Why Choose a Local Hearing Care Provider?

The hearing healthcare industry has two barriers that prevent people from achieving healthier hearing:

  1. The inability to detect hearing loss in the first place (owing to its gradual onset), and
  2. The temptation to find a quick, easy, and inexpensive solution.

Unfortunately, countless people who have overcome the first barrier have been lured into the allegedly “cheaper and easier” techniques of correcting their hearing loss, whether it be through the purchase of hearing aids over the internet, the purchase of personal sound amplifiers, or by heading to the big box stores that are much more concerned with profitability than with patient care.

Despite the lure of these simple remedies, the fact is that local hearing care providers are your best option for better hearing, and here are the reasons why.

Local hearing care providers choose to use a customer-centric business model

National chain stores are profitable for one reason: they sell a high volume of low-priced goods and services at low prices in the name of larger revenue. National chains are all about efficiency, which is a nice way of saying “get as many people in and out the door as rapidly as possible.”

Undoubtedly, this profit-centric model works great with most purchases, because you most likely don’t need professional, individualized care to help select your undershirts and bath soap. Customer service simply doesn’t factor in.

However, problems result when this business model is expanded to services that do demand expert, customized care—such as the correction of hearing loss. National chains are not focused on patient outcomes because they can’t be; it’s too time-consuming and flies in the face of the high volume “see as many patients as possible” business model.

Local hearing care providers are very different. They’re not preoccupied with short-term profits because they don’t have a board of directors to answer to. The success of a local practice is reliant on patient outcomes and high quality of care, which results in satisfied patients who continue to be faithful to the practice and disperse the positive word-of-mouth advertising that leads to more referrals.

Local practices, for that reason, thrive on delivering quality care, which will benefit both the patient and the practice. In contrast, what happens if a national chain can’t deliver quality care and happy patients? Simple, they use nationwide advertising to get a endless flow of new patients, vowing the same “quick and cheap fix” that enticed in the original customers.

Local hearing care providers have more experience

Hearing is complex, and like our fingerprints, is unique to everyone, so the frequencies I may have difficulty hearing are distinct from the frequencies you have difficulty hearing. In other words, you can’t just take surrounding sound, make it all louder, and pump it into your ears and count on good results. But this is essentially what personal sound amplifiers, along with the cheaper hearing aid models, accomplish.

The truth is, the sounds your hearing aids amplify—AND the sounds they don’t—HAVE to complement the way you, and only you, hear. That’s only going to occur by:

  • Having your hearing professionally tested so you know the EXACT features of your hearing loss, and…
  • Having your hearing aids professionally programmed to amplify the sounds you have difficulty hearing while distinguishing and suppressing the sounds you don’t want to hear (such as low-frequency background sound).

For the hearing care provider, this is no straight forward task. It requires a considerable amount of training and patient care experience to be able to conduct a hearing test, help patients select the right hearing aid, skillfully program the hearing aids, and supply the patient training and aftercare necessary for optimal hearing. There are no shortcuts to supplying comprehensive hearing care—but the results are worth the time and effort.

Make your choice

So, who do you want to leave your hearing to? To someone who views you as a transaction, as a consumer, and as a means to attaining sales targets? Or to an experienced local professional that cares about the same thing you do—helping you acquire the best hearing possible, which, by the way, is the lifeblood of the local practice.

As a general rule, we advise that you avoid purchasing your hearing aids anywhere you see a sign that reads “10 items or less.” As local, experienced hearing professionals, we provide comprehensive hearing healthcare and the best hearing technology to match your specific needs, lifestyle, and budget.

Still have questions? Give us a call today.

The Right Way to Clean Your Ears

Anatomy of the ear
Blausen.com staff. “Blausen gallery 2014″.

That there is a right way to clean your ears suggests that there is a wrong way, and indeed, there is a very wrong way. The wrong way is widespread, and it breaches the very first rule of cleaning your ears: don’t insert foreign objects into your ear canal. That includes cotton swabs and any other object that will likely only force the earwax up against the eardrum, possibly causing irritation, temporary hearing loss, or eardrum injury.

So what should you be doing to clean your ears under usual circumstances? In a word: nothing (I hope you weren’t expecting something more profound). Your ears are made to be self-cleaning, and the normal movements of your jaw move earwax from the canal to the outer ear. If you try to remove it, your ear just produces more wax.

And earwax is important, as it contains protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties. In fact, over-cleaning the ears can cause dry, itchy, irritated skin within the ear canal. So, for most people the majority of of the time, nothing is needed other than normal bathing to wash the outer ear.

