Costco vs an Audiologist – Hearing Aid Quality and Service Comparison

Have you noticed all the big box stores such as Costco and Walmart are getting into the realm of patient services more and more? With ear care facilities right on site, many customers are tempted to go there for treatment and diagnosis, when they normally would have gone to a qualified professional in an office setting. Even ear care is available at the big box stores, where you can tackle your weekly shopping first and then hit the ear care department for whatever ails you. There are several things wrong with this situation, and we will examine those reasons below. Although on the surface it looks like a convenience to get ear care from those stores, you get a lot more out of your visit when you seek out a professional audiologist instead. Mimicking the fast food model of on-the-go lifestyles, you should stay away from the big box stores when it comes to your hearing health and find a pro instead.


First off, you’ll always get higher professionalism when you go to an audiologist who is trained in complete auditory health. A doctor brings many years of education and experience to the table so you get comprehensive ear care, thanks to their knowledge of ear canal anatomy. They also know which treatments, if any, are the best for your unique situation. Getting at the root of the problem is their goal, while many employees at big box stores go right to the solution — hearing aids – without thorough evaluation.

Higher Quality Accessories

One of the most significant reasons you should go with an audiologist over an employee at a big box store is that the hearing aids and related products they sell and fit you with are manufactured with the best quality materials. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a hearing aid at a store and then find out it doesn’t work the way it was supposed to. This can happen in the form of poor sound quality and interference. When buying from a certified audiologist, you know the quality is the best and that the doctor will make sure you get the best possible fit when it comes to hearing aids.

Cost-Effective Measures

You may not realize it, but you’re often overpaying at the big box stores because of all the extras the employees are selling you on top of the original device. That’s their job – to sell you products. The job of an audiologist is to evaluate your complete hearing health and fit you with a quality device that works as intended. Yes, it’s true you may find there’s a higher cost initially when buying products from a doctor, but that’s what health insurance is for. Plus, you get peace of mind knowing the product is of high quality.

3D Printing Revolutionizes the Hearing Aid Market

You may not have thought hearing aids could be made from the process of 3D printing, but it’s true. In fact, it’s not even a very new concept and has been in deployment for years in making custom fit hearing aids. Perhaps you know it by its alternative name: additive manufacturing. 3D printing has been garnering more and more attention thanks to the increased precision of the process whereby products like hearing aids are built up instead of cut away with tools. Its reach extends to all sorts of technologies, from manufacturing to jewelry to electronics, but it’s especially helpful in the development of custom hearing aids. This revolutionary way of manufacturing devices like these is of paramount importance because it helps so many people to hear better. And with 35 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, this is certainly a goal of the industry as a whole: to produce more efficient hearing aids that utilize the best technology has to offer.


How it Happens


Hearing aids have been created via 3D printing for years because it’s a customized way of making hearing aids fit to an individual. Everyone’s ears are unique, and this has presented a problem in the past for cookie-cutter hearing aids. With 3D printing, your hearing aid fits you and only you. When additive manufacturing is used, the end result is an improved fit and a higher comfort level for the user. Used in parallel with 3D laser scanning, it only takes a day to make a hearing aid in this way, as opposed to days and weeks prior to this technology breaking through. While there are certainly variations on the technology utilized by different companies, the basic premise is the same. The process is performed by an audiologist whose job it is to make a digital image of the ear with the help of a laser scanner. This makes what’s known as a pointcloud. When finished scanning, a quality check must be done before the actual model can be made. Out of the printer comes a shell or mold of the hearing aid in a flexible material called resin, paving the way for the addition of the proper acoustic vents, electronics and other components. Digital cameras facilitate the use of a whopping 150,000 points of reference that put the template to the mold, while many geometric patterns and combinations undergo testing before printing the final shell. The superior product that is created is so efficient and high in quality that the individual will benefit from this in the long haul. Once printed, the hearing aid benefits from the addition of the circuitry to the shell. This is basically the hearing aid’s road map to project the actual sound. Today, more than 10 million 3D printed hearing devices are in circulation, helping hearing impaired individuals to hear crystal clear. Although some may say science has taken over what was once considered an art form of sorts, you can’t second guess the speed and efficiency with which this technology has delivered.


