Choosing a Cell Phone that will be Compatible with Your Hearing Aids

Hearing aids and cellular phones haven’t always gotten along as well as they do now. The complex electronics in both devices often caused static, dropped words or squealing interference noises. Fortunately, improvements in technology and new government regulations have made the issue “Will this cell phone work with my hearing aid?” simpler to answer. To help consumers shop for the right hearing aid compatible cell phone, the new regulations include a standard rating system and labeling requirement.

Understanding the rating system requires a bit of knowledge about the modes that hearing aids can operate in. There is an M mode (which stands for microphone) and a T mode (which stands for telecoil). In M mode, your hearing aid uses its built-in microphone to pick up audible sounds from the environment and amplify them so that you can hear them. In T mode, the hearing aid uses telecoil technology instead. The hearing aid is able to pick up the electromagnetic signals from inside the phone directly. Roughly 60 percent of all cell phones sold in the United States have a telecoil (T) mode.

The two modes – M and T – are each rated on a scale of 1 to 4 where 1 is the lowest sensitivity and 4 is the highest. No mobile phone or cordless handset sold in the United States can be sold as hearing aid compatible (HAC) unless it has a rating of at least M3 or T3.

In addition, many hearing aids (and cochlear implants) have a similar M and T rating to measure their sensitivity and their resistance to radio frequency interference. When shopping for a phone, to determine its compatibility with your hearing aid, simply add its M and T ratings together with those of the phone to create a combined rating. A sum of 6 or more makes a solid pairing. That hearing aid and cell phone combination should work well for you. If the combined rating is 5, this combination is considered normal and suitable for most regular phone use. A combined rating of 4 is considered usable for brief calls, but may not be suitable for extended phone use.

If you are shopping for a mobile phone online, you can usually use this combined rating to determine how compatible the phone you are interested in buying will be with your hearing aid. If you are able to shop in a store that allows you to “try before you buy” and actually use the phone you want while wearing your hearing aid, that is of course a better idea.

Why Hearing in Crowded Situations Might be Particularly Challenging for You

Our patients frequently ask us why they seem to have significantly greater difficulty hearing in busy spaces as compared to other situations. They report that they don’t seem to have any problem hearing people and understanding what they say when they are speaking to them one-on-one, or even in small groups. But in a crowd, such as a noisy party or in large public gatherings, suddenly it becomes difficult to understand what the person speaking to them is saying, or to distinguish the speaker’s voice from the background sounds. People who complain of this condition often report that they have difficulty distinguishing between consonants such as the letters “S,” “F,” and “H.”

If these challenges sounds familiar to you, it is possible that you have a degree of hearing loss in the high-frequency range. When describing human speech, audiologists define the 3000 to 8000 Hertz range as high-frequency. This is the range that the F, S, and H sounds typically fall into. In crowds, there is a mix of frequencies, ranging from the low frequencies of background music or people walking or dancing to the higher frequencies of human speech. People with high-frequency hearing loss tend to perceive the lower frequencies – in this case, the noise – as sounding louder than the higher frequencies, which they are now having more trouble hearing.

At least 18 percent of the population suffers from some form of high-frequency hearing loss. One of the possible causes for this condition is aging, but high-frequency hearing loss has in recent years been increasing in teenagers and younger adults as well, possibly as a result of being exposed to overly loud music, and suffering noise-induced hearing loss. Other factors that can cause hearing loss include genetics, exposure to toxic drugs (including some chemotherapy agents), diabetes, and other diseases.

If you have indeed suffered some high-frequency hearing loss, it can be treated. We can prescribe hearing aids that have been adjusted to reduce the volume of low-frequency sounds and boost the volume of the higher frequencies, so that you can hear better in crowds.

If you have trouble hearing in crowds, your first step should be to make an appointment with one of our specialists, so that we can determine whether you have suffered some form of hearing loss. Our audiologist can perform a variety of tests to identify the underlying cause of the problem and recommend the best treatment options for your specific situation.