But notice that we said MOST of the time, because there are instances in which people do produce an excessive amount of earwax or excess earwax impacts the eardrum. In situations like these, you will need to clean out your ears. Here’s how:

Cleaning your ears at home

We will say it again: don’t insert any foreign objects into your ear canal. You can irritate the delicate skin of the canal and can end up perforating your eardrum. This means no cotton swabs and absolutely no ear candles. (Speaking of ear candles, in 2010, the FDA issued a warning against using them, declaring that no scientific evidence supports their effectiveness and that their use can lead to major injuries.)

To correctly clean your ears at home, take the following actions:

  1. Purchase earwax softening solution at the drugstore or make some at home. Instructions for making the mixture can be found on the internet, and the solution often includes the use of hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, and glycerin.
  2. Pour the solution into your ears from the container or by using a plastic or bulb syringe. Tilt your head to the side and allow the solution to work for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Drain the solution out of your ear by tilting your head slowly over a bowl or the sink, or you can use a cotton ball pressed against the outside of the ear. (I know it’s tempting, but again, don’t force the cotton ball into your ear.)
  4. Flush out your ears with lukewarm water using a bulb syringe to displace any loose earwax.

When not to clean your ears at home

Cleaning your ears at home could be unsafe in the presence of an ear infection or a perforated eardrum. If you suffer from any symptoms such as fever, lightheadedness, ear pain, or ear discharge, it’s best to consult with your doctor or hearing specialist. Also, repeated attempts at self cleaning that are unsuccessful may signify a more serious congestion that necessitates professional cleaning.

Medical doctors and hearing specialists apply a variety of medicines and devices to rapidly, thoroughly, and safely remove excess earwax. The solutions tend to be more powerful than the homemade versions, and tools called curettes can be inserted into the ear to manually remove the wax.

When in doubt, leave it to the experts. You’ll get the assurance that you’re not causing damage to your ears, and symptoms can subside within minutes of a professional cleaning. In addition, underlying problems or hearing loss can be identified and corrected by a professional.

If you have any additional questions or want to set up an appointment, give us a call today! And keep in mind, if you’re a hearing aid user, you’ll want to get a repeated professional checkup every 6 months.

The Surprising Statistics Behind Occupational Hearing Loss

It’s popular to think of hearing loss as an inescapable problem linked with aging, or, more recently, as a consequence of the younger generation’s constant use of iPods. But the numbers reveal that the larger problem may be exposure to loud noise at work.

In the United States, 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise, and an approximated 242 million dollars is devoted each year on worker’s compensation claims for hearing loss, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

What’s more is that higher rates of hearing loss are found in progressively noisier occupations, suggesting that exposure to sounds above a certain level progressively enhances your risk for developing noise-induced hearing loss later in life.

How loud is too loud?

A study performed by Audicus discovered that, of those who were not subjected to work-related noise levels over 90 decibels, only 9 percent struggled with noise-induced hearing loss at age 50. In comparison, construction workers, who are regularly exposed to sound levels as high as 120 decibels, struggled with noise-induced hearing loss at the age of 50 at a rate of 60 percent!

It seems that 85-90 decibels is the ceiling for safe sound levels, but that’s not the complete story: the decibel scale is logarithmic, not linear. That signifies that as you increase the decibel level by 3 decibels, the sound level just about doubles. So 160 decibels is not two times as loud as 80—it’s about 26 times louder!

Here’s how it breaks down: a decibel level of 0 is hardly perceptible, regular conversation is about 60 decibels, the threshold for safety is 85-90 decibels, and the death of hearing cells starts at 180 decibels. It’s the region between 85 and 180 that leads to noise-induced hearing loss, and as would be imagined, the professions with increasingly louder decibel levels have steadily higher rates of hearing loss.

Hearing loss by occupation

As the following table demonstrates, as the decibel levels connected with each occupation increase, hearing loss rates increase as well:

Occupation Decibel level Incidence rates of hearing loss at age 50
No noise exposure Less than 90 decibels 9%
Manufacturing 105 decibels 30%
Farming 105 decibels 36%
Construction 120 decibels 60%

Any occupation with decibel levels above 90 places its workforce at risk for hearing loss, and this includes rock musicians (110 dB), nightclub staff (110 dB), Formula One drivers (135 dB), airport ground staff (140 dB), and shooting range marshalls (140 dB). In each case, as the decibel level rises, the risk of noise-induced hearing loss rises with it.

Protecting your hearing

A recent US study on the prevalence of hearing loss in farming found that 92 percent of the US farmers surveyed were exposed to unsafe noise levels, but that only 44 percent reported to use hearing protection accessories on a every day basis. Factory workers, on the other hand, tend to stick to to stricter hearing protection regulations, which may explain why the incidence rate of hearing loss is slightly lower in manufacturing than it is in farming, despite subjection to similar decibel volumes.