Benefits of Creating 3D Printed Hearing Aids

Customization is the top benefit to this technology – an extremely important component because no two ear canals are the same. Traditional manufacturing processes never could guarantee a perfect unique fit for each user; therefore, many imperfections were present that detracted from the comfort level. The advent of 3D printing has had a big effect on the industry as a whole, propelling it to new and varied heights.

Foods that can Prevent Hearing Loss – and Hearing Aids

We all know eating healthy foods are good for your body. What many of us don’t realize is the effect certain foods have on our hearing health. Everything’s interconnected, so by treating your body right, you can actually help to prevent hearing loss. Many people suffer from this, particularly the aging population. You may know enough not to expose yourself to loud noises to protect your ears but you may not understand how important it is to eat right when it comes to your ears. More and more evidence is coming out that shows the foods you choose to eat have a direct impact on your levels of hearing loss. Check out these foods you should incorporate in your diet for optimal hearing health.

Citrus Snacks

Citrus is well known for its healing properties as a way to stave off the common cold. However, those same abilities to keep sickness at bay can also keep harmful ear infections at bay. Thanks to all the vitamin C and E present in oranges and lemons, you can use that to your advantage when it comes to fighting off infection. You never want to leave an ear infection untreated, as this can lead to chronic hearing impairments.

Sweet Snacks

By snacking on dark chocolate, you’re helping to improve your ears thanks to the loads of zinc found in this treat. You can also get your zinc – which helps guard against hearing damage – in supplements, but eating dark chocolate is so much more fun!  Of course, you can’t overindulge or your hips will show the effects, but a little bit now and then can actually help your hearing health thanks to the antioxidants present that improve your whole body’s health.

Fish like Salmon

Salmon and other types of fish are notorious for their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in the improvement of your blood flow. Getting your blood pumping at healthy levels is imperative to a healthy lifestyle, not to mention the effect improved blood flow has on your ears. As you age, it becomes more and more important to keep fatty acids, such as those in salmon, an integral part of your diet.

Banana Bonanza

If you love bananas for their great taste and healthful properties, here’s another reason to love them: they work to curb hearing damage. This is due to the large amounts of magnesium, which can reverse the damaging effects of hearing damage brought on by external environmental influences like loud noises. Bananas are great alone or on your favorite breakfast cereal, so it’s easy to keep this food in your diet.

Beneficial Broccoli

This super veggie, as well as with other similar cruciferous veggies, improves your hearing health because it’s so chock full of vitamin and minerals. These vitamins and minerals work to stave off the damage to ear tissue brought on by free radicals. Preventing hearing loss is easy when you regularly eat veggies like broccoli. Bonus: your skin and hair will glow with radiance.

Untreated Hearing Loss Linked to Depression

It turns out that people have even more reasons than ever before to watch out for hearing loss. According to a recent study that was done by the Institute for Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders, hearing loss can result in depression. This study was recently compiled and released so that everyone could view it. In this article, we will take a closer look at the study, the way that hearing loss causes depression, as well as how you can prevent hearing loss from occurring.

How To Prevent Hearing Loss

Before we take a look at the study, it is important to realize that there are many ways that people can go about saving their hearing health. The very first thing that you can do is to avoid taking unneeded risks with your hearing health. This means that you should not spend a great deal of time in loud areas without having some form of hearing protection. That is one of the other most important aspects of maintaining hearing health: using hearing protection when you are in excessively loud areas. With both of these tips in mind, you will be much less likely to incur hearing damage throughout your life.

How Hearing Loss Causes Depression

The mechanism behind hearing loss causing depression is rather simple. Rather than having a direct result through brain damage, another route that is being explored, hearing loss affects depression by virtue of depriving people of their most fun and worthwhile tasks. Not being able to take part in familiar hobbies can harm individual’s self esteem as well as their sense of fun. Also, if you cannot hold a conversation with loved ones, it also has a negative impact. Combined, these two factors can cause a person to become more withdrawn than ever before, resulting in depression.

The Study And Results

The study itself was completed by 18,000 volunteers under the guidance of specialists at the Institute for Deafness and other Communication Disorders. They all had their hearing levels tested, self reported under the age of 70 and tested in a lab over 70, and were then given an assessment to determine if they had depression. While this was a rather simple process, the results were absolutely incredible. As it turns out, people under the age of 70 who had hearing loss had an 11% chance of having depression, compared to just 4% of the population at large.

