Categories
Hearing Loss

Why don’t people get their hearing checked?

It’s more than a hearing test

I was thinking the other day about 33 years ago when I was just starting my audiology practice. One day I had very lovely 83 year young lady who requested a hearing test. As with all my other patients I was interviewing/talking to her in my sound booth when after the very first question she started crying. Okay, I’m a guy in my 20’s thinking “it’s just a hearing test”, but I soon found out that there was so much more to her story. The patient proceeded to tell me she had just been diagnosed with dementia by her M.D. and her family agreed. This was a tough realization for her and she was beginning to think she was “losing it” because she kept hearing and responding incorrectly when people spoke to her. This hearing test was the last check for her, she was afraid the results would reveal what she feared the most. It was then that I realized how much I needed to exercise empathy with my patients, as they all have stories as to why they are getting their hearing checked.

In the case of this patient, we found she was barely hearing conversational speech, a common symptom of hearing loss. The good news was that it was fixable and within 2 weeks the patient was fit with hearing aids. Once fit everyone realized pretty quickly she had no dementia, she simple wasn’t hearing enough to understand what was being said to her. This is what I love about my job, helping people get connected back to their lives.

The big pictures lesson I learned was I wasn’t just doing a hearing test, for a lot of patients I’m a life line in order to keep a normal life. I’ve never forgotten that. In fact I’ve made it my mission to educate others on the topic as much as possible.

So why don’t people recognize that they have a hearing loss?

There are 3 primary reasons:

1) Hearing loss can naturally happen over time and isn’t always noticeable. In today’s world there are so many sounds around us it makes it hard to focus. Hearing loss is not like turning down the sound on TV. Most of us will lose hearing in the high frequencies first while maintaining good hearing in their bass. This is why you will hear many with a hearing loss complain that they hear as loud as they use to but no longer can understand what is being said to them.

2) It is easy to dismiss a potential problem if you’re not ready to face the possibility of it. On average, it can take up to 7 years before someone will do something about their hearing upon initial diagnosis. Imagine all the sounds that are lost within a 7 year period! Don’t miss out on your life out of fear! In the case of my lovely patient above, she was afraid of the outcome because it was possibly going to change her entire world. We were able to help her connect back with her world.

3) Hearing loss is more noticeable to friends and family first. I’ve seen this over and over again. The person with hearing loss doesn’t realize they are even missing anything. They can’t hear people calling out to them so when they finally do hear, it’s the first time. To them, they don’t understand why everyone is so impatient. It is here where those relationships can start to feel strain. The hearing impaired person gets tired of the attitude and “nagging” the friends and family get tired of repeating themselves. If a solution isn’t diagnosed soon, those relationships will eventually give up on each other and isolation will occur. This is what we want to stop on a daily basis, people don’t have to live like that.

If you or a loved one can identify with anything outlined above, please don’t hesitate to call your AudigyCertified provider.  Many times the solution is simply removing wax build up. You don’t have to go through this alone and you don’t have to watch a family member go through this on their own. Give us a call today.

Our patient-centered approach allows us to focus on satisfying your hearing care need, whatever they may be. Our practices will work with you to diagnose and find solutions for your hearing, tinnitus, and balance needs using state-of-the-art equipment and the most advanced technology. Because our focus is entirely on your unique needs, coming to one of our practices means that you’ll experience patient care that is specific to you, with exceptional follow-up care that ensures your hearing and balance needs are being met.

A strong patient-provider relationship based on honesty, integrity, and values is what we strive for, and we feel that this is the best approach to making sure you don’t miss any of the precious moments in your life.

Categories
Hearing Loss

Hear Better for the Holidays

Hear the holidays

Holiday season brings friends and family members together to celebrate and connect with each other. If you or someone you love is experiencing hearing difficulty, you might find these family gatherings frustrating instead of treasuring this time together. Hearing loss doesn’t just affect the ears; it brings on so many emotions, including embarrassment and frustration when you are unable to participate in conversation with your loved ones. Family members express the same concerns when trying to communicate with their loved one who is having the difficulty. Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States and can affect anyone at any age. Untreated hearing loss has been associated with depression, isolation, and cognitive decline. Sadly, most people wait at least seven years to treat it. Now is the time to do something about it!