Averting Typical First Time Hearing Aid Buyer Mistakes

The selection and purchase of a first hearing aid can be an overwhelming task for anyone. When Consumer Reports did a comparative report on hearing aids, they followed consumers for six months as they tried to figure out which one to buy. What they found was less than satisfying, because they found that two-thirds of the aids were either improperly fitted or that they provided either too much or too little volume. Even within this small group of people the price range for these hearing aids was huge and they were not always provided the best information by the retailers.

To spare you this experience, in this article we’ll try to provide a few tips to help you when shopping for your first hearing aid. This article is too short to provide all the tips that would be useful, so to supplement it we recommend Your Guide to Buying Hearing Aids. It is an article provided by a non-profit corporation called the Better Hearing Institute (BHI), which provides educational materials about hearing loss and how to correct it. Here are our suggestions:

    1. Consult a professional hearing specialist – Make an appointment with us or with another certified hearing specialist in your area, and read the information in the BHI guidelines before you go. The BHI guidelines will walk you through what you can expect at your first appointment and what questions you may need to ask your specialist.
    2. Select the hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle – This depends on the type and severity of your hearing loss, and should have been determined by tests performed by specialists during Step 1. Settling on the perfect hearing aid for you will take into account the type of hearing loss you are experiencing as well as your budget.
    3. Research hearing aids of this type – Once you know which type of aid is bested suited for you, go to the Internet. Your research should focus on any reports of problems or repairs, consumer reviews on comfort and reliability, as well as price comparisons.
    4. Search for and select a vendor you can rely on – The vendor may be the specialist you saw in Step 1, or can be someone recommended by them. The vendor should be able to make molds of your ears and fit the aids properly. While it is possible to buy hearing aids on the Internet, this is not recommended because most models have to be custom-fitted.
    5. Make sure the aids fit and work properly – Your first fitting should include tests by your vendor to ensure comfortable fit and good function of your new hearing aid. Most reputable vendors will do this, and provide a “satisfaction guaranteed” warranty, complete with free followup fittings or adjustments, if necessary.

We wish you good luck with selecting your first hearing aid, and want you to know that we are here to provide help if you need it.

Hearing Loss Early Warning Symptoms

Hearing loss may appear in many forms, and can appear either suddenly, as the result of injury or trauma, or over time, due to the aging process. Hearing loss may range between mild instances of not hearing conversations correctly to severe periods of total deafness, and may be either permanent or temporary. Either a single ear can be affected by hearing loss, or both ears.

You will find many symptoms linked to hearing loss, one of the most common of which is a growing difficulty hearing or understanding conversations. You may experience other’s speaking voices as if they were speaking too softly or are too distant to be heard properly, or their voices may seem to be muffled and indistinct. Or alternatively, you might be able to hear folks speaking but discover that you are having trouble distinguishing individual words; this could become more noticeable when multiple people are speaking simultaneously, or when you are in noisy locations.

Other common signs of hearing loss include increasing the volume on your TV or radio, having more difficulty hearing women’s voices than men’s, and not being able to differentiate sounds such as ‘th’ and ‘s’ from one another. If you experience pain, irritation, or itching in your ears, have instances of vertigo or dizziness, or hear a constant buzzing or ringing sound, these symptoms may also be indications of hearing loss.

Because it can occur gradually, many people with hearing impairment don’t realize it. This can sometimes lead to habits or behaviors intended to hide their hearing loss from other people. Examples of these types of symptoms include having to ask people to repeat themselves often, avoiding dialogues and social situations, pretending to have heard stuff that you really didn’t, and emotions of isolation or depression.

If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, it’s time to make an appointment with one of our hearing specialists. They will give you a hearing test to determine if you have experienced hearing loss, and if so, can help you do something about it.