All of the data point to one thing: the significance of protecting your hearing. If you work in a risky job, you need to take the right preventive steps. If avoiding the noise is not an option, you need to find ways to minimize the noise levels (best attained with custom earplugs), in addition to assuring that you take frequent rest breaks for your ears. Controlling both the sound volume and exposure time will decrease your chances of acquiring noise-induced hearing loss.

If you would like to talk about a hearing protection plan for your unique circumstances or job, give us a call. As hearing specialists, we can provide tailor-made solutions to best protect your hearing at work. We also offer custom earplugs that, in addition to defending your hearing, are comfortable to wear and can maintain the natural quality of sound (as opposed to the muffled sound you hear with foam earplugs).

Finding Financial Assistance for Your Hearing Aids

Hearing Aid Financing

The maxim “you get what you pay for” is certainly true of hearing aids, and while the latest hearing aids are designed to be more effective than ever, they’re not exactly inexpensive, either.

Fortunately, modern digital hearing aids, while not cheap, ARE becoming more affordable, in the same manner that most consumer electronics are becoming more affordable (A 20-inch flat screen TV cost $1,200 in 1999; it costs just $84 today). And when you stop to think about it, we have a tendency to spend considerably more money on things that simply do not enhance our quality of life to the magnitude that a pair of hearing aids can.

Let’s say, for example, that a pair of hearing aids costs $5,000. Assuming the hearing aids last 5 years, that equates to a monthly cost of only $83.33 per month. Many people spend more money on their cable tv bill, and that’s why the majority of our patients openly confess that while the upfront expense seems high, the monthly expense, relative to the benefit they receive from better hearing, is more than worth the cost.

So you have to ask yourself, would you be prepared to devote less than 100 dollars per month to have better conversations and interactions with your family and friends? Most people would, and that’s why millions of people choose to buy hearing aids.

But once you decide to purchase hearing aids, what are your methods for paying for them? Despite common beliefs, you have a number of possible options.

Financing options for hearing aids

The very first mistake people make is assuming that no financial assistance is possible. Even though receiving assistance can be challenging at times, there are in fact quite a few resources that you should inquire about before choosing to hand over a full cash payment. Here are some of the steps we suggest taking:

  • Begin by calling your private insurance provider. While private insurance varies by company and by state, many people discover that their private insurance supplies some type of assistance with hearing aids.
  • Look into utilizing a medical flexible spending account. This is a special kind of account you can use to put aside money (pre-tax) to pay for out-of-pocket medical costs.
  • Check out your Medicare and Medicaid benefits. This is not the most likely way to help pay for hearing aids, but Medicare and Medicaid do supply benefits in certain limited situations.
  • Contact your local VA office if you’re a veteran. Veterans may receive benefits that can help partly or totally pay for hearing aids. Check with your local VA office for more information.
  • Search for charitable organizations that grant hearing aids or financial help. If you meet the financial criteria, there are numerous charitable organizations that offer hearing aids or financial assistance for hearing aids. We’ll share some resources for you in the following section.
  • Check your state’s vocational rehabilitation program. If hearing aids are required for work, your state may help you pay for them through its vocational rehabilitation program.
  • Consider financing your hearing aids. Numerous programs can be found, including CareCredit, which functions like a credit card but is exclusive to healthcare services.

Additional resources

There are far too many options and resources to name, and many programs are specific to the state you reside in or to the specific institutions you’re associated with. So, instead of reading through a long list of resources, it’s best to search for programs specific to your state or circumstances. For instance, performing a Google search for “hearing aid funding in ” or “hearing aid assistance for veterans” will likely supply some valuable results.

You might also want to check out the list of financial resources from the
Better Hearing Institute
and the Hearing Loss Association of America, both of which list programs by state and incorporate lists of various charitable organizations.

If you’re still not positive where to get started, or are having a hard time finding information, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We can point you in the right direction and can help you find the financing option that works best for you. Your hearing is worth it—call us today!

Understanding Your Treatment Options for Tinnitus

Approximately 45 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, which is the perception of sound where no outside sound source exists. This phantom sound is normally perceived as a ringing sound, but can also materialize as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking.

The first thing to understand about tinnitus is that it’s a symptom, not a disease. As a result, tinnitus may indicate an underlying medical condition that, after treated, cures the tinnitus. Earwax accumulation or other blockages, blood vessel disorders, specific medications, and other underlying disorders can all bring on tinnitus, so the starting point is ruling out any ailments that would require medical or surgical treatment.

In most instances of tinnitus, however, no specific cause is discovered. In these cases, tinnitus is assumed to be caused by damage to the nerve cells of hearing in the inner ear. Noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and one-time exposure to very loud sounds can all cause tinnitus.

