A hearing aid is an incredibly personalized piece of medical equipment—it’s worn every day, on the head (one of the most sensitive parts of the body), it’s directly visible to others, and you rely on it for one of the five senses you have for making sense of the world.
When your audiologist first sets you up with a hearing aid, you’ll have a few days to wear it and decide if it’s indeed the right choice for you. Here are four things to watch for during that crucial trial period.
- Hearing improvement – the reason you wear your hearing aid is to help you hear better, and that’s clearly the most important aspect of the selection process. Do you find a dramatic improvement over not wearing the device (or, if you already wear one, your previous hearing aid)? Do you notice a reduction in listening difficulty? Is it easier to follow conversation? You should test the hearing aid in a variety of situations, from quiet conversation levels to louder environments (if you’re likely to encounter these in your day-to-day). Remember, the main reason for the trial period is so you can take the hearing device out of the office and into your day-to-day life, testing it in the types of situations you’re likely to encounter.
- Comfortable fit – you have to wear your hearing aid every day, so comfort is of the utmost importance. The human body can eventually get used to anything, but you’ll be much more comfortable if you start out with a well-fitting hearing device. Your audiologist should have already made some adjustments to ensure proper fit, but you’re the only one that can ultimately make the call whether the fit works or not.
- Technological integration – our modern lives include a variety of technologies we interact with on a daily basis. A key part of the usefulness of your hearing aid will be how easily it integrates with devices such as your mobile phone, your television, or any other pieces of technology you frequently use. The thing to look for is seamless integration that doesn’t require you to take too many extra steps to make the hearing aid-to-device connection and doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of the activity.
- Style – you should already have gone through your hearing device options (in-the-ear, behind-the-ear) with your audiologist, and depending on your hearing needs, you may have to stick to a particular type of hearing aid. With that being said, as you wear it around for a few days, you’ll have to decide whether this style works. If it does not, you will work with the audiologist to get a style that will work for you.
As you go through the trial period, take notes on any aspects of your hearing device you notice, good or bad, so you can share these with your audiologist during your next consultation.
Have a question about what types of hearing aids would be available for your particular type of hearing loss? We’re here to help! Contact us for more information!
What’s in store for hearing devices over the next year? It seems like the pace of progress is only speeding up. Here are just some of the trends we’ve seen developing:
Lower Costs for Patients
The ongoing public conversation about over-the-counter hearing devices has had an effect on the entire hearing aid industry. Whereas manufacturers before knew they could charge higher amounts, increased competition means that the prices are coming down across the board. This, of course, is great news for patients.
Reductions in Size
One wonderful part of technological progress is the ability to fit more power into smaller packages. For some patients whose type of hearing loss necessitates the more visible receiver-in-canal hearing aids and outside-the-ear hearing aids, this can make a big difference. For example, this year, Unitron’s Moxi Now became the smallest RIC hearing aid on the market, giving patients who are self-conscious about the visibility of their hearing device a new option to consider.
New Hearing Algorithms
For a long time, hearing aids focused on amplifying the sound from the person the patient was conversing with, and cancelling all other noise in order to improve clarity. Now, new algorithms are able to create unique soundscapes that more closely match the how natural hearing works. For instance, the Oticon Opn still cancels extraneous background noise but can identify multiple speakers and amplify all of them simultaneously, which makes hanging out in a group setting much easier. For people with severe-to-profound hearing loss, the ReSound ENZO 3D offers improved spatial awareness and clearer speech amplification in noisy environments.
Instant Custom Fit
Many hearing aids that offer a custom fit involve the audiologist taking a mold of the patient’s ear canal and submitting it to the manufacturer where the hearing aid is custom made to that patient’s ear. Some new technologies now allow patients to get the same level of comfort without leaving the doctor’s office. The new Silk Primax uses a new kind of material that is reported to allows comfort even without being custom-molded. For patients, that means a shorter wait time to getting their new hearing aid.
