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Newest American Girl Doll Doesn’t Let Hearing Loss Hold Her Back

Growing up, it can be a very special thing to find a toy that you relate to. That special toy that speaks to who you are. This can be especially true with dolls.
American Girl has long created dolls that reflect the children by whom they are loved. With stories, accessories, clothes, furniture and even physical features that speak to kids and parents alike. American Girl’s newest doll is doing it again, this time with kids with hearing loss in mind.
American Girl dolls
If you have kids in your life, chances are you’ve heard of the company American Girl. The company’s dolls are often a popular choice with backstories that help turn the dolls into almost living and breathing girls and so many options to customize the dolls that each one can become entirely unique. They are so popular that they even have entire stores across the country offering doll designs, salons, doll makeovers, dining and more.
It’s not hard to find a doll that’s seemingly made just for you. Joss Kendrick, the newest addition to the American Girl line, is making that especially true for kids with hearing loss.
Meet Joss Kendrick
In a recent announcement, American Girl introduced Joss Kendrick as the 2020 Girl of the Year. According to the announcement, Joss is “a fierce athlete born with hearing loss and a passion for surfing and competitive cheer.” While American Girl has long offered hearing aids as an accessory for their dolls, Joss is the first doll to include hearing loss as part of her story and identity.
American Girl did not take the creation of this newest character lightly. To create Joss, they teamed up with several experts including:

  • Crystal DaSilva—Women’s Deaf Shortboard champion and winner of national and world titles
  • Sara Jo Moen & Julie Peterson—Owners of Fury Athletics in Madison, WI, a training gym for competitive cheer teams
  • Sharon Pajka, Ph.D.—Professor of English at Gallaudet University and a specialist in portrayals of deaf characters in adolescent literature
  • Jennifer Richardson, Au.D.—Educational audiologist and founder of Hearing Milestones Foundation
  • Bianca Valenti—Professional big wave surfer and co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing

This inspirational new doll, the company believes, will help demonstrate to kids the importance of trying new things and going beyond stereotypes, among other things.
To help bring it all to life, the company is also working with 17-year-old surfer Caroline Marks, who is currently preparing to be part of the first-ever U.S. Women’s Olympic surfing team next summer, on the launch of Joss.
“American Girl has a rich legacy of creating timeless characters who encourage girls to reach for new heights and discover who they’re meant to be,” said Jamie Cygielman, General Manager of American Girl. “We’re proud to welcome Joss Kendrick, whose stories are sure to instill confidence and character in girls who are learning to think about the possibilities in their own lives. Working with Olympic hopeful surfer Caroline Marks adds real-world inspiration about what can happen when you go ‘all in’ on your dreams.”
This newest doll from American Girl is a welcome addition to the line for families with hearing loss, bringing to life a child who doesn’t let hearing impairment hold her back in any way.

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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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How Hearing Loss in Children Affects School Attendance