The people over the age of 70 did not have this occurrence, despite having hearing loss at higher levels; a confounding factor. The bottom line is that hearing loss and depression are irrevocably connected. Further research is going to look at this phenomenon for more information.

The Connection Between Music and Mood

It’s commonly held that not only does music up your energy level, but that it helps you heal more quickly and significantly improves your mood. In fact, studies now show that music can either improve or reinforce your mood–which gives you a better quality of life.

University of Missouri researchers found that upbeat music is sometimes all it takes to boost a person’s mood. Their study showed that participants, who were told to improve their mood, felt happier after listening to the upbeat music of Copeland, as opposed to the more morose songs of Stravinsky. Interestingly, other participants who weren’t told to impove their mood did not experience a boost in happiness while listening to music. Summed up by one researcher, “People could focus more on enjoying their experience of the journey towards happiness and not get hung up on the destination.” Happy or sad music even affects how we interpret neutral faces, according to the results of a recent study.

We can usually tell if a piece of music is particularly happy or sad, but this isn’t just a subjective idea that comes from how it makes us feel. Our brains actually respond differently to the happy and sad music, making the process much more subjective. The length of the piece of music is irrelevant. During the study, people were more likely to project happy or sad moods onto the neutral faces to match the short piece of music they were listening to. This also occurred with other facial expressions, but it happened most often with those that were more neutral.

Music doesn’t just affect our ability to read expressions: music such as ambient noise can improve creativity. Some people love loud music in the background while they organize their days, deciding what to do and when. But if you’re doing creative work, you may reconsider the loud music as background noise. In fact, creative tasks such as writing, painting, or building something are best set to music at a moderate noise level. Actually, even more than low noise levels, ambient noise apparently enhances creativity and doesn’t put us off the way high levels of noise do. This is because moderate noise levels increase processing difficulty, which in turn promotes abstract processing, leading to higher creativity. In other words, when we struggle (but not too much) to process things as we normally would, we resort to more creative approaches. This is because loud noise overwhelms us and makes it too difficult to approach anything creatively–or at all.

So stick to moderate levels when you’re looking for heightened creativity, and choose more upbeat music to improve your mood–it truly works.

What Consumers Should Know About Hearing Aids Made for iPhone

Among smartphones, the iPhone stands out as an innovation leader. The latest innovation is a result of collaborations with several hearing aid manufacturers to create hearing aids and apps that are intended to work together. These are known as made for iPhone hearing aids. With a made for iPhone hearing aid, users can simply use an app to adjust the device. In addition, the iPhone delivers incoming audio such as phone calls and music or Siri’s responses right to the user’s hearing aid. Set up is easy as well – just treat the device like any other Bluetooth device. As Apple instructs, “In Settings, go to General, then Accessibility, then Hearing Aids, and iOS will automatically search for and recognize your device. Once your hearing aid is paired, it’s available to you as an audio source whenever you need it.” For users who have trouble hearing a conversation in a noisy area, Live Listen is a great iPhone feature that works with made for iPhone hearing aids. With Live Listen, one can use the phone’s microphone to hear the person speaking loud and clear.

The made for iPhone hearing aids available now include Audibel’s A3i, Audigy’s AGXsp, Beltone’s Beltone First, MicroTech’s Kinnect, NuEar’s iSDS, ReSound’s ReSound LiNX, and Starkey’s Halo. Choosing the right made for iPhone hearing aid can take some research and the assistance of a hearing care specialist. Each device has its own unique abilities and features. For example, Audibel’s A3i’s boasts “advanced noise reduction technology and a precise directional microphone”. If you’re the forgetful type, Audigy’s AGXsp boasts a GPS feature to help you find your hearing aids. The MicroTech’s Kinnect is compatible with your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices and easily streams music, Facetime phone calls, and much more. NuEar’s iSDS’s “patented technology replicates high-frequency sounds (like women’s and children’s voices) in lower frequencies where they’re easier to hear and understand.” Lastly, Starkey’s Halo’s “industry-leading feedback canceller provides feedback-free and comfortable listening all day long.”

Your hearing care specialist can help you sort through the options to find the perfect one for you.