Remote Fine Tuning
Many hearing devices require a visit at the audiologist office for changes to be made. With the announcement of @Resound Linx3D, patients are able to send a fine tuning request to the audiologist for adjustments. No need for being stuck in traffic now!
All of these advancements are a boon to patients in need of a hearing device. These devices are smaller, more comfortable, more stylish, cheaper, and better in every other way than devices from even 5 years ago.
When looking for your next hearing device, the number of options may be overwhelming. Contact us to speak to Dr. Vetter and get a recommendation for a hearing device based on your level of hearing loss and your lifestyle.
This month Dr. Marie Vetter had the pleasure of speaking with online local publication Voyage Chicago, who often interviews local business owners throughout Chicago.
Marie speaks on how she got started in audiology, becoming a business owner, the story of Chicago Hearing Services and more.
It’s never easy when a parent has hearing loss. There are a number of challenges standing in your way, and many families tend to live with the issue longer than they should before getting their loved one the treatment he or she needs.
Some of the challenges children of aging parents face include:
- The gradual progression of hearing loss — frequently, hearing loss happens slowly over time, which makes it harder for the person it’s happening to become aware of the problem. A person may begin to unknowingly do things to compensate for the hearing loss, such as standing closer to those who are speaking, or turning up the TV louder (which is why a loud TV is one of the clear signs of hearing loss).
- A desire for independence — it’s perfectly natural for parents to want to maintain some level of personal independence. That may mean that they don’t want to admit they are experiencing hearing loss and they may be hesitant to agree to go in for a test and treatment. They may also think that some amount of hearing loss is normal as they age and just want to live with it.
- Worries about cost of treatment — parents may think that hearing aids would cost a significant amount of money and be worried that they can’t afford the costs of treatment. That may lead them to ignore or minimize the importance of their hearing loss.
- Lack of familiarity with advances in the field — parents may remember the bulky hearing aids of days gone by and be hesitant to commit to wearing such a device. Of course, they may not know that modern hearing aids are a fraction of the size of the old ones and are made to fit into a patient’s life much more seamlessly and conveniently.
One thing we do know is that again and again we’ve interacted with patients whose children have brought them in for a hearing test after having to do some convincing. In nearly every case, after the patient gets comfortable, reviews his or her options, and gets set up with a hearing device, they’ve reported dramatically improved quality of life. Their independence can be maintained as children know their parent is hearing optimally when at home or out.
Wondering how to approach the subject?
- Start By Simply Asking
Ask your parent if they have had any problems hearing (in a non-threatening manner). Example: “When we were at dinner last night, I noticed you couldn’t understand the waitress, is that correct?”
- Express Urgency for Treatment
Express urgency in getting hearing loss treated. Hearing loss can cause people to become isolated, depressed, and also have cognitive decline.
For more tips on how to broach the subject of hearing loss with a loved one, see our page on Starting the Conversation.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. One in 10 people in the U.S. over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s dementia, and the disease is the sixth largest killer in America.
Incidentally, hearing loss is also correlated with age. According to the National Institute for Health, approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.
Now, a new study for the first time has found a link between these two conditions that occur with advanced age.
An ongoing study of 1500 middle aged men and women found that volunteers who self-reported being diagnosed with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were more likely to do poorly on future cognitive testing and more than twice as likely to be characterized as having mild cognitive impairment.
This cognitive impairment, the researchers go on to stipulate, could very well form the foundation for developing Alzheimer’s. Ultimately, the study suggests that hearing loss could be an indicator of increasing cognitive decline in older adults and that identification and treatment of hearing loss could potentially minimize the risk.
The results of the study are no reason to panic. First, it’s important to remember that correlation does not mean causation. It’s entirely possible that the two conditions simply happen to occur in advanced age (along with many other conditions that tend to happen at that time), rather than being linked.
However, because various studies have shown that mild cognitive impairment can ultimately grow into or result in Alzheimer’s, the harmful mental results of hearing loss should not be underestimated.
