As an audiologist I work with patients and their hearing aids on a daily basis and have the pleasure of seeing how lives can be transformed for the better with the use of hearing aids. Not everyone who comes through our office is excited or thrilled to be fitted with hearing aid, though. Truth be told, no one really “wants” to wear hearing aids. How great would it be if no one had to deal with a debilitating hearing loss? What amazes me is how many misconceptions and “bad experience” stories patients talk about during their consultations. Let’s take a look at some common hearing aid myths and why they are not true.
Big Hearing Aids and “Old” People
If I get hearing aids everyone is going to see them and think I am old. While some people may still believe hearing aids are for “old” people, I have never really understood this unfair stereotype. This idea becomes very silly if we put it in perspective. What if we apply this to same stereotype to other common disabilities: “I choose not to see, because glasses are for old people,” “I choose not to be active because canes/walkers are for old people,” “I choose not to hear because hearing aids are for old people.” Why do we let the possibility of a negative thought or comment limit our quality of life? We are also able to make hearing aids much smaller and more discreet these days. I have yet to work with patients who return their hearing aids and comment that they really enjoyed hearing, but it’s just not worth the way they look.
With the Holiday season now in full force, hearing can become even more important to individuals. No one wants to miss out on family gatherings and social events due to a hearing loss. A hearing loss can cause much frustration and added stress to an already busy season. Looking to improve hearing and getting the extra help needed to manage those difficult listening environments can provide a great sense of relief and improvement in overall quality of life.
The first step …
When seeking options for treatment of a hearing loss, it would always be advisable to seek help from a licensed Audiologist as he or she has a more complete training and working knowledge of the auditory system. A doctor of audiology specializes in management and rehabilitation of hearing disorders. In case a hearing loss is connected with a more complex medical issue, the involvement of an Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose and Throat physician) may be required.
When an individual has a hearing impairment, it changes the way he or she hears everyday conversations which can lead to frustration for both the individual and others in their life. No one wants to have difficulties in communication and most people are reluctant to seek help. Common excuses such as: “Everyone is just mumbling,” “I hear everything I need to hear” or “They just need to speak up” are more of a defense mechanism and can hinder an individual from taking responsibility for a deficit that can often be improved. Here is some helpful information about how hearing loss affects communication and how to talk to loved ones about seeking help.
Hearing Loss and Communication
Common complaints such as: people sounding like they are mumbling, others not speaking clearly or difficulty hearing in background noise can be an effect of a high frequency hearing loss. A high frequency hearing loss is one of the most common types of hearing loss and can be a result of noise exposure or the normal aging process.
An audiologist can have one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs when working with patients with hearing loss. As an audiologist I have the unique pleasure of counseling patients on their options for improving their quality of life through the use of amplification. So, what’s the drawback? While patients do want to hear better, no one WANTS to wear a hearing aid. One of the major roadblocks to moving forward with hearing aids has always been cost. Let’s look at the cost of hearing aids and how to get the most out of a hearing aid purchase.
What are you buying?
It is important to know that when purchasing a hearing aid, you are not only putting your money and faith in a small electronic device that sits on your ear, but rather the ability of your audiologist to use that hearing aid to meet your goals for better hearing. You are not only purchasing a hearing aid but also auditory rehabilitative services and continued care that is crucial to the overall success of your hearing aid experience. This is why it is so important to have trust and confidence in your hearing health care provider and why I always recommend using an audiologist for hearing aid services.
ENT Audiology Center and ENT Specialists of Abilene would like to thank all their patients for their amazing support this past year. Being the first full year of operation for our audiology department, we saw a great response and growth as you all believed in our mission to provide a superior method for diagnosis, treatment and management for patients with hearing difficulties. We are truly blessed to have the opportunity to serve the Big Country and look forward to how we improve our service for years to come.
A Year in Review …
I have thoroughly enjoyed working on this series of articles over the past year and hope that they have been informative and helpful for our patients or anyone having questions about hearing and hearing help options. We have covered many topics this past year. Let’s take a look at some of the major issues we have covered.
As we have talked about on several occasions, we always recommend seeking help from a licensed audiologist for your hearing healthcare needs. Diagnosis and treatment options for a hearing loss can require special attention and continuous management that an audiologist is best trained to guide patients through the process.
Do you know that there’s a hearing aid that’s so small that no one even knows you are wearing it, and adjusting it is as simple as a swipe on your phone?