Understanding the Basics of Echoes

If you’ve ever been inside a large canyon, you’ve probably observed the wonder of echoes firsthand-but how do they work? The echo occurs when a sound repeats itself, fading from loud to soft in seconds. The echo occurs because some of the sound waves in your shout reflect off of a surface (either the water at the bottom of the well or the canyon wall on the far side) and travel back to your ears. For a place to be able to produce echoes, it must have certain features. For one, the size of the obstacle/reflector must be large compared to the wavelength of the incident sound (for reflection of sound to take place). For another, the distance between the source of sound and the reflector should be at least 66 feet (so that the echo is heard distinctly after the original sound is over). Lastly, the intensity or loudness of the sound has to be sufficient for the reflected sound reaching the ear to be audible. The original sound should be of short duration.

The farther away the surface is, the longer it will take for the echo to come back to you. One could theoretically tell how far away an object is and how fast it is moving by an echo.For example, bats can tell the location and movement of moths using echolocation. The bat sends a sharp click or chirping sound, then hears and processes any echoes off other objects in the area. Bats have large ears that are very sensitive to sounds in certain wavelengths. Their brains also help by processing the distance from and the size of the object as well as how fast it is moving and where to. Using this echolocation, the bat finds moths easily in the pitch dark.

The dolphin is another mammal who uses echolocation. With what are called “phonic lips,” a dolphin makes clicking sounds. Almost all other mammals produce sounds by using their vocal cords–but not the dolphin. It instead uses its phonic lips to emit clicking sounds. The lips evolved from what was once the dolphin’s nose. The dolphin forces pressurized air through its phonic lips, and the air vibrates and comes out sounding like clicking. When the clicks bounce off of the object the dolphin is interested in (that is, when the echo occurs) the dolphin then gets a mental picture of that object.

What Is Spatial Loss of Hearing and How is it Treated?

The inability to distinguish spatial cues is known as spatial hearing loss. People with spatial loss of hearing find it difficult to tell who is speaking in a noisy room or where a certain sound is coming from. This condition prevents sufferers from cutting out background noise in crowded places such as restaurants and airports. Interestingly enough, spatial hearing loss does not stem from the ear. The brain is actually the culprit – the pathways that interpret sound are the root of spatial loss of hearing.

Spatial loss of hearing is especially common in children as well as adults over the age of 60. However, it can occur in anyone, regardless of age. This can be especially frustrating for children in school – they find it hard to differentiate the teacher’s voice from other noises in class.

Audiologists are able to diagnose spatial hearing disorder with a test called the Listen in Spatialized Noise-Sentences, or LiSN-S, test. The LisN-S test determines how a person uses pitch and spatial cues in order to pick out certain sounds from background noise. This lets the audiologist determine just how severe the person’s loss of spatial hearing is.

Spatial hearing loss does not always occur on its own. It is quite often accompanied by high-frequency and/or low-frequency hearing loss. These issues can be treated with hearing aids, which helps with the spatial loss of hearing as well. However, for some people with spatial deficiencies, typical hearing aids may only make the problem worse.

Spatial hearing loss happens often in older people, due to the natural aging process and subsequent damage to the audio nerve. Some aging-related causes of spatial hearing loss include injury, medications, vascular problems, or other medical conditions. If you notice sudden hearing loss within a twenty-four to seventy-two hour window, seek medical attention right away. Some forms of sudden hearing loss can be helped if its treated right away. Causes can be blockage, illness, or infection–all of which respond well to early treatment. If the sudden loss of hearing is not identified and treated quickly and is caused by infection or another underlying condition, it may result in permanently damaged auditory nerve pathways, ending with permanent deafness or spatial hearing loss.

If you experience sudden changes such as a unilateral loss of hearing, you are also at an increased risk of spatial hearing loss and should seek attention immediately. If you’re not sure if your hearing is changing, you should go get it tested right away.

A Primer on Swimmer’s Ear – Its Origins, Signs and Symptoms and Treatments

Swimmer’s ear, technically known as acute external otitis or otitis externa, is an infection that develops in the outer ear canal (the area outside your eardrum). The common name swimmer’s ear comes from the fact that the problem is frequently linked to swimming. Anytime water collects in the outer ear it results in a moist atmosphere where bacteria may grow. This condition is also caused by scratching or damaging the sensitive skin lining the ear canal by using your fingertips, cotton swabs, or other objects in an attempt to clean them. Fortunately swimmer’s ear is easily treated. If untreated, swimmer’s ear may cause serious complications therefore it is important to identify the signs and symptoms of the condition.