Whenever tinnitus is caused by nerve cell damage, or is connected with hearing loss, tinnitus often cannot be cured—but that doesn’t mean people need to suffer without help. While there is no conclusive cure for most instances of chronic tinnitus, various tinnitus treatment options are available that help patients live better, more comfortable, and more productive lives, even if the perception of tinnitus persists.

Here are some of the treatment options for tinnitus:

Hearing Aids

The majority of cases of tinnitus are connected with some kind of hearing loss. In people with hearing loss, a smaller amount of sound stimulation reaches the brain, and in response, investigators believe that the brain changes physically and chemically to accommodate the shortage of stimulation. It is this maladaptive reaction to sound deprivation that results in tinnitus.

Tinnitus is worsened with hearing loss because when surrounding sound is muffled, the sounds associated with tinnitus become more recognizable. But when hearing aids are utilized, the amplified sound signals cause the sounds of tinnitus to blend into the richer background sounds. Hearing aids for tinnitus patients can then produce multiple benefits, among them better hearing, enhanced auditory stimulation, and a “masking effect” for tinnitus.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy is a wide-ranging phrase used to describe a number of techniques to using external sound to “mask” the tinnitus. Over time, the brain can learn to recognize the sounds of tinnitus as unimportant in comparison to the contending sound, thereby minimizing the intensity of tinnitus.

Sound therapy can be delivered through masking devices but can also be provided through specific hearing aid models that can stream sound wirelessly by means of Bluetooth technology. Some hearing aid models even connect with compatible Apple products, including iPhones, so that any masking sounds installed on the Apple devices can be sent wirelessly to the hearing aids.

The types of masking sounds used may vary, including white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, and music. Sounds can also be specially programmed to match the sound frequency of the patient’s tinnitus, providing customized masking relief. Provided that each patient will respond differently to different masking sounds, it’s critical that you work with a experienced hearing professional.

Behavioral Therapies

Several behavioral therapies exist to help the patient cope with the psychological and emotional elements of tinnitus. One example is mindfulness-based stress reduction, during which the individual learns to accept the ailment while establishing useful coping strategies.

You may have also heard the term Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), which brings together cognitive-behavioral therapy with sound masking therapy. With Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, people learn to establish healthy cognitive and emotional reactions to tinnitus while making use of sound therapy to teach their brains to reclassify tinnitus as unimportant, so that it can be consciously ignored.

General Wellness

In addition to the more targeted sound and behavioral therapies, people can participate in general wellness activities that have a tendency to lessen the severity of tinnitus. These activities consist of healthy diets, frequent exercise, social activity, recreational activities, and any other activities that contribute to improved health and lowered stress.

Drug Therapies

There are presently no FDA-approved medications that have been shown to cure or relieve tinnitus directly, but there are medications that can treat stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can make tinnitus worse or are caused by tinnitus itself. In fact, some antidepressant and antianxiety medications have been shown to provide some relief to patients with severe tinnitus.

Experimental Therapies

A flurry of encouraging research is being carried out in labs and universities throughout the world, as researchers continue to hunt for the underlying neurological cause of tinnitus and its ultimate cure. While many of these experimental therapies have shown some promise, keep in mind that they are not yet readily available, and that there’s no assurance that they ever will be. People suffering from tinnitus are encouraged to seek out established treatments rather than waiting for any experimental treatment to hit the market.

Here are a few of the experimental therapies currently being tested:

  • Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) delivers electromagnetic pulses into the affected brain tissue to reduce the hyperactivity that is believed to cause tinnitus.
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is another method of delivering electromagnetic pulses into the hyperactive brain tissue that is thought to cause tinnitus.
  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is comparable to the above therapies in its use of electromagnetic energy, the difference being that DBS is an invasive procedure requiring surgery and the positioning of electrodes in the brain tissue.

Other medical, surgical, and pharmacological therapies exist, but the outcomes have been mixed and the dangers of invasive procedures oftentimes outweigh the benefits.

The Best Treatment For Your Tinnitus

The ideal tinnitus treatment for you is based on many factors, and is best evaluated by a qualified hearing specialist. As your local hearing care experts, we’ll do everything we can to help you find relief from your tinnitus. Book your appointment today and we’ll find the personalized solution that works best for you.

6 Ways to Save Your Hearing

The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion individuals are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss, caused by exposure to intense sound levels from personal mp3 devices and very loud settings such as nightclubs, bars, concerts, and sporting events. An projected 26 million Americans currently suffer from the condition.

If noise-induced hearing loss results from being exposed to high sound levels, then what is considered to be excessive? It turns out that any noise higher than 85 decibels is potentially injurious, and unfortunately, many of our normal activities expose us to sounds well above this limit. An portable music player at maximum volume, for instance, hits 105 decibels, and law enforcement sirens can hit 130.