This potential link is just one of many reasons to do regular hearing tests and promptly treat any hearing loss. Other important benefits of hearing loss treatment include improved quality of life and easier communication with one’s family and peers—lifestyle factors that, incidentally, have all been linked to longer, healthier lifespans. Early detection of hearing problems helps to minimize a variety of physical and mental problems, including cognitive decline, depression, and social isolation.
Another recent study found that the adoption of hearing aids by the elderly with hearing loss actually led to improvements in cognitive skills like memory and thinking, so treatment of hearing loss not only helps to prevent cognitive decline—it can actually boost cognitive function.
For over 25 years, Chicago Hearing Services has enhanced the lives of the patients we serve in Chicagoland. Our entire team is dedicated to providing you with excellent, personalized care and service to make you or your loved one’s visits as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Dr. Vetter builds an individualized hearing wellness plan for each patient, utilizing best practices as well as listening to the needs of the patient.
If you think you or a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, there’s a multitude of reasons to act quickly and get the help you need. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!
For a long time, those with hearing impairments had a difficult time finding telephones that were designed with their needs in mind. Then, in 2011, new regulations made things easier.
New rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission required cell phone manufacturers to design phones that are more useful for people who use hearing aids. Among other things, these rules required that phones have less static, less interference, and have better telecoil connections—all crucial features for compatibility with hearing devices.
Phone Label Designation
To find out if a cell phone is hearing aid compatible (HAC), look for the label in one of these places: on a card displayed next to the phone at the store, directly on the cell phone packaging, or in the phone’s user manual.
If the label isn’t in any of these places, the phone is not hearing aid compatible.
Hearing Aid & Phone Ratings
Did you know phones and hearing aids have ratings based on how well they work with each other? First, it’s important to see if your hearing aid is compatible with the phone’s microphone. Hearing aids come with ratings from M1 to M4, with a higher rating meaning a clearer sound.
Cell phones that are hearing device-friendly have a microphone that will work with a hearing device in the microphone position. Look for microphone rations of M3 or M4, with higher numbers being better, because they offer a clearer sound.
Adding it All Up
To find out overall functionality of the hearing aid / phone system, all you have to do is add up the M or T ratings for the cell phone and the hearing aid.
- A combined rating of 6 is considered excellent, and means the hearing aid / phone system is a great match.
- A combined rating of 5 is considered average, and is acceptable for normal phone use.
- A combined rating of 4 is not great but is still usable. The quality may not be sufficiently high to comfortably conduct longer phone calls.
Cell phones that comply with the FCC’s hearing aid compatibility rule must receive a minimum rating of M3 for RF emissions and T3 for telecoil coupling. Ask your audiologist about the rating of your hearing aid.
How to Tell a Good Fit
Adding up the M and T ratings is fine as a general indicator of system compatibility, but it will ultimately be up to you, the user, to confirm that the system works well together. Conduct several test calls with the new phone in the types of environments you’re likely to find yourself in, and watch out for the following factors:
- Sound clarity
- Any excessive static or extra noise on the line
- General ergonomics
- Other helpful features for those with hearing loss, including incoming call alerts, speech-to-text, and and easy-to-use accessibility menu
Have a question about the compatibility of a particular phone and hearing aid? We can help you make sense of the situation. Contact us today for more details.
Have you ever heard a ringing noise in your ears that went away after a few seconds? If so, you’ve experienced what 25 million Americans have — tinnitus is a ringing in the ears that can happen very rarely, or be so prevalent that it interferes with daily activities. If you’ve ever experienced it, you probably know how distracting it can be.
Tinnitus is a symptom associated with many forms of hearing loss. It can also be a symptom of other health problems. If you’re experiencing tinnitus on a regular basis, here are some strategies that may be able to help:
- Over 60% of patients with tinnitus find relief from amplification and hearing aids. So, if you’ve experienced tinnitus on an ongoing basis, the first step you should take is to visit an audiologist and get a hearing test that can help to identify the cause of the symptoms.
- If nothing hearing-related is uncovered, your audiologist can also point you to a general doctor who can explore other potential causes such as obesity or environmental stressors.