When it comes to purchasing hearing devices, most patients consider it a “retail purchase,” and that they can just be bought off the shelf. But a hearing aid cannot offer the full benefits without a trained professional to program that aid, teach you how to use it, and manipulate it specifically for you and the listening environments that are most important to you. Hearing loss is a health problem, requiring a health care professional to treat it. Hearing devices are not “one size fits all.” The ability to integrate your devices with your lifestyle is essential to achieving better hearing, and a doctor of audiology is the most qualified professional to do this. Your investment in better hearing should be measured by the results you experience every day.

Just because hearing loss is common doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated as soon as possible. Why wait? Improve your quality of life, be engaged in group and family conversations, and love the way you hear this year! Call your local AudigyCertified™ practice today!

Categories
Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss Basics

According to the Better Hearing Institute, hearing loss is now the third most common health problem in the country today, behind only arthritis and heart disease with more than 50 million Americans suffering from its effects. There are some common questions I get from patients in regards to their hearing, hearing loss and hearing aids so I would like to answer a few of the most common:

1. How does hearing work?

Sounds start as moving waves and enter the ear canal, and then the sound will vibrate your eardrum and send the signal through your middle ear bones, to your permanent hearing organs or your cochleas. The cochleas then transmit the sound to the brain to be processed into speech and other sound information. The brain takes the sound coming from both ears to be able to tell where sound is coming from.

2. What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss can be caused by a variety of factors. There are a few major factors that can affect hearing:

Genetics – hearing loss can have a familial link.

Natural Aging Process – the slow deterioration of hearing over time can get more progressive the higher up in age we go.

Toxicity/Trauma – head trauma or a fall can sometimes affect the physical parts of the ear which transmit sound. Some medications are toxic to the ears (ototoxic). See this pdf for more information on ototoxic medications: www.chchearing.org/sites/default/files/Ototoxic_Brochure.pdf

Noise Exposure – two types of sound exposure can cause noise-induced hearing loss: prolonged noise exposure or a sudden, loud, single burst of sound like a bang from a firecracker. Always wear hearing protection if you are in a high noise environment to prevent any hearing loss.

3. Will my hearing get worse?

There are no predictions when it comes to hearing loss changes. I recommend baseline hearing evaluations if you feel you are having difficulty. Then as years go on, if you feel your hearing has changed or after exposure to dangerously loud noises, your hearing can be re-tested and compared to previous results.

4. Why do I need two hearing aids?

Hearing happens at the level of the brain. If you are diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears, it will always be medically recommended to correct the loss in both ears because the brain needs sound coming through both of your ears equally and evenly to process the best signal possible. Using just one hearing aid when a hearing test result indicates that you need two, reduces your brain’s hearing and understanding by 50%.

5. What hearing aids are right for me?

You don’t just purchase hearing aids, you see a certified and qualified audiologist to listen to your individual hearing concerns and make the best recommendation for your specific listening needs. There are hundreds if not thousands of different hearing aids on the market today, and choosing a trusted Audiologist is the first step to finding the hearing aids that are best for you. Then, you and your audiologist create a plan together to meet all of your expectations for better hearing. As an Audigy Certified professional, I believe in providing the highest level of patient care.

Categories
Hearing Aids

Why Do I Need Two Hearing Aids?

“Why can’t I just get one hearing aid?”

This a common question in any audiology practice. Years and years ago, even with hearing loss in both ears, it was common practice that one hearing aid would be “good enough.” Yes, there are folks today who use just one hearing aid, and there are different reasons why this might be the case, but generally when someone has hearing loss in both ears, the best practice is to amplify both ears.