So is hearing loss an inescapable outcome of our over-amplified world? Not if you make the right decisions, because it also turns out that noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable.

Here are six ways you can save your hearing:

1. Use custom earplugs

The ideal way to prevent hearing loss is to stay away from loud noise completely. Of course, for most people that would mean quitting their jobs and ditching their plans to see their favorite music group perform live in concert.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to live like a recluse to spare your hearing. If you’re exposed to loud noise at work, or if you plan on going to a live performance, instead of avoiding the noise you can reduce its volume with earplugs. One method is to buy a cheap pair of foam earplugs at the convenience store, recognizing that they will likely create muffled sound. There is a better option.

Today, a variety of custom earplugs are available that fit comfortably in the ear. Custom earplugs are shaped to the contours of your ear for optimum comfort, and they include advanced electronics that reduce sound volume evenly across frequencies so that music and speech can be perceived clearly and naturally. Talk to your local hearing professional for more information.

2. Keep a safe distance from the sound source

The inverse square law, as applied to sound, says that as you double the distance from the source of sound the strength of the sound falls by 75%. This law of physics might save your hearing at a rock concert; instead of standing front row next to the speaker, increase your distance as much as possible, managing the benefits of a good view versus a safe distance.

3. Take rest breaks for your ears

Hearing damage from subjection to loud sound is dependent on three factors:

  1. the sound level or intensity
  2. your distance from the sound source
  3. the length of time you’re subjected to the sound

You can lower the intensity level of sound with earplugs, you can increase your distance from the sound source, and you can also lessen your collective exposure time by taking rest breaks from the sound. If you’re at a live concert or in a recording studio, for instance, you’ll want to give your ears occasional breaks and time to recuperate.

4. Turn down the music – follow the 60/60 rule

If you often listen to music from a portable MP3 player, ensure that you keep the volume no higher that 60% of the maximum volume for no longer than 60 minutes per day. Higher volume and longer listening times enhance the risk of long-term damage.

5. Purchase noise-canceling headphones

The 60/60 rule is very hard, if not impossible to adhere to in certain listening conditions. In the presence of loud background noise, like in a busy city, you have to turn up the volume on your MP3 player to hear the music over the ambient noise.

The resolution? Noise-cancelling headphones. These headphones will filter ambient sounds so that you can enjoy your music without breaking the 60/60 rule.

6. Arrange for regular hearing exams

It’s never too soon or too late to arrange a hearing exam. In addition to being able to detect current hearing loss, a hearing examination can also establish a baseline for later comparison.

Ever since hearing loss develops gradually, it is difficult to perceive. For the majority of people, the only way to know if hearing loss is present is to have a professional hearing test. But you shouldn’t wait until after the harm is done to schedule an appointment; prevention is the best medicine, and your local hearing specialist can furnish personal hearing protection solutions so that you can avoid hearing loss altogether.

The Psychology of Hearing Loss

If we seriously want to understand hearing loss, we have to understand both the physical side, which makes hearing progressively more difficult, and the psychological side, which includes the lesser-known emotional reactions to the loss of hearing. In conjunction, the two sides of hearing loss can wreak havoc on a person’s total well being, as the physical reality renders the loss and the psychological reality prevents people from treating it.

The numbers tell the story. While virtually all cases of hearing loss are physically treatable, only around 20% of people who would benefit from hearing aids make use of them. And even among those who do seek help, it takes an average of 5 to 7 years before they arrange for a hearing test.

How can we explain the enormous discrepancy between the opportunity for better hearing and the wide-spread resistance to achieve it? The first step is to appreciate that hearing loss is in fact a “loss,” in the sense that something invaluable has been taken away and is ostensibly lost forever. The second step is to figure out how people generally react to losing something invaluable, which, thanks to the scholarship of the Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, we now understand very well.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 stages of grief

Kübler-Ross defined 5 stages of grief that everyone dealing with loss seems to pass through (in incredibly consistent ways), although not everyone does so in the same order or in the same period of time.

Here are the stages:

  1. Denial – the individual buffers the emotional shock by denying the loss and imagining a false, preferred reality.
  2. Anger – the individual acknowledges the loss but becomes angry that it has happened to them.
  3. Bargaining – the individual reacts to the feeling of helplessness by seeking to take back control through negotiating.
  4. Depression – understanding the significance of the loss, the individual becomes saddened at the hopelessness of the predicament.
  5. Acceptance – in the last stage, the individual accepts the situation and presents a more stable set of emotions. The rationality associated with this stage leads to productive problem solving and the recovering of control over emotions and actions.