- If you find that the tinnitus recurs on a regular interval after a particular activity, such as being at a loud concert, share the information with your audiologist and get some hearing protection, or avoid the environment that causes the symptoms.
- Occasionally, tinnitus can be caused by stress. Relaxation exercises, such as meditation, have been show to help in certain cases.
- Noise machines, including specially designed pillows that create background noise may help with the reduction of your tinnitus symptoms.
- Special tinnitus apps generate a variety of background sounds that are helpful in the alleviation of tinnitus symptoms and can be used on-the-go with headphones.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy has been identified as one potential avenue for reducing the impact of tinnitus on a patient. Since there is no known cure for tinnitus, CBT attempts to instead change the person’s perception of tinnitus to make it less distracting and easier to live with.
- Nicotine, alcohol and caffeine use makes tinnitus worse by reducing blood flow to the structures of the ear. Stop smoking and drinking coffee, and see if symptoms improve.
- Limit your use of aspirin, products containing aspirin, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen, all of which can exacerbate tinnitus symptoms.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise improves blood flow to the structures of the ear. However, extended periods of exercise that keep your neck in a hyperextended position, such as bicycle riding, should be avoided because they can temporarily make symptoms worse.
Having issues with tinnitus? Follow step #1 above and get in touch with an audiologist for a hearing test! Reach out to us today to set up your consultation!
You’ve made a big step. You’ve talked with a loved one and convinced him or her that getting a hearing test and possibly being fitted with a hearing device would increase his or her quality of life. The next step is to find an audiology office that you can trust to take care of your loved one and do the best job possible. What are some things to look for in an audiologist office?
Find a referral
If you have friends or family members who have been to an audiologist and have had a good experience, you may be able to use that information to your advantage. If you have an older parent, there’s a good chance that one of his or her peers have already had experience with an audiologist.
Longevity of the practice
A practice that has been in business for a long time is usually a good sign, because it shows that the audiologist has returning patients who are happy with the level of service. This also is important because there is no worry about them leaving suddenly and closing their business.
Check the audiologist’s website, and see if it has helpful information and client testimonials you can read through. That is not to say that the quality of the website reflects on the quality of service, but a modern and frequently updated website does reveal that the audiologist is “with the times” and probably follows the latest developing trends in the field. In this same category of things to research are other reviews from third party websites such as Yelp, where you’ll know you’re getting feedback straight from the patient.
Expertise of the Audiologist
Hearing devices are a big investment. You want a professional who has the training necessary to fit you with the best technology. You should feel you are being helped instead of just pushed a product. Treating hearing issues goes beyond the product. You will be with this person for a long time so having someone you can trust and feel comfortable with is vital. Are they able to explain your hearing loss and how hearing aids will help you? Are they knowledgeable about devices to help you hear better? Do they explain everything thoroughly and take time to make sure everything is answered?
Not all hearing aid practices are created equal. Some offices may be owned by hearing aid dispensers, large corporations, or even insurance companies. The result is not quality care and customer service. You may also experience high turnover with the employees. Hearing devices purchased at these places can be locked so that the patient can only return to that location to have anything reprogrammed, adjusted, or repaired. A privately owned practice will allow patients to receive the upmost service, patience from the staff and audiologist, and hearing aids that are unlocked.
Though proximity may be your first search criteria when looking for an audiologist, it shouldn’t be your main deciding factor. Finding someone who is a great fit nearby is always a plus, but don’t choose an audiologist simply because they are the closest to your home. Consider the other factors in this post and be willing to go a little further if necessary to get the best quality care.
Helpfulness of the staff
Once you think you’ve found the right place, what is your experience like when you walk in? Is the staff welcoming and helpful? Do they take care to answer all your questions, from ones about hearing health and hearing devices to more routine questions about insurance billing and industry trends?
Chicago Hearing Services was established in 1990 to enhance the lives of the patients we serve in Chicagoland. Our office is built upon high standards, training and expertise, patient education, and most of all a positive patient experience. The entire team is dedicated to providing you with excellent, personalized care and service to make your or your loved one’s visits as comfortable and pleasant as possible.
