiver/Speaker

Delivering the sound to the ear is the responsibility of the receiver, which is also known as the speaker. When the speaker receives an electrical signal from the amplifier, it converts it to sound. The speaker is inside the ear dome or earmold, depending on the severity of hearing loss and lifestyle.

Domes

A dome is a small piece of silicone that attaches to hearing aid tubing and fits deep in the ear canal. Domes come in an array of shapes and sizes to accommodate the unique anatomy of a person’s ear canal. A hearing healthcare professional can help you pick the appropriate size for a proper fit.

Earmold

Earmolds are plastic or acrylic and fit inside your ear canal to form an acoustic seal for the electronic sound coming in. The fit and the shape of your earmold will depend on the model of hearing aid you are utilizing and the severity of your hearing loss. Because they provide the highest amount of amplification, earmolds are for those with severe to profound hearing loss.
Hearing loss is a severe health issue, so do not ignore it. If you suspect that you may have a hearing loss, schedule a hearing screening with a hearing healthcare professional. Swift acting will significantly enhance the quality of your life.

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Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids; What Does This Mean for Audiology?

As technology and medical research continue to advance, more facets of your healthcare are becoming increasingly over the counter, whether that be medication, devices, or just medical advice. Treatment for hearing loss is no exception, with over the counter hearing aids becoming an imminent reality, invoking worry in many audiologists across the country. As hearing aids become more accessible over the counter, audiologists fear the impact on their profession and practice. This disruptive innovation is poised to achieve a new market foothold, becoming a more attractive option to new consumers who are looking for the most convenient and simple transition into hearing aids, taking business from traditional hearing aid manufacturers and audiologists who often bundle devices into their services. Though they seem convenient, the introduction of OTC hearing aids shows that despite intentions to increase accessibility and reduce costs, patients are not receiving the treatment they desperately need in exchange for ease.

Don’t Bypass Your Doctors Appointment Just Yet

According to the OTC Hearing Aid Act, the intention was to increase accessibility and affordability of devices, though OTC hearing aids have done little to achieve those goals. In fact, they hinder the ability of patients to get the information and proper assessments that they should have before finding the most effective hearing aid. OTC Hearing Aids utilize a business model designed to bypass diagnostic evaluations, hearing needs assessments, and audiologists all together in favor of self-identifying a device. Not only does this keep patients out of their doctor’s office, but also from receiving the medical advice they may need, ignoring the advocation by organizations such as the American Academy of Audiology for required medical evaluations for OTC hearing aids. Moreover, “receiving an OTC device is expected to be based on self-perceived mild to moderate hearing loss, not measured hearing capability that directly aligns with the definition provided by ASHA.”
 
As hearing loss can differ greatly from patient to patient, it’s critical that patients do not bypass professional medical advice. Herein lies the fear of audiologists, as numerous unofficial polls conducted via social media and trade publications have documented the anxiety had by medical professionals as OTC devices are positioned to impact not only their practice but their profession as a whole.

Changing Public Perception

To combat this imminent and disruptive technology, Audiologists must aim to change public perception about the importance of their profession and medical advice regarding hearing loss. ”The efforts of the profession should be focused not on a device, but rather on educating the public such that they recognize audiologists’ value and demand access to it.” says Dr. Sarah Sydlowski, Audiology Director of the Otolaryngology department at Cleveland Clinic, ”Take every opportunity to reinforce the value audiologists provide. Emphasize the importance of a hearing evaluation before deciding to use any hearing device. Help the public understand that an inappropriate hearing device can be as detrimental as no hearing device.” With proper advocation, audiologists can continue to give the critical information required for patients with hearing loss, ensuring that patients do not give up their doctors for convenience.

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This AI-Powered Hearing Aid Technology Is Changing How You Hear In Crowds