Think back to your childhood school days. Did you love going to school, or did you attempt to manufacture excuses that would allow you to stay home from school?
Either way, it is likely that you attended school more days than not. And whether you enjoyed school or not, your early education played a big role in your future educational success and social life, as well as your success in a career.
Recently, researchers in Australia discovered one factor that can cause students to miss more school and thus affect their education: hearing loss. Researchers conducted the study in Northern Territory (NT) of Australia and specifically focused on the Year One school attendance of Aboriginal children.
In the study, researchers compared Year One attendance among Aboriginal children with normal hearing to that of the children with preventable hearing impairment. The study considered both unilateral hearing loss as well as bilateral hearing impairment. More than a third (36.3 percent) of the children surveyed had bilateral hearing loss, while over half (55.1 percent) had either unilateral or bilateral hearing loss.
Researchers found that no matter the type or severity of hearing loss, the children with impaired hearing attended fewer school days than their peers with normal hearing. As noted, this study focused on children with preventable hearing loss. The most common cause of hearing loss among these children is otitis media or an infection of the middle ear.
As part of their conclusions from the study, the researchers suggest “regular surveillance” of the children, both regarding the infection and their hearing ability. They recommend screening for hearing loss, and perhaps infection as well, during early childhood when the children enter preschool and their first year of full-time education. The study particularly recommended these measures for Aboriginal children who live in more remote areas, such as those studied in NT.
While this study was conducted in Australia and focused on the case of Aboriginal children, the findings and conclusions can be applied to children worldwide. Otitis media and other illnesses that result in preventable hearing loss are not isolated to NT. It can also be beneficial for children to be screened for hearing loss in early childhood and in school in order to identify hearing loss at an early stage and provide treatment at the earliest time possible.
By identifying and treating hearing loss, as well as preventing hearing loss when possible, these children will have a greater opportunity for success in school, education, their social lives, and their careers. As the study found that students with normal hearing were less likely to miss school days, they were present for more learning. School sets up a child for success, and even early education is important and formative.
If you believe that your child may be suffering from hearing loss, we encourage you to contact our hearing practice today. We are here to care for you and your family.

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How Hearing Loss Can Change a Child’s Brain

Did you know that approximately 1.4 babies out of every 1000 have hearing loss, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14.9% of children age 6 to 19 years have at least some hearing loss?  Whether it’s due to noise exposure, genetics and injury, or something else, early detection of hearing loss is critical.
Up until now, the focus has been on those children with deafness, but new research indicates that any level of hearing loss can affect a child’s brain and development.
The risk of hearing loss
Hearing loss in children can be a whole different ball game than hearing loss in adults. This is because children’s language and social development are so deeply rooted in hearing. Untreated hearing loss has been shown to impact social interaction and development, delay language and speech, and even leave children struggling academically. Early intervention is critical in avoiding these concerns.
But, do children with mild to moderate hearing loss face the same risks or just those with severe or profound hearing loss?
The research
New research led by Dr. Lorna Halliday, now at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, suggests that any level of hearing loss could lead to changes in how the brain processes sound. This, in turn, could pose developmental risks for the child.
The research team worked with 46 children diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing loss. An electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to measure their brain responses while they were listening to sounds. Dividing the children into two age groups (8-12 years old and 12-16 years old), researchers compared their results with those of children with normal hearing.
The results were not surprising. Those in the younger age group showed results similar to normal-hearing children their age, but those in the older group showed less response to sounds than those of normal-hearing children their age. The team repeated the test with the younger group several years later, finding consistent results. Their brain responses changed and were less than those of normal-hearing peers.
The team believes this is not due to a change in hearing loss but a change in how the brain works to hear sound with existing hearing loss.
“We know that children’s brains develop in response to exposure to sounds, so it should not be too surprising that even mild-to-moderate levels of hearing loss can lead to changes in the brain,” says Dr. Axelle Calcus, lead author of the paper, from PSL University, Paris. “However, this does suggest that we need to identify these problems at an earlier stage than is currently the case.”
The team believes that findings like these could help change how we diagnose children with hearing loss, and when hearing loss of any level is present, how we can better support them to foster strong language and social development.
If you believe your child has a hearing loss, contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation today.
 
 

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Advantages of Music for the Hearing Impaired