Get in touch with us today to schedule your appointment!
New research is uncovering that hearing loss is much more widespread that we had previously thought. In addition to genetics and old age, which are facts of life, hearing loss is frequently caused when a person’s occupation or hobby involves noisy environments.
Environmental Causes of Hearing Loss
Here are just some of the environments and occupations that are regularly loud enough to cause hearing loss:
- Construction sites
- Public transportation
- Shooting ranges
- Bartenders and bouncers
- Motorcycle riders
85dB is the level of loudness that OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has established as having the potential to cause permanent hearing loss. You may surprised to find out that this isn’t actually very loud at all.
If you regularly experience noise in your workplace, you should be able to ask your employer for information regarding the loudness of your working environment. However, if the loud environment is your hobby, there’s no good way to establish whether it’s regularly loud enough to cause hearing loss.
The Value of Hearing Protection
We are all familiar with the standard foam hearing plugs. They’re cheap, disposable, easy to find, and relatively comfortable. However they’re also not customized to the task at hand, easy to lose or damage, and not custom fitted for all-day wearing comfort.
Many people who are regularly exposed to loud environments in their occupation or recreation and have been informed about the risks of hearing loss opt for custom hearing protection that is comfortable, effective, and calibrated to provide maximum protection for that particular activity.
Example: Custom Protection for Musicians & Music Fans
When using the standard foam hearing plugs, the way sound attenuation works is that the treble is reduced more than bass and mid frequencies. This often has the effect of making the sound “muffled” through the earplugs, and many musicians and fans would rather go without hearing protection than having the experience be ruined by sub-optimal sound. However, a new generation of music-friendly hearing protection has been designed to attenuate all frequencies equally, so that the quality of the sound in the ear is the same, just at a lesser volume.
This is just one example. Many of these same types of modifications exist for other fields such as construction, athletics, and shooting.
Chicago Hearing Services strives to provide pertinent education to musicians and others exposed to noise about hearing loss prevention as well as providing them with exceptional products. Dr. Marie Vetter is certified and has extensive training and can help direct you to the best quality sounding custom ear protection.
Reach out to us today to start saving your hearing with custom ear protection!
A new type of hearing device has come on the market recently that isn’t regulated by the FDA and is available over-the-counter. To find out more about this type of device, read our article on the difference between hearing aids and hearables.
These devices are often billed as cheaper and hassle-free alternatives to traditional hearing aids. They also have one other “advantage” over traditional hearing devices: they can be purchased easily online.
There are federal regulations stating that one needs to have had a recent hearing exam in order to purchase a hearing aid, similar to having to undergo an eye exam to purchase prescription glasses. According to Title 21, Section 801.420 of the Code of Federal Regulations, hearing aids can only be sold to those individuals who have first obtained a medical evaluation from a licensed physician within the six months prior to the sale. There rules are there for the protection of consumers, who may not understand the complexity behind purchasing.
But ultimately, even if eventually the government does allow over-the-counter sales of hearing aids (there is current legislation in Congress to do just that), the real issue isn’t the legality of the matter. It’s about correctly diagnosing hearing loss and finding the best hearing device for each patient, complete with correct setup, fitting, and ongoing adjustment for an optimal hearing experience.
Better hearing isn’t just about the device. It’s also about the expertise of programming and adjustments, and those are exactly the things a trained audiologist can help you with.
Getting any hearing device to function optimally requires testing, fitting, and an ongoing conversation with your audiologist. This is just as true about traditional hearing aids as it is about the latest high-tech hearable. Be skeptical of any claims that a hearing device doesn’t require input from an audiologist and can simply be set up by the consumer.
Even in the best case scenario, if you purchase one of these device and experience some relief from hearing loss right off the bat, you still can’t be sure how that compares with the hearing correction you would have received had you made an appointment with an audiologist who has the experience and training required to help patients hear better.
If you need help deciding on which kind of hearing device will work best for your kind of hearing loss, we’re here to help! Get in touch with us to schedule an appointment!