Being Safe at Home when a Family Member is Hearing Impaired

One subject that is rarely discussed with regards to hearing loss is how to keep people who have it safe in their own homes. For instance, imagine that a fire starts in your home; if you’re like most people you have smoke detectors to sound a warning so that you and your family can evacuate the premises before a fire spreads too far and traps you. But now imagine that this fire begins at night, when you’re sleeping, and you have taken off your hearing aids.

The smoke detectors standard in almost all homes and those required by city and local governments emit a loud warning sound at a frequency between 3000 to 4000 Hz. And while the majority of people can hear these sounds easily, these frequencies are among those most impacted by age-related hearing loss and other kinds of auditory impairment. So if you’re among the more than 11 million people in America with hearing problems, there’s a possibility that you simply would not hear your smoke alarm even if you were awake.

Fortunately, there are home safety products which are specifically designed for the needs of the hearing impaired. For instance, there are smoke alarms that emit a low-frequency (520 Hz) square wave tone that a majority of hearing-impaired people can hear. For those who are totally deaf, or who are unable to hear whatsoever when they remove their hearing aids or turn off their cochlear implants (CIs) at night, there are alert systems that combine exceedingly loud noises, blinking lights, and vibrators that shake your mattress. Several of these systems are designed to be incorporated into more complete home security systems to alert you to intruders or people thumping furiously on your door in the event of an emergency.

To hear other sounds which might signal danger, many hearing-impaired individuals have installed induction loops in their homes for boosting the efficiency of their hearing aids or cochlear implants. These systems are basically long strands of wire placed in a loop around your living room, kitchen, or bedrooms. These serve to activate the telecoils embedded in your hearing aid or cochlear implant that increase the volume of sound; this can be useful in emergencies.

And of course there is the humble telephone, which many of us often ignore until we need one, but which may become crucial in any sort of emergency situation. Thankfully, many modern mobile and home telephones are now telecoil-compatible, to allow their use by those wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants. Moreover, there are phones made for the hearing impaired which incorporate speakerphones that operate at high volumes, and which may be voice-activated. So if you were to fall and hurt yourself out of reach of the telephone, you could still voice-dial for help. Other manufacturers make vibrating wristbands that interact with your cell phone to awaken you or advise you if you get a phone call.

Naturally, some home safety suggestions for the hearing impaired are the exact same as for people who can hear well, such as trying to keep lists of your health care providers, emergency service providers, and hospitals close at hand. We are as concerned about your safety as we are about your hearing, so if we can be of assistance with any further tips or recommendations, feel free to call us.

Major Variables Which Affect Hearing Aid Battery Performance

The question of just how long hearing aid batteries can be expected to last isn’t as easy to answer as it seems, because battery life hinges on many factors. Battery life depends on the model of your hearing aid, and may vary widely even in models developed by the exact same manufacturer. The life of a hearing aid battery also hinges upon the amount of time each day that the hearing aid is turned on. Unsurprisingly, the more you use the hearing aid, the more rapidly the batteries will deplete.

Additionally, there are differences in battery life between battery manufacturers, and the exact same manufacturer may have different lines of batteries, some that last longer than others. Battery life also hinges on battery type; for example some types are only being drained when they are inside a hearing aid that is turned on, and other varieties (for example, zinc-air batteries) start losing power as soon as you take away the adhesive strip on the bottom of the battery and they’re in contact with oxygen, regardless of whether the hearing aid is turned on or not.

If you are looking for a new hearing aid, you might wish to do some research in advance to see which have the best ratings for battery life, because that could influence your choice of which type or which model of hearing aid to buy. If you have an existing hearing aid and are searching for the most long-lasting batteries for it, the Internet can be a wonderful source of comparative ratings and reports.