People with hearing loss progress through the stages at different rates, with some never getting to the final stage of acceptance — hence the discrepancy between the potential for better hearing and the low numbers of people who actually seek help, or that otherwise wait a number of years before doing so.

Progressing through the stages of hearing loss

The first stage of grief is the trickiest to escape for those with hearing loss. Considering that hearing loss advances gradually through the years, it can be very hard to recognize. People also have the tendency to make up for hearing loss by turning up the TV volume, for instance, or by forcing people to repeat themselves. Those with hearing loss can stay in the denial stage for many years, saying things like “I can hear just fine” or “I hear what I want to.”

The next stage, the anger stage, can manifest itself as a form of projection. You may hear those with hearing loss claim that everyone else mumbles, as if the problem is with everyone else rather than with them. People remain in the anger stage until they recognize that the problem is in fact with them, and not with others, at which point they may transition on to the bargaining stage.

Bargaining is a form of intellectualization that can take various forms. For example, people with hearing loss might compare their condition to others by thinking, “My hearing has become much worse, but at least my health is good. I really shouldn’t complain, other people my age are dealing with real problems.” You may also come across those with hearing loss devaluing their problem by thinking, “So I can’t hear as well as I used to. It’s just part of aging, no big deal.”

After passing through these first three stages of denial, anger, and bargaining, those with hearing loss may go into a stage of depression — under the mistaken presumption that there is no hope for treatment. They may remain in the depression stage for a while until they realize that hearing loss can be treated, at which point they can enter the last stage: the acceptance stage.

The acceptance stage for hearing loss is shockingly evasive. If only 20% of those who can benefit from hearing aids actually wear them, that means 80% of those with hearing loss never reach the final stage of acceptance (or they’ve arived at the acceptance stage but for other reasons decide not to act). In the acceptance stage, people recognize their hearing loss but take action to restore it, to the best of their ability.

This is the one positive side to hearing loss: in contrast to other kinds of loss, hearing loss is partially recoverable, making the acceptance stage easier to reach. Thanks to major advancements in digital hearing aid technology, people can in fact strengthen their hearing enough to communicate and engage normally in daily activities — without the stress and frustration of impaired hearing — empowering them to reconnect to the people and activities that give their life the most value.

Which stage are you in?

In the case of hearing loss, following the crowd is going to get you into some trouble. While 80% of those with hearing loss are stuck somewhere along the first four stages of grief — struggling to hear, damaging relationships, and making excuses — the other 20% have accepted their hearing loss, taken action to strengthen it, and rediscovered the joys of sound.

Which group will you join?

A Short Biography of Raymond Carhart, the “Father of Audiology”

Raymond Carhart

Many people are surprised to hear how young the field of audiology actually is, and how recently its founding father founded the profession. To put this in perspective, if you desired to find the founding father of biology, for example, you’d have to go back in time by 2,300 years and read through the The History of Animals, a natural history text authored in the fourth century BCE by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.

In comparison, to find the founding father of audiology, we need go back only 70 years, to 1945 when Raymond Carhart popularized the word. But who was Raymond Carhart, and how did he come to start a separate scientific field so recently? The story starts with World War II.

World War II and Hearing Loss

One of history’s most reliable lessons tells us that necessity is the mother of invention, which means that difficult situations prompt inventions focused on limiting the difficulty. Such was the case for audiology, as hearing loss was proving to be a bigger public health concern both during and after World War II.

Indeed, the main driving force behind the advancement of audiology was World War II, which lead to military personnel coming back from battle with extreme hearing impairment due to exposure to loud sounds. While many speech pathologists had been calling for better hearing assessment and therapy all along, the multitude of people afflicted with hearing loss from World War II made the request impossible to ignore.

Among those calling for a new discipline, Robert West, a distinguished speech pathologist, called for the expansion of the speech pathology field to include the correction of hearing in 1936 — the same year that Raymond Carhart would graduate with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Speech Pathology, Experimental Phonetics and Psychology.

Raymond Carhart Establishes the New Science of Hearing

Raymond Carhart himself started his career in speech pathology. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech and Psychology from Dakota Wesleyan University in 1932 and his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Speech Pathology, Experimental Phonetics and Psychology at Northwestern University in 1934 and 1936. Carhart was in fact one of the department’s first two PhD graduates.

Soon after graduation, Carhart became an instructor in Speech Re-education from 1936 to 1940. Then, in 1940 he was promoted to Assistant Professor and in 1943 to Associate Professor. It was what happened next, however, that may have changed the course of history for audiology.

In 1944, Carhart was commissioned a captain in the Army to head the Deshon General Hospital aural rehab program for war-deafened military personnel in Butler, Pennsylvania. It was here that Carhart, in the setting of assisting more than 16,000 hearing-impaired military personnel, popularized the term audiology, designating it as the science of hearing. From that point forward, audiology would split from speech pathology as its own distinctive research specialization.