Some reasons why someone might have one hearing aid:

Some people have hearing loss in one ear and normal hearing in the other. If the ear with hearing loss is useable, which is measured by the degree of word recognition at a loud enough volume to compensate for the decreased hearing, then amplifying the hearing-impaired ear can make a lot of sense. It can equal out the information provided to the brain from the other ear, provide localization, and help with hearing in difficult listening situations.

If hearing loss in one ear is not useable, which is determined by measuring a poor degree of word recognition in the hearing-impaired ear, then a hearing aid may not be recommended. People with non-useable hearing loss may choose to do nothing and try to compensate with one ear only. This is a case where someone has a hearing loss — which may not be noticeable to anyone else — but they struggle tremendously in a noisy environment because of poor localizing ability.

Hearing loss can also be significantly different between each ear. Someone may have useable mild to moderate hearing loss on one side and non-usable hearing on the other. This could be due to a number of factors, from injury to infections. This person has hearing loss in both ears, but may only use a hearing aid on one side because the brain only processes sound successfully on one side. Although a hearing aid is necessary for this person to be involved in any conversation — and they will seem to hear well in quiet — they will still struggle greatly in a noisy place due to the use of only one ear.

Some benefits of wearing two hearing aids:

Even with non-usable hearing on one side, many individuals benefit from a CROS or contralateral-routing-of-signal type of hearing aid. This kind of hearing aid is actually two small devices — one worn on each ear. A transmitter on the unusable ear sends sound from that side to a receiver on the good ear. This allows the user to hear voices from their “bad” side, and this is an example of someone who has hearing loss on only one side but will appear to be wearing two hearing aids. This type of hearing aid may help balance out sound. They may not be able to figure out where you are when you are calling them from behind, but they will hear a voice from their “bad side” and have help when trying to understand conversation in a noisy place.

Research has proven time and again that hearing is a complex process. The complexities of hearing loss also illustrate the importance of a comprehensive hearing evaluation done by a licensed and trusted audiologist. And, yes, there are situations where one hearing aid may be indicated. But generally, when hearing loss is identified in both ears, two hearing aids is currently recognized as best practice.

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Hearing Aids

Personalized Hearing

What’s Best For Your Friend May Not Be Best For You

Many times when patients come to an AudigyCertified provider for a consultation they have done some research on hearing aids prior to their appointment. Often, that research involves getting the opinions of friends or family that have hearing aids.

Patients then give me the mixed reviews: their friends love their hearing aids, they hate their hearing aids, the hearing aids whistle, their friends like a specific brand, and the list goes on and on. My next question is always “do you know what their hearing loss looks like?” The answer is always a resounding “no”. If we don’t know what someone else’s hearing loss looks like compared to our own, we don’t know if what they have will be the best solution for you.

An individual’s hearing loss is just one of the five aspects that to consider in a successful hearing aid fitting. With personalization of all areas of the hearing treatment, negative complaints can be avoided and optimal hearing can be achieved.

Lifestyle Assessment

A lifestyle assessment helps to identify the types of listening environments a patient is in and where they experience difficulty hearing. These listening environments may include TV, restaurants, family gatherings and other social events. This lifestyle analysis allows us to find a solution that is the best fit for the patient’s lifestyle needs. Fulfilling these needs may include the technology level, Bluetooth capabilities, iPhone hearing aids or extended wear hearing aids.

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can present itself in many different ways. There are different degrees and configurations of hearing loss, from mild to profound, which dictates what sounds the patient is missing in their daily life. Based on the patient’s individual hearing loss, we select the appropriate hearing aid that will benefit the patient now and in the future.

Hearing Aid Style

Hearing aid style is very important for all patients and there are many options to choose from. When selecting a hearing aid style we must consider cosmetics, dexterity, vision, and hearing loss. Our goal is to find a hearing aid that the patient will be comfortable wearing and operating so it does not end up in a drawer.