Hearing aidand battery manufacturers have worked to make things simpler by standardizing their sizes and using unique color codes for each size that is the same for every manufacturer. Take a look at the estimated battery life below to get a general idea of how long hearing aid batteries of each size should last:

  • Yellow – #10 – 80 hours
  • Orange – #13 – 240 hours
  • Brown – #312 – 175 hours
  • Blue – #675 – 300 hours

Remember to turn your hearing aid off when you aren’t wearing it for the longest battery life. And to make sure hearing aid batteries you’ve already bought but have not used yet remain fresh and retain their power as long as possible, store them indoors in their original unopened packaging, and at room temperature.

Quick Digital vs Analog Hearing Aids Comparison

To understand the difference between analog and digital hearing aids, you need to first appreciate the history of analog versus digital, and the different ways that they process and amplify sounds. Analog hearing aids appeared first, and were the standard in most hearing aids for a long time. Then with the arrival of digital signal processing (DSP) technology, digital hearing aids also started to appear. The majority of (roughly 90%) hearing aids purchased in the United States at this point are digital, although you can still get analog hearing aids because some people have a preference for them, and they are often cheaper.

The way that analog hearing aids work is that they take sound waves from the microphone in the form of electricity and then amplify them, delivering louder versions of the sound waves to the speakers in your ears “as is.” Digital hearing aids take the sound waves from the microphone and convert them to digital binary code, the “bits and bytes” and “zeros and ones” that all digital devices understand. Once the sound has been digitized, the microchip inside the hearing aid can manipulate the data in sophisticated ways before converting it back to analog sound and passing it on to your ears.

It is important to remember that both analog and digital hearing aids have the same function – they take sounds and amplify them so you can hear them better. Both analog and digital hearing aids can be programmable, which means that they contain microchips which can be modified to adjust sound quality to suit the individual user, and to create different configurations for different listening environments. As an example, there might be distinct settings for low-noise locations like libraries, for busy restaurants, and for outdoor spaces such as sports stadiums.

But beyond programmability, the digital hearing aids generally offer more controls to the wearer, and offer additional features because of their ability to manipulate the sounds in digital form. For example, digital hearing aids may offer numerous channels and memories, allowing them to save more location-specific profiles. They can also employ advanced algorithms to identify and minimize background noise, to eliminate feedback and whistling, or to selectively detect the sound of voices and “follow” them using directional microphones.

As far as pricing is concerned, analog hearing aids are in most cases cheaper, although some digital hearing aids are approaching the price of analog devices by eliminating the more sophisticated features. There is commonly a perceivable difference in sound quality, but the question of whether analog or digital is “better” is up to the individual, and the ways that they are used to hearing sounds.

Defending Against Hearing Loss Among Marching Band Participants

Close to 6 million U.S. teens have some type of hearing loss, which signifies an increase of about 33 % over the past 2 decades. In addition to the use of high-volume MP3 players and cell phones, experts say that teenagers’ involvement in marching band is another possible cause of damage to hearing. As nearly every urban high school and university has a marching band, participation is a very common activity among teens.

Teenagers and extreme sounds. Volume, or noise level, is measured in decibels (dB). Adults and children can suffer hearing loss from exposure to sounds over 85 dB. Marching band includes a variety of instruments, some of which easily cross over that threshold during rehearsals and performances. An experiment at Duke University showed that a drumline rehearsal exposed students to decibel levels of 99 over a 30-minute period. However, playing those instruments indoors for rehearsals can be even more harmful to teens’ hearing. Unfortunately, many youths don’t reduce the volume of their instruments when playing inside.

Prevention and protection strategies. Musicians earplugs are effective at reducing the sound levels that reach the inner ear. Musicians earplugs are custom-designed to fit an individual’s ear perfectly. Musicians earplugs can be expensive, which may be a problem for parents. Another effective strategy for protecting young people’s hearing is to reduce the length of time they are exposed to potentially harmful sound levels by breaking up the rehearsals into shorter sessions. Band leaders and participants also need to be aware of how important it is to lower the volume of their instruments when practicing indoors. Parents, teens, and band leaders should work together to increase awareness and to implement strategies for protecting the hearing of marching band members.