If the ear’s innate protection mechanisms are overloaded, the end result may be swimmer’s ear. Moisture in the ears, sensitivity reactions, and scratches to the ear canal lining can all promote the growth of bacteria, and cause infection. Activities that increase your likelihood of developing swimmer’s ear include swimming (especially in untreated water such as lakes), overly aggressive cleaning of the ear canal with cotton swabs, use of in-ear devices such as “ear buds” or hearing aids, and allergies.

Itching inside the ear, mild pain or discomfort that is worsened by pulling on the ear, redness and an odorless, clear fluid draining from the ear are all signs and symptoms of a mild case of swimmer’s ear. Moderate symptoms include more severe itching and pain and discharge of pus-like liquids. Extreme cases of swimmer’s ear are accompanied by symptoms such as fever, severe pain which may radiate into other parts of the head, neck and face, swelling redness of the outer ear or lymph nodes, and possibly blockage of the ear canal. If left untreated, complications from swimmer’s ear can be quite serious. Complications might include short-term hearing loss

, long-term ear infections, deep tissue infections which may spread to other areas of the body, and cartilage or bone loss. The potential for severe complications implies that you should visit a doctor as soon as you suspect swimmer’s ear.

Swimmer’s ear can be diagnosed in an office visit after a visual exam

. They will also check at the same time to see if there is any damage to the eardrum itself. If swimmer’s ear is the problem, it is typically treated first by cleaning the ears very carefully, and then prescribing antibiotic or antifungal eardrops to fight the infection. If the infection has become widespread or serious, the physician may also prescribe oral antibiotics.

To prevent swimmer’s ear, dry your ears thoroughly after showering or swimming, avoid swimming in untreated water resources, and do not place foreign objects into your ears to clean them.

Chickens, Fish and Human Hearing Loss – New Research Into Regenerating Inner Ear Hair Cells

As hearing professionals, one of the frustrations we encounter in our practice is that the conditions that have caused hearing loss in our patients cannot be reversed. One of the primary causes of hearing loss, for example, is damage to the tiny hair cells in our inner ears that vibrate in reaction to sounds. These vibrations are then translated by the brain into what we think of as hearing.

The sensitivity of these tiny hair cells allows them to vibrate in such a manner, and thus makes it possible for us to hear, but their very sensitivity makes them very fragile, and prone to damage. The hair cells of the inner ear can sustain damage from exposure to loud noises (causing noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL), by certain medications, by infections, and by aging. Once these hair cells are damaged in human ears, science has to date not found any way to repair or “fix” them. Since we can’t reverse the damage, hearing specialists and audiologists look to technology instead. We compensate for hearing loss due to inner ear hair cell damage with hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Things would be a lot simpler if we humans were more like chickens and fish. That may seem like a peculiar statement, but it’s true, because – unlike humans – some fish and birds can regenerate the hair cells in their inner ears, thereby regaining their hearing once it has become lost. Chickens and zebra fish are just 2 examples of species that have the capacity to spontaneously replicate and replace their damaged inner ear hair cells, thus permitting them to fully recover from hearing loss


While it is vital to state at the outset that the following research is in its beginning stages and that no practical benefits for humans have yet been achieved, sizeable advancements in the treatment of hearing loss may come in the future as the result of the innovative Hearing Restoration Project (HRP). Funded by a not-for-profit organization called the Hearing Health Foundation, this research is presently being conducted in 14 different labs in Canada and the United States.Working to isolate the molecules that allow the replication and regeneration in some animals, HRP researchers hope to find some way to enable human inner ear hair cells to do the same.

This research is painstaking and challenging. Researchers need to sift through the many molecules involved in the regeneration process – some of which facilitate replication while others inhibit it. Researchers are hoping that what they learn about hair cell regeneration in fish or avian cochlea can later be applied to humans. Some of the HRP researchers are pursuing gene therapies as a way to promote such regrowth, while others are working on using stem cells to accomplish the same goal.

Our entire staff extends to them our well wishes and hopes for their success, because absolutely nothing would thrill us more than being able to someday completely cure our clients’ hearing loss.

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