The Physical Fit

Contrary to popular belief, a hearing aid should be comfortable. It should fit in the ear so it will not fall out, hurt, or whistle. If any of these are happening, then either the hearing aids are not appropriate fit or they are not the correct hearing aids for the patient. We work together with our patients to ensure that the hearing aids are not bothersome and are as comfortable as wearing a watch or glasses.

Sound Quality

At Mission Audiology, we use verification measures called Live Speech Mapping to achieve optimal sound quality. Live Speech Mapping is the only true way to verify that a hearing aid is performing in the ear correctly. If two people have the same hearing loss but have different ear canal sizes, the sound will act differently within that space. Therefore, Live Speech Mapping allows us to customize the sound, taking the individual’s hearing loss and ear canal size into account, to make sure sounds are audible and comfortable in volume.

Let Us Help

All of the aspects must work together for a patient to achieve a successful hearing aid fitting. So you can see, due to these variables, what your friend needs to achieve optimal hearing may be vastly different than what you need. With different hearing losses, ear sizes, and lifestyle needs the only right solution for you is a personalized solution. We are in an age where technology allows for ease of listening in various environments. Complaints from the past should no longer be an issue with today’s technology and standards of care. At Mission Audiology we are an AudigyCertified practice and strive for personalized hearing using the best standards of care for optimal hearing.

 

Categories
Hearing Aids

Hearing difficulties CAN be overcome, but…

…It’s not the widget

I see it all the time

A person will make an appointment to come into my practice and they – or a family member – are frustrated and confused. They have suffered from hearing difficulties for years … and gone through just about every stage possible when it comes to trying hearing aids.

First they bought one of those $59 devices from an ad they saw in the back of a magazine … which did not help at all.

Then they bought something off the Internet for a few hundred dollars, which worked about as well as the first item.

After that they tried still more product-based options based on the praises about – and discounted prices on – Product XYZ that they saw in advertisements, with the same disappointing results.

Multiple attempts. Thousands of dollars wasted. Their take on the whole process: “Hearing aids don’t work!” My response is that they think that way because they placed their trust in a product rather than a process.

Amazed at results

Fast-forward a few weeks and this new patient of mine is amazed at the results. Not only can they hear, but they can understand what it is that they are hearing! Their lives been changed for the better, as well as the lives of their loved ones, friends, and associates.

Results like these are the norm in my practice. The process I referred to earlier is implemented for each and every patient on a customized basis. And while the hearing aid technology is a part of that process, it is not the only part.

I liken this process to the construction of a building: there are vital components that must be in place or the structure will eventually fail, such as the pillars that support a roof. Combined, all the pillars (or “support beams” to use another term) collectively hold the roof up. But if one should fail, all are likely to fail, as well

As it applies to hearing difficulties the three “Pillars of Support” that provide for a successful solution are:

Patient goals

The first pillar of support is you, the patient. What are your goals? And what is your level of willingness to attend follow-up appointments and to take careful notes and assessments of how you perceive you are doing with your new ability to hear? Remember, we are retraining your brain to recognize and comprehend what it is now – and which it had not for some time – hearing.

The professional

My job (and the job of the other audiologist in our office, Traci Long, M.A., CCC-A) is to get to know you, learn about your difficulties, the affect your hearing difficulties are having on your family/friends, lifestyle, etc. It is also up to me, or Traci,  to know which hearing aid will be the best choice for you and your listening lifestyle.

The Best Technology

Just as no professional race car driver would hope to win the Daytona 500 driving an old jalopy, successful hearing loss treatment requires superb, science-based technology.

At North State Audiological Services, we have invested in state-of-the-art diagnostic testing equipment (only audiologists are licensed to perform diagnostic evaluations in California) for which to conduct our assessments.

As part of AudigyGroup, we provide our patients with AGX Hearing Aid Technology, manufactured exclusively just for us by the top hearing aid manufacturers in the world. This fantastic, private-brand technology is available only through AudigyCertified™ practices and is the very best, period!