hearing in a noisy environment

Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic. – Arthur C. Clarke (Author)
Our brains are the ultimate computer. They are always working and processing, anticipating and solving problems, running systems in the background while operating on the fly as we move through our lives. When it comes to hearing, the brain is just as crucial as the various parts of the ear.
What the brain can do, with the help of the ear, is to pick one voice out of a crowd and tune in to listen. So, what happens when hearing loss limits this advanced ability? Technology takes over.
The problem
While you may not often think about it, the way we can focus in on and listen to one voice in a larger, noisier crowd is pretty remarkable. Our brain quickly and seamlessly filters out others so we can hear the one. With hearing loss, this isn’t always possible. In fact, the difficulty so many with hearing loss face hearing in crowds or noisy settings is a problem so many hearing healthcare professionals and researchers have been trying to solve for years. With the newest technology, this problem could become a thing of the past.
AI Advancements
While hearing aids have steadily become more powerful with numerous advanced features over the years, isolating voices in crowds has still proved an elusive problem to solve. That’s why recent research of an exciting new piece of hearing aid technology has those in the world of hearing health cautiously optimistic.
Still, in the early stages of development, the new AI-powered hearing aid is powered by the brain. By monitoring brain waves, the device can automatically boost the voice the wearer would like to hear.
“By creating a device that harnesses the power of the brain itself, we hope our work will lead to technological improvements that enable the hundreds of millions of hearing-impaired people worldwide to communicate just as easily as their friends and family do,” said Nima Mesgarani, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the paper’s senior author.
Using a speech-separation algorithm, the hearing aid can identify the voice on which the user wants to tune in. While previous versions were limited to just those voices that it recognized, this latest version, tested on volunteers epilepsy patients, can focus in on any voice in a crowd based on the brain waves and refined algorithm.
Hearing aids and hearing loss
Advances like this in hearing aid technology can mean more natural hearing for the millions of people diagnosed with hearing loss. This, in turn, could prevent millions more cases of associated conditions including depression, anxiety, social isolation and even cognitive decline. The possibilities are endless.
If you believe you or someone you care about have hearing loss, don’t wait for advanced hearing aid technology like this to take action. Contact our office to schedule an evaluation today. It’s vital that hearing loss is treated early to preserve your quality of life.

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How To Troubleshoot Common Hearing Aid Problems

how to troubleshoot common hearing aid issues

Hearing aids are magical little devices that have the ability to change the lives of people with hearing loss. By allowing people to better hear their surroundings, hearing aids allow people with hearing loss to have meaningful conversations and engage with the world around them.
But what happens when a hearing aid malfunctions or doesn’t function as it should? Do you have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform minor repairs on your hearing aids?
Although countless people around the world rely on hearing aids to treat their hearing loss, many of these people don’t know how to identify and troubleshoot common problems with their devices. There are a number of different issues that can arise with hearing aids, some of which require professional assistance, but many of which can be dealt with quickly and easily on your own.
If you wear hearing aids, it’s a good idea for you to know how to handle some of the more common issues. Here are some problems to look out for:
Hearing Aids That Stop Producing Sound
A lack of sound is one of the most common issues that people who wear hearing aids face. Unfortunately, this problem can have a wide number of different causes, so we first need to identify the underlying issue before we can fix our hearing aid. If your hearing aid isn’t producing sound, try the following:

  • Take off the hearing aid and visually inspect it. Pay particular attention to the microphone opening and the ear mold, if you have them. There may be earwax or debris blocking the sound.
  • Turn the hearing aid on. This may seem obvious, but it’s an easy step to overlook. If the device won’t turn on, open the battery compartment and check to see if the battery is installed correctly. Try replacing the battery if it still won’t turn on.
  • Adjust the volume settings on the hearing aid. It’s possible, especially with manually-controlled devices, that the volume was accidentally turned down.
  • Test out the different settings on your device. This will help you identify if the issue is with just one setting or with the entire device.
  • Consider the possibility that your hearing aid was damaged by water or another force. Your hearing healthcare professional is a good resource if you still can’t get your hearing aid to produce sound.

Hearing Aids That Aren’t Loud Enough
If your hearing aids aren’t producing a loud enough sound, you may struggle to hear what’s going on around you. Thus it’s important that your devices can operate at a volume that you can actually hear. If your hearing aids aren’t loud enough, try the following tricks to fix them:

  • Check to see if there is earwax or other debris blocking the microphone or the earmold and tubing if you wear behind the ear hearing aids. Cracks, blockages, and moisture can all reduce overall volume.
  • Turn up the volume. If you have manual volume controls on your hearing aids, it’s possible that they were accidentally adjusted during the day.
  • Consider the possibility that your hearing changed. It might be worth scheduling an appointment with your hearing healthcare professional to see if your hearing has changed so your hearing aids can be adjusted accordingly.

Hearing Aids That Sound Distorted
If your hearing aids have started to sound funny, there may be a simple fix – or your devices may be damaged. Try the following steps to see if you can’t get your hearing aids back to normal:

  • Inspect the batteries and the battery contacts (the little metal prongs that connect to the battery). Are the corroded or damaged? This could be causing your hearing aids to create distorted sounds, so you may need to replace the battery or the contacts.
  • Check your program settings. You may have inadvertently switched to a different setting which is causing sound to be transmitted in a weird way.

Hearing Aids That Produce Feedback
Feedback is a common occurrence among hearing aid users and can be audible to people around you. Feedback can be caused by a number of different issues, but it’s important to deal with it right away so you can continue listening to the world around you. If you’re experiencing frequent feedback, try these tricks:

  • Try reinserting your hearing aids. They may not be properly placed within your ears and may need to be re-fit by a professional.
  • Turn down the volume. Sometimes there’s just too much sound leaking out of the earmold or vent in the hearing aid, so you may need to turn the volume down a bit.
  • Consider whether your ears have an earwax blockage. Ask your hearing healthcare professional to inspect your ears and remove any earwax which may be increasing the feedback from your devices.