Be Safe: Driving Strategies For The Hearing Impaired

Navigating through the world with hearing loss can be difficult at times, particularly when you need to depend on your hearing for health and safety. Many individuals with hearing issues find that driving a car can become an issue. Thankfully, just because you have problems with hearing doesn’t mean that safe driving isn’t possible. Keep these safe driving tips in mind the next time you get behind the wheel.

  1. Eliminate distractions: If your hearing isn’t great you’ll have to be more reliant on other senses, such as vision. Therefore, you can put yourself (and your passengers) in danger if distractions such as electronic devices or food draw your eyes away from the road. Similarly, listening to the radio can make it even more difficult to hear sirens, horns, and other important traffic cues. Get rid of any influences that get between you and the road to make sure you aren’t missing crucial information.

  2. Be mindful of your hearing aid: If your hearing is aided by a hearing aid, be sure to wear it any time you drive a car. Be mindful of how your car’s atmosphere can influence your hearing aid’s functionality. Don’t be afraid to switch on the AC rather than driving with the windows open. The draft caused by rushing wind can reduce your hearing aid’s effectiveness, potentially putting you at risk.
  3. Keep up with car maintenance: Abnormal noises are a common danger signal that something isn’t quite right with your car. However, if you can’t pick up on audio clues that something is wrong with your vehicle you may end up driving an unsafe car. Keep regular maintenance appointments with your garage or dealership to make sure your car stays in optimum condition.
  4. Don’t drive if you are not comfortable: If you are not comfortable driving a vehicle with hearing loss, the don’t! There are many alternatives to owning an automobile, including public transportation. You are more likely to make dangerous mistakes if you drive while stressed, so only drive when you feel confident and safe.

As long as your doctor approves there is no reason for hearing loss to keep you from driving. Stay safe out there!

These 5 Facts About Veterans and Hearing Problems Might Surprise You

When considering post-combat injuries in veterans, PTSD, missing limbs, and brain damage may come to mind. What many often don’t consider is hearing loss as a severe combat injury. Check out these 5 surprising facts about hearing loss among veterans to learn more.

The number one injury soldiers suffer from combat is loss of hearing. – Hearing loss is even more common than PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). IEDs (improvised explosive devices) can cause hearing damage just as much as commonplace military noise can. Tinnitus and hearing loss, both short- and long-term, are also often caused by loud engines of war such as planes, warships, and combat tanks as well as loud weapons and bombs. Veterans of the post-9/11 conflicts are the most affected population in terms of hearing loss. An astounding 414,000 veterans serving post-9/11 have returned home with mild to severe tinnitus or hearing loss.

Veterans have been found to be more susceptible to loss of hearing than those who haven’t served in the military. – Veterans are 30 percent more likely than nonveterans to suffer hearing loss of the severe kind. Even more concerning is that among those who served from September 2001 to March 2010, veterans were four times more like to suffer hearing loss than nonveterans.

Hearing loss may be more prevalent now than it was for soldiers in the past. – With the advent of improvised explosive devices and more powerful combat technology, more veterans are coming home with hearing loss than their predecessors. Field generators, “bunker buster” bombs, and loud transportation such as helicopters can be deafening.

Unfortunately, many of the soldiers who come home with loss of hearing do not seek help. – Experts say that too few returning soldiers who suffer tinnitus or hearing loss go to a hearing specialist or audiologist upon returning home – they often live simply live with the problem. Incredibly, the average time between someone noticing hearing damage and getting help for it is 7 years.

Neuroscience innovations may be a way to alleviate severe tinnitus. – Some scientists assert that low serotonin levels may be linked to how severe a person’s tinnitus can be. Low serotonin can cause insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Tinnitus therapies combined with antidepressants have aided some veterans who are chronic sufferers of tinnitus.

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