People Bring It All Together

In the long run, it really is about people. You. My fabulous, AudigyCertified™ staff. An audiologist – like Traci or myself – who is educated and trained in diagnostic assessments, and who understands how the brain, its hearing system, and hearing aid technology should interact. The dedicated people of different backgrounds who work for the top hearing manufacturing companies. And the tremendous people at AudigyGroup who act as the glue in bringing this all together on a daily basis.

Success for people with hearing difficulties is attainable. But for these people – and their families – their focus should be on people who have pledged to make a positive difference in their patients lives … not on selling them a widget … Because hearing is a wonderful gift!

Since 2006, AudigyGroup has interviewed over 5,000 of the 18,000 audiologists in the United States, yet has selected only 250 to be members in this elite association. Dr. Chalmers is the only AudigyGroup professional in the entire northeastern part of California. AudigyCertified™ is a trade-mark of AudigyGroup, LLC.
Categories
Hearing Aids

Hearing Aids: Cost Factors vs. Value (Is It Worth It?)

Why not mail order hearing aids?

Yikes! The cost of hearing aids continues to go up! The current cost for a hearing aid in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa is $1,000–$4,000. How could this be? Especially when I can get something from a magazine for $400!

I frequently get asked why someone should choose to see an audiologist instead of just getting mail-order hearing aids. Many people look at the bottom line ($$$) and make decisions from there. More sophisticated shoppers realize the difference between the value and the investment. This holiday season, take notice of what you are missing out on, and imagine how much better you could be doing if you had exceptional care and professional judgment. Do you get value out of your current devices? Would it make sense to get a second opinion?

Cheap hearing devices are…cheap!

The look and feel of the casing, the battery door, the piece of plastic that sits in the ear canal — none of it is high quality. There is even some danger to having an incorrectly sized dome stuck in your ear canal. From a sound quality standpoint, if you were to examine the sounds that these devices amplify, it is often louder but is not set up to match the individual’s hearing loss. The individual’s loudness preferences are also not taken into account for loud/soft sounds. There is even a danger that some sounds could cause more hearing loss if the settings are at unsafe levels.

Additionally, background noise is not removed at all, and many describe sounds as akin to a cheap transistor radio. Care and maintenance are poorly explained. Also, when the hearing aid breaks or if the individual has a question, where do they go for help? There are no local places that can serve them because no one has the parts or the programming capabilities. If they are lucky, they may have kept the original address or phone number so they can send the device back to the factory, hopefully receiving it back in a couple weeks. But worst of all, after two to three months of trying to hear and finally giving up, it’s a waste of $400, which could have been spent on something much more valuable.

Get professional advice

Having a local audiologist is a good start toward better hearing. Part of what you pay for is the service that you receive. It is important to know how to properly insert, remove, and clean the device, as well as change the battery. (Yes, there are instructions for that too!) But what about knowing what to expect and what kind of adjustments may be needed over the next three weeks, three months, three years, and the rest of the life of the device? In my professional opinion, adjusting hearing aids is like adjusting your training for a marathon. It is a good idea to start easy in the beginning and turn up the sound over time. Everyone deserves a program customized to their unique needs.

Technology matters

Lower-cost hearing devices come with fewer options and less ability to process the signal in background noise. Still, if cost factors are really an issue, it is good to know that a less-expensive device only costs a little more than the $400 you were originally going to throw away. A more basic device is still much better than what mail-order devices can offer.

We can help

Finding the right professional is a personal decision. AudigyCertified™ practices offer trial periods to ensure that a customized process has successfully been started and that your investment is a good decision. Additionally, verification ensures the settings are correct for each individual’s loss. They also work hard to keep your investment in top working order for its lifetime. While the average life of a hearing aid is about five years, it is not unusual for patients to get six to eight years or more from some devices.