When we’re young, we attend music classes in school. It helps us learn to remember words, develop patterns, express ourselves in front of others, even come up with new ideas on our own. For hearing impaired children, attending music classes could be even more imperative to their early childhood education.
Many youngsters who are born with or develop auditory problems at a young age fall behind other kids in many areas. It’s difficult to assist them in a large classroom setting so they’re then segregated with other kids in the same developmental stage in order to give them the one on one help they need to catch up.
This can cause them to feel like they are different from other kids. They may have other learning or social issues that prohibit them from being involved with regular activities. Athletic events are often a problem since balance is directly controlled within the inner ear.
With the addition of musical activities, it evens the odds somewhat for these children in the areas of speech, language, and even social skills. Through playschool type activities, children equipped with cochlear implants have been assessed and demonstrated that learning through musical activity enhances early childhood education.
Singing, in particular, aids in speech and language skills of these youngsters by helping to develop a sense of their ability to manipulate different rhythms and pitches. It also allows them to learn in a fun and upbeat atmosphere where noise and activity are not viewed as stressful. It’s a place they enjoy coming back to. This is makes it much easier for them to take in things going on around them as well.
While it’s important for children to be involved in these activities as soon as possible, it’s also imperative for the parents to understand the process being taught. Since they spend the most time with their child, it’s only logical to teach them the skills to incorporate this training in their normal environment.
By following up with this type of music therapy at home, kids can have a much greater advantage and the ability to catch up and keep up with others their age. Learning must be fun for them, or they won’t want to interact with the process. If you can make it a positive, upbeat, and rewarding experience, they will thrive and excel in not only their own communication skills, but in recognition of what others are saying around them.
Because children with hearing impairments have lapses in their learning in the areas of auditory attention, memory, and perception, they struggle to detect speech patterns, phonemes, and sound location. Studies on learning through music have shown that rehabilitation through this method have shown improvement in all of these areas as well as overall hearing in general.
Children fitted with cochlear implants stand a good chance of improving their auditory skills through music learning or hobbies involving music. Researchers at the University of Helsinki were able to study children with cochlear implants and their findings showed that, “Hearing impaired children with cochlear implants who sing regularly have better perception of speech in noise compared to children who don’t sing. This is an important skill in day care or school where children discuss and receive instructions in noisy conditions,” Dr. Ritva Torppa PhD says.
She also says that, “Communication skills and especially the ability to perceive speech in noise have a vital importance in education. All children, but especially children with a hearing impairment, should have the possibility to learn music and especially singing.”
As a parent, becoming involved in your child’s learning experience is so important. The involvement of the entire family supports this teaching method and helps it to become a tool that can come in handy in your child’s future development. It also acts as a bonding activity and shows them you are part of their support network.
Research done in Finland was particularly effective, especially with their cultures’ high esteem for music. But don’t let the distance from this rich culture keep you from finding a program that will benefit your child’s learning. Daycares, playschools, and preschool settings are all influential areas that you can explore, and the musical advantages that can be helpful learning tools.
Through careful research and the help of your child’s audiologist, you can find out what options are available in your area for music related learning. School programs and programs for the hearing impaired are also helpful areas to inquire when your seeking help in this field.
With all the advantages involved in music play programs, your child will have the opportunity to get ahead of the group, or at least advance right alongside of them. Music supports learning in so many ways, but it’s incredibly beneficial for those growing up with auditory impairments.
In order to give your child the best chance, consult with your audiologist today to see what is available in your area.

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Diving Into the Emotional Side of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is not the simple black and white diagnosis it once seemed to be. Recent research findings, paired with the growing number of personal stories about hearing loss, paint a much more complicated picture that is fueling the conversation about hearing loss.
According to the National Institutes of Health:

  • Approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing.
  • About 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids.
  • About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears.

These numbers are eye-opening and show just how many people’s lives, not only hearing, are affected.
A better approach
With a growing focus on more holistic approaches to health and hearing loss, some experts are exploring how hearing healthcare professionals can better serve their patients. That is, beyond the mechanics of hearing loss.
As a first step to gather data and identify potential opportunities, researchers studied a possible additional screening component about the emotional aspects of hearing loss. The team surveyed both patients and providers about their experience during these screenings. The results revealed that such a screening by hearing healthcare providers could be a smart strategy for both identifying emotional concerns for further treatment and in better treating an individual’s hearing loss.
The study
For several months during the spring of 2015, those with hearing loss (and parents of children with hearing loss) who attended follow-up appointments for hearing aids and cochlear implants were able to participate in the study. They were asked to fill out a survey form relating to the more emotional aspects of hearing loss, including questions on depression, anxiety and stress and feedback on the appointment itself.
At the same time, ten providers were asked to use the additional screening form relating to emotional concerns relating to hearing loss and then provide feedback at the end of the study.
Researchers walked away at the end of the study with three significant finds:

  • Some of the individuals with hearing loss were dealing with depression, anxiety and/or stress
  • The individuals found the screening of those emotional aspects acceptable
  • Providers were more uncertain about the screening

But how could these findings better support individuals with hearing loss in coping with the emotional side of that diagnosis?
Deeper insights
What the survey results highlighted was that patients seemed to appreciate that their hearing healthcare provider was going beyond the hearing loss to check on their emotional well-being. Researchers believe that this deeper connection with clients could help improve their care and compliance. Routine questions like these could help open up communication between the patient and provider and uncover potential emotional barriers to treating hearing loss.
On the other side, however, the survey results uncovered an opportunity for hearing health care providers to go beyond the mechanics of hearing and dig deeper into their patient’s well-being. Whether this is through enhanced screening during appointments or additional training before they begin practicing in the field, it could make all the difference in treating hearing loss.
While more research is needed, this small study showed promise. It offered insight into ways hearing healthcare providers could help bring the emotional aspects of hearing loss to the forefront early.
If you are someone you know is dealing with anxiety, depression or other difficult emotions as a result of hearing loss contact your provider for recommendations.

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Is the Media’s Portrayal of Hearing Loss Accurate?

“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”
Tom Stoppard
Every day we are bombarded with information from the media. World events, politics, human interest stories and more flood our newspapers, televisions, radios, Internet browsers and email boxes. The media tells the stories of the day, and it’s hard to argue that they are top influencers in this day and age.
One of the stories the media has begun to tell more and more often is that of hearing loss. With an estimated 48 million Americans of all ages now reporting trouble hearing, it is a topic that is becoming more and more relevant to audiences. But, is the media’s portrayal of hearing loss accurate?
Researchers recently dug in to find the answer, at least in print media, studying how the media portrays hearing loss. The findings offered insight into how that portrayal affects people with hearing loss and their decisions about their hearing health.  It also highlighted what the information could mean for hearing healthcare providers as they adapt to serve an ever-growing and more educated group of patients better.
Hearing loss in the media
There is no question that the media educates and influences us every day through their stories, but what does that look like when we’re talking about hearing loss and hearing aids?
In a recent study out of Lamar University in Texas, researchers looked at the themes in how newspapers portrayed hearing loss and hearing aids. The team focused on U.S. publications between 1990 and 2017 and how topics around hearing health changed over time.
Researchers found that overall, newspapers “provide a wide and realistic portrayal of hearing loss and hearing aids.” Household name publications such as The Washington Post, U.S. Federal News Service, the Chicago Tribune, Targeted News Service, and the U.S. Federal News Service led the pack on the total number of articles on hearing loss and hearing aids. Several associated topics that came up frequently in the more recent reporting such as “cognitive hearing science” and “signal processing,” surprised the team.
Researchers also noted that between the years of 1990 and 2017, the number of articles on these topics increased. Not surprising considering the rising number of people diagnosed with hearing loss eager for more information.
The implications
These findings aren’t just interesting to consider. They offer hearing healthcare providers valuable information on what consumers with hearing loss may be looking for.  The results can help guide these providers on how to better serve these individuals to diagnose and treat their hearing loss.
Without a doubt, providers have an opportunity to educate people on hearing loss, picking up the conversation where media leaves off. This conversation includes in-depth and usable information on what hearing loss is, how to manage it and the importance of treating it for overall health.
If you believe you have hearing loss and are looking for more information, contact our office to schedule an appointment. We can help you diagnose and treat your hearing loss, discuss hearing aid options and answer your questions.

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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.