At the conclusion of the war, Carhart would go back to Northwestern University to establish the country’s first academic program in audiology. As a skilled teacher, he guided 45 doctoral students to the completion of their work, students who would themselves become notable teachers, scientists, and clinical specialists across the country. And as a researcher, among many contributions, Carhart developed and refined speech audiometry, specifically as it applied to calculating the effectiveness of hearing aid performance. He even identified a distinct pattern on the audiogram that reveals otosclerosis (hardening of the middle ear bones), eponymously named the “Carhart notch.”

Raymond Carhart’s Place in History

Of history’s founding fathers, the name Raymond Carhart may not be as familiar as Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, or Charles Darwin. But if you wear hearing aids, and you know the degree to which the quality of life is enhanced as the result, you might place Raymond Carhart on the same level as history’s greats. His students probably would, and if you visit the Frances Searle Building at Northwestern University, you’ll still see a plaque that reads:

“Raymond Carhart, Teacher, Scholar, and Friend. From his students.”

Questions to Ask Your Hearing Specialist Before You Buy Hearing Aids

Question Mark

When it’s time to buy a car, the majority of us know exactly what to do. We carry out some research, evaluate options, and compile a list of questions to ask the dealership. We do this so that by the time we’re ready to stop by the dealership, we have an idea of what we’re looking for and we know which questions to ask.

When it’s time to purchase hearing aids, on the other hand, most people don’t know where to start. While the process is comparable to buying a car, it’s also in many ways more complex (and probably not quite as fun). It’s more complicated because every person’s hearing loss is unique and each pair of hearing aids requires customized programming. If purchasing a car was like this, it would be like you taking it home and having to install the transmission yourself.

Luckily, you don’t need to know how to program your own hearing aids, but you do need to know the questions to ask to make sure that your hearing specialist covers all bases, properly programming the most suitable hearing aids for your requirements and lifestyle. In this manner, compiling a list of questions to talk about with your hearing specialist is the single most important thing you can do prior to your hearing test.

But which questions should you ask? Here are 35 to get you up and running, broken down by category:

HEARING LOSS

Different types of hearing loss require different types of treatment. The more you understand your own hearing loss, the better you’ll be able to evaluate hearing aid alternatives. You want to identify what form of hearing loss you have, if it will get worse, how soon you should treat it, and all of your treatment alternatives.

Questions to ask:

  • What type of hearing loss do I have?
  • Do I have unilateral or bilateral hearing loss?
  • Can I have a copy of my hearing test?
  • Will my hearing loss get worse over time if left untreated?
  • Will hearing aids enhance my hearing?
  • How much of my hearing will hearing aids regain?
  • What are my other alternatives aside from hearing aids?

HEARING AID STYLES AND FEATURES

Hearing aids are available in several styles, from multiple manufacturers, loaded with numerous features. You need a orderly way to narrow down your choices to be sure that you get the right hearing aid without wasting money on features you don’t need or want.

Questions to ask:

  • How many different types of hearing aid styles do you offer?
  • Which hearing aid style is most advantageous for my requirements and lifestyle?
  • Which digital features would be meaningful to me, and which could I do without having?
  • What are telecoils and directional microphones and do I need them?
  • Do I need Bluetooth compatible hearing aids?
  • Do my hearing aids need to be professionally programmed?
  • Do I need one or two hearing aids, and why?

HEARING AID PRICES, FINANCING, WARRANTIES, AND TRIAL PERIODS

The total price of a pair of hearing aids typically includes the professional fees associated with custom fitting and programming, along with many other services or accessories. You want to make sure that you fully grasp what you’re getting for the cost, if financing is available, if insurance will help, what the warranty includes, the duration of the trial period, and if any “restocking fees” apply to the end of the trial period.

Questions to ask:

  • What is the total price of the hearing aids, including professional services?
  • Do you supply any financing plans?
  • Will my insurance policy help pay for hearing aids?
  • How much will my hearing aids cost me annually?
  • Do the hearing aids have warranty coverage?
  • How much do hearing aid repairs cost after the warranty has expired?
  • Are repairs completed at the office or someplace else?
  • If my hearing aids have to be mailed out for repairs, are loaner hearing aids supplied?
  • Is there a trial period and how long is it?
  • Is there a restocking fee if I return my hearing aids during or after the trial period?