Hearing aids aren’t the bulky devices they used to be. They’re discreet, easy-to-use, and can connect wirelessly with the devices you already use.
Take Widex BEYOND, for example. BEYOND is the newest hearing aid to hit the market. It’s a marvel in sound, look, and feel and it’s made-for-iPhone technology means that it pairs seamlessly with your smartphone.
As with most forms of technology, wireless connectivity has hit the hearing aid market over the past few years. One of the major connectivity changes has been that of “Made for iPhone” (MFi) connectivity that uses a modified Bluetooth signal to connect the hearing aids directly to your iPhone or other Apple device. This connection allows for several applications that help improve sound quality and overall benefit for an individual with hearing loss. Let’s take an updated look at how hearing aids are able to interact with smartphones.
Hearing Aid Technology Overview
As of 2017 the majority of the six major hearing aid manufactures have direct to smartphone compatibility. There are two different connections that the hearing aids are able to make with smartphones: control connections and streaming connections. The control interface allows users to use their smartphones as remotes to make changes to the hearing aids and the streaming connection allows for any audio to be streamed through both hearing aids using the patient’s unique prescription that is based on the hearing test. The connections between the hearing aids and the device are a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connection that helps to conserve battery life. Due to the use of the BLE, streaming connections are only compatible with iPhone and Apple operating systems. Android-based smartphones are limited to control connections through a manufacture specific app.
Plastic is said to be one of the major innovations that has fueled advancements in all aspect of technology and product development. With plastic being integrated into all aspects of our everyday life, the slogan “Plastics make it possible®” captures the idea that “it” can be anything and everything. How does plastic help your hearing? Aside from the fact that hearing aids are made of many components containing plastic, I like to think of our brains’ ability to be “plastic” and adapt to changes in how we process sound.
Brain Plasticity and Sound
One of the most amazing aspects of the human brain is its ability to change and adapt throughout the course of an individual’s life. One of the best examples of this plasticity in regard to hearing is that of a child who receives a cochlear implant. It is common that if a child receives a cochlear implant at an early age, his or her brain can adapt to the artificial stimulation through the cochlear implant and have very good language acquisition. This change is not magic or automatic, but requires extensive work and therapy that helps the brain manage the transition.
As an audiologist one of the most frequently asked questions patients ask is: “Do I really need two hearing aids or can I just use one?” The simple answer … Yes! If you have hearing loss in both ears, you need a pair of hearing aids. There are many reasons why an audiologist should always recommend a pair of hearing aids for a binaural (both ears) hearing loss. Are there cases where only one hearing aid may be the best option? Yes, but due to advances in technology they are becoming less frequent. Let’s take a look at a few reasons that Two is almost always better than One.
It’s All about the Brain!
If you have read any of our previous articles, you will not be surprised when I start out with: “We hear with our brain, not our ears!” How our brain processes sound is truly amazing, especially how it is able to take information from both ears and use that to create a “sound blueprint” of the environment. The first benefit we get from hearing well from both ears is something called Binaural Loudness Summation, which means that when a sound is picked up by both ears, the brain interprets it as being 3-6 dB louder than a single stimulus. This natural boost in the sound could be the difference between mishearing a word in a conversation and missing the whole conversation.
On average an individual with gradual, progressive hearing loss will wait approximately 7 years after noting difficulties before seeking help. While a gradual hearing loss may not require the same swift response as chest pain or a broken leg, 7 years is way too long to wait to address hearing and communication issues. Hearing takes place in the brain, and improving auditory stimulation sooner rather than later can improve overall outcomes for hearing help options. In this article, we will look at the “hearing aid process” of a typical patient who may be pursuing hearing help options.
The Initial Hearing Aid Appointment
Once a patient has decided to seek help for hearing loss there are two basic options for getting an appointment set up: Self-referral to an Audiologist or medical referral through a primary care physician/specialists. If hearing loss is the only complaint, a self-referral directly to an audiologist can save time and multiple office visits. An audiologist should always complete a comprehensive evaluation and be able to refer to a primary care physician or specialists if needed.
At the initial visit, the audiologist will ask general health-related question and get information about specific communicative concerns, complete a comprehensive hearing evaluation to look into a potential hearing loss, and counsel the patient about the results and offer recommendations for hearing help options. If hearing aids are recommended and the patient is wanting to move forward with help, the hearing aids will be ordered and a hearing aid fitting appointment will be set up.