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Hearing Aids

Mission Trip to Nicaragua

Back in June, two representatives of Chesapeake Hearing Centers, Inc., traveled to Managua, Nicaragua, with the Starkey Hearing Foundation (SHF) to fit hearing aids on the local population. For Dr. Caroline H. Aland, director of clinical services, and her husband, Timothy P. Aland, president, it was an adventure that they may never forget. Over a three-day period, the couple fit 171 hearing aids.

“Having the chance to work with such a fantastic population was exhilarating. The people of Nicaragua were constantly smiling and excited, in many cases, to experience hearing aids for the first time,” stated Dr. Aland. “We worked with all age groups and just wish we could have done more!”

For her husband, it was a chance to get out from behind the desk. “I’ve been working with Chesapeake Hearing Centers for over 23 years. Most days are spent dealing with day-to-day operations. This mission really allowed me to step out and work one-on-one with the patients. Even with the language barrier, we knew we were connecting,” he said. “The folks with the Starkey Hearing Foundation were fantastic, and I cannot say enough about Bill Austin and his crew.”

Chesapeake Hearing Centers donates a portion of the proceeds from every Starkey-manufactured hearing aid they sell to SHF. These funds are later used to pay for mission work in locations all across the globe. The overall goal is to fit 1 million aids through SHF, both here and abroad. SHF accepts donations of used aids, and they can be dropped off at any of Chesapeake’s six locations.

For more information on SHF, visit www.starkeyhearingfoundation.com.

Categories
Hearing Aids

More Tips for Phone Communication

Good phone suggestions

A common issue for those wearing hearing aids is being able to hear well on the telephone. My clients over the years have typically done any of the following:

• Leave their hearing aids on and are able to hear well on the phone
• Remove their hearing aids to hear their best on the phone
• Use the speakerphone so that they can benefit from binaural hearing while on the phone
• Hear their best on their mobile/cellphone because the volume can be increased more than their home phone
• Connect wireless hearing aids to their phone for binaural streaming of calls

But they don’t work for everyone

For some individuals, the tactics above don’t offer a solution, and they continue to ask for something to help them better hear and understand friends, family, healthcare professionals, and unfamiliar callers.

This is often due to the fact that, with their particular hearing loss, they detect speech at more normal levels with their hearing aids but have poor word comprehension as a symptom of their loss, and they require visual clues to the conversational topic.

Historically, we have only been able to offer a TTY (tele-typewriter), which works through a special telephone company operator who types what is being said for the person with the hearing loss. Although a wonderful solution, it has its limitations — particularly for those who do not speak English or who have difficulty reading the typed message.

New video phone technology can help

We now live in a wonderful era of technology that allows us to have both auditory and visual cues when talking on the phone, with things like FaceTime® and Skype®. These can be used on mobile phones, tablets, and computers (desktop or laptop). The sound can be transmitted to hearing aids with wireless capability (if not wireless, hearing aids can still function like a speakerphone), and you can see the person who is talking. We strongly urge even those who are not tech savvy to consider this option — family or friends can help set this up so that it is simple and easy to use.

Categories
Hearing Aids

What Can Help Me Hear Better on the Phone?

Question:

I have trouble hearing on the telephone. Is there something I can get to hear more easily on the phone?

Answer:

There are a few different options available to help you hear better on the telephone:

1. Buy an in-line amplifier for a regular corded phone.

2. Buy a cordless phone with built-in amplifier for the hearing impaired.

3. Ensure your hearing aid has a telecoil option to use with hearing aid compatible telephones. This can work well for most people but does require you to learn to put the phone at the sweet spot on the hearing aid for phone reception. Hearing aid compatible phones should have a rating of M3, T4 or M4, T4.

4. If you are looking to purchase new hearing aids, consider getting the type that use wireless interface devices. These allow you to hear through both hearing aids without having to put the phone at a special place on your hearing aid.

This is a brilliant, new alternative and is best understood by coming in for a demonstration from your AudigyCertified provider. This wireless interface device can also be set up to work  with your TV and stereo, and it is not limited to helping you with just the telephone.