HEARING AID OPERATION, CARE, AND MAINTENANCE

Your hearing specialist should teach you how to care for, clean, and control your hearing aids. To be sure that nothing is missed, see to it that all of these questions are answered:

Questions to ask:

  • How do I operate my hearing aids?
  • How do I use hearing aids with telephones and other devices?
  • Can you show me how to use all of the buttons, features, and settings for my hearing aids?
  • What are environmental presets, and how do I access them?
  • Do I need a remote control, or can I use my cell phone to control the hearing aids?
  • What batteries do I need, how long will they last, and how do I replace them?
  • How should I clean and store my hearing aids?
  • Do I need to return for follow-up visits?
  • How long will my hearing aids last?
  • Do I need to update the hearing aid software application?
  • Do I become eligible for future hearing aid upgrades?

YOU’RE READY TO SCHEDULE YOUR HEARING TEST

Ok, so purchasing a pair of hearing aids may not be as enjoyable as purchasing a new car. But the quality of life you’ll attain from better hearing might very well make you more happy, as you’ll reconnect with people and take joy in the intricacies of sound once again. So go ahead and schedule that hearing test — your new pair of hearing aids are waiting for a test drive.

The Digital Advantage: Analog Vs. Digital Hearing Aids

Digital Code

You’ve probably been told that today’s hearing aids are “not your father’s hearing aids,” or that hearing aid technology is light-years ahead of where it used to be, even as recently as 5 to 10 years ago. But what makes modern technology so much better? And what exactly can present day hearing aids achieve that couldn’t be accomplished in the past?

The short answer is, as with the majority of electronics, hearing aids have benefited considerably from the digital revolution. Hearing aids have become miniaturized computers, with all of the programming versatility you would anticipate from a modern computer.

But before hearing aids became digital, they were analog. Let’s see if we can understand why the shift from analog to digital was such an advancement.

Digital vs analog hearing aids

At the most basic level, all hearing aids do the job the same way. Each hearing aid includes a microphone, amplifier, speaker, and battery. The microphone detects sound in the environment, the amplifier strengthens the signal, and the speaker delivers the louder sound to your ear.

Fundamentally, it’s not very complex. Where is does get complex, however, is in the details of how the hearing aids process sound, which digital hearing aids accomplish much differently than their analog counterparts.

Analog hearing aids process sound in a very straightforward manner. In three basic steps, sound is recognized by the microphone, amplified, and delivered to the ear through the speaker. That is… ALL sound is made to be louder, including background noise and the sound frequencies you can already hear properly. Put differently, analog hearing aids amplify even the sounds you don’t want to hear — think of the scratching sound you hear from an analog recording on a vinyl record.

Digital hearing aids, conversely, add a fourth step to the processing of sound: transformation of sound waves to digital information. Sound by itself is an analog signal, but instead of only making this analog signal louder, digital hearing aids first transform the sound into digital format (stored as 0s and 1s) that can then be modified. Digital hearing aids, therefore, can CHANGE the sound before amplification by changing the information saved as a series of 0s and 1s.

If this sounds like we’re talking about a computer, we are. Digital hearing aids are essentially miniature computers that run one specific application that manipulates and improves the quality of sound.

Advantages of digital hearing aids

Most modern hearing aids are digital, and for good reason. Seeing as analog hearing aids can only amplify incoming sound, and cannot alter it, analog hearing aids very often will amplify disruptive background noise, making it frustrating to hear in noisy environments and nearly impossible to talk on the phone.

Digital hearing aids, however, have the versatility to amplify select sound frequencies. When sound is converted into a digital signal, the computer chip can detect, distinguish, and store specific frequencies. As an example, the higher frequency speech sounds can be classified and stored separately from the lower frequency background noise. A hearing specialist can then program the computer chip to amplify only the high frequency speech sounds while suppressing the background noise — making it effortless to follow conversations even in noisy circumstances.

Here are some of the other advantages of digital hearing aids:

  • Miniaturized computer technology means smaller, more discreet hearing aids, with some models that fit totally in the ear canal, making them practically undetectable.
  • Digital hearing aids tend to have more stylish designs and colors.
  • Digital hearing aids can be programmed by a hearing specialist to process sound differently according to the location. By switching settings, users can attain ideal hearing for many different situations, from a silent room to a noisy restaurant to talking on the phone.
  • Digital hearing aids can be fine-tuned for every patient. Each person hears different sound frequencies at different decibel levels. Digital hearing aids permit the hearing specialist to vary amplification for each sound frequency based on the properties of each person’s distinctive hearing loss.

Try digital hearing aids out for yourself

Reading about digital hearing aids is one thing, trying them out is another. But bear in mind that, to get the most out of any set of hearing aids, you will need both the technology and the programming proficiency from an experienced, licensed hearing specialist.

And that’s where we come in. We’ve programmed and fine-tuned countless hearing aids for individuals with all varieties of hearing loss, and are more than happy to do the same for you. Give us a call and experience the digital advantage for yourself!

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